WARNING: This story is unfinished and will remain so, unless the author comes back to complete it.
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A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons Multiverse Challenge Story
By Tiger Jackson
While the Cherubim and Seraphim were meeting Colonel White, Cloudbase went into a state of chaos.
On the Hangar Deck, crew members raced for the exits and dived for emergency straps as the depressurization sequence suddenly started, stopped, and started again.
A fire klaxon sounded in Sickbay. Dr Fawn scrambled his staff to move the patients to safety, then stopped, puzzled, as the hammering klaxon suddenly turned into “Carol of the Bells.”
Comm links switched on in the mess hall and began broadcasting Lieutenant Lilac’s recorded personal diary. As names were mentioned howls of laughter and indignation followed the red-faced young Lilac as she fled the hall for her quarters.
And in the Officers’ Lounge, a coffee machine went berserk.
* * * * *
Captain Scarlet studied his friend Blue, who continued to gaze bleakly through the Lounge viewport. What Blue needed was something to distract him so he could start healing inside. And it had to happen before Blue’s grief began to affect his performance on duty.
He saw a tic in Blue’s cheek as someone behind them laughed. Life is continuing around us, Adam.
“You shouldn’t be telling stories like that about your supervisor, Michelle!” But Lieutenant Teal had to stifle another burst of laughter. “Need a warm-up on your coffee?” he asked, still chuckling as he got to his feet.
“Please,” she replied, handing over her beaker with a huge yawn. “Make sure it’s decaffeinated. I’ve got another night shift and I don’t want to be awake all day.”
“Want a cookie or something to go with it?”
“If you mean ‘biscuit’, sure.”
Teal made a face at his friend before picking up his own mug and taking the few steps to the coffee bar. He loaded the used mugs into the automatic washer, then put a fresh beaker under the beverage dispenser, punched his order into the machine, and waited.
The lights on the beverage panel began to flash. Teal frowned. That had never happened before. He must have made a mistake while hitting the buttons. He tried again. The beverage lights flashed wildly. There was a loud CLUNK behind the food-delivery panel.
It was the last thing Teal heard before the door opened and he was hit in the forehead by an oversized and misshapen jaffa cake, followed by a shower of decaffeinated coffee.
* * * * *
Lieutenant Peach heaved an inward sigh of relief. At least the tour of Sickbay was going well. It seemed like everything that could go wrong on Cloudbase had done so since the pilots arrived. They’d had to skip several stops because everyone was too busy or too distracted to do much more than curtly acknowledge the Cherubim and Seraphim before returning to mechanical and personnel problems. Even the mess hall had been in an uproar, probably because someone had apparently attacked the public-address system with assorted cutlery and a chair. Sickbay, though, was relatively serene, a welcome oasis.
It couldn’t last.
Dr Fawn had just introduced Nurse Wheat, when there was a commotion in the reception area. A trio of junior officers burst in, carrying a fourth, clad in a teal vest, who was unconscious. A nasty swelling was growing on his left temple and his face and hands appeared to be scalded. Behind them came two women, one supporting the other, who also appeared to have been scalded on her arms and legs.
The tour was obviously over, the visitors forgotten. Peach motioned to her charges to follow her, and they slipped out as quickly as they could while Dr Fawn and Nurse Wheat went to work.
“I could do with a good cup of coffee,” said Calamity, wistfully. “I wish we could have gotten some while we were in the mess hall.”
Someone’s stomach growled ferociously. Simplicity looked startled, then patted her midsection with a smile. “Hungry.”
“We’re not that far from the Officer’s Lounge. There’s a food-and-beverage dispenser there, if you don’t mind being limited to biscuits to eat. We might as well go there now.”
Tiffany looked and sounded irritated. “Biscuits will do for elevenses but I expect lunch to be more substantial.”
Scowling, Peach led the way.
* * * * *
The coffee machine had finally emptied itself. Or perhaps it was just tired. Whatever the reason, it had gone quiet.
Captains Scarlet and Blue examined it from a cautious distance.
“Do you suppose the Mysterons got at it somehow?” asked Blue.
“It’s a possibility. Remember what happened to that non-alcoholic champagne?”
Blue grimaced; he’d never forget that. “They usually give at least a cryptic warning before they do something.”
Scarlet nodded. “It’s probably just a genuine malfunction then. At least, we’ll have to assume it is, for now.”
“The Mysterons would have to be getting desperate if they had to resort to using a coffee machine to attack Spectrum!” Blue replied.
Scarlet smiled. It was the first joke Blue had cracked since Symphony’s death. Well, he thought, as he and Blue picked up their radio caps from a table and mopped coffee off them, at least Adam isn’t glued to the window for the moment.
The Lounge doors opened just then and Lieutenant Peach came in, followed by her five charges.
Peach swallowed what she’d been about to say. The room looked like a war zone. Furniture was overturned. Books, magazines, beakers, tea cups, hats, and crumbs were strewn everywhere. The air smelled strongly of coffee, tea, chocolate, and assorted juices. And everything looked, well, damp.
Although just about everyone’s head turned when the doors opened, Captains Scarlet and Blue were the first to step forward, behaving as if everything was perfectly normal.
“Good morning, Lieutenant. I see you’ve brought us visitors,” said Captain Scarlet.
“Yes, sir. These are the new pilots: the Cherubim and Seraphim,” answered Peach. Both men noticed that the names stumbled off her tongue.
Tiffany looked over the captains with an appreciative eye as Peach spoke. At least Cloudbase had some attractions for her.
“I’m Tiffany Seraph, squadron leader,” she announced, causing Peach to close her mouth with an audible snap. Tiffany pointed to each of the other pilots as she named them.
Captain Scarlet glanced at his friend before speaking. Replacements for Symphony and Rhapsody. Blue’s expression was one of polite interest. Scarlet knew him well enough to recognise it as a mask.
“I’m Captain Scarlet. This is Captain Blue. And these newcomers,” he added, as two men entered the Lounge, “are Captain Magenta and Captain Ochre.”
“We heard there was some excitement here,” said Captain Ochre as he surveyed the wreckage of the lounge, then grinned as he turned his gaze to the women. “We should have guessed why!”
Seraphs, Cherubs, and captains shook hands as they exchanged polite greetings. Calamity stammered as she took Ochre’s hand and released it quickly. Pink spots appeared on her cheeks.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Ochre said warmly.
“Welcome to Cloudbase,” added Magenta.
Paucity Cherub brightened visibly as she caught Magenta’s slight accent. “Ah, you’re from Ireland, too, Captain?”
“I was born there, but I grew up in an old Irish neighbourhood in New York City.”
Magenta saw an emerald flash in Paucity’s eyes. A flash of what, he didn’t know, but it was disconcerting. He was about to say something when an ominous rumbling came from the coffee machine.
“Oh no! Why didn’t someone stop the automatic refiller or at least pull the plug when we had the chance?” groaned Lieutenant Silver.
Before anyone could act, the machine let loose another blast of something that, in other circumstances, might have been a pleasant cup of Lady Grey tea.
Calamity Seraph turned and leapt to escape being splashed by the scalding cascade. She collided with Captain Ochre and the two of them crashed against a sofa. It fell only half way over, its momentum slowed by the several people who had already taken cover behind it. Ochre and Calamity rolled up and over the top of the sofa before landing on the floor in a tangled heap with a slow-moving junior lieutenant.
Thinking quickly, Paucity Cherub simply upended a glass-topped table and crouched behind it. From behind this sturdy, transparent shield, which neatly deflected a rock cake as it hurtled out of the coffee machine’s cannon-like orifice, Paucity could see everything that happened. And watch everyone. Especially Captain Magenta.
Tiffany Seraph scrambled to safety with Captains Blue and Scarlet. Somehow, she managed to end up tightly sandwiched between them.
“Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers,” exclaimed Eccentricity Seraph, before ducking and huddling behind some chairs with several officers she hadn’t been introduced to yet.
Only Simplicity Cherub stood still and in the open, watching the machine spew hot beverages and biscuits in all directions.
“Simplicity! Get down!” shouted Calamity, trying without success to figure out which flailing arm was hers so she could pull the Cherub out of harm’s way.
An aromatic fountain of Vienna-roast coffee rose almost to the ceiling. A hurled hobnob shattered against a chair, leaving a deep dent in the metal frame.
The tall, red-haired woman didn’t respond. She seemed mesmerized by the machine’s antics. So far, nothing had touched her.
Then with a deep mechanical belch, the machine launched a digestive biscuit straight towards Simplicity. She watched calmly as it approached, apparently unaware of the danger the doughy discus presented.
“Look out!” someone yelled.
At almost the last second, the Cherub sidestepped the flying biscuit and snatched it out neatly out of the air. She stooped and retrieved the rock cake that had ricocheted off of Paucity’s make-shift shield. In one smooth motion, she hurled the cake back at the coffee machine.
The small baked missile hit the panel’s OFF button squarely and firmly, burying itself to a depth of several millimetres before exploding into crumbs. The machine groaned and gurgled as it died, then fell silent.
Simplicity stood nibbling her biscuit with a childish expression of contentment as officers and pilots slowly and cautiously emerged from their hiding places.
When Ochre and Calamity finally got disentangled, the captain offered the Seraph a hand getting to her feet. “It’s been nice unwinding with you, Calamity, but Magenta and I just stopped in to grab some coffee on our way to report for duty.” He smiled kindly at the deeply blushing young Seraph. “Magenta, you coming? We’re going to be late!”
Lieutenant Peach looked around at the mess, then at her watch. “Time’s getting on, so I’d better skip the rest of the tour for now and show you to your quarters. You probably want to unpack and rest a while before your first briefing in the Amber Room.” She smacked her forehead. “I forgot to get your quarters assignments!” She stepped over the comm link.
“Lieutenant Green, I’m with the, um, pilots. I’m supposed to show them to their quarters but I don’t know where they’re assigned to. Can you patch through the list?”
“Sure thing, Peach. I’m transmitting it now.”
A small screen on the comm link lit up. Peach read it carefully. Then she called Green again.
“Erm, Lieutenant? I think there’s been a mistake.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I’m looking at a recipe for pigs’ knuckle quiche.”
“WHAT? Sounds bloody awful! Remind me to check the menu before eating in the mess hall this week. Here, I’m re-sending the quarters assignments for the Cherubim and Seraphim.”
The comm screen flickered, darkened, then brightened again.
“Have you got it now, Peach?”
“Yes, if you meant to send me Captain Ochre’s football pools¼¼.”
“Don’t say that out loud!” hissed Green. “Lucky thing the Colonel’s left the Control Room. Look, I’ll try again. Stand by.”
The comm screen danced once again.
Peach read aloud, “Beautiful offshore waterfront property in Hawaii for sale. Super investment! Low down payment, volcano guaranteed to be probably dormant, no tidal waves since Tuesday . . . .”
There was a choking sound from the comm.
“Peach, just take them to the Angels’ quarters. The crew in Hangar Deck had a copy of the room assignments before they arrived and their stuff has been brought up by now. You’ll have to figure out whose room is whose by looking at the luggage.”
Peach led the Cherubim and Seraphim down to the deck where the Amber Room was located and the pilots and some of the senior officers traditionally quartered. The first door they stopped at had the name “Symphony Angel” beside it. Peach knew that the name cards for the Angels’ quarters should have been removed before now, but she could guess why they hadn’t been. Even though the rooms had been emptied and cleaned long ago, removing the name cards would be removing the last trace of the Angels’ existence. No one wanted to do it.
“Shouldn’t our names have been put up by now?” declared Tiffany. “I hope this isn’t a typical example of efficiency around here.”
Peach clenched her teeth as she unlocked the door and led them inside. A small pile of luggage rested on the floor. Peach recognized it as a limited edition from a very expensive designer. She mused that those three bags probably cost as much as a junior lieutenant earned in six months.
“Mine,” said Tiffany curtly. She looked around at the bare walls and sparse, functional furniture. Her nose wrinkled and her eyes narrowed. “Are these officers’ quarters?” she said in disbelief. “I expected at least some decoration!”
“Symphony’s – ” Peach’s voice caught. “The Angels’ personal belongings have been returned to their families.” She cleared her throat before continuing. “These are standard furnishings. Everyone’s allowed to accessorize and decorate their quarters to suit their personal taste.” And I imagine you want yours to look like Buck House, she thought. “You can start settling in if you like or all stay together and I’ll show everyone where each of you will be.”
“Aren’t we in adjoining cabins?” asked Paucity.
Peach shook her head. “All the senior officers’ quarters are scattered rather than concentrated for security reasons. And shift assignments affect room assignments. It’s considered better not to have too many personnel concentrated in one place at one time because the Mysterons could…” Her voice trailed off.
“You mean, kill all the Angels?” Calamity asked without thinking. She slapped a hand across her mouth as she realised what she’d said. “Oh, I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, it’s true. That’s exactly why.” Peach sounded subdued, like she was trying to fight back tears.
Tiffany’s lip curled. “I’ll stay here and start unpacking. If the others’ quarters aren’t any better, there’s no point in seeing them. I’ll find out where they are later.”
Peach was relieved. The Seraph’s haughtiness was getting on her nerves. “Fine. You can use the comm link to order a lunch sent up from the mess hall. I’ll be back at thirteen hundred hours to escort you to the Amber Room.”
As soon as the others were gone, Tiffany scowled again at the dull grey surroundings and made a mental note to order some proper bedding and artworks to be sent from her home. In the meantime, she might as well unpack. It was annoying, Tiffany thought, not to have a maid or at least a scout to do it for her, but she’d known there would be hardships. As long as she wasn’t expected to do her own laundry, it would be tolerable. Just.
She inspected the closet and each drawer of the bureau before putting any of her clothes inside. They were clean and empty. There wasn’t a trace of the woman who had previously occupied Tiffany’s quarters. But she soon discovered that the desk’s drawer wasn’t quite empty. It got stuck partway when she tried to pull it open. With a shove then a hard pull, she dislodged a folded paper from deep inside, where it had jammed itself between the lip of the drawer and the edge of the desk. It appeared that someone had shoved it deep into the drawer so as not to think about it too much, or to hide it from someone else. Certainly the cleaners had overlooked it.
Tiffany pulled the paper out and unfolded it. It was a handwritten letter dated in late February of this year. Hardly a couple months ago, thought the Seraph.
My Darling Karen,
Tiffany rolled her eyes.
I’m glad you’re enjoying your visit with your family. But I wish I could be there with you.
Did you know Paul was knighted by King George before last Christmas? Paul’s kept that a secret from almost everyone. He didn’t tell me, and I’m his best friend! Even his own father only found out by accident. But you know Paul.
No, I don’t, Tiffany sniffed, feeling a bit cross yet intrigued.
Has Dianne told you about Valentine’s Day? Well, if she hasn’t, I’m going to spoil the surprise. Paul proposed to her and Dianne accepted. They haven’t talked about setting a date yet. I guess it’s enough that they’re committed to each other.
Karen, have you thought more about us getting married? I know my father has made the decision very difficult for you. I wish I hadn’t suggested taking you to meet my family last Christmas. I didn’t know Mother would invite the whole, extended family for a party while we were there. If I’d known that, we never would have gone, or at least I wouldn’t have told my father about your background. I’ve always known that he’s a small-minded man, but I was as shocked as you were when he accused you of being a gold-digger, only interested in my family’s money, just because you were born and raised in middle-class Iowa. I certainly never dreamed he’d shout it in front of everyone during the party. But what he thinks doesn’t matter to me. It shouldn’t matter to you. I love you with my soul and I’m not complete without you.
I’ve re-read this letter and I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m putting pressure on you to give me an answer. I don’t mean to. If you aren’t ready, then I’ll wait for you.
All my love,
Who are Karen and Dianne? thought Tiffany. And who is Paul, who was knighted, and Adam, who’s wealthy? Maybe Karen was Symphony Angel?
There was no address and nothing special about the stationery. Tiffany shrugged as she tossed the letter on the desk. Probably Karen’s earth-bound boyfriend had written it.
The letter Tiffany reads refers to incidents in two excellent stories by Mary J. Rudy, Good Knight, Dear Lady and Moonlight Rhapsody.
The story about the disastrous Christmas party is in the works. :-)