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A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons Multiverse Challenge Story
By Tiger Jackson
Life on Cloudbase went on. After the funerals, there wasn’t a lot of time to grieve, not with the certainty of another Mysteron attack constantly hanging over the Earth. But there was time nonetheless.
Captain Blue spent many of his free hours in the Officers’ Lounge or on the Promenade Deck, gazing out over the clouds, as if by watching long enough he might see Symphony’s Interceptor winging back to Cloudbase. Back to him.
Today, Captain Scarlet joined him at the window. A few days ago, Blue had told him about his proposal to Symphony. She had promised him an answer when she returned from the Air Mach Conference.
“Adam,” Scarlet said, speaking softly so they wouldn’t be overheard. “Adam. She loved you. You know that.”
Blue nodded slightly. “But would she have agreed to marry me? Let go of our differences?”
They stood in silence for a long moment.
“I can’t help wondering,” said Blue softly, “what might have happened if we’d been there, in Chicago, instead of Moscow.” He clenched his fists.
“Do you blame me, Adam? For identifying the wrong target?”
Captain Blue just stared out the window. His jaw was tight. “If we hadn’t been in Moscow, if we’d been here on Cloudbase when the reports started coming in from Chicago, the Angels might have had a chance. The same chance you had.”
“What do you mean?”
“You remember what Captain Grey told us,” he said quietly. “The details he didn’t include in his report. You know what I mean.”
Captain Scarlet knew which details Blue meant. Grey and the other Spectrum agents had waited a long time before deciding to approach the last two Angels. Both were lying still, apparently dead, when Grey first saw them, then began to take deep breaths. Each woman had multiple wounds, but the ones Grey could see were healing unnaturally rapidly. Rhapsody had pleaded with him not to kill her and tried to get up before she was killed with the Mysteron rifle. Symphony had cried and turned her face away as the gun was trained on her. Her last words had been, “Tell Adam I...” She had hesitated. Grey couldn’t allow her more time to act. He’d fired.
“If we’d been there, we might have been able to argue for their capture instead of... instead of just destroying them. I know Karen, my Karen – ” He stopped a moment then went on, his voice thick with emotion. “I know she’d died long before and the woman Grey killed was a replicant. But I can’t help wondering if maybe the Mysterons’ control might have been broken before she died. If maybe...”
“Adam, we know that Mysteronised replicants can behave exactly like the originals. I’m told that there was nothing unusual about my behaviour or Captain Brown’s for some hours after... after the car wreck. I have no memory of what happened in those hours. I was being controlled by the Mysterons even then.”
“But it didn’t last. I... I killed you. Then you revived and you were free of the Mysterons. Grey wasn’t sure whether Karen and Dianne were only pretending to be dead. They might have died before he approached them and were returning to life. What if they were like you? Free?”
Captain Scarlet shook his head. “No other Mysteron victim has ever broken free. We still don’t know why I did. I suppose it’s possible I’m not unique. But we’ll never know about the Angels, Adam. It’s not worth thinking about.”
“‘Not worth thinking about?’” Captain Blue’s face was growing hot but he turned a cold eye on his companion. “Sometimes, Paul, I wonder if you miss Dianne.”
“Of course I do!” said Scarlet, a little testily.
“You never show it. Not in any way. Not when we were in Moscow and got the news of their deaths. Not in Chicago. Not even at the funerals.” Blue’s voice quavered slightly. “That famous British stiff-upper-lip. I never got the hang of it. My father did.”
Scarlet said nothing. His heart ached for his fiancée, Rhapsody, as much as Blue’s did for Symphony. But Captain Scarlet, a full-blooded Brit and the product of an upper-class military family, had been raised to keep his feelings under control and hidden, even from his closest friends. Sometimes, even from himself.
Captain Blue, on the other hand, was a passionate man by nature and, like most Americans, more open with his emotions. Whenever he was with Symphony, their love had filled the room. And now . . .
Scarlet knew his friend was suffering badly. And so, deep inside, was he.
“I think of her every day, Adam,” he admitted sotto voce. “Right after we returned from Moscow, I went to her quarters to find some strands of her hair. At the funeral, Dianne’s father returned her engagement ring to me. I braided the strands of hair I’d found and twined the braid around her ring, then threaded it on a chain. In my heart, I know Dianne is gone forever, but several times, on the Promenade Deck, I’ve smelled her perfume, the one I bought for her the last time we were on holiday together in Paris. And every time, I automatically look around, expecting – hoping – to see her. And then I feel her ring against my chest, and I remember...” His voice thickened. He cleared his throat and continued. “There’s a new French lieutenant who wears that scent. She noticed my attraction to it, even asked my opinion of it.” He paused again as he swallowed hard. “I could only say it was haunting.”
Now Captain Blue noticed how taut his friend’s jawline was, the muscles twitching ever so slightly as he controlled himself with iron training.
Neither man said anything for a while.
“Paul, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said before, about...”
“I’ve already forgotten it.”
Captain Blue nodded and resumed watching the sky. He sighed. “I’ll be all right. I know I have to deal with the empty space in my own heart. I’m just looking for some kind of sign, something to fill the emptiness. Something to tell me she’s . . . I don’t know, out there waiting for me, perhaps. Something.”
Scarlet nodded but he was still deeply concerned that Blue might be becoming obsessed. He needed something to distract him.
* * * * *
Lieutenant Peach hoped her jaw had not dropped noticeably as the new pilots lined up beside the SPJ, each carrying two or three pieces of luggage.
Recalling her duty, she cleared her throat. “Welcome to Cloudbase. I’m Lieutenant Peach. You can leave your bags here; they’ll be taken up to your quarters. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to meet our commanding officer, Colonel White.”
* * * * *
“Colonel White? The new pilots are here.” Lieutenant Green sounded awed.
The colonel looked up as the women, clad in white-and-gold flight suits, each with a helmet tucked under her arm, lined up in front of him and stood at formal attention. He rose to his feet. “At ease.”
The tall, blue-eyed platinum blonde nodded curtly. “Colonel White, may I present the Cherubim and Seraphim.”
The colonel raised an eyebrow fractionally but said nothing.
She continued, “I’m Tiffany Seraph, squadron leader.”
The colonel’s eyes flicked over the gold fittings on the young woman’s flight suit. They were a brighter yellow than those the other women wore and glittered in the light. The clear panels of her helmet sparkled. He wasn’t a betting man, yet he would have wagered that the gold was genuine and what should have been steelglass was actually crystal.
Tiffany pointed to the amber-eyed woman standing at the far end of the line, who immediately dropped her helmet on the colonel’s desk, breaking two of the signal lights.
“Sorry, sir!” she stammered, trying to grab her helmet as it rolled down the slope, depressing several buttons as it went. The rainbow disappeared from the screen behind the desk, replaced by a picture of a tall, curly-haired man with an impossibly long scarf talking to a Dalek. The desk began to rotate back and forth. Chairs rose and fell behind the women.
“Calamity Seraph, get a grip!” snapped Tiffany.
“I’m trying; it’s just so slippery – got it!” She dived over the colonel’s desk, slamming down half the buttons and snapping off a mic with her elbow as she seized her quarry. Clutching the helmet tightly, Calamity stood up straight again, pushed her light-brown hair away from her face, and beamed at the colonel.
Tiffany rolled her eyes. She pointed to the next woman, another blonde, who had a dreamy, far-away look in her brown eyes. “Eccentricity Seraph, my wing second.”
Eccentricity shifted her weight slightly and flung an arm out as if she were addressing an audience. “Before Him come the choirs of angels, with ev’ry principality and pow’r; the Cherubim with many eyes, and wingèd Seraphim, who veil their faces as they shout exultingly the hymn. Alleluia!” she intoned grandly.
“Eccentricity, you’re on-duty! Leave the histrionics till later!” barked Tiffany.
“Let’s get on with the introductions, shall we?” interposed Colonel White calmly.
The two blonde seraphs looked sulky. Eccentricity blushed. Tiffany also turned red, but Colonel White didn’t think it was embarrassment as much as another emotion.
He turned his attention to where the next woman stood. Or should have been standing. He saw only empty space.
“Here, sir,” piped a voice with an Irish lilt.
The colonel looked down until he saw, beneath a mass of red hair, two sparkling green eyes that were barely level with his desk. “And you are…?”
The colonel looked at her for a long time, mentally measuring the distance from the seat of an Interceptor downwards to the rudder pedals and upwards to the canopy. Then he nodded, and turned his gaze to the tallest woman. She simply stared back at him.
“Well?” she echoed blankly.
“You are?” he prompted.
“Oh, uh... Simplicity Cherub.” She smiled like a child who has come up with the right answer to a difficult math problem.
Colonel White couldn’t stop himself. “Cherub?”
Tiffany shrugged. “Bit of a mental midget.”
The colonel felt the first stirrings of a headache.
“Welcome to Cloudbase, ladies. Lieutenant Peach will give you a tour of the base and show you to your quarters.” He remained standing as they fell into line behind the lieutenant and left the Control Room.
After they had gone, Lieutenant Green swivelled his chair to face Colonel White. “Cherubim and seraphim, sir? But don’t those words refer to…”
“The highest orders of angels? Yes, Lieutenant.”
Green frowned. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“It doesn’t seem right. They’re probably not half as good as our Angels but they’ve taken a name that says they’re better!”
“We’ll have to see if they can live up to it, won’t we.”
“Yes, sir. But sir –” Green slumped, unsure of himself.
“We all miss the Angels, Lieutenant,” the colonel prompted gently.
Green just nodded.
“You asked to speak freely. I’m listening.”
“It’s just that – ” He hesitated again before speaking in a rush. “Colonel, they weren’t even specially chosen! We had to take them!”
It was true. White recalled the meeting with the World President and other, carefully selected leaders following the deaths of the Angels. The discussions had been heated but they had all agreed that the public should not yet be told that a vital element of the world’s defence system was gone, that Spectrum had been unprepared for the loss of its elite pilots. Likewise, no call for new Angel candidates could go out until it was seen that Spectrum was carrying on as always, pilots and all. Temporary replacements were critically needed, but those selected would be strictly temporary – there was no time to train them adequately and this could not be treated as a learn-as-you-go situation. But the knowledge of Spectrum’s vulnerability had to be restricted to as few people as possible – undoubtedly the Mysterons would take advantage of it soon enough; widespread panic could bring an attack even sooner. As Colonel White had expected, President Pemberton had wanted to make beauty and political connections important criteria in choosing the temporary pilots, although he had conceded that piloting experience was an essential requirement. After much debating, arguing, and wrangling, a very small pool of candidates, women related to the limited number of need-to-know people, was agreed on.
But most of the eligible candidates were uninterested in a temporary posting – they preferred to apply for places in the new flight academy and seek permanent posts as new Angels instead. In the end, there were few applicants for the temporary pilot positions. In fact, there had been only five. Five names on paper.
And now they were here on Cloudbase.
Green continued, “And they adopted code names on their own! Their assigned code names are in the files on your desk.”
“Do you think those code names are more fitting than the ones they’ve chosen?” asked Colonel White.
Lieutenant Green grimaced. “No, sir. Not at all.” He gestured to White’s desk. “Should I summon a repair crew to see about the damage?”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” replied the colonel, eyeing the tendril of smoke curling up from beneath a control panel. “And quickly. Notify me when the repairs are complete. I’ll be in my quarters.”
Colonel White retrieved the pilots’ personnel files and strode towards the exit. He paused in the doorway. “You might tell the chaplains about the Cherubim and Seraphim’s arrival. Ask them to pray for us all.”
“S.I.G., sir. S.I.G.”