A series of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons vignettes for Christmas 2003
by Tiger Jackson
Absent Friends: Christmas Day
Bathed in the orange-red light of the setting sun, Colonel White looked down towards the planet through an observation window. He could not actually see anything; wisps of clouds blocked the view. There would be nothing to see anyhow; as Cloudbase was presently stationed over the Atlantic ocean.
Shortly, he would be taking his place at the head of the formal dining table and presiding over the Christmas dinner he hosted each year for his senior officers, those who had elected to remain on the base. This year, he had had to cancel all leaves and keep the base fully staffed, so all of the senior officers would be in attendance. Though some would attend only in spirit.
It was an old tradition, the empty chairs. They leaned against the table, empty plates in front of them. Silent memorials to the missing. He had not considered adopting it for Spectrum, however, until several of his senior officers had broached the idea. He had discussed it with all of them, and the tradition had been unanimously embraced, especially for this Christmas when all of them would — or should — be present on Cloudbase. But there had been a long debate over how many empty chairs there should be.
Colonel White had gone to the dining room earlier to see the arrangements. Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue would sit side by side, flanked by empty chairs, each draped with a narrow runner, one earth coloured, the other gold. There next to Captain Scarlet was the empty chair for Captain Brown, a victim of the Mysteron in the early days of the War of Nerves. Captain Amber, who had died saving his fellow officers from a pressure leak on Cloudbase, had his place beside Captain Blue. Together, Scarlet and Blue made a formidable team. But each had had another partner in the beginning, and so tonight they honoured their memories.
Captain Indigo, also killed by the Mysterons, had served briefly on Cloudbase before being assigned to the field at his own request, but he had made good friends during his stay. A place had been set for him between Dr Fawn and Harmony Angel, the two people who had known him best.
Four empty, runner-draped chairs. Captains Amber, Brown, Indigo . . .
The last . . . was for Captain Black.
He had been gone five years now.
After much discussion, it had finally been agreed that Captain Black’s true status was still unknown. He might be dead. He might be a prisoner. He might indeed be a traitor. But no one knew. Whatever his current state, they would honour the memory of the man he had been before he made the fateful mistake.
The black-draped chair leaned against the foot of the table. On the plate before it, someone had placed two black chess pieces: a knight and a pawn. Colonel White wondered who had chosen those symbols; personally, he felt they were apt.
He had also thought about what he would say tonight. Usually, as commanding officer, he would take the opportunity to express his appreciation to his officers for their continuing loyalty and service, and to wish them a Happy Christmas. Tonight would be a little different. Colonel White glanced at his watch. It was time.
Everyone was present and seated when he arrived but rose to their feet as he took his place at the head of the table. Colonel White looked around at each of them, men and women who had become friends as well as comrades.
“Rather than give a long speech,” said Colonel White, “I would prefer to make a short toast.” He paused while everyone reached for their glasses and raised them.
“To absent friends.”
In loving memory of friends and family who have gone ahead.
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