[The Mysterons...sworn enemies of Earth, possessing the ability to
recreate an exact likeness of an object or person--but first, they
must destroy. Leading the fight, one man fate has made
indestructible. His name: Captain Scarlet....]
A 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons' short story
by Ralph Ferreira
It was 6:50 a.m.
The sun was already born anew and its rays were getting stronger as it was rising in the blue sky. As usual on any summer morning in Sao Paulo, Brazil, there was a very thin fog in the streets due to the rapid evaporation of the water which fell down as rain the previous day. The humidity in the air was high, and the sensation of warmth was bigger than its reality. There were already many people going to work. A morning like this was just the same they had all seen in the past. Of course, the traffic was not as crazy as it once had been in Century 20; all means of public transportation had now become very effective, and people preferred to use it instead of private vehicles. The subway and trolley-bus system could take a person to any place in the city in just a few minutes. Most people just used their automobiles to get to the main stations, where they left them in large parking lots. The current traffic system began to be developed in the 2010's, when the pollution had reached intolerable levels.
All the commonplace elements of this scene were broken when a distinctive convoy came down one of the main avenues of S o Paulo City: Three large limousines were escorted by two police officers on motorcycles in front of the row, and a police car behind it. People on the streets looked at the convoy and imagined that important people had to be in those cars. Something big had to be happening. The World President was in one of the cars, talking to people from his own retinue and Brazilian authorities. Among the Brazilians there was a man who was speaking so enthusiastically that he simply captivated the attention of everyone inside the car. The long silver hair, the heavy glasses and the friendly smile on his face made Professor Rossi a charismatic person.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what you've done over there, Professor Rossi!" stated the World President. "I was very impressed when I read your reports."
"That's just paper, Mr. President," said a proud Professor Rossi. "What we've got is much more impressive than any report, you'll see."
Forty minutes later, they arrived at the entrance of a huge complex called World Nuclear Research Centre IV. Everybody in the convoy, including the World President, was checked for security and afterward received electronic identification cards to allow them to get into the complex. The WNRC-IV was located about fifty miles outside S o Paulo City in a green area, completely surrounded by a forest. The complex was composed of several buildings; the World President's car and the other two limousines were going to the main building, an edifice of a peculiar architecture. It looked like an inverted "T". The first five floors occupied an area which was about triple the width of the upper ten floors. The building was surrounded by a four-mile ring-shaped wall. Access to any place in the complex was controlled by the electronic identification cards personnel and visitors were required to use. The entire security system was managed by a centgral computer.
Professor Rossi led the group into the building. They entered a large lobby where a great many people were moving in every conceivable direction. The activity was so intense that it reminded everyone of a beehive. The group went to one of the elevators. The World President took a look at the elevator floor indicator above the door and noticed that aside from the fifteen floors, the building also had five floors under the ground level. Professor Rossi set the controls of the elevator to the fifth under-floor when the group had boarded. Then the doors closed, and they were taken to the place where the world's nuclear scientists would demonstrate the results of the research they had been doing for the last several years.
Everything was calm on Cloudbase.
Captain Scarlet enjoyed a rare moment of relaxation, passing the time by playing chess with Captain Ochre in the rest lounge.
In the Amber Room, the Angels were performing routine tasks; while Harmony was in the cockpit of Angel One on the launch deck ready for an emergency take-off, Destiny and Symphony rested in the lounge on standby duty.
Captain Blue joined Captains Scarlet and Ochre in the lounge, having just returned from a forty-eight hour leave he had spent in Sydney, Australia. It was not necessary for him to say that he had had a good time over there; his tanned face demonstrated it clearly.
In the Control Room, Colonel White was looking out the window, contemplating the splendid view he had thousands of feet above the earth as his aide, Lieutenant Green, carried out some routine checks on the communication systems.
Then, suddenly, a cold voice came from a speaker, breaking the serene ambience.
"This is the voice of the Mysterons. We know that you can hear us, Earthmen. We shall continue this war of nerves against you for your unprovoked attack on our Martian complex. Our next act of aggression will be to destroy the south cone."
"Captains Scarlet and Blue, please report to the Control Room immediately," Lieutenant Green's Caribbean-accented voice announced over the loudspeakers.
"Knew it was too good to last," Blue complained as he and Scarlet left to once again resume their fight with the Mysterons.
Moments later, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue sat on stools in front of Colonel White's desk. "Well, gentlemen," started Colonel White with an austere voice, "we have heard the last Mysteron threat, and I am certain of what they mean about destroying the south cone. Leftenant Green, the map of South America, please."
Lieutenant Green pressed a button, and the map appeared on the projection screen behind Colonel White.
Colonel White nodded toward the screen. "I've been informed by the World President that the World Nuclear Research Foundation is working on the development of a matter-antimatter reactor at the Brazilian Centre."
"I've read lots of things about this kind of research," said Captain Scarlet. "Since antimatter was first suggested by Paul Dirac in the 1920's, lots of experiments have been done in this field by several generations of scientists."
"Yes, I've seen a great deal about this, too," added Captain Blue. "All those experiments with particle accelerators, the production of anti-protons, or positrons..."
"Scientists of different countries put lots of effort into this research at the Brazilian Centre," continued Colonel White. "They managed to produce seventy pounds of anti-hydrogen, which has been confined in a special tank under a magnetic field."
"That's a tremendous power source!" exclaimed Captain Scarlet.
"And it could also be the most destructive force that man has ever created," Colonel White frowned.
"To destroy the south cone," Captain Blue said pausingly. "The WNRC-IV is located in S o Paulo, in the southeast of Brazil. If a sabotage was to occur, the results would be catastrophic!"
"Precisely, Captain Blue," replied Colonel White. "You and Scarlet are to fly immediately to Sao Paulo. Professor Rossi, director of the WNRC-IV, has been informed that you are coming. It's not necessary to say that this is a critical situation. I know I can count on you."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Colonel Whnite was calm because he knew that his personnel would do their best, and he trusted them. He could only hope that that trust and their skills would be enough this time.
Captains Scarlet and Blue went to the Spectrum Passenger Jet bay and readied the SPJ for takeoff as Lieutenant Green took his microphone and began alerting all personnel involved in the operation.
"Plan A is in action," informed Lieutenant Green. "Channel 041, Codename Latin. Captain Scarlet will be the commander in the field of this operation."
In the cabin of the SPJ, Captains Blue and Scarlet had done the checklist of the plane controls and were ready for take-off. Captain Scarlet dropped his RadioCap microphone. "Request launch clearance," he said into the microphone.
"Spectrum is Green," replied Lieutenant Green.
Some seconds later, the SPJ took off. Like an eagle leaving the nest, the elegant silver bird headed south at maximum cruise speed.
Soon after the SPJ landed at the Guarulhos International Airport in S o Paulo State, Professor Rossi went immediately to meet both Captains. "Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue!" called Professor Rossi at the arrival lobby of the airport, with a smile on his face. "I'm Professor Rossi. I know that you have a saloon car waiting for you, but I would appreciate it if you could go with me. I have a limousine ready to take us to the WNRC-IV."
Scarlet and Blue exchanged glances, then decided to go with Professor Rossi. It might make their job easier to start gathering information on the ride to the complex.
The car left the airport and took a highway which would take them to the complex. It was an eighty-mile drive, but the sightseeing was very beautiful. The highway followed the margins of the Tiˆte River. Scarlet and Blue were told about the history of that river, which at the end of Century 20 had been a dead river. After years of work on it, life was brought back to the river which had now become a symbol for the Brazilian ecologists. Professor Rossi also explained to them briefly the ecological research being done there.
When they arrived at the complex, Professor Rossi started explaining about all the buildings before they reached the main building. "See those twin buildings?" Professor Rossi asked, pointing to two identical edifications built in parallel, separated by a 70-foot distance. "The first one is the administration building; the other one is for accommodations for our visitors. It has all the features of a modern hotel."
Rossi went on to point out the many other facilities in the complex. The complex also had a roomy five-story building which was the shop facility, and several small buildings for the refectory, medical facilities, and communication station. All the buildings were surrounded by attractive gardens of trees, bushes and benches for people to rest while on lunch break or any other free time. The complex also had its own security force, needed due to the nature of the research which was being done there. As it was a civilian center, it had no heavy weapon defense system. Hence, two Army helicopters patrolled the airspace around it. They did this in a 24-hour work arrangement, divided into six-hour shifts. To avoid leaving the complex unguarded, each crew had different scheduled hours for changing their shifts. As part of the Spectrum plan, Spectrum helicopter A-50 was to join them later, with Captain Magenta and a Spectrum pilot.
The men arrived at the main building and exited their limousine. Scarlet, always wary of any kind of danger to the success of their mission and especially so with a Spectrum helicopter due to join them shortly, cast a glance at the sky and frowned. As usual this time of year, the sky was becoming full of heavy dark clouds which were a prelude to a summer storm at the end of the afternoon. The sun was still reigning in the sky, however, and the temperature was quite high.
"Hope the weather holds," Blue indicated.
"This time of year, in South America?" Scarlet replied. "Hardly likely. We're in for a nasty storm. I don't like the looks of this at all."
Scarlet and Blue were soon introduced to the team of scientists who directed the complex, people from Brazil, the United States, England, Japan, Italy and Germany. They entered the matter-antimatter reactor control room, were shown the vacuum chamber where airless experiments in matter manipulation were performed, and then the reactor room itself. Despite the menace of the Mysterons, the scientists explained, the work at the Centre had to continue as usual, and systems could not be shut down.
Scarlet shook his head. Things like this always worried him. The weather, the experimental nature of the Centre, the continuing operations...all of it was making him very uneasy. The Mysterons loved situations like this. And Scarlet had a feeling Spectrum was already behind the curve.
The wind was blowing hard already, and the first raindrops were falling from the dark sky. All the external lights of the complex turned on automatically due to the premature darkness of the day.
It was approaching shift change hour, and another Army helicopter was on its way to replace one of the patrol units. The rain, after some minutes, had become heavy, and the visibility was practically zero. The crew was flying by instruments.
In a clearing in the woods, a car was parked. Not far from it, a man dressed in black was looking at the oncoming helicopter. The figure stood there, impassive and alone, unmoved even by the heavy drops of rain which were hitting his pale face.
Suddenly, one of the helicopter's engines stopped.
"We've lost engine one, sir!" exclaimed the first officer.
"We'd better get back to base," said the commander. "Get in touch with them and inform of our condition. They need to send another helicopter."
"Communications are not operating," frowned the first officer. "Now we're...we're losing engine two!"
With both engines inoperative, the helicopter fell like a shot bird, crashing into the trees. The explosion was diminished by the heavy rain, but the destruction of the helicopter was total.
Then, a green ray came from the sky, forming two thin rings which silently swept over the wreckage of the helicopter, vanishing seconds later.
Former Spectrum officer-turned-Mysteron agent Captain Black dictated a description of the scene to his invisible masters, then deviated his attention just enough to notice the noise of another helicopter.
The Mysteronized aircraft landed in the middle of the clearing in the woods where he stood. Captain Black walked to it and got in, taking his seat behind the empty control cabin. The Mysterons had not recreated the pilots--only the machine.
The change of patrol shifts was performed normally. When the Mysteronized helicopter arrived, one of the others left the place. Although they flew relatively close to each other during the shift change, the heavy rain gave the Mysterons a perfect cover. No one noticed the strange man behind the controls.
The helicopter approached the ground and hovered at a distance of less than four feet, low enough to permit Captain Black to jump to the ground. He then ran to hide behind a group of trees.
Captain Scarlet was talking to the security chief, Mr. Da Silva, telling him the precautions Spectrum was taking by placing agents at the entrance and at strategic points within the WNRC-IV, as well as the Spectrum patrol helicopter. All of the patrolling Spectrum guards were using Mysteron detectors and weapons. Scarlet found himself hoping that he was more reassuring to the other man than he currently felt. An uneasy feeling kept nagging at him that something was about to happen. He just wished he knew what.
Captain Blue stood in the reactor control room with Mr. Dos Santos, Professor Rossi's assistant, who was showing him the many safety features of the reactor. "So, you can control all systems from this room as well as from the reactor room?" he asked Dos Santos, while the technician was removing a defective component from a computer.
"Yes, Captain Blue," answered Dos Santos. "All systems are double-controlled, so that if we have problems in one of them, we can use the other to maintain normal operations. See this control card? It's failing. I'll take it to the electronic shop and get a replacement. Could you please wait here for a moment with these gentlemen? I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Sure." Captain Blue stood with the other technicians and watched Dos Santos depart. Although he was seeing a great many interesting things, he was apprehensive because he knew that at any time the Mysterons might try something. Unlike Scarlet, Blue had no innate ability to sense Mysterons, but he did have good old-fashioned intuition. And it was telling him the Mysterons were probably closer than he liked.
Night fell, and there was no sign of the storm that had been, except for puddles on the ground. The black sky was full of stars, and the temperature was very pleasant, with a fine summer breeze. Dos Santos was making his way to the shop facilities when suddenly a man emerged from a group of bushes and stood in his way.
"Who are you?" inquired Dos Santos. "Where's your identification card? How did you get in here? I'm going to call Security right now!" He reached for his pocket radio.
Captain Black whipped out a gun. "No, Earthman, you will not." Without mercy, Captain Black fired twice, the noise of the gun being deadened by a silencer.
The unfortunate Dos Santos fell down lifeless on the ground.
Captain Black stood there looking down at him, almost expectantly.
A green ray came down again from the sky, forming the two thin rings which slowly swept over the dead man's body.
Moments later, Black and a Mysteronized Dos Santos dragged the body away into the bushes. Dos Santos silently reached to pick up the circuitry card the dead man had been carrying, which now lay on the ground, and then looked at Captain Black.
"You know what you have to do," said Captain Black emotionlessly after giving the Mysteronized Dos Santos his own gun.
"Yes--I know what I must do," said the Mysteron agent, nodding slowly.
Spectrum Helicopter A50 was still patrolling the airspace when Captain Magenta saw a strange man running across an open field toward some tall trees. The rubber trees, more than 100 years old, were high and their branches full of big and heavy leaves, produced a wide area of good cover to anyone who would want to hide beneath.
"I just saw someone going under those trees," said Captain Magenta, pointing at the trees, to the helicopter pilot. "Circle them, and I'll check the person out."
A50 maneuvered around and started flying very low around the rubber trees. Captain Magenta had his detector ready to use. Spectrum could not take any chances, and Magenta knew he must find out who that man was.
One of the army helicopters was approaching very fast, apparently as if to assist the A50 on its quest. The A50 pilot started to relax...until he realized there was no one in the other copter's control cabin. "It's a trap!" he screamed, trying desperately to out-maneuver the flying death machine.
Before Captain Magenta could say a word, the powerful nose cannon of the Mysteronized helicopter fired at them, hitting the tail of their helicopter. The Spectrum aircraft spun along the axis of the main propeller like a toy top, then plunged the short distance to the ground.
Captain Magenta recovered quickly, thankful that the low altitude at which they had been flying had eased their landing, and looked around. Immediately he saw that there were signs of fire inside their craft, and that the pilot was unconscious. Although he was hurt as well, Magenta rapidly unfastened his and the pilot's seat belts and got out, carrying the other man and trying to reach a safe location before the copter exploded.
With the Spectrum helijet down, the Mysteronized helicopter aimed at the other Army patrol helicopter and fired an air-to-air missile that it carried on one of its stabilizer wings, destroying the craft. Then, it rapidly maneuvered to fly at maximum speed toward the communication station. The element of surprise had been effective; no one had time to take any action or launch a counter-attack.
Most of the essential personnel on the anti-matter program were still working overtime, although it was getting late at night. But the lateness of the hour was beginning to show on some of them.
"I'm getting tired," yawned Professor Rossi to Captains Scarlet and Blue. "I'm going home now. The personnel of the night shift will stay here to perform the usual essential tasks. We have prepared accommodations for both of you, Captains."
"Go and get some sleep, Captain Blue," said Scarlet to his partner. "I'll take the first watch."
"Right. I'll relieve you at 2 a.m." He and Rossi started to go.
As they did, Dos Santos finally came back from the electronics shop.
Suddenly, cold sweat started breaking out on Scarlet's face, and he swayed.
Immediately, Blue was by his side. "What's wrong, Captain Scarlet?" he asked.
"I'm having that sensation I get when there's a Mysteron around," Scarlet replied, trying to fight through the nausea.
Several scientists looked toward Scarlet, not even realizing the Mysteron agent stood behind them.
The sound of a distant explosion, then a closer one, caught all of their attentions. Then, a frantic voice over the loudspeakers confirmed their worst fears.
"We are under attack! One of the Army helicopters shot down the other two, and is now firing at the complex! The communication station has been destroyed. We can contact nobody; we're isolated!"
Captain Scarlet rapidly flipped down his RadioCap microphone
and said, "Channel 041. Latin."
His epaulets flashed green, and Lieutenant Green's voice answered, "Cloudbase to Captain Scarlet. I'll transfer to Colonel White. Stand by."
"What's happening, Scarlet?" asked Colonel White, his voice worried.
"The WNRC-IV is under attack. An Army helicopter is apparently under the control of the Mysterons and has shot down the other patrol helicopters. We are cut off from the outside world and require immediate assistance."
Scarlet could almost hear White frown. "This is it—the Mysterons have begun their plan," the commander replied. "Spectrum is Red, Scarlet. I'm launching Angel One. She will be there in a few minutes."
"Angel One, immediate launch."
With those words from Lieutenant Green, Symphony Angel in Angel One was immediately catapulted off the launch deck and into the stratosphere.
Although Captain Magenta and the unconscious pilot were already at a safe distance from the Spectrum helicopter when it exploded, the shock wave threw them against the ground. Captain Magenta slowly raised his head and saw that the man he had been pursuing was standing there, looking down at him.
Too late, he recognized that man, who wore a sardonic smile, as Captain Black. Magenta reached for his gun.
Black watched as Magenta quivered for a moment, then passed out. Quietly, he stepped over Magenta's body and walked throught the ruins of the walls surrounding part of the complex.
His car stood outside those walls waiting for him. Black hurried over to it. Another Army helicopter was due soon, and he had to work fast.
Opening the trunk of the car, he extracted from it a portable surface-to-air missile launcher, pointed it at the night sky, looked into the infrared sight, and waited.
Right on schedule, the helicopter appeared in the night sky.
When it got into his firing range, he aimed and fired.
The Army helicopter literally disintegrated in a ball of fire.
Satisfied, Captain Black dropped his weapon and got in his car. He simply sat there and waited until his car mysteriously started to disappear, as if the Mysterons, sure of their victory, wanted to transport Captain Black to a safe place.
Scarlet and Blue were outside the research facility, trying to find and destroy their Mysteron enemy, but neither their weapons nor those of the security personnel would be capable of damaging the heavy armor of the helicopter, an MH-29, which looked like a flying tank. The Centre, a civilian facility, had no anti-aircraft
"Is there a way for the helicopter to destroy the reactor with its attacks?" asked Captain Blue to a technician beside him, as a pane of glass shattered due to an A-S missile which got into the main building.
"Only if they're carrying tactical nuclear weapons," the technician practically shouted over the noise of the assault.
"If it had them, it would have already used them," said Blue, frowning.
"A decoy," suggested Scarlet.
"Then I'd better go back to the reactor!" Blue said anxiously. "They might be trying something over there, too."
"S.I.G.," said Scarlet, taking a machine gun from a security man who was with them. The three were hiding behind the carcass of a destroyed truck. "I need to borrow this, please." He then turned to Blue. "I'll cover you, Captain Blue."
The Mysteronized helicopter was flying very low, using its rocket launcher pod to destroy every part of the building it could.
Scarlet and Blue looked at each other for a moment, as if synchronizing moves, and then Scarlet ran away from the building entrance toward a parking lot and started firing the machine gun.
The helicopter deviated its attention toward the new attacker, giving Blue a good chance to make his move. Blue raced for the building.
Scarlet jumped in and out among the parked cars, trying to escape from the heavy fire of bullets from the MH-29's nose cannon. It was like standing in a hurricane of pieces of metal, glass, dust, smoke and fire, as the cars were being obliterated.
Suddenly, the attack stopped, and Scarlet could take a breath and notice he was momentarily able to flee from the danger. Wasting no time, he ran for cover before the copter made another pass for him.
Once he was out of danger, he looked himself over carefully. Although his clothes were covered in fragments of debris, he was not injured. Quickly, he looked out toward the grounds.
He could see the MH-29 flying at maximum speed toward the twin buildings, and then heard a familiar sound. He looked upward.
In the sky, he saw the familiar shape of Angel One. Once more Scarlet mentally noted that "Angels" was the right name for those intrepid girls, as he watched the beautiful plane, illuminated by moonlight, coming in fast.
The entrance to the main building was illuminated only by emergency lights and the small bursts of fire. The place which hours before had been so alive and busy was now only a smoking mess. Captain Blue knew that the underground levels were beneath a ten-foot-thick concrete floor and their electrical power came from an independent generator, also located underground, and thus were probably in much better condition than the rest of the building. Blue headed for the evacuation stairs since the electricity that powered the elevators was not working and hurried downstairs.
Running through deserted corridors, Blue noted everything seemed to be intact until he reached the reactor control room.
To his horror, all the control panels were destroyed. Only a few display consoles around the room's perimeter were intact. He found a severely wounded man lying motionless on the floor. Blue knelt down near him. Although the man was in critical condition, he was still alive.
"The...the vacuum chamber...fast!" whispered the dying man.
Vacuum chamber...the airlocked room used for airless experiments...oh, no...Blue called for medical assistance over his radio as he ran toward the chamber.
When he got there, he could see through a small window in a heavy iron door that a group of scientists were locked in there, and the atmosphere inside it was being removed at lethal levels. Immediately, he started trying to find a way to reverse the process and open the airlock to save those men and women, in a desperate race against time.
Symphony was unable to destroy the Mysteronized helicopter. It kept darting between the twin buildings, using them as protection, like a rat trying to escape a cat.
"So you want to play hide and seek, hm-m?" she smiled delicately. "O.K., I know how to win that game."
Symphony took her jet into a steep dive and levelled out at a very low altitude, in a position where the MH-29 could not see or detect her. The trees and the grass beneath her plane were shaken by the exhaust gases of her plane.
Angel One was now right on a perpendicular path with the walls of one of the twin buildings.
Symphony concentrated her nerves of steel and pushed her plane ever closer, then suddenly made a sharp curve and maneuvered along the building's contour, between the canyon created by the walls of the twin towers.
After that rapid maneuver, she was face to face with the Mysteronized helicopter. She knew she would need millimetre precision, because she was going to fly between those twin buildings, and any mistake would certainly be fatal. Her heart was beating harder, and she put the MH-29 in her gun sight, knowing that it could not escape, but that she would need instantaneous reflex action to avoid destroying her aircraft as well.
"Take this, baby," she said, after stabbing at the firing button.
The MH-29 disintegrated.
Symphony swung her plane up and away, passing through the flames of the explosion. Seconds later, the ultrasonic fighter was hundreds of feet away from the twin buildings, levelling out at 10,000 feet.
"Symphony Angel to Cloudbase. The Mysteronized helicopter is destroyed. Four Army MH-29's are just now arriving. The situation in the air is under control."
When Captain Scarlet arrived at the reactor control room, he found medical personnel attending to some of the victims of the vacuum chamber while those that were well enough to assist joined a group of scientists and technicians working desperately, some trying to repair control panels, others working on the benches of the work stations. Worry was on all their faces, including Captain Blue's.
"Dos Santos is a Mysteron agent!" Blue said in alarm. "He destroyed all the control panels, and now he's in the reactor room, where he's got the only working controls. The consoles that are working here indicate he's trying to overload the system. If he puts all that antimatter in contact with matter in the mixing chamber at one time..."
"They'll annihilate each other, liberating a colossal quantity of energy!" growled Mr. Gomes, a technician whose nerves were completely shattered. "The subsequent explosion would devastate a quarter of the surface of South America! This is the end!"
"No!" shouted Scarlet, cutting him short. "We can't give up. We have to find out a way to stop this."
"There is a way," said Professor Rossi, who appeared in the room wearing a radiation suit. "I'll go into the reactor room and reverse the process."
"It's better if Captain Scarlet or I do this, Professor," said Blue. "Dos Santos is now a Mysteron agent, and we're better prepared to face him."
"No, I cannot permit that. The overload in the reactor room caused a leakage of excessive radiation in there. The automatic radiation isolation system was activated. If I am able to stop the leak, it will return the room to habitable conditions, but only after seven hours. A man would die in there under those conditions, even wearing this suit. I'm the one responsible for this Centre--if someone has to die, I should be the one."
"I insist you leave this task to Spectrum personnel, Professor," said Scarlet, running toward the locker where the anti-radiation suits were stored.
"No, Captain! I'm sorry," Professor Rossi said, cutting Scarlet's path off.
Scarlet was startled to see Rossi now holding a gun and training it on the center of his chest. Had his Mysteron sensitivity failed to detect Rossi as a Mysteron?
Rossi looked desperate. "As I told you, I'll die if necessary to stop this!" he stared firmly. "Please don't force me to hurt you. There's enough anaesthetic in this gun to make a man sleep for many hours."
Gomes had been ticking like a mental time bomb whose clock was running short, and the pressure building up inside him exploded as he watched the scene. "It's Doomsday!" he screamed hysterically. "We won't be safe from Hell! We have to repent of our sins! We don't have time--it's the end!"
Professor Rossi looked toward the screaming man.
Captain Blue seized the opportunity...and seized Rossi's gun, once more taking control of the situation.
As other technicians and scientists were trying to calm Gomes, Blue and Scarlet relaxed slightly and tended to the unbalanced Rossi. "Sorry, Professor," said Blue, trying to soothe Rossi's jangled nerves. "Everything will be all right. Please, trust us. We need you to stay calm and tell us how to stop the reactor from overloading."
While Captain Scarlet was putting on an anti-radiation suit, Professor Rossi explained to him how to stop the reactor overload. It was very simple; he merely had to turn off some power switches in the control alcove located beside the reactor.
When Scarlet finished dressing, Rossi led them to the airlock between the control room and the reactor room. "We use this to send robots into the reactor room in case of radiation leakage," he explained. "The robots are put in the airlock, after which the access door to the control room is sealed and the access door to the reactor room opened. But this airlock can be used only once. Only when the ambient atmosphere in both the airlock and the reactor room returns to a habitable condition can it be opened again. If you fail, there will not be another chance."
"Then I won't fail," Scarlet replied simply. With that, he entered the airlock under the anxious glances of many men and women. Scarlet knew the responsibility he had on his hands: The destiny of all those persons, and millions of other innocent people, depended on his success.
"Good luck, Paul!" said Blue, optimism in his voice.
Scarlet smiled at Blue, then pressed a button on a panel beside the access door, which closed it. After pressing the button to open the access door to the reactor room, he heard the noise of the entrance door being sealed, then the reactor room door opening.
Now the real work began.
The temperature inside the reactor room was troublingly high due to the overloading systems. There were gases and smoke everywhere, but the real hazard was invisible--the radiation leakage.
Carefully, Scarlet entered the reactor room and checked his handgun, knowing that the Mysteron agent could be anywhere. Slowly, he advanced toward the mixing chamber.
As he neared the mixing chamber, a bullet passed very close to his head, hitting the concrete wall of the mixing chamber. Immediately, Scarlet backed up and hid behind the 20-foot-radius cylindrical chamber and looked around for the source of the shot.
"It's useless to try to do anything, Earthman!" shouted Dos Santos. "In twenty minutes, this place will blow up. We will be avenged, Earthman!"
"Don't be stupid, Dos Santos!" Scarlet answered in a loud voice. "You're going to blow up along with this place!"
"You will never win!"
Spotting Dos Santos in the control alcove behind the control bench, Scarlet looked for an opportunity to fire at him. The control bench was just four feet high, and the Mysteronized man was standing there looking for the opportunity to kill anyone who would try to get closer to him. There was a bigger problem, however: Some of the switches Scarlet had to turn off were in a panel just behind Dos Santos' head. If Scarlet missed the mark, he could destroy the mechanism, and the consequences would be disastrous.
Time was running out, and Scarlet had to think fast, had to find a solution. He took a rapid look at Dos Santos, then went back into hiding when the Mysteron started firing again. On the right side of the control alcove, there was a power supply, which was connected directly to the generator which supplied the underground floors of the building with power. He had an idea, but he needed to get closer to Dos Santos.
Scarlet started shooting out the lights of the room. In a few seconds, only the weak light from displays was illuminating the place. He threw himself upon the ground and started creeping along silently. The flicker of light on Dos Santos face accentuated the deformation caused by the radiation's high levels. It was almost too grotesque to witness.
After moving about the contours of the room, creeping behind control benches, computer frames and other objects, Scarlet stopped behind one of the four big magnetic generators, which were located in positions around the mixing chamber. He was at a distance of less than eight feet from Dos Santos, and he knew that he did not have much time.
Captain Scarlet jumped toward Dos Santos, who immediately fired on him, striking him in the abdomen. A hand-to-hand fight began, but one where Scarlet had a distinct advantage. Even a Mysteronized man would require hours to recover from all the damage the radiation could cause to his body, and Dos Santos was very weak.
Scarlet fought through the pain of his stomach wound, knocked Dos Santos' gun away, and sent the Mysteron agent stumbling and falling onto the power supply switching board, the resultant short circuit glowing in the room like lightning and killing Dos Santos instantly.
Then deadly silence fell again.
Scarlet had lost a great deal of blood due to the wound, and he knew he had only a few minutes before the whole place would explode. He also had to hurry because his vision was starting to dim due to his loss of blood.
Fighting the wave of unconsciousness that threatened to engulf him, Scarlet reached for the control panel.
Captain Blue was biting his lips hard. It had been too long since Captain Scarlet had entered, and time was running out. The numbers on the panels were reaching critical levels...
"He's got it!" shouted an excited man who was monitoring one of the display control consoles. "Oh, my God, he's got it!"
A celebration broke forth in the room as the systems slowly returned to normal and the overload condition stopped. It was nearly midnight. Another day would dawn normally. South America was safe.
Gradually, the euphoria in the control room ceased, however, and a funereal silence came down.
"We're safe; millions are safe," said a beautiful blonde woman, tears in her eyes. "But a man had to die to save us, a very valiant man."
"Don't be so sad, Doctor Roberts," said Captain Blue in a serene voice, after wiping with his right hand a tear which was running down the woman's face. "Captain Scarlet will be all right."
"I know he's your friend, Captain Blue," replied the woman, "but no one can survive under those conditions!"
"Maybe he can. Believe me."
Captain Scarlet opened his eyes and realized he was in the Cloudbase sickbay. Slowly, he sat up and saw Dr. Fawn working at his desk.
Fawn looked up from his work at the sound of Scarlet's movement and smiled, then punched the intercom button on his desk. "Fawn to Control," the doctor said. "You asked to be notified when Captain Scarlet regained consciousness."
"Thank you, Doctor," White replied over the speakers.
Fawn turned his attention to Scarlet. "Welcome back, Captain. Say hello to your bunkmate."
Scarlet looked to his right and saw Captain Magenta sitting on a bed beside his own, grinning at him. "I'm glad to see you, Captain Magenta," said Scarlet. "How are you doing?"
"Not having as fast a recovery as yours," he smiled, "but I'm doing O.K."
Captain Blue and Colonel White arrived within moments. Both looked visibly relieved to see Scarlet awake. "It's good to see you in good shape again, son," expressed Colonel White with a smile of satisfaction on his face. "You did very good work over there."
"We all did, sir," Scarlet replied.
"Yes, I know."
"What about the Centre?"
"It will take some months to rebuild it," answered Captain Blue. "But it could have been much, much worse. The only thing no one over there could believe was that you were still alive when the automatic radiation isolation system released the room. They said you're like a cat with many lives."
"Well, a cat has only nine lives," joked Scarlet.
All the officers laughed with Scarlet, and a high spirit reigned in the sickbay. One more time, they had won a battle in this war of nerves against the Mysterons.
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