a “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story
Something far too bright was shining in Scarlet’s eyes, and he was surprised to realise that for once, it wasn’t Dr Fawn’s overhead surgical arc lamps. It was sunlight, streaming in through a ragged hole in what he recognised as his vest, spread out and propped up on sticks to make a rough sunshade over his head. A soft thing under his head, smelling of sweat and blood, explained where his turtleneck had gone to.
He reached up, pushed the vest off its props, and carefully sat up in his makeshift bed of grass, automatically checking himself over for any lingering damage. Paul's questing fingers encountered a clump of matted dry blood and hair at the back of his head and a large dressing taped over his back, not to mention the usual collection of thin lines of dried blood – the remnants of the scratches and scrapes he always picked up. “How on Earth did it happen this time... and why am I still groundside and not on Cloudbase for that matter? And where's Adam?” His stomach snarled for attention and Paul quickly dressed himself and looked around for his cap. He needed two things right now – food and information. Hopefully, he could find both wherever Adam was. The SSC he could see in the bushes was probably the best place to start.
“… Got it, Captain Blue out.” Adam Svenson grimaced and closed the radio channel. Their mission to save a chemical plant on the Russian side of the Caspian Sea had been a partial success. As far as they knew, all the workers had been evacuated and the majority of the plant and its vats of dangerous chemicals had been saved from sabotage by plastic explosive, but the Mysterons had been getting sneakier lately. The plant foreman had been a 'sleeper agent' and he'd attacked them with a broken length of steel rebar yanked from the rubble of a guard post.
Scarlet, once again, had borne the brunt of the attack that had delayed the pair of Spectrum agents long enough for the final set of explosives to blow one of the larger holding tanks and released the Mysteron threat of 'a tide of blood that shall burn the waters' – a nasty combination of different chemical wastes that was highly toxic, extremely acidic and blood red.
Blue reflexively glanced back to the spot among the trees, where he'd hidden Scarlet and their Spectrum Saloon Car, damaged by an earlier adventure involving a reel of braided steel cable and a very large tackle block. The car was built tough though, and it'd held itself together long enough for him to get Scarlet well out of the way of the curious onlookers and to this quiet spot so he could recover.
“Though I'd prefer to get Scarlet up to Cloudbase, if I could,” Blue muttered to himself, then checked himself and grimaced in self-reproach. All available transportation, including Spectrum assets, had been requisitioned to help corral this unprecedented environmental disaster. The needs of one man were small compared to the socio-economic and political fallout should the contamination spread, no matter how unique that man was.
That less-than-cheery thought in mind, Adam turned and strode back to the clump of bushes where he had left Scarlet to recover.
Scarlet had just finished turning the SSC inside out in search of the food in his backpack that he knew had been tucked away somewhere in the car, and was quite sure hadn't been eaten yet when a twig snapped behind him. He whipped around, one hand dipping for the gun that should have been clipped to his waist, then relaxed when he saw whom it was.
“Looking for this?” Adam asked, quite amused as he held up Scarlet's red backpack, his own blue one hanging from his other hand.
“Yes, thank you!” Paul caught the packet of food that his partner tossed to him and tore it open, seizing the energy bars first. Experience had taught him that he needed the easy-to-process items first and then the slower-burning carbohydrates. “I was starting to seriously consider going after the songbirds,” he explained around a mouthful of nut-studded chocolate bar.
“I wouldn't be surprised, I could hear your stomach from here,” Blue teased gently, making no comment about his partner's temporary ignorance of manners. The hunger Scarlet was left with after a stint of retrometabolism could be quite extreme, depending on how complicated the damage was. Besides, considering that one time he'd seen Scarlet so hungry that he actually dove into a freezing cold stream after an eel and ate it raw, this was nothing. “C'mon, we can go sit on the beach and watch the recovery operation, since we're not allowed to help them.”
The sandwiches and other assorted edibles died a quick death as the two captains sat out on the rough beach and Adam filled Paul in on what happened after he 'went down' during the foreman's frenzied attack. “...Fortunately he was standing in the way of the chemicals after the explosives blew.” Adam paused to tear off a bit of crust and throw it to a bird nearby. “I got you in the SSC and got you here after reporting in to Cloudbase.”
“They told you to find a spot with no witnesses and sit tight?” Paul guessed.
A roar of engines interrupted them as the massive green bulk of Thunderbird Two appeared over the waters to the south. The mighty International Rescue aircraft stopped long enough to drop its cargo pod and release Thunderbird Four, before returning back the way it came, presumably to pick up more gear while the bright yellow mini-sub inspected the damage from below.
Scarlet almost laughed at his partner's expression of longing as the monster cargo plane flew overhead. “It's interesting, of all the secrets Spectrum has uncovered, it's never been theirs,” he commented instead, combing some of the dried blood out of his hair with his fingers.
“I think it's more a professional courtesy,” Adam replied, distracted by the sight of Thunderbird One taking off to lower some sort of sensing device into the waters of the Caspian Sea and start trawling. “They do good work, so why interfere?”
The hours crawled by, activity on the other side of the lake slowly swelling as the sun slowly sank towards the east. An attempt to repair the SSC had resulted in grazed knuckles for Adam and oil smears everywhere for both men, and repeated calls to Cloudbase had earned them a surprisingly testy 'Sit down and wait out of sight, there'll be a pick-up for you before nightfall' from Lieutenant Green.
Needless to say, both men were getting extremely bored with their purposeless solitude well away from any and all activity, as well as anyone who might have seen the formerly grievously wounded Spectrum officer kicking at stones while pacing up and down along the shoreline.
Scarlet skipped his umpteenth pebble across the blue waters, then cast a speculative look at the squat fir trees that shrouded the edge of the lake. “…I haven’t climbed a tree for fun in years,” he said at length, wandering over to the closest tree.
“Don’t even think of trying to get me in one of those,” Adam warned good-naturedly as Paul grabbed a branch and vanished into the foliage.
The scrawny tree actually listed over as the Spectrum officer hauled himself higher up into the branches.
“Paul? I think you’d better come down, that tree looks like it’s had enough,” Adam called after a couple of minutes, mentally wishing that Lieutenant Green would somehow come up with a spare helijet or SPV or something, so that he could get his partner back to base and checked out by Dr Fawn, just to make sure everything had come back together right.
“Alright, heh, I think you’re right, Adam. This tree does seem a bit stunted.” Paul’s voice floated down from three-quarters of the way up the tree, soon followed by rustling and the odd snap of twigs as he made his way down.
The rustling then stopped for a moment, intensified, then stopped again, accompanied by an ‘Oh hell’ and a few words the colonel did not approve the use of when within earshot of the Angels.
“Paul?” Adam stood up, concerned. Maybe the big stab wound hadn’t fully healed yet and he’d ripped it open again; it had looked pretty deep, even to his moderately trained eye. “Paul, are you alright?”
There was a momentary pause, then: “I’m stuck.”
Branches rustled. “Yes, stuck.”
Adam started laughing. He just couldn’t help it, doubling over and laughing long and loud. Scarlet's mortified protest of 'Adam, it's not funny!' just made it worse. Finally, gasping for breath, he staggered over to the tree, grabbed two of the offending branches and bent them out of the way long enough for Scarlet to drop out of the tree, fuming.
The pair returned to their previous spot on the gravelly spit of beach, both silent for a time and watching the distant recovery operation on the other side of the lake.
“Thanks,” Blue ventured after a time, seeking to salve his partner's understandably bruised ego. “I needed that laugh.”
Paul took the statement, turned it over in his mind and found that he agreed. Considering what Adam went through almost every time they were sent out, it was worth making a fool of himself every now and again for his partner's sake, even if it was unintentional.
“You're welcome, Adam.”