A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” short story
by Lady Hawke
Copyright 2000, Revised Copyright 2001, 2012
The following story is based on the 1967 TV series created by Sylvia and Gerry Anderson. It is a continuation of my previous story Two of a Kind which takes place following the series episodes. Any discrepancies to Century 21 Productions are due to my ignorance beyond the 32 aired episodes. There is no intention to alter the Andersons’ vision. My only aim is to entertain. Enjoy and write me with any comments regarding either story. I would be pleased to hear from you.
When several weeks had passed with only Mysteron false alarms, Colonel White decided to call his most valuable officers to Command Control for a briefing. Before the silver-haired colonel sat three Spectrum men, all wearing their color-coded uniforms and attentive expressions. “I’ve called you here,” White stated from behind his circular dais, “to announce a new initiative at Spectrum. As you are aware, the Angel pilots are required to regularly perform aerial drills and mock fighter maneuvers. As it has been several months since you, yourselves, have experienced such drills, I’m sending you three to a new facility in North America. Powell Military Academy in Rockport, Maine. I’ve been told it offers some fresh and ingenious exercises for those officers who have been away from the academy several years. I trust you three will evaluate these facilities and not disappoint me or Spectrum in successfully completing the drills. I’ll expect a report upon your return.” The colonel leaned back in his seat to scrutinize his officers a moment. “We could all benefit from advanced exercises in hand-to-hand combat and battle tactics. Don’t you agree?”
Uncertain whether the colonel wanted a verbal response to his question, Captain Scarlet glanced at the two men beside him. Captains Blue and Ochre just nodded. “If it means a tactical advantage over the Mysterons, Sir, of course we agree,” he said for all three of them.
Colonel White ducked his chin approvingly. “Good. You’ll leave in an hour. Pack only what essentials you’ll need for two weeks. You’re to maintain Spectrum’s presence, remain in uniform, and be ready for a recall if the Mysterons surface with a new threat.”
“SIG, Colonel,” Blue chimed rising from his stool. Scarlet followed suit and headed for his locker where he kept his few personal belongings. “Well,” Blue ventured from his own storage closet, “either we’re getting old and rusty, or Colonel White’s feeling antsy.”
Scarlet grimaced at the reference. “Antsy? What do you mean?” He pulled his shaver and comb from their shelf, tucking them into his travel bag.
Blue shrugged. “No news from the Mysterons for weeks, no real threats, only minor false alarms. The colonel can’t help but worry that something big might be just around the corner. He’s keeping us busy so we’re primed for the next threat.”
Closing his locker and zipping his travel bag closed Scarlet shook his head. “The colonel is the most level-headed man I’ve ever met. He doesn’t get antsy, Adam.”
Captain Ochre strode around the bank of lockers, his own travel bag tucked under his arm, ready to go. “The colonel’s conducting maintenance drills,” he said with a half smile. “He knows if we just stand around here and switch duty shifts with each other, we’ll get antsy.”
“So you’re saying he’s using reverse psychology on us,” Blue asked.
“No,” Ochre assured. “He thinks we’re getting old and rusty.”
Scarlet only smiled and moved to leave with his companions when his shoulder epaulets blinked, beeping a light grayish brown. Scarlet paused and answered the hail, his cap mike swinging into place before his lips. “Yes, Dr. Fawn?”
“Captain,” the doctor’s deep Australian voice answered through his private earpiece. “I need you to report to sickbay for a few minutes. I’m to conduct some minor surgery. Colonel’s orders.”
“SIG. I’m on my way.” He exchanged a nod with Captain Blue before murmuring, “I’ll see you in the hangar. Keep the engine warm.” He strode off to meet with his physician. Within a half hour he rendezvoused with Blue and Ochre feeling only a twinge of discomfort at his shoulder where Dr. Fawn had slapped on a temporary bandage. Within an hour the small incision would be healed, leaving no scar. “Did I miss anything?” he asked as he followed Captain Blue up into the cockpit of the Spectrum jet.
“Nothing much,” Blue assured. “We heard we’ll all be getting new pistols, though. It seems Spectrum’s designers have created owner-specific grips.” He sat down in the copilot’s seat as Scarlet slid into the pilot’s. Ochre had already strapped into a passenger seat behind them. “The guns’ll be able to recognize our DNA and body temperature.”
“Yes,” Ochre offered from behind Scarlet. “It’ll prevent a Mysteron reconstruction from using the gun of the Spectrum officer it’s just replaced. Dr. Fawn has discovered through comparative studies of your blood and that of Dr. Laurel Tighor’s, that there’s a slight molecular difference between an original person and his reconstruction.”
Dr. Laurel Tighor. Scarlet swallowed. It had been only three months before when the name had meant a vibrant, intelligent young woman, a professor of psychology and lover of sunsets, natural beauty, and quiet serenity. Now the name only garnered a shadowed guilt bordering pain. The woman had unwittingly been involved in a university experiment to recreate Scarlet’s Mysteron-triggered recuperative abilities in another human, using the captain’s own retrometabolistic blood as a serum. The experiment had ultimately been a failure, leaving Tighor vulnerable to illness as her body’s own immune system fought off the alien DNA. She had died at the hands of Captain Black who, seeing her as another indestructible foe, had used Scarlet’s stolen Mysteron gun to murder her.
“Captain Scarlet,” Lieutenant Green hailed through the cockpit’s speaker. “You’re cleared for launch. Enjoy the R and R.”
Blinking back into the present, Scarlet spoke into his cap mike. “SIG.”
“Some R and R,” Blue chided from beside him. “Running in the rain, crawling through the dust, swinging through the trees? That’s relaxing?”
“At least we’ll be busy doing something,” reminded Ochre as Scarlet snapped his last restraint in and pushed the jet’s joystick forward. The plane rolled along the airbase carrier’s runway and dove out into the morning glare of a promising day. “As I was saying,” Ochre continued, “Dr. Fawn noticed during his post-mortem examination that elements of Dr. Tighor’s reconstruction were definitely different. With these new guns programmed with ID chips to our present DNA, we’ll be able to avoid such circumstances as when Captains Brown and Indigo were lost to the Mysterons and their reconstructions were able to infiltrate our ranks.”
Despite his distracting thoughts, Scarlet was able to counter, “But in a close fire fight, if we were to lose our own weapons and pick up another’s, we wouldn’t be able to use it. We’d be defenseless.” He shook his head. “The chances don’t outweigh the risk.”
“I disagree,” Blue argued. “The threat of one of us being taken by the Mysterons is ever more probable since they’ve begun their new war of nerves. We need that small bit of insurance. Besides, how often have you needed to use my gun instead of your own, Captain?”
“Three months ago,” Scarlet snapped then fell silent. He was sure Captain Blue would remember the incident. Cornered with a Mysteron gun held at his chest, Scarlet had shot Dr. Tighor in the heart with Captain Blue’s gun. The hope was that Tighor’s Mysteron reconstruction would recover from the wound, her own identity reclaimed as had happened with Scarlet three years before. The attempt had ultimately failed, however. Tighor had revived to take Dr. Fawn hostage. Scarlet had found himself again pitted against the woman he had grown to love, this time with the more lethal Mysteron gun in his arms. Twice saved by him, Laurel Tighor had been twice killed by the same, loving hands.
“S… sorry,” Blue murmured. No further discussion was offered. They arrived at Rockport’s seaside military academy within two hours, were cleared for tactical drills, and given a three hour seminar on the base’s facilities and purpose. By dinner Captain Blue was excitedly touting the complex’s mixture of on-site, realistic simulations and computer virtual reality devices. “This one facility can provide every training scenario a soldier would need to become proficient in over eighty-seven tactical and military skills,” he said digging into his plate of roast pork with hungry relish. “Spectrum could save a lot of money having us train in one place instead of sending our troops on fake combat missions abroad.”
“I disagree,” Captain Ochre countered skewering his salad. “There’s something lost when you’re sitting with a remote monitor over your head, knowing what you’re looking at is only a 3-D computer generated enemy.” Lettuce poised before his mouth Ochre grinned. “You can’t enjoy the true reflexes and adrenaline rush of a real encounter, even those within a mock battle.”
“That’s why they have the outdoor training facility on the grounds,” Blue defended. “Physical training, combat exercises, it’s all still here.” Blue glanced Scarlet’s way. “What do you think of the place, Captain?”
Captain Scarlet dipped his spoon into his soup and hesitated before answering. They were sitting in the officer’s mess hall. U.S. Army, Marine and Air Force trainees and officers were seated around them indulging in the culinary faire as well. He didn’t wish to insult his hosts. “The complex is very sophisticated; and the grounds here are as beautiful as they are well-suited to the military’s needs,” he agreed. “But nothing replaces on-site experiences. You can train only so much into a soldier, through simulations or other means. One is never fully ready to face the enemy and predict the outcome until such time as one does face that enemy.”
“The enemy being…?” Blue challenged.
“One’s enemy takes many forms,” Scarlet warned setting down his spoon and picking up a roll to butter it. “A man can be at odds with himself at times.”
Ochre smiled. He whispered into Blue’s ear as he reached for the salt. “I believe the captain’s being philosophical to please the masses.” They surveyed the room to see the military brass talking quietly amongst themselves yet stealing glances their way. The Spectrum officers were colorful fish in an aquarium of khaki grays, greens and navies. “We are the visitors here,” Ochre reminded. “Don’t be surprised if some of the student recruits skip their classes to watch us at our drills. They’re no doubt curious about Spectrum.” He perked up in his seat and set his fork down. With a grin he announced, “We could garner some recruits, ourselves, while we’re here.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” Blue chided. “If this facility offers what we need, we may request its use regularly. It’s between the North American government and Spectrum if this place gets to be our new permanent training camp.”
“Meanwhile we’re here to establish good relations and test out the facilities,” Scarlet reminded nibbling on his roll.
“Old and rusty, my eye,” Blue grumbled. His sky blue eyes gleamed with mischief, however. Scarlet knew him to always be ready for a challenge. “I say we give these grunts a sprint for their dollars.”
With a smug grin, Scarlet nodded. “Agreed, Captain Blue.” Further speculation was saved until they had retired to their quarters for the night. Drills would begin in the morning. As they unpacked their few belongings Scarlet offered, “I think I’ll take a walk around the grounds. Alone.”
Blue considered his serious demeanor. “What do you want us to do?”
“Stay here in case anyone stops by. If they ask, say I’m in the shower.” Scarlet slid his pistol into his holster and readjusted the kepi atop his head.
“You’re suspicious of something, Captain. What is it?” Blue inquired rising from his bunk by the curtained window.
Scarlet could only shrug. “I’m not sure, Adam. A feeling only. Probably nothing.” With a sigh he concluded, “Tomorrow we’re issued our new weapons and begin field drills. Perhaps I’m just antsy. Like you said. I need to let off some steam.” He forced a smile. “I’ll see you later.” He strode out into the corridor of their barracks, following the stripe-rimmed carpet to the exit. Pausing at the doors Scarlet scanned the military academy’s campus with its path-lit shadows and dark sky. “Just a feeling,” he murmured and stepped out into the night for a stroll of the area.
As Scarlet surveyed the well-lit trails and lush-landscaped campus, his eyes discerned the many places where an ambush could be set. If any of the academy’s students were about, he saw none of them during his stroll. Yet his internal alarm system was somehow heightened. Was it a Mysteron threat he sensed? Or was he just on edge because it had been so long since the enemy had announced its intentions? Would the Mysterons ever again warn the world and Spectrum of their planned attacks, or were they now inclined to keep their objectives to themselves? Was it this uncertainty which had Scarlet on edge? With a frown, he turned back toward the barracks and his comrades. He would try to get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a busy day.
* * *
Practice drills began at sunrise, before breakfast. Dressed in a blue, slick running suit, Captain Blue jogged the quarter-mile track, his oxygen monitor beeping his fitness level from his heaving chest. "They certainly want us to work up an appetite," he complained. Beside him, clothed in a matching red suit, Scarlet harrumphed in agreement, but refrained from comment. Ochre, with his well-toned jogger legs, was already ahead by several meters. “I forgot just how enjoyable these military drills could be,” Blue huffed as he picked up the pace to catch Captain Ochre.
Scarlet smiled. “Old and rusty,” he breathed and sprinted forward leaving his friend behind. It wasn’t until nine-thirty that they were allowed a ten minute shower before returning to uniforms and downing their morning meal. “I could eat an entire hen’s worth of eggs,” Scarlet sighed as he settled into his chair at the mess hall table. Setting down his cap, he dug into his omelet with cheer.
“Did you notice our fans in the bleachers?” Ochre asked as he too partook of the food before him.
Scarlet nodded sipping his hot Earl Grey tea. He had seen the young military recruits leaning against the backside of the bleacher seats along the perimeter of the track as they had jogged their five miles. “We’re the talk of the campus. Get use to it.”
Blue glanced around the mess hall before adding. “Maybe Rick’s right. We’re either gaining a fan club or we’re the laughing stock of the academy. Three old coots trying to regain our youth. Pretty sad picture, if you ask me.”
Scarlet smirked. “Speak for yourself, Captain. It’s only been six years since I was one of those gawkers. Uniforms always fascinated me as a young man. I’m sure they were just doing some wishful thinking.”
“If you recall,” Blue reminded, “we weren’t wearing our uniforms at the time. Jogging shorts don’t exactly seem dignified, much less prim and proper attire for a Spectrum officer.” Blue scooped into his eggs and mumbled over his food, “You can be sure, though, they’ll be out at the observatory tower watching our camo-drill later.”
Scarlet shook his head over his teacup. “The academy commander, General Willets, promised we’d have the field to ourselves. No distractions, no interruptions.”
“Yes,” Ochre agreed spreading jelly on his toast. “Classes started at seven-thirty. All academy students were told to report to their instructors.” Then he smiled, toast poised at his lips. “We can watch them conduct their drills on the camo-fields later, though.” He shrugged. “Return the favor.”
Blue joined in Ochre’s enthusiasm. “I’m looking forward to it.”
As the three finished their meals and moved to leave, Blue took up the lead. They were to meet Major Houston at the training field for a tour of the area before beginning their exercise. There, they would trade their colorful Spectrum attire for camouflage-wear and prepare for the first of several drills. The object: to secure the observation tower, with its tracking scopes and paint-bullet rifle, all without being detected.
Striding out into the central courtyard, Blue suddenly flinched and sank to his knees clutching his shoulder after a large, dark object fell from the sky.
“Adam!” Scarlet yelped as he moved to support his fallen friend. “What happened?”
“Look,” Captain Ochre announced kneeling to consider the rectangular item lying beside them. The brick was chipped and still smattered with traces of dried mortar. “Someone wanted to send a definite message.”
“Someone doesn’t want us here,” Blue groaned gripping his injured shoulder where the projectile had smashed against flesh.
Scarlet scanned the multi-storied buildings around the square. “Unfortunately, I agree with you, Captain. This was no accident. That brick didn’t just fall from a building. We’re not that close. It was thrown from a window.”
“One of the academy cadets?” Blue asked with a grimace.
“Possibly. Someone pried that brick from a retaining wall and bided his time.” Scarlet helped his injured friend to his feet. “Come on. Let’s get you to the infirmary. We’ll see to that shoulder before we meet with Major Houston.”
Once Captain Blue’s shoulder was evaluated and immobilized in a sling, the three proceeded to the camo-field. Major Houston apologized for the incident before showing the Spectrum officers around the arena where they were to conduct their exercise. As they strolled the grounds, Houston regretted, “You’ll have to stand down from the drill, I’m afraid, Captain Blue. Your left shoulder’s too bruised for such strenuous activity.”
“I understand, Sir. I’m disappointed, but eager to learn some advanced techniques while my companions here scratch in the dirt without me.”
Houston chuckled. “You can stand with me in the observation tower and oversee my evaluations. Once we’ve completed a post-drill critique, Captains Ochre and Scarlet here will be sent into the field again to implement their improvements.” The major paused beside a tree to overlook the open field with its abundance of brush, grasses and trees. With a sigh, he announced. “We’ll do it until we get it right.”
“SIG, Major,” Scarlet snapped. They prepared for their drill.
So sidelined, Blue climbed up into the tower to oversee the field beside Major Houston. Bending over the extra field scope to watch Blue commented, “Now this could be rather interesting.” Ochre and Scarlet were sent into the field’s far quarter to begin their approach. Blue kept an eye on the brush and greenery for any sign of his companions.
* * *
At the southern perimeter, Captains Ochre and Scarlet began their creeping, stealthy trek across the field. As they sank to their stomachs to crawl toward the closest cover Scarlet’s head began to pound. In his gut a fluttering sensation told him something was amiss. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. When he paused and pressed his fingertips against his throbbing, camouflaged temples, Ochre asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure,” Scarlet mumbled from the dried grass. “I’ll be fine. Continue forward,” he instructed. They proceeded through the brush. The aching in his head faded. When Ochre and he had made it nearly three quarters of the way to the observation tower undetected, that warning sense returned. Again Scarlet paused along their intended path.
“Watch out!” Ochre warned. “Get down!” Bullets flew and hit the tree trunk beside him.
Scarlet ducked in time to see the sniper rifle barrel swivel to glisten in the sun. The shot had been fired from the observation platform. Major Houston and Captain Blue were in danger. His warning sense had been right. A Mysteron assassin was near. Without his cap, however, he couldn’t warn his friend. “I’m going up there. Adam’s in danger.”
“What are you-” Scarlet bolted forward before Ochre could finish his question. Swiftly he made his way to his friend, dodging and twisting, hiding among the greenery and bushes to avoid being an easy target for another shot. When he had slid behind a bush just sixty meters from the tower Scarlet finally called out, “Captain Blue! Are you all right?” As Scarlet peeked from his hiding spot he could see the sniper pivoting the gun in his direction was none other than Blue himself. Scarlet’s own voice had betrayed his location.
“I’m fine, Captain,” Blue called back, leaning over and sighting along the weapon set atop a tripod. “Just fine.” Blue squinted through the rifle’s long-range scope. “But you just gave yourself away.”
“What?” Concerned and confused, Scarlet leaned away from his cover. He saw Blue lower the rifle barrel toward his chest.
“The point of the exercise is to stay hidden.” Blue’s weapon fired. Grunting in pain Scarlet landed hard on the ground. A dark red smear adorned his camouflage jacket. Scarlet gasped a tight half-breath from the impact. “Got ya!” Blue cried triumphantly then straightened from the tripod. “Not that you made it challenging.”
Scarlet looked again at his chest. He had been hit by a rubber bullet with paint ball. He’d lost the exercise. “But, I was sure something was wrong,” he murmured to himself. Stiffly he climbed back to his feet. Ochre soon joined him.
Behind the two Spectrum officers, hidden from view, stood a dark figure a rifle poised in black-clad arms. When the shots from the tower had wrung out, Captain Black had lost his chance to fire at his two Spectrum targets. Black thus faded back into the bushes to await another opportunity.
Ochre and Scarlet were soon shown their folly by Major Houston, and the pair was sent out to repeat the exercise to its successful completion.
* * *
Afterward, during lunch, Captains Ochre and Blue had a good laugh as Blue explained, “Since I couldn’t crawl among the ants with you two, the major suggested I man the targeting gun.” He shrugged stiffly in his sling. “I thought it might be fun.” Then he smiled. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
“I just don’t get why you gave yourself up like that, Paul,” Ochre pressed. “It’s not like you.”
Scarlet, eating his meal in silence beside them, declined from explaining the reasons for his actions. Somehow Scarlet’s warning sense had betrayed him, and it had put his comrades in jeopardy. He didn’t wish to admit the false alarm to either man. The British captain remained stalwart for the remainder of the day, unaware his friends stole concerned glances his way.
After further calisthenics and athletic exercises, the day’s activities were complete. Drills were to recommence the next morning. As of the moment, Scarlet was in last place of the rating’s standings. He was still broodingly quiet while Blue, who had gained extra points for his initiative, was conversely self-satisfied and talkative through the remaining exercises, despite his still throbbing arm being confined in a sling.
That evening in their quarters, Captain Scarlet sat at his desk trying to read a tactical field manual. As his companions dozed upon their bunks from the day’s busy schedule, however, grim reflections repeatedly distracted the British officer. He knew the Mysterons had been silent too long. The aliens had something planned for sure, though they were not telling. The enemy had hinted at a greater agenda than revenge. Scarlet himself had been an unadvertised target for a time.
Could the Mysterons be learning human traits? Could they have grown deceitful, devious, declining to inform their adversaries of their intentions? If so, he and the Spectrum Organization had to be ever on the alert to any abnormal movements of humankind. A tall order, considering humans often made mistakes and could frequently be expected to fall to greed, selfishness, pride, and other failings. Perhaps the Mysterons could be just as fallible now that they seemed to have adapted to this world’s vices. An advantage for Earth? With a sigh Scarlet resigned to the futility of reading and shut the textbook before him. Perhaps if he ‘slept on it’, as Blue had once suggested when Scarlet was troubled, he would feel more focused and enlightened by morning.
Scarlet’s sleep was restless that night, however. He was unaware that his mumblings awakened both Blue and Ochre. Their concern was voiced the next morning at breakfast. “You tossed and turned half the night, Old Buddy,” Blue informed, his fork poised over his stack of buttermilk pancakes. “You seem to be taking your failure at the camo-field a little too hard. What’s wrong?”
“I’m fine, Adam,” Scarlet assured, picking at his own plate. “It’s just that…” With a huff he finally admitted, “I felt something yesterday. The way I can sometimes tell when a Mysteron is near. I was sure you were in trouble. I … guess that sixth sense of mine isn’t all that reliable.”
Captain Ochre grinned over his eggs. “To err is human,” he assured. “Don’t let it ruin your score. The big blond guy here already has a big enough ego.”
In reply Scarlet forced a smirk. “Are you accusing me of slacking, Captain?”
Again that sly grin. “No. I’m just wondering if Colonel White was right.”
Scarlet straightened in his chair. Seriously he inquired, “About my ability to detect Mysterons?”
“No,” Ochre dismissed with a sour grimace. “That one of us is getting old and rusty. Lighten up, Paul.” Ochre sighed at the missed humor and returned to his breakfast. Further conversation dragged until the exercises began again.
* * *
In an unoccupied lecture hall Major Houston reviewed the failed stealth exercise of the previous day. The discussion included surveillance video shot from various hidden cameras along the field route. Scarlet and his comrades listened and watched as the major used his pointer to indicate alternate strategies of approach. So far, no mention of Scarlet’s blunder, though the captain was waiting for the reprimand. Then, as the video switched angles, Captain Ochre raised a finger to the hanging viewscreen. “Look,” he announced. “What’s that?”
All four men examined the passing frames more closely.
“Go back,” advised Blue. “I didn’t see anything.”
“In the bushes behind Captain Scarlet and me. I thought I saw a shadow,” Ochre explained. Houston rewound the tape a bit then hit the replay button on the machine atop his lecture podium. “There,” Ochre insisted. “A shadow.”
“A shadow of what?” Houston asked squinting to consider the screen. The suspicious image vanished. “Perhaps a bird flew by overhead; or it was a squirrel. Those pesky rodents are always setting off the perimeter alarms. They chew on the cameras’ power cables too. Damn things think we’re handing out a seed buffet, especially now that autumn’s in full swing.”
“Try a still frame, Major,” Scarlet suggested leaning forward in his chair and urging his own eyes to distinguish the blurry target. With a reluctant sigh, Houston complied, rewinding the tape then advancing it frame by frame. “That’s it,” Scarlet confirmed with a nod. “That’s what you saw, Rick.” A shadowy figure appeared for a moment on the viewscreen then disappeared in the next frame. “Go back one, Sir.” Houston poked the reverse button then froze the image.
Hidden among the spreading branches of a thick bush was a black silhouette. Its borders were obscured by the foliage, but there was no doubting the size of the shadow. “Too big to be a squirrel,” Blue observed from his seat. “That looks like a man kneeling there.”
“That can’t be,” Houston countered. “There was no one out on the field but Captains Scarlet and Ochre. And they were slinking along the ground as they should have been. Where’s the man to go with that shadow?”
“Precisely,” Scarlet agreed with a grim frown.
“Wait,” Blue interrupted. “You’re not suggesting …”
“A Mysteron agent,” Ochre finished. “Your feelings were right, Captain Scarlet.”
“It would seem,” Scarlet contended sitting back in his chair. With a determined breath Scarlet scrutinized his options. His eyes narrowed at the indistinct form stalled upon the screen. “We can’t be sure. The image is too fuzzy, too brief for a confirmation.”
Captain Blue wasn’t so indecisive. “Well, shouldn’t we at least put the base on alert? Contact Colonel White about this?”
Straightening his shoulders, Scarlet folded his hands atop the long table before him. “No, Adam. I made a mistake yesterday. I won’t be accused of paranoia. This image may only be a fluke of the camera equipment. Until we have real evidence of Mysteron intervention, we can’t send the entire base on alert. A false alarm is just what the aliens would like us to do.”
“I’m not in complete agreement with you, Captain,” Blue countered, “but I’ll comply with your caution.” Together, the officers finished their briefing and returned to the camo-fields to conduct another stealth drill. This time Scarlet was successful in reaching the target undetected, as was Ochre. Blue, the contention of earlier forgotten, was congratulatory. “I’m glad to see your mind’s back on your work,” he told his partner.
Several more days passed and still no Mysteron threat was evident. Scarlet, too, had nearly forgotten his previous concerns when his internal warning system kicked in again. This time, it was target practice on an open range. Blue was firing his new handgun and making some progress with the improved sight. Ochre was talking to the firing range instructor, Sergeant Douglas, who assured them, “Only the original owner can fire his weapon. It’s the best solution, considering the Mysteron threat. All other precautions have been ruled minimal risk. According to military statisticians, this is Spectrum’s best option.”
Scarlet continued his protest from his stance before the target range. His blue eyes narrowed along the pistol’s sight. Pausing before firing he argued, “I’m still not convinced, Sergeant. There have been times, in a firefight, when there’s been a need to grab what was available. It wasn’t necessarily our own weapon.” As he stated these reservations, his head began to ache. Reaching for his temple, he opened his mouth to speak. Before he could warn his fellows, however, shots fired from the target range. All four men dove for the dirt, their guns flying from their hands. “It’s a sniper!” Scarlet yelped his hand aching from the impact of a bullet. He could tell from their twisted bodies that his friends and Sergeant Douglas were all injured and bleeding as well. “Stay down,” he ordered.
“Those weren’t rubber bullets,” Blue admitted grasping his arm.
“Where’s my gun?” Ochre asked gruffly.
Scarlet probed the firing range for their sniper with a sweeping glare, trying to discern where the enemy was hidden. “There!” he said pointing to the figure striding from the bushes to the right of the targets. “It’s Captain Black.”
“Stay where you are, Earthmen,” the dark-clad figure droned drawing near, his rifle held at the ready. “I do not intend to kill, but one of you must leave with me.”
“What for?” Scarlet challenged, even as he reached for the pistol beneath his leg.
“They’re at it again,” Blue assured. “They want you for something, Paul. And they won’t say what.”
Black pivoted his rifle toward Blue’s head. “Captain Scarlet, you will leave with me or this one dies.” In response, Scarlet tugged the gun out from beneath him to glance down and notice the ochre stripe atop the barrel. Even if he were able to aim, Scarlet wouldn’t be able to fire. “I will kill him,” Black assured his pallid finger moving to the rifle’s trigger.
“All right,” Scarlet answered releasing the firearm and shoving himself from the dirt. Only grazed by the Mysteron’s weapon Scarlet stood before his foe, hands raised. “I’ll leave with you, Captain Black. But you must guarantee their safety.”
“We want only you,” Black answered lowering his weapon. Scarlet stepped forward to join his side.
“You can’t go, Paul,” Blue warned from the ground. “They’ll use you. They’ll make you give up Spectrum cipher codes.” Scarlet looked back at his friend, remembering the time when Mysteron agents had kidnapped Captain Blue, deceiving him into almost revealing such codes.
“I’ll be all right, Captain. Get yourselves to hospital for your injuries. I’ll contact Cloudbase as soon as I can.” As Scarlet turned to leave with Black, he saw the Mysteron had again raised his rifle toward his comrades. Blue must have grabbed for his weapon. Black fired and Scarlet spun to see the Spectrum pistol skid away in a cloud of dust. "No, Adam,” he warned. “Don’t try it.”
* * *
Though Blue wanted to protest further, he watched from the dirt as Scarlet was led away. He didn’t try for his gun again. Instead he considered his two other injured comrades. Captain Ochre had a weeping hole in his side, but was still conscious. Douglas seemed dead with a bloody smear at the center of his chest. Blue’s right arm had been punctured through the muscle. It was quickly numbing to his commands. With a growl the American captain knew he must see to the wounded first. When Black and Scarlet were out of sight, Blue rose to his feet and helped Ochre to sit. “Careful, Rick. We’ll get you taken care of.”
Grimacing in pain, Ochre grunted, “He wasn’t surprised. Scarlet was expecting this.”
“Are you sure?” Blue countered supporting his friend with his still bruised left arm. “If so, why didn’t he let us in on it? He jeopardized all our lives by not putting the base on alert. The Colonel should know about this.” Blue shook his head as Ochre rose to his feet beside him. “This isn’t like Paul.” Blue brooded over the incident until he and Ochre had returned to Cloudbase.
Later, in Command Control, Colonel White listened grimly to Captain Blue’s report.
“So, Captain Black has finally resurfaced and succeeded in his attempt to obtain Scarlet.”
“I’m sorry, Sir. Captain Scarlet said he had a feeling something was awry, but he dismissed it as I did. We were both caught off guard.” He slumped slightly atop the stool before his superior. Dr. Fawn had just finished removing the bullet and immobilizing his right arm in a sling. Blue was on medical leave and useless to help his captured friend. “Captain Black must have somehow sneaked through the base’s security perimeter. The surveillance cameras show nothing. We only got a glimpse once of a shadow, but Paul- Captain Scarlet said it wasn’t good enough evidence to put the base on alert.”
“It’s not your fault, Captain,” White assured. “This day was bound to occur. We can only wait for Scarlet to contact us.”
“But Colonel, we can’t just sit around and-“
“Yes we can, Captain. You and Captain Ochre are on medical leave until further notice. We’ll handle it from here. Dismissed.” As Blue reluctantly rose and turned to exit Command Control, he paused when White addressed his communications officer, “Lieutenant Green, are you getting a satellite fix on Scarlet’s location?”
“Yes, Sir,” Green answered from his seat as he slid along the floor conveyor to the transmission readout. “The microchip Dr. Fawn installed beneath Captain Scarlet’s skin is emitting a strong signal. He’s on the ground moving north by northwest of Powell Military Academy. It looks like they’re heading for the nearest airport, Warren Airbase.”
“He’s got a tracking chip?” Blue asked stalled at the door.
“Just as Scarlet anticipated,” White surmised, ignoring Blue’s outburst. “They’ll be leaving the immediate area by plane. I want Warren on secret alert. They are not to move any troops or set up any roadblocks. Is that clear, Lieutenant?”
“Yes, Sir,” Green acknowledged twisting his chair to contact Warren Airbase with the news.
“He knew all along,” Blue continued from the door. “Captain Scarlet set himself up as bait? He, you, Sir, set us up as secondary targets. We could have been killed, Colonel.” The captain approached the commander’s round dais. “Now he’s defenseless.”
White considered the younger man’s solid stance. “He’s defenseless, but the only man for the job, Captain,” the colonel assured. “Our covert operations team has pieced together a report that the Mysterons may have a command base here on Earth. This was the only way Spectrum could surmise to discover that base.” White turned his attention back to his communications officer. “Lieutenant. Launch all Angels. I want a discreet reconnaissance mission. Understood? They can’t give away the fact that we’re tracking Scarlet.”
The sleek Angel aircraft were airborne in minutes, heading for the Maine training facility. Once over the target area, the fighters swept the skies, outwardly seeming to survey the ground for additional Mysteron activities. In truth they were monitoring Scarlet with their onboard electromagnetic sensing equipment. “Colonel,” Destiny reported in. “Captain Scarlet is still on the surface. We’re tracking his location. He’s definitely heading for Warren’s Airbase.”
“Once there, Captain Black will probably force him to requisition a Spectrum jet,” White surmised. “Destiny Angel. Fall back. Don’t get too close. Black will assume we’ll have the base on alert, but I don’t want you three buzzing around making him nervous. We’ll let him take off. Then follow discreetly.”
* * *
Captain Scarlet was compliant as Black had him drive his Spectrum saloon toward the North American air base. Finally, hands busy upon the steering wheel, he ventured, “When are you going to tell me what you want and where we’re going?” Silence was his only answer. Black had so far only given him directions. Perhaps with patience Scarlet could discover more of what the Mysterons intended, whether the alien race had all along planned to conquer the Earth when they had initially claimed to be peaceful. If he had a chance to gain intelligence information, the last thing he and Spectrum wanted were the Angels shooting his plane down. To keep up appearances, Scarlet decided to play his hand. “Unless you can assure me of my safety, I will try to escape. You must realize that.”
“Do not worry, Captain. You will not be harmed.”
“Then what do you want? Information? I’ll die before I give you Spectrum’s cipher codes.”
Black leaned back in his seat, pistol at the ready. With a satisfied smirk he gave Scarlet a sideways glance and reminded, “You cannot die, Captain.”
Scarlet swallowed that truth. They didn’t have to kill him to put the captain or others in jeopardy. He realized, then, he indeed needed to stay with this agent in order to fulfill his mission. If Scarlet could locate their supposed base, discover the Mysterons’ true intentions, the information would be invaluable to Spectrum, to Earth. Nonetheless, he understood his peril. There would be only choice opportunities to escape, to pass what knowledge he had garnered. The Mysterons had tried twice to obtain him. Now they had succeeded. His foes would never release him without good reason. Scarlet must be cautious and observant, waiting for just the right moment.
Black interrupted his thoughts with a growling command. “Drive the saloon in through the security gate of Warren Airbase. Show the guard your pass then drive on to the Spectrum hangars.” So, Black wanted a Spectrum jet. With it, he could quickly whisk the captured Spectrum officer to any location with a strip of land large enough to serve as a runway. Scarlet followed the Mysteron agent’s instructions. The guard at the gate gave no indication he was aware of anything amiss, yet Scarlet noticed the security lieutenant bestowed the saloon’s passenger more than a passing glance. Colonel White would have already directed the base to reinforce security, but to refrain from indicating alarm. Warren Airbase, it seemed, was also following orders to assist in the collection of perhaps vital intelligence on the enemy.
Once Scarlet navigated the saloon through the Spectrum checkpoint, Black instructed, “Head for the hangar, Captain.” Scarlet complied, turning the wheels into the unpretentious arch-roofed building. Inside, hidden among what looked like empty shipping crates piled amid the hangar floor were Spectrum’s fully equipped vehicles, ready for deployment as needed. Now Black needed one to transport his hostage to an undisclosed Mysteron base somewhere in North America. Spectrum Intelligence had been uncertain of its exact location. That was now Scarlet’s job.
He parked the saloon in a side slot along the outer wall of the hangar. Black raised his pistol. “Exit the vehicle and walk to the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle behind those crates,” he ordered.
“I thought we’d be taking a passenger jet,” Scarlet countered as he slid from the saloon to stand beside the vehicle.
Black waved his pistol away from the car toward a tower of wooden boxes. “You will follow my instructions and pilot the SPV, Captain Scarlet. Remember your comrades at the Powell Training Academy. You would not want additional Earth citizens to be injured,” the deathly pale agent cautioned.
With a comprehending nod, Scarlet reminded, “I’ll need to use my ID to clear it with security.” Black only followed, pistol innocently at his side, as Scarlet stepped to the young man jawing gum and leaning back in a chair just outside the hangar office. “I need to requisition a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle,” he told the boy. The fellow tugged at his grimy overalls and lowered his chair back onto its four legs before rising to duck within the glass paneled cubicle. When he returned he was carrying what looked like a common clipboard, but was in fact a sophisticated DNA scanner. After accepting Scarlet’s thumb swipe against the sandpaper-like surface, the young mechanic nodded the Spectrum captain’s clearance and pointed out through the glass office windows to a particular stack of crates. “Thank you,” Scarlet acknowledged and led Black to the SPV. One tower of crates, upon close inspection, revealed its hidden door, tiny hinges set into the crates’ aligned joints. Swinging the door open, Scarlet considered his now third chance to escape the single weapon pointed again at his back. The Spectrum officer could have ejected from the saloon along the road. He could have ducked behind the parked vehicle and dove for the relative safety of the hangar office. Now, Scarlet watched as Black followed him in to the hollow enclave where sat a silver SPV. He let the door swing back unassisted to camouflage the crates' contents once more. Scarlet could have used such a barrier to slam the gun out of Black’s ready hand. Now, he simply poked the electronic door release and climbed up into the armored vehicle with Captain Black his constant shadow.
Scarlet strapped in and activated the forward-view monitor set into the rear wall of the driver’s compartment. “Once around the block, Conrad. Then home for tea?” he quipped as Black sat across the center isle from him and secured himself with single-handed dexterity, never allowing the gun or his eerie dark eyes to waver from their target.
“Drive out of the hangar, then pivot 180 degrees to starboard,” Black said.
“Why?” Scarlet asked. When Black declined an explanation, he shrugged. “And I thought we might enjoy some pleasantries before afternoon tea.” The forced humor was of course lost on the Mysteron. It seemed no humanity had survived the former Spectrum officer’s resurrection.
Scarlet eased the accelerator forward monitoring the viewscreen as the SPV burst from its wooden cocoon in a shower of splinters. The torpedo-like vehicle rolled out into the sunlight beyond the hangar. “One hundred eighty degrees, Captain.” Black ordered again. As Scarlet reluctantly complied, pivoting the vehicle to face the hangar, he watched in horror as Black raised a pallid hand to activate the SPV’s rocket cannon.
“No! You can’t,” Scarlet insisted even as Black pressed the trigger and launched an explosive missile in through the open hangar doors. Inside, the flammable wood and refueling tanks exploded in a ball of incendiary fireworks. The hangar and all within were cleansed in a roaring torrent of heat and flames. As Scarlet sat, a helpless witness, all evidence of their passage was instantly incinerated. “I’m sure you had some twisted reason for that!” Scarlet demanded. A young mechanic and several other innocent people had just been murdered before his eyes. In answer to Scarlet’s outburst Black only nodded.
* * *
Minutes later, Destiny, Rhapsody, and Harmony roared over Warren’s Spectrum hangar. Their long range sensors had detected the take off of a Spectrum jet. “Something’s wrong, Sir,” Destiny informed Colonel White. “Part of the airbase is ablaze. We can see firefighter equipment on the scene. And we’re not getting Captain Scarlet’s homing signal from the airborne jet.”
“I’m registering him still on the ground, Colonel,” Lt. Green informed from his station at Command Control. “They’re heading south now, toward the city.”
Colonel White ordered, “Destiny Angel, follow the jet for twenty minutes. It’s most probably a Mysteron decoy. Let’s give Scarlet a head start before you return to track him.”
“SIG, Cloudbase,” was the French woman’s reply.
White turned to Lt. Green, “Contact Captains Grey and Magenta, Lieutenant. Have them follow on the ground in an unmarked car. They should be to Warren’s Airbase by now.” Once that was done, White ordered, “We’ve feigned ignorance long enough. Lt. Green, I want you to hail Scarlet. If he’s still in possession of his cap and conscious, maybe we can garner some intelligence before Black cuts him off.”
“Yes, Sir,” Green acknowledged and spun in his chair to contact Captain Scarlet.
* * *
In the SPV Scarlet answered the call, though Black warned, “Say little or I will shoot to maim.”
Scarlet eyed the pistol in Black’s pallid hand. “Yes, Colonel?” he asked into his cap microphone.
“Are you unharmed, Captain? We’re tracking your stolen Spectrum jet, heading north by northwest at 180 KPH.”
“I’m fine, Colonel,” Scarlet answered as he drove the SPV along one of Maine’s rural roads. So, the tracking chip was working, and Cloudbase knew he was traveling in the opposite direction from the decoy jet. “There may be injured in the hangar, Sir. Captain Black-” He had to interrupt his expose´. Black had raised his gun to Scarlet’s heart.
“We understand. We’ll have medical personnel there immediately. Has Captain Black issued a ransom or offered his reason for taking you?”
Scarlet thought fast. This was his one chance to reveal some clue to his superior. Unfortunately, he knew too little as yet to pass along. He needed to learn more before making his escape. “No, Sir. I’m not-”
Captain Black swiped Scarlet’s cap from his head. Flinching at the action, Scarlet sent the SPV careening toward the graded shoulder of the road. He was just able to pull the vehicle back on course before it collapsed into the bordering ditch.
“There will be no further communications, Captain,” Black ordered crushing the microphone beneath his foot. “You must not know where we are going.” Suddenly a petite, slim pistol was in Black’s hand. Had the Mysteron agent possessed the second gun all along, or had it just materialized with the help of the alien’s magical technologies? Black squeezed the slender weapon’s trigger. As Scarlet collapsed in his seat, Black took over the driving from his side. The anesthetic dart’s effect was instantaneous; Scarlet knew nothing of their final destination.
* * *
On Cloudbase, Spectrum continued to track Captain Scarlet’s whereabouts until the British officer’s signal dropped off the wall screen. “What happened?” White demanded spinning his dais from the projected map to glare at Lt. Green.
“I’m not sure, Sir,” Green stuttered. “They’ve either discovered the microchip or-”
“Good God, Man,” White swore a fist drumming the desk before him. “Under what circumstances would that tracker chip stop transmitting?”
“It could have been subjected to an electromagnetic field pulse, Colonel. Or it’s being electronically jammed somehow. Or blocked either by deep water or earth.”
“You mean Scarlet could be underground?” White asked, the man’s ice blue eyes narrowing to the possibilities. Had he sent his best qualified officer into a situation where no one could assist? With a fuming sense of guilt the colonel commanded, “Have Captain Grey search Scarlet’s last known location. There may be some clue.” After a moment White also ordered, “And have the Angels shoot down that decoy jet. We’re not playing Captain Black’s game any longer.”
“Yes, Colonel.” Green answered. Then he reminded, “Sir, Captain Scarlet’s last known location is only fifteen miles from the shoreline, Penobscot Bay.”
“Understood, Lieutenant. Contact Powell Military base and have them launch a submarine. If there’s a Mysteron base along Maine’s coastline, I want it found.”
Then an unusual call came in from Spectrum police stationed in New York. A small group of medical doctors had been killed in a subway train accident under Manhattan. The incident seemed suspicious. An eyewitness had seen the doctors leave the station, but had identified the train victims as those same doctors. White ordered a check of the doctors’ credentials. “They may somehow be involved in Scarlet’s kidnapping. The Mysterons may want him for some medical experiment.”
Green guessed, “Perhaps they’re still interested in knowing Captain Scarlet’s unique physiology, Sir.”
“Then let us hope he’s able to escape,” White pondered aloud. “If torture is their purpose, they’ve got a victim who can physically withstand every atrocity. I’m not sure even Scarlet would be able to hold out mentally. He may talk if it’s secrets the Mysterons want.” White realized, then, that like Dr. Tighor, Scarlet had always been their greatest security risk as well as Spectrum’s greatest asset. Now, White had handed Black that asset willingly.
* * *
Blue paced the sickbay, his arm and bruised shoulder still restricting his duty status. “Are you saying Colonel White anticipated this? Even though Captain Scarlet knew the risk of his tracker’s transmitter failing, he still went willingly to the wolves?”
The visiting Lt. Green plopped into a chair and disagreed, “I’d say the captain was a cautious captive. The colonel trusts his instincts. Captain Scarlet’ll know what to do. We just have to wait for something we can do.”
Blue wasn’t so certain. With a resigned sigh he offered, “Thanks, Griff. Keep me informed. If I can help shed some insight …”
“We’re all concerned,” Green admitted. Then the Trinidadian straightened with a cheerful grin. “At least you and Captain Ochre are feeling better.”
“Yeah,” Blue contended. “Just not quickly enough. Rick’s got a punctured lung. At this rate, we’ll still be useless even when there is something we can do.”
* * *
Captains Grey and Magenta had finished their sweep of the area where Scarlet’s tracking chip had gone silent. There was no sign of the SPV, no trace of the missing captain. The rural Maine roadway was empty except for some abandoned road construction equipment twenty meters back, waiting for the return of the next workday. “He just vanished, Sir,” Grey reported into his cap mike. “Could the Mysterons have somehow disintegrated him and the SPV then reconstructed them elsewhere?”
“And is he now under their control again?” Magenta wondered aloud beside him.
White was just as serious in his wanderings. “We can only hope the tracking device reestablishes its signal. Keep alert and keep me informed, Captains.” Once their microphones had swung back up to their visors, Magenta frowned. Waiting wasn’t going to be easy.
* * *
Scarlet awakened from the tranquilizer dart. Groggy, he surveyed his surroundings. He was strapped to a medical chair. Doctors milled about him. He was shirtless, and they had obviously extracted the microchip from his shoulder. “You won’t be giving away your position to anyone,” one doctor assured. “I’m Dr. Weston, Captain Scarlet.”
“Are you going to tell me what you want from me?” Scarlet demanded.
“No need. You’ll be cooperative enough, shortly. We’re replacing Spectrum’s microchip with one of our own.” They lowered a clear cap from the ceiling. Its surface was studded with diodes and wires. Scarlet watched and struggled in his bindings, but he was immobilized. The cap settled upon his skull.
Just then Captain Black entered the lab. “Your friends are baffled, Captain,” he informed. “They do not realize we are right under their feet.”
“This complex is underground,” Scarlet surmised. “They can’t track me. Cloudbase doesn’t know where I am, do they?”
“We are growing in number, Captain,” Black continued, ignoring Scarlet’s question. “Your Mysteron guns may kill us, but only one at a time. They can also kill you, Earthman. Here, we are shielded under a shell of non-conducting materials able to withstand an atomic holocaust. You, too, are safe here.”
Scarlet frowned at the implication. His transmitter chip was useless within this fortress. Now it had been destroyed. His comrades could not track him. He was lost even to himself. The Mysterons had constructed a nuclear resistant base somewhere beneath Earth’s surface. The aliens had something planned, but so far they had been mute. Now they had him strapped to a medical chair. “What are your intentions?” he demanded. For a moment he imagined a nuclear war. “If you destroy Earth’s surface with nuclear weaponry, you’ll spoil it for yourselves as well. In the subsequent radiation, nothing could survive.”
“It is not bombs which shall kill you humans,” Dr. Weston explained. “There are many types of disasters.”
“Natural, then,” Scarlet observed. Had the Mysterons discovered a way to control weather or perhaps move celestial matter onto a collision course? “Or … or biological?” With that thought, Scarlet struggled within his bonds again. Black smiled assuredly as the doctors began their treatment, activating the electronic-laced cap atop the Spectrum officer’s head.
* * *
Above, Captain Grey stood beside his Spectrum saloon, patting the fender in irritation. “I don’t understand. Where could they have gone? They couldn’t have just vanished.”
“But you said you saw Captain Black do it,” Magenta argued. Eager to please, the younger officer was searching the surrounding brush for tire tracks, the transmitter chip, footprints, any clues. “Wait! What’s this?” Beside a pile of crumpled traffic cones, Magenta knelt to inspect a peculiarity. “It’s a seam in the pavement.”
Grey strode over to examine the scene. “Yep,” he agreed. “You certainly found something. That doesn’t look like it’s supposed to be there. Let’s take a closer look around. We might even find an entrance.”
Magenta smiled. “We found the base,” he announced triumphantly. “We better call the colonel.”
* * *
Scarlet awakened from a dreamless sleep. He was on a bed, dressed in civilian clothes and soft shoes. Where was he? Standing he checked the room. It was nothing more than a cubicle, only enough space for a single cot and chair. “How are you feeling, Mr. Metcalfe?” Dr. Weston asked stepping into the room through the sliding door.
“A little dizzy, but otherwise fine, Doctor. When can I leave?”
The doctor smiled. “The test results are most promising. We’ll know soon if we’ve found a cure for your condition.”
“And that is?” Metcalfe inquired sitting down atop the bed and holding his head. The room was growing wooly.
“You’re suffering from a severe form of Nigerian flu, Mr. Metcalfe. You’re free to move about the medical facility, but don’t tire yourself out. You’re past the contagious stage, so there’s no need to worry about making others sick. Oh, by the way. You have a visitor.” Dr. Weston turned toward the door. As he left the physician allowed another man into the small space, a pallid faced man in dark clothing.
“Do I know you, Sir?” Metcalfe asked with a furrowed brow.
The dark man smiled and spoke in a deep monotone. “I am Conrad, your brother, Paul. Do you not remember me?”
“I’m … I’m sorry, Conrad. I guess I’ve been feverish. My memory’s a bit fuzzy.”
Conrad nodded once. “Understandable. You have been sick for many weeks. But you are feeling better now?”
“Well enough to leave this place,” Metcalfe answered.
“Then, how about a walk? There are some things I wish to show you,” Conrad suggested. With a nod Scarlet rose from his bed and steadied himself before following the dark figure out into the bowels of his temporary home. As they strolled through the complex Conrad explained some of the machinery. He also offered insight into their situation. “This is our refuge from the invaders,” he said with outstretched arms. “The Mysterons have taken over the surface, Paul. You were our best chance to redeem our world, but you fell ill. Now that you are better, we can again look forward to seeing sunshine and breathing fresh air.”
“The Mysterons?” Scarlet asked, his hand returning to steady his throbbing head.
“Alien invaders. They took over many of us, killing our families and replacing them with their own reconstructions.”
“I remember!” Scarlet attested. “They’re from Mars. They want to take over the Earth, destroy us all … and live here themselves.”
Conrad nodded. “The Mysterons killed our parents, Paul. Our sister, your wife. There are few of us left. We have sought refuge down here in this underground sanctuary. But now the time has come to retake our planet.”
Scarlet paused beside a bulky data panel to lean heavily. “My wife? Rebecca is dead?”
Conrad nodded. “I am sorry, Brother.” He rested a sympathetic hand atop Paul’s sagging shoulder. “They came to the house at night, three days ago while we were trying to save your life here. Rebecca and our parents thought they would be safe at home. Now we know no one is.”
Scarlet bowed his head against the wall. “My wife. Dead.” He could feel tears swelling behind his closed lids. He did not see the satisfied smirk on Conrad’s lips nor the doctor hovering behind some machinery watching them. “They must die too, Conrad,” Scarlet stated. “They’re a menace to us all.” He raised his now glassy blue eyes to his brother. “I’m ready for whatever mission you have for me. What do you need me to do?”
Conrad squeezed Paul’s shoulder. “Many of Spectrum’s officers are now Mysteron agents. They are plotting against us even now. We will plant a bomb they cannot defuse.”
“Captain Black,” Dr. Weston called stepping from behind a machine panel to confront them. “Young Paul, here, is just recovering from a close call with death. He’s still weak. He needs more medical treatments before he’ll be well enough to fulfill his destiny.”
“We have little time, Dr. Weston. The Mysteron agents have found our sanctuary. They will try to breech our security and kill us all,” Black droned with a dark glare. He turned softer eyes to his brother. “Paul. Do you feel strong enough to leave?”
Scarlet nodded. “I’m ready, Brother.”
“I must insist on another treatment, Captain,” Weston argued. “This base is impenetrable from outside bombs or artillery. Unless they find the lift shaft, there’s no way Spectrum forces can invade our little sanctuary.”
“Another treatment, then, Doctor,” Black growled. His dark eyes returned to the younger man beside him. “I will see you before you leave, Paul. For Rebecca and our parents, we will save the entire Earth. They will not have died in vain.”
Once Black had walked away, Dr. Weston guided the still weak Scarlet to the medical facilities. With the help of two orderlies, he was again strapped into the chair and the clear, wired helmet was lowered over his black crown.
* * *
Captain Blue, no longer in a sling, tested his still sore arm and paced the deck of sickbay. “I’ve got to get out of here, Dr. Topaz. I’m wounded, not incapacitated.” He stiffly threw up his arm at the female doctor. “What good am I when Captain Scarlet’s missing, and I’m just getting in your way here? I’m sure there’s something I can do to help.”
“All right, Captain. I’ll dismiss you to light duty. That’ll at least free up another officer to mount the assault on the underground Mysteron base.”
“Thank you,” Blue chimed and marched out of sickbay’s sterility and smack into Captain Ivory. The woman flinched then straightened her near white jacket. The young captain had just recently earned her rank. Spectrum was eager to have some female officers who were capable of supervising and conducting missions. In truth, Spectrum needed every soul. “Sorry, Angela,” Blue apologized. “I’m on my way to see the colonel. Care to accompany me?”
“Actually, Sir,” she answered brushing back a stray copper strand of her short bob, “I was sent to get you. Colonel White needs your counsel.”
Blue smiled. “I’ll give him more than that.” Quickly they marched to Command Control. White waved them to a seat. “Colonel,” Blue began, “Please. Let me go down there. You need everyone you’ve got. You said it yourself. Captain Scarlet’s now a security risk. We need to find him. ASAP.”
“I’ll agree to send you on one condition, Captain,” White warned. “The ground crews have excavated the roadway and they’ve hit a thick layer of a rubberistic/metallic alloy.” He explained further. “When they tried cutting through, their torches and blades only sent up sparks and bounced off. I need you to find some way to obtain a piece for study. We’ll need to analyze it, to discover a way to breach this material if in fact the Mysterons have more than this one base.”
With a nod, Blue and Ivory left for the Mysteron site. They arrived in time to join Captains Grey and Magenta in watching the demolition team employ a massive plasma torch. Blue considered the deadly tool and grew concerned. The new alien-made material did indeed seem impenetrable. The Mysterons had so far been successful in using their energies to replicate their reconstructions, adapting matter for their own ends. As Blue watched he mused, “They’ve gotten quite comfortable here.” Beside him Captain Grey scowled.
* * *
Scarlet had completed several accelerated treatments. A microchip was inserted beneath his skin and he was sent to his room to redress in his Spectrum uniform minus his previously damaged hat. Black came to meet him. “Hello, Conrad. Come to see me off on my mission?” Scarlet asked zipping up his vest jacket.
Captain Black nodded. “It is time for you to save us from our enemy. You have been chosen,” he informed. “I am very proud of you, Paul. You must return to the surface and kill those who have now become our enemy before they infiltrate our sanctuary.” He handed Scarlet a Mysteron gun and a scarlet-coded pistol. “You know what to do.”
“Yes,” Scarlet answered with a single nod. “I know what I must do.” He was escorted to the exit. There a hidden lift shaft swept him to the surface. As he rode it up, Scarlet slipped the Mysteron gun over his shoulders. He stepped out onto the sun-dappled earth to see Captain Ivory draw her gun. He had been spotted not far from the roadside. “Die, Mysteron!” Scarlet shouted and aimed his lethal gun in her direction. Ivory, some distance away, dodged out of the weapon’s concentrated electrical discharge. Grazed by the report she nonetheless crumpled to the ground, knocked unconscious. Other officers in Spectrum uniforms had heard his declaration, however. They ducked behind the demolition equipment to draw their own weapons.
* * *
Blue landed hard beside Captain Grey and grunted his discomfort, a shooting pain clutching his injured arm. He surveyed his team all sheltered by the large bulldozers and dirt-moving equipment. He immediately saw that Magenta had a Mysteron gun strapped to his chest. “Magenta. No!” he yelled. “Don’t shoot with the Mysteron weapon. We don’t know if he’s a Mysteron. You’ll kill him.”
Grey defended, “Scarlet almost killed Captain Ivory.”
Blue frowned at his colleague. “The operative word is: almost.” From the safety of his shelter he called out, “Captain Scarlet. Put down your weapons. You’re outnumbered and outgunned.”
“The Mysterons won’t take over the Earth!” Scarlet declared aiming his hand gun at an earthmover. The shot ricocheted with a ping. In retaliation Magenta fired a shot in Scarlet’s direction. Though it missed him, Scarlet only ducked and fired again, hitting another piece of equipment. “We must be protected. No nuclear blast or electrical charge can hurt us. Your external weapons are useless, Earthmen.” Scarlet fired harmlessly once again.
“External weapons?” Blue puzzled from his sanctuary behind an earthmover. Could that have been a hint? “Corporal!” Blue demanded to the man stooped behind another machine. “What kind of explosives do you have on hand?”
The demolition team leader, Corporal Scott, scrunched up his face in confusion. “What good will they do?”
“We’ve been trying to break through this barrier. Captain Scarlet may have just given us a clue. See what you can gather.”
“SIG.” Scott rushed with his demolition team to retrieve their strongest explosive packs from their van. He returned with a powerful package of Enhanced C4 and a timer detonator. Meanwhile, Magenta had crept closer to Scarlet and had a clear shot.
Blue addressed his friend again. “Captain Scarlet. Why are you shooting at us? We’re your friends. The Mysterons are here, below us in their bunker.”
“Conrad is below. He wants to cure the Earth of your threat. The Mysterons must be eradicated.” Scarlet shot again at a transport.
“What is he saying?” Captain Grey asked sliding farther along their shelter to get a clearer shot of Scarlet stationed near the trees along the road. “He’s not making any sense. We’re not the Mysterons.”
“Conrad,” Blue contemplated. “Conrad Turner? That’s Captain Black’s name. They’re probably watching him from below. Paul may be trying to warn us. If they tried to brainwash him, then he’s acting the part for their sake.”
“You’re sure?” Grey inquired peeking through the space between the earthmover’s cab and front wheels. “He is shooting at us.”
“Paul’s a better shot than that,” Blue reasoned. “If he wanted us, he’d be closer and more accurate.” He shook his head. “He’s putting on a show.”
“He also knows we can kill him and that he’s outnumbered,” Grey argued.
Blue clutched the explosive pack in his sore arm. “I’m willing to risk it. I know him too well.” Scrambling to his feet, Blue replaced his pistol at his hip.
Kneeling beside him, Corporal Scott argued, “That’s suicide.”
“Captain Grey,” Blue advised. “Keep the team behind shelter. I’m going out there.”
“I’ll cover you,” Grey offered with a grim frown.
As Blue stepped out from the earthmover Magenta hopped to his feet. “Sir,” he warned. “Scarlet has a Mysteron gun. He’ll kill you from fifty yards.”
“Stand down, Captain,” Blue ordered with an open palm. Stepping from his shelter he announced, “Captain Scarlet, I’m coming out. We’re not here to hurt you.”
Scarlet aimed his Mysteron weapon at the approaching Spectrum officer. Magenta didn’t wait. Raising his color-coded handgun, he pointed and shot off a round. Flinching, Scarlet sank to his knees, his free hand clutching his side. The Mysteron weapon clanked to the ground beside him. Blue rushed forward, kneeling at his friend’s side as Scarlet collapsed to the ground. “Paul,” he gasped unzipping Scarlet’s vest. “Are you all right?” He considered the damage done to the man’s abdomen. “What’s going on?”
Even as Scarlet fought to stay conscious he whispered, “Hurry, Adam. Give me the bomb and play dead.” Blood oozed, soaking through his open scarlet jacket.
* * *
Just as Blue asked Scarlet raised his pistol and shot past Blue’s ear. The American captain collapsed atop his friend. Rolling out from beneath, Scarlet struggled to his feet, the bomb pack gripped in one hand. Tucking the explosive under his vest jacket, he headed for the secret lift which had brought him to the surface.
“Captain Scarlet! Halt!” Magenta hollered. Standing beside the earthmover, Magenta aimed his own Mysteron gun at his former comrade.
“Don’t shoot, Patrick. Please,” Scarlet gasped back. He was almost to the lift. As the compartment rose and the door opened automatically to receive him, Scarlet tossed the bomb in. He hit the descend button and turned to run. As he did so, Magenta, thinking the British captain was returning for the Mysteron weapon, fired his own lethal beam. Scarlet collided with solid blacktop and remained still. A shock wave sent everyone after him.
* * *
“The explosion,” Captain Blue announced bolting to his feet.
“You’re alive!” Magenta yelped scrambling to intercept him.
“Of course I’m alive, Captain. I told you to stand down,” Blue snapped. He sprinted to Scarlet’s side. “Didn’t you hear me? He was trying to warn us. The Mysterons were obviously monitoring his progress. He couldn’t give himself away for our sake. They must have tried to brainwash him.” Blue knelt beside his friend. “Paul.” Scarlet was unresponsive.
“I … I fired the Mysteron gun. He’s dead this time,” Magenta lamented standing at Blue’s side. “Really dead. Isn’t he?”
Blue clenched his eyes to think, calculating distance. “You were farther than fifty yards, Patrick. I don’t think you killed him. Paul!”
Scarlet roused with a flinch, recovering from the grazing electrical shock. “Stay back, Adam,” he murmured, obviously weak from blood loss. “Mysteron …. Virus. Contam,” he whispered before passing out from his injuries.
“What was that?” Magenta asked.
Standing Captain Blue frowned. “I’m not sure. The Mysterons may have had a backup plan.” He turned to consider the officer standing beside him. “See to Captain Ivory, Captain Magenta. I’m calling in a biohazard team. We’re getting Captain Scarlet into an Iso tube.”
Soon the medical helicopter arrived to whisk Scarlet and Ivory back to Cloudbase. Grey and Blue stayed behind to oversee the demolition team’s continued attempt at excavating the underground Mysteron complex. “They certainly picked a strange place for their Earth base,” Blue pondered considering the relighting of the plasma torch.
“No stranger than Mars,” Grey countered.
All attempts to breach the metal alloy failed. Only small chips could be removed. Blue ordered, “Let’s get these analyzed as soon as possible. I want the road closed off indefinitely. And security stationed both along the perimeter and at that demolished entrance in case of movement. The Mysterons may be trapped below, but they may have another way out.” He considered his demolition team. “Pull back the equipment, Corporal Scott. Have it ready if needed, but get to a safe distance.” To the attendant Captain Grey, he added, “Perhaps the interior of the complex was demolished in the bombing. If so, all the resident Mysterons may have been consumed along with it. Captain Black and the doctors may now be buried beneath their own high-tech tomb.”
Grey nodded thoughtfully. “Let’s hope so.”
Now weary from his mission, Captain Blue sighed. “Let’s get back to Cloudbase. You can pilot the jet, Captain.” En route he contacted Colonel White for an update. “Spectrum security has been stationed at the site, Colonel, just in case there’s any movement. Once the material chips can be analyzed, we might find a way to prize that base open like a tuna can, take a look around what’s left.”
“Very, good, Captain. You’ll be receiving a commendation for your leadership during this mission.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Blue answered into his cap mike. Then he paused. “How’s Captain Ivory?”
“Doing well,” White replied. “She’s been released from sickbay. She suffered only temporary nerve damage from the electrical shock. Captain Ochre’s on his feet again, though Dr. Fawn still has him on medical leave.”
“And Captain Scarlet?” Blue inquired tentatively.
Now Colonel White hesitated. “Dr. Fawn hasn’t completed his tests yet. Scarlet suffered a fatal wound to the abdomen. There’re indications that his Mysteron retrometabolism is healing the injury, and he should revive within the day. We’re hoping he can fill us in on what happened to him within that underground bunker.”
“Colonel, what about his warning to me? Is he carrying some kind of virus?”
“That we can not tell, Captain. There’s no indication of any known pathogen, but Dr. Fawn has him restricted to an isolation tube as a precaution.”
“He’ll be able to tell us,” Blue assured. “He’s no traitor, Sir. His actions were to save us from the Mysteron threat.” Blue signed off and waited to see for himself. Once they arrived at Cloudbase, White offered him a respite. Blue disagreed. “I’d like to visit sickbay first, Sir.” When Colonel White consented, he headed straight for the medical center to check on his companions. Captain Ochre was resting comfortably. Ivory was getting around with some numbness to her extremities. Scarlet was in an isolation tube in quarantine. Blue stood over the clear Plexiglas tube. “Come on, Captain,” he urged. “Wake up and tell us what happened.”
Dr. Fawn came in, then, to remove Scarlet’s tracker chip using the internal medical implements and gloves attached to the outside of the tube. “It’s not working,” Fawn explained. “We’re having it analyzed to see if the Mysterons somehow deactivated the chip before they took him underground. Lieutenant Green’s eager to get his hands on it.” As Fawn advanced the gloves to make the incision in Scarlet’s shoulder, the unconscious officer stirred, mumbling something unintelligibly.
“Paul,” Blue asked. “What is it?”
Scarlet’s eyes flashed open. “Virus!” he croaked. “The chip. No air,” he whispered before drifting to unconsciousness once more.
“What does he mean, Doctor?” Blue inquired. “There’s air being pumped into the tube. Is he claustrophobic?”
“It’s not that,” Fawn assured. “Perhaps the chip isn’t working because the Mysterons changed it somehow. It may be a booby-trap. Since Captain Scarlet heals leaving no scar, the chip could have been removed then replaced without our knowledge. The Mysterons may have planted a virus that could activate when exposed to the air.” Dr. Fawn removed his hands from the attached iso gloves and shut the safety seals over them. “We must be cautious,” he warned. “If the chip were to activate outside the iso tube it could infect and kill everyone on Cloudbase, maybe everyone on Earth.” With a grave frown, the doctor shook his head and mumbled, “We’ll have to wait.”
After some thought and a consultation with Colonel White, Fawn decided to remove the chip, still encased in its surrounding skin from Scarlet’s upper arm. He would then tube the virus for further study. Both Blue and Fawn remembered well the close call with the deadly K-14 virus which had almost been released into Los Angeles’ water supply via the Boulder Dam.
Though Blue should have been resting, he stood by to watch as Dr. Fawn and his nurses prepared for the simple surgery. Scarlet, nearly recovered from his injury, was given a local anesthetic and told to remain still. Fawn scooped out a section of Scarlet’s shoulder and placed the specimen, with tracker chip intact, within an isolation test tube. The nurse holding the delicate item capped the tube. Suddenly the sample began to smoke. With a yelp, the nurse dropped the tube within the isolation chamber and withdrew her hands. Quickly she clamped the safety seals over the access gloves as the test tube cracked and the chip exploded. Within, Scarlet flinched away from the concussion of glass and metal shards against his bare skin. The Iso tube remained intact, however.
Dr. Fawn hit the contamination alarm and ordered, “Everyone. Out of the quarantine chamber. Now!” From the safety of his office, Fawn monitored Scarlet’s reaction to the now exposed debris. “Captain Scarlet,” he called over the internal address system. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes, Doctor,” came the man’s immediate reply.
“I’ve shut down the iso tube’s circulation system as a precaution. We believe a Mysteron virus has just been introduced into your chamber. How do you feel?”
“So far, no adverse effects, but you are correct. Captain Black did infect me.”
Dr. Fawn needed to consider his options before continuing. Depending on Scarlet’s reaction to this new virus, every living thing on Earth could be in jeopardy. If the virus was deadly enough to incapacitate the indestructible officer, the virus would work against the Mysterons as well as on humans. In that case, no one would survive.
Scarlet was left in the isolation tube while Fawn extracted a minute portion of its internal air for careful analysis. Meanwhile, since the bio filters were not to be trusted to filter out the contagion, the air circulator was to remain shut down. Now, not only was Scarlet beginning to show signs of illness- fever, a heightened pulse rate and raised blood pressure-, he was to endure slow suffocation. Fawn raced to find an antidote.
The entire Cloudbase was put on alert. No one was to leave or enter at the remote chance of contagion. At ground level, the Mysteron bunker remained quiet. The posted guards assumed all were killed. Fortunately, monitors there showed no signs the virus had been released due to the underground explosion. Only Scarlet seemed effected. It was hoped his Mysteron retrometabolism would purge him of the toxins, then destroy all traces of the virus.
Meanwhile Spectrum Intelligence had since released a report regarding the subway train wreck fatalities. It seemed the team of medical doctors had been working on classified research before being taken by the Mysterons. More specifically, the physicians had been developing a virus, but one against the Mysterons. Somehow the tables had been turned, however. The Mysteron facsimiles had instead created a virus lethal to all Earth life. Ultimately, the initial research had been a pretentious project. The Mysterons, as far as Spectrum understood, were a non-corporeal life-force, therefore impervious to viruses. The organization had so far only been successful in destroying a Mysteron agent using powerful electrical currents. According to the Intelligence report, the doctors’ research had since been shelved, a copy forwarded to Dr. Fawn in hopes of linking it to an antidote.
Unfortunately, time was running out. As Captain Scarlet fought off the virus within the isolation tube, so too was he running out of air. There was also no certainty he could be revived after an extended period of non-life. Drowning had once been counteracted with a prompt removal from the water, but human flesh could only degrade so far, beyond the ability to rejuvenate. These limits had never been tested on Scarlet.
Captain Blue and especially Magenta, who partly blamed himself for the situation, were haggard and glum. Within the day, though, Scarlet was showing signs of improvement. Now, if Fawn could only find the antidote, or the virus was purged from the tube, Scarlet could be provided with air. It was to be a close call.
Hours had passed before all tests on the presence of the virus were negative. Scarlet had been without air for nearly three of those hours before the ventilator system was safe to turn back on. Now they need only wait. Was he cured? Would he revive? “Come on, Old Buddy,” Blue urged from beside the tube. “I’ve got some friends here who’re waiting to play a game of 3-D chess with you.” Captains Ochre, Magenta, and Ivory stood alongside the tube as well. “They want to thank you for saving their lives.”
The monitors were silent. Scarlet was dead. Then a hissing sound announced the activation of the air circulators. Cool air was pumped in. Scarlet’s bare torso prickled, then rose in a singular breath. A beeping sound announced his heart had begun to pump. He was alive. “That a boy,” Blue chimed. “Mr. Indestructible has arisen once more.”
Opening his eyes, Scarlet croaked, “A glass of water, please.” He swallowed then cleared his throat. “And a magazine. I’m getting rather bored lying about in here.”
Blue beamed. “We can do better than that. If Dr. Fawn can find no trace of the virus in your bloodstream, I’ll treat you to a four course meal. And I’ll ask Colonel White to give you a twenty-four hour leave pass.” After a thorough analysis of Scarlet’s blood and saliva, Fawn, indeed, allowed him to leave the confinement of the iso tube. Colonel White, however, was to grant no leave.
Redressed in his uniform, Scarlet reported to Command Control as ordered. “Congratulations on your recovery, Captain,” Colonel White said as Scarlet lowered himself onto a stool. “You showed great bravery and sacrifice in allowing Captain Black to take you hostage. If not for your vigilance and ingenuity, we would all be dead by now. I’m recommending both a commendation and advancement in rank for your efforts.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Scarlet snapped with a straight back and anxious blush. “I was only doing what was needed to fulfill my duty. The Mysterons had tried to turn me, brainwash me into trusting them and viewing Spectrum as the enemy.” He swallowed before admitting, “I… I was able to combat their programming only by focusing on a single image, as Dr. Fawn had earlier suggested.”
Colonel White tilted his head in curiosity. “Explain, Captain.”
Scarlet cleared his throat. “Well, Sir,” he began slowly feeling his cheeks darken to the shade of his uniform. “As we anticipated, the Mysterons tried to influence me. Dr. Fawn advised me to tap my passions, to block their attempts by concentrating on a single, vivid image. Those were his orders when he inserted the tracker chip in my shoulder before we were to leave for Powell’s training facility.”
“And that one image?” White insisted.
“Sir,” Scarlet hesitated. “I’d like to keep that private, if I may. Be assured no one living would be compromised if I were to reveal it.”
“You’ve only intrigued me more; Captain, but I’ll respect your wish. I want a full report on your findings, however. I’ll expect it on my desk in four hours. It’s crucial that we know what you saw, discovered, and experienced while under their supervision. Everything.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll get to work on it right away.” Scarlet asserted, rising to leave. Even now the image which had kept his sanity was as clear as if it had happened yesterday. Never again, Scarlet asserted to himself. Never again would he wish to take the life of one he loved. That hope, that image had been his only wall against the madness of the Mysterons’ brainwashing.
“One more thing,” White interrupted. Scarlet paused in his grim reverie to focus again on his superior. “That rubber/metallic alloy the Mysterons used in their shielding has been positively identified as containing a blending of petroleum composite and tritonium.”
“But, Sir,” Scarlet argued. “Tritonium is a precious metal. It’s only available in minute quantities, created in a laboratory.”
White nodded. “And from one other facility.”
“The Space Administration’s mine at the North Pole. Hotspot Tower,” Scarlet finished.
“Precisely,” White agreed. “We have officers combing the export and transit records of all shipments from the mine for the past two years. It would have taken that time schedule to smuggle enough tritonium to be used in the construction of such a massive underground facility as that Mysteron base. Captain, I need you to think through any conversations you may have had with your captors, any mention of the construction of the base. If we have a Mysteron agent smuggling tritonium from the Hotspot Tower facility, under Space Administration’s own nose, we need to know who.”
Scarlet nodded. “I’ll try to recall everything, Sir. I’ll do my best.”
“Then you’re dismissed, Captain.”
Scarlet marched from the command center to the tiny cubicle which was his sleep chamber. Logging in to his computer terminal Scarlet began composing his report to Colonel White. As he did so, many times he sat, simply closing his eyes to his surroundings and calling up images from his captivity. The Mysteron complex had been dimly lit filled with machinery similar to that found within the Mysteron base in Crater 101 on the Moon. Much of it was still a mystery to him, but Captain Black had explained the workings of a few of the pieces once the Mysteron agent had felt the Spectrum officer properly brainwashed. If only he had had more time. If his Spectrum comrades had not so quickly found the underground base, Scarlet would have had a greater chance to explore the facility and discover its secrets. Yet, what was left of that complex now? There was no telling what damage the bomb he had thrown down the lift shaft had done to the alien technology. Nothing might be left but melted glass and metal.
Scarlet frowned. He had lost all chance to roam there freely and explore. Then again, the Mysterons, if there were any survivors, might not know of his betrayal. To them, he could still be a useful tool. Being indestructible, he would have survived the virus even if everyone on Cloudbase had been killed. Why not use their ignorance to his advantage while he still had time?
Ultimately, it was assured the Mysterons would build another base on Earth, if given the time and opportunity. Their supply of tritonium was now curtailed. No more missing shipments would go unnoticed. Hotspot Tower and the Space Administration were now on alert. But recycling was a Mysteron gift. They could soon return to regain what was left of their first base. Perhaps Scarlet could still infiltrate their compound, learn what he could, with little risk to anyone but himself. It made sense, and the risk was worth the gain if no one but Scarlet himself knew of his intentions.
Captain Scarlet left no word of his plan when he filed his awaited report with Lieutenant Green and requested a twenty-four hour shore-leave to North America’s east coast. With his leave granted, Scarlet launched off for Maine in a Spectrum jet. At the Augusta airport he transferred to a Spectrum saloon and drove the forty miles to the cordoned off roadside site. There he found the Spectrum police on alert. “We’re glad you’re here, Sir,” one young officer acknowledged. “Our sonic monitors just picked up the vibrations of movement from within the underground bunker. Either someone’s moving around down there or some machinery’s just been reactivated.”
“I’m here to investigate the complex firsthand, Lieutenant,” Scarlet told him. “I’ve been authorized to enter the base. Alone. I need an environ-suit and toxin detector in case there’re poisonous gases present.” When the lieutenant nodded, Scarlet continued his instructions. “After I enter the shaft, I want no one, and I mean no one, to follow. It’d be too dangerous. Understood?”
Agreeing, the young lieutenant had one of his team gather an environmental suit and detector. Once finished sliding into the bulky suit Scarlet tossed his cap and jacket onto the front seat of his saloon. He tugged on the air-sealed helmet before holstering his gun in the suit’s harness. Then, borrowing a portable laser rifle, Scarlet approached the collapsed elevator shaft. He would blast his way through the debris then lower himself down with a harness and tow cable. Stoically Scarlet got to work.
* * *
“What do you mean he didn’t log a flight plan?” Colonel White demanded. Lieutenant Green visibly shrunk away from the verbal barrage.
“Sir, I was acting on your recommendation. You told me to clear Captain Scarlet for leave as soon as he had submitted his report. As you were indisposed, I cleared him for twenty-four hours. He said only that he was heading for the eastern seaboard of the United States. I assumed he meant Miami. Captain Scarlet never specified his exact destination. Spectrum aircraft are given elite traffic clearance over commercial flights. A flight plan is never required.”
“Sir,” Captain Blue cut in from his seat before the colonel’s command dais, “You don’t believe Captain Scarlet intends to betray us? He’s proven the brainwashing was ineffective. He saved all our lives.”
White released a tensed breath. “I’m not implying anything, Captain,” he acknowledged more calmly. “However, I am concerned he might put himself at risk in order to complete his report regarding the Mysterons’ Earth base.” White held up the computer disk which held Scarlet’s most recent communications. “This report isn’t finished. He left off in mid-sentence as though his mind was considering a continued agenda.”
“You think he’s gone back to the base,” Blue surmised. “He intends to enter it, to survey the damage. Capture any Mysterons left alive, single-handedly?”
“You know Scarlet’s character as well as I do, Captain,” White accused.
Blue rose from his stool. “Yes, Sir. Captain Grey and I can be there in an hour, Colonel. With your permission …”
White nodded. “Find him, Captain Blue. Give him any backup support he requires, but do not place yourselves in mortal danger. If Scarlet is under the influence of the Mysterons, I won’t jeopardize any more of my officers. You and Grey are far from indestructible. Nor are you expendable.”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir,” Blue snapped, saluting. He turned to go.
“He hasn’t answered our hails, Sir,” Green reminded. “We may assume he doesn’t have his cap with him.”
“Or he’s refusing to answer,” White plugged grimly.
“I’ll find him, Sir,” Blue promised and marched from Command Control to the waiting jet. When Blue and Grey arrived at the roadside site, the Spectrum police explained the situation. “How long has he been down there?” Blue inquired.
“Only twenty minutes or so, Captain,” the young lieutenant answered. “It took him a while to laser through the collapsed air shaft. He also told us not to let anyone follow him. He said it would be too dangerous.” The officer’s hand came to rest atop his holstered pistol.
Blue straightened his shoulders and frowned. “If you’re planning to arrest us, Lieutenant, you’d best check in with Cloudbase first. You’ll find Captain Scarlet was never ordered to enter the Mysteron complex. We were.”
“Captain,” Grey interrupted striding up from behind him. He showed Blue the object in his hand. “Found it on the front seat along with his jacket.”
Captain Blue considered the scarlet kepi. “If that’s all you found in his car, then at least he has his handgun with him. He’s not totally defenseless.”
“There’s no indication he requisitioned a Mysteron weapon, however,” Grey reminded. “A pistol’s a sad defense against a Mysteron reconstruction.”
Blue had to grimly agree. Silently they donned environmental suits and harnesses to follow their comrade into the darkness beneath the road.
* * *
Scarlet had lasered himself clear to the first floor of the Mysteron complex. Switching on his helmet lamp, he sent a shining beam of illumination ahead to the wreckage of the rooms he had once toured alongside his Mysteron enemy. “The equipment and alien machinery show signs of the C-4 blast,” he announced into the recorder unit attached to his suit at chest level. “Some of the casings are charred and melted. The internal workings may or may not be functional.” He switched on the detector and checked for toxins. “No sign of toxic gases. Only low radiation levels,” he added. “I’ll keep my helmet on to make use of the lamp.” He swallowed before announcing at a mere whisper, “Colonel, in case this is the only surviving record of these events, I’ll keep the video and audio recorder running. Consider this an appendix to my previous report.” Scarlet scanned the damaged room with a frown. “Right,” he continued at normal volume. “Proceeding forward to a bank of data consoles. These were used to monitor and record all Spectrum activities during my stay.” He turned his torso so that the recorder’s internal video feed would provide a panoramic view of the room. From there he entered the area where the doctors had set up their crude hospital. “This is what’s left of the electromagnetic pulse machine, used to help ‘cure’ me.” Scanning the surrounding debris, Scarlet considered the falling ceiling panels and descending dust. The movement the surface detectors had discerned might have only been the natural settling of a post-explosive implosion. Perhaps entering the wrecked base had not been such a good idea.
Were there any survivors, Scarlet wondered? He decided to play his ace. “Conrad?” he called out. “Conrad, are you here?” He must seem convincing. Scarlet wandered among the damaged machinery. “Where are you, Brother? I’ve come to rescue you. I was able to get away from the enemy, but they’ve left guards up top. Is there another way out? Let me help you.” Scarlet considered the fact that Captain Black had been able to disappear before, avoiding capture and injury. He also considered the possibility of a second Mysteron base somewhere on Earth. If it existed, he must glean all he could from the wreckage of this one. Quietly Scarlet continued his trek, recording his thoughts and observation as he went.
As he wandered about the complex trying to reactivate the damaged equipment and recording any recollections of their purposes, something moved within the shadows. Scarlet spun on the sound and raised his pistol. “Who’s there?”
“Don’t move, Captain Scarlet,” Grey warned, his glistening helmet illuminated by Scarlet’s lamplight. “Drop your weapon.” On Grey’s shoulders perched a Mysteron gun.
Scarlet let his gun drop to the floor. He raised his hands in appeasement. “I … I didn’t want to risk anyone,” he reasoned. “There might be dangers down here. Please leave.”
“Not on your indestructible life,” Blue argued from another dark corner. “All for one and one for all.” Captain Blue switched on his own helmet lamp.
Scarlet lowered his hands. “Well, then, I guess you’ll be staying. I’m trying to find the database computer, to see if it’ll tell us where the Mysterons have gone.” He scooped up his fallen pistol and slid it back into its holster. “I’ve been recording my observations, but you can help me now that you’re here.” Captain Blue nodded satisfactorily and motioned for Grey to lower his Mysteron weapon. Just then another body was in Scarlet’s helmet light. “Watch out!” Drawing his gun Scarlet fired in Grey’s direction. Blue flinched at the deception and fired in defense, at Scarlet. Both officers hit the debris strewn floor.
Blue rushed over to check on his companion. “Are you all right, Brad?”
“What happened?” Grey asked shakily regaining his feet. His helmet was visibly scratched where the bullet had grazed it.
From the darkness Scarlet answered, “I … I thought I saw someone. Didn’t you see him, Adam? It was one of the doctors. The one who tried to brainwash me.”
“There’s no one here but us,” Blue argued releasing Grey to stand on his own. “You were seeing shadows, Paul. You almost killed Captain Grey. You’re becoming a security risk, Captain,” Blue accused.
Scarlet shoved himself to his feet. Blue’s bullet had punctured his environ-suit, but missed his flesh. “I’m sorry, Adam,” he said letting his gun dangle from his hand. “I’m sure I saw someone.” There was a quiet hissing from the suit.
“This place is creepy enough without a ghost haunting,” Grey acknowledged as Blue and he joined Scarlet by the large computer console. Blue held out his hand to retrieve Scarlet’s gun. When Scarlet released his weapon, Blue slid it into the belt of his own suit.
“Just the same, I’d rather be on the safe side,” he advised his friend. “We don’t want any more false alarms.” He patted Scarlet’s shoulder. “Come on. Let’s see what we can see.” They explored the complex further, Scarlet acting as a wary guide. Everything seemed to be dead. There was the possibility a full scale excavation and removal of the equipment would have to be made. As they wandered among the lifeless machinery, dust and small debris continued to rain down. The walls creaked. “Looks like we’re out of luck, Partners,” Blue regretted. “We’ve been out of contact with Cloudbase long enough. Let’s get back to the surface.” As they turned around to retrace their steps something moved just out of the light from his helmet. Blue grabbed for his gun to fire, but the pistol remained silent. He glanced down in the shadows at his hand. He had drawn Scarlet’s gun. When he looked up again the figure he had seen was gone. “Did you see him too?” he asked his companions.
Suddenly a panel exploded beside them. Scarlet shoved Blue and Grey out of the way. They all landed in a pile on the hard deck plating. The whining of a weapon blasted another hole in the bulkhead where they had just stood. “We did see someone,” Scarlet attested. “Get out of here, Adam. Get back to the surface. Now. I have a feeling this place won’t be here for long.”
“What do you mean?” Blue asked climbing to his knees.
“The Mysterons are back to finish what I started.”
“They’re going to blow the place,” Grey added in understanding.
“Right,” Scarlet agreed. “I’ll keep Mystery Man occupied. Get out of here. If I can follow him, I’ll find the bomb and deactivate it. There’s equipment here we need to analyze, and they know it.”
“But Paul, this stuff’s not worth your life,” Blue countered hunched behind another machine.
“I’m the only one who can salvage this ‘stuff’’,” Scarlet reminded and shoved his friend away. “Get moving, and take this with you.” He tugged the recording device from his leaking suit and handed it to Blue. “Everything that’s happened down here is on that data recording. Now go. In case I’m wrong, call Colonel White to send the Angels to bombard this place. The Mysterons can’t be allowed to salvage anything.”
“SIG,” Blue murmured taking the recording device and following Grey cautiously back toward the lift shaft.
* * *
Blue frowned as they slunk forward protecting their helmeted heads behind various machine casings. Then, in an adjoining room, they stood and sprinted for the exit. Once within the demolished lift shaft, he and Grey attached their waiting harnesses to their suits and winched themselves to the surface. Next Blue dropped a cable down for their remaining Spectrum companion and had Grey stand by the quick-propel to help in Scarlet’s escape. Meanwhile, Blue ordered all Spectrum personnel evacuated to a radius of 10 square kilometers. “I hope he can prevent an explosion,” Blue wished aloud tugging off his suit helmet. “There’s no telling how large of a bang the Mysterons have planned.” There had been no record of a stolen nuclear device, but that didn’t mean the Mysterons hadn’t something else up their sleeves. He reached for his cap within the Spectrum saloon and contacted Cloudbase to update his superior.
A concerned Colonel White asked, “You’re sure Scarlet’s not a risk? He did shoot at you.”
“Sir. Scarlet sounded confused, but I trust him. He’ll stop them one way or the other. I have his full report here.”
“Well, that’s something,” White replied. “We’ll at least have his observations if nothing else. Very good, Captain. Stand down until further notice. I want you and Captain Grey at a safe distance. Angels One, Two, and Three will be there shortly to conduct a fly-over. They’ll monitor the base from the air and prevent any escapes of Mysterons or technology. Cloudbase, out.”
Blue sighed into his cap mike as it swung back up to his visor. “I hope Symphony’s not in a trigger-happy mood today. Wouldn’t want Captain Scarlet to fall to friendly fire.”
* * *
Within the dusty underground base, Scarlet searched for the Mysteron doctor who had once tried to turn him. “Dr. Weston? Are you there?” With his environsuit leaking and its damaged internal environmental controls overheating, Scarlet removed his helmet and swiped a gloved hand through his sweat-damp hair. Next he detached the helmet lamp to use as a flashlight through the pitch darkness. “I’ve returned to help you,” he called. “I’m sorry I’ve been away. Tell me where you are.”
“So, Mr. Metcalfe. Returned for more treatments?” came the scratchy voice of Weston. He stepped out from the shadows. Scarlet reached for his pistol. The holster was empty. Scarlet recalled then how Blue had taken the weapon as a precaution. Weston raised his own gun. “We weren’t quite done with you, you know. Spectrum found our little hideaway too quickly. I would have liked to have finished the job. Perhaps then we would have been successful.”
“In turning me into a traitor?” Scarlet challenged keeping an eye on Weston’s trigger finger. He was ready to bolt if need be, though he was unsure he could out-dodge a bullet completely.
“Of course not,” Weston assured. “That wasn’t our intention at all. The Mysterons know better. You see, you’ve already been a traitor to the Earthmen. No. We had far greater plans for you.”
“What then?” Scarlet asked with tilted head. “Your attempt to make me a deadly messenger failed as well. The virus is dead.”
Weston simply smiled the shrugged. “It’s too late now, anyway. Our entire plan for you has failed. I’m here to clean up.” He aimed his pistol at Scarlet’s heart.
“Where’s my brother, Conrad?” Scarlet asked. Weston blinked. Captain Black was, after all, not Paul Metcalfe’s brother. Weston’s hesitation was all Scarlet needed. He tensed for a leap at the man.
“Your brother? Why, he’s waiting for us on the other side,” Weston answered.
Now it was Scarlet who was perplexed. “Other side of what?” Weston fingered the trigger. Scarlet leaped away, but felt the sting of the bullet pierce his thigh. The hole in his white suit quickly bubbled red. Landing hard, Scarlet scrambled back to his feet to give chase. “Weston! Where’s that bomb?” In the darkness, the doctor could have been anywhere. Limping, Scarlet continued his search. He had to find and deactivate the bomb before all evidence of the base was destroyed.
* * *
Up top, Blue worried. “It’s been too long,” he fumed. “Captain Scarlet could be hurt. The bomb could go off any time.”
“Steady, Friend,” Grey warned. “It’s Scarlet, after all. He knows what he’s doing.”
“Why should he be the one risking his neck while we just sit here?” Blue argued, pacing beside their red, Spectrum vehicle. “I say, let it blow.”
“I’m sure we’ll know something soon,” Grey assured watching the three Angel jets roar overhead on yet another observatory pass. “Colonel White told us to stand down. That’s what we’re doing.” With a sigh Grey leaned atop the saloon’s hood and tapped his fingers.
Blue wasn’t so certain. He tugged at his sky blue jacket and fingered the second gun slid into his belt. “For God’s sake, Brad. I took his only defense. I wish I’d never doubted him.” Blue’s pacing quickened. He didn’t see Captain Grey share his uncertain frown.
* * *
Below, Scarlet bumped against a cabinet and paused to catch his breath. He was losing blood and with it his strength. “Weston!” he called. “For pity’s sake, tell me where you are. You were human once. You don’t really want to die. I can deactivate the bomb, save both of us.” Then he noticed a dim red light in the far corner of the room. Could some piece of equipment have been reactivated? As Scarlet turned his light to see, he momentarily blinded Weston who, standing beside the active machine, had his gun again aimed in Scarlet’s direction. Weston fired. Ducking beneath the errant bullet, Scarlet slammed against the deck plating. With a gasp he forced his injured leg toward that red glow. Beside him, his only illumination fizzled dark from the concussion with the solid floor.
“It’s too late, Earthman,” he heard Weston assure from the blackness. “The bomb’s timer is set. You can’t stop it. We may have failed this time, but you’ll be coming with me to the other side. No one will benefit from this facility. The electromagnetic wave will certainly kill us both. We’ll then be buried beneath tons of debris.”
“Not if I can help it,” a familiar voice announced. It was Captain Blue. Switching on his helmet lamp, he too blinded Weston. In that split second, Blue’s gun fired three times and Weston grunted, collapsing beside the bomb. The Mysteron’s gun clattered to the deck, no longer a threat.
“Why did you come back?” Scarlet harangued gripping a machine casing and hauling himself to his feet. “The bomb’s set to go off!”
“I came to save your tough hide,” Blue insisted. “Now, let’s move.”
“Wait! Maybe we can still defuse it,” Scarlet urged shoving away from his support.
Blue shook his head. “You heard the man. We’re getting out of here. Now.” Blue strode forward and wrapped his arm up under Scarlet’s ribs. Boosting his companion to walk, he ordered, “Make it quick.” Together they hobbled back to the lift shaft. From the bottom of the brightness, Blue called up to Grey. “We’re coming up.” He turned to Scarlet. “Strap in. Brad’ll hoist you up.”
“No, Adam. You go first. We don’t know how long the timer’s set for.”
“But you’re injured.”
“And you’re next if you don’t go first,” Scarlet countered angrily.
* * *
Knowing the futility of his argument, Blue quickly yanked the harness strap over his head and under his own arms. “Go!” he called to Grey and slid up the sun-dappled shaft as the winch motor whined. From up top Blue tugged the harness free and tossed it into the hole while Grey lowered the cable back into the thirty-foot darkness. “Hurry, Paul,” he called down. In a moment the winch cable gave a yank, indicating Scarlet was ready. Grey hit the reverse switch, and the cable wound back toward the daylight. Just as Scarlet cleared the surface a terrible tremor downed them all. The explosion sent a plume of fire racing up the lift shaft. Scarlet’s legs, still dangling in the hole, were engulfed by the furnace as the fiery repercussion flashed over them all. Scarlet bellowed as his suit-encased flesh experienced the intense heat of the fireball. Then a creaking and cracking of the base’s outer casing signaled the implosion of the underground complex. The land beneath them began to sink and crumble.
“Get back!” Blue hollered, scrambling to his booted feet and snatching Scarlet’s arms. He tugged at his unresponsive friend. “Come on!” Blue groaned as he heaved. Scarlet’s legs slid from the disintegrating lift shaft and the two tumbled back just as the Mysteron base collapsed in a horrific, expanding cloud of dust and rumbling debris. Only a deep, blackened crater remained. Blue landed hard beside his friend at the edge of the precipice. “Paul?” he choked, wiping his face of ash. Scarlet’s environsuit was singed black and peeling, but it seemed to have saved the man from the worst burns.
Rousing at his name Scarlet lifted his scorched and ash-covered head to murmur, “Thanks for coming back for me. Now you’ve saved my life.”
“Call us even,” Blue huffed. With a groan he climbed to his feet and helped Scarlet up. Together they limped to the waiting Spectrum saloon.
* * *
Later, on Cloudbase, Colonel White assembled his duty officers to hear Scarlet’s recorded report. Perhaps some bit of useful information would justify the captain’s leaving the base without authorization. Captains Ochre and Ivory sat together fully healed. Scarlet was glad to see them, though he, himself was still sore from his burns, his facial blisters red and weeping beneath bandages.
The Spectrum officers sat around White’s conference table and stoically listened to Scarlet’s observations. His report hinted at the possibility of yet another Mysteron complex somewhere on Earth, the fact that there were possibly regenerated Mysteron agents everywhere, and more of the deadly Weston virus. Scarlet had observed the Mysterons’ ability to meld different types of matter, creating the unique alloy that had made up the impenetrable shell of their underground complex. There was the hypothesis that Scarlet’s capture may have been a way to get to Spectrum. The fortunate ineffectiveness of his brainwashing, a description of the cerebral machine Weston had used, and the outlay of the complex were mentioned. The existence of a stolen or created Mysteron gun, now back in the hands of Spectrum, alarmed everyone. Could the Mysterons replicate a mechanism simply by having held its original? Scarlet had even speculated that it took great energy for the Mysterons to reconstruct their victims and machinery from raw materials. Could Mysteron life forces be traded for such endeavors?
“Well,” White concluded sitting back in his seat with a sigh, “There’s much here to consider, Captain Scarlet. You left us with many new questions, but a few possible answers to some old ones. This report is most useful. However,” he warned with a serious glare, “I’m concerned. This means the Mysterons are well-equipped to thwart our every attempt to stop them. They’ve grown devious over the years. Their war of nerves may be reaching a zenith.”
“We could have learned more, Colonel, if I’d been able to salvage their base,” Scarlet regretted. “I never did find out what they truly wanted from me.”
“In a way, we’re even more glad their brainwashing attempt failed,” Captain Blue offered from beside Captain Ochre. “A double agent’s the last thing we need, considering the magnitude of this information.”
“Yes,” Scarlet agreed grimly. “The Mysterons’ war of nerves seems far from over. It’s only taken on a new urgency. Extreme vigilance must be our new motto. They could strike again at any moment.” As he said this Captain Scarlet was almost certain he and his comrades would soon be pitted against their Martian enemy in an even more perilous battle for the safety and lives of everyone on his home planet, Earth.
COPYRIGHT 10/11/00; REVISED 10/14/01, 1/6/12
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