By Sage Harper
Bad hair day
“Ochre, open up, I know you’re in there you bastard, I can hear you laughing.”
Responding to the yelling from the corridor outside of where, until that moment, she had been sleeping, Symphony marched out, pulling a pale blue robe around her. Whilst this in itself would ordinarily have warranted centre stage, another overshadowing drama was unfolding.
“This really isn’t funny you know, no way, this time you have gone way too far. Do you want me to kick down the door, huh? ‘Cause I will, then I’ll rip your ugly little head off. And don’t for a minute think I don’t mean it!”
She leant against the wall next to Captain Ochre’s quarters and watched as a very irate Captain Magenta hammered on the door, threatening and cursing his field partner.
Suddenly aware of her presence, Magenta turned and looked a little sheepish.
“Oh, morning, Symphony, uh sorry to wake you.”
“It’s fine Pat really.”
It was then she noticed an unexpected detail of her companion’s appearance. In addition to his black bath robe he was wearing a garment both familiar and oddly out of place. It seemed to be the twin of Captain Grey’s wetsuit balaclava.
“Err, Pat, what’s with the headgear?”
“You like it?”
“I guess, not sure it goes with your uniform though… not meaning to be rude but, why the hell are you wearing it?”
“So no one sees what Ochre did.”
Realising she was still perplexed, Magenta explained “I seem have fallen victim to one of Rick’s jokes, and – uhh - it’s kind of to do with my hair.”
By now, captain Blue had joined them. His curiosity was in overdrive, but he knew full well Magenta wouldn’t wish to reveal the nature of his problem. Blue tried to formulate a plan.
“What happened, Pat?”
Well, that just compounded Magenta’s discomfort. For as long as anyone could tell, Blue and Symphony had been a couple, which was evident to seemingly everyone. What was less apparent were Magenta’s intense feelings towards the Angel, which could best be described as a schoolboy crush.
Obviously he knew better than to do anything with it; she had a better offer, who happened to be trained in almost every form of combat. That didn’t make it any easier for him to be around Symphony, and especially not when she was with Blue.
He made a brave stab at keeping a grip.
“I washed my hair this morning, and on catching sight of it, realised Ochre has ruined it with his evil joke. Guess he must have switched the shampoo with err something.”
The howls of laughter from within reached a new intensity.
“Yeah, laugh now, buddy, it won’t be so damn hilarious when I punch you into next Tuesday,” Magenta yelled.
“Hey, come on, calm down.” Blue tried to pacify him “Let me have a look at your hair.”
“Oh no, no freaking way. I’m not taking this off till it’s sorted.”
“Well, how are you going to manage that with half a wetsuit on your head?”
Then Blue had an idea.
“Look, Karen’s an expert on, you know, hair stuff. So just let us have a peek, then she can assess it and help you.”
Symphony gave a hopeful smile.
“Okay, but promise you won’t laugh.”
“We promise, Pat, go for it.”
So Magenta removed the balaclava, revealing a rather damp full head of hair. The colour of which could only be described as… Shocking, vibrant, effervescent, day-glow … pink.
True to their word, his colleague’s didn’t utter even a single snort. Blue came very close, vigorously chewing his bottom lip whilst his eyes shone with un-uttered hilarity. He watched as, clearly distressed, Magenta hastily re-covered his head.
“You know, it’s really not so bad, it’ll go real nice with your tunic,” Blue said genially.
“See, I knew you wouldn’t understand, how would you feel if someone dyed your hair blue?”
“Ooh, now there’s an idea, it’d take really well, what with Adam being blond to start with,” Symphony grinned wickedly.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Well not unless you’re really very nice to me.”
“Okay, seriously, Pat don’t worry, it isn’t permanent dye. That wouldn’t have had such an effect considering how long it was left on your hair… wait here.”
She disappeared into Blue’s quarters and promptly returned with two bottles.
“Get scrubbing; it shouldn’t take more than six washes to get the whole lot out.” Symphony handed over one bottle, labelled shampoo, then the other.
“Then you must promise to use the conditioner, all that washing will have given your hair a right battering, so it’ll need some TLC.”
“You have my word, oh thanks, Karen. You’re truly a life saver. You have my undying gratitude.”
With that, Magenta left for his quarters.
With the door shut and Magenta obviously out of earshot, Blue let rip with shrieks of mirth.
“If I kept that in, my teeth would have exploded,” he explained, finally catching his breath.
“Hmm, you’re probably right, very tactful to wait though.” Symphony noted.
“You didn’t seem that surprised by Pat’s makeover,” he commented, heading back to his quarters.
“’Course I wasn’t,” she said with a smirk, following him. “Where do you think Rick got the dye?”
I have a cunning plan
“Hate to say it, but you really should have seen that one coming,” Grey noted with a shake of the head. “Honestly, Pat, it’s April first.”
Magenta, having come to the Officer’s Lounge for some support, felt his needs weren’t being met.
“So it is,” Scarlet said, pouring some coffee. “Am I to assume our resident fool has already struck?”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to talk about it,” Magenta grumbled.
Grey was all set to enlighten his colleague, but was interrupted by the door opening.
“Is Rick here?” Blue asked.
“Nope, he’s in hiding, presumably from Pat.”
“Excellent, guys, gather round.”
Symphony marched into the centre of the room, like a woman possessed.
“I’ve got a plan but we don’t have long to pull it off.”
“If it doesn’t involve killing Ochre, I’m not interested,” Magenta retorted.
“Not quite, but hopefully close enough to keep you happy.” Symphony settled down to explain. “Okay, you guys ever heard of karma?”
“Yes” Scarlet answered “A Buddhist concept, what you give is what you get returned. Your point is?”
Symphony rolled her eyes.
“You know what day it is…”
“First of April… oh.” Grey’s eyes shone with enlightenment. The others quickly came to the same conclusion.
“We’re going to need everyone in on this, but if you aren’t up for it, say now, and don’t breathe a word.”
They all agreed, Magenta the most enthusiastically.
“Right, so here’s what we’re going to do.”
Penny for your thoughts
Ochre knew he couldn’t hide in his quarters forever. Eventually the colonel would send out a search party and there’s no way he’d consider ‘avoiding a revenge attack from an incensed Irishman’ reason enough for Ochre to skive his duties.
Ochre also knew that, all things considered, Magenta wasn’t that bad. He’d probably be too scared of breaking the rules to do anything. Considering his previous career, Magenta wasn’t totally averse to a little flexing of the regulations. Heck, they all did that. He was just very firm about where to draw the line, as was Ochre for similar reasons. Spectrum was their lifeline; they had severed almost every tie to get here. A life without it wasn’t worth considering. In fact technically, Ochre didn’t even have a life outside the organisation, and if Magenta got fired his world government pardon wouldn’t stand for long.
Having almost reassured himself, Ochre left his room and ventured tentatively out into the corridor. Feeling a bit of an idiot for getting so jumpy, he strolled on until he heard a noise coming from the other end of the corridor.
Actually it was a collection of several noises; metallic grating against the floor, the thumping of wood against plaster, and English-accented profanities. It seemed to be coming from inside Captain Scarlet’s quarters, to the left of Ochre’s on the opposite side of the corridor.
Ochre of course had to investigate; it was too ingrained from his training as a cop.
“Morning, Scarlet,” he called cheerfully. Despite his nerves, Ochre was still very satisfied by his early efforts.
“Good to see you, Rick, could you do me a favour?”
“No, wait, it’s fine, considering what day it is I’m not sure I can trust you. How do I even know you weren’t behind this in the first place?”
“Aww, come on, Paul, why’d I do a thing like that?”
“Hmm, well, come on in then.”
So Ochre went further inside Scarlet’s quarters. For reasons even Blue hadn’t established, Scarlet insisted on having old-fashioned wooden doors within his quarters. Gave a nice homely touch, but wasn’t without a now obvious downside.
Ochre really wished he’d thought of this one.
Along the bottom of the bedroom door were small piles of pennies, which until recently had wedged the door flush with the top of the frame. Making it impossible to open and trapping the room’s occupant inside. That is until they established the drastic, albeit only, solution; taking the door from its hinges.
Scarlet was far enough along this train of thought to have the door completely off and be kicking the coins away.
“Looks like you got pennied,” Ochre said, trying to suppress a giggle.
“I’ve been what?”
“The joke, it’s called pennied.”
“Well, it really isn’t funny,” Scarlet snapped.
“’course not. Honestly, Scarlet, I had nothing to do with this, swear on my mother’s grave.”
“It’s all right I believe you, now help me get the door back on before anyone finds out.”
So Ochre held the door in place while Scarlet reattached the hinges. All the while, Ochre wracked his brains trying to think who was responsible. Couldn’t be him or Scarlet obviously. Probably not Magenta either, he had nothing against their English colleague. That still left the field wide open.
They stood back to admire their handiwork.
“You should probably get regular doors like ours. This never would have happened otherwise,” Ochre pointed out.
“Yes, thanks for the tip.”
“So, you up for revenge? Got till noon and that’s three hours away.”
Scarlet shook his head.
“No it’s all right. Revenge is a dish best served cold,” he answered, before adding cryptically “and preferably by someone else.”
“Well, if you say so. I’ve got duty now. So I’ll see you later.”
Fancy a dip?
As usual, the radar shift was uneventful. Ochre maintained these duties should be farmed out to the lieutenants, freeing the captains up to do more interesting things.
Like practical jokes, for example.
With only an hour left, Ochre was getting a little desperate. How could he pull something off in such a short time? He thought maybe there was a conspiracy to keep him out of the way and prevent him doing anything. Which was, in Ochre’s mind, highly unjust. There was no harm in a bit of fun, it would help them let off steam. Even the colonel admitted March had been an overly busy month for them. Sure, there had been the St Patrick’s Day party; Ochre smiled at the memory of the silly party games they’d played with the green balloons he’d blown up. But that aside, it had been almost constant work, what with the usual threats and a new influx of recruits to train.
Blue had got lucky with that. He had been sent to Australia to train the new standby Angels, known unofficially as the Cherubs (for being young, angelic and cute if a little chubby). That was another bugbear of Ochre’s; he was a competent pilot too, and if those girls were going to get warped Stockholm Syndrome and end up with crushes on their instructor, then surely it should be someone single who’d appreciate it.
Ah, that was something else for Ochre to mentally archive. He’d always known about Blue and Symphony. The pair were as subtle as a hot pink bulldozer. She had gone through what amounted to every stage of grief while Blue had been away. Ochre felt he should get some credit there. Not only for keeping quiet, but preventing Magenta from moving in on her.
Yeah, he knew all about that too.
“Hi, Rick, I’m here to relieve you.”
It was the last person he’d wanted to see.
“Err yeah, thanks, Pat... not still mad at me are you, Pal?”
“Nah, of course not. Guess it made everyone laugh. Should have seen it coming.”
Perhaps Ochre was being paranoid, but Magenta seemed to be taking this a little too well.
“Oh well, that’s okay, then … I’m off for a swim. So see you later.”
“Yeah, see yah.”
Ochre didn’t quite catch Magenta’s wicked grin.
The pool was quiet, but then it usually was. Unless it was one of the rare occasions Symphony and/or Destiny felt like getting their hair wet. Then their respective fan clubs turned up to eyeball. For which the Angels did a great service by always showing up in nice swimwear. It had happened a lot recently, when someone had decided they needed to brush up on their lifesaving skills. Grey was assigned the job of instructor, and revelled in being able to gloat that he’d cornered the market in ogling, the lucky bastard.
Seriously though, Grey was a devotee of the pool. You could hardly get him out of the place. Without regular swims he got as cranky as a child in need of a nap. Even demanded, by way of funeral planning, to be buried at sea, after which he would reputedly be reincarnated as a dolphin.
So Ochre wasn’t overly surprised to see Grey enter the locker room whilst he got changed.
Well, actually, that wasn’t strictly true. The surprise came from what was dripping from Grey’s wetsuit. It looked like a very strange, translucent gloop.
“It’s gelatine,” Grey stated, matter-of-factly. He rarely used any other tone. “Someone must have filled the pool with it.”
There was a slight lag between Ochre bursting into hysterical laughter and realising he was doing so. Sure it was cruel to laugh at a friend’s ill-fortune, but he could just imagine the look on Grey’s face. Someone better have taken pictures.
“Oh Jesus, Brad, you look a state. Argh, that should have been me.”
“I’ll say,” Grey yelled from the shower, trying to wash the worst of the goo off. “No one has a vendetta against me,” He added
“Yeah, that is a bit mean.”
Ochre had meant something else. I.e. I wish I’d been able to pull a stunt like that. But he thought it best to keep that quiet.
“Oh well at least you didn’t dive in, otherwise it’d all be in your hair.”
“Thank God for small mercies.”
“Thought you were an atheist.”
Grey reappeared, dressed in his uniform shirt and trousers.
“It’s a figure of speech. How about we go get some coffee?”
Ochre looked a little sceptical.
“Ah, for Christ’s sake, Rick, I’m not going to poison you.”
“Okay, maybe I am being a bit nervy, coffee would be good. Thanks.”
They finished dressing and headed off for the Officers’ lounge.
Well, at least I can cross Brad off the list, Ochre thought.
“You open the door.”
Grey couldn’t be bothered to argue. Having clearly been taken from his list of suspects, Ochre had wasted no time expounding his theory. Which even by his standards was a little crackpot. Ochre wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of jokes, so it was hard to bear.
“Okay, fine,” Grey said, punching the buttons.
Ochre’s theory had gone that Magenta, the base technological expert, could have rigged them up to give him a shock. It was so utterly ridiculous that Grey didn’t even know where to start explaining. So he just shut up, and hoped this would pass.
“But you really are over-reacting, would you like me to walk in first in case a bucket of water is set to fall on your head,” he added.
Ochre rolled his eyes.
“Don’t be stupid, you can’t do that with these doors.”
“Well, you’d know.”
The room was empty, apart from Blue, who was reading a newspaper at his usual table by the kitchenette. Being the popular sort, everyone seemed to migrate towards Blue, so he had thought it only logical to set up camp near the food and beverage.
He acknowledged his colleagues before going back to the paper.
“The Boston Globe?” Ochre asked, to make conversation.
“Habit of a lifetime … I’m trying to spot the April Fools. It’s either the rhino with measles or the Red Sox’s latest score.”
“I’d go with the rhino, there’s no way a team can be that bad.”
Blue swatted at him.
“I'll let you know their prospects for the regular season are good; remember, it was just an exhibition game yesterday.”
“If you insist. Anyway there’s enough jokes round here.”
Ochre filled him in on the recent events; with Grey chiming in about Ochre’s growing unease. For a flash, Blue’s smile appeared to be one of fulfilment, but on closer study it seemed of good-natured concern.
“How about something to soothe your nerves?” he suggested.
“I’d rather have coffee, unless you’ve made it. That’s worth dreading any day of the year.”
“Would I do that to you?”
Of all his colleagues, Ochre found it easiest to trust Blue. There was the psychologist answer that the latter’s blond hair and blue eyes connoted childlike innocence. But really, Blue was just a great guy; calm, affable, and as a rule, not given to fits of temper or childish japes.
“Okay then, I’ll pour you a mug.”
With that Blue got up and poured three mug’s-worth of coffee. He took a cautious sip from his own, before spitting it out.
“Ha, taste of your own brew, eh?”
“Even by my standards, that is terrible.”
Grey, being the nearest, went over to investigate.
“Seems oddly familiar… reminds me of...”
“Mud pies,” they said in almost perfect unison.
Now Ochre was beyond freaked.
“Are you serious?”
“Afraid so,” Blue pulled out a packet which had been hidden in the cupboard. The label stated it was potting compost. The very same stuff Colonel White used for his roses.
“I nearly drank that, yuck.”
“Yeah, well, I really drank that.”
“Great April Fools, huh.”
Magenta, Scarlet, Grey … and now Blue
“What time is it?” Ochre was frantic.
“A minute till midday, why?” Blue replied calmly.
He watched Ochre visibly relax.
“Oh thank God, they wouldn’t have enough time, I’ve beaten them, there’s no way this joker can get me.”
The female of the species is more deadly than the male
“What makes you think they haven’t already?”
Ochre’s head swung round, almost Exorcist style, to see the newcomer to this little scene.
Symphony smiled evenly, and entered the room, followed by Magenta and Rhapsody. She was also off duty and apparently wasn’t going to miss a thing.
“No one’s made a move on me, everyone else has fallen victim except me.”
“Or perhaps it’s the other way round,” Rhapsody suggested.
“Did you actually see the pennies go under Scarlet’s door?” Rhapsody asked
“Or get anywhere near the pool?” Grey queried
Ochre shook his head.
“And we know you didn’t smell or taste the coffee,” Blue stated
“Can’t say I did. So what is this all about, then?”
As the clock struck noon, Symphony gave a signal and in perfect unison her colleague’s crowed:
If they hadn’t witnessed the sight, they would never have believed it could occur. For once, Ochre was speechless. He took in all his companions incredulously. Then suddenly realised what had happened.
“There wasn’t a joke, was there, you set me up.”
“That was the joke, Rick.” Rhapsody couldn’t quite keep down a giggle. “An anti-joke, if you will.”
“To make a move would have been too obvious,” Grey explained “So we had to be creative.”
“It was Karen’s idea,” Magenta said.
“Well yes I suppose, but all the guys pitched in too.”
Ochre nodded, admitting defeat in the face of such surprising talent.
“Well guys, and gals. I’m very impressed. Take a bow.”
So they did.
“Symphony, we need to have words, about a partnership of sorts.”
“You like me … Am I forgiven?” she grinned.
“Not by a long shot, but you’re too dangerous not to have on my side.”
Symphony smiled with satisfaction.
“And you said girls couldn’t pull a thing like that.”
“Well, I was wrong. No, wait, I said nice girls, and you’re not. Angel - my ass, a devil, more like.”
“Yes, but only by night.” She winked at Blue, who reddened slightly. A detail not lost on Ochre.
“Now, Dianne, you’re a nice girl. How’d you get caught up in this?”
“Nice girls are just bad girls who don’t get caught,” Blue said knowingly.
He was aware that the original idea had actually been Rhapsody’s; retribution for one of Ochre’s earlier antics involving her underwear and a flagpole.
“Oh, I am so getting you guys for this.”
“But you can’t do anything now, it’s past the deadline.”
“Okay, you got me, but watch your backs next year. I’ve got a twelve months of planning so they’re gonna be good.”
All jokes featured are genuine. Never tried any of them myself, and wouldn’t recommend it. I accept no responsibly if you do.
By the way, the joke in the Boston Globe was the rhino with mumps. It is a genuine example which featured in the Daily Mail several years ago.
Thanks go to…
Chris: For everything J
Hazel: Who has been such an excellent Beta reader.
Mary: for a correction concerning base-ball season.
My Mum: For proof reading and other useful things.
Any comments? You can contact the Spectrum Headquarters site