A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” short story
by Hazel Köhler
…THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS. THE SPECTRUM ORGANISATION WILL BE RENDERED POWERLESS WHEN WE SEND IT BACK TO ITS ORIGINS…
"Our origins were as a peace-keeping, anti-terrorist, high-level protection agency," Captain Blue remarked, voicing the puzzlement of everyone else around the conference table. "I don't see how it would benefit the Mysterons if we were pushed back to that. After all, it's pretty much what we still do."
Colonel White sighed. The discussion had been going on for half-an-hour now, and had got precisely nowhere. "Whether we understand or not is immaterial. We all know that it's useless to try to understand the logic behind some of their threats," he said. "All we can do is to try to stop them. Are there any more constructive suggestions?" The word 'constructive' was very slightly accentuated.
"Perhaps we should check whether anyone's been complaining about how much we cost, or about how much authority we have over other forces during a threat," Scarlet suggested.
"Or whether the World Space Patrol's getting tight-assed about 'territory infringement' again," Ochre put in with a slight grin.
"Thank you, Captain Ochre," Colonel White replied a little testily. Memories of running battles with the various branches of the World military still rankled. "All right. Check on military, political and economic aspects. Any and every source. I'll see what I can do at the higher levels, and have a word with the World President. If anyone can shut us down, he can. Dismissed."
* * *
Three days! Scarlet thought, savagely. As Mysteron threats went, this one was probably the most boring that Scarlet could remember. As it was directly aimed at Spectrum, the rest of the world could relax, but Spectrum itself was going crazy, chasing its own tail, searching news databases, calling in favours and generally getting nowhere. Three days, and nothing – not a bloody thing – had come to light over how Spectrum's claws could be clipped, or how a return to their original status could possibly benefit the Mysterons.
He poured himself another coffee, logged onto the Spectrum net and started yet another round of the world-wide bases. During this 'emergency' (ha!) all bases had been ordered to report twice per shift instead of just once. He gazed morosely at the list displayed on the monitor. Chronological order this time, he thought. Might as well get a little variety. Cloudbase was currently over Western Europe, so... "Spectrum Control, Cloudbase, calling Spectrum London. Please transmit your log for A shift."
"Spectrum London, acknowledged. Transmitting."
On the bottom half of Scarlet's monitor, the words Spectrum London, on-line. Transmission in progress blinked at him, while on the top half, the net address of the London base changed from standby-white to online-yellow. "Transmission in progress" altered to "Transmission complete", and London's address turned grey. One down, forty-nine to go.
Scarlet's eyes felt like sandpaper in their sockets as at last he came to the final station. "Spectrum Control, Cloudbase, calling Spectrum Canberra. Please transmit your log for A shift."
"Spectrum Canberra, acknowledged. Transmitting."
Scarlet idly watched the progress bar ticking across the screen. It was almost hypnotic, he mused. A great cure for insomnia. So soporific was it, that it took him a second to register the fact that the bar had stopped at 75%. As he started to call Canberra to ask if there was a problem, the bar disappeared from the display. A second later, Canberra's net address also vanished. "Cloudbase calling Canberra. Your transmission has been cut. Is there a problem?"
The only reply was a hiss of static.
Scarlet tried again. "Canberra base, are you receiving me? We've lost your log transmission. I repeat, is there a problem?"
........ sssssssss .........
He frowned, then switched frequencies. "Spectrum Control calling Spectrum Darwin. Something's happened to our link with Canberra. Are you still in touch with them?"
The link to Darwin, crystal-clear only a few minutes before, was now just static. Apprehensively, Scarlet looked at the top half of the screen. Darwin, previously shaded in grey, indicating a successfully completed log transmission, had vanished from the list.
Starting to get worried, Scarlet changed frequencies again. "Spectrum Control calling Koala Base. I've lost contact with Canberra and Darwin. Are you still in touch with them?"
To his relief, the voice of the duty officer at Koala replied immediately, but what the voice said left him totally bewildered:
"Canberra and Darwin? What are you talking about, Captain? We don't have any offices there."
* * *
"First Canberra, cut off in mid-transmission, then Darwin. We've also lost every station in Australasia and the Pacific Rim, except Koala. In every case, their addresses disappeared from the routing list, and their reports vanished from my database. It's as if they never existed! Worse, Koala and London show staff shortages, although neither of them reported that in their logs. As soon as I spotted it, I called them, but they didn't seem to know what I was talking about."
"We can't just lose a quarter of our organisation," White stated firmly. "Lieutenant Green, have you made any progress?"
"No, sir," the young man replied. "It's just as Captain Scarlet says – I can't find any trace of them, anywhere. It's as if they were never even there in the first place."
"This has to be the work of the Mysterons. They've got into our communications net and database storage somehow, and wiped the records. We'll have to do this the hard way. Call a conference, please, Lieutenant."
* * *
The conference room was crowded with nine captains, seven Angels and eleven lieutenants. Radio and video conference links had been established with Cantata, on alert duty in Angel One on the flight deck, with such ground-based stations that were still on-line, and with a handful of local agents. Attempts to contact more than half-a-dozen of those had failed.
Colonel White looked around the room, and at the bank of video monitors, and cleared his throat. "You all know the situation," he began. "The Mysterons threatened to return us to our origins. For some reason, it seems as if they are doing this by cutting our contact with random ground installations. We don't know why or how they are doing this, and at present, that is not the issue. We need to re-establish contact with the lost bases. Radio and computer links are down – we have to do this in person.
"All of you –" he addressed the agents present by video-link "– will attempt to contact, by any means available, all ground and under-cover agents in your operational areas. We on Cloudbase will handle contact with those areas that we seem to have lost all together. I also want everybody –" and his gaze swept over those gathered there in person as well as the video representatives, "– to keep their personal trackers switched on at all times. Pass on this order to everyone that you make contact with. We will monitor all the trackers that we can up here – I suggest you also do that locally. If an existing contact is broken, notify Cloudbase immediately, likewise if a contact is re-established." He paused, watching the reactions of the ground-based operatives carefully. Most of them looked slightly nervous – hardly surprising, as so far, they seemed to be the primary targets. A flicker in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he looked across at the screen that, a moment before, had been showing the face of the duty officer in the Toronto base. The screen was now covered in static.
"We've just lost Toronto. You have your orders – that is all."
As the various ground-based agents acknowledged, and cut contact, White was sure he heard someone say "Toronto? But there's never been an office there..."
Colonel White turned back to his assembled staff. "Well, we'd better get on with it. Here are your assignments –" He stopped abruptly. There were considerably fewer people in the room than there had been a moment ago. All the lieutenants had gone. Captains Silver, Umber, Sepia and Cerise had also vanished. There were not even empty chairs to suggest that Modesty and Sonata Angels had ever been there. With a terrible feeling that he was wasting his time, Colonel White called Cantata, in Angel One.
"Sir?" Lieutenant Green's voice broke into the sudden silence. "The Amber Room alert has just sounded. Angel One is unoccupied."
* * *
"Our situation is now very grave," White said later, at another, but vastly depleted, conference. "London and New York are still on-line, as are the Bensheba refinery and Koala Base. I've also heard from the Records Centre, Spectrum Intelligence at the Hunting Lodge, and half-a-dozen ground-based agents, but that's all." He indicated the world map displayed on the conference room wall, with a sparse sprinkling of lights, each one indicating a ground-based Spectrum presence. "Everyone I've spoken to denies all knowledge of the bases that have gone silent – what is it, Captain Grey?"
Grey was looking puzzled. "I don't understand, sir. We've never had any bases other than those... who's gone silent?"
Magenta and Ochre voiced their agreement, as did the Angels.
"We've got a base in almost every major city in the world!" Scarlet exclaimed. "You've all been to most of them – between us, we've visited every Spectrum installation there is, several times! You must remember!"
Captain Blue lent his vocal support, but Harmony shook her head. "That is news to me, Captain." There were murmurs of agreement around the table.
White sighed heavily. "I have no trouble with the thought that the Mysterons can interfere with our communications, and even delete records from our databases, but to affect our memories...?" He glanced at Scarlet, the only person there who could perhaps throw any light on just what the Mysterons could and couldn't do.
Scarlet also sighed. It seemed to be catching. "I know those bases and people exist – this has to be some sort of mind-game."
"I agree," White remarked. "You, Captain Blue and I seem to be the only people at this meeting who remember things clearly. The rest of you will report to Doctor Fawn for immediate examination. There's something going on here that we don't understand."
Midnight. Scarlet groaned loudly, heaved himself out of Lieutenant Green's chair, and stretched an evening's-worth of kinks out of his back. Blue looked up from a small stack of reports on Colonel White's desk, grinning at his partner's performance. "Tired?" he asked.
"Retrometabolism cures everything except boredom and cramp. I don't know how Green stands working here for hours on end. And I could have sworn there was a monitor on this console somewhere. Damned if I can find it, though."
"He's probably been reconfiguring it again," Blue suggested.
"Maybe, but he usually adds stuff, not takes it away. And a monitor would be so much easier to use than these piddling little strips of paper. I'm going cross-eyed trying to read this print." He stretched again, and yawned. "I'm shattered. I'm going to take half-an-hour in the Room of Sleep. Can you manage without me for a while?"
"Sure." Blue rubbed his eyes. The disappearance of so many bases and ground agents meant that there were far fewer reports than he was sure he remembered from his last stint at the big desk, but they all still needed to be read, entered onto the computer and filed. That, and trying once again to contact the 'lost' parts of Spectrum, was what he and Scarlet had been doing all evening. Blue had taken a half-hour's enhanced sleep a couple of hours ago, and already felt that he wanted another stint.
Blue bent over the reports again, paying no attention as Scarlet left the Control Room. A moment later, Scarlet was back. "Forget something?" Blue asked, not looking up.
"Yes. The way to the Room of Sleep."
Blue stared at his friend in amused disbelief. "I thought you knew every inch of this place," he remarked.
"I do," Scarlet retorted. "OK, you were there earlier – you tell me where it is."
Blue grinned. "It's... er..." His grin faded.
"You can't remember, either, can you," Scarlet stated. "It's getting to us now, whatever 'it' is. All right. Let's do a few memory exercises. Where's the Control Room?"
Blue looked puzzled. "Here," he said, wondering if his friend had finally flipped.
"No, no. Where is it located within Cloudbase?"
"At the very top, above the pylons."
"Right, now you ask me something."
"Where's, ah, Sickbay?"
Scarlet rolled his eyes. "I just knew you'd ask me that. Deck C."
"Where on Deck C?"
Scarlet opened his mouth to answer, then shut it again. "Damn."
Blue raised his eyebrows. "And you spend more time in Sickbay than anyone else does. If anyone knows where it is, you should. OK, the Amber Room."
After a few more frustrating minutes, it became very clear that neither of them could remember exactly where anything was on Cloudbase. They knew of the existence of various places: the Room of Sleep, the officers' lounge, the conference room, the Amber Room, the radar room, Sickbay and the Garden Room, but neither could remember how to get to any of them.
"Hold on a minute!" Scarlet exclaimed. "We're forty thousand feet up in the air. What keeps us up?"
"No idea," Blue confessed.
"Me neither. We also have to eat, wash, have somewhere to keep clothes – surely we don't wear these uniforms all the time – where do we live? Where does our food come from?"
The two stared at each other as they realised that neither of them knew, or until that moment had even wondered, how the basic staples of life were provided for on Cloudbase.
Blue spoke for the pair of them. "We are in deeeeep trouble."
* * *
Huh? Scarlet shook himself mentally. He was sitting on a stool in front of Colonel White's desk in the Control Room, with Captain Blue to his left. Blue and White looked – different, somehow. White was looking straight at him, but without seeming to actually see him, and his posture was strange, as if he were only semi-conscious, and someone was holding him upright. Scarlet himself felt odd, too. His body felt too light, and at the same time, somewhat numb and awkward. With no conscious volition, he stood up and spoke.
"We'll leave right away, sir."
Leave? he thought. What for? Where am I going?
To his relief, Captain Blue stood up too. Maybe Blue was paying more attention than I was. He was about to whisper a question to his colleague when a bell rang, somewhere in the background. Scarlet felt himself lifted off his feet and carried through the air at tremendous speed – the familiar surroundings of the Control Room vanished, to be replaced by a vast, cavernous space filled with unfamiliar equipment and brilliant light. In stunned disbelief, Scarlet saw Cloudbase in the distance – from the outside! He was able to look down on it, which meant that he was at least 40,000 feet up, with no apparent means of support... he was swinging through the air... Air? At this altitude? And if he could see Cloudbase, that meant he was outside, so what was all the equipment? I'm hallucinating, he thought. That's it. I've been on a mission, I've been injured, and I'm hallucinating. As if to confirm that, he suddenly realised that he wasn't breathing, he had no heartbeat, but there was something else – a weight in his chest...
The bright lights vanished, replaced by a much dimmer illumination, then darkness...
* * *
An unknowable time later, Scarlet awoke from a period of unawareness which had the flavour of neither sleep nor a retrometabolic coma. His vision was blurred, and he couldn’t move. He still felt too light, stiff and numb, but now he was unable to move at all, involuntarily or otherwise. From what little he could see, he appeared to be in a small room, lined with shelf-like structures of some kind. And he wasn’t alone.
Immediately facing him, Rhapsody Angel stared straight ahead. But there was no animation in her beautiful eyes, nor any recognition. Flanking her, Melody and Harmony showed the same alarming lack of life. At the edge of his peripheral vision, Scarlet could just make out Captain Blue to one side, and Lieutenant Green on the other.
"What on Earth's going on?" he hissed to Blue.
"Don't know..." His partner's voice sounded slurred and drowsy, almost as if he were talking in his sleep.
Over the next couple of hours, Scarlet's vision cleared a little, and finally, he was able to make out more details of the room in which they were all held prisoner. A long rack was fastened high up on the wall opposite, on which hung strange constructions of wooden strips. From these strips were suspended very fine wires, which in turn fastened onto the heads, arms and legs of his colleagues. A horrible suspicion began to dawn.
With tremendous effort, he managed to roll his eyes down far enough to see his hands. Curved, smooth fingers, obviously not intended to move; fine wires extending upwards from his wrists...
"Bloody hell," he murmured, "I'm a frigging puppet!"
* * *
The following day, gigantic creatures, which he identified, incredulously, as people, came into the store-room and removed him, Captain Blue, Colonel White and Lieutenant Green. It had been a frustrating night – he'd managed to have conversations of a sort with these three, but with none of the others. Of the Angels, only Destiny and Symphony showed any signs of life – no-one else had responded in the slightest.
As they were carried across the floor, Scarlet began to check some tentative conclusions that he'd come to during the night. Once again, there was the odd sight of Cloudbase from the outside – now that he could see more clearly, he could tell that his home of the last three years was actually a large model, held on struts in front of a painted skyscape. Their destination lay beyond that – he saw the Amber Room, the Control Room and the main Conference Room, all quite close together. The strange equipment that he'd spotted the previous evening was in place, but now he could focus on it, he could identify cameras, and lights. This was a film set, but a rather primitive one, by the look of the equipment. Somehow, Spectrum had been reproduced in studio set form, and populated by giants...
* * *
Once again, a bell rang, but instead of being taken off to the store-room, the puppets were seated on the Officers’ Lounge chairs, and left alone. At last, they could talk.
"I think I’m getting an idea about what's happened," Scarlet began.
"Good," White replied. "I can't seem to think straight – in fact, I can't seem to think at all. What have you come up with?"
"Just the obvious, so far," Scarlet admitted. "This is a film set, and we're taking part in a production based on one of the Mysterons’ threats. I don’t know which one yet, but I'm working on it. The equipment and clothing of the giants is similar to ours, but I can't shake the feeling that we've gone back in time."
White nodded, or rather, he would have done, if he'd been able to move his head. Scarlet's premonitions and hunches were famous among Spectrum's field agents.
"What I can't fathom is why only we four have any spark of, well, life, if that's not a contradiction in terms for puppets. I mean that we can communicate, and we remember –"
"You can, you mean," Blue chimed in. "I feel as if someone's wrapped my brain in cotton wool."
"Me, too," agreed Lieutenant Green. "Whatever it is has affected all of us except you. Why would that be?"
"No," Scarlet asserted. "It's affected me too, but less than you. I don't know why. Have any of you noticed those giants on the gantry above us? If we could communicate with one of them, maybe we'd find out more about this setup."
"It'll have to be you, I'm afraid, Captain Scarlet," White sighed. "I don't think any of us are up to it."
It had been a frustrating afternoon so far. The giants up on the gantry never came close enough to speak to, and every time he opened his mouth, words he hadn't intended to say came out. The words did, though, seem vaguely familiar, and as for the voice... still, one's own voice always sounded odd when heard from the outside, as it were. He and Blue went through the motions of some mission or other, skipping huge chunks. The tedious, investigatory bits, mostly. Scarlet’s conviction that they were taking part in a dramatisation of a real event grew stronger and stronger. Just how the Mysterons had achieved this was beyond him, though.
As time went by, Scarlet gradually realised that he, Blue, White and Green had the most to say in each episode, and he came to the inescapable conclusion that this was why, of all his colleagues, only they had any kind of life. They were the most, well, real, for want of a better word. By assiduous listening, and by managing to get a look at a script carelessly left lying around the Control Room set, Scarlet had found out that the early days of the Mysteron War had been dramatised into a television series called Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. This gave him a warm, smug feeling but gave the others the ammunition to rib him unmercifully during the quiet hours in the puppet store, especially when Lieutenant Green found out, completely by chance, that it was a children’s programme.
Then, suddenly, they were separated…
* * *
“Of course, now I know that it was because filming was over,” Scarlet sighed. “At the time, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I met up with some of the others once or twice after that, on The Secret Service. Seeing them again under those circumstances gave me a bit of a shock, I can tell you.”
His rapt audience nodded. “I can imagine.”
“I didn’t have much to do in that, as you probably know. Playing my own grandfather…” Scarlet smiled in fond resignation. “I had no idea he was such a wimp when he was my age. Turned out OK in the end, though.”
“Agent Paul Blake. My grandfather on my mother’s side. According to family photos, I look a lot like him.” Scarlet stopped, and frowned. “Funny, that. The people who made that programme couldn’t possibly have known, could they?”
His audience shook her head. “So what happened after that?”
“No idea,” Scarlet replied honestly. “I stayed – well, sentient, I suppose – for a little while, but most of the time, I was just stuck away in someone’s cupboard. From time to time, I’d get my mind back, but not very much, and not for long. The next thing I was really aware of was waking up here. And,” he added pointedly, “you still haven’t told me who you are, where ‘here’ is and why I’m able to sit here talking to you.”
The giant woman looked a little sheepish. “I’m, uh, your owner,” she confessed.
For a long moment, Scarlet gaped at her in outrage. “My – owner? You BOUGHT me?”
She blushed. “Um, yes. You see, I’ve always been a fan, and then I won some money in the National Lottery, and you came up for sale again, and I’ve always wanted to have something from the original series, and it seemed like too good a chance to pass up…” The voluble flow of explanation dried up as she saw the expression in her acquisition’s eyes. “I’m sorry,” she finished, rather shamefacedly.
“And where are the others?” Scarlet asked, keeping a tight clamp on his temper.
Now she looked contrite. “I don’t know. There were a couple of survivors. I think someone in America has Doctor Fawn’s head…”
“His head,” Scarlet repeated, levelly.
“It was a long time ago! Some of you were used again, but not many, and the others were… scrapped…”
“Scrapped.” Scarlet bit his lip. Scrapped. All the people who’d been closer to him than his own family, gone... He gave himself a mental shake. Absolutely no sense in following that train of thought. Time to pursue answers to his other questions. “OK, so where am I?”
* * *
Kate lived alone in a small house near some woodlands on the outskirts of London. She’d bought it with her Lottery winnings; “some money” actually translated to “a lot of money”, the Jackpot, in fact. Despite that, she didn’t seem to have many friends. At least, not many visitors came to the house, and she didn’t go out much. Scarlet got the distinct impression that she was lonely.
Things could have been a lot worse, he reflected. Once the initial shock had worn off, and he’d started seeing Kate as a person rather than as just his owner, they got on well. A little work on his joints enabled him to move on his own without the need for strings, much to his relief, and she showed him how to work the television, DVD player and computer. The internet had been a revelation. Out of morbid curiosity, he’d done a search on his code name, and had been astonished by the number of references he found. A brief exploration of some of the sites had left him speechless.
“Don’t knock it,” Kate advised him when he protested to her about them. “They’re the people who’ve brought you back to life. Like Tinkerbell.” She giggled at that, for some reason, but Scarlet refused to rise to the bait.
Kate might not have many friends, but she did have a number of correspondents around the world, who also seemed to be fans of his, and he began to understand what she’d meant by “Tinkerbell”. These people believed in him.
She didn’t live entirely alone. Kate had a cat. Big, grey-and-white, fluffy and bad-tempered, Smokey was four feet long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, built like a barn, and the bane of Scarlet’s life. Scarlet had never actually had a pet. As a boy, his family had kept horses and dogs, and even they weren’t pets, but working animals. A few cats had roamed around the stables, keeping the vermin down, but Scarlet had never seen the point of cats as pets. Now that he was smaller than one, he saw the point even less. Smokey regarded him as a cross between a rival for Kate’s affections, a toy, and prey, taking every possible opportunity to swat at him with a clawed paw.
One evening, things came to a head…
Coming home late after her Creative Writing evening class, the first things Kate heard as she hung her coat up were a feline snarl, a human shout, a loud bang and a yowl of fright. Hurtling into the sitting room, Kate stopped short at the sight that presented itself. Smokey was growling under the sofa, clumps of grey fur littered the carpet, and Scarlet was nonchalantly holstering his gun.
Kate gaped at him.
“You shot my cat.”
“No, I just fired my gun. There’s a difference.”
“You SHOT my cat.”
“Just a warning shot. To get him off me.”
“You SHOT my CAT.”
It took a while for Scarlet to explain his reasons. Fortunately, Kate had seen some of the swipes Smokey had taken at Scarlet, and in the end, she had to admit that there was little else he could have done. And it did seem to do the trick. From then on, the cat gave Scarlet a very wide berth.
* * *
It seemed ridiculous not to talk about Spectrum with Kate. He had to admit that he liked talking to her about his world. She already knew a great deal about it, if only on a fairly superficial level, and sometimes, it was almost like having his colleagues back again. Almost... In the beginning, though, it had given him a few nasty moments; the first time she mentioned his indestructibility, he’d been stunned at the enormity of the security breach. To calm him down, she showed him her collection of books and comics, and even the DVDs of the series. Some of the episodes were familiar; “I must have woken up about three-quarters of the way through filming,” he realised.
Naturally, a major, and recurring, topic of conversation was how this had happened.
“I mean,” Kate said helplessly one day, “I bought a puppet. You know, a doll with strings. You sat on my bookshelf for months without saying anything. I even dusted you, and you never even flinched. What happened?”
“Believe me, I’ve been wondering that myself,” Scarlet sighed. “The last thing I remember of MY world is a Mysteron threat to send Spectrum back to its origins.”
“They did THAT all right, didn’t they?” Kate remarked.
“They certainly did. We couldn’t work out what they meant. We never even CONSIDERED this!” He gestured at his own body.
“What did the Mysterons actually do?”
“Puzzled the hell out of us, mostly. We started losing people, bases, installations…”
Scarlet’s voice trailed off; he seemed to be thinking about something. Kate waited patiently. At last, he spoke again.
“I need to see the DVDs again.”
One thing Kate had learned about Scarlet was that once he was the trail of something, he was impossible to deflect. He was also rotten company. He just sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the television, intently watching – no, studying – each episode, occasionally writing something in a notebook. She made a couple of futile attempts to ask what he was doing, and whether he needed any help, but when each request was met with a polite, but distracted “no, thank you”, she gave up and went to bed. He was still at it when she got up the next morning; when she came back from shopping, he was looking through the notebook.
“Got it!” he told her triumphantly. “I know what the Mysterons were doing!” Without waiting for her response, he tapped the final page of notes. “This is a list of every agent and installation mentioned in the series. They’re the only ones we were still able to contact. Somehow, everything that wasn’t in the series got deleted from our databases, and even from our memories. Well, most of us, anyway. Blue, Green and the colonel managed to remember more, and I remembered the most, but that’s only because we were the main speaking characters. I was the only one in every episode. THAT’s what they did!” He blew out a heavy sigh. “HOW, of course, is a completely different matter. And not one I’m likely to find out. Or why I’m out of that universe and in this one.”
“A dimension jump,” Kate murmured.
Scarlet looked puzzled, and she hastened to clarify. “You read about it all the time in science fiction. There’s a few rather good television series about it, as well.”
“Oh, science fiction,” Scarlet sniffed dismissively. Kate thought that was rather rich, coming from a science fiction character, but wisely decided to say nothing.
It was a sobering thought, that he was a fictional character, that everything he was, everything he thought, everything he did, had been planned out by a television producer and a set of scriptwriters. To her credit, Kate was a little embarrassed about forcing this realisation on him, but he shrugged it off. “It’s no big deal,” he reassured her. “I know I’m real; what does it matter how I got started?”
It was at about that time, too, that he realised something else. For the first time in his life, he was completely unfettered by responsibilities. There was no-one expecting him to pull off the impossible (and no friends…) There were no Mysteron threats to endanger the earth (and no Spectrum…) There was no-one to whom he was answerable (and no Rhapsody…) He was free, completely and utterly free (and alone…). He could do whatever he wanted. He hated it. He needed a project.
* * *
“I’ve been doing some research,” he told Kate a few days later. “Interest in me, and in the series, has increased tremendously since I first came here, and I think that’s what’s causing my – increase in reality, if you like.”
Kate tried not to smile. Unfortunately, Scarlet noticed. Fortunately, he, too, saw the funny side.
“Yes, yes, I know that sounds insufferably self-centred, but I’m serious. You know I told you that I was more aware at some times than at others?”
“Well, as far as I can make out, those periods coincided with the re-release of one or other of the Anderson series, not necessarily mine, which revived interest in ALL the series. The fans took more interest, and that spilled over into me. As you quite rightly said, the Tinkerbell Syndrome.”
Kate had no desire to laugh now. “Are you saying that you’re getting more real because of increased interest?”
“Absolutely. The series is being shown again, isn’t it?”
Kate raised her eyebrows. “I didn’t think you’d noticed,” she remarked, remembering how little interest he’d shown in the cult TV programmes she was so fond of.
Scarlet folded his arms and raised an eyebrow at her. “There’s lots of things I notice but don’t remark on,” he informed her, and for some reason, she felt abashed. She was enormously relieved when he continued: “So if that’s the case, I need you to help it along.”
Kate gaped at him, not for the first time. “Me? How?”
“Easy.” Scarlet grinned at her, with the insufferably cocky look he’d given her in the past. “You’re a member of the fan club. Get involved more. You have all these email correspondents – get them to spread the good word. Write stories. I know you can, I’ve read some of your stuff.”
Kate’s blush had started as a gentle pink, and was now a vivid beetroot. “I can’t!”
“Yes you can. I’ve had a look around your computer. You’ve got lots of stories on there, and some of them are damn good!”
“They’re not mine,” she muttered, almost inaudibly.
“They’re not mine.”
“Most of them are from a couple of friends. They send them to me, and I kind of fix up the English. That’s my subject, you see, English, and…” She trailed off, but to her surprise, Scarlet was nodding thoughtfully.
“All right,” he murmured slowly, as if following some tortuous train of thought. “Get them to write more. They send it to you and you carry on doing whatever you do with it. I think this might work…”
At long last, the disbelief that Kate had suspended at the beginning of this conversation plummeted back down to the ground with a crash. “This is crazy!” she shouted. “You honestly expect me to believe that – that – the repeats of a 1960’s kids’ television programme has changed you into a real person? And what my friends write is going to make you more real? That’s –” she groped for words, but had to settle for repeating herself “– that’s crazy!”
“Crazier than a puppet being animated by the – let’s call it the spirit – of a man who’s only fictional, and based on the puppet anyway?” He rested a hand on her arm, and leaned forward, persuasively. “Look, I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on here. Heavy philosophy isn’t my strong point – as far as I know, anyway…” He raised an eyebrow at her, and she knew full well what he was insinuating. If she found any fanfic that had Scarlet as a philosopher, she’d – she’d – well, she didn’t know which would be more satisfying. To ram it down his throat, or to delete it.
She buried her face in her hands. “OK,” she said in a tiny, defeated voice. “You win. You need the series, fanfic and conventions like I need food and oxygen. I’ll see what I can do.”
* * *
Despite the fact that he could move around on his own, speak, think, and generally behave like a human being, Scarlet was still physically a puppet. It didn’t bother him for the sole reason that he didn’t allow it to. He regarded his current physical substance in the same light as previously he’d regarded the fact that, physically, he was a Mysteron clone – he ignored it. So successful was he at ignoring it that, at first, he didn’t notice the changes in his body…
His search for something useful to do was occupying him almost to the exclusion of everything else. To this end, he read voraciously, and spent hours on the computer, surfing the internet. He’d discovered the Open University, had applied for places on several courses, and was currently engrossed in research for an essay on the military tactics of Julius Caesar. A little too engrossed…
Over the last few days, Smokey had evidently decided to bury the hatchet, and had become much more friendly. At times, Scarlet would have preferred hostility, or being ignored; when Smokey decided to be friends, it was like being nuzzled by a furry elephant. The cat was fascinated by the computer, and now leaped up onto the desk to see what Scarlet was doing. He butted Scarlet with his head; without looking away from the screen, Scarlet pushed him away. Undeterred, Smokey came forward again, this time treading on the keyboard.
“Get off!” Scarlet shouted, as random characters chased across the screen, obliterating almost a paragraph of his essay. He shoved the cat, hard. Smokey lashed out in retaliation, dragging a claw down Scarlet’s arm and ripping his sleeve.
Scarlet gasped in pain, clutching at his lacerated arm, watching blood seeping out between his fingers. Blood? And I feel pain? “Kate! Kate, please!”
But Kate was out at her evening class. Starting to feel light-headed from loss of blood, Scarlet knew there was nothing he could do – he leaned against the computer monitor, and closed his eyes as his blood pooled on the desk.
Letting herself into her house, Kate was feeling quite pleased with herself. The Creative Writing instructor had praised the improvements she was making in her writing, and Kate herself was also rather happy with the way her latest Scarlet story was going. She hadn’t shown it to anyone yet, and wondered if she’d ever have the courage to show it to Paul. He seemed OK about being a fictional character, but it seemed rather tactless to rub his face in it.
Smokey came trotting out to meet her, mewing plaintively in the tone she recognised as “feed me”. Kate frowned. Since they’d declared their truce, Scarlet would usually feed Smokey if Kate was going to be late. “Paul, I’m home,” she called. “Did you feed Smokey?”
There was no reply, which was odd. She couldn’t hear the television or the radio, just an incessant beeping noise, which sounded like the computer.
Kate pushed open the sitting room door. The computer was on, and was indeed beeping. A quick glance told her why. Scarlet was lying, slumped and motionless, across the keyboard.
“Oh, my God…”
She crossed the floor in a few quick strides, and lifted Scarlet carefully away from the keyboard. His injured right arm hung down limply. Rushing him upstairs to the bathroom, Kate cut away his sleeve with a pair of nail scissors, shivering at the sight of all that blood. She gently cleaned it away with antiseptic, then turned away to get a bandage. When she turned back, Scarlet’s eyes were open, and he was smiling at her tiredly.
“Leave it,” he said softly. “It’ll be fine.”
In the shock of finding him injured and unconscious, it hadn’t occurred to Kate to wonder just how he COULD be injured. It occurred to her now, though. He was just a puppet. Puppets don’t bleed… Something else occurred to her as well. If he was really real now, actual flesh and blood instead of resin and wire, she would be one of the few people outside of Spectrum to witness retrometabolism.
Mouth open in amazement, she watched as the long gash that ran all the way down his arm, from shoulder to wrist, started to close up, Within a few minutes, it had faded to an angry-looking red line; that, too, faded rapidly. Less than fifteen minutes after she’d brought him upstairs, his arm was clear and unmarked.
She felt she had to say something. “Wow!” she breathed. “That’s amazing! I mean, I knew about it, it’s in all the stories, but I never thought… wow!”
Scarlet smiled thinly. “Glad you liked it.”
“Well,” Scarlet mused, as he gazed thoughtfully through the thinning steam from a bowl of soup Kate had made for him, “this little episode proves one thing. This body is definitely my own. I’m not just a consciousness projected into a puppet body – I’m really here, in the flesh.”
“How?” Kate wondered.
Scarlet shrugged. “The Mysterons have powers we cannot hope to understand,” he intoned sententiously, then grinned.
Kate raised her eyebrows at him as she recognised a line of dialogue from the first episode, and he laughed.
“I probably did say something along those lines, but I sincerely hope I didn’t sound quite that pompous.”
Kate shook her head. “You don’t seem to be taking this very seriously,” she chided. “All of a sudden, you’re alive, instead of just being, well, animated. This is an enormous thing to have happened, and all you can do is wonder if you sounded pompous!”
“I am taking it seriously,” he assured her. “And I’m fully aware of how important this is. Somehow, the Mysterons projected my consciousness into a puppet’s body. A puppet based on a person who won’t be born for another thirty-odd years yet. Then, the puppet turns real, retrometabolism and all. I’m here. The real me.” He bit his lip. “I’m here,” he continued, so softly that Kate could barely hear him. “And I have no idea how to get home.”
Hours later, Scarlet lay sleepless and thoughtful, gazing up at the underside of the bookshelf above his bed. Kate had made some hasty arrangements, seeing that he was now fully alive and would presumably need to sleep at some point. Mindful of the fact that hostilities appeared to have broken out again between Scarlet and Smokey, Kate had cleared one of the shelves of the sitting room bookcase, and made a makeshift bed out of an old cardboard box, a pillow and a couple of tea-towels. She’d do better tomorrow, she’d promised.
Today’s events needed some heavy thinking about. Why, after so long as a puppet, was he suddenly flesh and blood again? In his career with the WAAF (he flatly refused to even consider the notion that THAT was from someone’s imagination too – his memories of it were far too vivid, and sometimes far too painful) he’d gained a reputation for keen observation and an uncanny ability to reach valid conclusions from very little data. He smiled to himself in the darkness. Let the ideas stew in his mind for tonight – plenty of time to check them out tomorrow.
* * *
Scarlet had long since stopped wondering how Kate knew all these things about him. She handed him a small twist of red tissue paper, and sat back with an anticipatory grin plastered all over her face.
Turning the parcel over in his hands, he felt something odd-shaped and hard cocooned in the paper. He glanced up at her; she was still grinning like a loon, so he decided to put her, and himself, out of her misery and open the parcel. Once he’d unwrapped it, he was still none the wiser. A strangely-shaped piece of metal, roughly half an inch long, with an ellipse at one end, and a flat serrated tongue. “Looks like a key for a small padlock,” he remarked cautiously.
Her grin widened, if that was possible, and she heaved herself out of her armchair. “Come and see.”
In all the time he’d been living in Kate’s house, he’d only once been out to the entrance hall. Given his situation, he’d felt it best that the less direct contact he had with the outside world, the better, and the sight of the enormous front door with its heavy security chain more than a foot above his head had depressed him more than he’d dreamed possible. The hall was equipped with all the usual accoutrements – cupboards, radiator, doors to the other rooms, the tall window looking out onto the patio – all these he remembered clearly from his one expedition out there. What he didn’t remember was the small door cut into the wall. The small door, with the keyhole that looked about the right size for the key he held in his hand. Carefully, he inserted the key in the hole, and turned it.
He would never have believed it to be possible. Inside what he KNEW to be a hall cupboard was a bachelor flat, luxuriously appointed and perfectly proportioned for a two-foot-high man. Off to his right was another door, leading out to the garden. No more using the cat-flap to get outside. No more sleeping in a cut-down cardboard box. His own, lockable front door. There was even a fully-functional bathroom. Overcome, Scarlet eagerly explored his new home, trying the bed, the armchairs, the sofa – there was even a television.
“Do you like it?” Kate called anxiously from the hall.
“It’s – wonderful,” Scarlet replied, after a moment’s pause to regain his composure. “I’d invite you in, but…”
“Don’t worry,” Kate’s voice replied. “I’ve seen it.”
Scarlet had never actually had a home of his own. As a boy, he’d lived in his parents’ house, or in dormitories at boarding school, as a university student, he’d shared a rented house with a few friends, and as a soldier he’d had quarters galore, but none of these places had ever been his, to with as he pleased. He had also had very little experience with domesticity. He’d changed the occasional lightbulb, or fuse, but until coming to live with Kate, he’d never tried his hand at painting and decorating or spring-cleaning. He was able to get into places that Kate simply couldn’t, where it helped to have tiny hands, and when it came to decorating the Christmas tree, it was astonishing how much more could be done by having someone able to climb up it from the inside.
Much to Scarlet’s amazement, he realised that he was enjoying himself.
The year turned, and they were at last in the 21st century. Scarlet’s theory seemed to be working. Kate sent her stories to her e-friends, got others back in return; websites proliferated, viewing figures for the series’ repeats were respectable, and sales of the DVD were good. Scarlet hadn’t felt so human since, well, since he was human. Kate’s social life also seemed to have improved – she went out frequently, and not just to her evening classes. Occasionally, she went away for the weekend, and Scarlet quite understood why she couldn’t take him with her…
“They’re making a new series!” Kate yelled as she came back from her latest weekend away. She burst into the sitting room, and stopped dead, eyes wide in astonishment. Scarlet looked up from his repose on the armchair, and the cushion against which he was leaning opened a baleful green eye. “You’re leaning on Smokey,” Kate observed, after a moment.
Scarlet smiled. “We came to – an arrangement.”
The cat yawned widely, displaying an impressive set of sharp fangs. Scarlet reached round and rubbed his hand under the cat’s chin, eliciting a loud purr. Kate stood in the middle of the floor, staring at the extraordinary sight, then slowly shook her head in admiration. Two-foot-tall or not, the Spectrum agent obviously had what it took.
“Anyway, welcome back. Did you have a good time?”
“Yes, wonderful.” Kate dropped her bag and went into the kitchen. “Drink?” she called. Without waiting for an answer, she came back, carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses. She flopped onto the sofa before opening the bottle, pouring a little into a shot-glass for Scarlet and a rather larger amount into her own full-sized glass.
“Cheers.” Scarlet took a sip of wine, then gazed at her over the rim of the glass. “So, you had a good time. What was the weekend about?”
Even after all this time, Kate was still a little embarrassed whenever the topic came up. “It was a fan-club convention,” she mumbled.
Scarlet rolled his eyes. He knew all about the fan-club; he’d read the magazines. He had long ago become resigned to being a figment of someone’s imagination, and wished that Kate would take the same attitude.
He hardly had to prompt her. Embarrassed or not, she told him every detail of the weekend, including her meetings with several of his creators. She was absolutely right in thinking that he’d be interested. She started to tell him about the details of making the original series when she broke off with a little laugh. “You’d know more about that than I do,” she apologised.
Scarlet shook his head. “I only had a fairly limited perspective on it,” he reminded her. “Although I did meet these people from time to time. Not that they realised they were ‘meeting’ me, you understand…” He trailed off; something was nudging at his subconscious, something that she’d said earlier. Something about – “What were you saying about a new series?” he asked, a tiny tremor of excitement in his voice.
“Oh, yes! It’s been on the cards for a year or so now, but it looks like it’s going to go ahead now!”
“A new series. About me?”
She was about to chide him for being self-centred, when she saw the look in his eyes. A blaze of hope… a chance to go home…
“You HAVE to get me in there!” Scarlet pursued her round the kitchen as she made breakfast the next morning.
“How?” she demanded. “Just go up to the studio and say, ‘Hi, Captain Scarlet wants to go home, can you give him a job?’”
“Well, not in so many words, of course, but they’re bound to want to use the original cast, aren’t they? And I’m one of the originals, you know I am.”
She shook her head, sadly. “They’re not using puppets,” she explained. “It’s all CGI.”
One of the things Kate had come to realise very early on in her strange relationship with Captain Scarlet was, although he might come from the ‘future’, it was a future very much grounded in the 1960’s. It was all very well to set the series in 2068, but in 1966, when the series was made, the Moon landings hadn’t happened, neither had the explosion in computer technology. And while it was all happening, he’d been comatose in a cupboard. He had less idea about the ‘future’ than she did.
“Computer-generated images,” she explained.
Scarlet made an irritated gesture. “I know what CGI means,” he replied testily, “it’s all over the internet.” He stopped, and buried his face in his hands for a moment. “OK,” he said eventually. “Not as a member of the cast. A consultant?” A look at Kate’s expression put the lid on that one. He hung on to Smokey’s collar as Kate shooed the cat off the worktop, rammed his hands into his pockets and wandered into his flat to think.
“I think I’ve got an idea,” he said later, looking up from the entertainment section of the weekend newspaper. “What I know about television, you could write on a postage stamp with a marker pen, but according to everything I’ve read, they’re constantly bleating about how short of cash they are. How much money have you got left from your lottery win?”
Kate shrugged. “Don’t know, exactly. I can check with my accountant.”
“I’m not talking about pence. How much, roughly?”
Kate shrugged again. “About ten million. Why?”
Scarlet grinned. “You, my dear Kate, are about to become an angel.”
In theatrical parlance, an angel is someone who puts up the money. Scarlet was rather pleased at remembering that arcane bit of knowledge, and also with the fortuitous Spectrum connotation. He liked Kate, but was desperately worried about her lack of get-up-and-go. It had taken quite some time, and a lot of persistence – ‘nagging’, Kate had called it – on his part to get her to make the initial phone call, and even more to follow it up.
Sitting in the plush reception suite, Kate nervously tugged at her skirt, wishing it wasn’t quite so short.
“Stop fidgeting!” hissed a voice from her handbag.
Kate glared down at the bag. “Will you keep quiet?” she hissed in return. “I thought you were supposed to be the experienced field agent. It’s going to look pretty good if someone sees talking to my handbag!”
“So don’t talk. Have you got everything straight?”
“Except my skirt. It’s far too short!”
“Your skirt’s fine. Relax. Just remember what we discussed, and you’ll be fine.”
Kate snorted, and pulled the zip of her bag closed with just a little too much force, grinning at the eloquent silence that followed. Just in time, too – a middle-aged man was approaching, with ‘television executive’ written all over him. She plastered her best smile over her face and shook hands.
“Miss Young, so pleased to meet you.”
To her surprise, Kate found the meeting easy to handle. The television executives were, just as Scarlet had guessed, only too pleased to meet with someone with money to throw at a project, especially one which had dubious commercial value.
“You understand, Miss Young, that Captain Scarlet wasn’t one of the most popular Century 21 productions? The Thunderbirds film is actually a much better commercial proposition.”
Kate nodded wisely. “Oh yes, I appreciate that. But Thunderbirds has American backing, I understand? And I am a GREAT fan of Captain Scarlet.” She could almost feel her bag shaking as Scarlet kept his temper under control. She directed what she hoped was a winning smile at the executive. “I don’t think I’d be willing to help finance any other production. I really would like to see the new Scarlet being made, and seeing that I’m willing to cover the production funding shortfall up to ten million pounds…” She let the sentence trail off on an upward note, crossing her legs, letting her skirt ride up, raising her eyebrows and altering her smile to wistfully hopeful. The executive took the bait.
“Well, Miss Young, I think we can do business… our lawyers will be in touch. Thank you very much for coming.”
Scarlet actually climbed up on her shoulder to read the lawyers’ letter when it arrived. He grinned at her, and gave her a thumbs up. “Phase one in the bag,” he decided, with considerable satisfaction. “How’s phase two going?”
“She thinks I’m mad, but she’s agreeable. I got the first draft this morning.”
“Good. Let’s have a look.”
Careful not to dislodge her passenger, Kate moved across to her computer, calling up the draft script that had arrived that morning from one of her writer friends. Scarlet read it over her shoulder, making suggestions about dialogue and procedure errors, but finally pronounced the first draft a success. Kate set to work, integrating Scarlet’s suggestions into the draft; it took all day, but eventually, she clicked ‘send’, hoping that Jane would approve. After all, it was, with any luck, going to be her name on the finished script.
* * *
‘Dear Miss Young,
Thank you for showing us the script entitled ‘Back To Basics’, for consideration for production in the forthcoming series of ‘Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons’.
The producers have read it with great interest, and feel that it has considerable potential as a late-season episode, but would like to suggest some changes, which you will see marked on the manuscript, and in the enclosed document. We would like to see the re-writes by the tenth of next month at the latest.
Yours faithfully –‘
“Et cetera, et cetera, for Carlton Productions,” Kate finished triumphantly. “Amazing what the promise of ten million pounds can do, isn’t it?” She turned with a grin to raise her glass to the tiny man sitting on the arm of her sofa.
He grinned back at her. “I’ve got a good feeling about this,” he remarked.
The next few months were a combination of high excitement and stultifying boredom, as the series went into production. As one of the sources of funding, and at Scarlet’s insistent prompting, Kate wangled her way into as many sessions as possible. She sat in the producer’s box at the dialogue recording sessions – the actor playing Scarlet’s voice never knew that many of the suggestions for dialogue changes, delivery and so on came not from the director, but from the real Captain Scarlet. Kate now felt that she knew as much about Spectrum and its operations as any agent – and a lot about one agent in particular.
Every piece of canon literature, the original series, every piece of decent fanfic she’d ever read, described Captain Scarlet as being cool under pressure. This, she could confirm from first-hand knowledge. What could be more stressful than this wildly improbably attempt to get home? She wondered how she’d cope in the same situation – displaced by over sixty years, surrounded by giants and in another dimension altogether – but Scarlet never wavered. From knowing nothing at all about the ways of television, he’d become something of an expert, and he’d got it all from reading, from observation, and from the application of a fierce intelligence. Kate had the feeling that Scarlet was the sort of person who’d be able to fit into any culture, at any time.
At last, it was all over. 26 episodes in the can. Post-production was over, and everything was ready to go. Kate and Scarlet eagerly scanned email for the announcement of a transmission date, and at last, three years after the first, wild beginnings of the idea had formed in Scarlet’s mind, he was about to find out whether it had all been worth it or not…
“Drink?” Scarlet indicated the glass of wine on the shelf.
Kate widened her eyes in amazement. “How the hell did you get up there?”
Scarlet nonchalantly twirled a grappling iron, constructed of safety pins, paper clips and string. “When you’re only two feet tall, all sorts of things become useful,” he replied, smugly.
Kate grinned, and took the glass. “Cheers.” She took a sip, then her smile faded. “Nervous?” she asked.
Scarlet avoided her eyes, and took a sip from his own glass. “Yes,” he said eventually. “This was a stupid idea. There’s no way it’s going to work.” He looked up at her. “But it’s got to. We’ve rebuilt Spectrum, the Mysterons, my whole world as a functioning entity... it HAS to get me back.” He paused for a moment, then looked up at her again, and smiled, raising his glass. “But it’s been fun.”
Feeling a tremendous lump growing in her throat, Kate clinked glasses with him. “It’s been fun,” she echoed, then turned away, almost afraid to face him. “Gosh, it’s nearly time. Let me turn the television on.”
Kate sat back with a satisfied sigh as the closing credits ran. “Well, I thought that was pretty good, even if I say so myself. What did you think?”
There was no answer.
Kate turned to look at her small companion. He was still sitting beside her, but he’d changed. Instead of the admittedly small, but warm, tough, exasperating person, there was only a puppet. A doll.
Kate reached down and picked him up. He’d always hated that, and usually retaliated by kicking her hand. This time – nothing. Tears pricked her eyes as she carefully put him back down again. “It worked, then,” she said out loud. A television series had brought him to life, re-showings and a strong fan-base had kept him alive, and now a new series had sent him back to where he belonged. It was what he’d wanted, what they’d both been working for, so why did she feel so – bereft?
She gazed at the handsome resin face until it blurred with her tears, then slowly, gently, lifted him up and carried him back to the home she’d made for him. Lifting the front panel off, she settled him in his favourite chair, and made sure that the patio door was closed. It was starting to get chilly at night…
It was then that she noticed the envelope, propped up against the little desk. With trembling hands, she picked it up and tore it open.
‘My dearest Kate,
I don’t know how long it will be before you see this, but if you do see it, it means that our plan worked, and I’m home.
Thank you. You saved my life, and I’m not just talking about the Tinkerbell Syndrome, which, by the way, I’m going to have to discuss with Doctor Fawn. As you, and several of your writer friends, have been at pains to point out, I’m not the world’s best at personal relationships. The Mysterons probably have a lot to do with that, but it went a bit deeper. I don’t think I’d ever met anyone quite like you – someone I could like, someone I had to kick frequently to get you to do anything, someone who liked me so much that she was prepared to spend thousands of pounds on a lump of resin that just happened to look like me.
Thank you for the apartment, for the money you spent, for believing in me, and most of all, for the companionship during the most difficult time of my, for want of a better word, life.
I’ll always remember you with deep affection.
All my love,
She tucked the letter in her pocket and refastened the wall panel, resolving to have it replaced as soon as possible with something see-through.
* * *
Scarlet stood in the middle of the Control Room and looked around. Cloudbase was looking good after its refit; it was nice to be back after so long at London HQ. The door swished open to admit Colonel White, who nodded to his junior officer.
“Welcome back, Captain. Did you have a good flight?”
“Yes, thank you sir. How long have you been back?”
“Oh, not long, not long. A few hours.” White sat down at his desk, looking over the new console. “How was London?”
“Very quiet sir. A nice change.”
“Good, good.” White was obviously preoccupied with studying the controls on his new desk, and barely looked up to acknowledge Scarlet’s “If you’ll excuse me, sir?”
Midnight. Scarlet stood in his quarters, gazing out at the stars. Rhapsody had long since gone off to bed, and he felt it was high time he did the same. Turning away from the window, he gazed around, wondering why the room looked so very different from what he was expecting. For some ludicrous reason, he wanted a small wooden door with a keyhole in it… No. Ridiculous notion. He was just tired, that was all. He absentmindedly pushed his hands into his pockets, only to withdraw one and stare at it in bemusement. A clump of long, fine, grey hairs clung to it. He frowned for a moment – a thought so fleeting and intangible that it couldn’t be called a true memory, more likely the memory of a dream of vastly over-sized furniture, a gigantic cat and the pleasant face of a very tall woman flickered through his mind, and was gone.
He shrugged, brushed off the hairs, and went to bed.
I don’t own Captain Scarlet, nor any of the characters, craft or ideas featured in the series. I wish I did – in fact, this story came about precisely because I wish I did.
The character of ‘Kate’ is, of course, me, although I’ve never won the National Lottery, nor been able to afford any of the puppets at auction. ‘Smokey’ is a mixture of several cats owned by myself and various members of my family.
I dislike including real people and companies in a work of fiction, but brief mention of Gerry Anderson and his staff, and Carlton, was unavoidable. If any of them ever read this, I’d like to thank them for creating such a fascinating universe. Anyone else who recognises themselves in this story – I hope you’ll take your inclusion in the spirit in which it was intended.
Thanks are also due to Carlton, for their recent revival of ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’, and for the fabulous DVD set.