The Art of Survival

 

A "Lieutenant Lake" story

by Scarlet Lady

 

 

Captain Scarlet sighed tiredly and glared down at Lieutenant Lake, who was sleeping in the plane beside him.  “You really are a lazy little mite, aren’t you? Come on – get up!”

Lake didn’t even stir.

Scarlet rolled his eyes.  Now he could see why Captain Sapphire had advised him to postpone the survival test for a while.  “Come on, you’re not that ill – on your feet!”

This time, Lake began to wake with a groan. 

The Captain shook his head impatiently at her.  “I haven’t got all day, Lieutenant!”

As he watched, the slender girl opened her eyes and looked about her.  “Whurr biss I, Cap’n?”

Frowning, he tried to understand what she was saying.  “I beg your pardon?”

Wh-where… am – are us?”

“We are in an SPJ – which has crashed, by the way,” the Captain smirked, seeing the panicky expression that crossed Lake’s eyes.  “We have to survive until a rescue party finds us – so you’d better get moving, Lieutenant.”

Lake groaned, remembering the training session she had been set.  “A’right, le’s get star’ed…”

 

***

 

“Come on, Lieutenant, that shelter needs to be built by nightfall!”

Lake had stopped her work to lean against a tree.  She looked up at him, pinching the bridge of her nose.  “Me ‘ead ‘urts…”

“Look, you’d have to do this after a plane crash – imagine how much pain you’d be in then.”

Sighing, the lieutenant continued her work without further complaint.  It’s only a cold, she told herself, picking up a log, if I were that bad, Chris wouldn’t have let I go… and I HAVE got away with a lot already.

Scarlet sighed, and began to help her.  “I think by this time, I’d have recovered enough to help you – even if I’d died in the crash.”

With Captain Scarlet’s help, the shelter was soon fit to spend the night in.  Lake tiredly found some grasses that would be suitable for bedding, and decided to try it out.  Unfortunately, Scarlet was having none of it.

“What do you think you’re doing, Lieutenant? We still have a lot to do – you’d better not be going to sleep!”

Lake sneezed violently, and looked up at him.  “Jus’ making sure it’s comferble unuff…”

The Captain frowned, and crouched beside her.  “You’re really not well, are you?”

“I…” the Lieutenant rubbed at her eyes, fighting back a sudden urge to cry.  “I’m okay – jus’ tired.”

“Are you sure? We can still call this off – I’m sure Sapphire would much prefer to have you back in one piece.”

Lake nodded, still feeling as if she were about to cry.  “I’m okay,” she repeated, quietly.

You’re stubborn, Scarlet thought, shaking his head.  “If you’re sure,” he replied, finally.  “But if you really have to go back, tell me.  I won’t hold it against you.”

The Lieutenant stood slowly.  “I… I’ll…buh…” she was interrupted by another violent sneeze which sent her head reeling.

The Captain watched the young woman straighten up with difficulty and rub at her arms, shivering.  “You’ll be fine after a rest,” he finished for her, guessing that she had been trying to say something along those lines.  “I’m going to make a fire – curl up in here, if you like.”

“Thakks, sir,” Lake mumbled, her voice taking on a nasal sound.

“No problem, Lieutenant.  It looks as if I’d better keep my eye on you.”

“I’m fine, sir,” she replied.  “At least… I will be.”

In spite of himself, Scarlet found himself torn between amusement and annoyance, as he watched her curl up and try to sleep.  Stubborn tyke!

 

***

 

When Lake emerged from the shelter, Captain Scarlet had a cheerful blaze going.  He grinned up at her.  “Ah, I was just about to wake you.”

“Well, I’ve saved you a job,” Lake muttered, sniffling.

“Come and sit by the fire, Lieutenant,” the captain offered, extending his hand to her.  “We need to make some plans…”

“S’a good fire – certainly big enough,” Lake remarked.  “Are all men pyromaniacs?”

Scarlet shrugged.  “I’d like to think I have more sense than Tourmaline, if that’s who you’re comparing me with, Lieutenant.”

She shrugged back.  “I was only joking with you.  I’m allowed to have a laugh, right?”

“But of course,” Scarlet smiled in a jovial fashion.  “Now… business…”

As Lake took a seat on the ground beside him, she heard his stomach grumble.  “You mean food.”

“That too,” the captain grinned at her.  “We certainly need food and water to survive, and I didn’t want to leave you and go off exploring.”

“I hope you’re not calling me incompetent, Captain – I’m quite capable of…” She was cut off by a sneeze.

“Bless you.  I’m not calling you incompetent, Lieutenant, but you ARE unwell.  If you needed me and I wasn’t here…”

Lake sighed and fell silent for a moment.  “Sorry sir.  I know you’re worried about me, but I’m okay.”

“Define ‘okay’ would you?” the captain replied, lifting an eyebrow at her.  When Lake ignored him, he sighed and stood up.  “Right, food – very important – we’d better start looking for some.”

Lake stared down at the booklet he handed to her.  “What’s this?”

“It’s your survival guide – and this week, it’s going to be your best friend.  It’ll tell you what’s edible and what’s best avoided…” he chuckled and offered her a grin.  “Maybe you can find a cure for that cold of yours in there.”

The lieutenant shrugged.  “I can cope.”

“I’m sure,” Scarlet nodded, deciding not to annoy her further.  “Now, tell me… would you call yourself a hunter, or a gatherer?”

“Gatherer – I don’t kill.”

The captain raised an eyebrow at her.  “So… you plan to live on nuts, fungi, leaves and fruit all week, do you?”

“Yep,” Lake replied, nodding.

“Lieutenant, you couldn’t possibly survive on that alone – you don’t eat enough as it is! Besides which, you’re already ill.”

“I’ll be fine,” she replied.  “I know for sure that I couldn’t bring myself to eat one of God’s creatures – it wouldn’t be right!”

“I’m not an expert on what the Bible says, so correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you allowed to hunt and kill?” Scarlet asked her, frowning.  “I thought it listed the animals you could eat and the things you were forbidden…”

“You’re right, sir, but this is different.  God hasn’t told me it’s wrong to kill animals – I have.  The way I see it, all living things feel pain, and harming an animal is no better than harming a human being.  Therefore, killing counts as murder in my book – I’d be no better than…” She sniffed, suddenly becoming tearful.  “I’d be no better than a Mysteron, if I committed murder.”

The Captain sighed and gave in.  “I’ll tell you what – you see what you can find, and I’ll do some hunting.  Maybe together we can make a banquet, eh?”

“Sorry, sir,” she mumbled, rubbing at her eyes.  “I’ve never liked the thought of killing and after…”

“It’s all right, Lieutenant, I can understand your feelings on the matter,” Scarlet smiled.  “You play it your way, and I’ll do the same.  But, if you ever found yourself alone somewhere, you’d have to cope.  Build a fire, hunt, prepare a carcass…”

Lake heaved slightly, but covered it up by ‘coughing’.

“The list goes on.  It’s important that you learn how to support yourself,” Scarlet continued.  “One day, there won’t be someone there to help you.”

The lieutenant sighed, and nodded.  At least he’s going to help me, she thought, as she moved off.  I forget he’s been through the same as me – maybe he feels the same as me about killing, but has to carry on anyway.  Bringing personal feelings into military assignments can cause all sorts of trouble, after all… She sighed again, her thoughts changing subject as her mind wandered.  I don’t like this! I’ve camped out before, both with the Church and when I was a nature photographer, chasing a particular animal or bird… but not like this – I always had a nice snug tent to curl up in!

 

Captain Scarlet ducked behind some bracken, his eyes and ears constantly alert – he’d spotted a rabbit hole.  Perfect – dinner! With remarkable patience, the captain lay still and waited.  Eventually, it paid off.  A small face peeped out of the hole, twitching its nose nervously.  Slowly, a young rabbit hopped forward.

Scarlet tensed, but didn’t fire.  No good – he’s too small to make a meal for two.

As time went on, the rest of the family joined the youngster.  The captain wisely waited for the right moment, and then fired a round of bullets.  The family of frightened animals scattered in panic and raced back down the hole – all but two.

 

Lake stopped picking blackberries at the sound of the shots.  I dread to think what’s going to end up on the table, tonight, she thought with a shudder.  As long as he doesn’t expect me to cook it, that’s all I can say!

She continued her work, moving on from the brambles to see what else she could find.  She stopped, as her eye fell on a fungus protruding from a tree.  Now… is this poisonous, or safe? S’pose I could always try Scarlet with a bit, and find out that way… she chuckled to herself, and consulted her ‘best friend’.  Interesting – it tells you that you can make tinder with it… and LEATHER? She shrugged.  Very interesting… but it don’t say whether or not you can eat it.

The lieutenant decided against picking the thing, but made a note of it in case Scarlet took an interest.  Somehow, she doubted it.

Moving on, the lieutenant heard the sound of rushing water.  She moved a little closer, making out a fast-moving stream through the vegetation.  Great – I’ve found fresh water – the captain will want to bring the bottles up here, later.  She sighed and checked her watch.  Well, I haven’t done too badly…I think I should get back to camp.

 

***

 

The lieutenant set down her bag, and began to sort through everything.  She’d selected a number of sweet and savoury things, expecting the captain to want a starter, while the main course was being cooked.

Captain Scarlet arrived a short time later, and greeted her with a smile.  “You’ve got a nice variety, there, Lieutenant – you’ve done a great job!”

Lake smiled.  “Thanks, sir – I found a stream, as well.”

“Great – I hoped that one of us would.  Where is it?”

“I’ll fetch the water while you prepare the food, if you like,” the lieutenant offered.  “I don’t much like the thought of cooking over a camp fire.”

Scarlet laughed.  “More like you don’t like the thought of preparing meat,” he retorted.  “I’m sure you wouldn’t be half as worried, if I told you I’d bought a chicken from the supermarket.”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Lake replied, honestly.  “I’d rather just eat me lunch without thinking about what I was eating – let alone knowing.”

“All right,” the captain fetched two large bottles.  “We have one full bottle, but that won’t last very long.  We’ll need water to cook with, wash with, not to mention have enough to drink.”

“I know, sir – I have camped before.  Just… not like this.”

“On a campsite, I’d imagine.  You seem to have led quite a sheltered life.”

“Yes, I’ve stayed on a campsite a number of times, while I lead a Sunday School.  But I’ve also stayed outside while I was a wildlife photographer.  But I did have better facilities, even then.”

“Don’t get touchy, Lieutenant,” Scarlet chided her.  “Normally, we would have better facilities – that is, if we were on a mission that required camping outside, anyway.  But this is testing your resourcefulness, so we only have a few things with us.”

The Lieutenant nodded and moved off with the bottles.

Lake!”

She turned and caught the coil of rope that Scarlet tossed her.  “In case I fall in, Captain?”

“No, that’s to tie to the bottle.  Last thing we need is for them to get pulled from your hands and lost, if the current is stronger than you expect.  Tie one end to the bottle you’re filling, and the other end to a tree.”

“Right, sir,” Lake nodded, and moved off again, only to be recalled once more.

“And for pity’s sake, don’t get too wet if you can help it – I don’t want to have to take you back early because you’ve caught pneumonia.  All right?”

“Yes sir.  May I go now?”

Scarlet nodded and watched her go.  “Take care.”

 

***

 

By the time Lake returned, Captain Scarlet had prepared both rabbits and was cooking them over the fire.  He smiled at her.  “How was it?”

The lieutenant groaned, and sat down.  “Hard work – the rope was gurt useful.”

“Ah, so the stream’s current was stronger than it looked,” Scarlet nodded.  “Water can be quite a deceiver – you have to be careful.”

“’Specially if you can’t swim,” Lake agreed.

The captain stared at her.  “Why didn’t you tell me that you can’t swim?” he demanded.  “I would never have let you go, if you’d told me that, Lieutenant!”

“It doesn’t matter – I was fine.  I held on to the rope, and sat on the bank.”

“That’s just as well…” Scarlet trailed off and frowned with concern, as Lake shuddered slightly and paled.  “What’s wrong? Are you feeling sick?”

The lieutenant shook her head and looked up at him awkwardly.  “Been meaning to… uh… mention it for a while... what equipment and things have you brought?”

“That’s a strange question! Why? I wasn’t supposed to bring medication for you or anything like that, was I?”

Lake lowered her gaze with embarrassment.  “PLEASE tell me that you brought a portable loo or something…”

The captain laughed, shaking his head.  “See? I knew you’d been looked after too well!”

“It’s not funny!” she snapped at him.

“Sorry lieutenant, but you’ll have to make do.  There are plenty of bushes, and nobody can see you.”

Lake shook her head.  “I REALLY don’t want to…”

“No, well…” the captain sighed, trying to understand her point of view.  “Look, you’re going to have to make the best of it.  Once you start getting used to being out here, things won’t be so bad.”

“It’s bad enough,” the lieutenant grumbled, crossing her legs tightly.

Scarlet sighed again, and gently put a hand on her shoulder.  “Look, I’m being as helpful as I can.  But this is a training session, not a camping trip with your Church.”

“I’m sorry, but… well… I s’pose I’ll just have to hang on.”

The captain shook his head.  “You’re a stubborn little thing, I can see that,” he remarked.  “Look, I’m worried about you.  There’s not much I can do for you, but I do know one thing – you won’t be able to… ‘hang on’… all week – and even if you did, it would make you extremely ill.”

The lieutenant stood awkwardly and glanced about her, thinking quickly.

Scarlet shook his head.  “Just hurry up, will you?”

Unable to argue further, she moved off as quickly as possible.

The captain shook his head.  Stupid girl! She’d better not be like this all week!

 

Scarlet looked up, as she came back.  “You know, you’re going to fail miserably if you plan on making such a fuss about everything, Lieutenant.”

“Well, I’m okay now, aren’t I?”

“Miraculously,” he remarked with annoyance.  The captain was already seriously regretting his decision in taking the lieutenant out for this training session.  He had a feeling that her lack of co-operation – and her bad temper – was probably brought about by the illness she was suffering, but it was still a serious problem.  “Look, I don’t know what you think I’m going to do to you, but…” He sighed.  “I’m worried about you, all right? I want to help you as much as possible, but you’re making it extremely difficult!”

“Sorry sir,” Lake replied, not daring to so much as look him in the eye.

The captain sighed again, shaking his head.  “Well, it hasn’t exactly been easy for you, has it? I’m prepared to try again, if you’ll let me.”

Lake nodded, then winced, regretting the action.

“Headache?” the captain immediately moved closer, putting an arm round her.

“S’me sinuses… stupid cold’s affecting everything…” She turned away sharply before going into a sneezing fit.

Scarlet stared at her, keeping his arm round her as if she were about to collapse.  “Are you all right?”

“Ye…” the lieutenant gave one final sneeze before trying again.  “Yes sir, I’m okay.”

“Are you sure? I’ll take you home, if you want, and postpone this until you’re feeling one hundred percent.”

Lake shook her head, closing her eyes as she did so.  “I’ll be fine.”

“Suit yourself,” the captain replied with a shrug.  He took a seat beside the camp fire with a weary sigh, gesturing to the girl to sit beside him.  “You know, I’m really missing that lovely singing voice of yours, Lieutenant – I quite enjoyed the song you sang on the last mission.”

The lieutenant laughed.  “Thought you liked it…” She coughed into her hand.

“Best not try it at the moment, though,” Scarlet added, quickly.  “I don’t want you to get any worse.”

“I’ve got some music on my phone, sir,” Lake offered, smiling.

The captain stared at her with annoyance.  “You and that stupid contraption of yours! You are NOT supposed to carry it around with you, Lieutenant – kindly get that through your thick skull!”

“Last time, you were glad of it, Captain.”

Scarlet was becoming increasingly angry.  “Last time, we were stranded in Avon Gorge in a snow storm, while the Mysterons jammed our radio frequencies! OF COURSE I WAS GLAD OF IT – it was the one thing they hadn’t expected!”

“Look, I don’t see what the problem is – I’m not going to phone anyone!”

“You don’t see what the problem is?”

Lake shrugged.  “Well, maybe you can explain it to me? I’m obviously too ruddy thick to work it out!”

“Oh, don’t start! You should know by now, you aren’t allowed to use a mobile phone whilst on duty – especially THAT phone.”

“What’s wrong with THIS phone?” the lieutenant folded her arms in a stroppy manner.

Scarlet clenched his fists.  “Will you PLEASE stop acting like a disobedient teenager and listen to me? That phone sends a signal which is tracked from the moment you turn the thing on.  The device belongs to someone who supposedly died two years ago, and what’s more, the Mysterons can probably track the source of the signal.  Haven’t you noticed how they always seem to turn up when you have that thing on you?”

Lake grabbed her phone and ensured that it was turned off.

“Thank you,” the captain sighed, tiredly.  This is going to be a very long week! Shaking his head, he retrieved the food from the fire, and checked that it had been cooked properly.  “Now… what would you like with your rabbit?”

The lieutenant’s face drained of colour.  “RABBIT?”

“I was joking,” Scarlet told her, quickly.  “It’s not rabbit, Lieutenant.  Please eat some.”

“What is it, then?” she asked him, suspiciously.

The Captain frowned at her.  I don’t see what the problem is – it’s dead! It shouldn’t matter, as long as it’s edible! What’s the difference between eating a rabbit or… or a chicken or…something… from a supermarket? If it’s already dead you’d might as well eat it, hadn’t you? “Pheasant?” he offered, hopefully.

Lake stared at the meat sceptically.  “No, it looks more like a small mammal, to me.”

“Mouse then?” the captain asked her, lifting an eyebrow.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

Scarlet shook his head.  “No, I’m not – and here’s my reason: - if I do, you’ll probably decide you won’t eat it, which would be a waste of the poor creature’s life… or death…” he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to think of a way of getting her to eat.  “Look, what’s the problem? I did the killing, and I did the preparing – all you have to do is eat some.”

“Feels wrong,” Lake shuddered.

The captain lost patience.  “What about just letting the creature go to waste, then? Does THAT feel right?” Seeing how pale she had become, he sighed.  “Look, I’m sorry, Lieutenant.  I just don’t want you to get any worse – and that means that YOU MUST EAT SOMETHING!”

The girl cast him a weary expression, and then took one of the flame-roasted carcasses.  With very little appetite, she forced herself to eat some.

“Good,” the captain encouraged her.  “That’s good – just eat as much as you can.  This is much healthier than anything you’d get from a shop! It gives ‘free range’ a completely new meaning!”

Lake sighed, and continued to force herself to eat.  Scarlet could call it whatever he liked, she still wasn’t happy about killing for food. Somehow, she couldn’t help thinking of her pets at home in Bristol.

 

Eventually, the lieutenant convinced Scarlet that she had eaten enough.  The captain shrugged, and made short work of her leftovers.  “See?” he asked her, licking his fingers.  “Retrometabolism requires a lot of fuel.”

That, or it makes you greedy,” Lake mumbled.

“Say what you like, Lieutenant, but you need to eat more – much more – your brother eats over three times the amount that you ate tonight, and he isn’t retrometabolic!”

“Yeah, well that’s because he’s a greedy gannet, like you!”

The captain’s eyes practically glowed with anger, but he remained calm.  “I didn’t have this much trouble with Pete – he ate whatever I gave him… and a few things that even I wouldn’t touch…” he shuddered, remembering some of the things that Captain Tourmaline had scoffed, without a second thought.  “He had me quite concerned.  I mean, who in their right mind would even CONSIDER eating a snake?” he shuddered again.  “Or, come to that, a scorpion? I thought he was off his head!”

“With you around, he probably was!”

“What is your problem?” Scarlet demanded, finding it impossible to keep his annoyance in check any longer.

The lieutenant seemed to consider his question for a moment, before replying.  “Ooh, let’s see… I resent being treated like a child… I don’t enjoy camping in the middle of nowhere with few facilities… I don’t like the thought of killing… I HATE being cold all the time… and I don’t like feeling completely cut off – it was lonely enough at Spectrum HQ, for pity’s sake!”

The captain rolled his eyes.  “Anything else?”

“That just about seems to cover it, thanks,” Lake almost shouted at him.  She turned away sharply to cough into her hand.

Scarlet rolled his eyes for a second time.  “In other words, you’re not enjoying this.”

The lieutenant turned and stared at him for a moment.  “No,” she said at last, in a quiet voice.  “No, I’m not.  On top of that, I feel awful… I’m really just trying to be brave and carry on, Captain.  As you said earlier, had I been involved in a plane crash, I could be in far worse shape – and possibly have others to think about, too – I’d HAVE to cope.  If I just give up now, how could I be worth anything at all in this sort of situation?”

“Well said,” the captain replied, gently.  “I’m sorry, Lieutenant.  I know I’ve been quite hard on you – you’re doing pretty well…” he sighed and shook his head.  “I’m just frustrated that there’s so little I can do for you.  I mean, I can’t MAKE you eat, and I can’t help the fact that you feel so cold, when it’s still pretty warm out here.  I can try to stop treating you like a child, though,” he added, with a smile.  “Uh… that is… PROVIDED you stop behaving like one…”

“Sorry, sir,” Lake offered him an embarrassed smile.

“It’s not your fault,” Scarlet replied.  “I’m pretty sure that that’s brought about by this bug of yours – colds are miserable things at the best of times,” he sighed, and encouraged the girl to lean on him.  “I’ll see what I can do for you,” he promised, thoughtfully.

The lieutenant shook her head.  “A mission’s a mission – you can’t go soft on me.”

“That depends on what you call ‘going soft’,” Scarlet replied.  “I don’t plan on making things too easy, I just want to try to make you a little more comfortable, if I can.  Your main complaints are about poor facilities… maybe I can help, in some way…”

Lake yawned into her hand, and shook her head.  “Don’ worry, Zirrrrr… I’ll ge’ used to it…”

Scarlet felt her slump against his shoulder and sighed.  “You should be curled up in bed, with a dish of chicken soup and a hot water bottle, Lieutenant,” he told the sleeping girl, as he gently picked her up and carried her into their shelter.  “If you don’t improve quickly enough, I’m taking you home early – kicking and screaming, if need be!”

 

*** 

“How is she doing?” Captain Sapphire enquired when Scarlet contacted her.

Instead of replying, he gave a weary sigh.

“That bad, eh?”

“You DID warn me that she’s a stubborn little pest,” Scarlet replied.

Sapphire was silent for a moment.  She wouldn’t have put it quite like that, herself.  “Well, I wasn’t talking about that.  How is she? I’ve been a little worried about her.”

“Oh, she’s ‘okay’, apparently.  She’s not telling me much.”

“Hmmm… that’s what concerns me,” Sapphire replied.  “I didn’t really want her to go, just yet.  She seemed pretty sick, but… well… I couldn’t tell how bad she really was, and she assured me that she felt quite fit enough.”

“I know what you mean,” Scarlet replied.  “She fights to cover it all up, doesn’t she? I actually thought there was nothing wrong with her, at first – until she started falling asleep, and complaining of being cold.”

“Just keep an eye on her, okay? Bring her back if she gets any worse and start again when she’s allowed herself to recover.”

Scarlet nodded.  “SIG, Captain.  Don’t worry, I’m watching over her.”

“Where is she, now?” the SI officer asked him.  “Can I speak to her?”

“She’s asleep – I put her to bed.  Every time she sits down, she practically passes out!”

Sapphire’s concerned frown was evident in her voice.  “Sounds like she’s exhausted, as well as sick!”

“Look, Chris, you’re not her mother.  It’s your job to train her up, not wrap her in cotton wool! Lake’s a big girl, and should be quite capable of looking after herself!”

Lake’s still a kid, as far as I’m concerned,” she replied in an angry tone.  “What’s more, she’s been through a rough time and needs some TLC.  I should think she just needs someone to be there for her – especially if she’s not so well.”

Scarlet laughed.  “You’ve got a soft spot for the pest, haven’t you?”

“Do yourself a favour and shut up, before you make me angry,” she warned him.  “Apart from the sickness, how is she? Has she coped okay, so far?”

“Uh… not exactly… she seems to hate every moment, out here.”

“But has she done badly?”

Scarlet sighed.  “Let’s put it this way… I can’t get her to eat much at all, she’s hardly stopped arguing and complaining…” he gave another frustrated sigh.  “She’s refusing to go to the ladies’ until the last possible moment – out of protest I might add… things just aren’t going well.”

“Right…” Sapphire was silent for a moment.  “Let me have a word with her, later.  I’ll try to talk some sense into her…”

“Good luck!” he retorted sarcastically.

“I won’t need it – I know how she works.  Also, you’re probably just upsetting her, which will only make her all the more stubborn.”

Scarlet rolled his eyes.  These SI agents are all the same – they all think they know everything! He cleared his throat, and addressed the captain with a polite tone.  “Well, I’m sure you’ll show me where I went wrong.  Scarlet out.”

 

***

 

After leaving the lieutenant to rest for half an hour or so, Captain Scarlet decided it was time to wake her.  He dug out the small pan he’d brought, meant for boiling drinking water.  Maybe she’ll feel better after a cup of tea – I know I would!

Lake groaned as he gently called to her.  “What needs doing now, sir?”

The captain smiled down at her.  “Well, for a start, I would like you to drink this…”

“Eh?” she opened her eyes, weakly.

Scarlet chuckled as he handed over the mug.  “And then we’ll see about tea.”

“No, sir…” she groaned.  “We an’t long ‘ad dinner…”

“That was hours ago – and you hardly ate anything!”

She sighed, tiredly.  “I told you… I in’t ‘ungry.”

Scarlet glared at Lake.  He wasn’t in the mood for this, but arguing was getting him nowhere.  “Do you like fish?” he asked at last.

The lieutenant nodded.  “Sometimes…”

“Trout? Do you like trout?” he persisted.  He was determined to find something that she’d eat.

Lake shrugged.  “Never ‘ad it.”

“Then you’re in for a treat! Come on, Lieutenant; show me to the stream, please.”

 

Captain Scarlet inspected the water, thoughtfully.  “It’s a bit too rough, here – we’ll try further downstream.”

The lieutenant followed him slowly, in a manner that lacked enthusiasm.  She was far too tired and cold to take much interest in what her ‘teacher’ was doing.

After a while, Scarlet paused to check that she was still with him.  He sighed with impatience when he saw how far behind she was.  “Come on, Useless, or we’ll be here all day!”

Lake caught up and leaned wearily against a tree.  “You… go on… can’t… kee… keep up…” she coughed into her hand, paling as she did so.

The captain touched her forehead, gently.  “You’re hot,” he remarked.

“M’okay… jus’… jus’…”

“I’ll give you until tonight to PROVE to me that you’re okay,” Scarlet told her.  “If I still think that you’re too ill tomorrow, I’m taking you home – and then Captain Sapphire can deal with you.”

The lieutenant groaned tiredly.  Her partner was really hoping that she’d do well – she didn’t want to disappoint her! Sapphire had helped her through a lot… what would she say; if Lake failed right at the last – especially if it was because she hadn’t been looking after herself? “I’m okay,” she repeated.

The captain glared at her.  “I had a little chat with your partner, earlier – and she sounded sick with worry.  She’s not as easily fooled as you might think, Lieutenant.”

“Great,” Lake mumbled.

“Neither am I, for that matter! Look at you! You’re getting worse by the second…”

The lieutenant glared back at him defiantly.  “I’m not that ill – I’ve lead at Sunday School with a chest infection – compared with that, this should be easy! Especially seeing as I wasn’t indestructible then!”

“Oh, so you HAVE always been suicidal, have you? What do you plan on doing next – going over Niagara Falls in a barrel?”

“I in’t suicidal – stupid, I’ll grant you!” Lake coughed into her hand again, still leaning against the tree.  She straightened up and rubbed at her chest.

Scarlet frowned at her with concern.  “It hurts to cough, doesn’t it?”

The lieutenant smiled at him brightly and moved off again.  “Ah, I’m okay!”

Sighing, he watched her for a moment.  “Say that ONCE more, and I’ll crown you!”

 

At last, Captain Scarlet found a part of river that looked promising.  Carefully he removed his boots and socks, rolled up his trouser legs, and waded into the water.  Once he was stood on the opposite bank, he grabbed a large stick and turned back to the lieutenant, who was hunched up on the bank, shivering miserably.  “I don’t know why YOU’RE so cold – you’re nice and dry!”

Lake gave a loud sneeze and pulled a tissue from her tunic pocket.

“Good enough answer, I suppose…” he replied with an amused smirk.  “Now, pay attention, because I’ll do this only once.  To catch a trout, you need sharp eyes, a quick wit, and lightning speed…” he pounced, suddenly, and displayed his catch to the lieutenant.

Lake roared with laughter, triggering a coughing fit as she did so.

Frowning, the captain stared at his hand.  He’d succeeded in catching a lump of water weed.

The lieutenant pulled herself together.  “Nice one, sir,” she croaked.

“I’d like to see you do better first try – especially with your streaming eyes!”

The lieutenant smirked, and stretched out on the bank.  The fact of the matter was, she had had good practice at home.  As a young girl, she had always been fond of wildlife, and her curiosity had led her to want to handle most of the animals she came across.  As a consequence, she had caught many creatures, using only her hands.  Frogs, toads, newts and fish had all been easy prey to her quick reflexes.

The captain watched her, and shook his head with impatience.  “Oh, just go to sleep there, then – I give up!”

He moved a short distance downstream, losing interest in the annoying lieutenant altogether.

 

Lake, however, was in her element.  She had almost forgotten how much enjoyment she’d got from sitting beside her garden pond, with one hand in the water, waiting for something to come too close.  The water was freezing cold, but she hardly noticed.  Suddenly, a large fish rubbed its nose against her fingers, trying to work out whether or not they were edible.  In one swift movement, the lieutenant scooped the creature up and landed it on the bank.  “Zir…”

Captain Scarlet looked up from his work with an annoyed frown.  “NOW what?” It was then that he noticed the large fish floundering on the bank.  “Great work, Lieutenant – that’s a nice big rainbow trout! That should feed one of us.”

Lake stared down at the floundering fish.  She’d caught creatures before, but only for fun.  “We in’t killing it…”

“Don’t start that again! It’s a fish – you LIKE fish! Think of it as a nice, tasty salmon… or something…”

The lieutenant nodded, and gently stroked the fish.  “I’m sorry,” she said, quietly.  “We have to eat SOMETHING, I s’pose.”

Scarlet shook his head, tiredly.  “Don’t make friends with your supper – it’ll all end in tears!”

 

*** 

Some time later, Scarlet helped the girl in his charge to rebuild their fire.  Not long after the lieutenant’s unorthodox success, he had managed to catch a smaller trout, which he felt would probably be quite enough for Lake.  Once the fire was burning brightly, he prepared their meal while the lieutenant finished her work on their shelter, adding soft grasses and moss for bedding, and ensuring that all was weather-proof. 

“Are you all right doing that, Lake?”

The lieutenant shrugged.  “Think so, sir.  This grass should be nice ‘n’ soft, and I’m certainly not allergic to it, or I’d be all blotchy an’ itchy, by now…”

Scarlet smiled.  “I should be fine, then.  You seem to be much more sensitive than me.”

“I in’t that sensitive! But I were wondering… it’s gonna be cold, tonight, an’t we got anything to wrap up in?”

“I’ll see what I can do.  But I really don’t understand why you feel so cold – it’s rather warm, I thought.  It’s certainly much warmer than it was last week!”

“Should ‘ope so! T’were snowing, last week!”

Scarlet chuckled.  “It often does toward the end of winter – this warm spell is pretty early!”

The lieutenant chucked the rest of the bedding into their shelter, and rubbed at her arms.  “In’t that warm!”

“You’re getting tired,” the captain commented.  “I think you’d better sit here, by the fire, Lieutenant.  Then after tea, you can have an early night – I’ll take first watch.”

Lake nodded, and sat beside him.  “Jus’ as long as you make sure you wake me, Zir – don’ wan’ you stayin’ up all night!”

“I’m the superior officer – I’ll decide how long the shifts last, Lieutenant.  You just have to do as I say if it’s all the same to you!”

The lieutenant watched the fire in silence.  She hadn’t meant to annoy the captain; she was merely concerned that he was going to let her sleep, while he stayed up all night.  It was true that her own body was crying for rest, but she was quite sure that Captain Scarlet would also be feeling weary and wanting some sleep by now.  She yawned loudly as her eyelids became heavy.  She was vaguely aware of Scarlet making her comfortable by the fire, before sleep completely overtook her.

 

“Wakey wakey, Lieutenant!” Scarlet shook her awake roughly and handed her the fish.  “Eat – you won’t get better without energy.”

Lake smiled up at him.  “Looks good!”

“Mmm,” the captain swallowed a mouthful of his own meal, and nodded.  “It tastes even better.  Come on, eat it up, or I’ll take you back and fail you.”

The lieutenant took a small mouthful and swallowed it awkwardly.  “It IS very nice,” she agreed.

Scarlet frowned.  “What’s wrong with your throat? You didn’t swallow a bone, did you?”

The younger officer shook her head and winced as she tried to speak.  “Throat’s just a bit dry.  I’m okay, though.”

“I’ll get you some water,” the captain touched her arm, gently.  “You should tell me these things, or I can’t help you.”

Quietly, the lieutenant sipped at her water and ate the fish.  She took a long time over the meal, but eventually she finished it off.

Scarlet smiled and put an arm round her.  “Are you all right, now?”

The girl shivered and cuddled into him.  “Will be.”

“You should be in the warm and dry, curled up in bed.”

Lake shrugged.  “Who cares?”

“For starters, I do!” the captain yelled at her.  “What’s the matter with you? It’s as if you don’t care whether you live or die!”

Tears welled up in her eyes.  “I’m already dead, Captain – who’d notice if I died again?”

Scarlet stared back at her, nervously.  Up until now, he and Sapphire had both been convinced that the lieutenant had come past thoughts like those.  “Look, you have to stop this.  Pete would know, and I can assure you that he’d be very upset!”

Lake sniffed, and rubbed at her eyes.  “I-I’m sorry…”

“I know it’s not your fault, but you’re not doing yourself any favours.  I really want to see you come through all this with flying colours and make the grade.  I know you have the strength and courage to make us all proud!” he sighed.  “But you’re letting yourself down – your attitude is very important, and all you seem to do is put yourself down and set yourself back.”

The lieutenant began to cry again, as the exhaustion and illness overtook her.

“I’m taking you home,” Scarlet decided.  “We’ll call this a practice run – I won’t comment on it further.  Once you’ve fully recovered, we’ll have another go.  At least next time, you’ll know what to expect.”

Lake looked up at him miserably.  “I’m so sorry…”

“It’s not your fault – I think you’ve done pretty well, all things considered.”

“But I… I’m supposed to be professional…”

“Lieutenant,” Scarlet touched her arm as he tried to comfort her.  “You can’t move a mountain in a day.  You’re brave, strong-willed and have a great deal of promise – we just need to work on you.  Your illness, however trivial you think it is, is making it harder for you, and we can do without it.”

“You keep talking about it as if it’s life-threatening…”

“Look, have you even seen a doctor, to make sure that it’s nothing serious? I’ve been watching you – your chest is hurting you, and a normal cold virus shouldn’t do that.  I’m going to take you home and have a word with Sapphire.”

Lake sighed.  “But…”

“Sorry, Lieutenant, but my mind’s made up.  Get in the plane.”

 

***

 

Captain Sapphire folded her arms and stared at her unfortunate partner.  Ems, you assured me that you were fine!”

Lieutenant Lake was slumped in a chair with her eyes closed.  She was tired and miserable.

Scarlet sighed.  “Don’t be too hard on her – she’s done rather well, all things considered.”

“That’s not the point!” Sapphire shook her head, and sat beside the lieutenant.  Ems, I was worried about you! You shouldn’t go off like that when you’re sick – especially not into the middle of nowhere!”

Captain Scarlet nodded.  “That’s why I brought her back – she was getting worse by the moment, and we’d only been out there a day!”

Sapphire put a hand on her partner’s forehead.  “Right, off to bed with you!”

The lieutenant sniffed and shook her head.  “I’m okay, Chris…”

Ems, you’re not.  Go and rest for now, I’ll talk to you later.”

Scarlet watched as Lake went to her sleeping area, removed her boots and stretched out on the bed with a weary sigh.

His Canadian colleague turned to him.  “What happened out there? She must have been in a bad way, for you to bring her back!”

“Yes, she was – has she even seen a doctor?”

The blue-clad captain shook her head.  “She didn’t seem to be all that bad.  I kept an eye on her, and she seemed to have pretty much recovered.”

Nodding, the British captain sighed.  “She’s a pretty good little actress, I’ll give her that.  I have to admit, she had me fooled for quite some time.  Up until the point where she was barely conscious and in a lot of pain, anyway.”

Sapphire frowned.  “I hope she’s all right.  A cold is only meant to last a couple of days – a week at maximum – and it shouldn’t be that bad.”

“That’s what concerned me.  Her cough’s getting rather nasty and she’s been rubbing at her chest a lot… I was starting to think that it was hurting in some way.”

His colleague was up like a shot and checking on her partner, asking questions. 

He rolled his eyes.  “I’ll call Fawn, shall I?”

 

Ems,” Captain Sapphire sighed and sat beside her partner.  “Doctor Fawn is expecting us, if you feel fit to travel…”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lake demanded.  “I’m fit to travel!”

Sapphire winced as Lake began to cough violently.  “That virus has got to your chest – you should’ve stayed here, in the warm.”

S’only a cold, Chris.  I’m okay.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” she replied sternly.  She stood up and began to pack a few things for her ill partner.  “I can’t stay with you for long – I have too much to do here, I’m afraid.  Shouldn’t really leave at all, but I won’t let you go alone.  I’ll accompany you, and make sure you’re all right.”

Lake coughed again and gasped, closing her eyes tightly as a terrible pain spread through her chest.  “Chris… I’ll be okay…”

The captain stopped packing and hugged her.  “I know you will, Ems…” she sighed.  “I just have to make sure.  I’m supposed to be taking care of you, and…”

“It’s not your fault.  Whatever’s wrong, I thought it was nothing serious…”

“You need to learn to listen.” Sapphire released her and sighed.  “Are you sure you feel well enough for the flight?”

“And what if I say I’m not? You can’t drag Fawn down ‘ere!” the lieutenant coughed again and winced.  “I’ll… be… okay…”

“Good.  That’s good.  Then let’s get going.”

Lake allowed the captain to guide her through the base and outside to a car.  She shivered as the cold air hit her and cuddled into Sapphire.

“All right, Ems, you just sit in.  I’ll drive.”

The lieutenant did as she was told in complete silence, something that Sapphire was unaccustomed to.

“If you need me to stop – for any reason – just tell me.”

“’Kay…” Lake whispered, trying to curl up on the front seat beside the captain.

Sapphire shook her head and sighed.  “I’m sorry, but you have to sit up.  You can stretch out when we’re in the helicopter, okay? I’ll be able to give you my attention, then, and make sure you don’t fall.”

The lieutenant nodded and sat up, strapping herself in.  “’Kay, Chris.  I’m ready.”

“Okay,” Sapphire glanced across at her and smiled.  “Then let’s go.”

 

***

 

“Here,” Captain Scarlet handed Sapphire a mug of tea.  “I thought you might need this.  You look as if you’ve been up all night!”

The blue-clad captain rubbed at her eyes with her free hand and attempted to stifle a yawn.  “I feel as if I have…”

“Then why don’t you get some rest? There’s no sense in making yourself ill, you know.”

“I will once I have news,” she replied firmly.  “Doctor Fawn has been with her a long time… I’d have thought he would’ve had something to say, by now.”

Scarlet took a seat beside her.  “I should have stayed around and not pushed off back up here!”

“Paul,” Sapphire shook her head.  “You had to get back and we were fine on our own.”

The red-clad captain nodded his dark head and sighed.  “It just seems to be MORE of a worry with her… I suppose it’s because she’s retrometabolic, so nobody knows what to expect.”

The Canadian nodded and rubbed at her eyes again.  “We EXPECT her to be like you…”

Scarlet sighed.  “Between you and me, I’m glad that she isn’t.”

“What?!” she turned to stare at him in disbelief.  “How can you say that? Don’t you care at all?”

“OF COURSE I CARE!” he returned angrily.  “Don’t you get it? There’s a chance that I won’t die – EVER – but Lake…” he blew out a sigh, before continuing in a calmer tone.  “Lake stands a better chance of living a NORMAL life – with a normal… death.”

Sapphire closed her eyes, tiredly.  “With the way she’s going, Paul, she’s well on the way to bringing it nearer.  I can’t reach her.  She’s so… headstrong…”

“So are we,” he replied with determination.  “We’ll get her through, you’ll see.”

“It’s more than that, Captain.  We can’t help her if she won’t let us, and I’m starting to think that she’s lost the will to live.”

“I know,” he returned with a shudder.  “But perhaps she’ll snap out of it.  I reminded her earlier that Captain Tourmaline still loves her as much as he ever did – he really missed his big sister, from what he’s been telling me.  Perhaps he’ll help…”

Sapphire yawned loudly.  “I’m sorry…” she cleared her throat.  “We’re grasping at straws, Paul.  We can’t do anything, right now.”

Scarlet smiled and put an arm round her.  “Sleep, Chris.  I’ll keep watch for Doctor Fawn.”

“That’s a generous offer, but…”

“Rubbish! You’re tired and I’m not – I’m being… sensible.”

 

Doctor Fawn entered the waiting room to find Captain Sapphire asleep in the most comfortable seat Scarlet could find her.  He was about to go to her when the British captain stopped him.

“She’s all right, Doctor – just very worried about her partner.  How is she, by the way?”

Fawn shook his head.  “She should’ve come to me ages ago,” he replied quietly.  “She’s allowed that virus of hers to become pneumonia.”

“So quickly?” Scarlet stared at him.

“By the way she looks, I’d say she hasn’t been resting, Captain.  In fact, I’d say she’s done herself no favours whatsoever.”

He sighed and nodded.  “That sounds about right, actually.”

“Well, I’ve put her on antibiotics and I’m keeping her in.  For the moment, she’s too exhausted to do anything other than rest anyway.”

“And then you’ll have to tie her down when she starts to feel better…”

“Like I have to with you, you mean?” Fawn raised a quizzical brow at him.  “You’re no better than she is, you know.  You might be more inclined to rest when you have to, or even come to me when you feel really bad, but you still decide you’re fit for duty as soon as you start feeling bored – usually long before you’ve even begun to recover properly!”

Scarlet ignored the remark, turning to Sapphire as she groaned.  “Chris?”

Sapphire rubbed at her eyes tiredly and straightened up in her chair.

Fawn went to her side swiftly, ready to assist her.

The Canadian looked around in a dazed manner for a moment, trying to work out where she was.  The moment she saw Doctor Fawn, everything came back to her.  Ems! Is she all right?”

The Doctor calmed her, before answering.  “She has a chest infection, Captain, but she’ll pull through just fine.  I’ve put her on antibiotics and she’s taking a long-awaited rest.”

“At last!” Sapphire sighed.  “I’ve had a suspicion that Ems has been getting up at ridiculous times and playing silly games, but I’ve not caught her in the act…”

“Well, there are plenty of staff on hand to watch over her, don’t worry about that.”

Scarlet frowned, thoughtfully.  “What sort of games?”

“I’m not sure.  She just always seems as if she’s been awake for quite some time when I get up, whatever time I happen to wake… I know she doesn’t leave our quarters, and I don’t think she plays with my computer…”

The British captain drew a hesitant breath.  “Chris… I have to ask this… Do you know about her mobile phone?”

Sapphire closed her eyes in a resigned manner.  “Yes, I know about it.  I’ve told her countless times about it, but it’s a gift from her parents, and she seems to feel that keeping it with her is a way of keeping THEM with her.  In the end, I hadn’t the heart to take it from her, and told her to just keep it hidden.”

“Why, Captain Sapphire!” Scarlet stared at her.  “I thought you would have stuck to the rules!”

“With the way my partner has been, I didn’t want to risk tipping her over the edge.  I was going to wait until she’d calmed down.”

He snorted.  “You’re in for a long wait!”

“What is it with you?” Sapphire demanded angrily.  “Do you have any idea what she’s been through, just recently? Think about it! The last thing I want is to go making things any worse.  Don’t you understand that?”

Scarlet rolled his eyes.  “You’re being extremely soft with her, I can see that much!”

“SOFT?”

“You’re responsible for her – turning a blind eye to whatever mischief she might decide to get into isn’t going to do you a lot of good, should she be caught!”

“She doesn’t get up to mischief!” the Canadian snapped back at him.  She was prepared to defend her ill partner to the hilt, certain that depression was still the cause of any problems they should have with the lieutenant.  “Perhaps if she was just allowed a little time to adjust to what’s happened to her, she wouldn’t be in the state she is now!”

“That’s ENOUGH!” Doctor Fawn had been listening to their heated exchange for long enough.  “Captain Scarlet, if you have nothing better to do here than stand around telling Sapphire she’s doing a poor job, maybe you should go.”

Scarlet glared at the blue-clad captain before nodding.  “All right, Doctor.  I’ll come by later.”

Sapphire stiffened slightly but said nothing further.

“And, Sapphire…”

The captain turned to him.  “I’m sorry, Doctor Fawn, but Lieutenant Lake is my partner – and a good friend – and I won’t have anyone talking about her in such a way! Captain Scarlet hardly knows her!”

Fawn touched her arm.  “Calm down! I can see you’re prepared to stand by your partner – and that’s good.  I was going to ask if you’d like to go in and see her.”

“Would I!”

“Just be sure you don’t disturb her – she needs all the rest she can get.”

Sapphire nodded.  “When will I be able to take her home?”

“That depends on how quickly she recovers, Captain.”

She nodded curtly and allowed Doctor Fawn to guide her to her partner’s side, deciding to give her a firm reprimand once she’d recovered sufficiently.

 

***

 

Four weeks later, Captain Scarlet returned Lieutenant Lake to Spectrum Headquarters London where her partner was waiting.  Lake practically leapt from the saloon car and ran to Captain Sapphire.  “Chris! I did it! I passed!”

Sapphire smiled and clasped her hand, a broad smile spreading across her face.  “I knew you could do it! I’m so proud of you!”

The lieutenant turned away to cough.  “Sorry, Captain…”

“You still need to take it easy – no running.”

Lake nodded humbly.  “I was just so happy… I didn’t think about it.”

Scarlet stood behind her, trying hard not to smile.  “She did well.  Quite a good field agent in the making, this one.”

“Of course she is,” her partner returned, proudly.  “I already told you that.”

The lieutenant smiled up at her.  She really wanted to throw her arms around Sapphire in a big hug, but she didn’t know how she’d react with Scarlet stood there.  The difference in rank still got in the way, at times.

Guessing what was on her mind by her expression, the captain spread her arms wide.  “Give me a hug – I’d say you’ve earned it!”

Scarlet smirked.  “I’d better get back to Cloudbase.  See you later, Useless.  Bye, Mother Hen.”

In an instant, Captain Sapphire had him by the ear and was glaring into his face.  “I beg your pardon?!”

“It just slipped out! I… I…”

“’E’s been calling me ‘Useless’ because I can’t bring myself to kill for food,” Lake informed her in a tone that was almost as indignant as Sapphire’s glare.

“It’s the one thing that almost failed her,” the Brit added.  “But she was so good with everything else, I decided to let it go.  When she’s desperate enough, she’ll find the hunting instinct.”

Sapphire gave his ear a sharp tug before releasing him.  “If I hear you utter such things again, I’ll…”

The captain winced and cupped a hand to his sore ear.  “I didn’t mean any offence, Captain Sapphire, but you truly do behave like a mother hen!”

As the Canadian moved to grab him once more, he took off.  “Bye!”

Lake shook her head and touched her partner’s arm.  “What can I say? Men are berks!”

The captain laughed.  “Hmm… Maybe you’re right.  Come on, let’s get you inside before you catch cold again.”

“SIG.” She rubbed at her arms and followed her partner back inside.  “So… What’s my next exercise?”

                                                                               

 

The End 

 

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