A ‘Captain Scarlet’ father’s day story
by Sage Harper
Deep inside Cloudbase, in a stretch of labyrinthine corridors, two men stood by a phone.
“You’ll owe me,” The raven-haired Captain Scarlet said, as his friend’s fingers danced over the keys punching in a familiar number.
“Yes, yes, I know. Many thanks, oh, gracious, wonderful one; I shall worship you for ever more. Hey, if it were allowed, I’d even marry you,” the other man, Captain Blue, replied.
Blue gave a mischievous grin.
“Sure, we’d make a real cute couple … ok, it’s ringing.”
After a moment he began to speak into the receiver. He had opted for this phone as it wasn’t a video phone - he felt uncomfortable using those.
Scarlet stood alert, like a soldier waiting for signal; which, at that moment, he truly was. He listened to the one-sided conversation, as his friend’s voice went from civil to irritated, and finally descending into impassioned tones in a foreign tongue. It was a language Scarlet did not speak fluently, but he knew it to be Swedish, and could understand one word: fader. The term was spoken with such restrained venom, a title most reluctantly bestowed and accepted.
Still he waited for the signal, and it came: eye contact and the raising of a hand, as if in surrender.
“Captain Blue,” was all he said, his voice heavy with sadness at these circumstances.
Blue, seemingly broken from his thoughts, reverted back to English.
“SIG, Captain Scarlet … Look, Dad, I have to go. Yeah right; love to Mom and everyone. Farväl Far, yeah of course, bye Dad.”
Captain Blue put down the receiver, and blew out a breath, bracing his long body against the wall.
“Don’t look at me like that, Pal.”
At first ‘Pal’ had been taken on its face-value meaning, until Blue had explained it was also the Swedish version of his friend’s name, Paul.
“It’s just so … sorgsen,” Scarlet said wearily. “That the word?”
“Yeah, you’ve a real knack for this. Oh, but don’t worry, Pal. I stopped being sad about it years ago.”
“Aren’t you even going to try for a reconciliation? Considering the upcoming events.”
Blue gave a roar of laughter.
“What did you think that was?”
He strode on down the corridor, Scarlet following without question. It always surprised him how content he was to let Adam lead.
“I have absolutely had it with him,” Blue announced without even looking round, another thing Scarlet wouldn’t tolerate from any other.
“His shoddy blackmail attempts, this stupid mind game, how he just can’t accept anything outside his game plan,” Blue continued.
Scarlet smiled, remembering an article he’d read about the berserkers. A group of Viking soldiers, who were probably otherwise civil men, yet they would unleash such wrath in battle that they were feared the known world over. He had thought at the time ‘oh, so that’s where Adam gets it from’.
Blue stopped and turned around, a look of satisfied resolution on his face.
“I don’t need this crap, and am not going to take it a minute longer. If he wants shot of me, so be it. Let the decree be put forth, with Paul err what’s your middle name?”
“Charles,” Scarlet said, noting the gleam in Blue’s eyes.
“Nice, with Paul Charles Metcalfe as my witness. I, Adam Kristian Svenson, hereby disown my father, Bjorn Stefan Svenson. Henceforth I am fatherless.”
Lopsided grin in place, and with a satisfied nod, Blue strode on.
Scarlet remained still. Watching his friend, his vän, march away. The enormity of the situation washing over and seeping into him.
“Move over a bit,” Ochre said, trying to get comfortable on Magenta’s couch.
“Do what? This is my couch, in my quarters, so you move over!”
“Fine, I’ll sit on the floor.”
A snort from his friend brought the realisation that this was exactly what he had planned. Ochre slumped down, disgruntled, by the other end of the couch to Captain Grey.
Grey hadn’t even bothered to put up a fight. He even claimed to like stretching out on the floor. Though not, it seemed, as much as Magenta enjoyed having the whole couch to himself.
This little act had been played out every week for the last month. The three captains had gathered to watch the latest in the seemingly never-ending chain of detective drama series. Grey had long given up hope of being able to watch it without his companions yelling at the TV, feeling qualified after years of experience to point out all the flaws in technology and/or police procedure. Yet he remained part of the arrangement, because, for totally inexplicable reasons, these two were his closest friends.
Grey realised his hearing must be almost super human. Over Ochre’s latest ranting about something or other, he could hear classical music playing next door in Scarlet’s room. Then a more immediate bleeping sound.
“Your phone’s ringing, Pat,” he said.
Magenta got up to answer it, and, in a move that seemed choreographed, Ochre and Grey looked at each other then dived on to the couch.
Grey listened to Magenta speaking, and gave a smile as the latter’s accent became more pronouncedly Irish. Obviously a call from home. Grey elbowed Ochre for taking up too much space. Then when the call finished he looked around, expecting a friendly telling off for stealing the seat.
The expression on Magenta’s face tore right into them, and it felt as if someone had suddenly sent the world to a shuddering halt. He went straight into his sleeping area without a word, fighting back a sob.
Ochre leapt up, reeling from the ripples of shock.
“We can’t leave him,” he said simply, heading for the sleeping area.
“Is now a good time to mention I’m really bad in an emotional crisis?” Grey faltered
Ochre stopped, in between his friends, rolled his eyes as if Grey was just being daft, then carried on. It was a strange sense of role reversal.
By the time Grey reached them, Ochre and Magenta were huddled together at the end of the bed. Magenta, obviously in deep shock, was attempting to restrain his sobs, whilst Ochre supported him, offering soothing words and a caring touch. He seemed so paternal, that was the only word for it.
Grey felt a surprising rush of tenderness for his comrades, who at that moment, despite their uniforms, were simply Pat and Rick.
Grey approached them, to offer some comfort, resting his right hand between Ochre’s shoulders, and with the left rubbing Magenta’s back.
He had read that ‘friends are the family of the 21st century’, and as they too reached for him, Grey could believe these were his brothers.
“Sorry I freaked you guys out earlier.”
The three had somehow managed to meet up for dinner. Not that Magenta was doing anything more than toying with his salad.
“It’s alright, Pinkie, honest.” Grey bit into an onion ring, trying his best to look suitably concerned and sympathetic. Not that he wasn’t truly concerned; he just wasn’t accustomed to expressing emotion.
‘Pinkie’ was one of a vast selection of nicknames, stemming from the hot debate as to whether, as a colour, magenta was a shade of red, or indeed pink. It hadn’t taken long for the name to become established as teasing. Though Grey never meant it as such; it was just so oddly adorable, yet inappropriate, that he couldn’t pass on it.
Ochre was more than compensating his friend’s lack of appetite, and asked, in his usual blunt fashion:
“So, what’s the whole deal then?”
Magenta took a deep breath; an instinct cried out for him to keep everything private. Yet he looked at his companions, and realised he was closer to them than anyone in the whole world. They deserved an explanation.
“It’s my dad, he’s, umm, well Mam wasn’t really sure. He might have had a heart attack.”
Watching their faces crumple with sympathy, Magenta had a strange realisation; for all he knew, they didn’t have fathers. In the whole going-on-for three years, he had known them, neither Ochre nor Grey had made any notable comment on the subject. For all they griped about their respective pasts, fathers were seemingly off bounds as a topic.
“Yeah, but that’s not always so bad is it? I mean, people can recover just fine,” Ochre gabbled.
At a loss for words, Grey just reached for Magenta’s hand, but got a handful of watch instead.
“You should talk to the colonel, get some compassionate leave,” he finally said.
“Yeah, Brad’s right. We’ll cover for you and everything. Go see your dad.”
Too weary from the day’s events, Magenta just nodded like an obedient child.
Ochre had known exactly what he was doing, what it technically was; how ashamed he would be if anyone else found out about it. Yet he just couldn’t stop himself.
It was only due to Pat’s expertise, and his willingness to share his hacking skills, that he was able to do it. The unwitting technical support, unaware of its intended use, had been invaluable.
Of course it was only a matter of time before he found out, and Ochre knew what the reaction would be.
He was right, of course.
The showdown was in his quarters; Ochre being caught out looking up their new address.
“This has got to stop,” Magenta demanded.
Ochre didn’t get chance to respond.
“Who is she anyway, this Eleanor Topping? An ex-girlfriend or something?”
“Her sister was, until I, uhhh, then she, umm, died fairly recently.”
“Oh, the plot thickens … Richard, why are you stalking your dead ex-girlfriend’s sister? … I want an answer.”
In the whole time they had known each other that was, probably, the first Magenta had used Ochre’s full first name, in all seriousness.
“I’m not,” Ochre retorted hotly. “I’m just…”
He couldn’t finish the sentence; he didn’t even know how to explain what he was doing, much less why.
“You do know this is stalking? Not only is it illegal, but it’s seriously deranged. For your own good, I suggest you quit.”
“I just can’t, okay? I need to know, stuff, something, anything about them. Especially the little boy she cares for.”
For some reason Magenta softened, just a little.
“Why, who is this kid?”
Ochre took a deep breath, literally bracing himself against the desk.
“He’s my son.”
“Every single year, of your whole life?”
“Of course, the proof is right there in front of you.”
Blue turned another page of the small photo album. It was a comfortable weight in his lap. He carefully examined the latest picture presented. It was of an adorable, raven-haired boy and a man, clearly his father, sitting together on one side of a picnic table in a pub-restaurant garden; the sun shining down in that half-hearted English way. The boy’s pale-blue eyes sparkled with mischief as he held a piece of cake.
“You look like you’re about to throw that cake at someone,” Blue commented.
“I do look rather tempted.” Scarlet grinned. “Can’t remember doing it though.”
“How old were you then? … Oh, it says here; 2042, you’d have been about five.”
Blue had a quick flick through. Yes, every year was accounted for. Right from 2036; with Charles Metcalfe laying a protective hand on his wife Mary’s belly, the closest touch to his unborn son, who would turn out to be a miracle twice over, though, without the caption, you couldn’t really tell Mary was expecting. Then on through the years as Paul grew from a wide-eyed angelic baby, vivacious child, moderately surly teenager (even then he was photogenic) to a poised, handsome soldier.
The whole album contained just these pictures taken each father’s day. To document the growth of this beloved boy, and the pride and love of his parents that shone out from every page.
“I hope you realise how wonderful this is,” Blue stated firmly.
“Yes, of course.”
“You better do; it is so obvious from this how much your parents care about you. My father would never do that; I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve been erased from all the family snaps.”
“Really, Adam, I think you might be exaggerating.”
“Oh, yeah, right; off the top of your head give me three memories of being with your dad.”
“Going fishing, when we rebuilt that old car together, and the commissioning ceremony.”
“That’s nice, wonderful. Wanna hear mine for contrast? Being told I was a mistake, not even sugar-coated with ‘unplanned’ or ‘a surprise’. How he flipped out at me for wanting to be a pilot, and every word of the letter he wrote technically disowning me.”
“Surely, you must have some good memories?”
“Hmm… nope; can’t think of any right now.”
“Wow.” Scarlet couldn’t imagine any words that he could say that would console, empathise or even be appropriate.
“So, that is why…” Blue began, tactfully changing the subject, “you have to take my leave and go see your dad.”
“I insist.” He smiled. “Go get picture thirty three.”
Magenta realised, as he turned into the driveway, that he had absolutely no plan whatsoever. Never had he been so utterly unprepared for anything in his entire life. Yet there was such a potent sense of loyalty and purpose he couldn’t bail out now.
As he scraped together what little plan he had, Magenta surveyed the scene. It was a nice neighbourhood, rows of bungalows of various colours and designs lined up neatly with prim little front yards and low fences. He found the one he was looking for, strolled up the driveway and rang the doorbell.
It had been a flash of total serendipity that brought him here; finding the ad, getting leave and being in the area (well, country at least) with some free time. Someone was smiling upon him.
After a moment, the door opened and an attractive woman in her mid-thirties stepped forward.
“Hi, I’m Pat Donaghue, I called about the car,” Magenta said.
A flash of recognition passed over her face and she smiled.
“Oh, yes, hi. I’m Ellie Topping.”
As they shook hands, a small boy bounded down the hallway behind Ellie, then suddenly coy, stopped slightly behind her.
“This is my nephew, Ricky,” she said simply.
Well there was certainly no doubting his paternity. Those vibrant copper eyes, brown hair you just knew never fully straightens out, genial manner and sweet charming smile. Magenta couldn’t help but feel a huge fondness for the child.
“Great to meet you, Ricky.” Magenta crouched down and offered his hand to the boy.
“The car’s just though here, in the garage,” Ellie said.
It took a moment for Magenta to remember his ‘cover story’.
“Okay, let’s go take a look then.”
They chatted for a while, about car related things at first. Then onto other general topics. Magenta gave the usual lines about his job and home: That he worked in security, with computers and such. And that he came from Ireland originally, but had lived in New York for years. Not the whole truth, but certainly no word of a lie.
He listened very carefully to what Ellie said, as if he were going to take a vital test on the subject.
After being taken through to the living room, Magenta commented on the photographs lining the hallway walls, and discovered some of Ricky’s mother, Alison (seems Ochre has always had good taste in women).
“This is of my mommy and daddy,” Ricky said, pointing out one in particular, presumably taken during someone’s birthday party.
Magenta did a double-take at this image of Ochre’s previous life; how different he looked then. Not just the beard he’d worn, but how much younger and carefree he appeared. Within that fraction of a second Richard Fraser had been happier than he had ever been since.
“That was from years ago, my daddy died before I was even born,” Ricky continued.
At that moment Magenta came within an inch of blurting out the truth.
“That’s, umm, real sad,” he said instead.
There were no words for the enormous sadness of it all. That fate could so cruelly allow the unwitting severance of these ties.
“Would you like some coffee?” Ellie asked, breaking his reverie.
“Yeah, sure, that’d be great … err could I use your bathroom?”
“Of course, it’s just down the hall, on the left.”
“I’ll show you,” Ricky said eagerly.
Magenta had ended up being taken on a guided tour of the whole house, with Ricky gabbling away the whole time.
Wow, can that kid talk.
He ended up in Ricky’s room; a glorious mess of toys, books, and other childhood paraphernalia. The most frequent theme was planes; even the wallpaper was of a cloud pattern to compliment the models stood proudly on almost every surface.
“So you like planes, huh?” Magenta said, stating the obvious for the sake of conversation.
“Yeah, I wanna be a pilot when I grow up.”
Oh, if only Rick knew, he’d be so proud.
On the bedside table was a large picture of Ricky and his mother, taken in the garden, and one of his father.
“Your daddy would be so proud of you, of what a great kid you are. Bet he’d love to see how you turn out when you’re all grown up.”
Magenta was surprised to find himself so close to tears, and felt Ricky slip his tiny hand inside his own.
“You okay?” The child asked.
“Yeah, sure, just sad about my own daddy. He’s sick in hospital.”
Ricky nodded, and gave a look of such heartbreaking understanding - such a young soul should not know this sorrow, especially not one so undeserving.
Magenta was grateful for the coffee, and surprising accompaniment of homemade cake. Stood in front of the sink, after insisting on doing the washing up, he watched Ricky at the breakfast bar. He was very carefully scribing letters in a card he had obviously made himself. Oddly touched by the scene Magenta asked who it was for.
“It’s a father’s day card. We made them at daycare. I want to get it finished so I can give it to daddy.”
It took Magenta a moment to realise what would actually occur. The pair would obviously visit the [supposed] grave. Again he felt sadness sock him in the stomach.
Until he had an idea.
“Hey, I know a way to get that to your daddy, directly.”
Ricky’s eyes widened, his expression begging for an explanation. Ellie was obviously deeply sceptical, but played along for her nephew’s sake.
“Now, you understand I’m sworn to secrecy how it works, but it most definitely will. You just have to trust me.”
“Okay, could you do that then, please?” Ricky asked with surprising humbleness.
Magenta smiled, happily accepting the offered card.
“’Course, I will.” He picked up his jacket. “Well it’s been wonderful meeting you both, I’ll be in touch.”
They waved him off until he could no longer see them. Magenta had never felt such bittersweet euphoria. He navigated the Chicago traffic, cursing that he hadn’t brought Grey along, this was his home city after all. But then that would mean telling him, and so that was out.
Magenta eventually found a stationery shop, and purchased what he needed, cursing that the damn things only came in packs of ten. He took the manual from the rental car’s glove compartment, and lent on that to write out the address. He knew the bulk of it off by heart, having seen and given it so many times. Yet this was possibly the first time he’d sent anything there.
Double checking the PO Box number one more time, Magenta slipped the card, now safely encased in an envelope, into the nearest mailbox. As he did so he prayed it would get there on time.
“So, you talked to him, right?” Symphony asked, setting down two mugs of coffee on the canteen table.
Captain Scarlet rolled his eyes.
“I don’t think you appreciate the enormity of the task.”
“Yeah, but he listens to you,” Symphony insisted.
“On assignments, maybe, but over this, he is just not going to budge.”
“We have to do something.”
Scarlet’s mental response was, no we don’t. Blue was a grown man, with a life of his own. He was quite capable of conducting relationships on his own terms without anyone else interfering.
Scarlet presented a tactful version of this to Symphony. Who, much to his relief, didn’t argue. Which he, then realised, was worse; she grew silent and thoughtful in a way that could only mean one thing.
“I was just thinking of my dad,” Symphony said slowly.
“This is nothing like that,” Scarlet insisted.
Symphony had been a devoted daddy’s girl to her father Harry - a man that seemed to Scarlet to embody the spirit of Midwest farming folk; cowboy or redneck maybe, but a true gentleman at heart. You couldn’t get more different from Bjorn Svenson and his Boston blue-blood sensibilities. It was also hard to escape the key detail that, unfortunately, unlike Harry, Bjorn was very much alive and giving everyone grief.
“Yeah, of course,” she continued, “but I’d do anything to have my dad back. Ads has that chance, and he’s blowing it. You should be grateful for what you have because…” She took a heavy breath, “one day it won’t be there any more.”
Scarlet took her hand. He would have hugged her, but the table was in the way.
“I know how hard this is for you,” he said, having watched her grief unfold over the months.
She nodded with a slight smile.
“But you have to understand, the relationship between you and your father, is nothing like Adam has with his,” Scarlet explained “Don’t forget, Bjorn is the man who, from the second trimester onwards, let everyone know this child was a ‘mistake’. Not an unexpected blessing, or a surprise, or even an accident. A mistake, the harshest word possible. Adam, who, as we know, is possibly one of the best things to have happened to them, us - and probably the rest of the world - had to grow up in the shadow of that revelation.”
Symphony didn’t say anything for a moment.
“I … had no idea.”
“Well, it’s not something he generally advertises.” Scarlet took a sip of coffee. “Yup, minus six months,” He added, “that’s when it all started to go downhill.”
“That’s awful; how can you just be so blasé about it?”
“I thought you, of all people, would understand. Adam’s stubborn too and he has his pride. If he needs us, we’ll know. ‘Till then it’s best to butt out.”
“Alright, but I’m doing so under protest.”
As Magenta entered the hospital’s family room, Marie Donaghue stood and rushed over to her son, crumpling into his embrace.
“Oh Padraig, my sweet babby, Padraig.”
Magenta often wondered about the name. For he knew it had been his mother’s insistence to Anglicise all the family’s names, aside from his father’s, which you couldn’t really do a thing with, name or bearer. Yet, she persisted in using the original Irish versions.
It had been a lot of work after the commissioning ceremony to explain this bizarre detail to his friends. Though really, what more could be said other than ‘it’s just what mam does.’ At least it was easier than explaining her name actually was (and technically still is) Mairead, said to rhyme with parade.
Marie was one of a long line of Irish matriarchs, second child and only girl of five. ‘Mam’ to ‘children’ of varying degrees of acquaintance, all awarded the same brand of iron-willed fuss and care. She was an incredibly strong woman, who had seen her family though times harder than any deserved. Yet, here she was, a fragile shell of a woman without her husband. They were a dying breed; women whose men were their first, last and only; that would sacrifice everything for their man, who just could not imagine life without them.
“So, how is he?” Magenta asked.
“Oh, not so bad, all things considering… Would bet any money it was those cigars that did it. Have I not been warning him for years, saying ‘Seamus, those’ll be the death of youse’, but did he listen? No, of course not.”
Magenta couldn’t help smiling. This was his mam in full swing; all five-foot nothing of Irish-born dynamo. God, those doctors must have been given hell.
Marie stopped for a moment, flicking her head a little as if listening to a stage cue. Always a sign she was trying to remember something.
“Oh, I told your pa that you’ve arrived.”
Marie always referred to her husband as ‘your pa’ or ‘your father’ to her children. As if there was no other way the couple were defined or connected.
“He’s sleeping now, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you in a while,” she continued.
Magenta nodded, taking a seat and picking up a computer magazine. Rolling his eyes at the front page which was claiming a system as ‘the next great innovation’, when he knew it was already six months out of date.
Marie took a good, hard look at her son, and he braced himself for the inevitable verbal barrage.
“Oh, look at you; you’ve lost weight you know, are you sure you’ve been eating properly?”
“Not been too busy with work, I hope … you know, I was talking with Grace O’Malley; well, her Brian has made this internet company or something. Anyway she’s right made up because he’s only gone bought her a cruise in the Bahamas, or was it the Caribbean? Anyway, she was asking after you; so I said how you had this job that was all very secret and important. Which is all well and good, but you never bloody buy me nice holidays any more.”
“Would if I could afford it, anyway, you know why I can’t now.”
“Yeah, but still, it’d be nice to shut her up sometime.”
“Tell her that her Brian’s an eejit, and I could make all the tech stuff he uses, without bugs.”
“To be sure, there’s no tellin’ her anything… did I mention Caitlin’s got some new fella?”
Caitlin (coit-leen or kate-lin, who could tell) was Magenta’s sister. Known to him as ‘Pocket’ (as in pocket-sized, she was petite like their mother) and mother herself of the now teenaged Fae. It’d been a shock back then, Caitlin was so young, and ‘such a sensible girl’ (but that’s coming from the woman who swears blind her ex-criminal son has always been ‘a good honest lad’)
“Yeah, Mam, and that you didn’t like him.”
“Well, some people are just too nice, smarmy nice, you know, not charming nice, like your friend Paul. He’s lovely. Now if Caitlin could find a lad like him … or better still.”
“Mam, I’ll ask, but he’s probably not interested.”
“Well that’s a shame. What about you, Padraig? Any nice lass I should know about?”
“No, Mam, but if there was, you’d be the first to know.”
“What about, umm, Karen - wasn’t it? - who you had your eye on?”
“She’s got a boyfriend. Seems none of the others are interested, either.”
“Well, that just won’t do, a handsome lad like yourself should have no trouble. You should try harder really; none of us are getting any younger. It’d be nice to have grandchildren.”
“What about Fae?”
“Grand children, Padraig, as in more than one. Besides, it’d be nice for you to contribute, and to have some little ones again. Evelyn Riley’s youngest just had a baby, well, his wife did, you know what I mean. They named it Neve. Which is lovely; people should use Irish names more. ”
“I will, Mam, promise. Shall name my first girl Mairead after you.”
“Oh, that’s sweet; hopefully people will say it right.”
“I’ll make them get it right, can’t have such a nice name get ruined.”
Marie smiled; she knew how her son appreciated the name. That he went through a phase of calling her that, just to say and hear it.
“What if it’s a boy, you’ll make sure….”
“He has Patrick as a middle name,” Magenta finished. “Can’t go breaking family tradition. I’ll let his mam pick the first name. Then it’ll be a surprise.”
“A nice surprise, I hope. Not like one of those silly made-up names you hear on telly.”
“Course not; it’ll be fit for a lawyer.”
Magenta had never actually given any serious thought to having children, and certainly not about their names. It was quite nice though, just to sit and quietly muse. He wasn’t sure what had started that off, probably everything that was going on. After all, it would wonderful to have a son to play with (he could imagine the said future son fighting, with him and Rick, for a go with the train set) and a pretty daughter that’d be the apple of his eye.
A nurse came over to them, with one of those soothing sort of smiles.
“Hello, Mrs Donaghue. Your husband is awake now.”
Then she noticed Magenta.
“This is our son, Pat; he’s an expert with computers,” Marie announced, with suitable maternal pride.
“It’s nice to meet you,” The nurse said, shaking Magenta’s offered hand before departing on some other errand.
“You go in and see him, Padraig,” Marie insisted, then on seeing his expression relented a little.
“I’ll come with you,” she added, taking his arm.
Magenta had tried to brace himself for the scene in the hospital room. It hadn’t been particularly effective. Perhaps it was just the sight of his father, who had always seemed so strong and able to take anything on, reduced to such fragility.
The lights were dimmed, and at that point the other beds were unoccupied.
“Hi, Pa,” Magenta said, taking a chair by the bed.
“Oh, it’s you.”
He had obviously expected Caitlin or Fae.
“Seamus don’t be like that,” Marie scolded. She had reluctantly become referee between her ‘men folk’.
“What, I didn’t mean it badly. Padraig knows that I’m not spoiling for a fight.”
“As you shouldn’t in your condition.”
“Yes, I bloody know.” Seamus pulled his pyjama top a little tighter closed. In an attempt to hide the monitors attached to him. There wasn’t much point though.
“Well, I’m off to get some dinner, well what they call dinner. Wouldn’t feed it to a dog myself,” Marie said, satisfied no war would erupt in her absence. “I’ll let you be to talk.”
“Yes, that’d be grand.”
They watched Marie depart, before turning to each other and making strained small talk. About Magenta’s journey, bringing him up to speed with recent events. Having exhausted those, and almost himself, Seamus asked,
“So, what really brought you here?”
Taken aback by this, Magenta struggled for an answer.
“To see you, mam told me what happened, and I thought …”
“That I was going to die.”
“You’re not though, Pa. The doctors said…”
“Patrick, we are all going to die some time; you, me, your boy when you eventually get round to having the bugger.”
“Yeah, mam’s already nagged me about that.”
“Hmm, she would. I’ve wanted to try and explain to you, what it’s like, to be a father. How so proud and happy I was to hold you the first time, because, God, ugly as you were, you were my lad.”
“You’re not meant to call kids ugly and stuff like that, might give them self esteem issues.”
Seamus gave a croak of laughter.
“You’ve seen the photos! That’s not the point though. Know what I went out and did after you were born?”
“Got totally ratted with Uncle Niall, ‘wetting my head’.”
“No time to get snooty about your heritage, Patrick… What I actually meant was that in all those bars, with every drink, I told every bugger listening, and some who weren’t, all about how I now had this little lad, what a grand baby he was, how he’d ‘be someone’ in life. Of course mob boss wasn’t what I had in mind, but still.”
“Yeah, Pa, I know. You don’t have to say it all. That’s kind of why I came too. The thought of you … and not knowing. I’ve changed Dad. Honest, they gave me a pardon and everything. So now…”
“Patrick, it’s ok. I know all about Spectrum.”
“Yeah, umm, really, how?”
“Fae has this friend at school, can’t remember his name, anyway turns out he’s your pal Adam’s kid brother. Even met their father a few times, right up himself he is; nice lads though.”
Magenta tried not to look too shocked. At the general revelation that is, he’d already guessed Bjorn Svenson was ‘right up himself’.
Seamus continued regardless.
“So, yeah, did a bit of research on the internet, and there you have it. Now I know that we can’t tell everybody, but, oh, I wanted to. Who’d a thought my lad saves the world? It was like back when you were born all over again.”
“Pa, if you knew all that, then why didn’t you come to the commissioning ceremony?”
“Never knew about that back then. Jus’ that you were going away, I thought it was to prison again, and well, yeah.”
Magenta laughed with relief.
“It’s ok, Pa, I’m not going back there again, ever.”
“Grand, good thing they let you keep the assets. I’ve saved up a few, that Svenson guy was handy for money tips. Don’t tell your mother, but when I’m better, then I shall book a world cruise for us.”
He hesitated a little, then asked “Do you think she’d like that?”
Magenta grinned, imagining Marie telling Grace O’Malley.
“She’ll be thrilled… thought you were into saving for the future, not blowing it on fancy stuff?”
“Patrick, we’ve been doing that for forty years now. If anything has come from this,” he pointed at his chest, “it’s that life is too fecking short. So spend your money and love your family. That shall be my new motto.”
“That’s great, Pa, really.”
When Marie returned she was delighted to see father and son playing backgammon. The three sat together for a while, discussing mutual friends and the assorted nonsense that binds families together.
“Look, I better get going,” Magenta said reluctantly, finally checking the time.
“Oh, so soon?” Marie exclaimed.
“Yeah, well, someone else is going on leave too. Can’t be undermanned for too long, you see.”
“You’ll be back soon though. Won’t you son?” Seamus said, as much to reassure himself as his wife.
“Yeah, ‘course. Hopefully I’ll get to see the girls next time.”
They made their goodbyes. As he was about to leave the room Magenta turned back, then said and did something rare, though he vowed to make it more of a habit.
He went back to his father’s side, leaned close and kissed Seamus on the forehead, and whispered, “I love you, Pa.”
Surprised, and unexpectedly emotionally, Seamus managed to whisper back.
“And I love you, son.”
The first person Magenta saw when he entered Cloudbase was Captain Blue, nonchalantly leaning against one of the vent ducts to the outside deck, contently chewing gum.
“Just saw Scarlet off,” Blue said, by way of explanation. Then, ever polite, offered the packet.
Magenta took one.
“How’s everything for you?” he asked.
“Well, aside from the stress of keeping everything together and getting paranoid that everyone’ll mutiny any minute now. Hmm, it’s not so bad.”
“What about with your dad? Did you know him and my father met?”
“You’ve seen your mother; it’s obvious because you start talking a hundred times faster than normal, with an Irish accent. Just like she does.”
“Never noticed that,” Magenta said, apologetically, making an effort to stop.
“So, yes, my father. I’ve sent him a card, and note RSVPing his father’s day luncheon invitation. Obviously not going, couldn’t with all this ‘acting commander’ stuff. Wouldn’t anyway because it’d be the triple whammy of dad, my brother Peter and Pete’s bimbo wife; which is more than I can bear at the best of times. Feel rather liberated, actually, to get him out of my hair.”
He wrapped the gum back into it’s wrapper and tossed it into the bin.
“Never realised our fathers had met, small world eh? Did he say how they met, as neither were at the commissioning ceremony?”
“Apparently my niece hangs out with your kid brother.”
“No way, and they’re practically old enough to go to bars. We’re getting ancient without realising it.”
“I know. So, naturally mam’s cranked up the ‘get married and have kids’ nagging.”
“Yeah, mine too; in fact we’re getting it from both sides.”
“Gonna go for it one day, then? Got to admit those would be seriously cute babies; little blond geniuses.”
“Sure, I’ll just do the exact opposite of everything my dad did. Then everything should work out just fine.”
The next morning Colonel White woke and, for a moment, was more than slightly disorientated. He wasn’t in his quarters, but rather Amanda Wainwright’s guest room. It was a pleasant room, tastefully decorated in a manner neither overly masculine or feminine. It also seemed the only room, aside from the bathrooms, not decorated with pictures of Symphony. White felt rather relieved to have some mental respite from the Angel pilot and therefore from work. Utterly efficient though she was, Symphony had proved to be a bit of a madam.
There was a brief knock on the door and Amanda poked her head around the door.
“Mornin’,” she said, in her lazy Midwestern voice, still tender with sleep.
“Did you sleep well? I, err, have been informed that I sometimes snore.”
“Oh, just fine.” She smiled, and stepped further in. “You can’t hear a thing through the walls, anyway. Which is just as well, when Karen brings her boyfriend over.”
Amanda noticed White’s slightly awkward expression and changed the subject.
“I brought you some breakfast.” She gestured toward the tray in her hands, then placed it on the other side of the bed to where he sat.
White watched her during that time. As the morning light settled on her honey hair, the way her almond eyes smiled gently upon him, how her slightly flimsy gown clung to her still slim figure. Yes, she really was quite stunning.
“Oh, there was some mail for you,” she added, sliding an absurdly large envelope from under the tray.
“Thank you, you’ve been too kind,” he replied, distractedly. As he thought what this could possibly be, and how it got to him here. Oh, of course, he could imagine, and would have rather strong words with the ‘young lady’ on his return.
“I’ll leave you to eat and read in peace,” Amanda said, before making a graceful departure.
White made himself wait through three mouthfuls of coffee and a slice of toast before opening his post.
It proved to be one of those ridiculously sized father’s day cards. For it spelt out, in no uncertain terms ‘Happy Father’s Day’ in gold writing against a sentimentally drawn background of blue sky, fluffy clouds and a rainbow.
Well, now this was getting stranger by the minute. White had never in his life received a father’s day card, for the simple reason of not having any children. Yet here it was, plain as day, delivered to this bizarre location.
With a ludicrous degree of caution, White opened the card.
On the left side was a simple note, which a disbelieving White slowly read aloud as he drank his coffee. He was rather impressed by the appointed scribe, no doubt chosen for their careful penmanship.
We are sure you are utterly baffled by this gesture.
Though we assure you, it is meant to be unexpected.
As you are aware we are all grown now (though in some cases this is less believable than in others) and some do indeed have fathers of our own.
Yet we wondered, what exactly makes a good father, we even came up with a job description….
One who is there to guide us
Offers wisdom, even when we do not want it
Who is firm, but fair, with justice
Someone that respects who we are.
Who we wish to make proud, and know is proud of us.
Then it occurred to us, that you fit the bill.
We consider it a great honour and privilege to consider you as such a figure.
Then on the other side of the card...
To our honorary father
From your honorary children…
Adam, Bradley, Dianne, Juliette, Karen
Kwan, Magnolia, Patrick, Paul, Richard, Seymour
That evening Captain Scarlet stuck his head round the door of Cloudbase control room and smiled. Blue was sat at the desk in quiet contemplation, surrounded by small mountains of paperwork and half-empty cups of cold coffee, playing a CD he must have borrowed from Symphony (the only person on the base known to possess country music).
For a moment Scarlet just watched, in silent appreciation of the scene and his friend. Until Blue looked up and smiled.
“Hi, honey, I’m home,” Scarlet said, in an appalling imitation of Blue’s accent.
“So I can see, how was your trip, dear?” Blue replied, returning the gesture.
They both looked at each other and burst out laughing, with the comfortableness of true friendship.
“You’d think after all this time, and amateur dramatics, we’d make a better job of it,” Scarlet noted, sitting down on the, now raised, stool.
“Hey, my English accent is fine, you just set a precedent and it seemed a bit mean to show you up,” Blue insisted.
“Oh, well that’s, very thoughtful.”
Blue abandoned any attempt to finish his report and asked,
“You just missed dinner here; did your mom make you something?”
“She did indeed; prawn cocktail to start, then roast pork, and, for desert, baked pears. I didn’t think you’d want me to bring any back for you.”
“I did warn her you didn’t like any of those. So, you won’t have to worry.”
“Very considerate, and presumptuous; I might not want to go round your parents’ house for dinner again.”
Scarlet gave a look as if to say, ‘yeah, right’.
Aside from being more than slightly intimidated by Scarlet’s father, Blue had taken to the family, just as they had to him. Mary had even demanded to know where Adam was, when her son had arrived home alone. Clearly she, like everyone on Cloudbase, considered them almost like a married couple. For a moment Scarlet had mused that, on balance, Adam would be quite pleasant to have as a husband (for a woman, of course).
“So, how was it here?” Scarlet asked “Did everyone behave themselves properly? Any mutinies?”
“Amazingly, no, it’s all been really boring and running smoothly. Not even a fight between Rick and Pat… Oh, Colonel White got his card, liked it and such. Got a bit freaked that it was Karen’s idea. Thought she was dropping hints.”
“Well there’s no denying he and Amanda make a lovely couple. Oh, it’s good to know he liked it, we did good, Ads.”
“Sure, so you get a picture for your album?”
“Of course, just need to have a play and sort it out on the computer. Do you think Pat would mind teaching me, again?”
“Ha, not all dumbs are blond. Oh, I’m sure he’ll be ok with that. Hang on.”
Blue drew back the walls around the control desk, revealing Magenta, feet propped on the consol, reading a magazine.
“Oh, sorry, Sir,” he stammered, sitting upright and putting the magazine down.
“Pat, for the hundredth time: don’t call me that, we are the same rank. Anyway, when you’ve got time, could you give Paul a recap of that photo-thingy on the computer?”
“Sure, but honestly, it’s not that complicated.”
“Neither is military history when you’ve a degree in it,” Scarlet added with a raised eyebrow.
“Touché, Green should be here in a minute. So we can do it now, if you like?”
“Tomorrow would probably be better, think my mind is exhausted for the day.”
Lieutenant Green arrived and the switch was affected to military standards, but not without sharing a few jokes. Scarlet smiled, that was the Spectrum way.
“You can go off too, Adam,” he said. “I’ll take over for the night.”
“Yeah, alright then. ‘Night Paul.”
“Good night Adam … oh, and happy father’s day.”
Blue gave such a perfect snort of contempt Scarlet couldn’t help but smile.
“I got the card, thanks.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Pat don’t play dumb,” Ochre retorted “Didn’t you think I’d recognise your handwriting on the envelope?”
“Okay, yeah, you got me,” Magenta admitted. Then explained what had transpired the previous afternoon. Ochre listened without comment.
“So what’s he like?”
“A real great kid, so bright and outgoing; God, can he talk. You’d never believe it, but he wants to be a pilot.”
Ochre smiled, but it was a bittersweet smile.
“That’s my boy, apart from the brains. Gets them from his mom. She was a teacher.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
Magenta put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Yeah, fine; it’s just. I’m missing so much… what made you change your mind anyway? About helping me and stuff.”
“A few things, don’t really matter. Just that I did, eh?”
Ochre nodded, then picked up the card, and looked it over for possibly the hundredth time.
“I’d give anything to meet him, just to say thanks… and you know…”
It was one of the only times Ochre had ever been seen close to tears. Magenta was reminded of an old song his mother liked, ‘tears of a clown’.
“You will, some day.”
Thanks, and of course credit, to all the usual suspects…
Have again borrowed Amanda Wainwright from Chris Bishop. Oh and Harry Wainwright is hers too.
The General and Mrs Metcalfe (Charles and Mary) were created by Mary Rudy.
‘Pocket’ as a nickname for Magenta’s sister, was originally used by Sue Stanhope.
Alison, Ellie and Ricky Topping are the creations of Marion Woods. Her excellent story ‘Tears of a clown’ proved a great inspiration (and plot bunny). Thanks to her also for being such an excellent Beta, and suggesting the title.
Thanks also to Chris, for everything.
Any comments? You can contact the Spectrum Headquarters site