A "Lieutenant Lake" story

by Scarlet Lady

 

Lieutenant Lake took a seat in the Officers’ Lounge with a loud yawn. “’Scuse me…” she mumbled in a drowsy tone, putting her feet up on the chair opposite her.

Captain Scarlet rolled his eyes and threw the newspaper he had been reading to one side. “Well, talk about taking things literally!”

“What?” she yawned again, and looked across at him.

Scarlet shook his head at her. “If it’s not Ochre making ‘The Mess’ look like a bomb’s hit it, it’s you using ‘The Lounge’ to slop around!”

Ochre looked up at the Captain over the top of a book and scowled. “Oh, thanks!”

The Lieutenant was also addressing Scarlet with an annoyed frown. “And if you don’t mind, I HAVE just come off duty – I’m tired… Sir.”

“Ha! ‘Tired’ – you don’t know the meaning of the word! You’ve had it pretty lightly, so far, Lieutenant.”

“Not through choice, I assure you.” Lake had rapidly grown bored of this exchange and, now that she felt she’d had the last word on the matter, switched the television on. “Rubbish…” she muttered, flicking channels, “ugh, more rubbish… huh, some awful soap thing…” she smiled brightly. “Oh, now THIS is more like it! Cricket – yay!”

Captain Ochre rolled his eyes, and returned to his book.

Captain Scarlet’s mood, however, changed at the mention of the sport. “Who’s playing, and what’s the score?”

Lake shrugged. “S’a county game, and my team ain’t there. I’ll just see…” she picked up the remote control again.

“Don’t you dare – Hampshire’s playing.” Captain Scarlet stood up; ready to tackle the remote from the lower-ranking officer if necessary.

“So? I put it on, and my team ain’t there.”

“Yes, but mine is.” Scarlet frowned, quickly trying to come up with a good reason for Lake to allow him to continue watching the game. “Now… if you want to see some excitement very soon, don’t change channels.”

“Wha’ d’you mean?”

He smiled at her. “I’ll see if I can talk the Colonel into sending you on the next mission. Uh… that is… provided I don’t have to act as your partner!”

The Lieutenant rolled her eyes at him, but set the remote down on the coffee table beside her.

“Good girl,” Scarlet noted. “Now, let me watch my game in peace.”

Lake sighed, stood up and grabbed the paper from beside the Captain, hitting him with it. “You’d just better ensure that I get that excitement – very soon! I'm fed up with sittin' around 'ere!”

Scarlet laughed as he tried to defend himself against her blows. “Alright, ALRIGHT!

Captain Ochre took his eyes off his book to watch their antics. He shook his head, torn between amusement and annoyance, as he tried to work out whether they were more like friends or rivals. “Hey! You mind keeping it down? You’re breaking my concentration.”

The Lieutenant gave another yawn, returned to her seat and began to look at the sports’ section of the paper. “Anyway, while we’re on the subject of cricket, Captain Scarlet…”

“Yes?”

“There’s a game I’d like to see, taking place at Lords. It’s a charity game, and…”

“Bristol’s playing?” Captain Scarlet asked, turning to arch an eyebrow at her.

Lake laughed at his mistake. “Bristol doesn’t have a team, Sir, even though it is technically a county…” she groaned as the Captain began to laugh at her. “You… you ‘orrible person! You knew that!”

“Of course I knew that, Lieutenant!” Scarlet became ‘serious’ and narrowed his eyes at her. “Well, if Bristol hasn’t a team, who do you support?”

The Lieutenant was tempted to make him guess, but she decided against it. “Well, Somerset’s closest, but I’m afraid I like to be a confusing little so-and-so – I support Gloucestershire.”

“Typical! Unpredictable Lieutenant Lake!”

She gave him a lopsided grin. “Well, we can’t all be indestructible, Sir.”

Scarlet frowned. Now, what would she mean by that? I thought she was indestructible… He was just about to voice his question when he saw that she had returned to her paper.

“And speakin’ o’ Gloucester, they’re doing well. Wiped the floor wi’ Zomerzet, las’ weekend, by the looks of this report!”

He chuckled. “As if that means anything!”

The Lieutenant looked across at him. “Well, Zir, it’s a shame you never believe the papers – says ‘ere that ‘Ampshire is most likely to come top o’ the league…”

Scarlet laughed. “Oh, they’ve got something right, then!”

“Look, will you two stop bickering like a pair of kids?” Ochre demanded, finally losing patience altogether. “If I have to put up with any more of this, I’ll make you eat that sports’ section between you!”

Lake stood up with a tired sigh. “Well, I s’pose I’d better go, anyway. Think me bed’s calling.”

Scarlet nodded, as he turned to her with concern. “Yes, and so do I, Lieutenant. Are you alright?”

“Oh, yeah. Juz’ run down – couldn’t sleep, last night.”

“Well, you take care of yourself, Lieutenant – and that’s an order.” T

he Lieutenant came to attention, giving him an unusually sloppy salute. “Yes, Sir.”

Scarlet waited for her to leave, and then turned to Ochre. “You know, you didn’t have to be so harsh, Rick.”

Harsh?! The two of you were driving me nuts!”

“Yes, but I think you rather upset her…”

Ochre frowned at him, and then smirked. “Oho! I get it… you’re interested in her, aren’t you?”

Feeling himself reddening, Scarlet shook his head. He wished that his colleague didn’t have to decide to torment him every time he was pleasant toward one of the female members aboard Cloudbase. “No, I just don’t think that’s the best way to speak to someone who is still very new here. She might not have known that you were joking…”

“Good, because I wasn’t!”

“Rick…”

Ochre returned to his book, thus ending the conversation.

Lake stretched out on her bed, and stared at the ceiling. She hadn’t even bothered to remove her boots, and was already close to falling asleep. I’ll just… shut me eyes a moment – that won’t do any ‘arm – then I’ll sort meself out… Before she was even aware of it, the Lieutenant was lost to the world.

Captain Blue grinned as he watched Captain Scarlet jumping around in front of the television.

“Come on – try for a six!”

“Paul, are you ok?”

Scarlet stopped and turned to him. He gave an embarrassed smile. “Uh… Hello, Adam… have you been standing there for very long?”

“Long enough, Paul. What’s all that about a six?”

“I want to see the batsman go for a big hit – and to be caught out.”

Blue frowned. “What d’you mean?”

“Essex is batting.” Scarlet chuckled. “Poor blighters don’t stand a chance…”

“I take it you don’t support them, then.”

“No, I certainly don’t. I support Hampshire – the winning team.” The Brit grinned brightly.

Captain Blue shook his head. Scarlet could be annoying enough when he was sat in front of a cricket match, but he was at his worst when he was in THIS kind of mood. He decided to leave him to it and joined Ochre, who was still struggling with his book.

Lieutenant Lake’s nap was interrupted as she thought she heard something. If she was right, it had only been a very faint sound, and yet… “THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS. WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US, EARTHMEN. THE RAIN AT LORDS WILL STOP PLAY. WE WILL BE AVENGED.”

“Uh… what?” Lake stared at the now silent loudspeaker beside her bed through bleary eyes. “What are you on about, now?”

 

 

Moments later, the Lieutenant was seated in the Conference Room, with the rest of Cloudbase’s personnel. Colonel White had just asked for their immediate thoughts on the threat, and a number of the officers had began to talk at once.

 

Captain Aquamarine had mentioned some lyrics from ‘Blood on the Rooftops’, by Genesis, but Scarlet had argued that they wouldn’t take the time to listen to a song and base their threat on that. “And in any case,” he finished, “I’ll wager that when your song is talking about ‘the rain at Lords stopping play’… or whatever it was… that they’re talking about a cricket match.”

Lake nodded. “I think so, too.”

“The Mysterons agree with me, then!” Ochre piped up, grinning. “That game is absolute cr…”

“Thankyou, Captain Ochre, but we are not here to discuss our views on sports.” Colonel White dealt him an icy stare. “Now, could you please explain to me why the Mysterons would bother to threaten a cricket match? It makes no sense.”

“Could they be threatening the ground itself?” Captain Cerise ventured.

Lake shook her head. “I dunno… that doesn’t make much sense, either…”

Scarlet turned to her, suddenly. “Wait! Lieutenant, didn’t you mention something about Lords, earlier?”

The Lieutenant nodded, slowly. “Might have been Lords… yes, I think it was. There’s going to be a charity match taking place there… sometime.”

Colonel White gave her what he hoped was a patient smile. He was quite used to Lake only remembering half of the information that she needed. “Can you remember where you found out about it, Lieutenant?”

She nodded. “Yes, Sir. Shall I fetch it?”

“Please do.”

As Lake rushed out, Captain Blue frowned. “Do you think it’s important, Colonel?”

“I want to cover everything, Captain. After all, there might be a further clue.”

“I just don’t understand why the Mysterons would worry about some stupid game,” Ochre commented.

Captain Cerise poked him in the side. “For one thing, cricket is not a ‘stupid game’… and for another thing, the charity that the money goes to from this game might be important.”

Scarlet nodded. “Very important, if the Mysterons want to stop it.”

“Here it is!” Lake called, running into the room eagerly and placing a newspaper in front of Colonel White.

“Hmmm… very interesting… the earnings will go to ‘Sporting Chance’ and the game is to be between Gloucester and Surrey.”

Lake nodded, eagerly. “That’s not the half of it! Did you see who’s to be acting as umpire there?”

“Steven J. Everett…” Colonel White stared at the paper in disbelief. “Why on Earth would he be there?”

“Who?” Captain Grey inquired, puzzled.

“One of the British politicians,” Captain Scarlet explained.

Lake nodded. “He used to be an umpire, a few years back, if I remember rightly.”

“And one heck of a cricketer, in his day.” Scarlet added, so as not to be out done.

“Well,” Colonel White handed the newsprint back to the Lieutenant. “It seems that the Mysterons have a few good reasons to interfere with this game. There is more than one politician involved, and a good number of VIPs will be there...” he scanned the document again. “Steven Everett, Victoria Harris, Philip Bond, Kevin Davis and Tania Baker.”

 

“What is our assignment, Sir?” Lake asked, eagerly.

“I’ll want a few of you taking part in the game, if it can be arranged, so those of you with some skill are to put your names forward. The rest of you will either be seated with the VIPs who will be watching, or acting as security staff.”

“I used to play for my school’s cricket team, Sir,” Captain Scarlet ventured.

Lieutenant Green had turned from working at his computer. “I have some skill, Colonel.”

“That should be fine, then. That means that there shall be at least one Spectrum member on the field at any given time.”

Lake and Cerise exchanged brief glances. Lake was first to speak up. “Colonel, Captain Cerise and I have some skill, but neither of us have played professionally.”

Colonel White nodded. “That would bump it up to two Spectrum officers per team. That should be plenty to keep an eye on things.”

Cerise smiled, eagerly. “That’s right in the thick of the action – perfect!”

“Alright, but I want you to remember this: the game can be quite dangerous, with that ball travelling at around 90 miles per hour – I want you all to be careful. Also, I do not want you becoming too involved in the game; and not keeping your eyes open for trouble. Understood?”

“Perfectly,” Captain Scarlet replied on behalf of everyone concerned.

Colonel White studied the faces of the four officers who had volunteered to take part in the game. He gave a slight smile, and then sent Scarlet, Cerise, Green and Lake to go and get some practice. The four left eagerly.

“This mission’ll be right up their street,” Captain Blue remarked.

The Colonel agreed. “Now then, as for the rest of you, your orders are as follows…”

 

 

Captain Scarlet grabbed a bat, and took position in the nets. “Try and bowl me, Lieutenant!”

Lake and Green exchanged glances. “Which Lieutenant, Captain?” Lake enquired.

“Whoever thinks they stand the better chance,” Scarlet shrugged.

Captain Cerise gave Lieutenant Green a sly wink. “Go for it.”

“Here goes…” Green grabbed a ball from the pile. He took a fast run up, leapt into the air, and threw the ball with all his might.

“Argh!” Captain Scarlet was caught off guard by the way Green’s first attempt swung. As he tried to hit the ball, he lost balance, only catching air with his bat.

“Owzat!” Lake laughed.

“Out,” Cerise replied, grinning broadly.

Scarlet came back, looking sullen. “I must be a bit out of practice – I haven’t played in ages.” He scowled at the pair of sniggering women beside him. “You have a go, if you think you can do better!”

Lake took the bat, and grinned at Captain Cerise. “Go for it, Sue.”

“With pleasure,” Cerise’s first shot was a Yorker. It hit the Lieutenant on the foot, as she went for a big swing.

“Oi! That’s not very sporting!” Lake laughed, and handed her bat to Cerise. “Your go – but don’t expect any mercy.”

 

 

“Colonel White, Spectrum, here. Could you put me through to Mr S.J. Everett, please?”

There was a click at the other end, and then a rather flustered-sounding voice came to the line. “Colonel White, of Spectrum?”

“Yes, Mr. Everett. I understand that you are supervising a charity cricket match, this weekend.”

“That’s right. But I fail to see why that concerns Spectrum.”

“We believe that the Mysterons have threatened to… interfere… with the match. If you agree, I would like to post a few of my top agents at Lords – just to improve security.”

“Is that absolutely necessary?”

Colonel White frowned. Trying to convince VIPs to listen to him certainly didn’t get any easier. “It could prove very necessary, Mr. Everett.”

“Then I suppose I can’t very easily refuse, can I? Where would you like your people stationed?”

“A number at the doors – in uniform – to check the guests entering, some in plain clothes – in the crowds – and four taking part in the game.”

“Colonel, do you have any idea how difficult that will be? I can’t just replace four of the players!”

The Colonel frowned. “It would be a good idea, Mr. Everett, to put members in the very centre of the game, where they can see everything. Uh… that is… if it can be arranged.”

The man at the other end gave a weary sigh. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thankyou, Sir.”

 

 

Lieutenant Lake stepped out of the car that she and the other members had arrived in. She stared up in awe at Lords Cricket Ground. She’d once gone there to watch her team play, but had never dreamed of playing as one of them! She shivered, as a chilly breeze caught her in the face. “S’cold, this morning. ‘Ope it warms up before the game’s underway.”

Captain Cerise smiled at her. “You won’t even notice the weather, once the game’s started, Ems. We’ll have more important things to think about.”

“I certainly hope the two of you will have more energy on the field – you won’t be able to stand around chatting, then!” Captain Scarlet rolled his eyes at them, impatiently.

“We’re on separate teams at any rate, bossy boots!” Lake remarked, cheekily.

“And that’s just as well, if you want my opinion!” Scarlet shot back.

Lake was about to give an answering retort, when Green stood between her and Scarlet. “Well, shall we go on in? Colonel White said that they’d be expecting us.”

No sooner had the Spectrum officers entered the building then Steven Everett greeted them. “Thankyou for agreeing to play, at such short notice,” he said, in a rather loud voice. “It’s difficult to replace ONE sick player, but FOUR…!”

“I understand, Sir,” Captain Scarlet replied, shaking his hand, “We couldn’t possibly cancel a game such as this, could we?”

“No, indeed not,” Everett agreed. “Please, come with me. There are a few things that need to be discussed.”

Lake took a step to follow, but was caught off guard by a wave of nausea. She stopped and closed her eyes as she tried to fight off the attack, and wondered how Scarlet and Cerise were feeling.

“Ems?” Lieutenant Green stood beside her, putting an arm around her to offer support.

Cerise turned back. “Are you alright?”

As she often did, Lake activated the telepathic link that she and Cerise had between them, by way of answering. ‘Mysteron. I’m going to take a look around – cover for me.’

‘Don’t go alone, Ems.’

‘S.I.G. I’ll take Lieutenant Green with me, then.’

‘Be careful.’

Lake cast her what she hoped was a reassuring smile. ‘Don’t worry.’

Green was watching Lake with a concerned expression. While she and Cerise had been involved in their private conversation, she had gradually looked more drained. “Ems, are you sick?”

“No. No, I jus’ wan’ zome air…” she gave him a small smile, as she hinted: “All the travellin’, prob’ly.”

“I’ll go with you,” Green told her, helping her out.

 

 

Everett took a seat at his desk, smiling. “Well, this is certainly an unusual match! It’s not every day that we have a handful of Spectrum officers taking part! I’m only sorry about the circumstances behind it.”

Captain Scarlet nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

Everett frowned, suddenly. “What has happened to your colleagues? I thought we were to have four of you playing. Have you had to change your plans?”

“No,” Captain Cerise shook her head. “Lieutenant Lake is… a bit prone to travel sickness. She’s had to get some fresh air.”

Captain Scarlet stood up. “Perhaps I should check on her…”

“No, Captain, Green’s with her – I’m sure they’ll be fine.” Cerise said, with a quick smile.

Everett was frowning. “I hope she’ll be well enough to take part…”

Cerise nodded, assuredly. “Lieutenant Lake is as tough as old boots, Sir – I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

 

 

After a fruitless search, Lake and Green agreed that the only thing they could do was to go back inside. Lake shook her head in frustration. “Sorry, Seymour… but I KNOW that I felt something…”

“That’s ok, Ems,” Green assured her, gently. “But there’s no-one about, now, and you’ve stopped… detecting…”

His colleague shivered. “That don’t exactly make me feel better.”

“Yeah, I know it doesn’t… but we’ll keep our eyes open.”

Lake nodded, and followed him back inside, slowly.

Everett had already given Captains Scarlet and Cerise their kits when Lake and Green returned.

Captain Scarlet watched them enter. He could see that Lake looked somewhat preoccupied. “Are you alright, Lieutenant?”

“Yes thanks, Sir. I suppose the drive was a bit much…” she took a seat, and cast Everett an apologetic glance. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.”

Everett shook his head. “That’s fine, as long as you’re fit to play.” He handed over the two remaining kits. “These have a number of microphones fitted, apparently, so be careful what you say. Now, I’d like to show you around – I want you to LOOK as if you’ve been here many times before, by the time the rest of the players get here. First of all, I’ll introduce you to my colleagues – we’ll want to see what you’re made of.”

Lake smiled, as she remembered the practicing that she and her colleagues had done, to prepare. She felt sure that they’d fit right in with those that had been there before – especially after all that Colonel White had arranged, with a top cricket coach.

 

 

Colonel White rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. He was seated at his desk in Cloudbase’s Control Room, watching all that was taking place at Lords via some security cameras. “Everything seems to be taking shape.”

“Yes, Sir,” Captain Ochre agreed. “The game should be starting, soon.”

“In another hour,” Colonel White corrected.

Ochre pressed a button on the console in front of him, as a light blinked on it. “Spectrum Control.”

“This is Captain Blue, reporting that everything’s S.I.G. Captain Scarlet reports that Lake felt something, earlier, but all seems to be in order.”

Colonel White took up the conversation. “Is that all you have to report, Captain?”

“Yes, Colonel. Everyone’s in position, and ready for the first move.”

“S.I.G., Captain. Keep me informed.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Lieutenant Lake paced, restlessly. First she stood at the balcony, then she turned, checked her watch, and wandered back into the dressing room. Cathy “Cat” Burton, the Gloucester Gladiator’s captain, had introduced the two ‘new recruits’ to the team; Martin Swift, Andrew West, Julie Lloyd, Geoffrey Lowe, Angela Reed, Mark Lynne, Sarah Browne, David “Rex” King, and Thomas Lewis. This was a dream come true for her; but still she felt nervous.

“Ems, would you sit down?” Green asked, as he watched her. “You’ll be too tired to make a good score, at this rate; and besides, you’re making me dizzy.”

“Sorry, Griff,” she took a seat, crossing her legs. “I’m always like this, before a game. I know it’s silly…”

Cathy Burton put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it – just don’t let the Lions see. If they thought they could get under your skin, they’d canon that ball at your head!”

Lake smiled. She couldn’t help comparing cricket to the war of nerves between Earth and Mars – in both cases; the opposition tried all they could to put you off in order to catch you out.

Burton cleared her throat, and addressed the team as a whole. “Now, seeing as we had a fair drop of rain, last night, I should think the ground will still be damp, when we get out there. The run rate will be slow, and the conditions should be just right for some swing bowling. So, what we want to do is to get Surrey in first, to bat while the conditions are stacked in the bowler’s favour. We then skittle them out cheaply, and take our turn batting when the conditions have improved for the batsmen.”

Captains Scarlet and Cerise were being introduced to their team. The captain of the Surrey Lions, Matthew Fletcher, introduced them to the rest of the members: Jack “Hammy” Hamlyn, Simon Pratchett, Samantha Watson, Sean Watson, Bev Flegg, Lee Mitchell, Jonathon Smart, Alice Fox and James Hull.

Once the introductions were over, Fletch explained the situation – in much the same way as Cat Burton had, for Gloucester.

 

 

Everett held up a coin, as he stood between the two team captains. “Heads or tails?”

“Tails,” Matt Fletcher said, decisively.

Everett nodded, and flipped the coin. He studied it, once it had landed. “Heads. Burton, your team wins the toss – would you like to bat first, or second?”

“Second,” Cat Burton decided.

Lake stood up, as her team captain came in with a determined look on her face.

“Right, Surrey is batting first. Swift, I want you to take first bowl – and see that you make them VERY uneasy!”

“Ok, Cat.”

Burton pulled on her sweater. “Play begins in fifteen minutes. Let’s get a move on.”

Meanwhile, seated on the roof of a tall building, not far from Lords Cricket Ground, was Captain Black. He held his binoculars to his face, and waited for the action to begin.

 

 

Colonel White tuned into the game coverage on television, and watched the players coming onto the field. The commentators began to explain the line-up, and up came the teams’ information. He suddenly realised just how much Everett had done to help maintain his officers’ cover. The Surrey batting order then came up.

 

 1   Samantha Watson    (batter)

2   Jonathan Smart   (batter)

3   Matthew Fletcher    (captain)

4   Sue Bevan       (batter)

5   Lee Mitchell    (wicket keeper)

6   Simon Pratchett   (batter)

7   James Hull       (batter)

8   Alice Fox          (spin bowler)

9   Paul Metcalfe  (fast bowler)

    10    Beverly Flegg     (medium bowler)

    11   Sean Watson       (spin bowler)

 

“Colonel, what does ‘batter’ mean?” Captain Ochre asked, as he read through the batting order.

White turned around. “It means ‘batsman’, Captain. They changed it to ‘batter’, when they decided to allow women to take part in the sport to the same extent as men.”

“Ah. Political correctness,” Ochre commented.

The Colonel frowned. “Apparently,” he left it at that, returning his attention to what was going on at Lords. He could see the fielding team getting into position, with the captain of Gloucester standing right behind the batsman who was on strike.

Ochre was tempted to crack a joke about one of the players being named ‘Fish’, but decided against it. It was clear that his C/O had a lot on his mind. He returned to the small monitor in front of him. Hope I get to watch Sue play!

Captain Blue was waiting at the doors, checking everyone with detectors before he allowed them to enter. So far, all was quiet. No Mysterons had been sighted trying to get through the doors, and no-one had been behaving strangely. As Lieutenant Lake was rather emotional, he was tempted to put her ‘detection’ down to nerves or over excitement… but on the other hand, her sixth sense was usually pretty accurate.

He looked up at the box where he knew that Captains Aquamarine and Magenta were seated with the VIPs, watching the game. Rather them than me – I’d fall asleep before the game had been on for ten minutes!

 

 

Lieutenant Lake was beginning to get into the game. She had a slight headache, but as she usually felt worse than that when a Mysteron was in the vicinity, she dismissed that as a sinus problem, probably down to the slight chill in the breeze. Besides that, everything seemed to be fine.

“Catchit!”

The shout from her captain brought her back to Earth, and she focused on the ball. She took two steps back, and leapt, plucking the ball out of the air. “Owzat!”

“And that’s Jonathan Smart out for 5. Let’s see if his captain can do any better…”

Captain Ochre scowled at the monitor. “Shuddup! I’d like to see you do better!”

Colonel White chuckled. “Well, Captain, for someone who thought the game was rubbish, you certainly seem to be enjoying it.”

“I just hate it when people talk like that, Sir. Makes me wish I could stick that microphone of his where the sun…”

“I get the picture, thankyou.” White interrupted.

Lieutenant Green touched Lake’s arm, and passed her a drink. “That was a good catch.”

“Thanks, Griff. I suppose I was just in the right place at the right time.”

“Well, I thought you were great.”

Lake could feel herself reddening. “Thanks,” sighing, she rubbed her cold glass across her forehead.

“Is anything wrong?” Green put a hand on her shoulder.

“Ems?” Cat Burton went to her side. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah… just a sinus ache. Should pass on its own.”

Burton nodded, slowly. “Alright, but keep an eye on it – and let me know if it gets any worse.”

Lake nodded. “Will do.”

“Griff,” Burton turned to Green and handed him the ball. “I want you bowling into them, next. Let’s see how many wickets we can get for free.”

He smiled, eagerly. “Right.”

Lieutenant Green cannoned into Matthew Fletcher.

Fletcher hit the ball with all his might – straight for Steven Everett. Lake shuddered, as she realised what was going to happen, and threw herself between the umpire and the speeding ball. It hit her in the shoulder, turning it into a mass of pain. “Ow!” She was knocked off balance by the force of the impact, cradling her injury as she fell.

“Are you alright?” Everett crouched beside her.

“Uh… I think so… yes. I’m sorry, I suppose my reflexes weren’t good enough to catch that one.” Lake pulled herself to her feet, rubbing her shoulder and trying not to wince.

“Are you sure there’s nothing broken?”

The Lieutenant flexed her fingers gingerly, and then swung her arm. “I’m fine, Sir, I assure you. Thankyou for your concern.”

Everett smiled, as he remembered Captain Cerise’s earlier words – tough as old boots. “Well, all the same, I think you should have that shoulder looked at… ” with that, he called a medic over.

“What’s going on down there?” Captain Ochre asked, as he stared at the confusion on his monitor.

Colonel White shook his head. “I don’t know, Captain, but it looks as if Lake was hurt.”

“Here’s the replay. Murray-Stone dived for what looked to be a good catch, but the ball caught HER instead,” the television reported. “She took a glancing blow to the shoulder, but wasn’t injured. The game will now continue…”

“Don’t sound so concerned,” Ochre muttered, with annoyance.

White cast him a quick glance. “I know, Captain, some of them do seem to enjoy it, when things like that happen.”

“Makes me wonder whether there’s a Mysteron in the commentary box…”

The Colonel shook his head. “No, Captain. That's just the way some people are.”

Lake had to admit that she felt foolish. She’d watched cricket many times before, and the umpires always got out of the way of the ball – perhaps she’d just panicked. On top of that, she’d failed to catch the ball and hurt herself.

Lieutenant Green stood beside her. “Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m ok – it doesn’t even hurt, anymore,” Lake lied, in an annoyed tone. “Look, aren’t you meant to be bowling, Griff?”

Green was neither fooled or impressed. “Alright, then. I’ll speak to you later.” With that, he returned to his marker and prepared for his next run up.

Lake got back into position, and prepared to stop some runs. She watched Green run in to bowl another good ball. Watson hit the ball with all his might.

Mark Lynne caught it just before it bounced, and rolled as he hit the ground.

The umpire nodded at the appeal from Gloucester. “Out.”

Captain Cerise came onto the field and settled at the crease.

Geoffrey Lowe took over bowling from Green. He took a short run up, and threw the ball at the Spectrum Captain. Cerise swatted it away, and swapped ends with Fletcher.

Lake rubbed at her forehead and tried to focus on the game. She was still positioned near Everett, where she could both watch him and take part in the game. The going was becoming difficult, as she began to feel that the Mysteron plan would surely be dropped on them, soon. Time was moving on, slowly. She watched Fletcher’s wicket fall, and that was closely followed by that of James Hull.

Captain Cerise had made 25 runs, and it was beginning to look as if she would soon be overtaking Fletcher’s score – the highest so far. Angela Reed threw what looked to be an easy ball to hit, but it turned at the last moment. Cerise caught the ball with the edge of the bat, and it swung into the air.

“Seymour!” Lake called, as she saw that the ball was heading in his direction.

Green moved accurately, following the ball with his eyes, and plucked it out of the air.

“Out!” called Everett.

Cerise removed her helmet and cast the jubilant Green a quick glance. “You wait, Griff…”

The wickets fell pretty quickly. Lake couldn’t help relaxing at her post, in terms of looking out for Mysterons. Her head had stopped troubling her, and her spirits had lifted a great deal.

Captain Scarlet was seated on the balcony, already in his pads, and waiting for his turn at the crease. He turned to Cerise. “That’s definitely a bowler’s wicket, out there. What with the run rate being slowed by the moisture…”

Cerise nodded. “I know, Paul. The only chance we’ve got is for it to STAY damp.”

“By the looks of it, there’s fat chance of that,” Scarlet muttered. “Look, the weather’s improving.”

Cerise closed her eyes, and leaned against the rail.

“Don't take it so hard,” Scarlet laughed.

Cerise gave a low moan, resting her forehead against the cold metal.

Seeing this, Scarlet became concerned. “Are you alright?”

“I think I’m getting a headache,” she rubbed at her forehead.

Matt Fletcher took a seat beside the two Spectrum officers, and frowned. “Is that what got you out?” he enquired.

“No, it’s only just come on…” Cerise shook her head, slowly.

Fletcher folded his arms. “Then let’s hope it subsides before we’re out there fielding. I’ll want you to put as much effort in as possible.”

“I’ll be fine… I just need to take an aspirin…”

Fletcher shook his head. “You have to be careful about taking any form of drug – it can get you into a lot of trouble, if you use the wrong sort. It’s better if you just fight it off without medication.”

Scarlet put a hand on her shoulder and cast a quick icy glance at the sportsman. “I’ll get you a glass of water – that should help.”

Cerise cast him a grateful smile. “Thanks, Paul.”

“That's alright,” Scarlet rubbed his own forehead, and hoped that someone would get the message. “I'm not feeling all that well, myself...”

“Anything to report, Captain Blue?” Colonel White enquired.

“No, Sir. Everything’s pretty quiet… the Mysterons seem to be leaving their attack a little late.”

The Colonel frowned. “I know, Captain, but you can rest assured that they’ve made their plans. They’ll make their move, soon enough.”

 

 

Captain Scarlet stood at the crease, and prepared for a big hit. Lieutenant Lake, though she had not been rated as a bowler, had been invited to have a try with the ball. He smirked at her, and used one of her favourite taunts. “Come an’ ‘ave a go, if you think yer ‘ard enough!” he jeered, trying to imitate her accent.

Lake scowled at him, and ran up to bowl. Her first attempt was a wide, flying high above his head so that he couldn't hit it.

“Pathetic!” Scarlet continued smirking at her.

With a low growl, the Lieutenant tried again. This time, she gave him a bouncer, which hit his helmet.

The higher-ranking Spectrum officer grinned at her, and Lake knew he meant to tell her to keep her temper.

Drawing a deep breath, she ran up again, giving him a well-aimed throw.

Scarlet swatted it away, and achieved a four, running two of them.

Lake sighed, putting her hands on her hips. She took the ball from the fielder who had received it, and tried again.

The ball hit the ground, and then swung. The Spectrum Captain tried to send the ball for another boundary, but hit it with an edge, sending it spinning into the air.

“Catchit!” the Lieutenant yelled, as she watched the ball intently.

Cat Burton placed herself directly under the falling ball, catching it with ease.

“Owzat!” Lake screeched, excitedly.

“Out!” Everett declared.

Colonel White frowned, as he watched Scarlet head back for the dressing room. “Lake and Scarlet certainly seem to be rather aggressive toward each other…”

Ochre was tempted to ask whether he’d only just noticed, but remained silent.

“Hmm… I suppose I’ll have to have a quiet word with them, later. I don’t want them becoming rivals.”

Ochre turned from working at his computer. “They work together when it counts, Sir. Besides, I expect they were trying to make it LOOK as if they were opponents. It’d look strange, if they behaved differently, wouldn’t it?”

White nodded, thoughtfully. “You could be right, Captain.”

 

 

The last of the wickets fell before lunchtime, which meant that they ate early. Lieutenant Lake took a seat beside Green, who seemed reluctant to let her out of his sight. She smiled at her protector, with an amused glitter in her eyes.

“What’s so funny?”

Shrugging, she wound some spaghetti around her fork, before meeting his eyes. “You are, Griff. What’s the matter? You seem scared to leave my side.”

“It’s not that, Ems. It’s just that…” he frowned, suddenly feeling awkward. “How’s your arm?”

“Oh, that! I told you, earlier – it doesn’t even hurt, anymore.”

Green watched her, carefully. She certainly didn’t seem to be in any discomfort. “I liked the way you tricked Ca… Metcalfe, by the way.”

“Tricked him?”

“Yes. You gave him a few balls that he couldn’t hit, gave him one that he could score off, and then threw one that would get him out.”

Lake blushed. “Thanks, but it wasn’t intentional…”

Green put a hand on her shoulder, grinning. “It looked it to me. Nice going!”

Cerise groaned and leaned her head against the wall.

Captain Scarlet watched her with a worried frown. “Sue, try to eat something – perhaps it’ll make you feel better.”

“I can’t eat…”

Matt Fletcher turned to add his two penny’s worth. “If you’re too ill to eat, you’re certainly too ill to take part, Bevan. I’m afraid you’ll have to sit the rest of the match out.”

Scarlet nodded. “He’s right.”

Cerise stared down at the pile of food on her plate, and forced herself to eat a mouthful.

“That’s right – have as much as you can,” Scarlet advised.

Fletcher stood up, and headed for the gents’.

Cerise straightened up slightly, and took another bite.

“Better?” Scarlet enquired, watching her.

“A bit, yes. Perhaps you were right, and it IS just hunger.”

“This is Captain Black, relaying instructions from the Mysterons. Fletcher, only you can hear this voice. You will use the first opportunity you get to take out Steven J. Everett. The Earthman must die.”

“The Mysteron instructions will be carried out.”

 

Lake stood at the balcony fidgeting as she watched the fielders getting into position below.

Lieutenant Green stood beside her. “What’s wrong, Ems? You look edgy.”

“I don’t know. Just a feeling – I can’t place it.”

“I know what you mean,” Captain Blue’s voice told her, over the radio. “The Mysterons should be putting whatever plan they have into action, real soon.”

Lake bit her lip.

“We’ll handle it fine, Ems,” her fellow Lieutenant reassured her, placing his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry.”

Matthew Fletcher took the ball, and began to polish it. He then stared at it, for a while.

Scarlet watched him, with curiosity.

Fletcher finished polishing his ball, and began to take a run up. He stopped in mid-sprint, and came back. “Everett,” he called, tossing the ball to the umpire, “I think there’s something wrong with the ball you gave me.”

Everett studied it carefully, and tossed it back. “It’s fine, Fletch.” No sooner had he released it, than the ball exploded. Everett reacted quickly, dropping to the floor.

Cerise went to his side, quickly. “Sir, are you alright?”

“Y-yes… just…” the VIP umpire stared up at her, visibly shaken. “What happened?”

The Captain kept herself from giving a relieved sigh. “I don’t know, Sir. We’ll have to check a few things, before the game can continue.”

 

 

Seated in Cloudbase control, Colonel White jumped. “What on Earth…?”

“The ball exploded!” Captain Ochre exclaimed, jumping to his feet. “Sir, surely we’ll have to call the match off? It’s too dangerous – the innocent by-standers…”

White shook his head. “It’s a bit late for considerations such as that, Captain. We’ll have to find out what went wrong and continue. Put me through to Captain Blue.”

“S.I.G.”

“We’re looking for the culprit, Sir, but we’re not having much luck,” Blue reported. “The Mysteron could be anywhere, by now.”

“Well, I want the match stalled until the situation is neutralised. There are too many innocent by-standers.”

“Captains Magenta and Aquamarine are trying to do just that, but the VIPs don’t want to know, Sir.”

“Alright, Captain, I’ll see what I can do.”

Lake watched the confusion below her, and tried to work out what had happened. “Seymour, we’d better find out what’s going on…”

“Lake, Green, this is the situation,” Captain Blue’s voice announced, over their hidden radios. “A Mysteron has planted bombs in some of the equipment, and we have to locate them. We’re currently trying to get the place evacuated.”

“Right,” Green replied.

The pair tried to usher their team out of the dressing room in an orderly fashion.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

“Who do you think you are?”

Lake pulled out her identification, quickly. “Spectrum. Lieutenants Lake and Green – we have reason to believe that this match is being sabotaged, and our orders are to evacuate this building immediately.”

That said, the team seemed to be much more willing to co-operate.

 

 

Once they were sure that everyone was out, Lake and Green raced back inside to locate the booby traps.

“Where do we start?” Green asked, as he and Lake searched for Blue.

Lake shook her head. “It’s a big enough place, who knows what…” she stopped, and braced herself against the wall.

Her fellow Lieutenant stopped running, and returned to her side. “Ems! What’s wrong?”

“Feel… weak – faint…” she shivered, violently. “Mysteron… in vicinity…”

“I hear you, Lieutenant,” Blue’s voice told her. “Where are you?”

“Near… near the… commentary box…” Lake swayed, and passed out.

“Lieutenant? Lake, can you hear me?”

Green put Lake into the recovery position, answering Blue’s hails as he did so. “She’s passed out, Sir. What should I do?”

“Stay where you are – I’ll send Captain Grey over to help you.”

Blue shook his head. Trust Lake to faint when we need her! Whatever she was detecting must be pretty strong…

 

 

Meanwhile, Captains Scarlet and Cerise were explaining things to the security guards on the field. “Just get everyone out, and stay with them,” Captain Scarlet said, quickly. “We’ll handle things here.”

“But, surely, this is our responsibility…” one guard argued.

Captain Cerise shook her head. “No, it’s the people here who are your main responsibility. Get them all out, safely, and notify us if anyone is missing.”

“And for pity’s sake, stay with them,” Scarlet added.

“What else can we do, if they’re our responsibility?” the guard enquired.

Scarlet nodded his approval. “Good point.”

Cerise watched everyone pile through the exit, as Captain Scarlet began to look for booby traps.

Lake opened her eyes, slowly. Her head was pounding, and she could hear the whirring of something electronic. Right, where the heck am I? As she cast a glance around – still fighting to get her eyes to stay focused – she thought she heard a snigger.

“You Earthmen are frail, aren't you?”

That voice... I know that voice... The Lieutenant frowned. “Wh... where are you...?” Wincing she tried to rub at her throat, which suddenly seemed both dry and sore. What the... my arms! I can't move my arms! She was bound tightly to a chair by what looked like electrical cables, and scarcely able to move at all.

“What's the matter, Scarlet Lady? Aren't your eyes what they used to be... or is that the problem?”

Lake bristled. She knew exactly what the Mysteron agent was talking about – before she had been retrometabolised, her vision hadn’t been very good. The Mysterons, seeing her poor sight as a weakness, had repaired the problem when they recreated her – it proved to be one of the few things that the young woman thanked her enemies for. “Show yerself, Martian…”

The owner of the voice took a step forward. Lake was surprised to see one of the commentators standing before her.

“Kieth Marksbury! I thought I recognised your voice!”

The Mysteron agent smirked at her. “You sound surprised, Earthwoman.”

The Spectrum officer coughed, and shook her head. “Hardly. Seeing as we were looking for Mysterons in the crowds, and players, the agent had to be someone else.”

Marksbury laughed at her. “You aren't as clever as you like to think, SL.”

Neither are you, Mysteron scum, the Lieutenant stared back at him defiantly.

“Are you thirsty?” the Mysteron asked, suddenly.

Knowing better than to say “yes,” Lake remained silent.

“You certainly look thirsty,” he continued, fetching a large jug full of water. “We don't want you getting dehydrated – I'm sure Spectrum will want you back safe and sound.”

The Spectrum Lieutenant watched him in silence, as he came forward with the water. You don't expect me to take a drink from you, do you? I'd have to be in a far worse state than this!

Marksbury seemed to be about to let her have a drink, but then at the last moment, he poured it over her head.

Lake gasped as the icy water chilled her.

“Clumsy of me,” the Mysteron commented, in a tone that was even colder than the water.

Green returned to the place where he and Grey had left Lake, to check on her. He frowned, finding only a discarded jumper, which had been draped over the Lieutenant. “Ems?”

“What's wrong, Lieutenant?” Captain Cerise asked him, coming to his side.

Green shook his head. “Lieutenant Lake has gone off, somewhere. I guess she felt that she shouldn't have been sitting around, during a Mysteron threat.”

“But you said that she was unconscious.”

“Yes, Captain, but you know how quickly she can revive...”

Cerise nodded. “And knowing Lake, she'd feel she was letting Spectrum down while she was doing nothing.”

The Lieutenant nodded. “Exactly.”

“We'd better find her. If she's wandering around, still feeling groggy...”

The two officers exchanged worried glances.

Marksbury watched Lake shivering beneath the wire coils, which bound her to her chair. “Too cold for you, Scarlet Lady? Don't worry – you'll warm up, soon enough.”

The Lieutenant stared up at him. “Wh... what... what do you want from me?”

“From you? Nothing! I just want Spectrum's co-operation, that's all.”

“A hostage situation? It won't work! They won't negotiate for my sake!”

The Mysteron laughed at her. “They'll do exactly what I want them to do, Earthwoman – make no mistake about that!”

Lake was certain that this would not be the case. When she had became a Spectrum officer, she had known all the dangers, and agreed to face them. She was well aware of the fact that, if need be, Spectrum would abandon her.

Marksbury smirked at her. “Whether Spectrum do as I want or not, it will make no difference to you, Earthwoman. Perhaps you should have continued to work with us Mysterons, after all.”

Lake sat up as straight as her bonds would allow. “You were the ones who dropped me, remember? Anyway, I'd have left you sooner if I'd been able to! I'd sooner die than work for murdering, slimy, filthy aliens like you!”

“Well, that just about sums up your choices.” With one of his awful sniggers, Marksbury left the small room.

“I'm not getting anything from Lake's kit,” Captain Grey cast Cerise a worried glance. “Is there no sign of her, at all?”

Cerise shook her head. “Nothing. Lieutenant Green and I made a thorough search, but...”

“Captain,” Green interrupted her, “you and Lake... you have a telepathic link, right?”

“Yes, but I can't get anything from her that way, either...”

The Lieutenant looked downcast. “Not even a feeling?”

“Nothing at all – it's as if someone's keeping us from communicating.”

No prizes for guessing who, Grey thought, darkly. “Well, give me a couple of minutes, and then...”

“Earthmen,” a voice boomed over a loudspeaker.

All eyes turned to the large screen which was usually used to display replays, scores and other information.

“I have Lieutenant Lake, and if you want her back, you will do exactly as we say...”

The screen showed them a clear view of the Lieutenant, tied down by electrical cables, and soaked to the skin.

Cerise shuddered. “He's going to electrocute her!”

“If you fail to abide by our instructions, Lieutenant Lake will be cooked. Do you hear, Earthmen?”

 

 

Cerise turned to Green. “She must be being held up in one of the broadcasting studios.”

“Right,” the Lieutenant agreed.

“I've got a plan, but I'll need a diversion,” the Captain told him. “Think you can do it?”

“Of course, Captain.”

Marksbury returned, and gazed down at the captured Lieutenant through cold eyes. “Don't worry, you won't be suffering much longer.”

Lake shivered violently. “Spectrum won't give in to you – you may as well finish me now.”

“Whatever happened to your self preservation, Scarlet Lady?” the Mysteron laughed at her. “Does Spectrum mean so much to you?”

“What does it matter? You told me yourself – I'll die whether Spectrum come through or not – which they won't!”

“You're wrong, Earthwoman. Each member of your organisation has a certain importance, and they won't want to lose you. They'll want you back, like they would a high-tech piece of equipment.”

Standing near the open door, Captain Cerise and Lieutenant Green had heard enough.

“He's going to kill her,” Green whispered.

Cerise shook her head. “He wants something from us, first.”

The Lieutenant looked at the open door. “I'll distract him, Captain, like we agreed.”

“Thanks, Griff. I'll get her.” Cerise ducked out of sight, as Green went to the door. “Let Lieutenant Lake go.”

Marksbury looked up. “I'll let her go... if you and your people do a few things for me, Earthman.”

“Like what?” Green asked.

The Mysteron smirked at him. “I want to talk with Captain Scarlet – go and get him.”

“Why do you want Captain Scarlet? He's not the only capable member of Spectrum.”

“Huh! You are all supposed to be capable, but from what I've seen so far...” he gestured toward Lake. “This one was very easy to capture. Weak and useless, and left with no-one to help her.”

Green clenched his fists. “Alright, I'll call Captain Scarlet – but don't you harm her.”

Marksbury smirked at him. “That's more like it.”

Captain Cerise crept into the room next door to Marksbury's. With any luck, this room will connect to the one next to it. They usually have some form of fire door. She was indeed in luck. Each of the rooms were connected with a little passage, to make escaping from an emergency quick and easy. After ensuring that the alarm was disabled, the Captain opened the door a crack.

In the next room, Marksbury was waiting somewhat impatiently, while Lieutenant Green spoke into his cap radio. Lieutenant Lake was seated near to the door, with her back to it. Cerise couldn't tell what condition she was in, but she could see her shivering violently beneath her bonds.

Keeping a careful eye on Marksbury, the Captain edged forward, and hid behind the equipment that Lake was attached to. Taking a knife out of her pocket, the Captain began to sever the cables, one by one.

“Thankyou, Captain,” Green cut communication and turned to Marksbury. “Captain Scarlet is coming.”

“Well, he'd better be quick, or it may be too late for your friend, back there.”

Green cast a quick glance at Lake. He was secretly wondering what could be taking Cerise so long.

The Mysteron laughed at his unease. “No need to worry – if I was going to kill her, I'd do it while the whole of your organisation was here to witness it.”

Yes, that sounds like JUST the sort of thing that you'd do!

Captain Scarlet appeared in the doorway. “You wanted to talk to me, Marksbury?”

The Mysteron agent nodded. “Yes. If you want Lieutenant Lake back alive, you must surrender.”

“And if I refuse?”

“You will watch her die a very painful death that she will not return from. And then you will join her.”

Scarlet frowned and shook his head. “I'll surrender after you let Lake go.”

Marksbury shook his head. “I don't trust Earthmen.”

“And I don't trust Mysterons, which means we have a problem.”

Cerise listened quietly, as she continued her work. She wondered what Scarlet was going to do.

“Don't try to be too clever, Captain. I'm holding all the aces, don't forget.”

The Captain spread his hands wide. “If you refuse to trust me, why should I trust you? Whenever I have done so in the past, I've been tricked.”

The Mysteron scowled at him, darkly. “You Earthmen have a lot of nerve! All you know is how to cheat, scheme and destroy, and then you complain about other lifeforms.”

“Well, as you are the greater beings, perhaps you should set us an example to follow,” Scarlet commented.

Marksbury looked as if he were about to lunge for the Spectrum Captain. “Don't mock us, Scarlet!”

Cerise snapped the last cable, and helped the Lieutenant to stand. She indicated for Lake to make her escape and turned the electronic equipment on to full, before following her colleague back through the escape door.

“I am still waiting for you to surrender, Captain.”

Scarlet shook his head in defiance. “You'll have a long wait.”

Marksbury lunged for him.

The Captain sidestepped, and kicked him into the severed wires.

The Mysteron gave a horrific scream as the sparks began to fly.

Captain Scarlet turned to Lieutenant Green, so as not to watch the unpleasant spectacle. “And that's why you don't touch a live wire with wet hands, Lieutenant.”

 

 

As they left the broadcasting section, Captain Scarlet got in touch with his partner. “Mysteron agent dealt with, Captain Blue.”

“Great!” came the reply. “How's the Lieutenant?”

“Oh, she's fine. I'm just going to see that she stays out of harm's way until we’re ready for her.”

“S.I.G. Captains Grey, Aquamarine and I have just finished checking the place over for booby traps. Negative.”

“Are you sure?” Scarlet asked.

“Yes. That ball must've been a one off.”

The Captain frowned, thoughtfully. “That's very strange... then what were the Mysterons planning?”

“I'm not sure we want to know...” Lake commented, under her breath. She added, in a louder tone; “Well, they've tried two tricks... surely that's it, now?”

“Don't count on it, Lieutenant,” Scarlet replied. He turned, looking at her with concern. It was clear to him that she had been hoping that they could now call it a day. “Are you alright?”

Lake nodded, tiredly. “I'm... ok.”

Lieutenant Green put an arm around her. “Captain Cerise and I will look after her, Sir. She'll be fine.”

“I don't doubt it,” the Captain replied, with a grin.

 

 

“What do you mean, they're gone?” Captain Scarlet exploded.

The security guard standing before the Captain shrugged. “One of your colleagues came to take them somewhere safer, Sir.”

Scarlet and Blue exchanged glances. “Why weren't we informed?”

“I don't know, but he said Cloudbase sent him.”

This was certainly news to Scarlet. He was quite sure that Colonel White would have notified at least one of the officers stationed at Lords. “This officer... what did he look like, and did you catch his codename?”

“Well...” the security official looked awkward. “He looked... unkept...”

“Scruffy?” Captain Scarlet asked.

The official shook his head. “No, Captain, not like that. He looked sort of... ill.”

“Did you get his codename?” Blue asked, repeating his partner's earlier question.

“Yes. Captain Black.”

Scarlet closed his eyes, and cursed under his breath.

Blue groaned. “I'll call Cloudbase...”

“What is it, Captain Blue?” Colonel White's voice asked, over the radio.

“Captain Black was here, Colonel. He managed to trick the security guards to hand over the VIPs, while Marksbury kept us occupied with his attempt on Lake.”

“Then it was a trick,” White summed up, with annoyance. “ How is the Lieutenant?”

Blue smiled. “Much better, Sir.”

“I'm glad to hear it.”

“Captain Cerise and Lieutenant Green are keeping a close eye on her.”

“That's a good idea, Captain,” Colonel White commented, in a quiet yet angry tone. “She most certainly should not have been left alone while she was unconscious.”

Even though that had not been Blue's fault, he nodded. “I know, Colonel, but that was unavoidable.”

“Very well, Captain. Have you any idea as to where the VIPs may have been taken?”

“Not yet, Sir.”

“The Angels have been notified. They will look for Black. I suggest you give them all the information that you can offer.”

“S.I.G., Colonel.”

As the news of the missing VIPs was reported to the rest of the Spectrum members, Lake hung her head. “This is my fault, isn't it? If I hadn't been captured...”

Cerise touched her arm, gently. “Of course it wasn't your fault. You were captured because you were left alone when you were in no condition to defend yourself.”

Captain Scarlet was addressing the rest of the Spectrum personnel. “Captain Blue, Captain Grey, I want you to help me gather all the information we can. We have to try to work out where Black was heading.” He turned to Aquamarine. “The ground has been secured, now, Captain. You can tell the security officials to let everyone back in – slowly.”

“The game can't continue, Sir,” Green pointed out. “The Mysterons have taken one of the umpires, and four of the players are unable to take part, on account of having to find him.”

“One thing at a time!” Scarlet groaned. “We'll return everyone to their seats, and bring out the band that entertained everyone at lunch time. That should keep things a bit calmer, for the time being.”

Lake nodded, eagerly. “Good plan. What shall I do?”

“You have two choices, Lieutenant. You can either go around giving out your autograph, or you can sit quietly and recover.”

“I have recovered – I want to help.”

The Captain turned to Magenta, ignoring the Lieutenant's argument. “Captain, call the Angel leader, and ask her what she can see up there.”

“Captain Charlotte,” Lake interrupted him. “Let me help – this situation is my fault.”

“You'll do as you're told, and stop being a blasted nuisance,” Scarlet replied. “You look exhausted, and I could do without you fainting on us, again.”

Cerise put an arm around the Lieutenant, gently. “He's right, Ems. You don't look very well, and you need to rest a bit...” she scowled in Scarlet's direction, “though he didn't have to be so unkind about it.”

“I don't blame him, myself,” Lake mumbled, sitting back down with an unhappy sigh.

Steven Everett took a seat in a musty room of an old warehouse, beside Victoria Harris and Kevin Davis, as Captain Black had politely requested. “I don't understand... why have you brought us here?”

Black pulled an old crate over, taking a seat opposite them. “The Mysterons would not expect to find us here. Spectrum usually takes its... guests... to a maximum security building, but that is a pretty obvious choice.”

Everett nodded. “I see. The idea is that we lie low here for a while, so that your colleagues can track down the Mysteron agents and deal with them.”

“Exactly.”

“So... what do we do, while we're lying low?” Tania Baker enquired.

The Mysteron agent shrugged. He had to keep Everett and the rest of his captives from wondering what was going on. All that he had to do, therefore, was to keep them talking. “Perhaps you can tell me more about the charity game that you were in the middle of.”

“Of course,” Everett smiled. “What would you like to know?”

Meanwhile, outside, a handful of Mysteron agents were piling explosives in the main section of the warehouse. With luck, by the time Spectrum arrived on the scene, it would be too late.

 

 

An SPV sped through the city of London. Captain Scarlet was driving, while his field partner spoke with the pilot of Angel One.

“Angel Leader, is there any sign of the missing SPC?” Captain Blue asked.

“Not yet, Captain,” Destiny Angel replied. “We'll try...”

Blue frowned, as the Angel became silent. “Destiny? Angel One, do you read?”

“Do not panic, Captain. I am still here. I think I just caught a glimpse of what we're looking for.”

“Great – where, Destiny?”

Lieutenant Lake had begun to pace, hands clasped tightly behind her back. She frowned, in a state of mind that was somewhere between sulking and worrying.

“Ems, sit down,” Captain Cerise was through with asking politely. The Lieutenant was rapidly becoming annoying.

Refusing to so much as answer, she continued to pace up and down.

“Sit DOWN!”

Lake turned to her, angrily. “I don't want to. I want to help – this is my fault!”

The Captain shook her head. “You're not doing yourself any favours, Ems.”

“I'm past caring.”

“Will you stop it? Look, if you'd allowed yourself more time to recover, and were in a better frame of mind, I might be more inclined to go and follow Scarlet and Blue with you...”

The Lieutenant smiled at her. “Thanks, Captain.”

Cerise eyed her suspiciously. What had she done? “Why? What did I say?”

“The magic words! Come on – they might need back-up.”

Cerise frowned at her. “Ems, what I said...”

“Oh, I know what you said. Don't worry – I'll rest on the way.”

“And how do you propose...?”

Lake grinned. “Don't worry – I've got it all worked out.”

“I hope...” the Captain began, but Lake had already run off. Groaning, Cerise followed.

Captains Scarlet and Blue stood in a place just out of sight of the warehouse. All seemed very quiet.

“Well, I don't think we should enter by the front door – it's too obvious, and there's a window much too close to it.” Scarlet said to his partner, thinking aloud.

“Right, ok. So, what do we do?”

The British Captain looked up at the roof, but didn't reply.

Blue smirked. “Your favourite entrance, then.”

 

 

Captain Cerise drove the SPV that she and Lake had requisitioned in the general direction that Captains Scarlet and Blue had taken, over quarter of an hour previously. She took her eyes off the screen momentarily, casting the Lieutenant beside her a concerned glance. “Are you alright?”

“Provided I relax and keep me eyes closed, yes.”

Cerise shook her head, returning her attention to the monitor. “I thought you said that you don't get travel sick.”

“'M usually pretty much immune, but I haven't had enough opportunity to adjust to these things. Only been in one twice before.”

“I suppose everyone has things that they struggle with...”

“Huh, and some more so than others...” the Lieutenant remarked, miserably.

Cerise remained silent. When Lake was in a mood like this, nothing that anyone could say would make her feel any different. She jumped slightly, as the girl beside her sneezed. “Ems...?”

“I'm ok, ok? Look, don't worry so much, and keep your eyes on the bloomin' road.”

“I'm sorry, Captain Scarlet.”

The Lieutenant scowled, but didn't reply. She knew that she really owed Cerise an apology – especially seeing as she outranked her – but was just not in the mood, right now.

Cerise cast her an amused smirk, before directing her eyes back to the monitor before her. “Come on then, Lieutenant, what's the plan?”

“We find Black, and give 'im a good kicking.”

“Right... and what about booby traps, or other Mysterons?”

“Uh...”

The Captain shook her head. “Ems! I thought you said that you had all this worked out!”

“Well... I... I mean... uh...” Cerise shook her head. It was clear that Lake hadn't been feeling her usual self, or else she would have taken much more into consideration. She was already regretting agreeing on taking her to help Scarlet. I'm too nice, she thought with annoyance. “Right, we need a plan. Now, how do you intend to find out where Captain Black went? I mean, this is a large city...”

The Lieutenant chuckled. “Oh, THAT'S easy, Captain – I'll radio the Angels.”

“Go on, then.”

Captain Scarlet stood on the roof of the warehouse, and waved to his partner to come up.

Blue powered up his hoverpack, and was soon at the British Captain's side. “Now what?” he whispered.

“We have to take Black by surprise, somehow...” Scarlet frowned. “What we really need is some kind of diversion...” his epaulettes flashed white, and his radio cap crackled into life.

“Captain Scarlet,” Destiny's voice called, “I just heard from Lieutenant Lake. She says that she and Cerise will be with you very soon.”

“I'll kill her...” Scarlet muttered, beneath his breath.

“Captain?”

“S.I.G., Destiny. Thankyou for the information. They may provide the diversion we need...”

 

 

Captain Cerise pulled up near the warehouse that Destiny Angel had directed her to, and looked down at her partner. Lake had crumpled up in the seat, and gone to sleep. “Ems, come on!”

The Lieutenant groaned. Before she'd even opened her eyes, a pain began to throb between her eyes.

“Are you ill?” Cerise leaned over her, awkwardly.

“No... Think it's...” Lake screwed her eyes up, tightly.

The Captain nodded, knowingly. “Mysterons.”

“...Yeah...”

“Well, come on, Ems – we won't be of any help at all, sitting here.” she pressed a button, and the door on her side slid open.

Closing her eyes and leaning her head back against the chair, the Lieutenant groaned again. She then sat up and followed her partner's example.

Scarlet watched the roadside, carefully. “Where on Earth are they?”

“Well, Captain, like you said – if they had any sense, they'd approach with caution.”

“I suppose you're right.”

Blue sighed. It was clear that his partner was still annoyed that they hadn't listened to him and let them handle the situation alone. He pointed at the bushes that acted as a perimeter fence. “There – I thought I saw a flash of pink...”

They watched Cerise and Lake split up and sneak around, looking for a way in. Without seeming to communicate in any way, they wove around to enter via a back door.

“They're in.” Blue commented, needlessly.

Scarlet shook his head in admiration. That telepathic link of theirs certainly seems to prove useful!

No sooner had Scarlet and Blue entered than they received a call from Lake. “There are some boxes stacked down here – they're full of explosives. They've got enough here to take out the block, not to mention the building!”

“Lieutenant, where is Black? He's most likely to be holding the detonator.”

“I'm not sure, Captain Scarlet... There are so many rooms...”

“Look, use your sixth sense – try to find him that way. Captain Blue and I are searching the upstairs area.”

There was silence at the other end, for a while. Scarlet was just about to ask the Lieutenant whether she was still receiving when she began to talk in a hoarse, excited whisper. “It's very dusty, down here, but one of the doors has been opened, recently, and there are a number of footprints down here. Could it...”

“Yes!” Scarlet hissed back, in a tone similar to hers. “You and Cerise burst in on him – Captain Blue and I will be with you in a moment.”

Blue stared at his partner, as he broke contact.

“What is it?”

“Well, when you said you'd kill them, I didn't realise you meant it!”

 

 

Lieutenant Lake paused at the door, and listened. She could hear voices in the room, talking in a perfectly calm way. Hmm... Perhaps ol' Black is just observing these people... she put her hand on the door handle, ready to burst in.

Cerise, standing behind her, frowned. 'What is it, Ems?'

'They're just talking. In a civilised manner, I mean. Is it such a good idea to barge in on them? I mean... what if...'

The Captain shook her head. 'We've got surprise on our side. If we wait, we'll lose that.'

Lake twitched her nose, and nodded. 'Too right. Ok, Sue, I'll go first.' Turning the handle quickly, she sprang into the room, gun at the ready.

Black looked up. “Lieutenant Lake, it's a surprise to see you... alive.”

“A pleasant surprise, I hope, Captain Black?” she pointed her gun at him, narrowing her eyes. “Now, be a good chap an' drop yer weapons.”

The Mysteron agent stared back at her. “You would not shoot me. Not in cold blood.”

“Why not? That's what we do... to traitors.” she moved away from the door, so that Cerise could enter. She was glad that the Mysteron was following her with his eyes. “Drop yer weapons – I won't say it again.”

As Cerise crept in and fixed her weapon on the Mysteron, he grabbed Everett, using him as a shield. “You're too slow, Earthwoman,” he snarled at Lake.

The Lieutenant lowered her pistol, looking defeated. She noticed that Black had not pulled out a weapon, however. “It seems I still needs some training...” she muttered, ruefully. Sneezing suddenly, she accidentally pulled the trigger of her pistol. “Ow!” dropping her weapon, she held her foot.

While Black was watching her partner, Cerise got behind him and poked her gun into his back. “Let Mr Everett go, Mysteron!” she snapped.

Scarlet and Blue had heard the shot and burst into the room. Blue went to Lake's side, as Scarlet assisted Cerise. The Mysteron agent let go of the politician, and held up a detonator. “Four Spectrum officers and a handful of politicians. This has certainly been a good day!”

Scarlet swallowed. If he shot the detonator, who was to say that the bullet wouldn't hit somebody? It would most definitely pass through the small device. While he and Cerise stood rigid, Blue took aim and prepared to fire. At the same moment, Black disappeared.

“Blast it!” Captain Scarlet cursed. He turned to Blue. “Nice try, Captain. Now quick – we must get out of here!”

Lake scrambled up, and winced. “You go on – I'll be too slow.”

Scarlet nodded, and he and Blue began to guide the VIPs out.

Cerise, however, would not leave her partner. “Ems...”

“You go on – I'll be right behind you,” after taking a couple of steps, her leg collapsed beneath her.

“I'm not leaving you, Lieutenant. You can either let me help you, or struggle on your own – but I'm not leaving your side.”

Lake nodded, and put her arm around her partner, leaning on her. “Thanks...”

“Never mind that, now. Let's just get out of here.”

Scarlet and Blue had just got the last of the VIPs away from danger and into the waiting SPVs when the building went up. The two Captains watched in silence. Both Cerise and Lake were indestructible, and so in theory they could survive the blast. However, they both knew that Lake's retrometabolism had been weakened when she had been released from the Mysterons' control... Scarlet suddenly found himself feeling very guilty.

“Look!” Blue pointed at some movement, behind a swirling cloud of dust.

Captain Cerise emerged, dragging her partner as best she could.

Scarlet ran to her side, quickly. “Here, let me help you. Are you both alright?”

Coughing and spluttering, Cerise set the Lieutenant down. “I’m alright…” she cleared her throat of the last of the dust. “Took some blows to my back and shoulders, but nothing feels broken.”

“Good,” Scarlet replied. “What about the Lieutenant?”

“I don’t know. She came through the worst of it, but then she passed out as we were getting clear.”

“Shock, I expect.”

Cerise shook her head. “I don’t think so. Lake’s tougher than that, Captain Scarlet.”

The Lieutenant coughed, and opened her eyes, weakly.

“Ems?” her partner touched her arm, gently. “Are you alright?”

“Uh… yeah. Foo’ ‘urts, though…”

Kneeling beside her, Scarlet checked her over. “Your foot is still bleeding, Lieutenant…”

“It’ll stop, in a minute.”

Shaking her head, Cerise assessed the damage done. “I think you should see a doctor.”

Deciding that she wasn’t in the mood for this, Lake glanced about her, and then gave a half-hearted smirk. “Don’ see any about, d’you?”

“Don’t start, Lieutenant,” Scarlet scolded. “You’ve done yourself some serious damage – don’t you understand that?”

“S’not fatal.”

“Lieutenant, be quiet.”

Cerise turned to Scarlet. “What now, Captain?”

“I’m going to call Cloudbase. Lake has really shot herself in the foot, this time.”

“Oh, ha… ha… ha…” Lake muttered, rolling her eyes.

“No pun intended,” Scarlet added in an apologetic tone.

 

 

Captain Grey was satisfied that the threat was over. He, Magenta and Aquamarine had searched the building but had found no further threat.

He looked up at the crowd of spectators who were waiting for the game to continue. They still seemed to be patient, enjoying the music of the entertainers, and giving some of the teams’ players items to sign.

“What now, Captain?” Aquamarine came to his side.

“I guess we await further developments. Captains Scarlet and Blue are heading back – they should be here, shortly.”

“And Captain Cerise and Lieutenant Lake? Where have they got to? I'm starting to think that Lieutenant Green might be right...”

Grey shrugged. “Lake can't come to much harm under Cerise's wing,” he chuckled. “They’d better be safe, anyway – as far as I know, they’re still meant to be out there playing.”

 

 

Lieutenant Lake was seated beside Captain Scarlet in one of the SPVs. She glanced at Mr Everett, who was seated opposite her, beside Philip Bond.

The Captain frowned. “So… what do you plan to do about this game, Lieutenant? I can’t see you running much, somehow.”

“I’ll be fine, thankyou,” she turned to glower at him.

Scarlet shook his head, but didn’t take his eyes off the screen. “If you’re finding it difficult walking, I’d love to see you running between the wickets.”

Lake winced, but remained silent.

Mr Everett cleared his throat. “I’ll see about a runner, Lieutenant.”

“Thanks,” she shot Scarlet another scowl. “See, Captain? I’ll be fine.”

The Captain snorted, but didn’t reply. She’ll have a hard job just standing at the wicket with an injured foot, as well!

Captain Blue was as annoyed as Scarlet. He had said nothing up until now, concentrating on driving the second SPV back to Lords Cricket Ground, but felt that he should say something. “If it wasn’t for the fact that a helicopter couldn’t get here for at least another hour, you and Lake would be on your way back to Cloudbase.”

“I know,” Cerise mumbled, miserably. Her back and shoulders were still aching, and she was currently unable to drive as a result.

Shaking his head, Blue continued. “What did you think you were doing? I was sure you were told to stay at Lords.”

“Lieutenant Lake didn’t want to stay behind and do nothing…”

“Surprise, surprise…” Cerise stared at him. It was unusual for Blue to react in this way. “Well, can you blame her? Her job was to stay out of the way, according to Scarlet – I don’t think I’d have liked that, either.”

“You’re not supposed to like following orders, Captain.” Blue pointed out, frowning.

Cerise rolled her eyes, but didn’t reply.

 

 

Captain Grey was the first to welcome the VIPs back. He then turned to Captain Scarlet, for a private conversation. “We’ve given the whole ground a thorough search. No sign of any more Mysterons.”

Scarlet nodded. “Splendid. In that case, perhaps we can finish this game…”

Grey frowned. “Won’t the Colonel want us to head back?”

“I don’t think so,” the Brit shrugged his shoulders. “It would be very difficult for Mr Everett and his colleagues to bring in four replacement players, so far into the game – let alone explain the need away.”

“I suppose you’re right…”

“Besides, if we tire Lake out, it might shut her up for a while…” Scarlet continued, with a smirk.

Grey frowned, but said nothing.

“Well,” Scarlet turned to Cerise, Green and Lake. “I think we should change back into our kits before heading back to the dressing room. There are too many people around who might put two and two together.”

Lake sighed. “And get out of our uniforms where?”

“Well…” he glanced around, thinking carefully.

“I bet the loos’ll be crowded – no chance of maintaining secrecy there,” Cerise remarked.

Scarlet nodded. “Good point.”

Everett had been listening, quietly. “I’ll find you some rooms – there are always a couple left to spare. I won’t be a minute.”

“Thankyou, Sir,” Captain Scarlet smiled, as he watched the VIP leave.

 

 

Matthew Fletcher watched the now kitted out Cerise and Green help Lieutenant Lake back to the Gloucester dressing room. Don’t know when to call it a day, do you, Earthmen?

Mr Everett noticed him, and came to his side. “Everything alright, Fletch?”

“Yes…” Fletcher turned to the VIP umpire. “I think so… still a bit shaken up, after what happened earlier. What was that all about?”

Everett shook his head. “Never mind that, now. The people behind it have been dealt with, so all that remains is for us to give the spectators the entertaining match they came for.”

“I can do that,” Fletch grinned. “I’ll see that they get plenty of excitement!”

 

 

Captain Cerise put a hand on Lake’s shoulder. “Well, back to being opponents, Ems. Take care of yourself, alright?”

“Yeah, ok. I wish you luck with the wicket-taking… you’re gonna need it!”

“Wanna bet?” Cerise chuckled. “Surrey has always been better than Gloucester – you’re going to be thrashed!”

The Lieutenant narrowed her eyes. “I very mu…” she was cut off by a sneeze.

“Aww, should you sit the rest of the game out? You can bring in a back-up player, can’t you?”

Lake straightened up, deliberately putting all her weight on her injured foot. “I don’t give in without a fight, Sue. You know that.”

The Captain was just about to argue that a cricket game wasn’t half as important as a show down with the Mysterons, when she remembered where she was and who might be listening. Sighing, she nodded. “Just be careful, alright?”

“I’m not stupid,” she gave a lopsided grin. “See thee in the pub, later, ok?”

Cerise had to keep herself from laughing. ‘I take it you mean the Officers’ Lounge?’

‘But of course.’

“Ok, in the pub, then.” With that, she turned away, heading for her own dressing room.

 

 

Cat Burton frowned, as her two missing players returned. “Still here, then?”

Lieutenant Green nodded. “Well, I thought this was meant to be an important match...”

The Captain of Gloucester nodded. “Yes, it is. I appreciate your sticking around, Lieutenant.”

“Griff,” Green corrected. “Just carry on calling me Griff – no-one’s meant to know we’re from Spectrum.”

“Please, Cat, as far as you’re concerned, we’re just two new players that you’re trying out,” Lake added, limping to a chair.

“Oh no – you’re hurt!” Burton went to her side. “What’s wrong? Are you fit to play?”

Lake nodded. “I’m fine, Cat. Mr Everett thinks that I just need a runner…”

“I think I’ll be the judge of that, if you don’t mind…” Jason Hunter, Gloucester’s coach, stepped forward. “I’ll get the physiotherapist to look you over, before we do anything else.”

The Lieutenant turned to Green, silently asking him to take up the argument. They both knew that it was important, with her retrometabolism, that Lake was not checked over by someone from outside of Spectrum’s ranks.

“A Spectrum doctor has already looked her over. It’s nothing serious.” Green lied, wishing that this was the case.

Hunter frowned, but nodded. “Alright then… but if it gets too much, say so.”

Lake nodded. “I will.”

Cerise downed a glass of water, and took a seat beside Captain Scarlet. “Well, when do we get back out there?”

Rolling his eyes, he studied his watch. “Ten minutes. Are you ready?”

“Yep,” Cerise grinned at him. “What about you?” Scarlet laughed. “Oh yes, I’m ready…” he gave an unpleasant smirk. “Someone owes me a couple of bouncers – not to mention a wicket!” He received a thump in the arm, for that remark.

Fletcher called his bowlers together. “Well, we want to skittle Gloucester out cheap and fast. Try giving them a couple of Yorkers – especially with Murray-Stone.”

Scarlet and Cerise exchanged glances. “Why, Fletch?” Scarlet enquired.

The team captain gave an unpleasant smile. “Because she’s been hurt, somehow. Aiming for her legs and feet should give her plenty to think about.”

Cerise winced. ‘Ems, I really think you should sit the rest of the game out.’

 

 

Captain Ochre turned to his Commander-in-Chief, questioningly. “Sir, what’s happening with the match?”

“I’ve given the members involved permission to finish the game, Captain. Mr Everett requested it, himself.”

Ochre frowned, puzzled. “But… I thought the threat was over…”

“Well, yes, it certainly should be, by now.

However, I feel they’ve earned a little time off, while all is quiet. They have done a good job.”

Boy, I wish I were down there, now! Ochre thought.

Chuckling, the Colonel turned back to his monitor. “At any rate, this is a further test on their skills, stamina and wit. We could class cricket as a form of training.”

 

 

Captains Cerise and Scarlet took position in the field, with Surrey’s county team.

The first batters at the crease were Julie Lloyd and Mark Lynne. Fletcher began to direct his players into different positions.

Time wasting, Cerise thought, with annoyance. She almost didn’t obey when he directed her to stand near the boundary rope. Something was nagging at her, and she was reluctant to move too far away from Everett. However, with two Mysteron attempts over, she reasoned that the threat must surely be finished with.

The team’s captain tossed the ball to Sam Watson. “Get them out, Sammy.”

Watson nodded, and took his first run up.

Fletch then positioned himself near to Everett.

Lieutenant Green was seated on the balcony with Lake, watching the game taking shape below. Against his advice, she stood to clap for each and every boundary scored, testing her injured foot as she did so. She wondered just how much damage she had really done to herself. Shrugging, she returned her attention to the game outside.

Burton joined them. “How are they doing, down there?”

“Pretty well. Both Mark an’ Julie ‘ave got a couple o' boundaries, each,” Lake reported.

“And how are you doing? You can sit the remainder of the match out if you need to.”

The Lieutenant shook her head. “I’m not passing up the chance to play for me county, Cat – this is a dream come true. I will sit it out if I have to, but I just want to see how I go, first.”

Burton nodded. “Fair enough, I won’t say any more.”

At the drinks break, Captain Cerise joined Scarlet.

“What’s wrong, Sue? You didn’t seem to be concentrating much, just now…”

Cerise shook her head. “That headache’s back, Paul. It was putting me off.”

“Hmm…” Scarlet lowered his voice. “Something’s been bothering me, too. Did you notice the way Fletch said about throwing the ball at Lake? He really sounded as if he was out to get her.”

“Yes, I noticed, but that might have just been him looking for a way of putting her off…”

“Do you think that’s all it was?” Scarlet asked in surprise.

Cerise shook her head. “I might… but I keep remembering the way he gave that ball to Everett… Remember, Everett couldn’t see anything wrong…”

“Yes…” Scarlet frowned, thoughtfully, “Being an experienced umpire, Mr Everett should have noticed something odd about the ball, if there was anything noticeably funny about it… unless… unless Fletcher knew something he didn’t!”

“Good work,” Captain Blue’s voice called to them, over their hidden receivers, “you could be right – it does sound suspicious. Anyway, don’t worry about it – we’ll deal with ‘Fletch’, now.”

Cerise and Scarlet nodded, not answering verbally.

A second later, a member of the ground staff ran up to Fletch, and the two exchanged a few words. After a moment, Matt Fletcher nodded, said a few words to Simon Pratchett, and left the field.

“Now what?” Lee Mitchell asked, frowning.

Pratchett shrugged. “He just said that he’d be back in a moment.”

However, instead of the captain returning to continue the game, the reserve player came out. “Matt’s been called away – personal problems, of some kind. I’ve been sent to take his place on the field.”

Pratchett nodded. “Ok, I guess that means I take over as captain…”

Cerise at last was able to concentrate on the game, and intended to enjoy it to the full. She had begun to stop boundaries and was feeling one of the team. She grinned, as Captain Scarlet gave her a thumbs up.

“Sue!” she’d already seen the ball come off the bat at a funny angle. Carefully, Cerise followed the ball with her eyes. Jumping, she plucked it from the air just short of the rope.

Captain Scarlet watched her in disbelief. Cerise seemed to hang in the air, grabbing the ball with ease. He punched the air, joining the rest of the team in a huge celebration. As Julie Lloyd made her way back to the pavilion, he congratulated his fellow Spectrum member.

Lake sighed, shaking her head. “Blast!”

“Hey, that’s forty-three for one – that’s not all that terrible,” Burton pointed out. “Our team can bat all the way down the order, so we’ll be fine.”

Green nodded. “We only need another hundred-and-eighty-nine.”

Chuckling, Lake nodded. “We can score that easy!”

“With the weather so much dryer, the pitch is on our side, again,” Burton added.

“I guess you have to hand it to Surrey,” Green remarked, “They’re certainly making a real fight out of it!”

 

 

Colonel White watched the game with interest. He would have expected even Scarlet to be showing signs of tiring, by now. However, both he and Cerise were still going strong. As he watched, Mark Lynne was caught LBW, and had to return to the dressing room with forty-eight runs.

Ochre frowned. “What does LBW mean, Sir?”

The Colonel turned away from his screen. “Leg Before Wicket, Captain. It means that if his leg hadn’t been in the way, the ball would have hit the stumps.”

“But, Sir, I thought you said that the ball isn’t supposed to hit the stumps. That’s right, isn’t it?”

Chuckling, the Colonel explained. “It’s a method of avoiding cheating – if the bats… batter were to deliberately stand in the way of the stumps, he wouldn’t have to bother hitting the ball with the bat. As a result, he would be impossible to get out.”

The Captain nodded. “So it’s to make things fairer.”

“Exactly.” White gave another chuckle, “I didn’t know you had any interest in this game – I’d have thought baseball was more your cup of tea, Captain.”

“Yeah, well… I guess I’ve got a personal interest in it, with some of my colleagues playing, Sir. I want to follow what’s going on.”

Lake turned to Mark Lynne, as he returned to the dressing room. “You were bloomin’brilliant.”

“Thanks, Ems,” Mark shook his head, sighing. “I just wish I’d stuck around long enough to make at least my half century.”

Cat Burton shot him a compassionate smile. “Well, you’ve put us well on the way to winning, Mark. At the end of the day, it’s all down to how well the team performs as a whole… though I’d have liked to see you make at least fifty, myself.” That said, she stood up. “Well, I suppose I’d better get the rest of my gear on.”

 

 

Captain Scarlet was standing near to the wicket keeper. He watched Dave King score boundary after boundary. On a couple of occasions, he’d just avoided hitting the ball with the edge of his bat, and the Spectrum Captain felt sure that it wouldn’t be long before he was caught out.

King, however, seemed to be having a good deal of luck. He made half a century in a matter of leaps and bounds, and seemed to be well on the way to achieving a hundred.

Scarlet shook his head, trying to keep himself focussed on the game. At the same moment, there was a loud CRACK and the leg stump flew out of the ground. Bowled him! Fantastic! He ran to Alice Fox, to congratulate her.

Lake stood, as Cat Burton left the dressing room. “Best get ready – I’m up, next.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Green asked, watching his colleague hobble back inside.

“For goodness sake, Seymour! I’m going to work with a runner, what more do you want?”

“I want you to take it easy, Ems.”

Lake scoffed. “I’ll be fine – the trouble with you is that you worry too much!”

Green shook his head. And your trouble is that you don’t worry enough, Ems!

Scarlet watched Bev Flegg prepare for a run up. He began to will her to bowl Cat Burton out first ball. Flegg steamed in at full power, but Cat swatted it away. She swapped ends with Thomas Lewis, putting him back on strike. Never mind, Bev, get Lewis out instead. Go, go, go!

Flegg ran up again, and this time managed to hit the stumps behind Lewis. The batter turned to stare at the middle wicket, which was leaning at an angle. He shook his head, and headed back to the pavilion.

Scarlet was ecstatic. He leapt into the air cheering, before congratulating the bowler.

 

 

“My turn,” Lake stood up, slowly. She was surprised at how tired and weak she felt, but was determined to at least try to make a score.

“Ems,” Green was watching her with a concerned expression.

“What is it, Griff?”

Shaking his head, he stood up to follow her. “I’ll be your runner.”

 

 

“Metcalfe,” Pratchett tossed the ball to Captain Scarlet. “Give it your best shot.”

Scarlet nodded, polishing the ball. “Gladly.” He watched Lieutenants Lake and Green arrive at the crease and frowned, darkly.

“She shouldn’t be all that difficult to get out – remember what Fletch said?”

“I do indeed…”

Blinking to force her eyes to focus, Lake swung her bat in a practice motion, and lent on it, propping herself on it. As if through a haze she watched Scarlet taking a run up, and by a miracle hit the ball that he sent flying in her direction.

Green tensed as the ball flew toward the boundary rope.

“Go!” Burton was already running as she called to him.

Green frowned, but took off. He was quite sure that the signal should have come from Lake, though, and he was certain that it wasn’t in her character to pass up the chance for a few runs. He returned to the wicket that he had started from, and turned to the batter still at the crease. “Ems, are you ok?”

“Uh… yeah. Yes, Seymour, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah…” Lake nodded, and took a deep breath. “Bit cold, though…”

Green frowned, again. Lake swung the bat in another practice sweep and gave a short gasp.

“Ems?”

“Water…” Lake took a shaky breath. Her hands felt numb, and a sick, light-headed feeling was gripping her. She didn’t even notice her runner calling for assistance and moving to her side. Vaguely aware of falling backwards, she somehow remembered the wickets behind her. She brought herself forward, forcing herself to lean on her bat for support with a last effort to avoid giving up her wicket. Then her world went dark.

Green watched his colleague crumple to the ground and grabbed her. “Ems! Ems, d’you hear me?”

Cat Burton raced up to help. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“Well, that’s one less Gloucester player that Surrey has to worry about!”

“Yep. That leaves Gloucester 102 for 5. Talk about a collapse!”

Ochre shook his head with annoyance, as they replayed Lake passing out at the crease in slow motion. “Huh! Listen to ‘em – they think they’re so… FUNNY!

The Colonel didn’t reply to his remark. He was already fed up with telling the Captain to ignore the commentators.

“Sorry, Colonel.” Ochre turned to his C – in – C. “Is Lieutenant Lake on her way back to Cloudbase?”

White nodded. “Yes, Captain Ochre. Why do you ask?”

I bet Green wishes he could go with her…!

The Colonel noted his expression, and frowned. “Does something amuse you, Captain? Perhaps you have something you’d like to share?”

“Oh, no, Sir!” Ochre chuckled. “I guess it’s just that my sense of humour is as sick as the commentators’…”

“In that case, kindly keep it to yourself,” White remarked, shaking his head.

 

 

Lake opened her eyes, carefully. She could see something just in front of her. Frowning, she tried to force her eyes to focus on it…

“Hi, Ems. How are you feeling?”

“Cerptain Caprise?” she sat up, slowly, as she realised what the ‘thing’ she had seen was.

“That’s ‘Captain Cerise’. But seeing as I’m off duty, ‘Sue’ will be fine.” she smiled at her partner. “How are you feeling? You had us all very worried.”

The Lieutenant frowned, trying to find a good description. “I… feel… glad to be alive.”

Cerise nodded. “That’s good…”

“And I’m certainly feeling well enough to be out of bed!”

“Over my dead body – and over Fawn’s, too.”

“Huh!”

Cerise sighed, and took a seat on the bed, being careful not to sit on her partner. “Can’t you remember what happened?”

Lake frowned. Suddenly, her expression changed, as she re-lived a chain of events, rather like a sequence of highlights. “Me foot…”

“Is broken. You also shot a couple of veins, which is why you were feeling faint.” Cerise shook her head. “Didn’t you know that you were bleeding to death?”

Lake shuddered, and put a hand on her stomach. “Feel sick…”

“I’m not surprised.” Cerise clenched her fists. She didn’t want to be too hard on her partner, but she was angry that she’d put herself through so much needlessly. “Would you mind telling me why you did all that to yourself? You must have been feeling terrible!”

“I…” sighing, the Lieutenant lowered her eyes. “I just wanted to prove myself, I suppose…”

“Look, you didn’t have to prove yourself, to me or anyone else. You see, Spectrum works as a unit – we’re not a gang of individuals doing our own thing. We have to trust one another. We wanted you to stay out of the way because you looked ill, not because we thought you were useless.”

Lake shook her head tiredly. “I want to earn me keep. I'm not like the rest of you, and... and I want to be.”

Sighing, Cerise put an arm around her. “You've told me that before. You're main job is to take photographs – you aren't supposed to be another Captain Scarlet...” she gave a laugh. “One Scarlet is quite enough!”

“I know. It's just that... I dunno... I want to show everyone that I was worth the risk when they took me on.”

The Captain stared at her partner. Then, much to Lake’s surprise, she began to laugh. “And you wonder why the Mysterons used to call you ‘Scarlet Lady’! Ems, whatever did Scarlet do to you when he gave you your training?”

The Lieutenant scowled at her. “Not funny, Sue.”

“No, of course it’s not. I’m sorry.” Cerise stifled a giggle, and became serious again. “You’re just lucky I’m not reprimanding you in the way that I should – I’ll leave that to the Colonel.”

“Oh NO...!” The Lieutenant closed her eyes. Eventually, she turned a pleading glance to her partner. “I dread to think what the Colonel’s going to say…”

“We’ll face that together.”

Lake smiled, lying back against the pillows behind her. “Thanks, Sue.”

“Well, we are partners,” the Captain smiled at her. “And friends… and I was supposedly responsible for you.”

“That’s why I feel so bad… the whole time, you and Seymour… and even Scarlet… you were all telling me to be careful… and I was just too stubborn to listen. Have I got you into trouble?”

“Never mind that, now. Doctor Fawn wants you to concentrate on resting and getting better. You’ve taken a lot of punishment.”

“A shot foot, Sue. That’s not much.”

“You lost a lot of blood, you know – which is why you’re so poorly.”

Lake sighed, heavily. “I get the picture…”

“Ems…”

Lake sighed again and hugged her partner. “Don’t worry – I’ll be alright. I’m just fed up.”

“Don’t be.” Cerise smiled.

Yawning, the Lieutenant smiled. “I’m sorry… it’s just that…” she shook her head. “Anyway, who won?”

Cerise turned away. “I’m sorry, Ems…”

“Why?” Lake stared at her with a confused expression. “Was it as bad as all that? How much did Gloucester lose by?”

“One wicket, and a couple of runs…”

Lake frowned. “Then… if I hadn’t… oh, NO…!”

Cerise turned back, laughing. “I was teasing – I’m sorry. Surrey lost by an innings and a couple of wickets.” She grinned, as her partner’s expression changed from relief to happiness – to anger.

“Sue, when I’m fully fit for duty, you’ll regret that!”

“I regret it now!” Cerise ducked, laughing.

Lake pulled a pillow from behind her, and hurled it at her partner. “You’re a rat! A giant, pink rat!”

“Ems…!” Cerise looked and sounded very hurt. “Sometimes, you’re so… mean!”

“Oh, come here!” Lake hugged her partner. “Thanks for being here.”

Cerise chuckled. “That’s alright. Lieutenant Green wanted to be here for you, when you came round, but he was needed in the Control Room. Apparently, Rick broke something on the computer when he got angry about something.”

The Lieutenant gave a tired chuckle. “Not like Rick…”

“No, it’s not. I’ll get him to explain himself, later. It had better be good!”

Lake smiled.

Cerise squeezed her arm, and stood up. “Now, you concentrate on recovering, alright?”

“S.I.G., Captain,” she sighed tiredly. “But can’t you stay longer?”

“I need something to eat. But I’ll see you later.”

The Lieutenant lay back, as Cerise left. She found herself wondering what had made Captain Ochre attack the computer in the Control Room. She chuckled. “Yes, Rick, it had certainly better be bloomin’ good!” she yawned, closing her eyes. In moments, the deep, almost comatose sleep that recovering retrometabolic people require had washed over her.

 

 

Captains Ochre and Cerise were eating together in the Galley. At first, they remained quiet, just enjoying the meal, and eachothers’ company. At last, Cerise spoke. “What happened to the computer, Rick?”

“Oh, nothing much. Green was quick enough, putting it right. He wanted to visit Lake, but Doctor Fawn wouldn’t let him.”

“Poor things,” Cerise shook her head. “They won’t be happy about that, I’m sure.”

Ochre didn’t comment.

“So… what did you do to the computer?”

“I… kicked it.” Cerise laughed. “Why? I know you said you were angry, but…”

“Well, I wanted to kick those commentators. We recorded the highlights, so you’ll probably see why.”

“Rick!”

“Look, just be thankful I wasn’t in the commentary box with them, ok?”

Captain Cerise nodded, beside herself with laughter. “Remind me never to watch a sport of any kind with you!”

 

 

 

 

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