A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story
written by Lady Hawke
Copyright: April 2, 2002, Revised 1/9/12
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wish to thank Chris Bishop, not only for her fabulous Spectrum Headquarters website, but also for her gracious help in translating my English into the French language where needed. She has always been most kind and caring with her fellow fans of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's worlds. A big “HURRAH!” to her, our Captain. Also, special note to the creator of a new and upcoming Angel named Eternity. Thank you, Kelly Ann Winkworth, for the use of your character name. Can't wait to see her again in your own words! As always, I'd love to hear from my readers. Please forward your comments to me or through Chris' site. Enjoy! Lady Hawke
A Long Way Down
Scarlet glared toward the late afternoon sun at his companion. “I thought we were supposed to meet someone here,” he argued. “I would think we were conspicuous enough in our uniforms for this informant to find us.” He stood with his back to the railing of the Minolta Tower Centre’s observation deck. The ice cream coned-shaped pillar stood ninety-nine meters tall, overlooking Ontario’s Table Rock Complex and the Niagara River below.
“Calm down, Paul,” Captain Blue advised. “We’ll wait a little longer. Maybe he got stuck in traffic, or in the elevator up here. This seems to be a busy place.” The Spectrum officer sighed and glanced out beyond the twelve foot fencing and Plexiglas before him. “Relax and enjoy the magnificent view. Afterward we could grab an early dinner," he suggested. "The smells from the restaurant are making my stomach growl.” Around them rose the misty updrafts of chilly air from the thundering flow of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls. Blue held onto the icy steel railing, leaned forward and gazed down into the humid tumult beyond Queen Victoria Park. “This is really awe-inspiring. I wish we were closer to the falls,” he commented with a nod toward the cascade. “Can hardly feel the mist from way up here.” The American captain considered his companion who seemed unimpressed by the view. Instead Scarlet’s crystal sky eyes were scanning the awed crowd of tourists out on a late September vacation. “Have you ever taken the suspended cable car ride over the whirlpool at Niagara Gorge, Paul? It’s dizzying. Really a thrill.”
“We’re not here as tourists, Captain,” Scarlet reminded, still surveying the crowd around them on the circular roof deck. “We’re here to retrieve some vital information regarding a possible Mysteron threat against the new energy turbines for the Niagara Power Project. If we don’t intercept those plans before the Mysterons do, we may see an end to your 'awe-inspiring' view,” Scarlet finished with a piercing glare.
Blue sighed at his partner’s dedication and straightened away from the railing. “All right, but you just said it’d be easier for this informant to find us. I just thought we could stand by the railing, be conspicuous, and enjoy the view all at the same time. Honestly. You Brits need to relax and enjoy yourselves more often.”
Again that icy stare. “Pardon me?”
Blue waved a hand at the expanse of water in its rawest, roiling form. “This is a miracle of nature. The result of receding glaciers and ten percent of the earth’s fresh water right here in one spot, and I haven't seen you even glance at it once.”
“I’ll glance at it later,” Scarlet replied, his gaze returning to the crowd.
“Party pooper,” Blue mumbled under his breath and resigned to joining his partner in watching the ever-flowing river of people who had gathered atop the Minolta Tower to share in his appreciation of the falls. It was obvious who the tourists were. Young couples, families, retirees, all sporting binoculars, cameras or other recording devices, all trying to capture the grandeur of Niagara to memory or film. What was Scarlet looking for anyway?
The news sent in to Spectrum Headquarters, London only specified that an employee of Teledyne Turbine Corporation was willing to hand over all information regarding a new prototype hydroelectric turbine which, when installed, would revolutionize Niagara’s Power Plant, increasing power generation almost two-fold.
Concurrently, the Mysterons had sent to Earth a new threat which had stated, THE FLOW OF THE NIAGARA WILL HALT ITS INCESSANT ROAR. Not much to go on, but Teledyne’s new generator could be the means for an elaborate booby trap, or the shutdown of one of North America’s largest power grids.
Though Spectrum teams were combing the area for other possible leads, it was Blue and Scarlet’s assignment to procure the turbine plans and the current location of the new prototype generators, hidden somewhere in Teledyne’s possession. The volunteer informant for whom they waited was to be their guide. The puzzle was: Niagara’s Power Project lay about six miles north of their present location, on the U.S. side of the river border. Teledyne Industries was based in St. Cloud, Minnesota. So, why were he and his British counterpart standing at the railing of the Minolta Tower overlooking Horseshoe Falls, their feet firmly planted in Ontario, Canada? In their Spectrum uniforms and caps, the two captains certainly held no resemblance to a honeymoon couple. They were as out of place as a pair of Conservative Republicans at a nudist beach. With another frustrated breath, Blue contended, “Maybe we’re at the wrong tower. The Skylon Tower’s further down river. Maybe we were supposed to meet him there.”
“I don’t think so,” was Scarlet’s distracted reply.
Then Blue’s eyes settled on a young woman in black jeans who stood a quarter-way round the deck from them. Her dark eyes seemed to be scanning the scenery, elbows atop the guard rail. Yet she often glanced over her shoulder at the milling crowd as if expecting someone to join her. The American captain allowed himself the luxury of focusing on the woman’s features: light skin, dark brunette, almost black, shoulder length hair which had been twirled back to her nape and held in place with a butterfly clip. The woman’s features were European, yet her turquoise and black blouse had a distinctive Oriental cut. A pair of chopsticks stabbed out from her hair bun creating the illusion of an antennaed, swallow-tailed butterfly perched atop the high collar. Just a slice of her ivory neck was visible as the woman turned to regard the crowd once more.
She was perhaps in her mid-thirties, wearing little makeup. Her posture at the railing suggested impatient alertness, hands clasping and unclasping each other to the rhythm of some inner time clock. She seemed definitely to be waiting for someone. Just as Blue was about to alert his partner, his eyes dropped to the woman’s feet. She wore flat, ballerina-style loafers, and standing before them, wedged against the railing, was a black, hard-sided briefcase with silver trim. Could this be their informant?
Captain Blue turned his eyes to the slightly shorter officer at his side. “Captain Scarlet. I think I found your man,” he informed. “Except it’s not a man.”
“Where?” Scarlet demanded, straightening away from the railing against which he had been leaning. In a millisecond the captain was tensed and ready for action. Scarlet followed Blue’s outstretched finger to a section of the observation deck where a young couple stood in a passionate embrace.
“Now wait a minute,” Blue stammered his forefinger wilting. “She was just there. A brunette woman with chopsticks in her hair.”
“Chopsticks?” Scarlet retorted. “You’ve been staring at that vertical drop too long, Captain,” he accused even as he bobbed his dark head trying to see through the milling crowd.
“No,” Blue defended. “She was there. Petite, wearing a turquoise blouse and black jeans.” Frantically Blue’s own eyes scoured the mass of bodies. He caught a glimpse of antennae receding against capped and hooded heads. His arm grabbed at that phantom. “There!”
“You follow,” Scarlet ordered, also spotting the spectral butterfly. “I’ll contact Lieutenant Green. He’ll have the saloon brought to the door.”
“SIG,” Blue acknowledged as he bolted into the crowd blurting apologies as he went. The bobbing butterfly had vanished, but the elevator’s central hub was also this way. She might have given up waiting, and was leaving, or perhaps looking to make a phone call. As he froze before the bank of elevators, Captain Blue paused. Which one had she taken, and was she going to the bottom? If he followed, but she exited onto another floor, he’d lose her. There was only one choice. Swiftly Blue tugged out his pistol and smashed the Plexiglas casing over the maintenance box set within the bulkhead between two lift doors. Inside he curled his fingers over the emergency override trigger and tugged it outward. A high-pitched siren whined into the open air and a security guard quickly stepped to block any further tampering.
“Hey! What are you doing?” the uniformed security policeman demanded.
“I’m Captain Blue of Spectrum,” Blue answered flipping out his I.D. badge then sliding it back into its zippered vest pocket. “I need to detain a passenger on one of your elevators. Call down to your security office and have them check everyone coming off the elevators on all floors. No one is to leave a lift without being checked. We’re looking for a dark-haired woman wearing an Oriental style blouse, chopsticks in her hair, and carrying a hard-sided briefcase. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” the guard stammered, grabbing the fist-sized walkie-talkie at his belt to relay the orders to his superiors.
“What happened, Captain?” Scarlet demanded flanking Blue’s side.
“She entered an elevator. I froze the system until we can check each car,” Blue informed. The observation deck’s crowd was milling in ever tighter circles around the lift hub. Uncertain panic would soon follow if the siren was not terminated. “Security!” Blue shouted over the ruckus. “Turn off that damned noise, or you’ll have a melee here.”
“Right away, Sir,” stammered the guard who continued to bark orders into his walkie-talkie.
Blue turned back to his companion. “She had a briefcase,” he elaborated. “And she kept looking over her shoulder, nervous as if she were waiting for someone.”
Scarlet’s eyes narrowed. “Why didn’t she come to find us? If she was in your view, we certainly were in hers,” the British officer reasoned. “She put herself in undue danger. Did you get a good look? Was she alone when she left in such a hurry?”
Blue had to shrug. “I’m not sure. I saw her heading this way. It’s the only way down, so a lot of people would be using the same route.”
Scarlet’s eyes bored into the steel of a closed lift door. “If only we knew she was our contact.” He shook his head and raised a determined glare. “This’ll take too long. There are half a dozen cars and three levels of suites and dining halls to inspect. Have one car reactivated, Captain. And have security evacuate the Tower. We’re going to ground level to meet with Green. We’ll stand by the entrance and wait to see who comes out.”
“What if we’ve scared her to silence?” Blue interjected. “She could ditch the briefcase and change her looks quickly enough.”
“You said she was wearing a very distinctive blouse, right?”
Blue nodded. “Turquoise and black with a mandarin collar and black velvet buttons.”
“Then we’ll stop anybody in blue,” Scarlet assured with a twisted smirk. “Just like Cinderella …”
“If the shirt fits,” Blue chimed in with a grin and had the security guard free up one lift for Scarlet and him to travel to ground level. They met Lieutenant Green outside.
“Did you find her?” the younger man inquired from beside the waiting Spectrum saloon.
“No,” Blue conceded. “We’re going to try and catch her from here.” Quickly Blue filled them in on a complete description of their target, and the three spread out to cover the bank of exit doors.
Soon the Minolta Tower was evacuated. By order of security, every occupant had to exit through one of the three sets of revolving doors after being screened through a metal detector and an I.D. check. Many were stopped for concealed pocket knives and large watches. One woman even had some stolen restaurant cutlery hidden in her purse, but no guns were detected. All briefcases were opened and inspected, but no woman who fit the description was found in possession of such a case.
Meanwhile, outside the ninety-nine meter tower, the trio of Spectrum officers evaluated every person who exited, noting dress, hair color, gender, and unanimously dazed expression as they spilled into the parking lot. Though there were those who expressed indignation at being forced to leave, the Minolta Tower security had obviously mentioned a precautionary drill, and most visitors were quietly compliant. As the multitude poured out one-by-one, it was becoming clear; the Spectrum team had somehow missed their woman. The last perplexed occupant strolled out and turned regretful eyes back at the towering structure which also housed an elite hotel.
“Hotel,” Blue voiced snapping his fingers. “Captain Scarlet. We’ll have to get security to scour the place room-by-room. This woman I saw may be staying in a suite. She could still be hiding in the building.”
“Or perhaps she took refuge within one in the melee,” Scarlet conceded. With a nod the British officer agreed. “All right. Let’s get the search started. I’ll contact the local police about bypassing traffic around the tower. You get security onto the room inspections.” He turned to the youngest officer. “Lieutenant Green. Contact Colonel White and update him on our situation.”
“And hope we have the right person,” Green echoed what all three were thinking. An embarrassment to Spectrum was the last thing they needed. It was difficult enough sometimes to gain the trust and cooperation of local authorities in heading up an investigation, much less staging a rather public case of mistaken identity before the Ontario Federal Police.
Dark uniformed officers were soon on hand, stepping out from their patrol cars to cordon off the plaza surrounding the building. Captain Scarlet described the woman they were searching for and expressed, “She’s to be treated as a protected witness, Officers. Spectrum simply wants her held for questioning. No harm is to come to her nor force used against her. Is that clear?” The supervising sergeant and his men nodded then spread out to search the immediate perimeter.
Lieutenant Green came to stand by Scarlet's side. “The Colonel’s concerned, Sir,” he admitted in his Caribbean accent. “We can’t risk letting the plans fall into the wrong hands.”
Scarlet watched the Federal police disperse and scowled. “If we could only be sure,” he rumbled beside Green. “If she was our contact, why didn’t she come to us?”
“Perhaps she had second thoughts,” Green proposed. “Got scared and ran.”
Scarlet shook his head. “She knew how important this was. Those blueprints were to be transferred to a secure Spectrum facility so Teledyne Industries could install the turbines under guarded safety without threat of tampering. We were going to protect them. I thought Teledyne trusted us.”
Green’s dark brows rose in resignation. “We may need to accept the possibility that the Mysterons reached her before we did.”
“But she was there, Griff,” Scarlet argued with a tightening fist. “Standing there waiting one minute and gone the next. How could we have been so close and let her get away?”
“Do you think, if the Mysterons somehow got to her first, she’s now dead?”
Scarlet's scowl deepened. “I hope not. I believe Captain Blue would regret having lost her.” They waited for Blue to rejoin them at the curb. “How’s the search going?”
Blue bit his lower lip before answering, “Slowly. The suites are being searched as well as all the corridors and maintenance closets. Even the dining halls are being sifted through a colander.”
With a nod Scarlet mused, “Then it’s only a matter of time.”
“So we wait here or return to Cloudbase?” Green inquired shoving a brown thumb at the parked Spectrum saloon.
“No,” Scarlet countered. He paused pondering a possibility. “I’ve got a hunch our attaché is still in the area.”
‘What?” Blue responded with a chin jerk.
“If she felt threatened, she might have retreated to a more private place. Someplace where she could see her enemies coming.”
“OK, but how are we supposed to find her?”
“She obviously picked the Minolta Tower for a reason,” Scarlet continued. “If she knew the building intimately, she could easily outwit the security sweeps. If she’s in hiding, she may wait for things to calm down. All we have to do is be patient.”
Blue pursed his lips in understanding. “You mean …”
“When the cat’s away,” Green chimed in with a smile.
‘The mice will come out to play,” Blue finished with an accompanying grin.
“Yes,” Scarlet answered. “In this case, just one mouse.” Cloudbase was alerted to their plan, and the three Spectrum officers sat in the dark of the evacuated and sealed off Minolta Tower. Silently they settled into the cushioned chairs of the tower’s reception lobby just outside the gift shop and the elevator shafts which ascended to the building’s summit. As evening approached Blue resigned to leafing through magazines, squinting in the red glow from the emergency lamps along the wall behind him. Scarlet paced quietly along the carpet runner from the bank of revolving doors to the reception desk and back again. Lieutenant Green was slouched in his chair, head tossed back, snoring in a fitful catnap.
As darkness engulfed them, the near silence of a ticking clock and Scarlet’s muffled footfalls upon the carpet was split by a startled scream. Poised in mid-stride Scarlet drew his pistol. “This way,” he urged and launched himself through the lobby and down the maintenance corridor beyond the elevators.
Blue strutted behind him as Green jolted awake in time to shout, “I’ll guard the front!”
Up ahead, in the reddish dimness, Scarlet and Blue followed a trio of retreating figures. One of them was shorter than the others. A squarish case swung from a dangling arm. “Halt!” Scarlet shouted. “Captain Scarlet, Spectrum. Release the woman immediately.” The trio dodged around a narrow corner and disappeared. Sliding to a stop at the intersection Scarlet held his gun ready. “I’ll go first,” he advised his partner.
“Be careful,” Blue warned. “I’m sure I saw guns in the assailant’s hands.”
“SIG.” Scarlet peeked around the corner with one eye then swung into place, gun leveled for return fire. Instantly he lowered the barrel and sighed. “Gone.”
“There must be an exit,” Blue suggested. “This is the way to the maintenance and staff lockers.” Blue stepped past his friend and headed forward into the darkness. Scarlet followed close behind, sliding along the wall to keep his gun free from his friend’s back. “Here, Paul. An access door. Staff must enter here to punch in for the day.” A time clock hung on the wall by the exit.
“I’ll go,” Scarlet said arming his way past Blue to the door. “Contact Green. Get him to swing round from the outside. Lock the door again so there’s no access back in. They could get away if we’re not swift.”
“SIG,” Blue answered and twitched the muscle of his left eye to activate his cap mike.
With a nod for luck, Scarlet raised his pistol and shoved open the door into the night. Outside the roar of the falls was a deep rumble even from his stance over a hundred meters from the cliff-side precipice. Eyes scanning the surrounding buildings, Scarlet searched the staff parking lot and alley for movement. As he stepped forward cautiously, trying to hear the scrambling of footsteps over the incessant waterfall, his scarlet boot snapped against an object. He looked down. Beneath his foot lay a dark shaft of wood. Kneeling, Scarlet surveyed the lot once more before considering the item. A lone chopstick, crushed beneath his step. A coincidence?
Scarlet dropped the stick when another yelp from the darkness alerted him toward the railroad tracks and the Niagara Parkway beyond. Vaulting to his feet he bolted toward the trees within Queen Victoria Park.
“Captain Scarlet!” he heard Lieutenant Green call. The younger man was running from the front on the opposite side of the tower.
Twisting and slowing his trot, Scarlet called back, “Keep the police away, Lieutenant.” He saw Blue trotting up to join him. “We’ll not risk a firefight with the woman hostage.”
“But, Captain,” Green protested, pistol in hand.
“That’s an order,” Scarlet demanded even as Captain Blue strutted to his side. Scarlet shifted his focus to his partner. “They’re heading for the highway. They may have a vehicle there.”
“I wish we had Symphony overhead in a chopper keeping her eagle eyes on us,” Blue mused aloud.
“It’s us, or the woman dies,” Scarlet assured.
With a nod Blue sprinted beside his friend across the tracks and through a slender access gate to a two-lane road and the trees beyond. There they spread out to cover the park. Up ahead two men continued to jostle and shove a woman forward between them. Scarlet bolted to the next tree trying to flank the assailants before they reached the parking lot to the Table Rock Complex. Blue followed suit on the opposing side. When they caught each others’ eyes Scarlet motioned for Blue to swing around from the roadway side of the park. He would do the same, effectively cutting off the kidnappers from their getaway vehicle. Blue nodded and scurried to the corner of another tree.
One of the assailants spun to check their escape. He must have sighted Captain Blue rushing to another hiding place. Raising his gun the man fired a shot in the Spectrum officer’s direction.
“No!” the woman yelped. “Don’t hurt anyone. I’ll go with you.” She was still struggling, slowing their retreat. Scarlet could see from his vantage point the briefcase dangled not from her left hand, but from her wrist. Somehow the woman had handcuffed herself to the data she had been sent to deliver. Her captor fired in Blue’s direction again. As he did so, Scarlet bolted to the far side of the parking lot ducking behind a minivan. Across the four lane parkway, Scarlet could see in the bus depot parking lot of the emptying Table Rock Complex, a lone car. It sat waiting at the edge of the observation plaza directly beside the western perimeter of Horseshoe Falls. If that was their destination, he had to intercept them before they reached it. It would be tricky. Traffic meandered leisurely along this section before the traffic light near the main entrance to the tourist complex. It was, after all, the most scenic of sections along the Niagara Parkway. Dodging the cars would be possible, but treacherous. If Scarlet could just get across unnoticed, he would have a clear shot at the woman’s captors, in the open, with less likelihood of injuring her or the passing drivers.
Perhaps anticipating his partner's intent, Blue chose that moment to step out from the protection of the trees and draw the assailants' attentions. “Captain Blue, Spectrum,” he announced. “Let the woman go, and I won’t need to use force.”
One of the retreating men paused and turned eyes and weapon upon the captain who stood beside a large trunk at the edge of the wood. Scarlet made his move across the highway as the second man, too, turned away from their destination to confront the blue uniformed officer. As bullets were exchanged the British captain wove across the traffic to the far side of the four lane highway. Sprinting for the bus depot Scarlet took advantage of the inclement weather kiosks bordering the lot’s drop-off zone. As he dove behind the assailants’ waiting car he activated his cap mike. “Lieutenant Green.”
“Yes, Captain,” came the younger man’s eager reply.
“Move out. We’re across the parkway at the Table Rock Complex. Get the police to surround us. Block traffic. Don’t let them get away.”
“And bring the saloon around. We could use some cover and a distraction about now.”
“I’m on it, Sir,” Green acknowledged.
Scarlet scrambled to his feet in time to see his targets reach the road. It was only a matter of time, but where was Blue?
“Release the woman and we’ll retreat,” Blue called from the safety of the parking lot at the far edge of the roadway. Scarlet saw his partner’s blue cap peek from behind a large sport utility vehicle. “You won’t get away. We’ll not allow you to take a hostage.”
“You already have, Spectrum man!” the dark-haired aggressor spouted swinging his pistol around for another shot. Paint chips flew from the vehicle as Blue ducked to safety. “Back off or we’ll kill her. We need only what’s in the case.”
“Not a chance,” Blue assured his voice nearly muffled by the rush of water behind Scarlet. Stepping fully from his cover, Blue fired his gun once. The threatening assailant collapsed in a heap. One down. But there was still an arm upon the woman and a gun to her head. Blue bolted into traffic after them.
Squatting at the ready, Scarlet awaited a clear shot. Trying it now as the pair and his partner dodged the oncoming cars would be too risky. Blue was in his line of fire as were several passing vehicles. Besides, Blue had always been the better marksman. Scarlet watched through the upwelling mist as the American captain stalled in the center of the highway raising his weapon for a perfect shot. “Halt!” he ordered over the roar of the falls and the squealing of brakes. The blond-haired kidnapper twisted within his grip of the woman even as a car honked and threw off Blue’s shot. The bullet went wide. The assailant’s own bullet pinged against metal. Another car screeched to a halt within centimeters of Captain Blue. With a curse the captain lowered his weapon. Too risky, Scarlet assessed from his vantage point. Blue had almost struck the woman. He would not risk another such lucky shot.
From behind the getaway car, Scarlet braced his knees for a spring. Perhaps he could overtake the man. If he could circumvent the vehicle, separate the hostage from her aggressor, an arrest could be made. They were almost to the car. Then a red vehicle roared through the trees across the adjacent parking lot and straight for the highway. All froze to watch as the Spectrum saloon veered into oncoming traffic and swerved to avoid an accident. Green’s distraction. Springing to his feet, Scarlet hollered, “That's far enough! Let the woman go!” His pistol swung into place over the parked car’s roof. His target was not less than seven meters away. Too far for a clean shot.
In response, the assailant spun in his grasp, the woman before him. If only Blue had a clear shot from behind. “Back off!” the man ordered even as he fired his weapon at Scarlet’s head. The captain ducked beneath the roof of the vehicle but was accosted by a second bullet blasting through the car's side window. Scarlet felt the burning sting high in his right shoulder and gasped.
“Captain Scarlet!” he heard Blue shout. Another gunshot barked into the night. Scarlet sucked in a strength gaining breath and rose for another aim.
“I’m all right, Captain,” he called back over the hood of the car. Suddenly a misty cloud from the falls rose and nearly obscured his view. From the opposite side of the vehicle a haze of blue uniform and brown struggled. The woman stood aside, dazed. Her eyes were wide with horror. One shot, Scarlet thought. If only Captain Blue would release his scuffling assailant. “Adam!” he called, alerting his partner to his quavering aim. “Get down!”
Scarlet held his numbing, injured arm for a more steady shot. It all happened so quickly. The woman yelped. Green chattered into his ear mike. “Captain Scarlet. The police have the area surrounded.” Blue threw a skull-wrenching punch, but was yanked along by the kidnapper’s grip of his jacket. Scarlet readjusted his aim. His injured shoulder muscle twitched painfully as the bullet there dug flesh. The two grapplers sank below view from his side of the car. Scarlet side-stepped for a better shot.
“Run!” he ordered the woman, but her attention was locked on the two doing battle upon the grass. Around them sirens blared. Traffic was being detained, some diverted into the far parking lot to clear the highway. Police were scattering to flank the two Spectrum officers, guns drawn. And Blue’s assailant yanked his fallen gun back into play. “No!” Scarlet demanded. As the stranger raised the barrel and pulled the trigger, Scarlet took a final step and aimed for the man. Two guns blared into the night. Blue collapsed on top of his aggressor. “Adam!” Dropping his pistol Scarlet slid to the wet grass. “Adam!” he called again shoving his friend from his assailant’s still body. Blue flumped over, a reddening stain darkening his jacket just above the man's heart.
So occupied was he with his partner’s fate, Scarlet didn’t see the man beside him raise his gun. The woman screamed again, jolting the British officer from his grief. “Now get up, Spectrum Man, and back away,” the stranger growled.
“Captain!” Green called from where he stood beside the cockeyed saloon not ten meters away. Slowly Scarlet withdrew, raising a calming hand to his colleague.
“Stay back, Lieutenant,” he advised. “Get a medical helicopter here. Captain Blue’s still alive, but he’s losing a lot of blood.”
“But what about you, Sir?” Green insisted.
“I’m cooperating, as you should be,” Scarlet countered watching the pistol rise as he did. The man regained his feet before the British captain. “I thought I shot you,” Scarlet said gazing down the gun barrel leveled at his face.
“Bullet-proof vest,” the man assured. “You should have aimed for my head. Now back away or your partner here gets another bullet.”
Scarlet raised his hands and took three steps back. “What are you after? What’s in that case?” he asked, stalling his retreat.
“Private,” the man snapped with a waggle of his gun. “None of your concern.”
Scarlet glanced toward the grass. His own pistol was behind him lying just beyond the car’s bumper. Could he move swiftly enough, with his current handicap, to regain control?
“Captain Scarlet!” Green called again.
Scarlet saw his younger colleague gesture from behind the armed assailant. The communications specialist set his arms as if he were holding a rifle then pointed to the police cars parked along the opposite side of the parkway. A sharp shooter was prepared to take the man out. He needed only a clear shot.
“Don’t move toward your gun, Captain,” the aggressor warned, “or your friend here is dead.”
“And the woman?” Scarlet inquired backing up another step.
“My partner lied before,” the man admitted. “I need her to decipher the plans.”
Scarlet opted then for a distraction of his own. “We know of your intentions,” he admitted. “The Mysterons need the plans to booby trap the hydroelectric dam.”
The stranger’s strained, reddened face twisted into a grimace. “Mysterons? Who are they?”
Scarlet froze, his body tensed. This man wasn’t a Mysteron agent? That meant the briefcase could hold the plans for a new, high-tech Christmas toy, for all he knew. In his confusion Scarlet lowered his hands. “You’re not-?”
The man fired. Scarlet felt the concussion pound his upper chest, ripping through bone and flesh, and lodging against his spine. With a spasm of muscles and a grunt of escaping air from his lungs, Scarlet crumpled to the grass.
“Get in the car. Now!” the man demanded of the woman even as her shriek of horror echoed in Scarlet’s ringing ears.
“You killed him! He wasn’t going for his gun. I won’t cooperate with murderers!”
“You’ll cooperate, or you’ll die,” the man assured.
Another shot blasted into the night. Had the police sniper found his mark? Scarlet felt the drenching coolness of the grass press against his cheek. One lung filling with blood, he found it increasingly difficult to breathe. The drifting river mist chilled his fiery body. He was somehow still conscious as two car doors slammed shut and a car engine revved to life. They were getting away.
Scarlet shoved his hands into the wet grass and pressed his numbing body to regain his feet. His gun was beside him, next to his fallen cap. Struggling to stand, pistol dangling from his reluctant right hand, Scarlet braced his legs wide for one final aim. Through the mist-coated windshield he could see the frightened face of the woman in the passenger’s seat. From behind the wheel, his target grimaced and backed the car away from the Spectrum officer and the pedestrian walkway bordering Horseshoe Falls. Scarlet grasped his gun with both hands even as his vision threatened to blacken beyond focus. “You mustn’t get … away,” he growled over rising blood, forcing his right forefinger to slide into the pistol’s guard to grasp the trigger. With a jerk he released a bullet even as the vehicle screamed into drive. The car's tires sputtered mist soaked turf and squealed against pavement. As the vehicle gained speed to bypass the nearby police blocking the roadway, it jumped the curb and headed straight for the Spectrum officer. Wobbling before the oncoming car, Scarlet wasn’t able to step aside. The car’s bumper slammed against his legs propelling him backward toward the steel and stone railing. He felt his bones snap. Then, just short of the chest high wall, the vehicle swerved to the left dislodging its baggage and roaring along the walkway and freedom. Scarlet felt his body wheel around in the air. Whipped from his perch he dove toward the guard rail. His arms were like jelly as he vaulted over the railing and toward the river. The roar of the falls surrounded him. In that rushing moment, bone-chilling water was Scarlet's only reality.
* * *
Lieutenant Green sprang to his feet from beside Captain Blue just as the retreating vehicle plowed into Captain Scarlet. The communications expert could only watch helplessly as his comrade was propelled toward the stone railing. The escaping car sent the Spectrum officer tumbling through the air like a dog-tossed toy. Scarlet’s flailing legs disappeared into the rocky, chilling water below. Green bolted forward bouncing off the railing in time to see a small red speck drift over the summit of the falls and down the escarpment. Immediately his cap mike was before his lips. “Cloudbase,” he said. “This is Lieutenant Green. I’ll need an aquatic rescue unit here on the double. Captain Scarlet has gone over the falls. He’s severely injured and may be unable to swim. A medical helicopter and Doctor Fawn’s presence is requested.”
“SIR, Lieutenant,” was Captain Magenta’s prompt reply. The man was obviously manning the communications console in Green’s absence. “We’ve got a chopper en route to you now for Captain Blue. Doctor Fawn will take over at the scene. Colonel White will arrange for a rescue team with Captain Grey as supervisor. Aquatic rescue equipment should be arriving within two hours.”
Green watched the non-stop torrent of water dive over the cliff and frowned. Two hours? “SIG,” he answered downheartedly and turned back to his other injured comrade. Scarlet would have to wait. Dark eyes drifting beyond the immediate scene, the lieutenant could just make out the swaying, squealing vehicle of the retreating assailant as it swerved back onto the parkway beyond the complex, dodging stalled traffic and sparking against the guard rail bordering the river. Quickly the Niagara Falls officers took chase. Green only shook his head. His people were his priority. The police would take care of the runaway car and forward news of its apprehension to Spectrum Headquarters. Kneeling again beside Blue, Lieutenant Green gingerly pressed a clean dressing against the man’s weeping wound.
* * *
From behind the backlit cascade, the last Table Rock tour group was being escorted along the dripping gantry back to their waiting elevator when a woman pointed out beyond the coursing flow of water. A dark shape fell with the deluge, a figure the shape of a man. A flash of red was all the shocked onlookers saw as the body plummeted the remaining thirty feet to the river below.
* * *
When the helicopter arrived atop the Table Rock Complex’s roof helipad, Symphony Angel leaped down with the medical personnel to follow them into the elevator. Once at ground level, she vaulted to the grass to help lift Blue gently onto a gurney. Green filled Doctor Fawn in on the man’s injuries as Symphony gently stroked Blue’s blond hair from his face and mumbled reassurances under her breath. “Adam?” she called. “Can you hear me?”
“Blood pressure at 95 over 56 and falling. We’re losing him, Doctor,” a nurse stated elbowing the concerned Angel out of the way. Fawn barked his instructions to his staff as Symphony was relegated to returning to the helicopter and strapping herself back in as pilot. Within minutes, Green was waving them away. The chopper soon rose into the night.
An hour later, on Cloudbase, Colonel White and Captain Ochre watched from the observation booth as Fawn finished surgery on Captain Blue. Symphony, allowed to be present, sat at the head of the operating table, her stricken visage hidden by a surgical mask. As Fawn stepped back and tugged his gloves off, White hit the address button. “How is he, Doctor?” the colonel inquired as one of Fawn’s surgical robots completed the fine work of suturing the wound.
Fawn plucked the mask from his own face, watching the machine’s tiny metal fingers weave their medical dance. Silently Symphony raised hopeful eyes for the doctor’s response as she stroked the unconscious captain’s blond hair with concerned, gloved hands. “He’s stable, but critical, Colonel. We were able to get enough hemoglobin into him on site to stabilize his blood pressure, but he’s very weak. Won’t be conscious for some hours.” With a sigh Fawn approached the window. “He’s in a light coma. I’ll keep him hooked up to the monitors and move him into recovery once his heart rhythm and blood pressure steadies.”
“What damage to his heart, Doctor?” Ochre asked from beside his commander-in-chief.
Fawn tilted his head in resignation. “He was lucky. The bullet only clipped his left ventricle. I was able to repair the damage. He’ll be on medical leave for at least three weeks, able for light duty aboard Cloudbase within one.”
“But he’ll make a full recovery, right?”
White settled a hand atop Ochre’s tensed shoulder. “I’m sure Blue will be eager to return to duty, Captain. That alone will urge him to get well.”
Fawn nodded in agreement. “Svenson’s young enough. He keeps himself in good shape. His heart is strong, healthy. He’ll make a full recovery.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” White said then turned away toward the booth’s exit. “Now on to our next challenge- the recovery of Captain Scarlet.”
* * *
There was grim concern in Doctor Fawn’s brown eyes as he sat in Colonel White's conference room with his fellow officers and superior. Captain Magenta, seated at the auxiliary comm. station, was relaying Lieutenant Green’s report. The young communications specialist was still on site at the Minolta Tower Centre and Table Rock Complex. As the remaining witness to the day’s events, Green described his associates’ actions and concerns. Green also described the incident at Table Rock’s bus depot and the circumstances behind Captain Scarlet’s disappearance.
“We need to find him as soon as possible, Gentlemen,” Fawn urged from his seat.
Everyone turned to consider the physician’s urgency. “Rest assured, Doctor. We will recover him,” the colonel promised. “He’s severely injured, that’s no doubt, but his recuperative abilities have proved miraculous.”
“Maybe not this time,” Fawn countered with a grave scowl. Again looks of unease and uncertainty were exchanged.
“Clarify,” White ordered with a furrowed brow.
“Captain Scarlet has suffered two bullet wounds. According to Green, the second, taken in the chest, was almost certainly fatal, despite Scarlet’s resiliency.” Fawn considered his next words with care. “Considering the speed with which the car impacted his body, he was most probably dead when he was thrown into the river.”
“That never stopped him before,” Magenta reminded from his post. “He was back on his feet in days. As if nothing had ever happened.”
“Because,” Fawn interjected, “his body was returned to Cloudbase and allowed to recuperate. Scarlet’s body may be trapped, beneath the falls or along the river. He’s in chilling water, unable to breathe. Even if he were somehow able to regenerate his injuries, he will stay effectively dead until he is retrieved. We don’t know how long his body can remain inert before permanent damage occurs.”
“What you’re saying, Doctor,” White asked, “is that if we don’t find Scarlet soon, his retrometabolic abilities may not be able to revive him? Scarlet would truly be dead?”
Fawn nodded once. “It is a distinct possibility I do not wish to risk.”
“Nor do I,” White agreed. The colonel stood from his chair. “Very well, Gentlemen. Captain Grey is already on the scene. We’ll send additional personnel to comb the riverbanks on both the Canadian and U.S. borders. And I’ll employ the assistance of local units to dredge the Niagara for any signs of Captain Scarlet. I want him found before the day’s end.” White considered his staff. “Captain Ochre, I’m sending you and Harmony Angel to relieve Grey and Destiny’s duties at the power plant. Their full attentions must be on this rescue mission. Magenta. I need Green back here and at his post. Relieve him at Table Rock. You’ll coordinate the rescue mission with Captain Grey who’ll be in charge of the aquatic team.”
“Yes, Sir,” came a small chorus of replies. An extended search was underway within the hour. Volunteers in flat-keeled dredges were recruited to carefully scour the more shallow edges of the river as Captain Grey and his aquanaut team searched the area around and within the falls with scuba gear and underwater flood lights. Hours later, no trace of Scarlet had been revealed. His only sign of existence was the scarlet kepi sitting reverently, as if in memorial, on the waiting gurney beside the Table Rock elevator to the roof helipad. The cap perched there, awaiting its owner as a dog glumly anticipated the return of its master.
Dawn promised to be bright and the morning pleasant for late September. Julienne DePaureau stretched beside her bed then stumbled into her simple kitchen to make herself some hot green tea. Pulling back her hair, she twisted its graying auburn length into a bun. She plucked a large, ivory hair pin from her lips and slid it down in place, allowing stray locks to curl about her sun-baked complexion. At her age, Julienne didn’t mind a bit of wayward hair or even the friendly wrinkles about her eyes and wide mouth. Her hands, worn and well used from the vegetable garden, matched the weathering of her visage. She was healthy, toned, and self-sufficient. That’s all she needed out of life. That and a pot of green tea. As she considered her desert dry kettle and the deepness of her water storage tank she groaned. “Oh, non, Pierre!” she grumbled in her native French to the empty space which was her cabin. “We have forgotten to refill the tank again, mon ami.” From outside her kitchen window a large face smeared the glass with an oat encrusted muzzle. There was enough water reserve for either her tea or a quick shower, but Julienne had no patience now for either. She had meant to tramp down to the river and pump two reserve tanks just last night after dinner. It was her own fault, having become preoccupied with the news on her solar powered radio: some disturbance and gun battle at the Table Rock Complex up river. Curiously there had been no specifics, only that the crime had been a violent kidnapping. The remaining assailant was yet to be apprehended. One was dead, but at least one other had gotten away with his hostage, seemingly disappearing into the night, despite being chased by a squadron of Ontario police.
Now that she absolutely needed the water for her daily chores, Julienne would finish her breakfast, get dressed, then hitch up Pierre to the wagon and go see about replenishing her supply. As her kettle warmed on the woodstove, she flipped on again her radio and listened for an update of the case. The newscast began, static-laden but strong. Yes, the escaping assailant had yet to be apprehended. He may be injured. The abandoned, bullet-ridden car had been found some eleven miles north, along the River Road. No hostage was evident; they must have escaped together into the woods.
“Mon Dieu,” Julienne gasped. “They could well be around here.” Setting down her toast and tea, she rose from her chair and hastily dressed. Warm clothes: a sweater, riding breeches, and lug-soled boots. Then, rummaging through a dusty wooden trunk set against a dark back corner wall, Julienne DePaureau pulled out a cloth-wrapped bundle. As she unrolled it, cartridges tumbled into her open palm followed by an old, but well-kept revolver. Her late husband had years ago taught her how to use the firearm, but it had been many seasons since she had touched the weapon. With grim determination, the fifty-year old poked a bullet into each cylinder then slid the wheel closed. Now she was armed.
Breakfast forgotten, but still needing water, Julienne cursed her delinquency. The news had told her last night of an escaped kidnapper, yet she had still, in her quiet solitude, not thought of such news directly affecting her. The only notable incident at her tiny wilderness homestead had been a suicide drowning four years ago. The pregnant girl, devoid of a father for her child, had thrown herself into the falls up river. Her swollen, frozen and battered body had washed up along DePaureau’s little stretch of bank, lodged in an old collapsed tree. The sight had been horrible, and Julienne had run over a mile downstream to her neighbor's domicile to report it, as she herself had no electricity and no phone.
Now there was a threat to her home and person, an armed kidnapper who had shot at police and some special government agents. He had left one agent dead and one gravely injured. Now it seemed the assailant’s car had been abandoned not far from her home. Julienne tucked the silver revolver into the small of her back, securely braced against the belt of her riding breeches, then headed out into her garden to collect her roan and blonde-maned draft horse, Pierre. Swiftly she hitched him to her buckboard, loaded the two empty water barrels onto its flat bed and heaved herself up onto the wooden bench seat. With a clucking tongue and a flip of the reins, she ordered Pierre to strut down the dirt lane which led to the river’s edge.
Up from the bank an angular contraption stood in wood and steel bolts. Julienne was proud of her water pump, which in actuality didn’t pump anything. Instead, the levered machine was modeled after a shaduf, a water carrier used along the Nile River in Egypt for millennia. Counterweighted, it lowered a swinging, empty jug out into the river. The arm then lifted the jug again to tilt into a sluice which angled into a collecting bin. This bin, much like an aqueduct, channeled the river water into a funnel overhanging a trough. From there, Julienne could fill her water barrels, each weighing 50 pounds once full, then haul them to her cabin, emptying them through a hose which led into her home’s stainless steel storage tank. This allowed her to store twelve and a half gallons at a time, freeing her from more frequent trips to the river. When full, the steel tank, conveniently placed by the woodstove, was also heated for her showers, and acted as a radiating source of warmth at night. Her only additive was a water tablet to purify and retard the growth of bacteria and algae.
Now, she hurriedly tied Pierre up to his riverside hitch, tossed him some hay from the buckboard, and tugged down the empty barrels for filling. She stood them side-by-side at the bottom of the suspended trough and opened two shoots for the water to flow into each simultaneously.
Striding to the control arm, Julienne unlatched the restraining chain and allowed the jug, overhanging the river, to fall into the rushing current. The jug bubbled full within seconds. A tug of the control arm set the contraption in motion. Water was soon flowing along the well-worn sluice and channels and into the water barrels.
As Julienne continued the swinging, pumping rhythm, a shiny object tumbled along the sluice, glinting in the morning sunlight. She stopped and tugged the chain back onto the arm, suspending the bucket out over the river. She inspected the finger-sized item. Curiously, she retrieved it from the draining channel and turned it in her fingers. Translucent in the center, the cylinder was capped by two pieces of metal, unlike any material she had seen before. The two inch capsule was nearly waterlogged, but being hollow, had floated into the jug to end up plucked from the river. “Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?” she wondered. It was definitely some kind of electronic device, but its purpose was unknown to her. Turning to toss the curiosity onto the buckboard, she nearly dropped it when it fizzled alive, glowing red in the center for only a brief moment. Somehow, its inner electronics were still operating, even after being dumped into the chilling Niagara. “Étrange,” she murmured. Perhaps there were more like it floating by; a curiosity she could not ignore. Tucking the object into her sweater pocket, Julienne tromped down the bank to the river’s edge. There, the deep green of the Niagara River flowed swiftly with the last rains of September. This was her river, her source of water, game, fish, and freedom, far from the noise and bustle of the tourist town upstream. Here, the falls were but a dim hum which at times, even at her distance, could sound like thunder if the breeze were blowing right.
Climbing over the rocks to the muddy edge, Julienne gazed out into the flow where the jug overhung the water. There was no sign of any other debris floating by. But as she spun to return to her pump, a flash of red caught her eye. Within the shadows of the old fallen tree, a red cloth wavered in the chop. Julienne paused to focus on that dangling scrap then gasped. A pale hand draped in a black sleeve hung over a branch and waggled its fingers in the flow. The red cloth was a jacket attached to a body wrapped in shadowy black. Facing downstream, the man’s boots were half buried in the mud, anchoring him to the river bed. Red boots. Some kind of uniform. “Oh non, Pas encore,” she moaned, cringing at the memory of the unfortunate teenager four years before. “Good Lord, spare us from such tragedies,” she prayed in her native French. Her feet wanted to retreat to the buckboard, run away as she had before. But this was no hapless and distraught youngster swollen from a week in the river. This was a man in some military style uniform. Could he be the dead special government agent of whom the news had spoken? Dead surely, as the man lay face down in the green water, his body in undulating motion only because of the flowing river. “Lord, give me strength,” she murmured. Julienne side-stepped the rocks to the mangled stump of the fallen tree. From there she gazed down at the fallen victim. His red vest jacket was well-soaked; his matching boots muddied by the riverbed. Upon his draped sleeve she could just make out some sort of circular emblem or patch; a stylized ‘S’ surrounded by colorful striping, reminiscent of a rainbow. Who was he? Were there people looking for him? Could there be a reward for his recovery? More importantly, if the man was connected with the kidnappers, could she garner police protection for having discovered the body and by alerting the authorities?
As she pondered her alternatives, the body shifted in the swift current and nearly nudged free of its tree hold. Half rolling the man’s face was partly revealed. Pale skin, eyes closed, black hair almost obscuring his face. The features were of a handsome fellow, in his mid thirties perhaps. Far too young to die in the line of duty, if indeed he was one of the special government agents from Table Rock.
The body shifted again, threatening to break free from the whitened tree's tentative branch hold. It would soon dislodge all together and drift further downstream. She would lose her chance to claim its discovery.
Then Julienne noticed the small cylinder attached to the man’s shoulder. It was the same as in her pocket. So, the device was a symbol of rank, an epaulette of some kind. She must find the strength to retrieve the body, drag it onto shore at least, before it was lost to the mighty Niagara once more. Julienne shoved herself back up the bank, sprinting to the buckboard. She fumbled inside the open tool bin attached to the bench, and tugged free a length of rope. Swiftly she looped a knot into a lasso and rushed back to the fallen tree. If she could just secure him, Pierre could provide the muscle work of dragging the body from the river. Bracing herself at the stump Julienne swung the lasso out at the bobbing figure half submerged in the flow. Her first several attempts failed. Then Julienne was able to hook the man’s boot as it broke free from the bottom and bobbed to the surface. Smiling in triumph Julienne yanked the rope taut and wrapped its length around the still rooted stump.
She returned to Pierre. “Come on, mon ami,” she said unhitching the draft horse from the buckboard and leading him by the halter to the riverbank. Untying the rope from the stump, Julienne freed the body from its branchy embrace as best she could with a few tugs, then twisted the rope securely to Pierre’s halter. “Très bien, mon ami, listen well,” she ordered. Julienne scrambled down the bank to the water’s muddy edge. She would need to carefully guide the body out from the clinging tree and the water’s grasp even as Pierre followed her instructions. She paused, reluctant to step down into the muck beside the man, afraid to touch cold flesh. She had never had such courage before. But this man had been murdered. “Brave soul,” she murmured in French. “You did not deserve such a fate.” Strength bolstered by her conviction, Julienne sloshed into the chilly water and took hold of the damp rope. “Allez hue, Pierre,” she instructed. The draft horse tossed his great head and nickered, stepping amongst the brush to retreat from the river.
The soaking body jolted in the water. Julienne had to act swiftly to dislodge him several times from branches and debris. Then he was half up the bank, his tethered foot securely jammed into a tree root, his flowing hair waving in the current, pale face beneath the flow. Julienne felt the doubt grip her like a viper. She couldn’t gaze at the man’s whitened face, no matter how handsome the features. The body was secure; she could just leave him there and ride Pierre to her neighbor's home to use the phone to call the authorities.
Making the decision for her, Pierre whinnied and yanked again. The body burst from the water. With a smack of wet rope, he was on the bank. “Reste!” Julienne ordered. Pierre stomped a furry hoof but remained stationary. Straightening the man’s other leg, Julienne unhooked the rope and lashed it securely around both ankles. Then, removing any further barriers with a few tosses of her arm, she was ready to give the horse the next command. “Hue,” she said and watched as the body was unceremoniously dragged up onto the crest of the riverbank, arms flailing at passing brush and rocks. “Reste, Pierre. Brave bête.” She followed the body up onto dry land and stomped the muddy water from her boots as best she could. They squished and sloshed as she moved to release the man’s ankles from the rope before returning to her horse. “Brave bête,” she reassured, patting the animal’s neck and affectionately rubbing his muzzle. “Proud Pierre. Mon meilleur ami.” The horse tossed his head and turned a large eye to the woman in response to her kind words.
Julienne considered the uniformed figure sprawled face down on the ground. She could leave him here, flumped upon the dirt, arms over his head, or she could arrange the body in a more dignified stance. With a huff of half courage Julienne agreed to the latter. Appalled by the contact with dead flesh, she nonetheless clutched the man’s sleeve and rolled him over onto his back. His chin waggled loosely in negation even as she spied the two tiny holes in his jacket vest. Bullet holes. The officer had indeed been murdered, then unceremoniously dumped into the river. “God forgive the wicked soul who did this to you, young sir,” Julienne murmured. “May your spirit find peace.” She arranged the man's arms at his side, taking the opportunity to inspect the sleeve insignia. The ‘S’ was significant, she was sure. Certainly not a local or even federal government agency, despite his wearing the colors of Canada’s Royal Mounted Police. Curiously she rolled the thick sleeve between her fingers. The cloth seemed insulating yet porous, an all weather fabric, tough yet breathable. The red jacket, too, was sturdy. Its zippered pocket drew her attention. Could he have retained some piece of identifying memorabilia? Did she really want to know his name? Perhaps it was better that the dead man remain anonymous. Nevertheless, her hand found itself upon the zipper pull. The latch was stuck; perhaps the wet and swollen fabric had jammed the device.
As she tugged at the resisting zipper, a sound issued from the wobbling body. It was a moist sucking of air, the return of breath. Julienne bolted to her feet and scrambled away, eyes wide in horror. A sharp scream issued from her own lungs as Julienne watched the man’s chest shudder then rise and fall in a deep gasp of life. Yes, he was alive. Instinctively Julienne crossed her hand upon her chest. “Mon Dieu,” her throaty gasp exhaled. The man had been shot in the chest, dumped over the falls and into the icy river more than twelve hours ago. There was no way he could live unless …
“Démon,” Julienne voiced, even as her boots kicked dirt in retreat. Stumbling backward she twisted to sprint for her horse. With a hop atop a fallen log, Julienne vaulted onto Pierre’s harnessed back. She leaned forward and yanked the reins free of a bush. Then, with a quick kick to the draft horse’s flank and a clutch of his thick mane, Julienne sent him trotting away. Pierre galloped from the river and toward Julienne’s cabin in the Canadian wilderness.
* * *
“Colonel!” Lieutenant Green yelped from Cloudbase’s data station. “I’ve got a faint signal.”
“From Scarlet?” White surmised.
“It only lasted a millisecond, but it definitely came from Captain Scarlet, Sir,” Green assured.
“Good news, Lieutenant. Keep alert in case the signal is repeated. Be ready to triangulate his exact location.”
“SIG,” Green snapped back and busied himself with preparations to pinpoint the missing Spectrum officer’s coordinates should the man try to call again.
In sickbay, Symphony smiled diamonds when Blue’s eyes slid open and focused on her concerned face. “Adam. I was so worried,” she expressed hopping to her feet to allow her friend a better view of her relief. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” the man groaned trying to move beneath the blanket. “What hit me? Feels like I collided with a rogue elephant.”
“You were shot,” Karen Wainwright explained. “Do you remember being at Niagara Falls?”
Groggily Blue scrunched up his face and searched his fuzzy memory. “We had a hostage situation. Captain Scarlet was injured. I’d tackled the assailant. Must have dropped my gun.”
Karen nodded. “That’s right. But your attacker was able to get to his gun. He shot you. But you’re going to be all right.” Her brown eyes softened to stress-releasing tears. “You almost died, Adam, but you’re going to be just fine.” Swiping tears away, Symphony Angel smiled again.
“That’s encouraging,” Blue grunted flinching in discomfort. “Anything’s better than how I feel right now. How’s Paul?”
Karen blinked in dismissal, her grin collapsing in a heap. Then she swallowed her emotions before admitting, “He tried to save you, Adam, but your attacker wasn’t killed. He got away with the woman, his hostage. Adam,” she breathed raggedly, “Captain Scarlet’s missing. He was thrown over the falls. He’s dead. He may be dead for good this time. Captain Grey hasn’t found any trace of him.”
“Grey?” Blue rasped. “He was on assignment with Destiny at the power plant.”
Karen nodded. “He was recalled to help find Paul. He’s using his new remote underwater cameras to search the waters at the base of the falls. But no trace of Scarlet. It’s like he was washed away to Lake Ontario or something. He may never be found,” she surmised with a dour frown. Tears glistened anew upon her cheeks.
Captain Blue groaned to sit against his pillow. Symphony forced him gently flat with her shaky hands. “Paul’s indestructible, Karen,” he insisted resisting her caution. “He’ll find us once he’s recovered.”
“If he recovers,” Symphony Angel murmured beneath her breath.
Blue tensed at her words then winced at the sharp pain in his chest. “What do you mean, ‘If'?’" he growled.
Karen Wainwright resigned to filling her friend in on what had taken place at Table Rock after Adam had been shot. Blue listened stoically, his only outward reaction a narrowing of blue eyes. “So you see,” she concluded, “we need to find him before he’s dead for good. If that’s really possible.”
Blue released a tense breath. “I agree with Doctor Fawn,” he admitted grimly. “We’ve killed Mysterons before with only gunfire. It’sa matter of luck and a good shot. It’s quite possible, under just the right circumstances that Paul might not have survived this time.”
“How can you be so calm about this?” Symphony asked her brown eyes round with disbelief.
Blue’s thin lips drew a straight line. After a moment he grimaced in discomfort and explained with a trembling voice, “I’m not calm, Karen. I’m … I’m grieving.” There was silence in sickbay for a long moment after that. The shock of the possibility weighed the air like a thick spring fog. Finally Captain Blue closed his eyes to drift back into a healing sleep. “He’s still alive,” he murmured as Blue lost consciousness. He didn’t see Symphony’s encouraging smile as she bent to kiss his cheek. Reluctantly she left for her duty shift onboard Angel One.
* * *
Captain Grey shoved himself out of the river and collapsed against a granite boulder just up the rocky bank below the falls. Tugging his scuba mask from his face he huffed in futility. “He’s not down there, Jeb,” Grey hollered to his assistant supervisor stationed further up the wall. “We would have found a scrap of fabric, his gun. Something!”
Jeb Daniels frowned and checked the readout of his underwater monitor. For the thousandth time he swiped the spray away with a brown hand and studied the picture sent back by the underwater probe coursing through the violent cascade. Nothing. No sign. “Then he must have washed down river,” Daniels called down over the roar of the falls.
Grey nodded his resignation. “We’ll boost the search then. I’m taking a boat downstream,” he assured unlatching the oxygen tank from his back. “We’ll use the underwater cameras to monitor the riverbed. Put together a grid pattern for me, Jeb. I want to be on the river in half an hour.”
Jeb Daniels’ dark frown deepened. “You’ve been working straight on this for over thirteen hours, Bradley,” Daniels asserted. “Let the other team members have a go at it. They know how to work your equipment.”
Grey shook his head adamantly. “No. I’ll not sleep while my friend’s lost somewhere in this river.”
“It’s a recovery mission, Captain,” Jeb reminded. “The body’ll be found eventually. There’s no sense in killing yourself too.”
“Paul didn’t commit suicide, Jeb,” Grey barked, pitching the scuba tank up to his assistant. The metal cylinder clanked heavily against the rocks and wedged between the guard wall and a boulder. “He was murdered. I won’t rest until I find him. Is that clear?”
Jeb only nodded once then bent to retrieve the discarded tank from the rocks. Grey shoved himself to his shaky feet and followed his assistant back up onto Table Rock's plaza. There he traded his drysuit for heavy rain gear and boots to help combat the incessant rising mist so close to the Horseshoe Falls. Soon, Captain Grey was guiding a refitted fishing trawler along the river’s course, monitoring the rocky bottom for any sign of a red jacket and his fallen comrade.
* * *
Julienne DePaureau paced within her little cabin. Why had she run? Her superstitions had gone amok at the sight of life returning to a dead body. She was no doctor. Who was she to diagnose a man’s injuries? The bullet holes could have been only fabric deep, the bullets deflected from flesh by a bullet-proof vest beneath his jacket. He might have swum downstream, been face down in the water for only a few moments before her discovery. There was every reason he could be alive, and yet she had run. The man needed her help and Julienne had bolted as if she were a child.
The memory of another time was too fresh, she admitted. This was much like that night her beloved Victor had died. Unsure whether to go for help or stay with her stricken husband, Julienne had hurried to the neighbor's to call for an ambulance. Victor had been experiencing chest pains, gasping for air. Unwilling to take the risk of CPR alone, Julienne had escaped the situation; instead relying on another for help.
Help had arrived too late, however. By the time she had led the Emergency Medical Technicians back to her cabin in the woods, Victor was dead. With shame and fear of the big city up river, Julienne DePaureau had remained in the home Victor had built for them. All had been quietly uneventful for so long until four years ago … and now.
Now someone was in need of her help again. And Julienne had escaped her responsibility like an undisciplined school girl dodged a final exam. Kneading her hands she gazed out the kitchen window into her fenced garden. Pierre stood patiently at the perimeter still laden with the harness, reins flipped over the top railing. A glance at the afternoon sky told her a late September storm was brewing. The weather would change from pleasantly cool to bone-chillingly frigid if rain and wind were in the mix.
She could go back, take a blanket, fresh water. She had to go back. She had left the buckboard and her half-filled water barrels by the river. With a hesitant sigh Julienne tugged down a heavy blanket from an overhead shelf in her bedroom. She snatched a canteen from a peg and swung in onto her shoulder. Marching back into the changing afternoon, Julienne had to smile at her stupidity and bravery. Beneath her sweater, the body-warmed hardness of the silver revolver reminded her that she was, after all, not totally defenseless.
Atop Pierre’s broad back Julienne raced back to the fallen officer who had somehow miraculously survived the torture of the falls and one man’s savage attack. “Monsieur Miracle,” she attested to herself. Until he could tell her his name, she would call him ‘Miracle’.
Julienne slowed to a bumping prance as she and Pierre neared the fallen tree. The man's body was gone. Surely she had not imagined the entire incident. Yet, the government officer, or soldier- as he had been in the midst of a firefight- had been in no shape to regain his feet and walk away. In the least, he would be suffering from hypothermia. If by some act of God he had reached his feet, surely Julienne would have spotted his brilliant jacket somewhere along the drab autumn trail. “Bonjour,” Julienne called. “Monsieur? Êtes-vous là?” Perhaps the man did not speak nor understand her native French.
“Ohé!” she addressed the wilderness scrub. “Are you there, Monsieur?” Uncertain, Julienne slid from her horse’s back, blanket in arm and canteen draped over her shoulder. “Monsieur?” Her green eyes searched the scrub for any sign of scarlet. As she neared the bank a boot heel caught her attention. Somehow he had awakened and tried to drag himself back to the river, perhaps for a drink. Julienne rushed forward. There, draped downhill, face against the dirt and leaf-strewn path lay the mysterious stranger. She knelt beside him. He was unconscious, but Julienne was glad to see the man was breathing regularly and that his ashen face was regaining some color. “Monsieur,” she said, touching his shoulder. Not wishing to startle him, Julienne set down the blanket and canteen before gently rolling the officer again onto his back.
Crystal sky eyes fluttered open, but couldn’t seem to focus on her fearful yet concerned countenance. “Where’s Captain Blue?” he croaked.
“Captain Blue?” Julienne repeated. The man had spoken in English with a distinctively British accent. He wasn't an American. Nor was he Canadian, it seemed. “I do not know,” she told him in English. “I am Madame DePaureau. You are on my land. I pulled you from the river. Can you stand?”
“Cold,” the stranger groaned then pulled his left arm tight in against his side shivering. Julienne reached to touch his hand. The digits were deathly chilled, as dead flesh. He was indeed suffering from hypothermia.
“I brought a blanket,” she told him and twisted to unfold the cloth. “Sit up, Monsieur. I will wrap it about you.”
“Juliette? Is that you?” The man seemed delirious. His eyes rolled in his head then closed. Was he unconscious again?
“Monsieur.” Gingerly she draped the blanket over his lounging form. She had to get him away from the chill of the river, onto the buckboard and back to her cabin. She also needed to get him into dry clothes. “I will not leave you, mon ami," she promised him. "Forgive me. You worried me before. I will not run again.”
The man's blue eyes reopened, blinked then turned to focus upon her face. “You’re not Juliette,” he mumbled through quavering lips. His teeth chattered within his mouth.
With a soothing smile DePaureau answered, “No. I am Julienne. Julienne DePaureau, young man. Do you also have a name?”
The man swallowed then cleared his throat. “Scarlet,” he said hoarsely trying to sit beneath the cover. “Captain. Spectrum.”
With an assisting grasp Julienne helped the officer to sit, wrapping the heavy blanket about his shuddering shoulders. “I am glad to meet you, Captain Spectrum Scarlet,” she said slowly, finding the English words awkward. “My house is warm. There is food. Stand, Monsieur. Pierre will take us to my home.”
“I … I can’t,” he groaned his face twisting in obvious discomfort. “Legs … Broken I think. My arm … still numb.”
“Mon Dieu,” Julienne attested nearly releasing her grasp of his shoulder for fear of harming him further. “It is a miracle you are even alive, Monsieur. I can go. Find an ambulance.”
“No,” Scarlet answered with a grunt. “Just get me to your saloon. I … will try to walk.”
“But, Monsieur,” Julienne protested. “Your legs. I have no ‘saloon’, only a wagon. Pierre is my horse.” She rose to her feet. “Wait. I will bring them to you.” Quickly Julienne busied herself hitching Pierre again to the abandoned buckboard. Then- water barrels forgotten for the moment- Julienne climbed up onto the seat and maneuvered the draft horse to back the wagon to the riverbank. “Reste, Pierre,” she instructed the animal before securing the reins and sliding back to the path. “Monsieur,” she told the shivering man hunched upon the dirt. “I will help you. I will ... get a branch for a ... a crutch.” She searched the debris pile beside the fallen tree, choosing a sturdy, straight sapling she had just last month pruned from her trail. When the French Canadian woman returned to the injured man, Scarlet had retrieved the canteen and was guzzling water from the opened spout. He choked and coughed, then set the container down to screw back on the lid with his left hand. “Shall we ... give it a go, as they say in your country?” she asked him.
His blue eyes rose to regard her as if from out of a fog. “Where am I, Madam?”
“I told you, Monsieur Scarlet. You are on my land. I pulled you from the river.”
“The Niagara River,” he corrected.
“Oui, the Niagara. You survived a fall not many have, Monsieur,” she attested. “My ... neighbor has a telephone. I will take you to my home; then I will go there, call for an ambulance.”
Again the dark-haired man shook his drooping head. “No. I … I can’t go to a civilian hospital.”
Julienne blinked, uncertain why. “Monsieur?”
The man sighed, glancing about the dirt. "I must contact my superiors, Madam. I’ve lost my cap. Get me to your neighbor’s home. I shall use the phone there.”
Hesitating in her reply Julienne offered the injured officer her tree crutch. “As you wish, Monsieur Scarlet.”
Left arm rising to grasp the sapling, Scarlet rolled onto his right hip and groaned as muscle took over where bone had given way. Julienne maneuvered her support to his tilting right side, where the bullet hole had somehow left his limb unresponsive.
“Forgive me. I do not ... wish to hurt you further,” she murmured raising his injured arm and ducking beneath it to lend her support. The discarded blanket flumped to the dirt as Scarlet released a pained growl. Slowly the pair hobbled the few steps to the back of the buckboard. “I am unsure how to get you up, Monsieur,” Julienne admitted watching the man’s jaw clench in obvious agony.
Swallowing, Scarlet grunted, “Give me the reins.” Leaving him leaning heavily against the tree crutch and wagon, Julienne rushed forward to untie Pierre’s reins and pull them back along the wagon’s bed. “Hand them to me,” Scarlet instructed.
“But, Monsieur, your arm …”
“Is feeling better,” he insisted raising both hands to grasp the leather straps. With a heave of straining lungs, the man forced his right hand to pull his weight forward onto the buckboard. Handhold by handhold, he slid his lower half onto the flat bed before releasing the reins and collapsing in a heap.
“Monsieur?” Julienne inquired. “Captain?” No response. The man was unconscious again. Her first concern was to recover him in the blanket, for his clothes were still drenched. They sucked the warmth from him as the river had almost taken his life. Then, mounting the buckboard seat, Julienne snapped the reins and urged Pierre forward. The neighbor would be able to help her remove him from the wagon. But why no ambulance, no hospital? She glanced back at his bumping form beneath the blanket. The jostling could not be good for his injuries. The man could still die from shock and exposure.
No. The sooner Julienne got him inside under blankets and fed warm tea and soup, the better. Her first priority was to stabilize him. Her husband, Victor, would not have wanted her to abandon this officer, to release him to yet another’s custody. No, she would not hand him over to her neighbor. She would nurse the scarlet man before going to the phone. The captain was her responsibility now. After all, she had been the one to save him from the river. But as Julienne reined Pierre in at the fence to her little cabin garden, she felt a flood of uncertainty sink to the well of her stomach. How was she going to get the captain inside without his help again? She would have to wake him; further drain his already taxed energy reserves.
With determination Julienne turned the buckboard around and backed it to her door. After tying Pierre off to the fence, she then strode to the rear of the wagon. “Captain Spectrum Scarlet,” she called. “Wake. We must get you inside, out of the weather.” As she spoke, a chilling wind was rising, bringing dark clouds from the north.
Having lived in the north corner of Quebec all her young life, Julienne was accustomed to late September snow showers. They could be the most devastating to the unprepared skin and health. And the stranger was soaking wet. Getting him conscious proved a daunting task, however. Shock and the bone-chilling breeze were taking their toll on his strength. Wrapped in the blanket he crawled to the edge of the buckboard and dove headfirst to the dirt. There was no waking him after that. With a determined gulp of air, Julienne clutched the blanket in her well-seasoned hands and hauled the stranger through the door, up to her smoldering woodstove. There she settled him as best she could upon the hardwood floor, propping his head with a couch pillow and tucking another blanket about his legs.
After stoking the waning flames within the stove with more wood, Julienne drained her remaining water reserve to again fill the kettle for tea. As the pot hissed upon the stove, she considered the man’s slack, mud-smeared face atop the pillow. He seemed to be gaining color even as he lay there. Perhaps his wounds were not as severe as he had claimed. The holes in the man’s red jacket shed no blood upon his chest. Yet, he had said his legs were broken; surely a severe enough injury to induce shock, septicemia, and fever. He needed a hospital, yet he had refused one. Perhaps the man really was suffering some delirium. He certainly wasn’t thinking rationally.
Julienne shook her head free of the inner chatter. The truth to the matter was: this man was injured. He needed assistance as soon as possible. By leaving the canteen by his side, covering him with blankets and laying him beside the warming stove, she had provided the officer with far more comfort than he would have had alone by the river. She could unhitch Pierre and ride to the neighbor’s to be back within the hour to await the police and ambulance. The man had survived so far; he would be all right for a while longer.
Yet that same fear dug at her like a backhoe. Julienne had not been able to help the pregnant teen; had not known what to do for her husband, Victor. They were both dead. What if she left and the stranger died while she was going for help again? “Non!” Julienne yelped, slamming a fist atop the table beside her.
The man shuddered awake, gasped, eyes opening. “Colonel White,” he said, “He wasn’t a Mysteron.”
“Qu'est-ce que je fais?” Julienne asked the wide-eyed stranger. “What do I do?" she repeated to him in her struggling English. "Do not die, Monsieur. You must not die like my dear Victor. You must promise me,” she entreated sinking to her knees before the man. “Captain. Promise me.”
The man swallowed, his tired eyes following her down. “I … I can’t die,” he answered her. “I must contact-"
“Your superiors," she finished for him. "I know, but how? I have no phone. I will not leave you, Monsieur. I left my husband and he died. I ... abandoned you once. Not again. What do I do?”
“My cap,” he said raising his hand from beneath the blanket to grasp at his head. “Where is my cap?”
“Your hat? I find only you … and …" She dug into her sweater pocket. “And this.” Before his pain-creased eyes she showed him the epaulette. “It blinked. Somehow it still works.”
“What color?” the stranger asked struggling to sit up.
“Color?” Julienne spouted. Did it matter?
“What color did it blink?” the man insisted.
Julienne paused. “Uh … uh … It was red.”
“The emergency signal.” Scarlet swallowed and tried to adjust himself upon the hard floor. Beneath the blanket his legs shifted. “Can you get it to blink again?” he asked with a grunt. “I must report to my superior, the colonel. It’s vital he knows what I know about our target.”
“Target, Monsieur? Do you mean the kidnapper? He got away.”
“Yes,” the man agreed. “I believe we were after the wrong man. The power plant is still in grave danger. The plans may even now be in Mysteron hands.”
“The Niagara Power Project? But this is kilometers south. What is to happen, Captain?” Julienne stumbled over her English yet again. “And what is Mysteron?”
Scarlet shook his head and groaned into a sit. “I must contact the colonel, Madam. Give me the epaulette. If I can reactivate it, my colleagues will be able to find me.”
“They will bring help? Medical assistance?”
The stranger reacted in a most unusual way to her questions. He sighed wearily and produced a twisted smile. “Yes, medical assistance.” The man shifted again and rubbed at his chest with a grimace. Julienne handed him the epaulette.
“I did nothing, Monsieur. It blinked in my hand.”
The man held it, tilted it from side to side, watched the half-filled capsule slosh with water. He frowned. “It’s been damaged. The water.”
“But it did work,” Julienne assured. “Allow me.” She took the capsule from him and rolled it in her fingers. She squeezed it, turned it, pressed it end to end, but there was no response from the device. “Perhaps you are right.”
With a determined grimace Scarlet twisted to regard his right shoulder and the epaulette still perched there. With determined effort, he snatched the flooded device from his jacket and shook it. Useless. The water had short-circuited both signaling devices.
“Once you are feeling rested, Monsieur,” Julienne suggested to brighten his dark mood, “I will take you to a phone. You may call your colonel then.”
With a deep sigh the man nodded wearily. “Very well. But I should go now. This can’t wait. Lives may be at stake.”
Julienne gazed concernedly down at the man’s shrouded legs. “But your legs are broken, Monsieur. You said so yourself.” She watched the man’s face crease in confusion, perhaps searching his memory.
“I said that?”
“Oui, Monsieur.” Julienne nodded. “And your arm,” she added pointing to his right shoulder where the epaulette had been perched.
“Is feeling much better, Madam. Thank you.” As her tea kettle began to sing Scarlet cleared his throat. “Perhaps if you were to offer me some hot tea, I would fare even better. Perhaps good enough to get up off your floor and present myself to you more properly.”
Julienne smiled. The man was definitely sounding more coherent and reasonable. “Yes, of course, Captain.” She rose from her kneel to reach over him to the steaming kettle sitting atop the stove. “You work for the government, then?” she inquired as she lifted the kettle toward the waiting tea pot.
“Yes,” Scarlet answered with a sigh. He rubbed at his chest and gingerly stretched out his right arm with a testing grunt. “I’m a field officer for Spectrum. Our organization works for the World Government under President Younger.”
“And the kidnapper …?”
“Mistaken identity, I’m afraid,” he admitted. “My partner. My partner was gravely injured. I must find out if he’s all right.”
“Your Captain Blue?” As he agreed, Julienne reached further past the stove to collect the tea canister. The Spectrum officer, however, was in her way, before the stove and tiny storage counter. Sliding a foot forward for a better stance, Julienne’s elbow accidently knocked the tea pot over. Steaming water flooded onto the hot stove and over its rim like a miniature boiling Niagara Falls.
Hit in the back by the liquid the man before the stove growled at the attack and rolled onto his knees, away from the deluge. Scarlet scrambled to his feet.
“Monsieur! Je suis désolée! I am sorry!” Julienne blurted eyes wide at such a painful mishap. “Here I make you tea, to injure you again …” She halted her ramblings. In her awkward panic she had not comprehended the sight before her. The stranger was standing there brushing the hot liquid from his neck and stomping his feet in obvious discomfort. “Monsieur. Your legs … They are not broken.”
Scarlet paused in his self ministries. His sky blue eyes rose to meet hers. “Right,” he mumbled. “Perhaps in my previous delirium I was mistaken.”
“Perhaps you also lie,” Julienne countered her hand reaching back for the revolver tucked beneath her sweater. The gun swung up to cover him. “Now, Monsieur. Sit and explain to me how you have come from the falls with no injury, wearing the clothes of a dead man.”
“Pardon me?” Scarlet responded. He backed into a dinette chair, all the while keeping his hands innocently before him.
“Your clothes,” Julienne repeated pointing with the barrel. “There is much mystery here. Perhaps you are the kidnapper. Are you not? You ... you stole that uniform from the military officer you killed. Did you hide him underwater just as I came to you? You played dead. But I saved you instead of running away. Now you pretend to be that brave officer so that you might make good an escape. Well, I do not believe you.”
“Madam,” Scarlet replied with a decisive breath. “I can’t explain it to you, but I am Captain Scarlet of Spectrum. This is my uniform.”
“Then explain your broken legs, the bullet holes. No man could have survived such wounds. You do not even show a scratch.”
Scarlet shrugged and lowered his hands to his lap in resignation. “I was lucky, I guess.”
“My radio news said you had gone over the falls. People die when they go over the falls, Monsieur. Captain,” she restated in sarcasm. “Now, put your hands on top the table. Do not try anything.”
“You’re confused, Madam. I’m Captain Scarlet. My associates are looking for me. One may be dead or dying. Everything I said to you is true, but I must leave now to report in. I have information no one else has.”
“What information?” Julienne demanded wavering the gun before his seated frame. “About Mysterons?”
“Where did you hear that?” Scarlet asked with suspicion in his narrowed eyes.
“From you. In your delirium.”
“Oh, that's right." He cleared his throat. "I'm afraid that information’s classified, Madam. I can’t explain. Please, just let me leave. Point me to your neighbor's home, so that I might use that phone you spoke of.”
Julienne shook her head. “And let you kill my only friend besides Pierre? No, Monsieur. I will tie you up. And I will call the police. They look for you too.”
Scarlet lowered his chin and sighed. Was he scheming to act or was he frustrated in her cleverness? For this was the only logical scenario. The man seated at her table had to be the kidnapper, falsely portraying the poor murdered officer who had tried to stop his evil deed. “I’m a Spectrum field agent," he explained slowly. "I was shot at and fell over the falls to end up here. You rescued me from the river, and I am eternally grateful, Madam. But I am telling the truth. I can prove it to you,” he said slowly reaching for his jacket pocket.
“Do not move!” Julienne warned her forefinger quavering over the weapon’s trigger. “If you can prove it, then tell me why she was kidnapped,” she insisted. “Who is she? Did you kill her too?”
“That's ridiculous,” the man spouted slapping the table with his open palm. “I didn’t kill anyone. If only I had my cap, I could call Cloudbase and be away from this madness.”
“Cloudbase. You said that before. Is it your hideaway?” Julienne’s brain struggled to translate her frustrations to English. “Your good looks, your fake pain. They nearly fooled me.” She stepped aside to her closed cabin door where a rope upon a wooden peg hung. She shifted her gaze from the seated kidnapper to the peg. “Now, Monsieur. I will ask you to tie this around your wrists. Then I will tie you to the chair. That would keep you.”
“And if I refuse?” he asked with a raised brow.
Julienne swallowed as she drew near. Could she be mistaken? What if what he said were true? There had been cases of people surviving Niagara Falls, but they had been in protective capsules, padded barrels. This man would be the walking dead. “Then I will wound you, Monsieur. I can do that.”
“Then wound me,” the man challenged. His silky voice was calm, resigned. Was this the ploy of a murderer or the plea of a desperate man who was telling the truth?
“I do not wish to hurt. But if you are the murderer, I cannot let you go.” Julienne tossed the length of rope and stepped back. “Now wrap your wrists.”
The man only sighed and considered the rope upon the table before him. “And how exactly do you expect me to tie myself up, Madam?”
Rolling her eyes at the obvious she explained, “Make a noose. Loop a wrist through. Then twist the rope tightly around the other. I will tie you to the chair myself. You will not get away.”
“Very clever, Madam.” The man slowly reached for the rope. It dangled from one hand for a moment. Then with a crooked smile Scarlet assured, “But you will have to wound me.” In an instant he flung the rope her way. Julienne dodged the flying coils and in her nervousness her finger slipped about the trigger of her gun. A deafening blast announced a bullet released from its chamber. Her eyes shut by instinct; Julienne could not see where the shot had been aimed. She thought it went high. Forcing herself to look, Julienne saw the man, standing and halfway to the door as if running for escape. He was paused in mid-stride. His head was back, tilted at an odd and painful angle. A dark smear adorned his forehead.
“Mon Dieu!” she yelped. Her wayward shot had actually made contact. Twisting at the concussion, the stranger grunted then collapsed as his knees gave way to the shock. In a heap he landed on his back upon the hard wood floor. Julienne dropped the silver revolver and scrambled to the man’s side. “Monsieur!” she called. His blood was spilling onto the floorboards. The man’s eyes were rolling to whiteness. “I am sorry.” The bullet had seemingly entered his skull just above and forward of his right temple, gouging a track of red across his forehead. “Mon Dieu,” Julienne moaned. “What have I done?”
With a nerve tingling shudder the stranger’s body went slack. Was he dead? Julienne’s trembling hand reached beneath his chin to feel for a pulse. No, the heart was still beating, but would it for long? She had inflicted a head wound, perhaps a fatal one. Kneeling upon the floor, Julienne was frozen in indecision. What to do? Go for help? Leave the man to die alone? “Oh, what have I done?” she moaned again.
After several shocked moments Julienne was able to climb shakily to her feet. Adrenaline made her knees knock. Her breathing was shallow, rapid. Self-defense. Yes. She had shot the man in self-defense. He was an escaped criminal, after all. He had stolen the uniform of a good man to escape the police. Yes, that was it. Why then did doubt grip at her heart like a tightening steel fist? “What if I was wrong, Monsieur?” she asked the supine figure sprawled on the floor. In answer he released a single deep gasp, then his chest stilled. Blood slowed to a trickle from the head gouge. There was blood in his dark hair, pooled into the creases of his closed lids. It dribbled across his slack left cheek. It drizzled to the floor, puddling beside him. It was the most terrible sight since Julienne had discovered the young pregnant woman four years earlier. Only now it was worse. Julienne had done the killing. Yes, it seemed the man was dead, for there was no longer a rising to his chest. “Mon Dieu. I have ... murdered … I am now the killer.” In her shocked realization Julienne DePaureau released a shrill scream. Outside Pierre whinnied nervously and fought the bridle and harness, pawing at the ground and throwing up his head.
“Police!” Julienne cried out. “Police!” Her scrambling feet took her to the door. It slammed behind her as she rushed out to the buckboard. In a moment she was atop the seat and slapping the reins upon Pierre’s broad flank. Thundering hooves beat at the dampening ground. Rain began pelting the dirt, sending up tiny earth eruptions as Julienne drove blindly away from her horrific act of violence. “Police!” she screamed again.
* * *
“What was that, Lieutenant?” Colonel White demanded from his control dais in Cloudbase's command control center.
“Sir,” Green began hesitantly. “I was able to get a partial lock on the faint signal I intercepted from Captain Scarlet some hours ago. I’ve been trying to triangulate its position ever since.”
“And?” When Green didn’t continue, the colonel scowled and stamped his fist upon the console before him. “Come on, Man. What is it?”
“Well, Sir. I’ve narrowed the field somewhat, but it’s just a hunch.”
White sighed tiredly. “At this point, Lieutenant, I’m willing to bring in a tarot card reader. What have you got?”
“I believe the signal came from several miles down river, near a more isolated portion of Ontario. Perhaps ten to fifteen miles, Sir.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so, Man? Get Captain Grey on the horn and tell him to adjust his search pattern.”
“Yes, Sir,” Green snapped. “I just hope I’m right, Colonel. It was a very faint and brief signal.”
Colonel White nodded and rose from his chair and the pile of reports set before him. “Like myself, I’m sure Captain Scarlet would be willing to bet your skills on that faint signal, Green. You’re the best man at the job.”
“All the more vital I did my figuring right, Sir,” Green replied even as he made the final connections to contact the Niagara field commander.
“You’re worried for your reputation?”
“No, Sir,” the younger man admitted. “The last thing I want to do is send Captain Grey on a wild goose chase. Time’s running out for Captain Scarlet.”
“Yes,” White admitted under his breath and sank again into his work. Clearly sullen and distracted, it took the commander-in-chief twice as long to update his files as normal. “Blast it,” White cursed and moved on to other responsibilities.
* * *
“Are you sure you are all right, mon ami?” Destiny Angel asked as she piloted the four-man river trawler swiftly downstream in the gloomy, rainy hours of late afternoon. Nearly twenty-four hours had passed and there had still been no sign of their missing comrade. Now they’d been ordered to comb an unlikely section of the river some ten plus miles north of the falls. Grey was sullen and quiet. He had been for many hours, at times only pausing in his concentration on the underwater readout to curse the ineffectiveness of combing a river with RUVs instead of human eyes.
“I’m fine,” Grey growled back from the trawler’s rear seat where he was slouched beside his dripping equipment. The tiny, shark-finned remote-controlled underwater camera- ‘Rover’ as Grey called it- sat cradled in a makeshift berth of emergency flotation devices at the captain’s feet. Some one of his aquanautical rescue team had thought it quaint to paint the silver pod with dark eyes and gill slits, completing the streamlined appearance of an ocean predator. All that was missing were a row of pearly teeth beneath the capsule’s true eye, the optical camera lens situated at the prow. “Rover’s just not as good as I’d hoped. His visual acuity is less than three meters in this murk.”
“Do not be hard on yourself,” Destiny called over her shoulder and the hum of the boat’s twin jet propellers. “Your equipment was tested and fine-tuned in a large swimming pool. These are not the tropical clear waters of Aruba, mon ami.”
“Nor the sunny weather,” Grey growled tugging his hood closer about his neck as the icy rain gained in intensity. He tapped the coursing, windblown precipitation from his boots. “I’m just tired, and my patience is as thin as rice paper.”
“We’ll find him," the French pilot attested, checking the kilometer markers on her electronic dashboard. Three to go before they slowed and returned to a zigzag pattern of passes over the bottom with the aqua-cam. “We’ve got to,” she added to herself. Grey would drive himself to collapse if they didn’t. “Where are you, Scarlet?” Destiny murmured as her brown eyes continued to steal glances at the shoreline searching for a flash of red in a strip of autumn brown and gray.
* * *
Scarlet was unsure how long he had lain there unconscious upon the woman’s floor. He had been wounded in a far too vital spot when he had gambled his escape from the unstable Julienne. “Lucky shot,” he groaned and rolled onto his side to gather his feet to stand. The blood from his head wound was already congealing on the hardwood floor beside him. On hands and knees Scarlet risked raising a finger to the ache in his head. A hard scab was his discovery. Even that would soon fall off leaving nary a mark for his near death experience.
With a smile Scarlet recalled the panicked sounds of Julienne DePaureau when he had held his breath to fake his own demise. Instinct had told him she would run. He had been right. Scarlet just hadn’t counted on her fortuitous aim. A bullet wound to the arm wouldn’t have even slowed him down. Now, he had wasted precious time. Scarlet had to get to the neighbor’s house, the one with the phone, to call Cloudbase. He knew if Spectrum thought his kidnapper foe was a Mysteron, they would be expending resources to find him and the woman. Meanwhile, the real threat was perhaps even now modifying the plant’s new turbines to secretly blow once they were installed. Slowly he rose to his feet, checking his head for stability before stumbling toward the door and freedom.
Outside a gale wind was brewing. Icy rain pelted his tender forehead. Wincing Scarlet raised a hand to shelter his eyes before trotting after the retreating wagon tracks. But before he was even yards from the cabin, a new noise burst through the moan of wind and rain. “A copter,” Scarlet realized. Carefully he paused to listen. Could it be a Spectrum vehicle? The craft’s identity was disguised by rain and distance. The wind brought its presence but not its location. It seemed to be near the river. If he headed that way instead, perhaps he could intercept the helicopter and report in much sooner. After all, Scarlet wasn’t sure where Julienne’s neighbor’s domicile was located exactly. And the pelting rain was quickly turning the wagon tracks to mush.
Calculating his chances, Scarlet sprinted for the river. He hoped his jacket vest would make him stand out among the dull colors of the Canadian autumn. As he coursed along the path, the helicopter engine’s volume grew. It seemed the captain had made the right choice when the bulky vehicle appeared just over the trees. It swayed in the wind, its twin rotors beating at the rain. It was an aquatic rescue helicopter complete with pontoon landing gear. Scarlet smiled and waved his arms at the pilot. Ingenious. Only the bulk stability of such a rescue craft could maneuver safely in this storm, for indeed the wind and rain were reaching near monsoon strength. The temperature, too, was dropping rapidly. As Scarlet squinted into the driving downpour, a stinging at his face told him the rain was changing to sleet. The helicopter, however, seemed to be hovering close to the river, perhaps searching the shoreline for him. The pilot had yet to notice Scarlet’s waving arms. The Spectrum captain continued his trot along the path to the riverbank, where, with a flourish of arms and a wash of soaking downdrafts from the aircraft, Scarlet finally caught Melody Angel's attention. Now she only needed to find a safe place to land in from the choppy waters of the Niagara River.
* * *
“Captain,” Destiny warned over the sloshing of the now turbulent river as she piloted the trawler at a dead slow. “We should call off the search. The weather-“
From his hunched stance over the soggy monitor Grey waved her to silence. “I don’t care about a little rain, Juliette,” he snapped. His other hand was busy maneuvering the joystick for the remote underwater vehicle below them. Rover was scanning the bottom and had found the remains of a car, two shopping carts, even an abandoned baby carriage, but nothing human. “I’ll keep searching until this equipment stops working.”
Juliette raised an ironic brow. “In this storm, it is amazing your electronics still are.” She shrugged her collar closer about her neck, tightening the hood upon her golden head. “At least put on your gloves, Brad,” she urged. “The weather is becoming arctic.”
Grey seemed to be ignoring her, but finally he stood and swiped dripping bangs away from his eyes. “The gloves would be a hindrance. I can’t navigate with them on. This is fine work, Destiny, adjusting depth and speed.” He gestured toward the joystick and the RUV’s control panel. “These knobs are extremely sensitive.”
“They are not meant to be out in the open like this. You will ruin your electronics.”
As Grey returned his puffy, tired eyes to the monitor, he growled beneath his breath, “I’ll just build a better one.”
Just then a Spectrum helicopter barreled overhead. Its aquatic landing pontoons lowered, and the craft began its descent. “Mon Dieu,” Destiny proclaimed as the sleet whipped about in the rotor’s backwash.
Grey, too, paused at his job to raise squinting eyes at the intruder. “What the Hell?” His hand slipped off the joystick and hit the power level control. Suddenly a blue arc of electricity made contact with sleet and human flesh. Captain Grey trembled with the short-circuiting energy coursing through him. With a shriek, Destiny leaped for the cushioned seat at the pilot’s station. There she was somewhat sheltered from the ensuing wild light show as she watched Grey slump forward over his sparking equipment.
* * *
Above them Captain Scarlet glared down from the open hatch and cursed, “Blast it. We’re creating a closed circuit between the rotor blades and Grey’s electronics.” He turned narrowed eyes to the helicopter pilot. “Melody, raise the copter above the trees. Get us to a hundred meters, minimum hover. Hurry.”
“SIG,” Melody Angel acknowledged. The helicopter roared into the heavy crosswinds above the river. As the craft bucked and lurched, Scarlet released the clasp to his safety harness. “What are you doing?” Melody asked over her shoulder.
“Saving a friend,” was the British captain’s answer. Grabbing a hold of the door frame, Scarlet gauged the widening distance to the water. “Wish me luck,” he murmured as he dove out into the raging storm and violent, dark waters of the Niagara River. He hit with such force, Scarlet almost lost consciousness, but he was able to slow his decent into the depths by spreading his limbs then paddling toward the surface. He burst to the breakers with a sputtering gasp and stroked to the stalled but bobbing trawler’s side. “Destiny!” he cried over the thumping roar of the helicopter even now moving off to a safer distance over land. There was no answer, only another fireworks display from the rocking trawler’s stern. There, Scarlet could just see the hooded head and shoulders of Grey, slumped against the gunwale, coursing arcs of blue electricity dancing about him. “Destiny!” he hollered again reaching for the stern cleat. He paused as it suddenly sparked to life.
“Captain Scarlet?” he heard the Angel pilot answer. Her head poked over the open pilot’s cabin. “You’re alive, mon ami.”
“But Brad won’t be,” Scarlet barked back, “unless we can insulate him or shut off his equipment.”
“But how?” Destiny inquired over the splattering sleet and zapping electronics.
“Where’s the power source?” In the undulating river current Scarlet treaded water beside the drifting boat.
Destiny craned her head out of Scarlet’s sight. When her eyes returned to him, they told the British captain of the difficulty. “The generator is under Captain Grey. He fell onto it. I can’t reach it unless I touch metal.”
“Hurry, Destiny. Can you throw me a life jacket? Can you reach one? It’ll keep Brad afloat.”
“But, Paul. How will you put it on him? You can’t touch the boat. It’s metal too.”
“Don’t worry about me. Just do it.” When Destiny leaned down to tug a vest from beneath her pilot’s seat, Scarlet grabbed at a bumper float dangling from the craft’s side. With it as his anchor he swung one leg up onto the gunwale and heaved himself on board. The rogue electrical storm coursed past him but the arc contacted the deck. It was only a matter of time, however, before the lethal energy connected with his chilled and wet uniform.
One hundred thousand volts would kill him permanently, Scarlet knew, but Brad Holden had already succumbed to a prolonged dose of lesser strength. Spectrum's Captain Grey would be dead unless Scarlet disconnected the generator, to prevent another static, open current. He had to shut down his end of the electrical disturbance before Melody could descend for a pick up. The ionizing rhythm of the chopper blades was what had set off the short circuit in the first place. Time was running out.
“Paul,” Destiny called. Scarlet stood upon the deck, his boots settling upon the wet carpet runner down the center of the hull. It was little protection from the wild sparks of the ionized energy zapping about him and his companions. Scarlet turned and caught the life jacket from the Angel pilot before returning his gaze to the short-circuiting generator and its frazzled electronics. How was he going to get Grey free of the dangerous equipment without electrocuting himself in the process? The key was quick action and, more importantly, momentum.
Beside him, upon the deck, lay a coil of nylon rope. Swiftly Scarlet set down the jacket and wrapped the rope about his waist tying the other end to the life jacket’s safety harness. “Captain Scarlet? What are you doing?” Destiny asked from behind him. She still clung to the padded and insulating chair.
“Improvising,” was his curt reply. He still had to get Grey into the life jacket. With the lethal dance of energy all around, and the injured captain unconscious, perhaps even dead, there would be little assistance. Melody’s rescue helicopter continued to hover at a non-threatening altitude, awaiting his command signal.
As soon as the random arc moved to the far gunwale, Scarlet bolted forward and shoved Grey over onto his back. A shockwave made him recoil. Grey was still electrified. Lying atop the generator no doubt kept him within the electrical connection. The man was in grave danger. If his heart had stopped, Captain Grey needed immediate resuscitation. The cause of his peril had to be shut down. The generator and its red emergency off button were still beneath the man’s legs, under the RUV’s control panel. If Scarlet could just hit that, the lethal fireworks would be extinguished and Melody could land the helicopter upon the river and affect a rescue.
Electricity grabbed him, then, in a vibrating, paralyzing dance. Scarlet felt the shock of his heart gripped in mid-beat. Would he die? Truly die with his two friends as witnesses? The arc of paralyzing energy found a new target, and Scarlet was free. He sank to his knees, the pain of his encounter his only reality. He had to stay conscious.
“Paul!” Destiny screamed. He focused on her voice, forcing the telescoping blackness before his eyes to widen again to full alertness. He saw the peril shared in his friend’s concerned gaze. Captain Scarlet sucked air into his reluctant chest. Yes, he still knew how to breathe. He was still alive. Grey. He had to save Captain Grey. With a determined grimace Scarlet took up the life jacket in his arms. He tensed his still throbbing legs for his final bolt. Half-numbed fingers gripped the life jacket’s main clasp. If he could only get the garment around Grey’s waist, he could snap the clasp shut. The lethal electricity was his one deterrent, his enemy. With a burst of power Scarlet rushed forward. Wrapping the jacket about Grey’s middle, Scarlet fought against the numbing power stinging back at his fumbling fingers. The connection had to be broken. In the next moment he jumped back and fell flat against the deck plates, dazed and shaken but free of the surge.
“The generator,” Destiny reminded. The power arc was still dancing wildly upon the gunwale. Grey was still being zapped each time his wet coat and skin were tagged in this lethal game. With a grunt Scarlet shook off the pain and numbness in his body and stumbled again to his feet.
“One more try,” he growled and launched himself at Grey again. The life jacket was clasped. Scarlet only needed to give his unconscious friend a shove over the gunwale and into the chilling water. With that, the full fury of the power storm now turned its attention to the man draped over the gunwale, attached by rope to the injured Grey bobbing in the freezing waters of the Niagara River. Scarlet felt his teeth crack against his clenching jaw muscles, the pain and burning vibration was so great his eyesight went black though his lids were still open. If he succumbed to the shock he would surely die. Red button. Red button, he told his fading consciousness. When Destiny screamed again his name, Scarlet found his focus. His friends would die unless …
Forcing his tensed muscles to shove him from the trawler’s portside, Scarlet collapsed to the deck. The air began to thicken around him like a tomb. “No!” he shouted and shook the darkness away. He must fight against the impending oblivion. But now his body was a pile of burning flesh, unresponsive and numb. The emergency shut-off button was within his blurred sight, just under the makeshift shelf holding Grey’s surveillance equipment. No longer obscured by the captain’s trembling body, but could Scarlet reach it?
Someone was by his side amidst the arcing chaos. “Captain,” Destiny pleaded tugging him into a sitting position. “We must stop the generator. One of us must hit the button.”
“I … I can’t move,” Scarlet croaked, his throat scratchy with dried saliva. “I …”
“Then I must do it, for Brad’s sake,” Destiny affirmed. “We need the helicopter here, now.” She rose beside him and tugged down her sleeve to cover her gloved hand. The clothing would only marginally protect her from the high voltage. With a determined frown, Destiny stepped to the generator.
“Juliette. No!” Scarlet bellowed against his unresponsive body. “You’ll be killed. I won’t lose two friends. It’s my fault. I must …” Tucked away, beside his slumped and useless arm was a flotation pillow. If he could just get to it … With will and conviction beyond his bodily strength, Captain Scarlet moved his throbbing hand to grip the stowed device. An uncoordinated jerk brought if flumping onto his lap. Scarlet lifted the pillow and aimed through the haze before his eyes to toss the device past Destiny’s outstretched hand. The red button smacked flush against the generator casing and the electrical light show fizzled dead without its life force. Released from its power Scarlet rolled down onto his back and accepted the darkness with triumph.
It was many hours before Captain Scarlet was to awaken again. Eyes rolling open he glanced beside him to see the medical equipment hovering about him like vultures. “Was I dead?" he murmured. His voice was but a croak of its former self.
A doctor with auburn hair and green eyes came to stand beside him. “You seem to be fine now, Captain,” she said adjusting the blanket about his bare waist. “Though we were wondering what took you so long to recover. Doctor Fawn’s in a twitter.”
Scarlet looked down to see his bare arms linked by tubes and electropads to the vulture monitors. “What happened to me?” he asked the woman doctor.
“You suffered a severe electrical shock. Doctor Fawn was worried. You were unconscious so long. He had me hook you up to these status machines to monitor your progress.”
“Was anyone else hurt?”
The doctor scrunched up her brow in bewilderment. “Don’t you remember? You rescued Captain Grey from the trawler. The generator had short-circuited. He’d been electrocuted. We nearly lost him, but that dunk into the freezing river slowed his brain functions and protected him from permanent damage until Melody Angel could get him to shore and offer CPR. He's stabilized now, but he has some bad second degree burns to his chest and extremities.”
“Captain Grey?” Scarlet repeated. “Do I know him?”
“Yes, Captain,” the attractive red-head answered hesitantly. “He’s a colleague.” The woman stalled then switched tactics. “Do you know who I am?” she asked with tilted head.
“You’re a doctor,” Scarlet answered waddling up onto his elbows in bed. “I recognize the uniform. White coat.”
“What’s my name?”
Scarlet shook his head. “You never mentioned it.”
“I’m Doctor Topaz. You don’t remember me? Ever?” Topaz challenged. "You've forgotten all the bandages, gel packs, splints and bullets?"
"Bullets?" Scarlet retorted. "You said I had suffered an electrical shock."
"Yes, but before ..." Topaz stopped again and crossed her arms at the man half-sitting in the bed. "What's your name?"
"I'm ..." Scarlet paused, his blue eyes waggling in their sockets as if he were searching his entire brain matter. "I'm ... a captain. You said that."
"Your name," Topaz demanded.
"My name is ..." Scarlet's face drained of all color. His body prickled with the chill realization. Had he died and gone to some unearthly hospital in an alternate reality? "I ... I can't remember. Doctor. What's the matter with me?"
Topaz dropped her arms and reached out a hand to Scarlet's bare shoulder. "I'll go get Doctor Fawn. He's with Captain Grey right now. Please, Captain Scarlet. Try to relax." Doctor Topaz left the startled officer where he sat to seek out the counsel of her superior. Together they rushed back to find an empty bed.
"Quick, Julia! Get security on this," Fawn ordered. "He may be a danger to himself."
* * *
Up on the command deck White listened to the news and grew concerned. "Fawn, repeat that last," he ordered with a furrowed brow. "You're saying Captain Scarlet has suffered some kind of amnesia?"
"Yes, Sir. Doctor Topaz said he seemed to have forgotten not only his mission, but his identity as well."
"Are you sure he isn't playing some sadistic joke on us? Scarlet has tried our patience before."
Fawn's face shook on the monitor inlaid upon White's command desk. "No, Sir. This is far too serious for a joke. Captain Scarlet would never risk such a feign, especially during a vital mission such as this."
"Could he have suffered this memory loss from his previous trauma: that of falling over the Canadian falls?" White inquired.
Again Fawn shook his dark-haired head. "According to both Melody and Destiny Angels' reports, he was the usual daring Captain Scarlet we all know and love. He risked his life to save Grey. Literally his life," Fawn reiterated.
"Yes," White replied. "Melody's report mentioned that Scarlet held vital information regarding the safety of the power plant. If this is true, we must find Scarlet immediately and question him. Is there some way to trigger his memories, Doctor?"
Fawn's broad shoulders shrugged. "I'm not sure, Colonel. This is a special case. As I said before, the electrical shock has somehow altered his retrometabolic abilities. He was unconscious for nearly eight hours. Far too long, even for the extent of his injuries."
White scowled. "And you believe that electricity may have been the catalyst for this prolonged condition?"
"And the amnesia," Fawn finished. "Colonel. We're treading on new territory here. We may have to admit that we've run into Scarlet's first vulnerability."
"But we know electricity of a higher voltage will permanently kill him," White argued.
"Yes," Fawn agreed. "But prolonged exposure to a lower voltage still has reprehensible side-effects it seems. And Colonel," the doctor insisted with a pause for emphasis. "At this point we don't know how long these residual effects will last. He may never regain his healing abilities, nor may he get his memory back."
White's forehead furrowed into the Grand Canyon. "Doctor Fawn," he ordered. "I want Scarlet found and isolated. He is to remain under your care until further notice. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Sir. I'll do my best to help him regain his memory." The screen promptly went blank.
White nodded. "Meanwhile," he continued raising gray-blue eyes to his comm. officer, "I need you, Lieutenant, to review all that happened that night at the Table Rock Complex. If Scarlet has such vital information, then it was there in front of you as well."
Green swallowed. The younger man wanted to disagree with his superior, but couldn't find the words. Instead he asked from his chair, "What about Captain Blue, Sir? He was present. Might he have remembered something important? He was closer than I to the kidnapper who took the turbine plans."
With a nod, White agreed, "I'll question him myself when he's up to it, Lieutenant. Until then, I'm relying on you to put this puzzle together."
Green swallowed more deeply this time. A heavy anchor had just landed in his lap. "S.I.G.," the young man murmured and returned to his data console where his and everyone's reports, save Scarlet's and Blue's, were stored. "Great," he mumbled as his brows rose to the challenge. "A puzzle with missing pieces."
* * *
The man the woman doctor had called Captain Scarlet ducked behind a cabinet waiting for the officer in the black and white security uniform to look away before making his move. How had he gotten here? Who were all these people? Surely this whole place wasn't a hospital, so where exactly was he? He saw his opening and pounced upon the security officer, knocking him flat with one karate chop to the man's neck.
Chilled by the cycling air upon his bare skin, Scarlet quickly slipped into the unconscious man's uniform and boots, noting regrettably that they were both too loose and too wide, respectively. Warmed however by his success and the security of a sidearm at his hip- but still clueless as to his location- Scarlet continued his trek through the massive floating base. Was he supposed to be an Air Force captain? Did he fly a plane? This extraordinary fortress seemed to levitate above the clouds. Surely the expansive runway he had seen outside one window was meant for arrivals and departures from this place. Scarlet slithered along one wall to the junction of crossing corridors. Here he peeked out and just caught the shoulder of another security officer turning a corner further down. Scarlet was now armed and disguised. He should be able to stroll freely through the base. His missing memory, however, denied him the luxury of a mental road map. Scarlet was lost, with no inkling of how to get to the flight deck, nor knowing whether, once there, he would be able to pilot a jet away from this place.
Drawing his gun, Scarlet checked the corridors again before striding out and heading down his random choice. It was only a matter of time, he knew, before someone recognized him. Only minutes before someone discovered the unconscious and de-clothed security guard Scarlet had left behind. What he needed was a hostage, someone who could give him information and protect him from the search party no doubt zeroing in on his location. Scarlet's assistant appeared only moments later, exiting a lift tube and striding toward him. The woman was tall, slender, with loose blonde hair and dark eyes. She was wearing a white flight uniform and paused as she recognized the misplaced security officer. "Captain Scarlet? What ... what are you doing dress-"
"Hold it!" he ordered raising the pistol to cover her retreat. Her voice was not like his. She came from another country. Her accent was American. Yes, he could remember that distinction while other, more vital bits of knowledge were somehow locked away. He waggled the gun barrel her way. "Come here," he instructed. "I need you to tell me where I am."
"Why, you're on Cloudbase, of course," the woman offered, raising her hands in innocent defense and stepping closer. "Have you lost your bearings, Paul? Should I take you to see Doctor Fawn?"
"No," Paul Scarlet snapped. "Take me to the flight deck." His blue eyes scanned again her uniform. "You're a pilot. Right? I want you to take me away from here."
Now the woman's eyes shrank to slits. "Away? What are you talking about? Where do you want to go?" She took another step closer.
Scarlet's eyes grew round with his uncertainty. "Somewhere ... Somewhere where I might remember," he admitted. The female pilot had slowly approached, but was still out of arm's reach. "Take me home," Scarlet finally said.
"To your parents' house in Winchester, England? Is that where you want to go?"
Scarlet hesitated then lowered the gun a bit. "Yes," he said. "That might do. I need their help."
"Paul," the pilot reasoned. "If you're feeling out of sorts, it's understandable. But you'll need Colonel White's permission to leave Cloudbase."
"Who's Colonel White?"
Now the woman blinked. "Man. That electrical shock really messed you up. Colonel White's our commanding officer. He's commander-in-chief of Cloudbase." The pilot held out her hand for the firearm. "I'm Symphony. A friend. So's Adam. How about you give me that gun, and I'll take you to see him? He's been worried sick; you were missing for so long."
"Missing?" He pulled the weapon from her reach, but kept it pointing toward the floor. "What happened to me? The doctor, Doctor Topaz, said that I was electrocuted, then that I was shot. This all seems like some twisted nightmare."
Symphony lowered her hand and sighed. "It seems you've lost your memory, or part of it, Paul. I'm sure Doctor Fawn could help. Let's go see him."
"No," Scarlet insisted raising again the gun barrel. "I must go ... An urgency ... I feel an urgency to leave this place. I need to go somewhere, but I ... I don't know where." The gun waggled again in his shaky grip. Why was he feeling such anxiety?
"Captain Scarlet," a deep voice addressed. "Lower your weapon. Release the Angel pilot immediately." Scarlet half turned to see a trio of security guards facing him from behind. Two had their sidearms trained on him. The one with the deep voice held out an open hand in placation.
In his confusion Scarlet returned his gaze to the woman who had talked so calmly to him. "Angel?" he asked. "You said your name was Symphony. This place is a mad house. Electrocuted? Shot? I couldn't have died and come back to life. That's impossible."
In response, Symphony Angel smiled and laid her hand atop the man's shoulder. "Not for you, it isn't," she told him. "Now. Do as the sergeant says, Paul. Give me the gun." When Scarlet hesitated, instead raised the weapon to face the security detail, one of the guards must have taken the gesture as a sign of retaliation. With a loud concussion, a single bullet pierced Scarlet's side. His gun clattering to the floor, Scarlet followed in a heap. His ears were ringing. His side burned as if a glowing hot poker had skewered him. Symphony knelt to consider the wound. "You didn't have to do that!" she defended as she pressed her palm against Scarlet's side to quell the blood. As Scarlet grunted in pain and searched the air for a familiar face the angel beside him smiled. "You're going to be all right, Paul. Relax. Doctor Fawn will take good care of you."
"I'm ... I'm dying," he mumbled in reply. "He shot me because I wanted to leave ... I'm a prisoner here. What did I do wrong?" Vision fading and head feeling as light as Dreamwhip, Scarlet saw only the deep compassionate eyes of the angel looking over him. "I ... I didn't mean to hurt you," he mumbled as his nightmare world in the clouds faded to black.
* * *
"Quick!" Symphony pleaded. "Get a stretcher. I can't stop the bleeding. He really is dying!"
"Not if I can help it," retorted the familiar voice of Doctor Fawn. The Australian physician shouldered past the security detail and waved his nurses forward with a gurney. "We've got to get him to sickbay. If he bleeds to death, we may not be able to revive him."
Symphony stumbled to her feet beside the nurses, her uniform splattered in scarlet. "But he's indestructible, Doctor," she reasoned.
As Fawn helped his attendants, he snapped, "The electrical shock has affected his healing abilities and taken his memory. Move, People!" Symphony stood alone as the security detail shadowed Fawn and his medical staff to sickbay. "I want Scarlet prepped for surgery immediately," she heard Fawn order as the guards disappeared around the corner.
So. Scarlet did have vulnerabilities. He wasn't totally indestructible. Electricity, it seemed, had put the brave captain in jeopardy. Would he recover, or had Karen Wainwright just witnessed the true death of Captain Scarlet? In an instant her feet took her to Captain Blue. "Adam!" she called, entering the man's recovery room. Captain Blue jolted awake at Symphony's urgency. "It's Paul. Something's happened."
Blue's face furrowed as he listened to Symphony's recollection. "Lost his memory, you say?" the man stammered as he propped himself higher onto a pillow. The movement still caused the American captain discomfort. Blue's eyebrows twisted in pain. "That's hard to swallow."
Symphony nodded in agreement. "And his healing abilities have been affected. Doctor Fawn was absolutely white heading into surgery. He's genuinely worried."
Now Blue swung his bare feet over the side of the bed. "I need to see him." He hopped to the floor with a grunt.
Symphony braced his shoulders with cautionary palms. "Adam. Wait!"
Svenson, however, was adamant. "He's my friend, Karen. I almost lost him once. I'm not going to again. Doctor Topaz can sign my medical release. I'm putting on a uniform." He shoved past the Angel pilot and strode to the storage locker in his cubicle. There, Svenson gathered his clothes and began stripping his hospital pajamas.
"You shouldn't be up," Karen reminded from where she'd plopped her rump onto his bed.
Adam glared at her as he stepped into his black trousers. "I wouldn't be so critical if I were you. I'd get into more suitable clothes myself and help me to find Doctor Topaz."
Symphony sighed and slid from the bed. She glanced down at her bloodied uniform again and swallowed. The blood of a good man was soaking her sleeve. "You're right, Adam," she finally admitted. "I'll help you, but only if Julia agrees to sign your release form."
"I'll authorize that right now," announced the rich, stately voice of Colonel White as the commander of Cloudbase strode into Blue's room.
Captain Blue, only half dressed, snapped to attention as did the Angel pilot beside him. "I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't mean to overstep my authority," he stammered.
White raised a calming hand. "At ease, Captain. Glad to see you back on your feet." White's ice blue eyes, momentarily softened, chilled to seriousness once more. "I need you to tell me all that you remember from the events at Niagara Falls. It's vital that you recall anything that might be useful, every detail." As the colonel settled into a chair, Blue finished dressing. Symphony, seeing that she was not a part of this conversation, politely excused herself, mumbling about a needed change of clothes.
* * *
Once Blue, now again in his familiar light blue uniform, had sat atop the bed, Colonel White continued. "Now, Captain, I realize your concern for Captain Scarlet. However, your report is of greater urgency."
"Yes, Sir," Blue responded though he fidgeted with his cap.
"Begin with your first encounter with the young woman carrying the briefcase," White instructed. With a nod Blue leaned back heavily against the raised pillows and began to weave his story. He explained everything from the woman's demeanor and clothes, to her features. White suggested he have a Spectrum artist work on constructing a sketch of the missing woman. Blue agreed it was a start. Then Blue proceeded to recount the kidnapping incident up until the point where the assailant's gun appeared and Blue felt a sharp pounding to his chest.
"Next thing I recall, Sir, is Captain Scarlet's voice. He yelled something; then I lost consciousness. I woke up here with Symphony watching over me."
"Indeed," White mused. There was silence for a long moment between them. Then Colonel White rose from his chair. "Very well, Captain Blue. I'll make arrangements for your medical release to off-duty status. You'll be free to roam the base, but no physical or strenuous activity. You're on medical leave, Mister. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Sir," Blue chimed rising too quickly to his feet and tilting painfully back against the bed. As White gave a thoughtful nod and turned to go, Blue smiled faintly and added, "Colonel? With your permission. May I visit Captain Scarlet, Sir?"
Once again, White's icy eyes softened for just a moment. Though he was in charge of the safety of Earth from Cloudbase and all his officers and staff, Charles Grey was still very much a human being. He understood friendship. "Of course, Captain. Send him my regards. Doctor Fawn will keep me apprised."
"Thank you, Sir," Blue chimed in as his commander returned to his station. The American captain didn't have to wait long for the return of his Angel accomplice. Symphony joined him in the corridor, freshened and ready for duty.
"Adam," the blond woman informed. "I'm scheduled for duty on Angel One. I can't stay." With an apologetic frown she kissed him tenderly. "Please don't overexert yourself. I don't want to even think of you hurting yourself again."
Blue's Scandinavian complexion darkened in his awkwardness. "I'm fine, Karen. Just a little sore. I'm more concerned with the mystery behind this kidnapper and the stolen plans. If the Mysterons have their way, an awful lot of people are going to be left in the dark. No power, no heat, and winter coming on ..." He allowed his thoughts to dangle, not wanting to voice his many concerns. Symphony hugged him gently then left for the Amber Room and her duty assignment.
Blue proceeded to the sickbay's operation anteroom where he could observe Doctor Fawn administering to his fallen comrade. "Come on, Old Buddy," Blue cheered quietly. "You've got to make it. Remember who we are and what happened at Table Rock. People are counting on you." Blue blinked. Why did it always seem as if Scarlet's life and actions were so vital to keeping the Mysterons at bay? Was the man's healing abilities that important a gift? The British captain had saved the lives of so many through the years. It was because of his courage and daring that Scarlet had placed his life in jeopardy above all others. Knowing that even if he died he would recover, Paul Metcalfe had changed from a dedicated, honorable officer to one who was also completely altruistic. Now, Blue stood before the medical theater’s observation window, for the first time wishing the situation had been reversed. If he had been indestructible, then perhaps Scarlet would not now be facing real death upon the cold steel of an operating table.
"Close the wound," Fawn instructed a medical robot. How strange for the doctor to have said that in referring to Captain Scarlet. Blue knew the former Mysteron agent traditionally needed only a bandage, so quick was his ability to seal any wound. Periodically Fawn had helped the British captain along by removing bullets or splinting broken limbs, if only for the benefit, perhaps, of the doctor himself. Scarlet had seldom needed full medical treatment. Now, with the reality of a 'normal' human recovery, Blue's friend seemed somehow less than normal. He seemed exceedingly fragile.
"High voltage electricity is the key," Scarlet had once told him. In developing the Mysteron weapon- the only sure way to kill a Mysteron agent- Spectrum had discovered Captain Scarlet's one true vulnerability. That vulnerability had now been tested. Even at a lower voltage, electricity was a lethal force against the one man who could otherwise be crashed, smashed, broken and burned, and still report for dinner. With the unexpected side effect of amnesia, perhaps Blue's friend was even more fragile than anyone had previously thought. How long would it last? Would Paul Metcalfe get his memory back all at once or one tiny pixel at a time? Would he regain his lost life at all?
At that thought, Blue scowled and considered Doctor Fawn as he removed his scrubs and gloves. "How is he, Doctor?" the captain inquired through the PA speaker.
Fawn seemed to notice the uniformed officer standing in the anteroom for the first time. "Captain. What are you doing out of bed and dressed for duty?" he demanded dourly, though the man's brown eyes seemed too weary for the emotion.
Blue blinked and tucked his cap tighter against his armpit. "I ... I came to see how Paul was doing. Symphony told me what happened. Will he live?" That last question almost caught in his throat.
In answer, Fawn lowered his eyes to the floor and sighed. "He'll pull through, but he'll heal at the same rate as one of us, I'm afraid. Like you, there was some internal damage to be repaired. He's in critical condition, and my robots will be busy for nearly a half hour sewing him back together." Fawn paused to toss his bloodied gloves into a trash receptacle. "As for his memory," the doctor continued with a weighty exhale. "I'm not so sure."
Blue nodded in understanding. "We need whatever knowledge he had about the kidnapper, I know. But we also need him back, as a member of this organization ... this ..."
"Family?" Fawn finished with a smirk. The doctor's twinge of a smile widened to genuine hope. "If I know my Scarlets right, this one will relearn in a month everything he's lost."
"And I'll be there to help," Blue assured.
"He'll need it," Fawn conceded with a somnolent nod. "Now, Captain. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to check on Captain Grey. You should return to your room and rest."
Blue straightened against the two aches in his heart- one physical, the other emotional. "May I come with you, Doctor?" he inquired. "I'm sure Brad could use some moral support too. And I can rest in a chair, if that's to your satisfaction."
Though Doctor Fawn paused in indecision, chewing at his lower lip, he finally consented. "Very well, Captain. As long as you stay off your feet. While I'm at it, I'll change your bandages and check your wound." Blue followed the Australian into another recovery room to find Captain Grey asleep upon a bed. Where the electrical current had singed flesh, the man's bare skin was wrapped in bandages and burn gel.
"Man. Is he a sight," Blue stammered, stalling at the doorway. Grey's tired eyes fluttered open and he smiled at his compatriot. Blue eagerly returned the sentiment. "Hey, Pal. You going as a mummy to the Halloween Ball? That's not for another month, you know."
With a voice harsh from exposure to frigid water and trauma Grey answered, "I thought I'd practice getting into character."
Blue entered the stall and sidled to sit atop the bed's foot as Fawn checked his friend's medical clipboard and recorded Captain Grey's vitals. "So. How're ya feeling?" Blue asked.
"Grateful to be alive," Grey managed to admit after clearing his throat. He winced as Fawn tugged at his bandages to reapply skin regenerator to the seeping wounds. "I hear Paul saved my life and Destiny's," Grey added. "I'd like to thank him personally, but he hasn't come to see me yet. And I can't get out of this bed."
"Nor shall you, Captain," Fawn interjected sternly. "Not at least for another two days." The doctor pulled out a needle from his white jacket pocket. He injected Grey's arm with another dose of antibiotic. "Your biggest health threat now, besides infection, is another cardiac arrest. And I'll not gamble with your heart like some fickle high school cheerleader."
"Thanks, Doc," Grey grumbled. "I love you too."
"Ahh, family," Blue sighed with a pat to his own tender heart. "Speaking of," he continued remembering Fawn's own words. "Paul won't be coming to see you any time soon, I'm afraid, Brad. He's in worse shape than you or I. May I tell him, Doctor?" Without looking up from his nimble ministries, Fawn nodded. "It seems," Blue explained, "Captain Scarlet's reaction to electricity is even more severe than yours." The American captain continued his extrapolation of current events, Scarlet's condition and Spectrum's dilemma included. "It'll be up to us," he concluded, "to help him get his memory back."
"I had no idea," Grey sighed. "Please tell him for me," the injured captain requested as his tired eyes fluttered closed once more. "Tell him. Thank you?"
"I promise," Blue avowed and rose from the bed to shuffle to the door.
"Where are you going, Captain?" Fawn inquired. "I haven't redressed your wound yet." He was just finishing re-bandaging Grey's left hand.
With a weary glance back, Blue informed, "It seems I'm needed in another recovery room. My own," he clarified, leaning against the door frame. "A nap sounds good to me too."
"Good idea," Fawn agreed with a satisfied nod. "I'll have Doctor Topaz check your bandages later."
"Thanks, Doc. Oh, and please wake me when Paul's conscious. He'll need a friend then, even if he doesn't recognize me. It'll be my chance to repay him for saving Brad's and my life, twenty times over."
"Very well, Captain. Rest well." With a weak wave Adam Svenson trudged back to his own medical cubicle. Tossing his cap onto a chair, he gingerly settled his tall frame onto the bed and was asleep before he had time to kick off his boots.
* * *
Colonel White was scowling from the command chair behind his crescent-shaped desk. Lieutenant Green sat sheepishly avoiding that glare from his own station as a mission update was relayed. "Are you sure, Captain Magenta?"
"Yes, Sir," came the field agent's reply through the open comm. "There have been no further reports on the kidnapper and his hostage. The other assailant, shot by Captain Blue, was just a common thief. No ties to Teledyne Industries at all that we can find. We may be looking at a dead end, Colonel."
"That can't be," White growled. "The Mysterons were definitely referring to Niagara. The river, the falls, or the power plant. What else could it be?"
"The river and the power plant are still the most likely targets, Sir. We just have to follow the other leads. We're wasting too much time here at the Table Rock Complex."
With a mountainous sigh, White agreed. "Very well, Captain. Have the other two teams report in and wait for my reply for your reassignment. Notify the local authorities that both the Minolta Tower Centre and the Table Rock Complex are to remain at full alert status and closed to the public until further notice."
"S.I.G.," Magenta replied. The connection then went dead.
White raised icy eyes to Green. "No leads, just dead ends. What was so vital that Scarlet had to tell us?" The colonel balled his fist and pounded his desk. "Blast it! We're handicapped. Blind and deaf."
"Not totally, Sir," Green interrupted.
"What's that, Man?" Now the older officer's countenance changed to the intensity of a pneumatic drill.
"Well, I've been gathering information as you ordered, trying to piece the puzzle together."
"And?" White snapped.
"Captain Scarlet was picked up by Melody Angel not far from where the abandoned kidnapper's saloon was left."
"Are you suggesting the two incidents may be more than pure coincidence, Lieutenant?"
Green swallowed. His hypothesis was far-fetched at best, and the colonel needed facts. "Sir. I'm suggesting that we return Captain Scarlet to the pick-up site. He may remember whatever it was he found there. There is a chance he discovered something which no one else knows. He may have even had contact with the kidnapper."
To Green's relief, the colonel only nodded. "There is that chance. Good thinking, Lieutenant. I'll have Doctor Fawn accompany Scarlet to the river site. Have Melody Angel prep a helicopter for immediate launch."
"S.I.G.," Green acknowledged and swiveled his chair back to his comm. station.
* * *
Fawn bristled at the assignment. "Why, he's barely conscious, Colonel," the doctor argued. "His extraordinary powers of recovery have been ...deactivated. That's the only word that seems to fit. At this point he won't be ready to return to the field for at least ten days, minimum."
"Doctor," White countered. "We need Captain Scarlet's report. His is the one missing puzzle piece. If we are to find the stolen plans and save the power plant, he must remember."
Fawn lowered his eyes in assent. "I agree that placing Scarlet back at the scene may trigger a memory, but you'll be risking his health. As his doctor, I can't allow that."
"Would you risk the health of thousands of innocent people, Doctor?" White countered. "If that power plant blows, despite our best security precautions, are you willing to accept the fate of an approaching Canadian winter with no heat or electricity for a populous larger than that of the entire United Kingdom?"
"No, Sir," Fawn admitted resignedly. "All right. I'll prep him for transport. He'll be groggy and confined to a wheel chair. He's under my medical authority, both for his physical and psychological welfare. You, yourself, are aware of his value to Spectrum."
"I need no reminders, Doctor. Just do it," White growled. "Spectrum Helicopter A4 is ready on the pad. Launch is in twenty minutes."
"S.I.G.," Fawn replied and busied himself with transferring both his remaining patients and duties to his locum tenens, Doctor Topaz. Then he was off to Scarlet's recovery room to prepare his patient for transport. The doctor found Captain Blue sitting by Scarlet's bed. "I thought you were resting, Captain," Fawn accused with a leftover disapproving scowl.
Blue straightened from his slouch. "I couldn't sleep long. Nightmare," he admitted wearily. The American refrained from further explanation.
"Well, you're on medical leave. Return to your quarters. Doctor Topaz will be with you shortly to redress your wound." When Blue hesitated from rising to his feet Fawn growled, "Dismissed, Captain."
"Yes, Sir," Blue snapped. Jumping vertical, he snatched up his cap. "Is Captain Scarlet going somewhere?" the man asked when a nurse rolled a wheel chair into the cubicle.
"Spectrum business," Fawn retorted and nodded to his nurse. "Have him dressed and ready for travel in ten minutes, Gerald. Uniform and cap, but no pistol. I'll hold onto that for the time being."
"Yes, Sir," the male nurse replied.
"Wait a minute," Blue protested, no further than the door. "Where's he going? Cloudbase is the best medical facility in Spectrum. You can't be transferring him to another hospital."
"This is official business, Captain," Fawn reprimanded. "Please follow your orders."
Blue took two more steps outside the door but stalled again. "Wait a minute. The colonel wants him in the field, doesn't he? Normally he'd be fully recovered by now. You're going to try and force his memory back aren't you?"
"Then I'm going with you. He needs a friend, and I can help him remember. I was there, too."
"Not where we're going," Fawn countered as Gerald stripped the semi-conscious Scarlet of his scrubs and replaced them with the man's scarlet jacketed uniform. "You're off duty, Captain. Dismissed," Fawn repeated with lionish force this time.
Blue straightened his spine in defense. "Actually, the colonel himself can return me to duty. He signed the papers for my release from sickbay, as did Doctor Topaz, I believe. I'll ask Colonel White if I can tag along. Paul's my partner, after all."
Fawn shot the captain a frustrated, laser-piercing glare. "Ten minutes, Blue," he rumbled as the American spun to leave. Then Fawn turned his attention to his current patient. The doctor gave Scarlet an injection of antibiotic and pain reliever. How strange to be attending to the man so, to be using such precautions. Since Scarlet's rapid and miraculous recovery from his fall from London's Car-Vu almost four years before, the British captain seldom needed little more than a comfortable bed and blood sopping bandages. For his own sanity, Fawn occasionally had ordered Topaz to remove a bullet or two, just to speed healing and prevent the complications of possible lead poisoning. Many times, Scarlet was needed back in the field within hours or days of an injury. The man had never a chance to rest. Now White had insisted the officer back on his feet even before the anesthetic had fully worn off.
"Doctor Fawn?" a British accent asked.
Fawn raised his brown eyes to the blue ones straining from the bed to make contact. "Yes, Captain?" the doctor acknowledged. "Do you remember me?"
"I ... I guessed you were he," Scarlet answered as he was sat up and his jacket was zipped. "Where are you taking me?"
Fawn smiled as Gerald helped the groggy captain gingerly into the wheel chair. "We're taking you somewhere where you might remember. We need your help, you see, Captain. Do you think you're feeling well enough?"
"I'm tired ... and confused," Scarlet admitted being wheeled to the door.
"Well, a man named Adam is coming with us. He's a captain too. Your partner."
"Angel Symphony spoke of him. He's a friend?"
"Yes," Fawn answered striding into the corridor with him. "Symphony Angel's your friend also. She didn't like you pointing that gun at her."
Scarlet's eyes decreased to slits. "I ... I was protecting myself. I thought I was in danger. I remember being in danger ..."
Fawn nodded beside him. "You work for Spectrum. We're protecting the Earth from the Mysterons, an alien race which wants to destroy us," the doctor elaborated as if to a sleepy child. "You're many times put in danger. That's your job. Adam can explain it more to you." They were proceeding along the corridor toward the hangar and airstrip. When the elevator doors opened to take them down to the launch bay a tall man in blue joined them and smiled down at Scarlet.
"Hey, Buddy. It's good to see you. How're you feeling?"
Scarlet considered the man. "You must be Adam Blue," he mused. "We all seem to have color names. Strange world."
Blue laughed. "No, no. You've got it all wrong, Paul. Captain Blue is my Spectrum code name. Captain Scarlet's yours. My real name is Adam Svenson. Yours is Paul Metcalfe. Do you remember that name at all?"
"I ... I remember darkness. No air. No ... body. A strange world." Scarlet fell silent.
Blue exchanged looks with Fawn. "Do you think he's remembering his former self?" the American captain gasped, eyes wide in suspicion.
"Mysterons," Paul mumbled from his chair. "I ... I know that name. I ... I'm a Mysteron. Aren't I?"
Doctor Fawn stalled Gerald's advance onto the tarmac where sat Melody and the waiting helicopter. He held the nurse's arm in a steel grip. "No, Captain," the doctor attested. "You are not a Mysteron." The physician marched around to the front of the wheel chair to glare down at the man seated there. "You're a Spectrum officer who has faithfully given his loyalties and life to preserve the Earth, to saving the lives of others like-"
"Captain Grey," Scarlet interjected his voice still groggy from the drugs. "You all said I saved Captain Grey."
Fawn nodded as Captain Blue stepped around to agree. "You've saved the lives of all of us, Paul. Many times. You're a good man."
"Then the gun-"
Blue smiled. "Symphony doesn't hold it against you. She knows now how confused you were."
Fawn waved Blue away. "Captain Scarlet," he said to refocus the man's attention. "We need you to save us again. We're taking you to a place where you might remember some important information about the mission. I realize you're in some discomfort, that you're injured. But there are people in danger and they need you to remember. Do you understand?"
Scarlet blinked. He swallowed then nodded slowly. "I'll do what I can, Doctor," he promised, sounding for once much like his old self.
"Good. Let's go then, Gerald. Melody Angel's waiting."
The group of four proceeded forward, and with a minimum of jostling, Scarlet's wheel chair was hoisted onboard and strapped down. Blue settled into a seat beside him as Fawn gave the man another shot. "What's that for?" the American Captain inquired with a suspicious brow as Scarlet's cheek flinched at the prick.
"Blood coagulant," Fawn murmured focusing on his work. "Don't want the bleeding to start again."
"Paul's really just like us now. Isn't he?"
With a nod Fawn answered. "Until his unique abilities return, he's just as fragile and human as we are." Fawn retreated to a chair and strapped in as Melody was given clearance for departure. Outside the hull, the roaring of the Spectrum helicopter grew in volume.
"Just as human?" Scarlet inquired eyeing the back of the doctor's head in front of him.
Blue smiled again. "It's a long story. Don't worry about it now."
"I'm not like you in some way. I'm different. Why?"
Blue stalled the inquiry with a calming hand. "You're special, Paul. An ... an asset. A hero. My hero. Now relax and try to remember."
"A hero? Did I win some strategic battle or something? Where are my medals? Shouldn't I outrank you, then?"
From beside Scarlet, Blue chuckled. "You're sounding more like yourself every minute, Buddy. You'll be just fine."
"Then is this itching in my side expected?"
"Itching?" Blue blinked then raised his voice over the thunderous thrumming of the helicopter's engines. "Doctor Fawn. Captain Scarlet's complaining of an itching."
Fawn poked the latch to remove his safety harness and swivel his chair around to face the two captains. "That's good news," he avowed.
"It is?" Blue spouted.
"He's healing again," Fawn explained. The doctor considered the dark-haired officer. "Let's get those bandages off, shall we?" He rose from his seat. As the helicopter roared toward Ontario, several epiphanies were to occur on board. Fawn removed Scarlet's jacket and pulled up the man's turtleneck shirt to discover new skin growing beneath the blood encrusted bandages. Poking at the abdominal incision where he had just recently removed a bullet, Fawn asked, "How does that feel?"
"Bruised," Scarlet answered jerking his own chin down to investigate. "But I'd been shot. I remember that. How... how could I -"
"Be indestructible?" Blue finished, beaming a broad grin. "Because you're Captain Scarlet."
"It's a long story, Captain," Fawn cut in flashing Blue another warning glare. "Once your memory returns, all will again make sense." The doctor rose from his kneel and waved Blue aside. "Get dressed, Captain Scarlet," he told the man in the wheel chair then turned his attention back to the blonde haired officer. Quietly he explained, "I want you to dodge his questions regarding his special past. Is that clear?"
"But he wants to know who he is," Blue defended eyeing Scarlet as the man stood to tuck his turtleneck again into his trousers.
"He's confused right now, Captain," Fawn cautioned weaving his head to return the man's eyes to his. "We need Scarlet’s trust as well as his cooperation. He already pulled a gun on Symphony when he thought his life threatened. You tell him who he really is now, and we'll lose him again."
Blue considered the colorful Spectrum emblem on Fawn's uniformed chest before agreeing. "You're right of course, Doctor. I'll help him remember only what applies to the mission."
"And your friendship," Fawn interjected with a softening of his severe brow. "If he trusts you, he'll work all the harder. The fact that his healing abilities seem to be returning is an encouraging sign. His memory may come flooding back at any moment."
"Let's hope so," Blue wished and graciously accepted the supportive pat on the shoulder from Fawn. Blue returned to his partner. Scarlet, having replaced his jacket and cap, was now sitting in the seat beside the wheel chair gazing out at the passing scenery below. "So, Paul. How are you feeling now?"
Scarlet looked up at his partner and smiled politely. "Much better, Adam. Thank you. I believe I understand why we all seem to have color-coded names. Is it perhaps because we are all from different places, yet working together against a common enemy?"
Blue sank into another seat and nodded. "Partly. Plus we all work together, bringing our special gifts and talents toward a common goal. We work for the world president. Our job is to protect the Earth, its people, governments and resources."
"Against this enemy you call the Mysterons?"
"Yes," Blue agreed. "But others have threatened the Earth too. Think of Spectrum as world guardians. We work with governments to keep the peace, but not so far as to step on the toes of the downtrodden. The world president and his council do their best to keep things fair and sovereign."
His blue eyes again considering the scenery below, Scarlet murmured, "King Arthur."
Captain Blue blinked at the name. "No. President Younger."
Scarlet's eyes rose from their contemplation and focused on the American officer beside him. "I was thinking of a story from ... from the past. Arthur Pendragon, a sword in a stone, and ... and a round table. The king tried to rule wisely, fairly, to keep the peace, but internal struggles collapsed his utopia."
Blue nodded. "Ah, Camelot. I know that story. It comes from your own country. England. Yes," he agreed. "From what I remember, Camelot fell to Arthur's own struggles against love and power. He was urged to banish the two people he loved most. In the end, it was too late. His city was besieged by the enemy, some of his own making. King Arthur was even killed by his own son, Mordred. Ultimately the king's utopia fell to his neglect for strength."
"And our gifts," Scarlet mused. "These each add to the strength of Spectrum?"
Blue nodded once but scrunched up his brow at the change of subject. "Are you comparing Spectrum to Camelot? I don't quite see the connection, Paul."
"We're all knights at a round table, Adam," Scarlet explained holding his injured side as he adjusted in his seat. "We work together for a common cause, the peace of the world."
"I see," Blue replied. "And which knight would I be? Sir Galahad? Perceval, perhaps?"
"Bedevere," Scarlet mumbled, as if to himself. Then he negated with a curt wave. "No. We aren't those knights, Adam. Spectrum is like the Round Table under King Arthur."
"You're not implying we're destined to fail too, are you?" Blue wondered with a skeptical glint to his own blue eyes.
"The enemy is within," Scarlet droned in answer. Then he smiled. "Adam, might I have a glass of water? I'm rather thirsty."
Blue hesitated. What was his friend talking about? "Water? Paul-" Captain Blue stopped himself. Was Scarlet still confused, a side effect of the anesthesia? Or was there something darker at work? "Water. Sure," Blue acknowledged and rose from his seat to gather a cup and canteen from the helicopter's provisions locker. As he did so, Blue twitched the muscle over his left eye, activating his cap mike. "Colonel White," he spoke quietly into the tiny microphone as it swung down to his lips. "I think we have a problem here."
"Explain yourself, Captain," the commander-in-chief replied through the internal headset in Blue's cap.
"Sir, Captain Scarlet's memory seems to be a jumble of information, both from his past and something else."
"Elaborate," was the terse reply.
"Well, Sir. He seems to be recalling things that perhaps only the Mysterons could know. I think he may be tapped in somehow to their ... their collective consciousness."
"Have you discussed this with Doctor Fawn?" White asked, his voice as grave as an executioner's.
"No, Sir. No time. We'll be arriving in Ontario within minutes. Right now I'm out of Scarlet's earshot. I thought I'd seek your advisement."
"My advisement, Captain," White warned, "would be for you to seek Fawn's counsel. Keep me informed, and keep Scarlet on a short leash. In this mental state he may be vulnerable to Mysteron control. In effect, he could be functioning as a double agent."
Blue swallowed this information like sour medicine. He finished pouring the cup of water and agreed, "Yes, Sir. I'll report in as soon as we've landed."
Blue was left to decide which to do first: talk to Doctor Fawn or give Captain Scarlet his drink. With a sigh Blue considered the cup of water and proceeded to the back seats and his friend. "Here, Captain," he said, offering Scarlet the water. With a grateful nod the man sipped at the refreshment. "What did you mean?" Captain Blue blurted.
"The enemy." Inwardly Blue knew he should first consult with Fawn. But this was too vital. If Scarlet understood their friendship, he would be honest and trusting in his answer. If Fawn and he confronted Scarlet together, a less revealing reply might be the result.
"Oh, nothing," Scarlet answered returning his attention to the sweeping landscape below the helicopter. His lips were poised against the cup rim. The British captain took another distracted sip then elaborated, "Our true enemy is always ourselves, our fears. If we believe we will fail, then we will."
Blue nodded slowly. "I see. Then that's all you meant. Nothing else?"
In response, Scarlet simply shrugged eyes still attendant upon the view outside the aircraft. "That, and of course our real obstacle." Again he spoke with such emotionless matter-of-factness that Blue physically flinched at the statement.
"Would ... would you mind explaining that?" Blue stammered in reply, plopping into the seat beside him. "I mean, if you have information which may affect our mission, then you need to tell the colonel."
Scarlet blinked away from the scenery to turn soft eyes to his companion. "I ... I'm not sure I have any information," he assured. "Where are we going?" He set the empty cup down atop the chair arm and returned to his sightseeing.
Blue hesitated in his answer, unsure what to say. His friend was definitely ill, mentally if not physically. The American Captain was growing increasingly aware that his friend's present state was more unnerving than if Metcalfe had been incapacitated. "The Niagara River. Ontario side," he informed as a computer spits out information without question. "You were lost. We're taking you to where we found you, to see if you might remember something."
Scarlet nodded and switched his gaze back to his partner. "I hope so. I feel like an empty tea kettle, boiling dry with no way to refill myself."
Within minutes the chopper settled atop an open shrubby area near the river. Melody Angel set the controls to standby and unstrapped herself from her safety harness. Doctor Fawn rose from his seat to check on his patient. "We've landed near a location you may be familiar with, Captain," he explained. "We're hoping it might trigger your memory and allow you to remember something vital you wanted to tell us. We really do need your help."
"Of course, Doctor," Scarlet replied again sounding like his true, dedicated self once more. Beside him Blue released a tense sigh. How long would it last? When would his partner's memory return? Was Spectrum in danger until then? More seriously, would Blue need to take drastic actions to protect the landing party against his former Mysteron friend?
The nurse guided Scarlet down from the chopper, though Blue saw that the man was moving more easily. It seemed his injury was almost completely healed. As Scarlet stepped out onto the scrub and wandered about under the nurse's supervision, Blue offered, "Doctor. May I have a word with you in private?"
As Fawn placed his feet again atop solid ground he answered, "Of course, Captain."
When they were shielded by the parked helicopter from Scarlet's ears, Blue informed, "It's Paul. He's acting strangely, as if he can remember things only a Mysteron might know." Keeping a safe distance, Blue continued his suspicions and the recounting of his partner's strange conversation as they followed the British captain toward the river. It seemed Scarlet was drawn to the rushing water as a moth was attracted to an open candle.
After listening to Captain Blue's concern, Fawn replied in a voice only the American could hear. "I understand your anxiety, but I don't believe we're in any danger. He's not exactly acting like a Mysteron agent. He's more like a lost child seeking guidance and approval right now."
"But, Doc. What about Symphony and the-"
"Adam!" Blue heard his friend call. Conversation forgotten the captain sprinted off, with Doctor Fawn as his shadow, to see what Scarlet and his nurse had found. "Here!" the British officer called again. Beneath the shade of a spreading tree, in amongst brush and weeds a scarlet jacket knelt.
"What is it, Captain?" Doctor Fawn inquired with a huff, catching up to the group.
Blue shoved himself into the brambles to see. On the ground lay a man. He was crumpled beneath the tree, his dark outfit muddied and wet. His face was flush with life, but he was obviously injured and unconscious. "That's him!" Blue exclaimed. "That's the man who kidnapped the woman we saw atop the Minolta Tower. The man who shot me. Where's the briefcase and the plans?" His blue eyes scanned the surrounding brush for anymore evidence.
Doctor Fawn, ignoring Blue's concern for missed belongings, shouldered past the taller man and knelt beside Scarlet. The doctor's nimble fingers reached for the downed man's throat. "He's alive," he stated after a moment. "Hypothermic. He may have other, more severe injuries." Fawn snapped professional eyes up to his nurse. "Bring a gurney from the helicopter, Gerald. We'll take him back to Cloudbase immediately."
"No!" Scarlet demanded. Everyone glared at him.
"Captain," Fawn reasoned. "This man's injured. You've done a good thing here. Quite by accident you've discovered another missing piece of the puzzle. He can tell us what happened to the turbine plans and the missing Teledyne employee, but only if he survives. If he is to have any chance at recovery, we need to get him to a medical facility."
"But he's supposed to be dead. He can't be alive," Scarlet insisted.
After a moment of stunned silence, Blue found his voice. "Why, Paul?" he demanded.
"They killed him. They were supposed to kill him and deliver the plans to ..." Scarlet's voice faded as the officer bowed his head and closed his eyes.
"Remember, Captain," Blue demanded. "Try to remember what the Mysterons wanted."
"Mysterons!" Fawn spouted launching himself to his feet. "You may be right, Captain. In his present mental state Captain Scarlet could be in some kind of contact. This proves it."
But the British captain said no more. Instead he waggled his head as if to clear it of a bad dream and stood. "What happened?" he asked a second later, even as he tottered atop shaky legs.
"Are you all right?" Blue asked him offering a steadying arm.
"Dizzy," Scarlet answered then rubbed at his temple. "Headache." Scarlet raised confused eyes to his comrade. "Did I say something useful? Did I remember something?" Scarlet again seemed like a lost child searching for the familiar faces of family in a crowd.
Blue smiled reassuringly though his own stomach was as tight as a crocodile's jaws. "You found our kidnapper, Captain. Now all we need are the missing plans and the woman."
Fawn was not so congratulatory, however. As he helped Gerald place the injured man upon the gurney he warned, "It may already be too late. No doubt the Mysterons left this man for dead and took the plans. They'll soon discover the prototype turbines' whereabouts, infiltrate the power plant, and sabotage the installation, all at their leisure."
"Not if we can stop them first," Blue assured. "Get this man's face plastered on all security channels and sent to Ochre and Harmony at the power plant. Now we know at least one of the agents we're looking for." He turned to his partner and clasped his shoulder. "Ready for some action, Old Buddy? We're going to intercept those plans."
"I'd advise against it, Captain," Fawn negated as he guided the gurney through the scrub. "You're in no shape for active duty. Both of you stay here and look for more clues. I'll have Melody swing round and pick you up as soon as we get this man to Cloudbase's infirmary."
"No buts, Captain," Fawn objected over his shoulder. "Keep a close eye on Captain Scarlet, and keep in touch with Cloudbase."
Blue's argument was lost in the distance between Fawn and him. Soon the Spectrum helicopter's rotors were thumping into the air, leaving the two Spectrum officers stranded beside the foaming Niagara. "Well, I guess we follow orders and keep looking," he mused with a shrug of his epaulettes.
"Looking for what?" Scarlet inquired, childlike innocence in his voice once more.
"For your lost memories, my friend," Blue answered squeezing the British officer's upper arm in reassurance. "Come on. Let's see if your luck holds out." Blue waved Scarlet forward to lead. "Follow your instincts." With an unconvincing nod the dark-haired Spectrum officer stepped from the bushes and continued his wanderings. Blue paid close attention to his partner's body language and stance as they traveled. It now seemed Paul Metcalfe was fully recovered from his previous physical ordeal. Pity Blue himself was less resilient. The American's chest ached and caused him discomfort when he marched too vigorously through the scrub. Soon he needed a rest. "Hold on, Old Buddy," Blue called to Scarlet. "Break time."
Scarlet straightened from his methodical glancings into the surrounding trees and underbrush to consider his partner. "We have no time. You need to find this woman you were telling me about. She needs our assistance, you said. Perhaps we can save her too."
Blue beamed though he grabbed at his chest and leaned gingerly against a tree. "Now that's the Captain Scarlet I remember. Always concerned for the innocent." Inwardly, the Spectrum captain was relieved Scarlet was revealing more of his human self. The strange occurrence of ten minutes ago could almost be forgotten.
"She's another puzzle piece," Scarlet continued. "If she's alive she could help us find the turbine plans."
Blue's smile collapsed. From where did that calculating and stoic concern originate? Short leash indeed. With a grunt he shoved himself from his resting post and caught up to his partner. "All right. Let's go find her. If she's alive she may be able to help us catch the Mysteron agents and prevent them from completing their mission."
"SIG," Scarlet replied and turned again to some invisible path through the brush.
It took a moment for the man's reply to sink in, but finally Blue swallowed his discomfort and retorted, "SIG? You remember that? What does it stand for?"
Scarlet shrugged. "I don't recall. It's a code acknowledgement. I heard Melody use it when she was given clearance to launch the helicopter. The 'S' stands for Spectrum, does it not?" he inquired passing his partner an earnest glance.
Blue was smiling again. He nodded. "Yes. That's right. You do remember."
Scarlet's lips twisted in awkwardness. "It was a lucky guess, Captain Blue."
Blue's mouth dropped. "SIG stands for Spectrum is Green," he explained and waved Scarlet to continue his trek. As they tramped together through the squatty bushes and shedding, autumn trees, Blue thought of his friend's recent near death experience just ten miles south of this isolated section of the Niagara River. How could Captain Scarlet be so calm after having survived a tumble over the falls? How, in fact, did he handle the prospect of death on a nearly daily basis? Was it bravery or suicidal insanity? Perhaps Scarlet's current ignorance was a temporary reprieve, his own private bliss, a phantom sanctuary. "Thanks for the missing memories," Blue murmured beyond Scarlet's earshot. There was silence between the friends for many minutes until Scarlet's path led them once more toward the river.
"There!" the man yelped with a stabbing finger. Vaulting off toward the water Scarlet headed for the bleached skeleton of a collapsed tree.
Blue trotted after him, unsure what it was his friend had spotted amongst the drying underbrush. Panting at the effort to keep up, however, Blue halted his advance at a stabbing pain in his chest. Hand pressed against the discomfort, he widened his stance to catch his breath and avoid an awkward fall. As his vision darkened around the edges, Blue could hear Doctor Fawn's stern warning against such physical exertion. If the physician had known of the captain's jostling adventures, Fawn would probably have never left him behind. As the past was past, Blue simply steadied himself as best he could without blacking out and waited for Scarlet to reappear. "Captain Scarlet!" he called into the trees and shrubs which angled down to the river. The British officer had somehow seen what he could not. Then a flash of red and blue arose from the sloping bank and its deadfall. Captain Scarlet stood with his arm around a figure dressed in turquoise and black. "The woman," Blue acknowledged. "Well, I'll be damned. He found her."
"Adam!" Scarlet called as he approached limping beside the woman he supported. "She's alive," he announced. "We need to find her shelter and medical attention."
"Great work! I'll contact Cloudbase," Blue assured.
"No!" Scarlet insisted. Together he and the woman collapsed at Blue's feet. She was dripping wet and pale, her dark brunette hair plastered against her chilled skin.
"Honestly, Paul. I don't understand you," Blue countered with a pained sigh. "She needs to get to a hospital. It's a miracle the Mysterons didn't kill her either."
Scarlet, ignoring his partner's protests, tilted the woman's head back to start mouth to mouth resuscitation. Pressing his lips against hers, Scarlet forced air into her lungs with two quick breaths.
Captain Blue stood aside in confusion. "I ... I thought you said-"
Scarlet moved to pump the woman's sternum with five cardiopulmonary thrusts. "She's not breathing, but she's still alive," he huffed before returning to his CPR. Two more breaths and he listened for life. Checking her throat for a pulse, Scarlet returned to administering cardiopulmonary thrusts.
"You're not making sense, Paul. She's been in that water for hours, maybe. It's bone cold; but even for that length of time, there's no chance."
"No," Scarlet admonished. "She's not dead." Again he continued his ministries, pressing his lips against hers and breathing life into the stranger.
Gingerly Blue leaned down to rest a supportive hand atop his comrade's shoulder. "Let her go, Paul. You can't save everyone."
With a frustrated huff Metcalfe's epaulettes slumped. "She wasn't supposed to die. They needed her alive, but she ran away," he explained swiping away his friend's hand.
"Who needed her? The Mysterons?"
Scarlet's blue eyes shot a fiery glare his friend's way. "How am I supposed to know?"
In response Svenson only shrugged. "You tell me, partner. Who's the 'They' you keep speaking of?"
"I ..." Scarlet's anger melted to confusion. "I don't know." His free hand drifted to his temple. "I ... can't remember. She seems familiar somehow. Have I met her before?"
"I'll say," Blue retorted. "According to Green, the last time you saw her she was sitting in a car with a gun to her head. Her driver ran you down."
"But he only wanted the plans to sell them for money," Scarlet argued. "She's not supposed to be dead."
With that wish came a sputtering gasp from the woman supine atop the scrubby ground. Scarlet flinched but recovered quickly enough to roll her onto her side so that she might more easily clear her lungs of the chilling liquid.
"You were right," Blue offered and knelt to help support the retching woman.
"Her injuries aren't severe," Scarlet informed. "I think she has a dislocated shoulder. Maybe a concussion. There's a house up this dirt path. We'll take her there."
"You remember a house?"
Scarlet's brow furrowed. "I ... I saw the path from the river. Most likely it leads to a residence, perhaps a ranger station."
Blue rose to his feet. "I see," he acknowledged. "Another lucky guess?"
Seemingly ignorant to the challenge the British officer informed, "I'll stay here and fix her shoulder. You might want to get what else I found by the river. A briefcase. Could be important."
"Briefcase?" Blue spouted. "Why didn't you say so? I'll go get it. If it's still intact, she's my new hero." With that the American captain was striding to the river to collect perhaps their last piece of evidence. Gladly he wiped the muddied but still sealed tote clean of river water and lugged it back to his friend in time to see Scarlet brace the woman's armpit with a boot tip. He gripped her arm in his hands and firmly pulled. Half-conscious the stranger yelped in pain as Scarlet gently relieved the pressure, allowing the ball to once again seat itself within its shoulder socket. "That looks like nasty business. Ever done that before?"
With a grim nod Scarlet bent down to check his handiwork, probing fingers feeling through the woman's damp, thin blouse. "In the WAAF," he said. "A buddy of mine was once clipped by a Jeep. We were miles from the nearest air base. He was able to use his arm once I replaced the joint."
This time Blue's smirk reached his hairline. "You are regaining your memory," he assured.
Scarlet paused in his ministries to glance up at his friend. His expression was bewildered, as if he hadn't considered the fact. "I ... I guess I am," he admitted. "Come on, Adam. Let's get her inside, out of the cold. Shall we?"
"You got it, partner," Blue quickly agreed and helped Scarlet support the still pale and lethargic woman. Together they followed the adjacent path to a small fenced-in garden beside a rustic cabin. The front door remained unanswered, however, when Blue repeatedly knocked. "Hello!" he called releasing his burden to check around the small home's side. The window there was covered by a curtain. Not even pressing his face and shielding his eyes with his free hand against the glass allowed him a glimpse inside. "Anyone home?" he asked into the window pane. No reply. Blue returned to the front door in time to see Scarlet give the barrier an awkward kick. The woman, slumped against his side, nearly slipped from his grasp. "What are you doing?" Blue demanded as the door ricocheted back on its now twisted hinges.
"Getting her in out of the cold," Scarlet replied reinforcing his grip and dragging the stranger inside. Blue hesitantly followed. The cabin was sparsely furnished with a woodstove and simple kitchen dinette with four chairs. The well-draped bed against the far wall was separated from the rest of the floor plan by a tall wooden screen. "Get that," Scarlet ordered jutting his chin at the divider.
Obediently Captain Blue slid the obstruction aside as his partner strode forward to lay the woman upon the bed. "I'll get another blanket," Blue offered noticing a high shelf along the wall with bedding neatly stacked. As he watched his friend flip the bedspread over onto his charge Blue inquired, "Now can I contact Cloudbase?"
Scarlet took the extra blanket from him and nodded. "Doctor Fawn's services would be helpful."
"Good," Blue acknowledged. "You're finally talking sense." His cap mike swung into position. As Captain Blue stepped aside to update his superior he wandered toward the tiny kitchen nook. Eyes scanning his surroundings, he noticed the crumpled blanket before the abandoned and smoldering woodstove. There was also a dark stain upon the hardwood floor. Kneeling, the Spectrum officer poked a finger at the congealed stain. Upon closer inspection Blue realized it was blood. "Cloudbase. Captain Scarlet and I are at a small cabin by the river, approximately a quarter mile north of our drop off point. We found the Teledyne employee. She's alive, but is suffering from exposure. Also, there might be another victim here. I found blood on the floor of the cabin. It's a pretty good-sized puddle. The sooner Melody Angel returns for us the better. Do you have a positive ID on the first victim?"
"That's affirmative," Lieutenant Green replied through his cap set. "His name is Dwight Holman. He's a former employee of Teledyne Turbine Corporation. Holman was fired from the research department just three weeks ago for a major security breach."
"Let me guess," Blue interjected with a sigh. "He tried to smuggle out the plans of a prototype hydroelectric turbine in order to sell it to the highest bidder."
"How did you know?" Green retorted. Blue only glanced at his unknowing informant as Scarlet attended to the young woman wrapped in blankets on the bed. "Apparently," Green continued in his ear, "his partner in crime was an old high school buddy who agreed to help because of his connections to some foreign energy moguls. It was an all for profit motive. As we expanded our search we were able to link the two to the Minolta Tower kidnapping."
"And the woman? Was she our Teledyne contact, after all?"
"Yes. But she must have known Holman was after the plans as well. That's why she was so skittish and ran. This whole incident could have been avoided if she hadn't run."
Again Blue released a weary sigh. "Water under the bridge, Griff. Meanwhile, there's a good chance a Mysteron photo copy of her is one of our saboteurs. Has Teledyne completed the installation of the prototype turbines at the Niagara Power Project?"
"SIG, Captain," Colonel White cut in. "The plant is well secured, however. We've forwarded the identities of both Holman and Tiana Boudinot to Captain Ochre and the plant's security chief. No one without the utmost security clearance will get within a quarter mile of those new turbines. Grand activation ceremonies are scheduled for Thursday at noon. Our presence there will be maintained, as planned, until seventeen hundred hours, Friday."
Blue smirked at the news. "Please send the power commissioner my regrets, Colonel; but I don't think I'll stick around for that." With a relieved breath he added, "I guess our mission here is complete then. We've found our spies in time and the turbines are secure."
"So it would seem, Captain," White replied though his voice was grave with unfinished business. "How is Scarlet? Has his memory improved at all? Doctor Fawn forwards his concern."
"He's starting to recall past events, things that happened when he was a colonel with the World Army Air Force."
"I see," was White's deep acknowledgement. "And what of his ... contact with the Mysterons?"
"Well, Sir," Blue admitted considering with a critical eye his partner's gentle ministries over their still unconscious charge. "His recollections are fuzzy. They don't seem to be significant or lasting."
"Any signs of violence or disloyalty?"
Blue very well understood the colonel's concern. He also trusted his friend. "He's confused, Colonel. A little bewildered. Lost even, but I agree with Doctor Fawn's initial diagnosis. Captain Scarlet's no threat to Spectrum or to Earth."
"I would side with caution, Captain," White warned. "A Spectrum helicopter should arrive to escort you to Cloudbase within the half hour. I suggest you stay where you are."
"SIG." Then Blue's tired mind recalled one more bit of vital information. "Oh, Colonel. We have a briefcase here. It matches the one we saw with the woman, Ms. Boudinot, that night at the Minolta Tower Centre."
"Boudinot," Scarlet echoed from the bed. Blue ignored him.
"Keep it safe, Captain," White replied. "We'll open it together once you've returned to Cloudbase. Good work."
"SIG and thank you, Sir." Silently the microphone swung back to his visor. Blue turned back to his partner. "Did you say something, Paul?"
For a moment Scarlet only dabbed the blood from the woman's weeping head wound. Finally, though, he answered, "Boudinot. I ... I remember that name somehow. From college. Ragnell."
Blue reassured, "Sorry, Buddy. You've got the wrong woman. This one's Tiana Boudinot." Then, gently settling himself into a kitchen chair to rest he continued, "You just keep working on remembering things. We'll both be back home soon.” Blue released a weary sigh. “Then we can each take a few days’ leave to reconstruct our scrambled lives." With that Blue lowered his aching head to cradle it atop his arms upon the table. "The mission's finished."
"Not yet," Scarlet assured rising from his seat. He stepped to the table as Blue raised only mildly interested eyes to watch him. "I've been here before." Scarlet pointed to the blood stain on the floor between the table and front door. "That's my blood. I remember now."
"How much do you remember?" Captain Blue pressed, raising his head from his arms to consider his friend's determined scowl. Blue's weariness and discomfort were forgotten for the moment. "Who and where's the owner of this place?"
In response Scarlet backed away, eyes searching the floor for something, head negating his knowledge. "I ... I don't know, Adam. But-" Boots scuffing the wooden floor Scarlet dove for a half concealed item beneath a bench seated below the front windowsill. "This is her gun," he acknowledged as he straightened and presented the silver weapon to his partner. "She dropped it in a panic and ran out."
"She?" Blue blurted sitting straight up now in his chair. He stood to get a better look at the old-style revolver. "Why did she need the gun, Paul?" the American captain demanded. "Were the Mysterons here? Did they try to kill her, take her over? Take you over? This woman too?" Blue swung an arm back at the brunette upon the bed. "If something happened here, we need to know. What was so important to the mission that you've forgotten? You've got to remember!"
"I ... I can't, Adam," Scarlet defended raising his arms in frustration. The gun barrel pointed dangerously toward his partner. "I just don't know."
Captain Blue held out his hand for the weapon. "Easy, Paul. Why don't you let me keep that safe? It's all right. I won't push you to remember. All in due time."
"But something happened here, Adam," Scarlet continued taking a step back and gesturing with the revolver. He poked it at the stained floor. "That's my blood. I was shot. But I have no scar, no memory. Why can't I remember?"
"He is Mysteron!" a female voice barked from the door. Both men froze in their dispute. The older woman wore a sweater, riding breeches and hiking boots. She stood, disheveled and dirtied within the open doorway to the cabin. The reins of a huge gelding dangled from one hand. In her other perched a muddied pistol. "I shot him," she explained in a heavy French accent and pointing a gun toward Scarlet. "He was dead. If he is your partner, he is now your enemy. The Mysterons. They take over dead bodies, do they not?" she demanded. "Maybe you are both here to kill me." The pistol barrel wavered between the two men. "They were here, out in my woods. I saw them. Pierre and I. We hid in the trees. The man was drowned. His exact double dragged him away, into the bushes. He searched him. Left this gun, so I took it."
Mentally Blue gathered the pieces of her choppy story into a possible scenario before raising his hands to her. "We're sorry to intrude, Ma’am. I'm Captain Blue of Spectrum. This is my partner-"
"He is not Captain Scarlet. Not anymore!" the woman insisted her voice becoming shrill. "He is a Mysteron, I tell you."
"Easy, Ma'am," Blue warned.
"But he was dead! I pulled him from the river. And he revived, with bullet holes in his chest, I say," the woman charged. "Then I shot him trying to escape. He can't be alive."
"Madam," Captain Scarlet asked with one hand raised and the revolver drooped toward the floor in the other. "Do you know me?"
The woman blinked at the question. The recovered pistol in her hand swung dangerously toward Scarlet's chest. "I pulled you from the river. Your uniform was-" Her eyes narrowed in her scrutiny. "But your uniform was dirty, drenched. It had two holes. Bullet holes!"
Blue swallowed against his disposition toward honesty and cut in, "-My partner was injured. He wasn't killed. We've been trying to retrace the steps of ... of his 'double', to find the criminals and this woman." Blue's free arm swung back to indicate the figure wrapped in blankets behind him. "She'd been abducted and presumed dead. We were lucky to find her alive and near this cabin. Again, my apologies, Ma'am, for the intrusion. We're waiting for a Spectrum helicopter to take us and that briefcase back to our-"
"Cloudbase," the woman finished shifting her attentions back to Scarlet. "Yes. Your 'double', Captain, spoke of it. Said he could not go to hospital. Must speak to his superiors. I ... I believed him at first, but it was all so strange." The woman's borrowed pistol began to droop away from its target. She dropped the reins to her horse and stepped inside. "Captain Blue, would you please remove your hat while in my home and company and explain what is going on here?"
Blue bowed slightly and slipped his cap from his blond head. "Of course, Ma'am. If you would kindly relinquish your weapon, I'd be glad to explain." Captain Blue stepped past his partner and extended a hand for the gun.
"Wait, Adam," Scarlet interrupted grabbing his friend's arm to halt his advance. The silver pistol in his other hand was raised and ready. "The Mysterons were here," he warned. "How do we know she-"
"You don't," the woman interjected pivoting her gun to clip a bullet into Scarlet's clenched and raised hand. The old revolver twirled free of his grip and clattered against a sideboard table. Another shot battered Blue's arm as he dropped his cap and moved to draw his own Spectrum pistol. Both men stood, shocked and bleeding, as the gun-toting woman stepped forward to slip Blue's color-coded weapon from his holster. She explained in perfect English now. "You have foiled our plans, Earthmen. You and this woman. We needed those plans."
"Julienne," Scarlet growled his injured hand clutched protectively against his soaking chest. "Your name was Julienne. I remember now. You helped me from the river."
"Yes," the woman admitted checking Scarlet's holster for a second pistol. It was empty. "I have her memories and those of the Mysterons now. You lied, Captain Blue. Captain Scarlet has no double, for he is singularly indestructible. Your Julienne was weak and skittish, Captain Scarlet. She came upon us as we found Holman and Ms. Boudinot here arguing. We needed those plans, but Boudinot-"
"She got away," Blue surmised holding the blood and pain back from is injured arm. "Tiana was able to hide from you. That gave us the time advantage to boost our security and finish installation of the turbines at the power plant without your interference."
"We then needed Julienne's help,” the Mysteron continued, “to find Boudinot and the plans. We had hoped she would find this place, seeking sanctuary. I would be waiting for her. Now the Mysterons have captured you three, and we have new plans."
"You're going to kill us, then reconstruct us," Blue offered, his aching heart thumping out a war drum rhythm within his chest. His Spectrum kepi was dead on the floor, too far to reach.
Julienne DePaureau's chin rose in challenge. "No," she said. "We still need Boudinot, and you alive, Captain, as a hostage for Scarlet's services." The woman considered the British officer's damaged hand as she sidestepped to the covered table. "You will be completely healed shortly, Captain Scarlet. All evidence of your injury will disappear." She tossed Blue's gun onto the kitchen table and smiled. "You will then accompany Ms. Boudinot back to your Cloudbase, but with a short stopover at Niagara's Power Project where you will detonate this." From beneath the tablecloth-draped dinette Julienne withdrew a concealed briefcase. It was a close duplicate to the case Blue had retrieved from the river not a half hour before. She set the case gently down upon the tabletop.
"A bomb? How's your plan going to work, Ma'am?" Blue challenged wincing at the twinge of the bullet lodged within his arm muscle. "I'm his partner. There's no reason for Captain Scarlet to leave here without me by his side. Spectrum’s already suspicious of his loyalties. Unless I authorize it, he won't be allowed to command our arriving pilot one centimeter beyond the landing site."
"Rightly so, Captain," Julienne agreed with a nod. "And your organization is already on alert to our Mr. Holman. But we have a trump card."
"A double agent," Scarlet asserted with a scowl. "Who?"
Julienne smiled again. "Why you, of course," she answered. "You'll do just what we want. You'll explain that your partner here went in search of the injured owner of this cabin. Meanwhile, he left you in charge of the briefcase and Ms. Boudinot. Your little side trip to the power plant is a safety precaution."
"I won't do your bidding, Madam," Scarlet asserted. "I ... I'm a Spectrum officer."
"We've been testing you, Captain," Julienne countered, ignoring Scarlet's affirmation. "Ever since your little accident, we could sense your thoughts mingling with ours."
"He was somehow in touch with the Mysteron collective," Blue confirmed. "And at the same time you were able to infiltrate his mind?"
"Exactly. Except that our mental connection is tentative. And it is even now slipping.” Julienne’s brow rose in certainty. “Captain Scarlet is regaining his memory. He needs another dose in order to become pliant once more."
"Another dose of what?" Scarlet demanded taking a half boot shuffle backward. From her pocket Julienne withdrew a cylindrical object. At its far end were two metal prongs. Beneath her finger a red button glowed, fully charged.
"Electricity," Blue confirmed grimly. With a flick of her finger the TASER's talons shot forward and clung to Scarlet's vest just below his throat. Buzzing energy traveled along the extended wire from its cylinder base to the man's flesh beneath the cloth. "Paul!" Blue yelped as Scarlet slammed to the floor in a spastic electrical seizure. "Stop it!" he demanded stepping forward to intercept the woman. Julienne returned her gun to Blue's face.
"He is indestructible, Captain. You are not. Please be cautious for Ms. Boudinot's sake."
"But you could kill him," Blue argued eyeing the weapon suspiciously. How many volts was the device's maximum discharge? Blue could very well be gambling with all three of their lives now in arguing his case. "Let him go. I'll take the bomb. I'll take it to the power station for you."
Julienne DePaureau smiled in sympathy, but negated, "And have you drop it into the river instead? No, Captain. Our way is better." She considered the quavering body upon the floor. "That should be sufficient," she said and flicked off the TASER's energy blast. She dropped the instrument to the floor beside the still quivering Scarlet. "When he awakens, he will remember nothing of this. He will follow our instructions as if they were his own. The waters of the Niagara shall cease to flow, just as we had planned." Then, using her gun to point the way, Julienne instructed, "Back there, Captain Blue. You need concealing while we wait for your pilot to return for you." Compliantly Blue backed away into the darkened corner behind the smoldering woodstove. "Have a seat. You'll be kept safe as long as Scarlet completes his mission."
"He'll be blamed for this, you know," Blue reminded sliding painfully along the wall to the floor. "His career in Spectrum will be ruined."
"If he survives," Julienne replied. Again that self-satisfied, ironic grin slithered across the woman’s lips. "This is no ordinary explosive. There will be nothing left of Captain Scarlet. Everything will be obliterated within a ten mile radius of ground zero."
"Ten?" Blue barked. "We're within that radius here! Safe? My American white ass!"
"Indeed," was the woman's desert dry reply.
"Bedevere?" a new voice inquired.
"Ah, Ms. Boudinot," Julienne addressed over her shoulder to the woman awakening upon the bed. The Mysteron's eyes were still intent on her seated captive. "This is no Arthurian dream, my dear. There is no Bedevere. But you are safe. Look, a handsome Spectrum officer has come to your rescue."
"That's not amusing, Julienne," Blue rumbled his one sleeve now nearly soaked in scarlet. As Julienne backed away to check on her other hostage Blue made a desperate move. "Heads up!" he yelped. Back braced against the corner, he kicked his feet into the air. One boot tip clipped the Mysteron's gun barrel and it spun free from her hand. Even as she scrambled to retrieve it, Blue gathered his feet for another lunge. Headfirst he bulldozed the woman onto her back. "Get the gun, Tiana!" he commanded of the dazed young woman who gasped and sat up amongst the blankets. "Hurry!" With his one good arm Captain Blue fought off the swinging fists and kicking legs of the Mysteron agent. A punch to his wounded arm, however, left him gasping and vulnerable. Julienne slammed her next punch into his temple. Dazed, Blue rolled off his quarry shaking his head clear of the pain.
"Perhaps we shall not wait for the destruction of the power plant, Earthman," Julienne avowed leaping again to her feet and gathering her weapon. Its barrel swung down toward Blue's still dazed head.
"Bede, watch out!" Boudinot yelped now on her feet beside the bed. Julienne hesitated to throw the clearly delirious woman a critical glance. So intent was she on these two, the Mysteron missed the scarlet boot kicking upward against her armed wrist from behind. As the pistol flipped away, Julienne was again disarmed. When she spun around to confront her attacker Blue was pleased to see her astonished face as Captain Scarlet jabbed a fist into the woman's jaw.
"That's for Julienne," he indicted. Scarlet followed with a swift rib kick. The Mysteron crumpled.
"Good shot, partner," Blue moaned from the floor. "Now, how 'bout helping your best friend up? I think I've reinjured a not so old wound."
"What wound?" Scarlet inquired as Boudinot limped to stand beside him. "Rag. Are you all right?"
"Besides being scared silly and thrilled you're alive, I feel like a basketball just after March Madness. It's good to see you again, Bed."
"You know each other?" Blue asked, gingerly rolling onto his knees and grasping at his stabbing chest to rise.
"Adam!" Scarlet snapped. "You're hurt. Let me help you." The British officer bent down to support his friend's shoulder.
"Gee, thanks, Buddy. I was afraid you'd forgotten me."
"How could I?" Scarlet scoffed supporting Blue's wobbly frame. "After all we've been through together over the years?" To answer his question, Scarlet continued, "Ragnell and I attended Winchester University together, back in the early days of my illustrious career. Took a few classes together."
"Good for you," Blue mumbled. He coughed and almost doubled over with the pain. "But we've still got a problem, 'Bedevere'."
"The briefcase bomb," Scarlet realized.
"Bede," Boudinot urged, grabbing Scarlet's arm. "A bomb? Is it in my briefcase?"
"No, not yours," Scarlet corrected. "A duplicate briefcase. One meant to fool Spectrum and the Power Project's security."
"Paul," Blue cut in leaning against the woodstove for support. "Melody's on her way. We've either got to disarm the bomb or fly it away from here. It's lethal to a ten mile radius."
"Lord!" Boudinot gasped. "I thought my briefcase held important contents. I kept it safe, Bede. I didn't let them have it. I even hid in the river. I was so scared to come out. It got so cold. I ... I couldn't hardly hold on to that dead tree anymore."
Scarlet nodded and braced her visibly trembling shoulders in his able hands. "It's all right, Rag. I'm sorry for what you've been through. If I had recognized you that night at the Minolta Tower, I might have been able to prevent this. You won't come to anymore harm. I promise. Now, I have to go." He released her arms and turned to retrieve the briefcase from the table. A growing hum was beating at the charged air molecules around them.
"The helicopter," Blue announced. "I hear it too."
Scarlet considered the woman standing by her friend. "You'll be safer here with Adam. Stay with him. I'll send another copter for you."
"You're going alone, aren't you?" Captain Blue confirmed. "You'll even kick Melody out."
Scarlet smiled at his partner, blue eyes clear to his task. "There's something special, you said, about all of us at Spectrum. Each with our own gifts. Well, I remember mine. I'll take the bomb out to sea and drop it."
"What about her?" Boudinot inquired as the Mysteron agent groaned toward consciousness upon the floor.
Scarlet backed toward the door, the briefcase clutched in his now healed right hand. "Can I trust you two to detain her? The original Julienne was a good woman. Though she showed fear, she still helped a stranger who needed it. I ... I will always regret her death." Scarlet swooped up his fallen cap and slipped it back onto his head. As he commanded the cap mike to his lips he announced, "Melody Angel. Leave the motor running. I'm coming to replace you as pilot. I have a delivery to make."
When Scarlet paused to listen to the Angel's reply Blue sighed and announced into the air loud enough for the tiny mike to transmit, "Melody. Follow his orders. It's all right. Captain Scarlet's taking a Mysteron bomb where it won't devastate an entire cityscape of innocent people. Clearance code Green-Alpha-Yahoo." After a moment Scarlet nodded his satisfaction and smirked again, stepping toward the door. "Take care, partner," Blue offered placing a boot heel atop the downed Julienne's throat. "Glad to have you back up to speed."
"Me too," Scarlet agreed and strode outside.
"He's going to die, isn't he?" young Boudinot stammered watching her old friend step out into the whipping wind of the approaching chopper.
"No," Blue attested gingerly reaching down to retrieve the discarded pistol. "He's going to save us, Miss Boudinot. Here. If she moves, shoot her. Don't worry she's not human anymore. She's-"
"A Mysteron. I heard," Boudinot finished adjusting the pistol in her visibly shaky hand. "Actually," she admitted, "I've been listening for a while. You know, faking it. I almost lost my cool when that woman zapped Bede."
Blue scrunched up his brows in perplexity. "Why do you keep calling him that?"
Boudinot smiled, for the moment their past peril forgotten. "We only took one course together back at Winchester. Semantics. We were friends for a while after that, but Bede went into the school of technology and I branched out into engineering. Never was very interested in military history or warfare. I guess we just grew apart. Anyway, while taking that Semantics course, we collaborated on a class project. Started calling each other by code names as part of an experiment on people's preconceived notions or connotations of names. My real name's Tiana, as you seem to know. It was more of a joke after the project was done, but he's always called me Ragnell or Rag. And I never stopped calling him Bede." Boudinot shrugged. "I hadn't seen him or heard from him in years. Forgot he even existed, I guess, until two nights ago when I saw his face so clearly through that car windshield lit by the headlamps. Just before ..." She paused as if the memory was too close, too horrible. Blue gave her the chance to gather her thoughts, saving his energy for their eventual return to Cloudbase's sickbay and the condemning glare of Doctor Fawn. "Bede ... Paul had already been shot. Somehow he was able to get up again. Holman slammed the car into drive and he ... Paul flew into the air and over the railing. I was sure he'd broken every bone ... My Lord. How can it all be true and not some terrible nightmare?"
"Paul Metcalfe's pretty tough," Blue admitted. "He never ceases to amaze me either."
From the floor a deep laugh announced Julienne's return to consciousness. "He will yet again," the Mysteron assured and tried to rise.
Boudinot flinched and with a yelp the gun barked in her hand. "Oh, my. I ... I never shot anyone before. I didn't ..."
"Damn," Blue cursed, ignoring Tiana's alarm. Swiping up his fallen kepi, he strode to the door just as Melody Angel came in. "He's left, hasn't he?"
"You cleared it, Captain," Melody informed removing her flight helmet. "I even disregarded the fresh blood on his jacket. He gave a course heading due east, toward the Atlantic coastline."
"But that's not where he's headed. Damn it," Blue spat again smashing his cap atop disheveled hair. "Somehow they've still got control."
"Of the chopper?" Melody asked as Blue shoved past her and out into the open sunshine. Even now the beating of the aircraft's blades was fading in the distance.
"Look! He's heading for the power plant with the bomb. The Mysterons have control." In an instant his cap mike was before his lips. "Colonel White. Send the Angels to intercept and detour Melody's chopper. Captain Scarlet's gone rogue. He's carrying a lethal bomb to the Niagara Power Project. Get Ochre and Harmony out of there. Evacuate a ten mile radius around the power station. We may only have minutes, Colonel. They're influencing him. The electrical shock did it."
"The Angel fighters are on their way, Captain," assured White. "Lieutenant Green's forwarding the evacuation order to Ochre. What exactly happened down there?"
"If we live, I'll explain it all, Colonel. Melody, Ms. Boudinot and I are stranded at the cabin near the river. We're within the blast zone, Sir. I may not be able to transmit for much longer. Don't risk a rescue. Repeat. No cowboy heroics, Sir."
"Understood. We'll do what we can from this end. Good luck, Captain Blue." His mike retracted to his cap visor.
"Now what do we do?" Melody asked from beside him following her comrade's eyes into the late afternoon sky.
"We pray," Boudinot answered from the doorway. "We pray Bede realizes what he's about to do and snaps out of their control."
Paul 'Bedevere' Metcalfe ignored the transmission coming through his cap set as he piloted the Spectrum helicopter along the river. The land below continued to pale in shades of yellow and brown. In only a matter of weeks, winter would grab hold of this region as a hungry grizzly clutched salmon.
"Captain Scarlet," Colonel White demanded. "Land peacefully or you will be shot down. You're a Spectrum officer, Man. You've sworn to protect human lives. You're not a Mysteron. Remember your promise to Captain Blue."
"Remember," Scarlet murmured then watched as a trio of Angel fighters roared by his starboard side. "Never again."
"Paul," a sultry French voice next announced through his headset. "Please set the helicopter down peacefully or we will be forced to shoot."
"You can't, Juliette. The bomb's set to explode in under four minutes. There's only one way. North."
"Captain," Destiny Angel tried again. "We will force you into a high altitude detonation."
"No," Scarlet argued. "The electromagnetic pulse would knock out half the Eastern seaboard. Veer off, I tell you." Shoving the vibrating joystick forward Scarlet increased his speed to maximum in a sweeping starboard turn.
"Colonel," Rhapsody Angel cut in over the open channel. "Captain Scarlet is now heading due north, Sir. Away from Niagara Falls."
"Scarlet!" White bellowed. "Where in heaven’s name are you going? That bomb's powerful enough to kill thousands of people. Get it out to sea, Man. Now!"
The British captain frowned into his cap microphone. These distractions from his mission were getting wearisome. "No time, Colonel," he countered. "Order the Angels off my back. I'll not risk their lives too."
"Then where, Scarlet?"
"Laurentian Highlands. Few people," was all the captain could say as he pushed the rescue chopper beyond its safety limitations. As the aircraft began to buck Scarlet tightened his grip on the now jerking joystick and ascended to a safer altitude. He headed into the remote wilderness of northern Quebec.
* * *
"Is he crazy?" Blue stammered when he heard the news. "We'll never find him in that wasteland. There must be miles and miles of nothing but conifers, granite and glacial lakes up there."
"Precisely, Captain," White agreed into Blue's headset. "It seems you were wrong after all. He's our Captain Scarlet."
"Yeah, always thinking of others and playing superhero with his own life," Blue attested. "Sir, I want to be assigned to his rescue team."
"Negative, Captain," the colonel rumbled. "You're injured and still on medical leave. Doctor Fawn has a bed warmed for you in sickbay. Captain Ochre's already volunteered to head the rescue mission."
"Here we go again," Melody sighed, though the tension between them had lightened. It seemed they and many other local residents would live to see many more marvelous Canadian sunsets. The sky was already transforming into a kaleidoscope of late afternoon colors.
Colonel White continued, "A helicopter is en route to you now. E.T.A.: twenty minutes."
"SIG, Sir," confirmed Blue. "Lieutenant Green. Tell Symphony Angel, I'll be glad to see her again. It was touch and go for a while there."
"SIG, Captain," was the younger man's reply. Blue's mike swung back up to his visor.
As Captain Blue settled wearily into a kitchen chair to await Karen and their air taxi, he released a stress-relieving sigh. "Good luck, partner." Relaxing as best he could, the American captain allowed Melody the job of keeping their guest company. Tiana Boudinot may yet have a part to perform in this Mysteron game-plan.
* * *
Scarlet cursed under his breath. His altitude was too high to risk ejecting prematurely without a reliable autopilot. Yet he had to cover more ground, reach as remote a location as possible before doing so. Meanwhile, the aircraft was now issuing warning lights and sirens. He had pushed the engines beyond safety specs; and now he was unsure if he would need to remain strapped in as pilot to guide the shuddering helicopter down manually. Though he had survived fiery collisions before, Scarlet doubted his extraordinary abilities would simultaneously endure the devastation of the crash and a powerful explosion. There was no time to slip into an escape parachute, and the timer set into the briefcase's lock was ticking down its last sixty seconds.
According to his malfunctioning holographic topography map Captain Scarlet was now north of forty-six degrees latitude. If he could only reach another fifty miles further north, he would be far enough away from any habitable town. "Never again," he vowed against the squealing of the warning sirens. He had promised his friend, Adam; he would never again allow the Mysterons to manipulate him into a corner. Never would he gamble with the lives of his comrades or innocent bystanders like Ragnell Boudinot.
The helicopter's fuel gauge, just then, added its alarm bell to the tumult in the cockpit. Only another few minutes of fuel left at normal operations. But Scarlet was nearly shattering the sound barrier in a vehicle not designed for such speed. After all, this was a rescue chopper, not the sleeker and more powerful magnacopter Symphony more often piloted. His gas consumption quickly dwindled as did his options. The joystick was bucking so roughly, the captain's white-knuckled fists were going numb. "Hold on!" Scarlet cursed at the gauges. "Hold it together," he demanded of the cockpit around him.
Slowly now, he descended. His target: a glacial-topped mountain crag. It would obliterate the helicopter and its dangerous load high above the valley floor. The landscape below would be littered with mountain fragments, boulders and chopper debris, but would otherwise change little. The free airspace above him would transfer most of the potential energy and the resultant electromagnetic disturbance into a blasting wind, toppling trees but doing little further harm to humanity. As per the Colonel's orders, the Angel fighters were recalled to a safer distance. Destiny, Rhapsody, and Spectrum's rookie pilot, Eternity, would also be spared the drastic damage from the EMP and devastating wind currents.
Scarlet was alone above a wilderness of conifers, moose, bear, and lynx. As he set the questionable autopilot and slid from his seat to grab the emergency parachute, Captain Scarlet wished for the lives of Earth's lesser creatures.
The helicopter hatch slid open. Scarlet tucked his arms into the chute's harness and dove out over the blue topaz waters of an X shaped glacial lake. "X marks the spot," he mumbled into the draught of his descent. As he plucked the lanyard and deployed his parachute, a booming thunderclap announced the impact of the helicopter against the summit behind him. A millisecond following a fireball expanded, obliterating the mountaintop and expelling a cascade of heated and split granite. The resultant blast traveled outward at a speed close to that of sound. First the displaced air, followed by the mountain itself. "X," Scarlet shouted into his cap mike just as it swung into place before his grimacing lips. “X marks the spot.”
"Captain Scarlet," White's deep but fizzled voice hissed into his tortured ears. "Say again. What is your-" The signal went dead as the electrically charged blast tossed Scarlet like a marionette beneath his chute lines. As he tried to regain control and steer the parachute away from the carnage, granite projectiles whistled past him. A huge chunk of mountain, the size of an oven, sailed by just below his dangling boots. It seemed Scarlet's most perilous moments would not be in the landing, but in his journey from the sky. Another fragment of mountain, perhaps breadbox sized, slammed into Scarlet's right shoulder. He was instantly twirling, in pain and handicapped. His entire right side went dead, as his very consciousness nearly failed him. From above a sharp spear of rock sliced through his parachute. In his shock and injury Scarlet was only vaguely aware that his slow descent had now become a rapid, swirling plummet. Unable to maneuver the shredded chute with only one functioning hand, the British captain saw through a haze the mouth of the lake reach out to swallow him. For the second time in as many days, Captain Scarlet's reality was enveloped in freezing water.
* * *
"Satellites confirm, Sir," Lieutenant Green reported from his station aboard Cloudbase. "The explosion occurred in a remote region of western Quebec, some thirty miles northeast of the city of North Bay."
Colonel White grunted his acknowledgement. "Get the rescue chopper on it right away," he ordered. "Have the pilot pick up Captain Ochre at the Niagara Power Project. And have the Angel's do a flyby once the electromagnetic static has dissipated. See if they can't find this 'X' of which Scarlet spoke."
"SIG," Green responded and allowed his fingers to play across his data console.
* * *
It was only an hour past sunset when Captain Ochre's helicopter landed upon the southeastern shore of Lac Kipawa in western Quebec, not twelve miles northeast of a little river town named Temiscaming. A staticky signal, somehow insulated from the EMP, had given away Captain Scarlet's landing site. Ochre and his paramedic team found him conscious, but cold and drenched from the lake. He was half tangled in his twisted chute cords upon the pebbly beach, just above the water line.
"Good to see a familiar face, Captain," Scarlet groaned struggling to dislodge yet another line from his unresponsive right side.
"You remember me, then," the mischievous brown-eyed American quipped, helping Scarlet out of his parachute harness.
"I even remember the last joke you played on me, Rick," the Brit replied with a grunt of discomfort as the last of the cords were slid away. "A bit of tea with your honey, you said." Scarlet scrunched up his face. "Never again will I allow you to serve me in the officer's lounge. 'Are you a bit sweet?' was your punch line, I recall."
With a sadistic chuckle Richard Fraser threw the man's left arm over his shoulder and heaved Scarlet onto his feet. "You really should cut back, Paul," he suggested.
"On honey or heroics?"
"Both." Ochre beamed and waved the paramedics off as Scarlet stood aside and tested the stability of his own two legs. It seemed the British officer had mostly recovered from his perilous fall into the icy lake and the subsequent swim to shore. "Come on. Let's get you home, fall boy."
"Funny, Rick," was Scarlet's grim response as he limply accepted his comrade's support the short walk to the chopper. One quick glance skyward, however, made him pause at the hatch. Above their heads, perched against the growing twilight and bounteous stars, was silhouetted the damage of his passing. "I don't even know the name of this mountain, but I suggest a new one," he told Ochre.
"What? Paul's Peak?"
"No," Metcalfe groaned. "Look at it, Rick. I sheared the top clean off. Reminds me of Devil's Tower in Wyoming."
"Mysteron Mountain it is, then," was Fraser's acknowledgement as he maneuvered the injured Scarlet up into their waiting air taxi. Once inside himself, Ochre slid the hatch shut and secured the door and his friend for takeoff. The aircraft was soon roaring back to Cloudbase.
* * *
With a quick stop in at Medical to check on Captains Grey and Blue, a shower and a change of uniform, Captain Scarlet was back on duty. Colonel White requested his presence soon after. "You wanted to see me, Sir?" he inquired poking his capped head in through the open Command Center doors.
"Come in, Captain. Sit down." As Scarlet settled himself onto a rising stool, Colonel White continued, "I just completed a conversation with Quebec's prime minister. It seems he's in agreement with me against the suggested renaming for your mountain."
Scarlet swallowed. "My-? Sir, did Captain Ochre speak with you?" he stammered, suddenly feeling flushed. He adjusted his collar about his tightening throat.
"'It would be a security risk, you see," White continued ignoring his officer's apparent discomfort. Then the white-haired commander-in-chief's countenance softened into a smirk. "He did accept the name I suggested, however."
"Sir?" Now the Spectrum captain was perspiring beneath his scarlet jacket. He resisted the temptation to remove his cap, though his black crown grew damp beneath it.
"The French word for memory is 'mémoire'." Scarlet listened as his strained throat completely constricted preventing any protest. "From now on," White explained, "your headless peak in the wilds of Quebec, Canada shall be known as Mont Mémoire in honor of all who have given their lives in service to the Earth."
Scarlet released his held breath. "I see." So his name and memory were not at issue here.
Colonel White was not through, however. "Exactly when did your full memory return, Captain? And how long did the Mysterons hold control over you?"
"My lost memory, Sir? Of that I'm not sure. There are still blanks to my past. My keys, for instance."
White placed his hands atop his desk and leaned forward. "Keys?"
"I can't recall where I put the keys to my private saloon."
Scowling the colonel blurted, "You don't have a private saloon, Man. You're on an airbase carrier, forty-thousand feet above France at the moment. Where in blazes would you drive it?" Visions of a sports coupe spinning out atop the flight deck were no doubt in the older man's head.
Scarlet raised a hand in dismissal. "I meant my parents' saloon, of course, Sir. It's a three year old SAAB, rusty brown in color, stored in the garage of my parents' home in Winchester. Next I get home I would like to take a tour of the university there with an old friend, Ms. Boudinot. Reminisce, you understand. However, I can't seem to recall where I store the keys to the blasted thing."
In response to Scarlet's hardship, the colonel was chuckling. From behind the seated captain issued the distinct choking sound of a suppressed outburst from Green. "Suffice it to say, we all have lapses in our memory, Scarlet," White acknowledged. His features hardened again to stone a moment later. "Now, to the more pertinent question: For how long were the Mysterons in control of your actions?"
Scarlet cleared his throat and answered honestly, "Only for the initial six hours, Colonel."
White flinched back against his chair. "Six hours? Good God, Man! What secrets did you pass on? What booby traps could you have set?" The colonel bolted to his feet.
Scarlet rose from his stool as well. "No, Sir," he defended. "I was referring to my initial take over, nearly four years ago. The Mysterons have never since regained their control of me."
"Never?" White echoed his skepticism clear in the stiff back the colonel lowered again into his chair. "But Blue and Fawn reported lapses in your memory. You were in touch with the ... Mysteron collective, as your partner called it."
"That may be true, Colonel," Scarlet contended. "But I remember none of it," he assured leaning forward, hands atop the desk.
"And after the TASER blast?"
In response Scarlet closed his eyes and shook them clear of the painful memory. "I was knocked unconscious. I remember that. The shock must have righted everything. And yet ..." Mentally the captain dove deep into his most recent memories.
"Scarlet?" White warned.
"Sir, I remember a voice. Deep. Emotionless." He paused to recollect. "It was Captain Black's voice!" Scarlet gasped. "It said, 'take the briefcase and fly to the power plant'. But I didn't, Sir." he defended with a fist slam upon the desktop. "I was in control."
"Yet you took the case, and you did take that heading," White argued.
Scarlet shook his head and straightened his spine in conviction. "Never again, Colonel. My own will is greater than that."
With a weighted sigh, White acknowledged, "We'll see, Captain. From now on, any dealings with electricity are to be dealt with suspicion. Doctor Fawn has advised me, this was a unique collection of circumstances, perhaps never to be repeated. The voltage, your exposure to it, the rainy conditions assisting with conductivity, even the chilling temperature may have all been factors in your temporary memory loss. But your brain chemistry, Captain, however altered by this Mysteron reconstruction of yours, is susceptible to Mysteron control. You've proved that now, whether or not you are willing to admit it."
"But, Colonel White," Scarlet argued. "I don't remember any of it now. Just that last. And I headed west then north instead of toward the coast when I saw that the bomb's timer was set for five minutes. I realized I couldn't reach a point safely far enough out at sea in that time. And I would be flying over the most densely populated area of North America if the bomb were booby-trapped to detonate early, or if I were to be prematurely shot down. I had to head north. Into the wilderness. It was my only option, Sir."
"Based on the result of your actions, you present a valid argument," Colonel White rumbled. "Very well, Scarlet. That information will be taken into account at your next psychological evaluation."
The captain swallowed again. Though his body temperature had returned to normal, his heartbeat was still elevated. "Sir? If I might ask? When will that be scheduled?"
"Your appointment with Doctor Taggert is in two days. Oh-eight hundred. Mark that on your event calendar, Captain, so you won't forget it."
"Yes, Colonel," Scarlet acknowledged with a sigh.
With a grunt of finality White leaned back in his chair and added, "Until then, young man, I've authorized a short leave of absence. On her supervisor's permission, a certain Ms. Boudinot has requested a private audience with you in Ontario. The Minolta Tower Centre, I believe."
"Sir?" Scarlet barked snapping to attention.
"You heard me, Man. Go reminisce on old times," White ordered with a curt wave. "Make some new memories. Consider it therapy. You've earned it."
"Yes ... Yes, Colonel." Saluting, Scarlet pivoted and marched from Cloudbase's center of operation. Shortly following he was behind the controls of a private jet to Ontario's Niagara Airport for a special rendezvous.
The Round Table
The Round Table
When he exited the elevator onto the Minolta Tower's observation deck, Paul Metcalfe paused to smooth his light blue sports jacket and run fingers through his jet black locks. Was this to be a reunion of old friends or something more? It had been so many years since Tiana 'Ragnell' Boudinot and Paul 'Bedevere' Metcalfe had gone their separate ways, to experience their own, very different lives. It had been a fluke that they had met again so many miles from the common ground of England's Winchester University. Yet they had been reunited under a common goal- the safety of mankind. Just as in King Arthur's time it seemed, knights again roamed the land to protect the innocent.
With that mental boost, Metcalfe stepped out onto the circular deck and into the crowd of tourists and honeymooners. He headed for the nearest railing which overlooked Horseshoe Falls. "Ragnell?" he called as he approached a woman adorned in a knee length red dress and flat black boots. Over one shoulder hung a temporary sling. Ragnell's dislocation injury. Her back was to him, eyes scanning the roiling scene below, but her shoulder length hair was twisted up at her neck and secured with a pair of scarlet chopsticks, the same shade as her dress. "Rag?" he asked again.
Boudinot turned to welcome him with a vibrant smile and gleaming hazel eyes. "I'm glad you're all right, Bedevere. I'm glad you came." She spread her free arm out to allow him access to the railing. "I was saving you a spot. Take a look."
Paul drew up beside her and, shoulder to shoulder, they stared down at the tumultuous flow of the thunderous Niagara River. "It's been a long time, Rag," Metcalfe said his attention more focused on the vision in scarlet beside him. "You wanted to see me. Any old memories you wish to share?"
With a dreamy smile Boudinot slipped her arm about his jacketed waist and answered, "We'll have plenty of time for that. Old and new. Like how about you start calling me Tiana? We're not college kids with a Semantics project between us anymore."
"All right. Then it's Paul," Metcalfe replied and settled his own arm about her. "So, Tiana. What are your plans?"
With a shrug within his gentle grasp she answered, "For now, let's just look out and appreciate your handiwork."
Metcalfe blinked. "Mine?"
With a feathery chuckle Boudinot explained, "Adam told me. This is your gift. You keep things going. Sort of like King Arthur's knight, Bedevere. Your devotion and courage are like these falls. Ever flowing and always there. Never ending."
Paul's blue eyes creased in skepticism. "He said that?"
"He is your best friend, isn't he?"
"Yes," Paul asserted. "He is. But I never thought him a poet."
"Then believe what he tells you." A silence fell between them for a long moment. Then Tiana Boudinot sighed. It was a release brimming with peaceful contentment. "Magnificent, isn't it?" she murmured within Paul's embrace. "A true miracle of nature."
Paul Metcalfe swept his sky eyes across the horizon. The river's mist rose from below tickling his chilled face. The roaring of Niagara's falls was an ever constant thrumming in the air. Within the afternoon sunlight, rainbows danced in a spectrum of colors and promised a beautiful day, a more hopeful future. "Yes," he answered her. "A miracle."
Copyright 4/2/02, Revised 1/9/12