a “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story
Night had settled on Cloudbase by the time Captains Scarlet and Blue and Harmony and Destiny Angels had returned after the Mysterons' attempt to assassinate Destiny with retrometabolised Angel Interceptors. The Angel Leader was still seething when they arrived on the SPJ, enraged by the use of her girls' own craft against them, and the fact that Harmony required hospitalisation just made it even worse.
Rather wisely, it was the captains who flew the SPJ back to base.
Several hours after helping escort Harmony into Dr Fawn's care (even now, with all the advances in technology, ejections were very hard on a fighter pilot's body) and the mandatory debrief, Captain Blue found himself wandering into Cloudbase's lush gardens on the Promenade Deck and standing before the huge floor-to-ceiling windows, still far too keyed up to sleep despite the day's exertions. He was of Old Bostonian stock, raised as a gentleman. An attack on women, especially women he knew and worked with, triggered a deep-rooted outrage in him that was very hard to settle.
Adam smothered the momentary spike of pride at not jumping in surprise at the unexpected voice. “Hey yourself,” he replied, just as quietly. “You can't sleep either?” he asked, turning to face his partner.
Paul grimaced faintly and offered Adam one of the steaming cups he carried. “Already slept,” he replied shortly.
Adam accepted the cup with a nod of thanks, inhaling the scent of fresh, proper coffee before answering. “I never did get the hang of that whole soldier sleeping on command thing,” he commented, instantly divining the reason for Paul's embarrassment and neatly diverting the conversation. He'd known Paul for more than long enough to know he hated any admission of his new and sometimes subtle differences to everyone else, such as only needing two or three hours’ sleep.
“It can be handy,” Paul admitted, and took a moment to sip at his tea. “Though the training method is less than desirable.”
“What, you the career soldier admitting there's things about soldiering that are bad?” Adam teased, easily falling into the pattern of post-mission banter. “The horror.”
“Indeed.” The British-born captain grinned back. “Almost as bad as...”
He broke off and looked to the right as someone stormed into the room, heels striking the metal floors like hammers. Adam looked too, eyes widening in surprise when he saw whom it was. Destiny, still wearing her dirt smudged civvies and her hair hanging down her back like an untamed waterfall, strode up to the windows and glared into the clear night sky. She scanned the brilliant vista with hawk-like eyes until she spotted the bright red dot of Mars.
Even from their position behind a flourishing rhododendron, the two captains could see Destiny's eyes glitter and narrow dangerously as she found her target, extended one hand in a gesture almost as old as mankind and let loose a vitriolic and wide-ranging diatribe in French.
“What's she saying?” Adam whispered to his partner. “Never learned those words in high school.”
“...You don't really want the details,” Paul murmured back. “Suffice to say, none of it is particularly flattering.”
When the Angel didn't show any sign of slowing up after a good ten minutes, Paul nudged his partner. “I'm going in. Cover me.”
Paul stepped out from behind the rhododendron and walked to Destiny's side. When she ignored him in favour of her verbal assault on the red planet, he listened to the tirade for a moment then gently reached out and enclosed the hand she was gesturing with in his. “Destiny, you're doing it wrong.” The Angel looked at him in shock, both at his appearance and his intrusion, but before she could protest, he coaxed her index finger into uncurling to join the other and returned her hand to its previous position. “This is the one you want.”
“Captain Scarlet? I…do not understand.” Destiny studied the new arrangement curiously.
“It's a gesture of defiance,” Scarlet explained. “It started in the Middle Ages, when the English longbowmen were the finest artillery in the world. If they were captured, the enemy would often amputate the first two fingers of the right hand to keep them from being a threat and send them back as a warning to the others. So longbowmen would make this gesture in return to taunt the enemy, saying 'I've still got my fingers, I can still kill you easily, I'm still a threat'.” He paused, offering the French Angel a half smile. “It seems appropriate enough, considering our situation.”
“Y'know, that's actually a pretty good idea,” Adam commented, leaving his cover position behind the rhododendron to join them. He made a show of glancing up and down the deck and seemed satisfied that they were alone. “It's against regulations, though; professional misconduct.” His serious tone was quite undone by the broad smile tugging at his lips.
“Us, do something against regulations?” Scarlet asked, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “Perish the thought.”
Almost in unison the three officers turned to face the red planet and extended their right hands in the ancient gesture, the same thought running through their minds.
We're still here, and we're still a threat. You haven't stopped us yet, and you're not going to.