a “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story
The lights were dim, shadows loomed in the corners and pockets of darkness lurked behind the furniture. Music was playing softly in the background, a lone piano picking out a quiet tune. Usually, Colonel White found it relaxing as he finished the last of his work from the day in the sanctity of his quarters. However, relaxation was elusive tonight, especially with the drama playing out on the small screen before him.
On days like this, he could almost feel the weight of the world pressing down on his shoulders, especially when all he could do was watch events unfold.
Commander Shore of the World Aquanaut Sea Patrol had sent up a batch of security videos from the Stingray sub pen at Marineville, the scene of the Mysterons’ latest attack – an attempt to use Bereznik mercenaries and replicated agents to shatter the shaky peace that had emerged between the surface and the undersea world of Titanica.
Hands clasped before his face, brows drawn in a frown, White watched the screen as a man plunged down alongside the far wall of the sub pen, wreathed in bubbles of escaping air and dragged through the cold water by the large sledgehammer tied to his feet. He was completely unable to escape with his hands bound securely behind his back. Colonel White knew from the reports what had happened to him; namely, a surprise Mysteron agent that no-one expected and where they never expected to find one – inside the Stingray's hatch.
The motion-sensitive camera tracked the man down to the floor of the pen as he struggled with his bonds, fighting for life. In a way, the colonel was glad he couldn't see the man's face. He'd watched too many men drown in his lifetime.
All too quickly, the man's struggles started to weaken. Even as he fought with the knots that bound him, silvery air bubbles escaped from his mouth and nose and raced to the surface where two other Spectrum officers and WASP's own security forces were fighting it out with the entrenched Bereznik agents and Mysteron replicants. By this point, the battle had spread to most of the command centre. Casualty reports were still coming in, but thankfully the deaths had been few.
Colonel White turned his attention back onto the tape, grimacing as he realised what was about to happen.
So swift had the man's capture been, that he hadn't had a chance to purge the carbon dioxide from his lungs, much less draw a full load of air. Barely half a minute after sinking into the pen, there was a final rush of quicksilver bubbles and the body went limp, swaying slightly in the faint current at the bottom of the submarine pen.
But it wasn't over just yet.
The camera jerked up as its sensors detected new movement. Another man was plunging through the water, clad only in his trousers and kicking ferociously as he dove. The dark hair confirmed what Spectrum's commanding officer already knew had happened.
On the screen, the swimmer reached the body and pulled himself down to the rope that bound it to the sledgehammer. He fought with the knots for a moment, then groped for the knife that he'd tucked into his belt. It came free, sliced through the thick nylon with ease and was discarded as the rescuer dragged the victim up, churning the water with his legs. The camera tracked them until they broke the surface and were hauled out by waiting hands.
One age-spotted hand uncurled from its mate and stopped the recording. Colonel White leaned back in his chair, contemplative, his eyes staring at the now dark screen but seeing nothing.
He freely admitted that he had stopped being surprised when the name 'Captain Scarlet' was spoken in the same breath as 'medical emergency' and followed by the location of wherever he and Captain Blue had been dispatched to.
When the words 'is reporting a' came between the 'Scarlet' and 'medical', however, it was a shock, and to everyone. They had all grown so accustomed to Scarlet throwing himself in the way of whatever was threatening his partner that it almost seemed like Blue never got hurt.
But this time, it was for Captain Blue that the helijet was called; it was for Blue that the medical team had prepped their gear and halls were cleared ahead of the rushing gurney. And this time, it had been close – oh, so very close. It was probably Blue's preference for water sports that had saved him, expanding his lung capacity and helping his body to hold on for that little bit longer, just enough time for Captain Ochre to finally bring down the Mysteron agent in the control room and give Scarlet a chance to get into the water.
Colonel White did not blame any of his men for looking away when the security footage had been screened not three hours ago for the debrief, as they always did whenever tapes of this type surfaced. Seeing a close friend's death, however temporary, or a near miss that should have ended in death, was not light viewing. Collectively, the colour captains had almost perfected the knack of looking away at just the right moment, to deny their eyes what their minds shied away from even attempting to comprehend.
But he forced himself to watch. He had to. He had to acknowledge what his men did, what they were asked to go through. What he asked them to go through, and all for a public who would never know the truth of their never-ending battle against an unseen foe.
Perhaps one day in the distant future, when they were all dead and gone and the information was no longer so hot to handle, some of it would be made available to the public at large. But that day would not be for a long, long time to come.
White reached out and turned off the screen. The videodisk was retrieved and secured in a locked desk drawer, to be copied and sent to the Rainbow Clearance section of the archives in the morning.
Then he rose and left the room, heading for Sickbay. Though he could rarely do more than watch as his men sallied forth to protect the world against a foe they could barely comprehend, he could watch over them here.