Present Tense 

A "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons" Story

By Sue Stanhope

 

 

Many thanks go, as ever, to Chris Bishop for her advice and patience following a severe loss of confidence and direction. Without her encouraging words, I doubt whether this would have been completed.

 

It hadnít taken Ben Fisher and Mark Abbott long to work out what had happened. That rat Gabriel James had double-crossed them. Even the satisfaction of hearing that heíd been arrested didnít quell their anger. He had stolen millions from them and if there was anything that they could be absolutely sure of, it was that he would pay dearly for his actions. Even if they had known that James himself had been deceived, it wouldnít have made any difference. Instead of absorbing Jamesí Mob into their Syndicate, Abbott and Fisher had struggled to survive themselves, being forced to call on bank accounts that had lain silent and undisturbed for many years. Yes, James would pay for this.

 

***

 

Captain Blue sat in the Officersí Lounge; his chin rested on his right hand, his elbow on the table. He stared absently at the empty seat in front of him. On the table, next to his elbow, a book had remained open at the same page for quite some time now.

"Havenít you finished that yet?"

The speaker received no response.

"Adam? Are you with us? Adam!"

"WhatÖ?" Blue looked up, at first startled, then relaxed and offered up a broad grin. "Hi, Love! Been there long?"

"No," replied Symphony. "Whatís got your attention then? Itís certainly not that book."

"No," sighed Blue, closing the pages, "I donít see myself getting through it either."

"What is it?" Symphony settled herself in the seat opposite Blue.

"Itís one of Rickís."

"I know that, but what actually is it?"

"Psychology."

Symphonyís eyes widened, her jaw dropped ever so slightly. "Rickís got a book on psychology? Youíre kidding me?"

"Well, itís police psychology. Criminal profiles, negotiations, deductive reasoning, that sort of thing."

"Adam, itís been two days now. I want to know the full tale behind this, and donít tell me itíll all blow over again, because it hasnít, has it? Why are you reading that book?"

Blue waved a hand and shrugged. "Well, apart from the fact Iím obviously not, itís a long story."

Symphony leaned back comfortably in the seat. "Go on then," she smiled expectantly.

Blue sighed. "It all started with a disagreement between Rhapsody and Ochre. Donít ask me how they got started on it, but you know what they can be like when they get going. We were just relaxing in the lounge and they were getting quite vocal on the best way to handle a hostage situation.

Symphony laughed. "Yeah, I can imagine that!"

"Itís no joke, Karen, they were really at each other."

"Let me see if I can guess, they were expressing different points of view? Rhapsody was her usual insistent self and, well, Ochre, say no more!"

"Oh, you got that right!"

 

"No, youíre wrong!"

"Rick, how can you say that with such absolute certainty? Have you ever been in a hostage situation?"

"Have you?"

"Thatís not answering my question."

"Neither are you!"

"So," sighed Rhapsody, "Just me then?"

"What? Youíve negotiated for the life of a hostage?"

"Just once."

"Did it work?" Ochre asked the question with a degree of hesitation. Despite how heated the discussion had become, he realised that the question could be a delicate one; if the answer were no, and well, he didnít want to upset Rhapsody, especially with Scarlet sat only feet away.

"Just," murmured Rhapsody, clearly not wishing to elaborate.

"Oh," replied Ochre, not quite knowing what else to say.

 

"So, what happened then? How come you have this book?" asked Symphony. She looked into the pale blue eyes of Captain Blue and almost saw the word Ďidiotí written in them.

"Ah, well, thatís when I put my foot in it!"

 

"What you need," began Blue, trying to ease the tension, "is an independent opinion. What do you think, Paul?"

Scarlet glared at Blue; he was secretly engaged to Rhapsody, how could he be an independent judge? And if not, how could he say so without admitting why? It was a fairly open secret now, he knew that, but actually admitting it, that would be another thing entirely. Besides, his indestructible life wouldnít be worth living if he agreed with Ochre!

"Mmm yes, well, I could maybe do it?" offered Blue reluctantly.

"Iíll lend you a book," suggested Ochre, "if Rhapsody agrees. And you could give us your opinion."

"Yes. Okay," sighed Blue, wishing heíd kept his mouth shut.

 

"And there you have it, this is the book and Iím not reading it."

"So tell them!" Symphony couldnít believe heíd even started looking at it. "Adam, they wonít even remember by now."

"Donít bank on it, theyíve already asked me twice how Iím doing."

"Well if you canít tell them youíre not doing it, Iíd better let you get on then, hadnít I?"

"Karen, I, er, donít suppose..."

"No!" Symphony got to her feet and stood back from the table. "Adam, you know, you can be too nice."

Blue watched her leave the lounge, chuckling to herself as she went.

"I wasnít trying to be nice," Blue muttered to himself, "I was just trying to get a bit of piece and quiet." He looked down once more at the book and sighed. Symphony thought he was an idiot, but the worst of it, he thought, was she was probably right.

 

***

 

"James, get up, you have a visitor."

"A visitor?" James looked up uncertainly at Corrections Officer Palmer. "Nobody said anything to me about a visitor."

"Legal reps donít have to apply for permission," Palmer replied indifferently as he stood in the doorway waiting to escort James to the interview rooms.

"My lawyerís here?"

Officer Palmer laughed. "Heís not your lawyer."

"Then who...whatís going on?"

"Just get up James, I havenít got all day."

Palmer led the somewhat puzzled and slightly nervous James through the corridors of the Gavans Correctional Center towards the visitor rooms.

"Mr. Palmer," James tried again to question the officer, "who is it? Whatís it about?"

"Youíll find out soon enough," Palmer replied giving him a harsh stare.

Long gone were Jamesí confidence and arrogance that heíd displayed to powerful effect whilst holding a gun on his ex-boss Patrick Donaghue only a few weeks earlier. Now he was nervous; he was aware that although heíd heard nothing yet, it was only a matter of time before Abbott and Fisher contacted him. At least he hoped they would; the alternative, of being killed without warning, was not a happy one.

Arriving at visitor room 3, Palmer ushered James inside. At the table sat a tall, fair-haired, stocky man. On Jamesí entry the man got to his feet, revealing a smartly pressed expensive suit.

"Good morning, Mr James. I hope things in here arenít too unpleasant for you?"

James glanced nervously between Palmer and the man stood before him.

"No, things are fine. Who are you?"

"My apologies, Mr James. My name is Reece, I represent Messrs Abbott and Fisher, Iím sure you know them."

James swallowed hard, a cold sweat breaking out on his forehead.

"Ah, yes," Reece continued, looking at Jamesí shaken countenance, "I see that you do. Mr Palmer, would you mind leaving me alone with my client for a few minutes?"

"Iím not his client!" James shouted nervously as Palmer turned towards the door.

"Of course, Mr Reece," Palmer replied, ignoring James entirely, "Iíll be right outside should you need me."

"Take a seat, Mr James."

Cautiously, James sat down opposite Reece, not averting his eyes from the lawyer for a moment.

"Letís get straight down to business shall we, Mr James?"

"Which is?"

Reece gave James a cool stare before continuing. "Thereís a little matter of the money."

"Look, I havenít got it. I was on the level. It was Donaghue, he cleaned me out too, you know!"

"Thatís not what the accounts say, Mr James."

"What are you talking about? He froze my account, the money might be there, but I canít get it."

"Not that you need it, with my clientsí money in your overseas account."

"I donít have an overseas account!"

Reece took a deep breath and shot James a disapproving glance. Reaching into his briefcase, Reece withdrew a small folder. Opening it at a marked page, he turned the file around for James to view the contents. James was stunned into silence as he read. The page detailed an account held in Switzerland in Jamesí name, which appeared to have been set up years earlier. Included in the many transactions were a number of apparent transfers from Jamesí Syndicate account and the final two, of nearly two and a half million dollars from Abbottís account and over three million from Fisherís.

"It would seem that youíve been siphoning off funds from your own Syndicate too, Mr James. I wonder if they know?"

"Look, I swear, I donít know anything about that account. I didnít set it up. I havenít stolen any money. Iím telling you it was Donaghue!"

"Then thereís the one way ticket to Paris, booked, unsurprisingly, in your name."

"Oh, God! Donít you understand? He set me up real good. Iím telling you, you have to believe me."

"Let me tell you what Iíll do, Mr James." Reece offered him an unpleasant smile. "Weíll give you one week to prove that what you say is true."

"Then what?"

"Do you really need me to answer that?"

James frowned. "How am I supposed to do that in here?"

"Thatís not my problem, Mr James, neither is it my Ďclientsí."

"Look, give me a break, at least get a message to someone for me. I need to get a contact working on it, thereís nothing I can do in here."

"Very well, who is your contact and what is the message?"

"Itís a guy named Lieutenant Greg Baxter."

"Police?"

"Spectrum."

 

***

 

Lieutenant Greg Baxter waited in the dark alley. In his line of work, this was not out of the ordinary. However, tonight was not about work. Baxter had worked at Spectrum Headquarters New York for many years. He believed that he should have been a captain by now, but his superiors had told him that they considered him not to have the correct temperament. What was their problem? He was ambitious, ruthless and thorough, what more did they want? It had never occurred to him that perhaps they wanted less of what he did have than more of what he didnít. Well, if he couldnít make the money he needed to fund his preferred lifestyle as a captain, heíd get it some other way. There was indeed quite a bit of money to be made if one looked in the right places, and he had prided himself on knowing all the right places. One of those places, well, even he realised that this time heíd made a big mistake. But it was too late now; heíd taken the extra step and had found himself way out of his league, with no turning back. He had been given a message, the nature of which obliged him to inform his latest contact. His heart sank and he visibly shuddered as the man approached. What had he been thinking? But there was no way back now. He knew that with this man, not even death could release him. His mouth dried as he stared into the cold eyes of the black clad, deathly pale and drawn man who stood before him.

"Captain Black, I have some information, which may interest you, Sir."

"Yes, Lieutenant?" Black asked.

"One of my contacts believes he has identified Captain Ochre as former Commander Richard Fraser."

"Yes, indeed." Black smiled callously. "What does he want to do with this information?"

"He wants to use it for financial gain, Sir," Baxter replied.

Black smiled again. "Then perhaps there is something I can add."

"Sir? You mean itís true? But I thought he was dead."

"It really doesnít matter what you thought though, does it Baxter? Youíve worked at Spectrum long enough to know that things arenít always what they seem. If I wear my uniform, what does that mean?"

Black paused; he seemed to be waiting for a reply, but the nervous Lieutenant could only stare, terrified of saying the wrong thing. Black leaned forward, close to Baxterís face.

"It means nothing!" Black spoke the words harshly, through clenched teeth.

"Yes, Sir," Baxter replied weakly. He just wanted this over with.

Even before the ill-fated Martian mission, there had always been something about Captain Black that inspired fear amongst those who didnít know him. Anyone who knew the man, Conrad Turner, well enough to get beyond his naturally reclusive nature, would have fallen for his charm and generosity. He had few close friends, but those who he had allowed into his very private world had enjoyed the fellowship of a very special friend indeed. Now as a Mysteron agent, Blackís reputation went before him and even the mention of his name could stir a fearful response. For those who had lost a friend, the pain cut deep.

"Captain Ochre has a nephew, Ryan Fraser. Find him and youíll have no trouble with Ochre."

"You mean kidnap him?"

"Just find him. When you do, youíll know exactly what to do."

"Yes, Sir," Baxterís voice betrayed his fear; it made Black smile with a degree of satisfaction. "Thank you, Sir."

"Keep me informed, I would like to take a personal interest in this one. It could be a source of some... amusement."

Baxter took a sudden deep breath as he stared into Blackís cold eyes. His expression barely changed; it was chilling, cold and calculating.

 

***

 

Returning to his desk, Baxter poured himself a coffee. He was shaking so much he could barely keep the jug pouring. Eventually managing to pour out two thirds of a mug, he sighed and rested the jug back down. Quickly wiping up the spilt coffee, he flopped down into the chair to compose himself.

"Greg, are you okay?"

By now, Baxterís head was in his hand and he sipped the coffee slowly. Looking up to see who had spoken, he saw his friend and colleague Lieutenant Amanda Hendricks.

"What happened to you? God, youíre so pale! You look like Captain Black!"

Baxter almost choked at the comment, coughing painfully as drops of the coffee entered his trachea.

"Hey, Greg, easy." Hendricks spoke soothingly. "What on Earth happened to you?"

"I donít know, guess I just donít feel too good."

"Maybe you should go home?"

"No, donít worry. Iíll be okay in a bit. Lots to do, you know," Baxter tried to laugh.

"Well, I donít think you look okay, Iíll be keeping an eye on you."

"No, Mandy, Iím okay really." Baxter sounded more certain now; he had to be left alone to research what heíd been told. "But thanks," he said with a generous smile. He liked Mandy, she was a good officer and a kind friend; someone that maybe heíd like to get to know better. But he couldnít; his life was as good as owned by Captain Black, how could he draw her into that? Lieutenant Baxter was paying for his crimes in a way that no prison sentence could ever achieve.

Taking care to be certain he was alone, Baxter typed a top-level security code and password into his computer, which by rights he ought not to know. A menu appeared and, taking another sip of coffee, he entered his choice. Eventually reaching the desired screen, he typed the words ĎRyan Fraserí and pressed the return key. He sighed as the search returned over a thousand Ryan Frasers. He entered, as a second search option, ĎRichard Fraserí. This returned just over fifty entries. Better, he thought, but still too many. For his second criteria, entering instead the words ĎCommander Richard Fraserí, the search narrowed finally to one entry.

"Got it!" he muttered.

Discreetly making notes on the chequered history of Commander Fraserís wayward nephew, he couldnít help but smile to himself. This must have been incredibly embarrassing for the Spectrum captain, small wonder that he faked his death. Reading the most recent entries on Ryan revealed what Black had meant about knowing what to do when he found him. Ryan was currently residing in the Robbins Field Correctional Facility for Men, built only fifty years earlier in Orange County, New York. Baxter smiled again; he should get well paid for this information.

 

***

 

Gabriel James lay on his bunk in his cell; he sighed to himself; it had been three days since Reeceís visit and heíd heard nothing. He couldnít even be sure his message had been passed on, for all he knew he could be three days closer to his death at the hands of Fisher and Abbott.

"Hey! James!"

James turned his head slowly to face the open door of the cell. In the doorway stood a troublemaker called Joseph Carlyle. Nobody knew what he was inside for, no one ever asked, but heíd been there as long as anybody knew, almost as if the prison had been built with him already in it.

"What?" grumbled James turning his head away.

Carlyle sauntered into Jamesí cell and pulled up a chair at the side of Jamesí bunk. Straddling the chair and leaning menacingly over the chair-back, Carlyle addressed him again.

"I heard you got caught by Spectrum, what have you been up to, to get their attention? You a Mysteron or something?"

Some of Carlyleís cronies stood in the doorway chuckled at this. It got them noticed, it was their way to quietly intimidate their latest victim. They had let him know that his escape route was blocked.

James sat up; he was trying to appear nonchalant. Heíd heard about Carlyle and his group of thugs; the last thing he wanted to appear was scared.

"What if I am?"

Carlyle laughed menacingly. "Well, why donít I check out that theory? Iíve heard they heal real quick. Why donít I beat you to a pulp and see how fast you heal?"

"I kidnapped someone," James replied resignedly.

"Who?"

"Nobody youíd know."

"Then why was Spectrum involved? Theyíre not interested in a small-time crook like you."

"Iím still trying to work that one out myself," James replied with a faint frown.

"What are you talking about?"

"The guy I kidnapped claimed to be an escaped prisoner from de Wittís, in for murder."

"Well that would explain Spectrumís involvement, whatís your problem?"

"My problem is that the guy he claimed to have killed was the guy who arrested me!"

Carlyle sat back, his arms outstretched holding the back of the chair. He had a strange smirk on his face. "Unlucky. Who was it?"

"Who was what? The guy I kidnapped or the one he supposedly killed?"

"Both."

"It was a Spectrum captain..."

"You kidnapped a Spectrum captain?"

"No, of course not, the guy he killed, or said he had. Ochre."

"That wouldnít have got him into de Wittís anyway. What arenít you telling me, James?"

"Nothing."

"Close the door," Carlyle signalled to his men standing in the doorway.

James stood up nervously. "Thereís nothing to tell, come on."

The door now closed, James looked about him. Carlyle and two of his men had remained in the room.

"Iíll give you another chance, James. If youíve got some information that youíre holding back from me, Iím not about to waste my time asking you politely."

"Look," James held his hands in front of him in a calming gesture, "I donít know what you think Iím holding back, but I..."

"Youíve got five seconds."

"Thereís nothing, I promise!"

Carlyle nodded and one of the men approached James. Heavily set and easily six inches taller than James, he seemed to tower over him. Striking a very intimidating stance, he forced James backwards towards the wall with a mere glance.

"You should know the rules, James, no closing your cell door during the day."

James looked to his left, Officer Palmer stood in the doorway. The relief on Jamesí face was obvious, but he knew it had brought him only a brief respite.

"Carlyle, what are you and your cronies doing in here?"

"Just a social call, Mr Palmer."

"That true, James?"

Of course it wasnít, but what could he say?

"Yes Mr Palmer," he sighed, "just being friendly."

Carlyle grinned at Palmer. "There, what did I say?"

"Youíve got a visitor, James."

Palmer stood back from the doorway as Carlyle and his men exited Jamesí cell.

"Weíll catch up with you later, James," Carlyle said ominously, as he left the cell.

Palmer frowned at James.

"You know, if youíve got those guys on your back, you really shouldnít let yourself be caught alone. Anyway, you donít need to think about that for a while. Get your stuff, someoneís paid your bail."

"Who?"

"Your lawyer friend, Mr Reece."

"Reece? What...I donít understand."

"Whatís to understand? Just donít cross him."

"Thanks, Mr Palmer."

"Seriously, donít cross him or his clients."

"I already have," James admitted with a sigh.

"Then, if I were you, Iíd watch my back. Whatever you did, just donít do it again."

"Oh, donít worry, this time..."

"I donít want to know, James."

 

***

 

It so often seemed the way that whenever the officers on Cloudbase managed to relax and enjoy some free time, the familiar booming voice would echo across the airwaves; today was no exception.

 

This is the voice of the Mysterons. We know that you can hear us, Earthmen. We will continue our war of nerves against Earth for your unprovoked attack on our complex on Mars. Within 72 hours Spectrum will discover that a criminal past can only result in death. We will be avenged!

 

In the lounge, Blue looked up from the book at Scarlet who had joined him only minutes before; both were suddenly quite serious.

"Are you thinking what I am?"

Scarlet nodded gravely. "Almost certainly."

"Come on," Blue spoke as the call for all senior staff to report to the Control Room was announced. "Letís see what the others think."

 

***

 

By the time Scarlet and Blue arrived, Ochre, Magenta and Grey had already taken their seats. White faced them all with an expression of concern. It seemed clear to them that he had his theory on the Mysteron threat but he wanted to hear the opinions of all five Captains sat around his desk before making any decision.

"Well, gentlemen, what do you make of it?"

It wasnít long before Magenta felt eight eyes burning into him from various angles around the desk. Looking up, he saw too that the Colonel was looking directly at him; he felt certain that if he turned around, the eyes of Lieutenant Green would be on him also.

"Do I detect a general consensus of opinion here?" he asked, making little attempt to mask the irritation he felt.

"Well," began Ochre, as tactfully as possible, "you have to admit, it does seem to be aimed directly at you."

Magenta scowled; as much as it had once been true, being referred to as a criminal was always going to rub him up the wrong way. He had worked hard, and against, at times, considerable pressure to shake off the stigma attached to that aspect of his life. Spectrum had benefited from his specialist knowledge and ability to outmanoeuvre criminals; they couldnít have it both ways. It often took Magenta all the patience he possessed to remember that most of the people on Cloudbase respected him for what he was now; the others, well, they just didnít want him there, regardless of his talent and expertise. He knew full well that there were elements of his character that didnít endear him to certain people, but that had little to do with his past.

Magenta appeared angry, his brow furrowed deeply as thoughts of those who would use this against him flooded his mind. Seeing the Captainís uncommonly dark expression, Colonel White stepped in with a comment of his own, hoping to relieve the younger manís tension. He was also very much aware that, around the table, the silence was starting to affect them all.

"Captain Magenta, as we all know, the Mysterons fight a war of nerves. Part of this is to try to undermine those who fight against them. We must not let ourselves be distracted by their choice of victim, or how they choose to phrase their threats."

"Yes, Sir," Magenta replied, his tense features relaxed; he had to remember the people around the table were all on his side, he was being oversensitive. Typical of the Mysterons, he thought, to choose a target for whom the very wording of the threat could cause so much grief. Of course they knew this, that was the whole reason for it.

"So, are we agreed that we believe we had established that Captain Magenta has been targeted by the Mysterons?"

White was met by a series of nods of agreement from those around the table.

"Very well, Captain, until it becomes apparent exactly what form the attempt on your life will take, we will follow the usual procedures for these situations. A full security sweep will be carried out on the whole of Cloudbase, all departments and key personnel will be issued with Mysteron detectors immediately, and you, Captain Magenta, will not go anywhere alone."

"Anywhere?" asked Magenta dryly.

"Captain, I take this threat against you very seriously, I suggest you do the same."

"Yes, Colonel," replied Magenta with a frown.

 

***

 

Captain Grey entered the promenade deck; he was searching for Captain Magenta, and it was the fourth place heíd looked. Cloudbase was a large place to try discreetly to find one man. Thankfully, most of the officers were creatures of habit.

"There you are!"

Magenta looked up from his book and smiled. "Hi, Brad. What have you been up to?"

"Looking for you. You know youíre not supposed to be on your own!"

"You werenít exactly hard to shake off, Brad," Magenta replied with a mischievous smile.

"Pat, youíre not supposed to be trying to lose us, weíre not the enemy, you know."

"I know," he sighed, "consider me reprimanded. Anyway, where did you look first?"

"Why?" asked Grey, puzzled by the question.

"Itís a good indication of how Iím viewed. Say I was looking for you, I might try the pool first. Scarlet, Iíd look in the gym, you know."

"I see, what about the Colonel?"

"At his desk, always at his desk!"

Grey laughed, "Ochre?"

Magenta put his head to one side. "Could be anywhere, depends where heís been kicked out of last. Follow the trail of model adhesive and youíll find him."

"Green?"

"In the library, definitely. Heís in there a lot."

"Blue?"

"Ah, thereís always one. Heís a bit unpredictable, dark horse is our Adam. Iíd probably look for Symphony." Magenta smiled, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

Grey grinned back. "You know they think thatís a secret, donít you?"

"Yeah!" Magenta laughed. "I bet even Black knows that one! Anyway," Magenta paused, staring expectantly at Grey, "where did you look for me first?"

Grey shifted uncomfortably where he stood. "Honestly?"

"Yeah," Magentaís brow furrowed slightly as he saw the embarrassment on Greyís face, "I think so," he added.

Grey cleared his throat nervously and spoke whilst looking down at his feet. "The Amber Room."

Magenta was speechless; then, overtaken by a broad grin, he burst into laughter. Grey looked up, grinning, relieved that Magenta wasnít offended.

"I donít know how to take that," Magenta finally admitted when he had got his breath back. "So, howÖ? No, I donít even know if I want to ask."

"Youíre really popular with the Angels. Theyíre always saying how much you cheer them up when theyíre on a dull duty watch. That places you in the Amber Room."

"Well, I donít know about the Rhapsody-Ochre thing going on at the moment, but Iíd say that was pretty neat detective work, Brad."

"Elementary, my dear Magenta!" replied Grey with a broad grin.

"Anyway, whatís on your mind?"

"What do you mean?"

"I know that look, Brad."

Greyís expression suddenly became quite serious. Taking the seat next to Magenta, he frowned slightly as he noticed that Magenta appeared concerned at the change in him. "Donít worry, Pat, itís nothing serious. I just found out and I thought youíd want to know, Gabriel James is out on bail."

"How? That was serious money. Whoís paid it?"

"A lawyer called Reece, I donít know anything about him, but..."

"I do. Heís a nasty piece of work. Heís Fisher and Abbottís lawyer, heís got them off all kinds of charges."

"Heís good then?"

"Thereís more than one way to get a verdict of not guilty. In his book, pretty much only one way and they pay him well, believe me."

"He intimidates the jury?"

"One or two have disappeared before now. They can never trace it back to him, but, well I know what he gets up to."

"So James is back with Fisher and Abbott? Do you think theyíre going to kill him?"

Magenta shook his head. "No, not yet at least. They wouldnít bother putting up his bail, he must have something they want." He frowned deeply and let out a heavy sigh.

"Are you okay, Pat?"

"I donít know. Iíve got a bad feeling about this. You know he recognised Rick, donít you?"

"Yeah but what can he do with that?"

"You donít know James like I do. And heís completely out of his league with Abbott and Fisher, theyíre even worse. James talks big, but the other two, they donít have to say a word. If James thinks he can get back in favour with them, then heís fooling himself. Theyíll take what they want, then theyíll kill him anyway. Theyíre a nasty pair."

"I donít know, I think Rickís safe enough," Grey reassured him, "and so are you," he added.

"Oh yeah, Iím not going anywhere, am I!" Magenta replied curtly. Sighing he smiled and softened his tone. "Youíre probably right. Anyway, Iíve got to go, Iíve got communications duty."

"You know Fawnís got Green in quarantine?" chuckled Grey.

"Bet heís loving that! I mean, itís just a sore throat."

"Well, itís a nasty infection, Pat. Poor Seymour can hardly speak!"

"Not much good for a communications officer, eh?"

The pair laughed at Greenís expense as they headed off towards Control.

 

***

 

James got out of the car and looked around. He found himself in the suburbs of New York, outside a large inconspicuous house, which he knew belonged to Mark Abbott. James looked back into the car; Reece stared up at him.

"Theyíre expecting you. Word of advice, James, this information of yours had better be worth something. Theyíve gone to a lot of trouble and expense for you. I think theyíre wasting their time, but for some reason, they believe your story."

"Itís not a story," insisted James with a degree of irritation.

"Whatever, James, just donít mess up this time." Reece closed the car window and moved off, leaving James stood alone in the quiet street. Walking up to the door, James rang the bell and waited. He seemed to wait an age with no reply. James prepared to ring again when Mark Abbott suddenly opened the door.

"Okay, youíre here. Reece brought you up to speed?"

"Yeah, I was a bit surprised though, I expected my contact to get back to me, not you," replied James as he stepped into the entrance hall.

Abbott frowned as he closed the door. "Weíre the ones who lost out by your last effort, Gabriel, donít forget that. We want to recoup that money, and we have to move fast. We donít have unlimited resources you know."

James sighed. "Sure."

"Right, we got Ryan out yesterday, weíre ready to make contact."

"What do you make of him?" asked James curious to know more about Commander Fraserís nephew.

"I donít trust him."

"You donít trust anyone."

"I donít trust you, Gabriel, thatís for sure."

Jamesí eyes narrowed as he tried to hide his contempt for Abbott. It had always been a source of considerable irritation to him that neither Abbott nor Fisher had ever regarded him as an equal, and now he was being treated like a new boy. James felt he deserved respect. He had, after all, acquired and run his own mob for three years, it wasnít his fault heíd been outwitted by his former boss and arrested. Abbott and Fisher, having lost millions in the process, didnít exactly see it the same way.

"Whatís he like?" James asked again, his tone much sharper this time.

Abbott, noting James insolent tone, gave him a harsh stare.

"Heís young, clever, and he apparently has no kind words to say for ĎUncle Rickí."

James smirked; it seemed very strange indeed to hear Commander Fraser referred to in this way.

"So, did he know heís alive?"

"No, and he still doesnít believe it, heíll take some convincing."

"You said Ďapparently no kind wordsí, why apparently?"

"Like I said, I donít trust him. Oh and Gabriel?"

"Yeah?"

"Two things. Firstly, including your bail money, you owe us six million, just to break even, so youíd better be right about this..."

"Did my contact confirm it?"

"Yes he did."

"Well then?"

"Well then, heíd better turn out to be more reliable than you, hadnít he?"

James frowned deeply; Abbottís behaviour towards him was severely grating on his nerves now.

"And the second thing?" he snapped.

Abbott smiled. "Ryanís got an attitude that youíre going to just love."

"What do you mean?"

"Youíll see."

Jamesí mind was working overtime as they walked into the living room; what could he have meant? Certainly the tone of his voice had suggested that he definitely would not appreciate Ryanís attitude, but why that may be, he was yet to find out.

As the pair stepped into the room, the first person James saw was Ben Fisher.

"Hello Ben," James said with a respectful nod.

Fisher regarded him coolly and merely nodded briefly in return. James frowned; when their money would be returned to them with interest, then theyíd have to respect him, he thought angrily.

James looked around the tastefully and expensively furnished room; the only other occupant was a young man sat in a leather armchair. He appeared in his mid twenties, smiling with youthful enthusiasm and yet somehow, something in his eyes suggested experience far greater than his years. Suddenly, James knew what Abbott had meant. Eased comfortably back in the chair, wearing casual clothes and sporting a floppy mop of mid brown hair, Ryan certainly gave the impression of not being the remotest bit serious. Jamesí future, possibly his very life, rested on this kidís abilities to draw his uncle into a carefully arranged trap. What heíd seen so far hadnít impressed him much. Abbott smiled faintly as he noted Jamesí expression.

"Hi! You must be Mr James, Iím Ryan," the young man introduced himself cheerfully.

Abbott grinned as he watched Jamesí response to his greeting.

"I know who you are," he growled, "youíd better be as good as your word."

"Hey," Ryanís tone darkened, "I havenít promised anything. I still donít believe heís alive, and if youíre wrong, I can hardly do anything about that, can I?"

"Heís alive alright and youíre going to bring him to us."

"Well, IF he is, that I can do. I donít owe him anything."

"Well, the first sign of family loyalty and youíre dead, mister!"

"What do you think I am?" shouted Ryan angrily.

"Youíre a Fraser!"

Ryan jumped to his feet and looked James squarely in the eyes.

"Yeah well, from what I hear, you wonít be winning any popularity contests around here either. If I say I can get him here, Iíll do it. Then you can do what you like with him, it makes no difference to me!"

"Iíll believe it when I see it."

"You do that!"

 

***

 

"Control to Captain Ochre," came Captain Magentaís voice over the intercom in Ochreís quarters.

"Yes, Captain?" Ochre replied somewhat distantly as he applied model adhesive with meticulous care to a tiny piece of plastic.

"Captain Ochre, thereís a call for you."

"Okay, Pat," he replied absently, "put it through please."

"S.I.G., Captain."

It was only then that Ochre became curious; he hardly ever received calls and those he did were usually about missions or his hobby kits. There was nothing outstanding from the missions heíd taken part in recently so, he guessed, it must be Tom with a new model for sale. He smiled to himself; good, he thought, nearly finished this one.

"Hi, Tom, is that you?"

"No, Uncle Rick, itís me, Ryan."

The sudden shock of hearing his nephewís voice took Ochreís breath away. The model suddenly forgotten, Ochreís mouth dried. All his concentration lost, he fought hard to regain his composure before replying.

"Iím sorry but youíre mistaken."

Despite having been prepared for the possibility, Ryan was equally shocked at the realisation that these men had been right, and that his uncle was in fact alive and working for Spectrum. He had denied it, of course, but there was no mistaking his voice; Ryan recovered from the shock only slightly faster than his uncle. He pressed on.

"No Iím not, youíre Captain Ochre of Spectrum a.k.a. Richard Fraser, former Commander in the World Government Police Corps and, of course, my uncle."

"Youíre wrong. Commander Fraser died some years ago."

"Look, Iím not going to waste my time here, I want to see you and if you refuse, Iím going to the papers."

There was a short pause at the other end of the line, Ryan pushed harder.

"How precious is your anonymity, Uncle Rick?"

"What do you want?"

"Thatís better. I want some money. You probably heard I escaped; I need to get out of the country. I want you to help me."

"I canít do that, you know that!"

"Then I break your precious Spectrum security, tell everyone who you are. Iím sure there are a lot of people out there who would love to know that youíre still alive, but not for long, eh? And what about your superiors, do they know about me, I wonder?"

"This is blackmail!" replied a furious Ochre.

"Yeah, harsh isnít it! You gonna arrest me for that too?"

"When and where?" asked Ochre abruptly.

"Tomorrow. Go to JFK Airport, New York. At two oíclock, a car will meet you. And donít come in uniform."

"I canít just take time off, itís not that straightforward."

"Oh but it is, if you donít want your name splashed all over the papers."

The phone went dead. Ochre had received the call he had always dreaded. His brotherís son, Ryan, was the only member of his family still alive. Fraser had taken over as legal guardian of Ryan following the tragic death of his older brother William and his wife Carol in a house fire. Ryan had been quite a handful, rebellious even before the death of his parents; he became almost impossible to handle afterwards. The fact that his uncle was a senior police officer only seemed to inflame the situation all the more. Ryan seemed to excel at getting into trouble. Captain Fraser, as he was then, was the butt of his colleaguesí jokes each time Ryan was arrested, usually for theft or disturbing the peace. It was when Ryan was involved in a stabbing that Fraser decided enough was enough.

 

"Whatís the matter with you, Ryan?" Fraser demanded, looking down at his nephew in the small interview room.

"What do you care?"

"Donít give me the hard man routine, Ryan, it doesnít work with me!"

"You donít think of me as a man at all!"

"Iíve had enough, Ryan." Fraser leaned across the table. "I donít know what to do anymore. You couldíve killed him, what were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that he was you!"

Fraser stood back; he couldnít tell if he really meant it or not. Did his nephew really hate him that much?

"I canít help you, Ryan. Youíre going to prison this time."

"Canít or wonít?"

"I canít, but I wouldnít either. You just canít do that, Ryan. Maybe some time in prison will make you think."

"Iíll be thinking alright, Uncle Rick. You can count on that!"

 

Ochre sighed; it was the last time heíd seen him for many years. Ryan had gone to prison, as Fraser knew he would, but on his release, he had disappeared. Rumours on the underground grapevine had revealed little, but it seemed that Ryan was getting himself deeper and deeper into trouble. It was April 2066, almost five years later that Fraser, now promoted to Commander, next saw his nephew. One of his last cases before Spectrum approached him was to crack one of the biggest drug Syndicates in New York. It had taken months of groundwork and planning, several of his officers had infiltrated the group and although they knew many of the gang, the identity of the leader was unknown to them. In a spectacular coup, Commander Fraser learned that the leader would personally attend a purchase of enormous magnitude. He was more than ready to make the arrest, until the moment actually came and he found himself staring into the eyes of his own wayward nephew. Perhaps it was this that had made Spectrum so sure that he was one of the elite men they needed. Fraser had shown no emotion as he took his former ward into custody and testified against him at the trial. Beneath the stern facade, Fraserís heart was breaking.

It had been as a result of this difficult situation that Fraser had agreed, at the suggestion of Spectrum, to fake his own death. There were too many possibilities for security breaches if it were discovered that a member of Spectrum had a nephew who was such a high profile criminal. As it had turned out, they had been right.

Visibly shaken, Ochre got to his feet. He had to decide what to do. If he helped Ryan, he risked arrest or at the very least, the end of his career with Spectrum. If he didnít help him, he would lose his anonymity and his career. All seemed lost, whichever way he turned he could lose everything. Ryan had him over a barrel.

 

***

 

Captain Magenta sat at the main computer console. It wasnít a bad job, just a bit dull. The real excitement at this position was in the thick of a mission, co-ordinating the various aspects, communications, data retrieval and analysis, not to mention the Spectrum officers and Angels. It was the part of the job he very rarely got to perform. Even with the current Mysteron threat apparently directed against him personally, the daily routine was continuing almost as normal; he had to admit, if only to himself, that this unnerved him slightly, even though he was determined not to show it. Magenta looked up as the door to Control slid open; on seeing Captain Ochre, he offered a bright smile.

"Hi, Ri...Ochre," Magenta quickly corrected himself.

Ochre glanced at Magenta and briefly returned his smile, but it was a forced one, Magenta could tell. Magenta wondered what was wrong as Ochre approached Colonel Whiteís desk.

"Colonel, may I speak to you?"

"Of course, Captain, is something wrong?"

"Iíd like to request permission to travel to the surface tomorrow, Sir."

"I see. You are on duty tomorrow, are you not?"

"Yes, Sir. It is important, Colonel."

"May I ask why, Captain?"

"Family business, Sir."

Magenta looked up from the console and the program he was toying with; What family?, he thought. Ochre had always insisted he had no close friends or family to speak of on the surface. Possibly the only people that would fall into that category were the men and women he worked with every day. Yet now, here he was requesting the Colonelís permission to return to the surface to attend to some sort of family matter. Either he was lying now or heíd lied to them all for the past three years.

"A family matter?" White seemed equally surprised.

"Itís a delicate matter, Sir. I need to sort out some matters following a death."

"My condolences, Captain," replied White choosing not to probe further. It was a decision he would later regret, not realising at the time that Ochre was being very selective with the truth. "How long will you need?"

"I guess about six hours, Sir, including travelling, if I take the helicopter."

"Are you sure thatís enough, Captain Ochre?"

"I may need a few more hours later in the week, Sir."

"Very well, Captain, keep me informed. In view of the current threat, I would need you to remain in contact."

"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

Ochre turned to leave. As he passed Magenta, he glanced at the Irishman; this man was very possibly his closest friend and he was lying to him. His expression was full of guilt; the look wasnít lost on Magenta.

"Rick?" Magenta paused. "Anything I can do?"

"Iím sorry, Pat. I think Iím on my own with this one," he murmured apologetically in reply.

 

***

 

Magenta was worried, he couldnít recall ever seeing Ochre so visibly shaken. Something was obviously wrong, but he didnít believe the death in the family story. The more he thought about it the less it made sense; it was only then did he realise that Ochre hadnít actually said that there had been a death in the family, that had just been their assumption. All he had said was that it was a family matter, following a death. Magenta was even more worried now; the only deaths he was aware of in Ochreís family was his brotherís and his own faked death. There was something very suspicious going on and he was going to find out what.

Magenta started to search that and the previous dayís despatches for anything relevant. He had no idea what he was looking for but hoped it would be obvious when he found it. He had been searching for only twenty minutes when he spotted the name ĎFraserí on the screen. Reading the piece, he learned of the escape from prison of a young man, aged twenty-six called Ryan Fraser. He had been in the process of being transferred to another jail when the transporter had been attacked. That had been only yesterday; it seemed implausible that there was no connection between this incident and Ochreís strange, distracted behaviour.

Magenta wanted to check this out, but he wanted to be on his own in Control when he did so. Reading the most recent despatches with Colonel White sat only feet away was one thing, hacking into the main computer was quite another. He glanced at his watch, the Colonel would be leaving for lunch soon, he would have at least forty minutes to find what he needed and cover his tracks.

"Is everything alright, Captain?" asked White, suddenly stirring Magenta from his thoughts.

"Sir?" Magenta snapped to. "Yes, Sir, everythingís fine, nothing to report."

"Iíll take an early lunch then, Captain. If you need me, you know where I am."

"Yes Sir," Magenta nodded.

White picked up his cap from beneath the desk and cast a last curious glance at Magenta. He seemed to him to be unusually distracted; perhaps the Mysteron threat was worrying him more than he cared to admit.

"Are you alright, Captain?"

"Yes, Colonel. Iím sorry, Colonel, I was thinking about something," he replied honestly. "You caught me off-guard."

"I see." White smiled. "Iíll be back in about forty five minutes, Captain Magenta, but, as I say, you know where I am."

"Yes, Colonel."

"Ah good, Captain Grey, right on time."

Magenta looked up, he frowned as he saw Grey approaching.

"Colonel, I really donít need a babysitter."

"Captain, as weíve already discussed, you are not to be left on your own. Now I wonít hear any more about it, itís for your own good!"

Magenta looked at Grey who merely shrugged in return.

"Iíll see you later, Captains."

"Sir," replied Grey nodding slightly. Magenta merely frowned and glared as White left the room. Then, with a brief smile, he started to type.

"Okay, Brad. Seeing as youíre here, you can make yourself useful."

"Look, Pat, I know you donít like this, neither would I, but itís like the old man says, itís for your own good."

"I know. Now are you gonna do something or just sit there?"

"What do you want me to do?" asked Grey with a sigh.

"Hang on, nearly finished. There, can you take this to the Info Centre?" Magenta held up a disk.

"And do what with it?"

"Load it into Plasma Databank B and fire it up, thereís a start up mode, it should run itself."

"Iím not supposed to leave you."

"Brad, itís only on the other side of the Observation Tube, youíre barely going anywhere."

"How long will it take?"

"Oh, itíll be instant," Magenta replied with a smile.

"Okay," Grey sighed, "back in minute."

Magenta merely smiled in return.

No sooner had Captain Grey left the Control Room, than Magenta had entered his code and password into the main computer requesting full Rainbow clearance on all topics. It came as something of a surprise when on requesting information on Ryan Fraser, that the computer insisted that the information was classified.

It was then he heard the banging and muffled shouts coming from the Information Centre. Magenta frowned, he felt guilty locking Grey in there, but he needed the time to check the computer databanks. The disk had done it all, sealed the door, closed Greyís communication channel and transferred sole control to the main computer. It would only be for about thirty minutes, he thought, but from the commotion, it sounded as though Grey was really worried. It finally dawned on him that Grey probably thought that somehow it was a Mysteron trap to get Magenta alone.

"Brad?" Magenta called over the communicator, "I know you canít reply and Iím sorry about that. I locked you in, using that disk. Iím sorry; I just want some time on my own. Iíll let you out in a little while."

Frustrated, Grey slammed his hand on the door one last time. How could he have fallen for that? Magenta was too clever sometimes.

Turning back to the screen, Magenta now considered the Data Classified message, which had flashed up. "Thatís odd," he muttered to himself.

This called for more determined action. Some time ago, Magenta had created a fake code and password which gave him the highest-level access possible, that of Colonel White. He had only used the fake pass code once before, to search for information on Captain Black. It was quite a risk, as the penalty, if caught, would be severe, and this time he was using it to get information on his best friend, which made it even worse. He felt guilty, but convinced himself that it was necessary; Ochre was in trouble, he couldnít sit by and let him hang himself. If Ochre is going to hang, he thought as he entered the codes, weíll hang together.

"I donít believe this!" he muttered to himself as the message flashed up again advising him that the information was classified. What could possibly be in there that even the Colonel wasnít authorised to know?

There was only one remaining option; he hated himself for even contemplating it but he had no choice, he had to hack into Spectrum Intelligenceís own file on Ochre. He swallowed hard and started to type; he had to keep telling himself that he had to do it, for Ochreís sake, but it didnít make it any easier.

Within minutes, the information scrolled onto the screen. Magenta read with a mixture of amazement and sadness, the whole sorry tale of Ochreís guardianship of his delinquent nephew and the events leading up to his faked assassination. Closing down the file, Magenta sat in stunned silence for a few moments. Ochre had a troubled past that heíd not shared with anyone. Magenta knew, possibly better than anyone that Ochre was a very private person, who had never discussed his personal life much with anyone; now he understood why.

Judging from Ochreís earlier behaviour, Magenta guessed that Ryan had contacted him and the requested surface leave was to meet with him. He hoped he was wrong, but he couldnít think of any other possible reason for his request. It did mean, however, that somehow, Ryan knew that his uncle worked for Spectrum. His earlier conversation with Captain Grey came flooding back to him. Ryan escapes one day, Gabriel James bailed the next, could there be a connection? He certainly suspected about Ochre, but how could he know about Ryan? Magenta had only an hour left on his duty watch, he hoped it would be quiet, to give himself time to think this one through.

With a sigh, Magenta had to admit to himself, that even knowing that all the security placed around Ryanís details on the computer would compel Ochre to remain silent on the subject, he couldnít help but feel just a little hurt that Ochre had not trusted him enough to confide in him, even now.

"Are you sure youíre alright, Captain?"

Magenta jerked his head up, startled by Colonel Whiteís sudden return.

"Colonel!" Magenta glanced quickly at the screen, his heart racing in panic; yes heíd closed the file. His face gave away his all too obvious relief and now all his efforts were going towards trying not to look guilty.

"What are you up to, Captain Magenta?"

Magentaís mouth dried, he had to say something, but it had to be harmless.

"I was trying to write a message to my father, Sir. I know I shouldnít while Iím on duty, but..."

"Thatís alright Captain," White was sympathetic. He knew about the problems Magenta had with his parents disowning him because of his criminal past. Now he felt he understood why Magenta had been so distracted earlier. "Itís quiet and you have to do these things when the right words occur to you. Whereís Captain Grey?"

"He, er, took something to the Info Centre for me, Sir," he replied casually pressing a few keys.

"I expressly told him not to leave you alone!" White replied, the anger in his voice more than evident.

"It was my fault, Colonel, I insisted. Itís just through there, itís not really leavingÖ"

Magentaís voice trailed off as he saw Grey walking back to the Control Room. As he entered, Magenta noticed his expression change. It was obvious he was furious, but with the Colonel there, he forcibly calmed himself; there was little point them both getting into trouble.

"I thought IídÖ"

"Colonel, really it was my faultÖ" interrupted Magenta.

Grey stared disbelieving at Magenta; the idiot, didnít he realise that he could get into deep trouble for the stunt heíd just pulled?

"Iím sorry, Colonel," Grey cut in. "I thought it would be alright as I was just the other end of the Observation Tube."

"Weíre talking about the Mysterons here, Captain. What if youíd have been locked in there?"

Grey offered Magenta a deep frown as he continued: "It just didnít occur to me that it was possible, Sir. It wonít happen again."

"Very well, Captain. Are you off-duty now?"

"I just have some paperwork to finish, Colonel."

White nodded. "Alright, thank you, Captain. Iíll let you get on."

"Sir." Grey nodded as he turned to leave.

Magenta felt wretched. He had hacked into his best friendís file, read its very personal contents, locked Captain Grey in the Information Centre and lied shamelessly to the Colonel. To make matters worse, Grey had covered for him and White had been sympathetic and understanding. Later he would have to go to Ochre and, in his attempts to talk him out of his intended course of action, would probably have to admit how he came by the information. If he came away from that conversation with his friendship with Ochre intact, he would feel very lucky indeed.

 

***

 

It was a little over an hour later when Captain Ochre heard a knock at the door to his quarters. Seated at the table, Ochre glanced up and looked towards the door. Perhaps if he ignored it, whoever it was would go away. He wasnít going to be that lucky, he heard a second, louder knock, this time followed by a shout; it was Captain Magenta.

"Rick, let me in, I know youíre in there!"

"Iím not in the mood, Pat."

"Let me in, Rick."

Ochre got to his feet and walked to the door, he really didnít need this right now. The door slid back and he glared at Magenta.

"What was it exactly that you didnít understand?" Ochre snapped.

"I need to talk to you, Rick." Magenta heaved a sigh. "Iíve got a problem."

"Not now, Pat, please."

Magenta raised two pleading brown eyes to his friend, and then lowered them again. With his head bowed, he nodded lightly.

"Okay, Rick."

"Come in." Ochre sighed and stood back to let Magenta through.

Magenta smiled to himself, that look had often worked. Ochre fancied himself as a bit of a tough, no-nonsense kind, but he knew that Ochre had a heart of gold and that no matter what he was going through personally, he would never turn a friend away if he were needed.

Peering out into the hallway, Ochre sighed and shook his head.

"Itís no wonder you never got caught, we could never keep anyone on your tail then either," he mused absently. Magenta offered a shy grin and shrugged lightly.

"Whatís up, Pat?" Ochre asked, without much enthusiasm in his voice.

"Gabriel James is out on bail."

Ochre frowned; James had kidnapped Magenta only weeks earlier whilst he was on vacation. Ochre had managed to rescue him when he was only moments from being killed. Ochre himself had been recognised by James as a former Commander in the World Government Police Corps; now someone had paid his bail. The amount of bail had been posted at three hundred thousand dollars; that anyone had paid it was serious enough.

"Donít worry, Pat. He canít come after you, he doesnít know youíre with Spectrum, he thinks youíre in de Wittís Penitentiary."

"Itís not me Iím worried about and I think you know why," replied Magenta settling himself on a seat at the table.

Ochre sighed irritably, "I donít think heíll be coming after me either."

"No?"

"No!"

"You donít think heís used his information to buy his way out of prison then?"

"He hasnít got any information. He thinks heís recognised me, thatís all. Thatís hardly anything. If somebodyís bailed him out, itís likely to be those two guys you mentioned who want to kill him."

"Theyíre not going to bother getting him out if theyíre just going to kill him, Rick. You know that. If they wanted him dead, itís much easier and cheaper for them if heís in prison."

"Well, I donít think youíre right."

"You donít think thereís any connection then?"

"No, I told you," growled Ochre, on the verge of losing his temper.

"No, I meant between him being bailed and Ryanís escape."

"Who?" Ochreís voice shook.

"Ryan Fraser, your nephew."

"Get out, Pat!" Ochreís temper blew.

Ochre pushed Magenta backwards towards the door. Setting his balance, Magenta stretched his arms out to block Ochre from reaching the door controls.

"No! Iím not going anywhere until you tell me whatís going on."

"Iíll tell you whatís going on, youíve betrayed a trust."

"Trust! What trust? I didnít hear it from you, did I?"

"Well, just who did you hear it from? I doubt even the Colonel knows."

"Maybe not, but Iíll tell you who might know."

"Who?" Ochre snapped not even caring to hear the reply.

"Well, who was in charge of personnel security before he disappeared?"

"I donít believe Blackís involved in this. And you still havenít told me how you know, did you hack into my file?"

"Yes, I did."

"I canít believe you did that! Get out!"

"But, youíre going to meet him, arenít you? Rick, you canít do it!"

"Get out, Pat. Get out before I throw you out!"

"Rick, you canít go tomorrow. Youíll be kicked out of Spectrum."

"Iím going to arrest him. Iím not going to let him blackmail me. Heís threatening to go to the papers, Pat. I have to do something!"

"Tell the Colonel."

"Oh sure! And get kicked out of Spectrum anyway?"

"No, Rick! Youíre not making sense! Spectrum knows about Ryan. They must know heís escaped. You canít meet him. What if it goes wrong, itíll look like you were trying to help him? Itíll be you who gets arrested!"

Ochre lowered his head; the only way he was going to shut Magenta up was by agreeing with him. Later, Ochre thought, he could change his mind.

"I guess so."

"So youíre not going?"

"Youíre right." Ochre emitted a heavy sigh.

"Good!" Magentaís sigh was one of relief.

Ochre had managed to convince Magenta that heíd talked him out of going to see Ryan, without actually agreeing to anything. He couldnít believe it had been that easy, but Pat desperately wanted him to agree, he probably just heard what he wanted.

"I need to get my head together, Pat."

"Thatís okay, Iíll get out of your way now. But, Rick, Iím your friend, you know?"

"I know." Ochre spoke quietly, he sounded distant again; it worried Magenta.

"Rick, youíre not going tomorrow, are you?"

A direct question. He didnít want to lie.

"Pat, havenít we just been through this?"

"Iím sorry. Iím going, Iím sorry."

The door closed behind him as Magenta left Ochreís quarters.

"Iím sorry too, Pat, but I have to go," Ochre murmured to the door.

 

***

 

The remainder of the day passed as so many others had done recently, in an uneventful blur. Even Magenta, who knew that a potential personal crisis for Ochre was brewing, didnít appear unduly concerned that Ochre hadnít emerged from his quarters again that evening.

Ochre sat down heavily on the edge of his bed. Slumping slightly, his head fell forward into his cupped hands; he had been drinking. He knew he shouldnít; Pat had been threatened, and what if there were an emergency? But he hadnít intended to get drunk, he felt guilty. Spectrum Intelligence had promised him this day would never come, they had been wrong. They had let him down badly, why should he feel guilty? Right now, he didnít want to feel anything at all. Unused to it, it had only taken a few shots of malt whisky for Ochre to feel quite light-headed. The bottle now lay considerably depleted on the floor beside him. Slowly looking up, the room started to spin. With a sigh, he fell backwards onto the bed; passing out even before his head hit the mattress.

 

***

 

The door to the Control Room slid open. Lieutenant Sienna was overdue to be relieved; looking up with a sigh, he was quite taken aback to see Lieutenant Green stood in the doorway.

"Lieutenant!" Sienna offered the Senior Communications Officer a broad grin. "Doctor Fawnís signed you back for duty then?"

"Sure did! You canít imagine how dull quarantine is, all I can say is thank goodness for Captain Scarletís visits! Fawn thinks he has natural immunity to all Earth viruses now. I donít care about the explanation, Iím just glad he drops by!"

"Yeah, poor guy! Heís always in Sickbay for one reason or another!"

Sienna rose from his seat and handed Green that dayís duty schedules and despatches with a relieved sigh.

"All yours!" he grinned.

"Thanks, Jon. Anything out of the ordinary?"

"Well you know about the Mysteron threat, other than that, no, I donít thinkÖoh yeah, Captain Ochreís taking six hours surface leave later today."

"Six hours?" queried Green, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Death in the family," replied Sienna with a sympathetic air.

His comment solicited the same reaction with Green that it had with those others who knew Ochre well.

"Family?" he raised his eyebrows. "Oh well, maybe we donít know him as well as we thought."

"Right, well, Iím off. Glad youíre back on your feet!"

"Catch you later, Jon."

 

***

 

Captain Scarlet entered the gym. Captain Blue was already there. He had been there almost an hour already; it was a good place to get some thinking done.

"So, Adam? Itís been five days now. Youíre keeping us all in suspense. Made a decision yet? Can you reveal the name of the greatest detective of all time?"

Blue looked at Scarlet seated on the edge of the weights bench, smirking at his troubled friend.

"Oh, donít you start! The only one who hasnít offered me his opinion yet is Brad. Somebodyís going to be ticked off no matter what I say. And who am I to decide anyway? Iím not a detective, Iíve never had to handle a hostage situation before."

"What about the time Black had me on that ship off the coast of Australia?"

"You werenít a hostage, he was trying to kill you. Besides, it was Brad who got you out of that one."

Scarlet shrugged. "Guess so. So, anyway, who are you going to upset?"

"Oh, donít!" sighed Blue exasperated.

"Come on, Adam, if you didnít want to do it, you should have said so days ago."

"Well, I honestly think Ochreís right, but I dread the thought of telling Rhapsody that."

"Youíre going to upset my Angel?" gasped Scarlet in mock horror.

"You see, now this is what I mean," Blue replied jabbing his finger into Scarletís arm. "Rhapsodyís not going to be upset!"

"I donít know, sheís sure sheís right. Then thereís Destiny."

"What about Destiny?"

"Well you can forget about me and Rhapsody, but you know what Destinyís going to say, when she finds out youíve upset one of ĎHer Girlsí."

"Okay, thatís it!" Blue snapped, "If Iím going to have half the base on my back, I might as well get it over with now!"

"Thatís the spirit!" laughed Scarlet.

 

***

 

Captain Ochre brought the helicopter down gently. Now recovered from his drinking binge of the night before, all the reasons for it had come flooding back to his mind. He knew heíd been foolish to react that way; it solved nothing and he vowed he would never do it again. But it still didnít alter the present reality that he had to face extortion at the hands of his own nephew. Checking with the Spectrum ground staff at the airport, Ochre handed over the keys to the helicopter.

"Iíll be back within four hours," Ochre advised them, unenthusiastically.

"Identification please."

Ochre looked up blankly at the Spectrum Lieutenant who had addressed him. Suddenly realising he was wearing casual clothes, he reached into his pocket and withdrew his Spectrum pass. Showing it to the Lieutenant briefly, he tucked it back into his pocket without another word.

Now what? He thought. A car would pick him up, but where from and how would he know which one? The question was answered for him only minutes later.

"Will Mr Fraser please meet his driver at the Airport Information Desk? Mr Fraser, please go to Airport Information," came the message over the public address system.

Ochre sighed; he could almost feel Ryan laughing at him in his discomfort. Heading for Airport Information, Ochre wondered how it would go when he finally met Ryan.

"Iím Mr Fraser, meeting my driver."

"Oh yes, Sir," the lady behind the desk began, "heís over there."

Ochre turned in the direction in which she had indicated. A tall, broad, dark haired man, roughly his own age was staring back at him. Slowly, Ochre started to walk over, as he did so, the man got to his feet.

"Fraser?" he asked abruptly.

Ochre nodded silently.

"Commander Richard Fraser?" he asked with a malevolent smile.

Ochre closed his eyes as he sighed letting his head drop forward slightly. He nodded again.

"Good, come with me."

"Where are we going?" Ochre finally asked as they stepped out of the main terminal and headed for the car park.

"Yeah!" the man turned and sneered at Ochre. "Like Iím going to tell you!"

"Iím not going anywhere unless I know where it is," Ochre stopped and looked sternly at the driver.

"Iím taking you to see your nephew. You know that. Thatís all you need to know."

Ochre could now see that they were heading for a large silver coloured car with darkened windows. Standing alongside it, the man opened the door to the backseat for Ochre.

"Just get in," he muttered harshly.

It seemed to Ochre that he wasnít going to get much information from this man. Frowning briefly at the manís cold expression, Ochre bent down and stepped into the car. The door slammed behind him. As it did so, Ochre thought he heard a faint chuckle. Sitting back into the seat, Ochre noticed the perspex screen between the driverís and rear passenger seats through which he watched the driver enter the car and close the door. The next sound was that of door locks being activated, Ochreís head spun to the left, to the door nearest to him; not only could he see that it was locked, but even if it werenít, there didnít seem to be any mechanism for opening it manually from inside.

"Hey!" Ochre cried realising that he was trapped. He slammed his hand on the perspex separating him from the driver area. A small panel, approximately six inches square, was shifted to the right; peering through, the driver offered him a mocking grin.

"Relax, Fraser. You canít do much else, now anyway. My name is FisherÖ"

"Fisher!" Ochre was taken aback, he should know this man, but he didnít recognise him at all.

"Thatís right, Fraser, like you I have changed considerably in my appearance since our last encounter. Iíll be taking you to see your nephew and to your...accommodation." He laughed. "Not what you expected, I know."

This was certainly not what Ochre had expected. He had wanted to believe Ryan was acting alone, but it now looked as though Magenta had been right after all. Ryan had just been the bait to get at him, and heíd fallen for it!

"Oh, and just one other thing," Fisher smiled, raising a small, long barrelled pistol. Ochre stared alarmed as Fisher pulled the trigger and a tiny dart embedded itself in his arm. Ochre barely had time to register what had happened before darkness closed over his eyes and he slumped across the back seat.

The panel slid back and the car moved off.

 

***

 

"Hi, Seymour!" Magenta greeted Lieutenant Green with a cheery smile. "Itís good to see you back on your feet."

"Back in this chair more likely," replied Green with a knowing glance.

Magenta grinned. Green and he were good friends. Many a long night and early morning would be spent by the pair discussing computers and various advances in software and techniques. It was almost as if they were trying to outdo each other. Colonel White, though aware of it, would say nothing of his two computer wizardsí competitive spirit. After all they would go out of their way to learn new approaches, languages and assorted trickery just to get one up on the other. A little healthy competition was good for them and their increased knowledge; it didnít do Spectrum any harm either.

"So, whatís new?" asked Magenta peering over the young Lieutenantís shoulders to read a the top notice of a pile of despatches just in.

"You know I hate that, donít you?" Green frowned as Magenta crowded him.

"Yeah," replied Magenta nonchalantly as he continued to read.

Green sighed and covered the despatch pile with a report file. Magenta frowned.

"Hey! What did you do that for?"

"Oh, like you really care about the changes to next weekís duty roster for Spectrum HQ London."

"I might," Magenta shrugged, moving to Greenís left and propping himself up against the main computer console. "So, like I said, whatís new?"

"Just Captain Ochreís surface leave, nothing else."

"Surface leave?"

"Oh! Iím sorry, Captain. I assumed youíd know. Sienna told me there was a death in the family."

"Yeah and Ochre told me he wasnít going!" Magenta fumed.

"Death in the family, Magenta. Whatís he going to do? Why shouldnít he anyway?"

"BecauseÖ" Magenta paused, heíd said too much already. "He just seemed upset yesterday, thatís all."

Green stared hard at Magenta; he knew there was more to it than that. He knew too, however, that Pat was an honest and very open man, but most of all, a man of discretion. If he was avoiding the issue, it would be for a very good reason. Green decided not to push the matter.

 

***

 

It was a little less than two hours later that Captain Ochre started to wake from his enforced sleep. Opening his eyes, briefly at first, he still felt quite groggy. He blinked a couple of times as he gathered his senses. Having no natural light, the room was quite dark, the only light being that filtering through a small opening in the door, from a single fluorescent light in the corridor beyond. Ochre realised quite quickly from the cold and discomfort that he was seated on a cold stone floor. As he became accustomed to the dim light, Ochre made out a figure sat opposite, apparently watching him. As he came to fully, he realised, to his dismay, that thick metal clasps held his wrists suspended just below shoulder height, attached with chains to the wall behind him.

"Whoís there?" he asked the figure sat before him.

The figure flipped a switch; a light above them flickered to life. A young man in his mid-twenties was sat on a chair opposite Ochre; slightly hunched forward resting his arms on his knees; he was grinning.

"Hi, Uncle Rick."

Ochre squinted in the sudden bright light. "Hello, Ryan," he replied with a sigh.

"Sorry, I have to admit, I got you here under false pretences. I donít actually need your help."

"So I see."

"But you know, Iím flattered that you were going to help me anyway."

"I wasnít going to. You were trying to blackmail me, I was going to arrest you!"

"Yeah, my fault for suggesting it, I suppose."

"I think I might have decided to do that anyway," replied Ochre with a hint of sarcasm.

"Yeah? Well, it wouldnít be the first time, would it!"

"No, and by the looks of things, probably not the last."

Ryan sighed and leaned back, frowning. "Why are you so down on me, Uncle Rick?"

"What? You mean apart from the kidnapping thing?"

"Youíve always hated me, itís not just this."

"I never hated you, Ryan. It was more the other way around."

"What have I done that even suggested that I hated you?"

"The last thing you said to me before you went into prison the first time was that you wished the guy you stabbed had been me."

Ryan swallowed hard; he didnít hate his uncle, he never had, he looked up to him; he just didnít know how to show it.

"I donít remember saying that!" he replied defiantly.

"You did say it, though."

"You remember, after all this time?"

Ochre looked away; he wasnít going to get drawn into a discussion like this only to be mocked by his nephew.

"If youíre trying to make this difficult for me..." ĎItís workingí, Ryan finished the sentence in thought only.

"Yeah, I know, itís not. You hate me, Iím the wicked uncle who arrested you, I know. Change the record, Ryan!"

"Hey, give me a break, Iíve had something of a surprise here!"

"Oh yeah?" snapped Ochre, pulling on the chains. "Well this isnít exactly a typical day for me either!"

"Well, I didnít know you had any days, I thought you were dead!"

"And I thought you were in jail!" Ochre countered.

Ryan laughed. "Yeah, well, I was. Then this guy comes to see me. He tells me youíre still alive and working for Spectrum no less! Well, I didnít believe him, but he said he could get me out of jail if I was prepared to give you to them. I mean, what could I say?"

"No?" Ochre ventured.

Ryan laughed again. "Oh come on! Whereís the harm? You stay here for a couple of days, in Mr Abbottís charming accommodation, then you go back to Spectrum. And we, well, weíll be considerably richer."

"Youíre going to ransom me?" Ochre shook his head and laughed.

"Yeah, why not?"

"Theyíre not going to pay! Donít you know anything about Spectrum?"

"You better pray that they pay, Mr Fraser, or you wonít be leaving here alive."

Ochre turned his head to his right. Near the door stood a short, fair-haired man of roughly average build for his height.

"Who...?" Ochre had only just started his sentence when Ryan cut in.

"Hey! You never said anything about killing him."

"We got you out of jail, and you delivered him. Both ends of the bargain fulfilled. You can stick around for now, you might be useful. But we donít expect any more input from you unless we ask for it, understand? Besides," Abbott added with a sly glance in Ochreís direction to be sure he was listening, "I thought you said you didnít care what we did with him?"

"But..." Ryan began, but for the first time in a long while, he was stuck for words. Heíd been used to being the leader; even in prison people had looked to him. But now he was just a stepping-stone.

"But, nothing, Ryan. Shut up or Iíll kill you myself!" replied the shorter man still stood, half concealed in the shadows of the doorway.

"Hey!" Ochre shouted in a commanding voice. "Leave him alone. Who are you anyway?"

The man turned a condescending glance in Ochreís direction.

"I am your host, Fraser. And let me remind you that you are in no position to make demands."

"My host? Of course," Ochre nodded his recognition, "Abbott. Well, Iíve got bad news for you, Mr Abbott; youíve made a mistake if you think youíll get any money out of Spectrum for me, they will not deal with you."

"Thatís not what Iíve been told."

"Well youíve been told wrong."

Abbott smiled in reply. "Weíll see."

"Some friends youíve chosen here, Ryan. Theyíre treating you almost as poorly as they treat me!" Ochre thought now might be a good time to stir up some doubt.

Ryan didnít quite know how to react to this, but his hesitation was quite telling. He agreed with his uncle, but he couldnít appear to be on his side.

"My penalty for being lumbered with the name Fraser! They think Iím like you."

"Theyíre worried youíll help me."

"No chance! I know how to look after myself."

"I bet you do!" replied Ochre bitterly.

"As entertaining as the family squabble is, Iíd like to get on," Abbott interrupted.

"With what?" asked Ochre, his mood deteriorating rapidly.

"I need a direct line to contact your superiors."

"Work it out for yourself."

"Fraser..."

"Seeing as you know who I am, you can call me ĎCaptainí."

Abbott paused for a moment; it was evident that his latest guest wasnít easily scared. Perhaps a different technique would be called for.

"Giving you some trouble is he, Mark?"

Abbott turned; he frowned as Gabriel James entered the small room.

"No," Abbott snapped, "Iím more than capable of handling this without your help."

Interesting, thought Ochre, infighting and a basic mistrust of Ryan. Even Ryan didnít appear to be as bad as he liked to think he was. There seemed to be plenty of opportunities for stirring up resentment, but whether any of this could lead to his release he couldnít say.

"Howís the arm, James?" asked Ochre unkindly. At their last meeting, Ochre had arrived in the nick of time to save Magenta from being killed by James. Recognising Ochre as the supposedly dead Commander Fraser, James had turned his gun on him but Ochre had been faster, shooting the gun from his grip and grazing his arm in the process.

James turned a fierce glare towards Ochre. "My armís fine. All the better for seeing you like this, Fraser."

Ochre nodded thoughtfully as he looked about the room.

"I have to admit, James, you provided a better class of accommodation than Abbott does."

James crouched down beside Ochre and ran a finger down the length of the chain leading from the wall to Ochreís right hand. "Believe me, Fraser, this, as bad as it is, is way too good for you. But donít worry, you wonít be here long, in a couple of days, youíll be dead."

"Iíve heard threats like that before, James. I seem to recall you made a similar one to Donaghue, only a few weeks ago."

"Yeah well, heís not going to rescue you is he?"

"What did you come for, Gabriel?" asked Abbott abruptly, now standing beside him.

"Oh yeah," James stood up, "my contactís here, or rather his contact."

"I donít like this, okay he put us onto Ryan, but why wonít he stay in the background and leave this to us?"

"Says he has a personal interest." James shrugged.

"Huh! How many others have you upset to warrant this sort of attention, Fraser?"

"I donít think we should keep him waiting." James suddenly became aware of how long heíd spent taunting Fraser.

"Whatís his problem? Isnít the money enough?"

"Weíre only paying my contact, not this guy. I told you, heís in it for purely personal reasons."

"You really have upset someone, havenít you Fraser?" Abbott glanced at Ochre and gave a hollow, mocking laugh.

Ryan had been right when he said that there were those who would want to finish the job themselves, if they discovered that he was still alive. But even Ochre couldnít think who this might be.

"Ryan!" James signalled sharply to Ryan to follow them out of the room. "Come and find out why youíre not alone in your hatred."

Ryan gazed at his uncle, seated in chains before him. Aside from his arrest, he hadnít seen him for almost nine years. In this time, Ryan had grown up from late teen adolescence to a young man. Then, he had regarded his uncle as an ogre, a killjoy policeman who despised him. Now he saw a man, only nine years older than himself. The only family he had, Ryan had put his uncleís life in danger and watched him be threatened by James and Abbott. Yet far from hating his nephew for it, he was still defending him. For the first time in his life, Ryan started to feel pangs of guilt.

 

***

 

Abbott opened the door to the living room and walked in. Standing almost in the centre of the room was a man, perhaps an inch or two short of six foot, wearing a Spectrum uniform. Abbott was furious.

"Gabriel! Whatís going on here?" he yelled. The man was an idiot, they had a Spectrum officer downstairs and James had brought another to the very place they were holding him.

James, Fisher and Ryan had followed him in and were regarding the stranger as Abbott spoke. Their expressions were all different, and the man standing before them had noted them all. James was smug, and superior. Fisher and Abbott were angry and scared of arrest, that was clear. Ryan was, well, he was just scared. Good, scared men were easier to handle.

"Whatís wrong?" asked James irritably, somewhat embarrassed to be spoken to like that in front of the newcomer.

Abbott seized James by his jacket lapel and pulled him to one side.

"Heís a Spectrum officer! Do you want to get us all arrested?" he hissed in a whisper.

James pushed Abbottís hand away angrily and smoothed down his lapel once more.

"He may work for Spectrum, but this is different. He hates Fraser. I donít know whatís gone on between them, but this is the guy who informed us about Ryan."

"That means nothing, this whole thing could be a trick to get us all." Abbott was not convinced.

"You think Spectrum are going to just allow one of their Cloudbase officers to be kidnapped with no one to make sure heís not hurt?"

"Ryan!" Abbott exclaimed under his breath.

The Spectrum officer had watched the exchange with some amusement, but now it was time to get on with business.

"Gentlemen, my name is Captain Black. I am not here to arrest you; I am here to help you. My organisation is a tough one, you will need inside information if you are to get what you want."

"And what do you want out of this?" asked Abbott still suspicious.

"I want Ochre, dead."

Ryan swallowed and tried not to appear too nervous. The man in the black Spectrum uniform seemed to ooze malevolence. There was something very dark and terrifying about the way he looked and spoke. His voice alone could strike terror into any heart. Unnaturally deep, it penetrated to the very soul. Not a particularly tall or broad man, yet somehow he seemed to fill the room, to become the entire focus. Ryan now found himself catching his breath awkwardly. Abbott had scared him earlier, but now he knew what fear really was.

"Okay, Captain," began Fisher, "so what can you tell us?"

"First of all, nobody must know of my involvement. You must never mention me by name, rank or colour code."

"Fine, thatís easy enough, we just wonít mention you at all," Abbott advised him.

"Good. I will give you all the details you will need to contact Spectrum Cloudbase direct. I am expecting further developments, I will wait here until then."

"What kind of developments?" asked Abbott once more edgy and suspicious.

"Do not concern yourself, Mr Abbott. It can only be to your benefit."

Abbott frowned, he was used to men being afraid of him. This situation was new to him and he didnít like it.

 

***

 

"Spectrum Cloudbase, go ahead," Lieutenant Green announced into the comm. link.

"Lieutenant, this is Agent Conners, Spectrum Intelligence. Iíd like to speak to Colonel White, if I may."

"Certainly, Sir. Just putting you through now."

"Agent Conners?" White took a deep breath and raised his eyebrows. "What can I do for you?"

"Just a courtesy call, Colonel to let you know Iíll shortly be arriving on Cloudbase. I will need to speak to you and Captain Ochre."

"This is quite unexpected, Mr Conners. Is everything alright?"

"I believe so, Colonel. Just routine."

"Very well, Mr Conners, as you wish. I presume you have the coordinates, please advise me when you are preparing to land."

"Thank you, Colonel."

The communicator went dead. White frowned. Martin Conners on his way to Cloudbase was never going to be a good sign. The man had a way about him of making everyone feel nervous. He was simply obnoxious, the kind of man that whilst you loathed him, you were glad he, at least in name, was on your side.

"What can this be about, Colonel?" asked Green with a puzzled tone.

"I donít know Lieutenant, Mr Conners is an aficionado of cloak and dagger. I donít expect weíll know what he wants until heís prepared to tell us."

"And he wants to speak to Captain Ochre too, Sir."

"Yes, Iím a little suspicious about that. Have you heard from Captain Ochre since his departure?"

"Only that he arrived safely at JFK, Sir."

"Heís not reported that heís on his way back yet?"

"No, Sir. He is cutting it fine."

White sighed and looked thoughtful for a moment. "Ask Captain Magenta to come to Control would you please, Lieutenant. I have a feeling that if anyone knows whatís going on around here regarding Captain Ochre, itís him."

It was only a few minutes later that Captain Magenta walked into Cloudbase control.

"You sent for me, Colonel?"

"Yes, Captain, Iíll get straight to the point. Where is Captain Ochre?"

"Heís on the surface, Sir. You gave him leave yourself."

"Donít play games with me, Captain. Whatís he up to?"

"I donít know exactly, Sir. Surely he told you?"

"Are you trying to be funny, Captain?"

"No, Colonel."

"WellÖ"

Colonel," interrupted Green, "Agent Connersí jet has just touched down."

"Conners!" Magenta turned sharply and looked directly at Lieutenant Green. "Whatís thatÖwhatís he doing here?" he demanded angrily.

"Heís here to see Captain Ochre. Can you tell me why that is, Captain Magenta?" asked White pointedly.

Turning back to face White, Magentaís brow furrowed. "No, Sir. I canít."

"Canít, Captain?"

"I donít know where he is or what heís doing, Sir."

"I hope, for your sake and his, Captain, that thatís true." White frowned, he believed Magenta was lying to him, but he couldnít prove it and had no way to even guess what the problem may be. "Lieutenant, ask Mr Conners to meet me in the Conference Room."

"Yes, Colonel," replied Green as Colonel White left the Control Room.

 

***

 

"You do know, donít you?" Greenís tone made it more of a statement than a question.

"I think I do, but I hope Iím wrong."

"Magenta, you canít lie to the Colonel like that. Heíll find out, you know."

"I know, and heís gonna kill us both for this. Have you heard anything from Ochre?"

"No, heís been gone almost five hours, he should be heading back by now. I contacted JFK, they havenít heard anything from him either."

"I donít like this any more than you do, Lieutenant, but what am I supposed to say with Conners breathing down our necks? If I tell the Colonel, heíll tell Conners, heíd have no choice."

"If you donít tell him, do you think that looks any better?"

"No, of course not, but I didnít know what to do."

"What is going on, Pat?"

Magenta sighed, it would all come out now anyway, but he trusted Green to be discreet and understanding.

"Ochreís got a drug pusher nephew, called Ryan. Somehow heís found out that his uncle works for Spectrum and heís trying to blackmail him."

"Wow, thatís some skeleton to have in your closet!"

"Yeah, but I think itís worse than that."

"What could be worse?"

"I think it was Gabriel James who put Ryan onto Ochre , but I think Blackís put Gabriel onto Ryan."

"Black? Are you sure?"

"No, Iím not sure about any of it, but it was Black who originally checked the personnel files for us all. If anyone would know, he would. The only other way for Gabriel to know about Ryan is if he has a contact in Intelligence, but that doesnít really ring true."

"Conners?"

Magenta laughed. "No, I donít think so. Martin Conners is obnoxious, but I doubt heíd go that far. I mean, itís true, Gabriel as good as told me he had someone in Spectrum on his payroll, but my guess would be someone in the New York Headquarters."

A light flashed on Greenís console; a message was coming in on the standard Spectrum communication wavelength.

"Ah, this must be Ochre," Green smiled, "Spectrum Cloudbase, go ahead."

"I want to speak to Colonel White." The voice asked abruptly.

"Who is this, please?" asked Green politely.

Magentaís eyes widened as he recognised the unmistakeable voice of Gabriel James.

"Donít ask questions, just put me through to him!" James ordered.

Magenta scribbled Jamesí name on Greenís notepad and pushed it towards him: Green looked in horror at the words on the pad and what they must mean.

"Iím sorry the Colonel cannot be contacted at the moment, can I..."

"Who are you?" James snapped.

"Iím Lieutenant Green, sir."

"Lieutenant." James sighed, "Then Iíll have to give my message to you. We have Captain Ochre. At the moment, at least, he is unharmed. We want four million dollars for his safe return. I will call back in two hours with more instructions, at which point, I expect to speak to your Colonel."

The communication ended abruptly; for a brief moment both officers remained in stunned silence. Then snapping to, Magenta snatched up the pad once more and jotted the last few remaining details that summed up everything he knew or believed he knew on the events surrounding Ochreís disappearance.

"Seymour, thatís everything I know. Tell the Colonel. Iím going down there."

"Captain, you canít..."

"Lieutenant, Ochre thought he was going down there to meet his nephew. He was going to arrest him, all very simple. But James is involved and almost certainly Fisher and Abbott. Ryanís led him into a trap; Iím not going to leave him with those guys."

"But, Pat, the Mysteron threat... You canít leave Cloudbase, youíll be disobeying orders."

"Theyíll kill him, Seymour, I know them."

Green sighed; Magenta had turned and was leaving the room before he had a chance to reply.

 

***

 

Colonel White entered the Conference Room to find Spectrum Intelligence Agent Conners already waiting for him. On Cloudbase, Connersí name was synonymous with trouble. Previous encounters with him had provoked so much mutual bad feeling, that whenever he paid a visit to Cloudbase, the whole base seemed to bristle with tension; especially on the occasion of an unannounced visit, such as this. White wondered what possible grievance Conners could have now.

"Mr Conners." White extended his hand; Conners took it, unenthusiastically and proffered a limp shake. "What can I do for you?"

"Iíve come about a matter of security, Iíll need to speak to Captain Ochre too, but I thought we should speak first."

"Captain Ochre isnít here at the moment, Mr Conners, he has some surface leave. I expect him back in an hour or two."

"Thatís fine. I donít expect youíll know about his nephew, Ryan Fraser."

"Ochre has a nephew?" White raised his eyebrows; this was news to him. "No, Mr Conners, youíre right, Iím not aware of him. Captain Ochre has always insisted he has no family after the death of his brother, some..."

"Eleven years ago."

"Yes, you seem very well informed on the subject, Mr Conners."

Conners stared at White, but decided not to comment. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small computer disk. "Itís all on here, I suggest you get familiar with it before we speak to Ochre. Fraser escaped from prison a couple of days ago, weíre not overly concerned, otherwise Iíd have been here sooner. As far as we know, Fraser believes his uncle to be dead. So long as he believes that, we donít have a problem."

White sighed inwardly; Ochreís sudden request for surface leave, needing to Ďclear up a family matter following a deathí was beginning to take on a whole new meaning. White pondered what he should say. He could be wrong, Ochreís request could be entirely coincidental, although, his shaken appearance would now seem to suggest otherwise. Conners didnít appear to connect the two incidents. White decided to wait to tell him; if need be it could always Ďoccurí to him later.

"Iíll review the information on this disk and weíll talk later, Mr Conners. In the meantime, you know your way around. Please make yourself at home."

"Thank you, Colonel. Iíll meet you back here in, shall we say, one hour?"

"One hour will be fine, Mr Conners."

As White headed back to the Control Room, he tapped the disk absently on the back of his hand. He hoped for Ochreís sake that he was wrong. Assisting an escaped prisoner was very serious indeed. Ochre would know that. He tried to comfort himself with the thought that Ochre would never do anything that stupid.

 

***

 

Captains Blue and Scarlet had been searching for Ochre for some time now, not realising that he had already left Cloudbase some hours before. They had even tried calling him using their radiocaps but to no avail. There seemed only one remaining option. The door to the Control Room slid open and the two Captains entered, both were surprised to find Lieutenant Green alone in the room.

"Okay," laughed Blue, "we give up, where have you hidden him?"

Green turned. "Who?"

"Ochre, Iíve got some good news for him."

"Oh, er, heís not here," replied Green awkwardly.

Scarlet smiled. "We worked that out, Seymour. Where is he?"

The two captains became uneasy at Greenís obvious discomfort with the question. The silence was broken by the sound of Captain Magentaís voice coming through on the comm. link.

"Captain Magenta to Control, requesting launch clearance."

"Clearance denied, Captain Magenta."

"Give me clearance, Lieutenant!" came the terse reply.

Scarlet and Blue raised their eyebrows as they heard the tense voice of Magenta and the equally harsh reply from Lieutenant Green.

"No, Captain, I cannot give you clearance."

"Lieutenant, Iím going anyway, at least assure me itís safe to take off."

"CaptainÖ" Green began in a warning tone.

"Bye!" snapped Magenta.

"No! Flight path, S.I.R."

"Are you lying to me, Lieutenant?"

"Magenta, what are you doing?"

"Stay out of this, Scarlet! Green, I want clearance, now!"

"I canít give you clearance."

"Well, Iíll take my chances then."

"Magenta, stand down. Spectrum is Red, you are not, repeat not, cleared for launch."

No more communications were heard, but the console registered the take off of the Spectrum Passenger Jet. Nothing had been in its path; the launch, though perfectly safe, was completely unauthorised. Greenís attempts to spare Magenta a likely court martial had failed.

"Whatís going on?" Blue turned an incredulous expression to Green.

Green returned his gaze; his was one of disbelief and misery.

"Captain Ochreís been kidnapped."

Both Scarlet and Blue were at a loss to take in the news. Scarlet struggled to reply.

"What? How? When?"

"Does the Colonel know?" added Blue.

Green shook his head. "The ransom demand only just came in."

"Ransom?" Scarlet shook his head. "Boy, are they in for a shock!"

"Soís Ochre. Itís Gabriel James whoís got him."

"Oh, God! Thatís whyÖ" Blue gestured in the general direction of the departed SPJ. "How can he hope to find him? Magenta didnít even know where he was when James had him!"

"Iím not the one you have to convince here, Captain!"

"Whereís Colonel White?" asked Scarlet.

"With Conners."

Scarlet rolled his eyes and sighed. "Thatís all we need!"

"Thereís a problem, Captain?"

All three turned towards the door and fixed Colonel White with concerned expressions. White frowned, hoping beyond hope that his gut feeling was way off the mark.

 

***

 

"Lieutenant, I want to know whatís going on around here," White snapped angrily; the fury in his eyes was unmistakable.

"Colonel, IÖ" Green raised his eyes to the ceiling and sighed, "I think youíd better sit down, Sir."

It was barely an easy task for Green; what he knew he had learned himself only minutes before, plus he had to face the Colonel himself with the news, something which neither Ochre nor Magenta had had the courage to do. Lieutenant Green explained everything, as he understood it, relying heavily on Magentaís hastily written notes. Colonel White, in an amazing display of self-control, reserved his questions and held his temper, but it was plain that underneath the stern exterior, he was positively seething.

"So, Captains," White turned his attention to Scarlet and Blue, "when did you find out what was happening around here, I wonder?"

"With you, Colonel, this is news to us too. To all of us," Blue assured him.

"Hmm, Scarlet?"

"Yes, Sir. Do you really think weíd allow Ochre and Magenta put their lives at risk like that?"

"No, Captain. Honestly, is there a single one amongst you that isnít hot-headed? Can none of you follow orders?"

"Sir?" asked Blue.

"Never mind. Iíve been placed in a very difficult situation here. I have a meeting with Agent Conners in less than one hour. I am compelled to tell him of this. The idiots! Why didnít they come to me first?" White slammed his fist down on the console. "Lieutenant, get Captain Grey in here right now, I want to know his part in this. And get me Spectrum Headquarters, New York."

 

***

 

Captain Magenta brought the Spectrum Saloon to a halt outside Spectrum Headquarters, New York. He smiled to himself; when he lived here, as the head of a crime syndicate, this was exactly the sort of place he would have tried his best to avoid, but now, he knew it well. Stepping out of the car, he tucked his cap under his arm and climbed the few steps to the main entrance.

"Captain," called the Sergeant at the desk after Magenta had flashed his Spectrum Identification, "thereís a message from Cloudbase for you."

Magenta pursed his lips. "Yes, Sergeant?"

"I havenít got the actual message, Sir, itís classified, but youíre to contact Cloudbase as soon as you arrive. Iíve let them know youíre here."

"You have?" Magenta paused, irritated by the efficiency of the Sergeant; he really had little choice. "Do you have a room where I could make a confidential call?"

"Of course, Captain, follow me."

"Thank you Sergeant. In the meantime I want all the information you hold on Ryan Fraser, Gabriel James, Mark Abbott and Ben Fisher."

"Iíll arrange to get everything for you, Sir. When youíre finished, Iíll introduce you to Lieutenant Baxter, heíll be retrieving the data for you."

"Ask him to do it quickly, if you donít mind Sergeant. I expect I donít have much time."

"Of course, Captain. You can use this room," he said opening a door and switching on the light to the small room.

Magenta placed the cap on his head and activated the microphone. With a sigh he waited for the axe to fall.

"Captain Magenta!" the sheer volume made him jump. "I order you to return to Cloudbase this instant!" White was furious.

"I canít do that, Colonel," he replied quietly.

"Captain, Iíll say this once more, return to Cloudbase, immediately. If you disobey me again, I will have to place you under immediate arrest, do you understand me?"

"I understand, Colonel. IÖ" Magenta was more than a little on edge. He thought about the Colonelís exact words, immediate arrest, and wasnít he just in exactly the right place for White to carry out that threat? If he were to stand any chance of being allowed to leave, he had to agree to follow orders. "Iím on my way, Sir."

"Iím pleased to hear it, Captain."

"Iíll contact you later, Colonel. Magenta out." Magenta sighed. "And now, Iíve outright lied to my Commander-in-Chief." He gave a short humourless laugh as he left the small room in search of Lieutenant Baxter. " Iím going to spend the rest of my life in prison after all."

 

***

 

Abbott sighed as the phone rang. James was glad of the break; Fisher and Abbott had been quizzing him over how he planned to recoup the rest of their money. With interest, the amount had risen to eight million, and would keep rising rapidly until it was back in their accounts.

"Itís for you," Abbott held the phone in Jamesí direction, "itís Baxter."

"Iíll take it," announced Black, slowly getting to his feet.

James started to give Black an annoyed glance and thought better of it. There was something about him, cold and distant; it made James very uneasy.

"Baxter?"

At first Lieutenant Baxter was lost for words, he had expected to speak to James but Captain Black had spoken.

"Ca... Sir?" Baxter was at work; he had to be very careful.

"What do you want, Baxter?"

"Sir, just to inform you that Captain Magenta has arrived, heís after information on James. Heís trying to find Captain Ochre."

"Then we must let him find him. Tell him anything he wants to know, but do it slowly. Keep him there as long as you can. When he leaves, I want to know where heís going and why."

"Yes, Sir."

Black replaced the receiver and turned to face the others. Eight curious eyes were already turned towards him.

"Captain Magenta has arrived in New York. He is looking for Ochre. We will bring him here," he said with a malicious smile.

"Excuse me," began Fisher, "but this isnít your show. Itís too risky to have another Spectrum officer here."

"Mr Fisher," Black spoke slowly and deliberately, "do not worry, I will be leaving now. You wonít see me again, provided you do as I say. You may keep whatever money you receive for them, but you will not free them. I expect you to kill them."

There was something very dark and menacing about his tone, he was not to be argued with. Ryan was unhappy; he didnít like this at all. He didnít want to be responsible for anyoneís murder, least of all his uncleís; he didnít deserve what was happening to him. Ryan was now acutely aware that he had chosen the wrong side, but would most likely be killed himself if he said anything that gave his feelings away.

"Alright," Abbott said, getting to his feet. "It saves us having to work out what to do with them. Whatís your plan?"

"Ryan will bring him to us."

"No I wonít, Iíve done enough already!"

"Family loyalty, I knew he couldnít be trusted," Abbott turned on Ryan.

"Itís got nothing to do with my uncle, not really. I just didnít think you were going to kill anyone."

"Youíre not exactly new to this scene, Ryan. Why are you flinching now?" asked Fisher harshly.

"Iíve never killed anyone!"

"Maybe itís time you started then," James cut in. "How would you like to be the one who puts the bullet between Uncle Rickís eyes?"

Ryan was speechless and afraid. These people talked about murder as if it were fun. He couldnít do it, he wouldnít, but how would they react to that?

"Ryan," Black continued as if the others hadnít spoken. "You will bring Magenta to us."

"How?" Ryan spoke in a whisper. All of his cheerful confidence now gone, he wondered what they wanted him to do now, and was too afraid to refuse.

"You will go to Spectrum Headquarters, New York. If you are in time you can wait and meet him as he leaves. You will tell him that you have been held here against your will, but you have escaped and are seeking help for your uncle."

"Will he believe that?"

"Youíll make him believe it," answered Abbott. "And if you donít, then we will kill Fraser, and then weíll kill you."

Ryan looked at each of them in turn; he didnít know who to be most afraid of. This had started off as a fairly harmless kidnapping, now it was going to be two, then murder. He didnít want to be part of it, but he had no choice.

"Iím still not sure about getting another one here. We got Fraser for a reason," grumbled James.

"Maybe you did, Gabriel. Yes, for you itís probably revenge, but for us, heís just money," replied Fisher. "As far as Iím concerned when weíve got our money, Captain Black can dictate what he wants done with them."

"Besides, Gabriel, the quicker we recoup our money, the better for you," Abbott added.

"Let me assure you, James," Black broke in with an expression which displayed a sneer that chilled the blood, " youíll feel very different about it once heís here."

"Weíre wasting time," announced Abbott, opening a drawer in a large cabinet. Finding what he was looking for, he smiled and closed it again. "Ryan, get over here."

Reluctantly, Ryan got to his feet and approached Abbott who was now standing in the middle of the room.

"Whatís that for?" asked Ryan nervously looking at the length of rope in Abbottís hand.

Fisher smiled at Ryanís agitation and, realising what Abbott had in mind, rose to assist him.

"If youíre going to say that you escaped, you have to look the part," Fisher explained as he joined the pair in the middle of the room.

"How? What are you...? No!"

Ryan struggled as Fisher seized his left arm. Normally, Fisher would assume to have the advantage, broad and strong against Ryanís slim frame. Much to his surprise, Ryan was stronger than he looked. He had kept himself fit whilst in prison; Fisher was almost unable to hold him.

"Gabriel!" Fisher shouted, irritated that he had not already come to his assistance.

James grabbed Ryanís right arm, pulling it roughly behind him and twisting it high up his back. He seemed to delight in Ryanís cry of pain; it appeared to have been something heíd wanted to do since they had first met.

Ryan felt that his shoulder was about to dislocate, the pain was terrible; he had to stop struggling. He watched, in uneasy silence, as Abbott looped the rope around his wrist a couple of times, drawing it tight then pulling sharply on one end. Gritting his teeth, Ryan tried hard not to show his pain as the coarse rope tore across his skin. As the rope finally fell from his wrist, Ryan glanced down; his wrist was red and sore, some areas of skin had been rubbed clean off and were weeping. Silently Ryan cursed, he had got himself in over his head; these were truly evil people. Heíd made a lot of mistakes in his life, thus far he thought the drugs ring was the biggest, but now he was reconsidering. Since his parentsí death when he was only fifteen, the only man who had ever cared whether he lived or died was downstairs, locked in one of the cellar rooms, in very real danger of being murdered, all because of him. And now they wanted him to bring about the same fate to a colleague of his uncleís, in all probability a friend. He wouldnít do it; no he simply wouldnít do it.

"Other hand, please," said Abbott callously.

"No!" Ryan shouted, "I wonít do it, and I wonít let you kill him. You told me you only wanted the money."

"I knew I couldnít trust you!" Abbott spat contemptuously. "But you know what? I donít have to. Youíll do it alright, because if you donít, we will kill him and weíll do it with you standing right next to him and then, weíll kill you!"

James felt the tension in Ryan drain away, releasing his arm, he watched with satisfaction as Ryan offered his right hand to Abbott; his head bowed, refusing to let them see his pain, both mental and physical.

"Better!" Abbott snapped.

What have I done? Thought Ryan as he closed his eyes tightly against the pain.

Ryan listened miserably as Abbott gave him his instructions.

"Have you got that?"

Ryan managed a half-hearted nod without even looking up.

"I said, have you got that?"

"Yes!" snapped Ryan

"Well, youíd better have, for Fraserís sake, because if you donít come back, or you come back alone, heís dead. Understand?"

Ryan took a deep breath. "Yeah."

"Good, now get out!"

 

***

 

Captain Grey walked briskly into Cloudbase Control; he couldnít quite put his finger on it, but there had been something in Lieutenant Greenís tone that told him that, right now, the Colonel was in no mood to be kept waiting. On his arrival, he was at a loss to make much sense of the small gathering that greeted him with curious eyes.

"You wanted to see me, Sir?" he asked tentatively.

Perhaps it was his own tone that was at fault, but Colonel White decided that Captain Grey sounded guilty.

"Perhaps you can tell us whatís going on around here, Captain? Youíve spent quite a lot of time with Captain Magenta lately. What are you hiding?"

Whiteís abrupt tone and direct questioning knocked Grey off balance. It wasnít as if the Colonel was never this direct but somehow this had come right out of the blue.

"But, Colonel," he spluttered, "it was under your orders. And yes," Grey started to regain his composure, "Iíve certainly spent a lot of time trying to stay with him, but heís pretty good at shaking a tail, or a guard for that matter!"

"What was he doing whilst you were in the Information Centre giving him breathing space?"

Grey looked down and sighed. "I donít know what he was doing, Colonel. And I wasnít giving him breathing space, he locked me in there!"

White was all at once, stunned, furious and even a little amused. He had quite often heard Magenta refer to Spectrum Regulations as mere guidelines, and had, at least as often, taken him to task over his imaginative interpretation of some of those regulations. Captain Magenta often trod a very fine line between discipline and anarchy, but he got results. And in truth, sometimes, even Colonel White had to admit that he was prepared to turn an occasional blind eye as to how he got them. It was characteristic of Magenta; not for the first time had the irreverent Captain bent almost every rule in the book to achieve his aim. But what exactly had his aim been this time, what had he been doing whilst he had Grey securely under lock and key?

"Lieutenant Green, can you find out what exactly Magenta has been doing on the computer?"

Green frowned. "Itís pretty unlikely, Sir. Heís very good at covering his tracks."

"Perhaps youíll find youíre good at uncovering them, Lieutenant." White was insistent.

"Iíll try, Sir," replied Green with an almost hopeless sigh.

"You do that, Lieutenant. You have approximately forty minutes to find out what he was doing and report back, whilst I acquaint myself with this," he held up the disk that Conners had given to him only minutes earlier, "and," he continued in a thoughtful tone, "think about what Iím going to say to Mr Conners."

 

***

 

Captain Magenta squinted briefly as he stepped out into the sunlight; it was a beautiful day. He couldnít help but smile even though he knew the current situation was grim. He had been given the details of how to find Reece, the lawyer who had paid Jamesí bail money but could hardly pay him a visit. He knew that every time he came to New York, the risk of him being recognised was quite high; it was a risk he had to take, but he wasnít about to compound that risk by visiting someone who was almost certain to know him! The other, more useful information was that on Ryanís escape from Robbins Field prison. Maybe he could yet find out more.

"Captain?"

Magenta looked up as a young man to his left placed his hand on the door of the Spectrum saloon car, preventing him from opening it.

"Yes, Sir?" asked Magenta politely.

"I need your help," the young man answered.

"Iím actually on my way somewhere, but Iím sure they can help you in HQ," he replied pointing to the building behind him.

"No, you donít understand." He took a sharp breath and looked about furtively. "Youíre from Cloudbase, arenít you? Youíre looking for someone, yes?"

Magentaís eyes narrowed as the young man, who stood before him nodded meaningfully.

"Who are you?" asked Magenta, his tone filled with mistrust and suspicion.

"Iím Ryan. Ryan Fraser."

Magenta took a deep breath as he watched the figure before him become increasingly nervous.

Unlocking the Spectrum saloon, Magenta opened the door and briefly rested his hands on top.

"Get in." He motioned to the passenger seat with a quick nod of his head, before climbing in himself.

As he turned the key in the ignition, Magenta took a sidelong glance at Ryan who was struggling with the saloonís security harness. After a few moments, Ryan looked up and caught Magentaís eye.

"How does this thing work?" he asked with a sigh of resignation.

Reaching across with only one hand, Magenta deftly arranged the straps and clicked everything into place.

"Thanks," Ryan muttered examining the locking mechanism.

It was then Magenta spotted the marks on Ryanís wrist; he frowned as he saw the bruises and broken skin.

"Where is he?" Magenta asked abruptly as he pulled out into the busy New York traffic.

"Itís not what you think, it wasnít my fault."

"What wasnít?" Magenta asked, his tone making it clear to Ryan that he had little, if any, regard for him.

"I didnít want to do this, they got me out of jail, I didnít ask for it."

"You called him, threatened him and led him into a trap set by three of the most vicious men I know. Now you say it wasnít your fault? Tell me why I should believe that. In fact, tell me why I shouldnít think this is a trap too!" Magenta parked the Spectrum saloon in a quiet street so that they could talk easier.

"I didnít believe them! It was as much a shock for me, you know. They were going to kill me, they said they only wanted him for the ransom but nowÖIím not so sure." Looking over at Magenta in the driving seat, Ryanís expression was pained and uncertain. "I think, theyíre gonna kill him," his voice hushed almost to a whisper.

"And you care?" Magentaís voice was brimming with sarcasm.

"You donít believe me, do you? I wasnít on their side, theyÖ"

"Yes, youíre going to tell me they had you tied up, arenít you? Well donít bother; I know Abbottís tricks. Hurts doesnít it?"

Ryan was aghast, he didnít know how to respond except he had to maintain the pretence, and he had to make the Spectrum captain believe him. Ironically, this time Ryan was genuinely trying to save his uncleís life, however misguided his method may be.

"I know what you think of me. It took a lot of effort getting out of that house, and yes youíre right, why should you believe me? But, theyíre going to kill him and you do believe that. I donít wantÖ" Ryan took a sudden, shuddering breath. "Please help, Iíll take you to him."

Magenta laughed scornfully. "Yeah right, arenít they getting a bit greedy? Tell me where he is, Iím taking you back to Headquarters."

"Okay, so you know about my past. I was much younger then, things have changed. Donít you believe a man can change?" Ryan cried in exasperation. "No I donít suppose you holier-than-thou Spectrum guys can believe that. Iíve got a past, yes, and Iím not proud of it. I want to put it behind me, do something worthwhile with my life. Theyíve got my uncle, Captain. Whatever else has happened between us, I canít desert him now. Are you going to help me?"

Magenta took a deep breath, how could he not accept that a person could change? He did seem sincere.

"If youíre telling the truth, why wonít you just tell me where he is?" Magenta was still a little suspicious.

"Because I donít know! I got out of there so fast, I panicked. I canít give you a street name, but I know the way back. I can take you there. Look, if you donít trust me Iíll stay in the car, Iíll do whatever you say, but please you have to help him!"

"How did you get here?"

Ryan sighed, "I stole a car."

Magenta shook his head. "Which way?"

"Head for Nassau County." Ryan smiled weakly. "Thanks, Captain."

Magenta shrugged and offered something between a frown and a smile, he was still unsure of Ryan. Out of sight of Magentaís brief glance as he started the engine once more, Ryan pressed a small button on the pager in his pocket. The signal agreed in advance, advising Abbott that they were on their way.

They travelled in silence for quite some time before Magenta finally spoke again.

"So, you care about him now, do you?" There was a definite ring of scepticism in Magentaís tone.

"You just wonít give me a chance, will you?" Ryan sounded almost hurt. "Why canít you accept that a man can change?"

"I do accept that," replied Magenta earnestly, "I just donít believe you have."

"And just what do you base that on, given that you donít know me at all?"

"Many things."

"Like what?" Ryan demanded angrily.

Magenta sighed; all he wanted from this kid was to find Ochre, and to try to avoid the inevitable trap that he was certain he was being led into.

"You could have refused to do what they wanted. You could have found a way to release him yourself. You could have tried to be honest with me."

"What do you mean? I have been honest with you."

"No, Ryan, you havenít. Youíve given me some garbage about escaping. You didnít escape, you were sent to collect me. The marks on your wrists, I know how you got them. Thatís a classic of Abbottís." Magenta shook his head. "I know youíre trying to lead me into a trap, and Iím going to do my best to avoid it, but I donít have much choice if Iím to find Captain Ochre before they kill him."

"Oh right and if I said to you: ĎExcuse me, Captain, would you mind coming with me? Mr Abbott wants to ransom you along with my uncle.í Youíd have come would you?"

Magenta shot Ryan a furious glance. "Listen, kid, you might have been big on the drug scene once, but youíre way out of your league with these guys!"

"How do you know so much about them?" asked Ryan suspiciously. "Surely even theyíre too small for Spectrum to be bothered with?"

"Itís my job to know," snapped Magenta not wishing to explain further. The fact that heíd worked with these men for several years was not something he wanted to disclose.

"Take the next right," Ryan spoke suddenly.

"Is that the street theyíre on?"

"Not just yet, itís down to the end and left."

Magenta nodded. Slowing the Spectrum saloon to a stop just before the end of the road, Magenta switched off the engine.

"No, the next left," Ryan repeated.

"I know, but does this car look inconspicuous to you? I want to have some advantage."

"Shall I wait here?"

"Youíve got to be kidding, I want you where I can see you!"

Stepping out of the car, Ryan stuck his hands deep into his pockets, pouting and frowning as if offended. In reality, it was merely an excuse to press the button on the pager again to advertise their presence to the three men waiting in the house around the corner.

"Which house?" asked Magenta brusquely.

Ryan indicated a house near the end of the street. "That big one on the end with the mahogany door."

Magenta smiled briefly, heíd been here once before, he remembered now. He frowned suddenly as he remembered the cellar. Abbott had been very proud of the alterations he had made to it. Magenta remembered that it had made him shudder to see it at the time and now, well now was much worse knowing that his best friend was down there.

"Captain?" Ryan noticed the concentration on his face; he was clearly deep in thought. "Captain? Look, theyíre leaving."

Magenta stirred from his thoughts and looked up. Sure enough, James, Abbott and Fisher were leaving the house and heading for Abbottís car.

"Where are they going?" Magenta asked Ryan hurriedly.

"I donít know for sure."

Magenta seized Ryanís arm. "Where are they going? I need to know how much time I have."

"They said something about going to see someone called Reece," Ryan replied trying to pull away from him.

"Their lawyer." Magenta thought about it for a few moments.

"How do you know all these people?" Ryan asked again.

Ignoring his question, Magenta continued: "Heís about twenty minutes drive away, Iíve probably got about an hour. Any windows open?"

"Whatís the point? You donít believe a word Iím telling you anyway!"

"Okay, Iíll give you the benefit of the doubt!"

"Thatís mighty big of you, Captain!" snapped Ryan, in reply.

"We donít have long, Ryan," warned Magenta, "just get us in there."

"I forced a window around the back, itís a big place, they wonít have noticed."

With no choice but to accept Ryanís word Magenta followed him to the rear of the house. It made it a little easier to believe him having seen James, Abbott and Fisher leave. The house would be deserted, and Magenta considered that the possibility of being overpowered by Ryan was very slim indeed. They should be in and out of there with Ochre safe and sound in no time.

Jumping down from the high wall surrounding an impressive garden, Magenta waited as Ryan followed.

"Youíre fitter than you look," Magenta commented with his eyebrows raised.

"I might say the same about you," replied Ryan indignantly.

Magenta frowned. "Whereís this window then?"

"That one over there, you can just see itís slightly open." Ryan pointed out a medium sized window, just large enough for him to squeeze through. "Think you can get through that?"

"Donít push it, Ryan," Magenta snapped impatiently as he headed for the open window.

His hands in his pockets once more, Ryan pressed the button on the pager one last time.

The window had been jammed back into place quite firmly, it took some considerable coaxing by Magenta to open it up once more. Finally it gave way suddenly, as it swung out Magenta stumbled backwards, only regaining his footing at the last moment.

"Are you okay?" Ryan had asked the question, quickly and without hesitation. There was concern in his voice, maybe he was on the level; Magenta couldnít entirely rule out the possibility.

"Iím fine," Magenta replied, his voice sounded a little more blunt than he had intended. Purposely softening his tone, he continued: "Thanks. Now, after you."

Ryan hoisted himself up and eased himself through the gap. As Ryan waited, Magenta followed him through the open window.

"Heís in the cellar," Ryan announced grimly.

Magenta nodded his understanding. He had to admit that Ryan certainly seemed concerned; maybe heíd judged him too hastily. Looking about the room he was currently in, Magenta tried to get his bearings. It had been a very long time since heíd been to the house and this room, he didnít recognise at all. It was a sort of study, he smiled appreciatively at the state-of-the-art computer nestling in one corner, wasted on Abbott, he thought. He almost laughed as, for a split second, the worry that it might be stolen, given the forced window, entered his mind.

"Where to?" he asked finally.

"Through here."

Magenta looked at Ryan and frowned; he seemed even more tense now than he had been earlier. Magenta started to feel a little guilty, he had misjudged him. Following him through the empty house to the cellar door, Magenta rested his hand on Ryanís shoulder as he turned to face him. The expression on Ryanís face now was one of extreme nervousness and tension.

"Iím sorry Ryan, I misjudged you. Weíll get him out, donít worry."

"No, Captain," Ryan hung his head. "You didnít, Iím sorry."

Looking up once more, Ryanís pained expression seemed to be focussed behind rather than at Magenta. Realisation dawned too late; yes, Ryan was a fine actor. The pain searing through Magentaís head and neck took all his strength away. He dropped like a stone to his knees and almost as quickly slumped forward to the floor. Standing behind him, Gabriel James wiped Magentaís blood from the butt of his gun.

"Did you have to hit him so hard?" yelled Ryan.

Dimly aware, Magenta groaned as he tried desperately to gather his senses.

"Couldnít have hit him that hard, heís still conscious," laughed James reaching down and removing Magentaís pistol from its holster and pulling his cap from his head.

"You drew blood," explained Ryan.

James waved his hand dismissively. "Donít tell me my job, Ryan. Iíve been doing this for years." James turned his attention back to the Spectrum officer at his feet. "Now then, letís have a look at you."

Crouching down, James put his hand on Magentaís left shoulder and turned him onto his back. There was a brief moment of uncertain amazement as he gazed upon the face of the barely conscious Spectrum officer. He simply couldnít believe it.

"Donaghue?" James continued to stare in incredulity.

The man at his feet used to be the leader of one of the largest crime Syndicates in the State of New York; Donaghue had been his boss once. Only a few weeks earlier he had claimed to have spent two and a half years in a terrorist prison. James had suspected then that heíd been lying about that, but there was nothing that could have prepared him for the revelation of where heíd actually been since his sudden disappearance from the New York crime scene. Magentaís eyelids fluttered open, he could make out James crouching over him. He tried to reach for his pistol, but even if it had been there, he couldnít have made it. His coordination appeared lost, the room and James were spinning in and out of focus; he was aware of James speaking to him but he couldnít hear the words. Closing his eyes, he lost the fight to remain conscious.

"You know him?" asked Ryan quietly.

James rose to his feet, anger and bitterness flowed through him; it showed in his expression; James was furious.

"Do I know him?" James asked standing and turning to face Ryan. "Yes, I know him, heís the reason I was in jail." James was suddenly overwhelmed with fury; turning on his heels he landed a brutal kick catching Magenta in the ribs. "Heís gonna pay for what he did to me!"

Ryanís eyes opened wide as James delivered yet another ferocious kick to Magentaís side.

"Stop it!" he shouted without really knowing why he was defending him.

Enraged by Ryanís defence of the man who had caused all of the problems he was currently facing, James turned on Ryan. Grabbing him by the throat, James pushed him up against the wall. Ryan gasped for breath, his fingers desperately clawing at Jamesí, trying to get free of the choking grip.

"You know, Ryan, Mark warned me about your attitude and heís right, I donít like it!"

"Gabriel! What are you doing?" Fisher yelled as he and Abbott now entered the hallway.

James turned to face them; his hand for a few brief moments remained closed around Ryanís neck. Releasing him only as he walked back towards Magenta, Ryan slid down the wall to a crouching position, gasping and coughing as he gathered his composure.

"Weíve all been taken for fools! Do you know who this is?" James yelled angrily pointing down at Magenta.

"Why would we know?" asked Abbott as he and Fisher drew closer.

Handing Magentaís cap and gun to Abbott, James crouched at Magentaís side, grabbed a handful of his hair at the back of his head and hauled him upright, twisting the Spectrum officerís head so they had a clear view of his face. Abbott and Fisherís astonishment was evident.

"Donaghue? I donít understand, howÖ?" Fisher spoke for them both; in his confusion the words were lost to him.

"Him and Fraser, working for Spectrum!" James ranted. "They disappeared off the scene at the same time, along with half our men! Now, donít tell me thatís a coincidence!"

James released his hold and Magenta slumped back heavily to the floor.

"I want some answers out of him!" snapped Abbott angrily. "Weíll put him in the next cell to Fraserís. The walls are thin enough," he curled his lip into a sneer, "they can listen to each other scream."

Finding the strength to straighten up once more, Ryan stood in horror at Abbottís words.

"But you said, if I gotÖyouíre going to kill him anyway arenít you?"

"Ryan, think back. All I said was, that if you didnít bring him, Iíd kill Fraser. I never promised that I wouldnít anyway." Abbott sighed and shook his head. Casually he reached inside his jacket and drew his gun from its holster. "Youíre a liability, Ryan and we donít need you any more."

Jamesí expression became one of amusement as he watched Abbott raise the gun and aim it directly at Ryan. Ryan, for his part, could only stare in terror. Taking a step backwards he stumbled against the wall.

"But Iíve done everything you asked me to do. You canítÖMr AbbottÖplease!" Ryan stammered, pleading for his life.

James found himself staring at the terrified young man, now backed up against the wall. Jamesí amusement began to show itself in the fashion of a cruel and heartless smirk. At last, he thought, at least one Fraser would be out of his way.

Pushing himself away from the wall, Ryan bolted for the door. Without even looking back, Ryan knew that Abbottís gun was on him. As he shoved the study door open and dived through, he heard a gunshot and almost felt the bullet pass him, burying itself into the doorframe.

Fisher cursed as he watched Ryan burst through, unhurt, into the next room.

"Donít worry," Abbott chided, "he canít get out, everywhereís locked up."

Fisher laughed, but only briefly as he suddenly remembered. Turning his head to Abbott, he stared in alarm.

"The window!"

Abbottís face fell as he realised the implication. Ryan was a witness to their crimes; he simply couldnít afford to let him get away. Thus far, although the police had often tried to pin something on them, they had always come up empty handed. Ryan must not be allowed to furnish them with the information they so desperately wanted.

As one, Abbott and Fisher raced after Ryan only to be met by the gaping, open window. The pair cast a searching gaze around the immaculate garden; Ryan was nowhere to be seen.

"Damn!" Abbott slammed his hand down on the window ledge. "Get after him, you have to find him, weíll take care of Donaghue."

 

***

 

Colonel White glanced at his watch and frowned. "Well, Lieutenant, have you found anything?"

Lieutenant Green was unsure what to say; he had been correct in his assumption that Magenta would have very carefully covered his tracks, but in the short time available to him, Green had discovered that his knowledge of Magentaís methods did provide him with a way of tracing at least part of what heíd done. What held him back from speaking immediately about everything heíd found was that, not only was this subject matter extremely sensitive, but the fact that he had obtained some of it using a fake identification code. That was likely to get Magenta in more trouble than even he could talk his way out of.

"He appears to have been searching the personnel files, Colonel."

"I knew it." White shook his head sadly. "Captain Ochreís file I presume."

"Yes, Sir."

White sighed, "I have to meet with Mr Conners now. Advise me of any developments, Iíll be in the Conference Room. I want to know the minute Captain Magenta arrives back on Cloudbase."

"What are you going to say to Agent Conners, Colonel?"

"I donít know, Lieutenant, I really donít know." White admitted as he turned towards the door and headed for the Conference Room.

It wasnít far to the Conference Room; White would have preferred a much longer walk; he certainly didnít relish the idea of explaining all this to Agent Conners. As he approached, White took a deep breath; if he knew Conners, heíd already be there waiting for him. The door slid open.

"Colonel," Conners rose to his feet, "youíve viewed the disk I gave you? I expected that Captain Ochre would join us, has he not returned yet?"

"Please, Mr Conners, sit down, I have something to tell you."

"This sounds serious, Colonel, is it connected with the Mysteron threat?"

It was as if someone had just switched a light on. White couldnít believe he hadnít seen it sooner, it was so obvious. The Mysteron threat, Ďa criminal pastí they had said, the statement could so easily have been applied to Ochre as much as Magenta, except Ochre as WGPC Commander Fraser had been on the right side of the law. Could it be possible that he was being held prisoner by the Mysterons? "I believe so," he nodded, "although I canít be sure, exactly. Captain Ochre has disappeared, weíve received a ransom demand."

"A ransom demand? From the Mysterons?" Conners clearly did not believe the connection.

"I didnít say I understood it, Mr Conners, I merelyÖ"

"I canít believe youíre even considering it!" Unsurprisingly, Conners reached a different conclusion, one that White had reached earlier but had kept to himself. "This surface leave of his, planned was it? Where did he go and why? Was it requested shortly after the escape of his nephew, I wonder! You knew about this when I arrivedÖ"

"And I mentioned it to you, I havenít concealed anything. You yourself didnít make the connection and you were in possession of all the facts."

Conners rose from his chair and walked slowly and purposefully around the table until he stood almost directly opposite White.

"Colonel, you can dress this up however you like, but we both know that Captain Ochre has assisted the escape of a prisoner, andÖ"

"No, Agent Conners, we donít know that at all!" Whiteís eyes narrowed, he had been left in a difficult situation. He would back his officers to the hilt, but they certainly hadnít made it easy for him. It was bad enough already without allowing Connersí naturally suspicious mind run with wild assumptions and conjecture.

"Then I think youíll agree that at the very least, Colonel, Captain Ochre has gone to meet his nephew and run into difficulties."

"That may be the case," admitted White reluctantly.

"Then you are duty bound to arrest him on his return," Conners stated bluntly.

"Arenít you jumping ahead, Mr Conners? We still have to secure his safe return."

"Youíre suggesting we pay the ransom?" Conners leaned across the table; he stared at White, disbelieving, his tone was scathing.

"Youíre suggesting we donít?" replied White, his voice equally harsh.

"Spectrum doesnít negotiate, neither does it give in to demands."

"How long have you worked for Spectrum, Mr Conners?"

"Donít pull the ĎI joined before Spectrum even existedí card Colonel, it makes no difference to the outcome of this conversation. Spectrum will not pay a ransom, no matter what your feelings are on the matter."

"Agent Conners, if itís all down to money, Spectrum have invested heavily in Captain Ochre and simply cannot afford to lose such a good officer."

"A good officer doesnít lie to his commander, or arrange secret meetings with criminals. A good officer, Colonel, would still be here, advising us of everything he knew on the location of an escaped prisoner. Alright," Conners sighed, "if you donít know whatís going on, letís get his Ďpartner in crimeí here."

"I donít like your attitude, Mr Conners, and I certainly donít like your terminology!"

"I know how those two work, Colonel. If anyone knows whatís going on, itíll be Captain Magenta. I want to see him."

"Heís not here."

"Now thereís a surprise!" replied Conners sarcastically. "I suppose you donít know where he is either, do you?"

"Heís in Spectrum Headquarters, New York. Heíll be returning shortly, Iíve asked Lieutenant Green to advise me the moment he returns."

"Huh! None of your officers are ever where they claim to be, even you have sometimes proved elusive, Colonel."

"Mr Conners," Whiteís voice was clipped with anger, "I have noted your comments. Now if you donít mind, I have a base to run, a Mysteron threat to deal with and a missing officer to find. If you need me, Iíll be in the Control Room."

"I want to see Magenta when he gets back. In the meantime, I want to speak to all your senior staff."

"Out of the question, we have work to do, Mr Conners," White snapped.

"So do I, Colonel and you canít cover for them forever."

Colonel White shot the Spectrum Intelligence agent a furious glance, there wasnít much he could say; two of his officers had flagrantly disobeyed orders and put their lives at risk. This made him angry enough, but it was an anger tinged with concern. Connersí only interest was the letter of Spectrum Regulations; he was being too rigid, after all they were just guidelines. White stifled a laugh; perhaps heíd try to see things from Captain Magentaís perspective a little more often.

"And you, Mr Conners, cannot keep inventing crimes that they have committed. If, and I mean if, any of my officers have broken any regulations or committed any crimes, they will be dealt with in the appropriate manner, by me. Now I presume you have no reason to remain on Cloudbase?" White asked pointedly.

"You tell me that Ochre has been kidnapped, which is a potential security breach, and you think I have no reason to stay?"

White sighed; thatís all it meant to him, a security breach. One of his finest officers was in mortal danger and it meant nothing to him. This was the last straw; all outward show of civility towards the obstreperous Agent was gone.

"Stay if you wish, Mr Conners, just keep out of our way!"

White rose and headed back to Cloudbase Control, still fuming; his mood would not be improved by the news waiting for him back at Control.

 

***

 

Magenta stirred slowly, as he came to, his head seemed to explode with pain. Moving his hand to the gash behind his ear, where he was viciously struck only about ten minutes earlier, he felt his sticky matted hair over the painful wound. His cap had borne the brunt of the blow, but it was still painful enough. So far he had managed only to open his eyes half way, having to close them again almost immediately. It was only now that he realised he couldnít actually put his hand down, either of them; they were held suspended somehow. Opening his eyes, fully this time, Magenta tried hard to focus. At first nothing was clear, just an unpleasant jumble of dulled colours. Slowly his vision sharpened, the colours separated, objects became discernable, then quite distinct. Suddenly becoming aware of the chains on his wrists, he groaned quietly.

It had quite possibly been the rough treatment he had received, as James and Abbott had carried him to the cell, that had woken him. His Spectrum training told him that he must be alert and ready to react to the situation, but the reality was he was still hopelessly disorientated, unable, as yet, to even think clearly, let alone react.

"Donaghue?"

It was James who had spoken, but Magenta was still recovering and couldnít respond.

"Donaghue?" he repeated irritably.

Still no response, except perhaps a muffled murmur from the still dazed captain.

James frowned and turned to Abbott. "Iím not prepared to wait," he declared with a shrug.

Setting his balance, James swung forward with a vicious kick to Magentaís right side.

"I havenít got all day!" he yelled.

The brutal jolt sent pain shooting up and down Magentaís side. Unable to pull away, he curled up slightly, turning towards the wall, trying to protect himself. Tightly closing his eyes, he gasped in pain. As he opened them once more, he saw James crouched near him. He frowned unhappily as he realised his situation.

"Hello, Gabriel," he whispered hoarsely through the pain.

Jamesí reply was a swift and hefty right-hander to Magentaís jaw. His head jerked to the right, wrenching his neck and splitting his lower lip in the process.

"You owe us a lot of money, Donaghue," James began in a threatening tone, "and youíre going to get back every cent, with interest. And then," James slowly drew the barrel of his gun down Magentaís cheek, until finally it rested under his jaw, where it was pushed painfully upwards, "Iím going to kill you."

"Youíre not exactly giving me much incentive here," Magenta replied tersely.

Jamesí expression became one of furious contempt.

"Incentive!" he yelled, re-holstering his gun. "Iíll give you an incentive!"

Seizing Magentaís throat, James squeezed with all his might. He was livid; he could feel nothing but his own rage. Donaghue, with his smart mouth, had gone too far this time. Letís see him talk his way out of this.

"Gabriel! Stop it!" Abbott yelled, dragging at Jamesí arms. James clung on like a man possessed, apparently unaware of Abbottís attempts to intervene.

Magenta could feel himself sliding into unconsciousness; James was going to kill him. In an effort of coordination, Magenta managed to draw his left leg upward. Settling his foot on Jamesí chest, he used all the strength he had left to kick back. Forced to release him, James skittered backwards across the room. Immediately behind him, Abbott too was knocked from his feet to the floor. James was on his feet again almost immediately. He stalked back towards Donaghue. Starved of oxygen and gasping for breath, Magenta was still reeling from being choked; he didnít notice James until he was once more at his side. Looking up through bleary, dazed eyes, Magenta saw James glaring down at him, his gun drawn once more, and his finger ready on the trigger.

"Iíve had all I can take of you, Donaghue."

James aimed the gun directly at Magentaís head; he squeezed the trigger and a single shot rang out.

 

***

 

Fisher hauled himself through the open window; tall and broad-shouldered, it was not an easy task for him but it was not as if he really had time to consider the options. Ryan Fraser had escaped; it was essential that he didnít get away. He knew too much, far too much. If Ryan were successful in contacting the police, then not even Reece could get them out of this. Ryanís head start was less than a minute and Fisher could only hope that this was recoverable. It had to be, it simply had to be.

Ryan was hiding. Unsure how long it would be before someone followed him, he had decided that finding a good hiding place made more sense than being caught and shot as he was half way over the wall. There werenít many places to hide; it wasnít even a particularly large garden. Ryan prayed that Fisher would scale the wall and take up his search in the streets beyond. When all was clear, he would be able to make good his escape. But what of his uncle and Captain Magenta? Abbott and Fisher were certain to assume that heíd go straight to the police with what he knew; what would happen to them then? Ryanís mind raced; there seemed little he could realistically do. If he escaped, there was a high probability that they would be killed. If he gave himself up to Abbott and Fisher once more, well they had already tried to kill him, he presumed that they would finish the job.

Fisher scanned the garden quickly before heading to the wall nearest to the street. Fisher had his doubts, when they had looked out of the window there had been no sign of Ryan. The wall was clearly visible from the window and it would have taken more than those brief seconds to climb over. No, he thought attaching a silencer to his gun, Ryan was still here somewhere. He waited, one or two of the potential hiding places in the garden were out of view from where he now stood, if Ryan was hiding there maybe he would soon show himself.

From the far corner of the garden, hidden behind a large thorny bush, Ryan watched. His heart sank as he realised that Fisher was making no attempt to leave the garden.

"Come on out, Ryan," Fisher finally said. His voice whilst loud sounded strangely non-threatening but the gun in his hand, however, was enough to convince Ryan to stay exactly where he was.

 

***

 

Magenta sat hunched on the floor with his eyes tightly closed; he realised, only after what felt like an eternity, that he was still alive. He slowly looked up to see the furious glares of both Abbott and James, staring at each other as though they would kill each other right then and there. Abbottís hand was still on James arm where he had grabbed it, pushing it up at the last moment sending the bullet meant for Magenta upwards into the ceiling. It was a tense, nerve-racking moment, Magenta held his breath and more importantly, his tongue. He didnít dare utter even a single sound lest it initiated another attempt on his life; he had been fortunate enough the first time, it seemed unlikely that his luck would hold for a second.

Their mutual anger was such that they hardly seemed aware of Magentaís presence. Without another word, James pushed past Abbott and without a backward glance headed quickly for the door. It was only then that Abbott seemed to notice Magenta staring up at him. Returning his gaze, remarkably, some of the anger seemed to fade from Abbottís expression.

"Youíre a lucky man, Donaghue." Abbottís eyes narrowed as he appeared to consider something. "I doubt your friendís going to be so lucky." Abbott turned sharply and headed for the door.

"My friend? Mark, wait! Mark!"

Abbott was incensed, his blood boiled with anger. James was a loose cannon and he was going to deal with him before he got completely out of control. Jamesí own personal feelings of hatred for Donaghue could not be allowed to prevent them from reclaiming the money he had lost them. He ignored Magentaís calls; he had used the friend reference to refer, sarcastically, to James. He neither realised nor cared that Magenta believed him to be referring to Captain Ochre in the next cell.

Ochre raised his head; the voice he had just heard had sounded impossibly familiar. It wasnít Ryan, he thought with a sigh; no, impossible had been the key word.

Magenta watched, frustrated as Abbott closed and locked the door.

"Mark!" he shouted again, straining on the chains as he leaned forward.

On hearing the oh-so-familiar voice, Ochre looked up once more. In his mind there were doubts, he wanted there to be doubts, the idea that Magenta could be right there in the next cell was not a happy one.

On receiving no reply, Magenta had only one option; he had to warn Ochre; there was nothing he or Ochre could actually do, but he couldnít just sit there.

"Rick!" he called at the top of his voice, "Rick! Can you hear me?"

Now, unfortunately, there seemed little doubt for Ochre.

"Pat?" Ochre called back. "Is that you?"

"Are you okay? Is Abbott with you?"

"What are you doing here?" replied Ochre astounded, for the moment ignoring Magentaís question and concern.

"Are you okay?" Magenta repeated, insistent on hearing the answer to his question.

"Iím fine." Apart from the obvious, he thought to himself. "Where are you?"

Magenta gave a sigh and a short mirthless laugh before replying. "Sorry, Rick, the rescue didnít go quite according to plan, Iím next door."

Ochre gave a half-hearted smile; the commotion he had heard had now been explained. It wasnít good news, he was fully aware of Jamesí hatred for Pat Donaghue, but at least he knew that, for now, his friend was alive and well.

 

***

 

Abbott pushed the door of the living room open with such force that it hit the wall and bounced back part of the way. James stood in the middle of the room; frown lines creased his forehead as Abbott appeared in the room.

"Youíre not on some personal crusade here, Gabriel. I donít care what you think of him."

"He got me arrested!" James fumed in reply.

"I donít care what he did to you, my concern is what you did to us."

"That was him not me. How many times do I have to tell you?"

"Heís your ticket out of this mess, so you need him alive. And believe me, Gabriel, whatever you think about him is nothing compared with our opinion of you at the moment! Make no mistake, Gabriel, we have more respect for Donaghue, even now, knowing he works for Spectrum, than weíll ever have for you!"

Jamesí eyes narrowed. He knew that neither Abbot nor Fisher had ever afforded him his proper due respect and it had always irritated him. Well, after all this was over, he was going to take a great deal of pleasure in killing Fraser and Donaghue, and maybe even Abbott and Fisher, if they happened to get into the firing line.

"I think itís about time you changed your attitude then!" James growled menacingly.

Abbott glared, frowning deeply; his brows furrowed as he considered whether or not he should kill him right now. The man was arrogant and self-important. Abbott didnít think heíd ever met anyone who held such a high regard for himself with so little reason. Certainly no one would care if he killed him. But for the time being there was work to do. "Pick up the phone and make the call," Abbott spoke slowly through clenched teeth, barely managing to contain his anger.

There was something in Abbottís tone that told James that maybe he should simply comply; he had rarely seen Abbott that obviously angry. Whenever he had, it had not augured well for whomever was the cause of his anger. Without a word, he picked up the phone and dialled.

 

***

 

The moment Colonel White arrived back in the Control Room, he saw a very stressed Lieutenant Green. He was talking to someone on the radio . Whiteís heart sank as he realised who it must be. Green seemed relieved to see his commander and had only to look in his direction before the Colonel spoke, answering his yet unspoken question.

"Put him through, Lieutenant and get a trace on it."

Nodding, Green transferred the call to Whiteís desk. No sooner had it reconnected than James spoke again.

"Colonel White, I take it?" James asked almost politely.

"That is correct, Mr James," replied White, hoping that using his name in return would to unnerve him.

"How did youÖ?"

White smiled, it seemed to have worked, but Jamesí next statement was to shatter his hopes of gaining the upper hand.

"Of course, Donaghue."

White was lost for words. The last communication from Magenta was that he was on his way back to Cloudbase. There had been no further word from him. Surely he was safe? What could happen to him between Spectrum HQ New York and the airport? The answer, of course, was very little. White realised with alarm that Magenta had lied to him. Did they have him too?

"Who?" White kept up the pretence.

James laughed. "Donít play games with me, White. The stakes are raised, you can have them both back for ten million dollars. I know thatís more than double what we want for Fraser, but, you can imagine, itís taking all the restraint I can muster not to kill Donaghue for what heís done. I need the extra incentive."

Abbott frowned at Jamesí latest statement. Whilst it made quite a good threat it was too close to the truth for Abbottís comfort. If there were to be any killings, it would be Abbott himself who would choose when and who.

"How do I know you have them?" White asked abruptly, "I want to speak to them."

"Thatís not going to happen, Colonel."

"Then I donít believe you."

James scowled; he would not be treated like this. "Wait!" he snapped. Placing the phone on the table he headed for the door. Abbott caught him by the arm as he was almost in the hallway.

"What are you doing?" he asked suspiciously.

"Donít panic!" he replied pulling his arm away. "Iím not going anywhere near them."

Within moments, he had returned with Magentaís cap and gun, which Abbott had earlier placed on a table near the cellar door. Placing the gun in his pocket, he examined the cap carefully. Finally flipping down the microphone he asked his next question.

"Can you hear me, White?"

White sighed as the deep pink light on his desk flashed indicating that Magentaís cap microphone was in operation. Now there was no doubt.

"Yes, James, I can hear you!" he snapped.

"So I guess now you know Iím not lying to you."

Abbott looked at the phone sitting on the table; it had been in use a couple of minutes already, the thought now occurred to him that it was probably being traced! Rushing over he quickly disconnected it. Turning to face James his eyes flashed with anger and irritation.

"Theyíll be tracing that!" he snapped. "Get on with it before they trace that too!"

"Okay White, you have four hours to raise the money. If you donít, we kill them, understand?"

"Four hours? Thatís impossible!"

"Nothing is impossible. Itís simply a question of how badly do you want them back and in one piece. Iíll contact you again, nearer the time."

"I want to know how?" White asked. "How did you get hold of classified information?"

James laughed; he couldnít help but gloat. "Maybe you should look within your own organisation."

"What?" replied White somewhat taken aback. "Who?"

James laughed again. "Why not? Shall we just say your Captain Black is most obliging?"

Pushing the microphone back into position and closing the channel, James looked up at Abbott.

"Okay? Quick enough for you?"

"You told him? You fool, Gabriel! Donít you have any idea how useful a Spectrum contact at that level is?"

Abbott was beyond anger now, James didnít realise just how close he had come to being shot right where he stood. Abbott silently promised himself that, before this was all over, there would be three bodies to dispose of, two Spectrum officers and Gabriel James.

 

***

 

"Ryan," Fisher called, "Iím waiting and Iím not a patient man."

Ryan couldnít escape, he knew that sooner or later Fisher would find him; the longer it would take, the angrier he would be. But he was going to kill him anyway. It wasnít much of a choice. Perhaps he could think of a reason for Fisher to give him a reprieve. But what could he possibly offer them now? They had his uncle and, it seemed, his friend. In a desperate panic, Ryan thought hard, but nothing would come to mind. He would be killed and his uncle too; it was all his fault.

"Ryan?"

The voice was now at his side, turning his head he saw Fisher stood only a couple of feet away, in full view. In his distracted state he had not seen Fisher approach. He had been found.

"Mr Fisher!" Ryan gasped as he glanced from Fisher to the gun and back again. "Please, Iíll do anything you want."

"Thereís nothing we want from you any more. Unless," Fisher added ruthlessly, "youíre willing to dispose of the bodies for us."

Ryan stared in disbelief, his eyes wide with distress. "Youíve killed them?"

"Not yet." Fisher laughed. "Do you honestly believe weíd trust you with," he paused searching for a suitably callous phrase with which to disturb Ryan further, "the evidence?"

Ryan shuddered at the thought and sighed hopelessly, but was surprised when Fisher merely indicated to him to go back into the house.

"Youíre not going to kill me?" he almost whispered.

"Thatís Abbottís call, not mine."

Ryanís heart sank; it had been Abbott who had shot at him in the first place, he couldnít seriously expect any mercy from him. But there was little else he could do but go with Fisher back into the house. Certainly if he tried to escape now, he was as good as dead.

Crossing the garden in silence, Ryan and Fisher walked further around to the door at the side of the house stepped back inside. Moving through the corridors to the living room they found Abbott and James still clearly angry after their heated exchange.

"So, you got him then?" Abbott turned to face them; the depth of anger plainly visible on his face surprised even Fisher.

Ryanís knees almost buckled with fear and apprehension; the look on Abbottís face made him certain that his time had run out. There was only one thing that was likely to change Abbottís mind on the subject, but it was the one thing that was almost certain to happen.

"Allow me." James spoke from behind Abbott, reaching for his gun and aiming it directly at Ryan.

Abbott closed his eyes; he had had just about enough of James and his arrogance. It was true that Abbott himself had only just tried to kill Ryan, but it was his decision to make, not Jamesí. He knew it was petty, but James wanting the young man dead so much was reason enough, in his mind, for him to live. James had to be shown who was in charge.

"Put it down, Gabriel!"

"What? You just tried yourself! What is this?" James fumed.

"Iíve changed my mind."

"So change it back!" shouted James, furious at being denied his chance to kill at least one Fraser.

Abbott turned back to Fisher and the ashen faced Ryan. "Put him in with Fraser, let them get acquainted, before we kill them."

"Abbott!" James yelled. "I will not be treated like this! I demand respect!"

"Respect!" bellowed Abbott in reply. "You donít deserve any! Donít forget why youíre here. Youíre lucky we didnít kill you in jail!"

James was shaking with anger, his breathing deep, shuddering and slow. Glaring furiously at Abbott, James felt the gun in his hands, it would be so easy to turn it on him; he was unarmed, so easy. Out of the corner of his eye, James saw Fisher raise his gun in a warning gesture; maybe now was not such a good time. But there would be other opportunities; heíd make sure of it. Re-holstering his gun he stormed out of the room.

Fisher pulled Ryanís arm; he went easily, still stunned at being alive and astonished by the sheer level of anger and hatred he had just witnessed. Uncle Rick had been right, he was way out of his league. Fisher dragged him roughly to Ochreís cell; opening the door, he pushed him inside without a word and immediately closed and locked the door. Ryan offered up no resistance, he was still too shocked. He stared at the door for a few brief moments then he felt a pair of eyes burning into the back of his neck. Turning slowly he stared shame-faced at Ochre; lowering his eyes, he couldnít even bring himself to look at him any more.

"Iím sorry Uncle Rick, you were right about them. Iím so sorry."

 

***

 

"Lieutenant Green, I want to see Captains Scarlet, Blue and Grey right away. And then, I want Mr Conners in here." Whiteís eyes narrowed as he spoke his name. He had now found out that he had been right; despite appearances, Captain Black had arranged the kidnapping of two of his best officers. There were no crimes, no broken regulations, a couple of orders disobeyed perhaps, but that was his problem, not Connersí. He wanted him off Cloudbase.

"S.I.G. Colonel," replied Green.

It was only a few minutes later when all three Spectrum officers arrived in the Control Room and took their seats at Colonel Whiteís circular desk.

"Captains, I have some grave news for you. I have just discovered that both Captains Ochre and Magenta have been kidnapped."

White saw their expressions change to one of incredulity, he continued quickly, before any of them could interrupt.

"The last message we received from Captain Magenta was that he was on his way back from Spectrum Headquarters New York."

"With all due respect to Captain Magenta, Colonel, do you believe that?" asked Scarlet unconvinced that Magenta would give up so easily after witnessing his determined departure.

Colonel White sighed. "Officially? Yes I do, remember we have a visitor aboard. Unofficially I have to consider all the possibilities, even that Captain Magenta disobeyed a direct order."

"How soon after leaving Spectrum Headquarters did the message come in, Colonel?" asked Blue trying to work out possible scenarios.

"Less than an hour, Captain, so even if they contacted us immediately, it means that wherever they are, they canít be far from Spectrum Headquarters." White interlaced his fingers and leaned forward on the desk. "It would appear to me that there are only two options. Either, somehow, Captain Magenta discovered Ochreís whereabouts or they discovered his, and then managed somehow to trap him. I can think of no other possible explanations for his sudden disappearance."

"If it is the second of the two possibilities, Colonel, then that would require a contact within Headquarters itself," Scarlet noted.

"I know, Captain," White nodded gravely. "And it is for precisely that reason I want you to be particularly careful. We will be running a check on all phone calls made either into or from Headquarters at the time of Magentaís visit, perhaps one or more of those calls may match calls made on the days of either Ryan Fraserís escape or Gabriel Jamesí bail. If thereís a traitor weíll find him. Captains Scarlet and Blue, I want you to go to Spectrum Headquarters New York and find out everything that Magenta was told, everything he did, who he spoke to. In the meantime, weíll run the telephone check."

"And me, Sir?" asked Grey.

"Captain, I want you to visit Belmont Prison and speak to Matt Riordan. You will recall that he was the one responsible for us locating Captain Magenta when James had him previously. He has connections with James, Abbott and Fisher, so he may be able to provide us with more information, which will help us locate them again."

"Yes, Sir."

"And Grey."

"Sir?"

"Promise him anything."

Grey gave a frown and nodded; he understood the Colonelís concern.

"One other important detail that has come to light is that this is in fact the work of the Mysterons," added White.

"Theyíre Mysteronised?" asked Blue.

"Not as far as we know, Captain, certainly the way James speaks on the phone, he is so full of hatred and bitterness. Not what you usually expect from a Mysteron. No, I believe that they are using the hatred and greed of these three men against us. James told me that Captain Black gave them the information they needed; he believed he is a member of Spectrum. We must find them quickly, gentlemen. We have less than four hours before they call again, but we are dealing with people here, people who want to kill Captains Ochre and Magenta. Itís impossible to say how long we really have."

Scarlet, Blue and Grey were now perched on the edge of their seats awaiting their Commander-in-Chiefís final words; their eagerness to leave to try to find their colleagues was etched into their concerned expressions.

"Remember, Captains, if there is a traitor, he may alert the kidnappers to your presence. Tread very carefully. Dismissed and good luck."

"Thank you, Colonel." All three captains spoke in unison as they stood and headed for the door.

"Colonel, Mr Conners is outside," advised Green.

"Ask him to come in please Lieutenant," replied White sternly.

Agent Martin Conners of Spectrum Intelligence was reviled on Cloudbase, almost openly. Colonel White actively discouraged such shows of infighting, but even he turned a blind eye to some of the opinions expressed about the man. There could barely be a soul left on Cloudbase who hadnít heard Scarlet or Ochreís view of the man and it seemed even the normally easy going Grey had been heard to voice his less than high opinion of him on a number of occasions.

He walked into Cloudbase Control, having just missed the departure of the three senior officers, and approached Colonel Whiteís desk.

"Colonel? You have more information I believe."

"Yes, Mr Conners. Please take a seat."

Conners briefly considered remaining standing before submitting to the Colonelís request.

"Then I take it that Captain Magenta has returned." Conners made a show of looking about the Control Room. "Are you still refusing to allow me to speak to him, Colonel?" he asked curtly.

"I have not refused and he has not returned."

"You told me he was on his way back. Has he disobeyed you too? Are any of your officers actually under your command, Colonel?"

"Mr Conners!" White slammed a fist down onto the console. " I canít imagine what possible purpose you have in constantly attacking my officers, but I will not stand for it! I have two officers missingÖ"

"Two? Magenta?"

"Yes."

"Why didnít you tell me this before? Why did you say he was at Spectrum Headquarters, New York?"

"He was, things have developed rather quickly. Now if I may continue. We have just discovered that both Captains Ochre and Magenta have been kidnapped and that both kidnappings were arranged by Captain Black."

"Really? How did you come by that conclusion?" asked Conners, sceptical of the Colonelís words.

"Because the kidnappers arenít Mysterons and one of them told us. He, of course, had no idea of the true situation."

"So, I take it there will be no more discussion on the payment of the ransom."

"Thank you for seeing it that way Mr Conners, Iíll arrangeÖ"

"Hold on! I think youíve misunderstood, Colonel. I still donít believe the ransom should be paid, I thought you had reached the same conclusion."

"How can you possibly think that, after what Iíve just told you?" asked White, astounded to hear Connersí opinion hadnít moved.

"If weíre dealing with Mysterons, a ransom is pointless, they will still be killed if thatís what the Mysterons want," Conners explained without emotion.

"There are two things to consider here Mr Conners. Firstly we are not dealing with Mysterons, we are dealing with three, very violent men, men who will kill them if we donít do what they want. And I will not risk two of my finest officers on your hunch."

A brittle silence hung in the air as Conners took in the information, White merely affording him a steely glare.

"And the second?" asked Conners finally.

"Secondly, Mr Conners, I am advising you of my decision, not seeking your approval."

"I see." Conners was furious that White had brought him here to humiliate him in front of a junior officer. The fact that he had ridiculed White not minutes earlier in front of that same officer had not troubled him at all. "I will, of course, be making my report to Senior Agent Wade."

"Who is aware of the situation and is in agreement that no breaches of regulation or law have occurred."

"No breaches? Colonel, one of these days someoneís going to see you for what you are."

"Mr Conners, I am the Commander-in-Chief of Spectrum and I do not take that responsibility lightly. And I would advise you to remember that and consider your own position within Spectrum."

"Is that a threat, Colonel?" asked Conners his eyes narrowing in anger.

"No, Mr Conners, just my advice," replied White calmly.

"I assume you have no objections to me remaining here until the situation is resolved?"

"As you wish, Mr Conners, but I suggest you donít involve yourself further unless called upon."

"Naturally, Colonel, I will act in the best interest of Spectrum," Conners replied with forced civility.

"Naturally?" Whiteís reply was delivered in a tone that could have been a statement, it could have been a question. Conners would never know. Not querying this last response, he silently rose from his seat and left the Control Room.

 

***

                                

"Iím not at all comfortable with this, Captain," grumbled the warden of Belmont Prison leaning over his desk, his arms folded. "Heís a member of one of the biggest Syndicates in New York, Captain."

"The Syndicate may have been big, but heís not and you know that. He may hold the key weíre looking for. Iím sorry Warden," sighed Grey, "but my orders are that if you donít cooperate, I go over your head. I donít have time to argue!"

"Then, thereís not much point discussing this, is there?" snapped Harding.

"Iím sorry, Sir. Itís not how I wanted to play it, but I have to."

"Very well, Iíll arrange for Officer Maxwell to take you to the interview rooms," Harding sighed, "I just hope itís worth it, Captain."

"You and me both, Mr Harding," Grey nodded gravely.

Grey was led down the long, gloomy corridors away from the wardenís office towards the interview rooms.

"You know, Captain, Riordanís not a bad man. Heís no angel, but heís not like James, you know? I canít believe James got bail, he shouldnít be out on the streets, heís dangerous."

"I know," replied Grey absently.

Maxwell wasnít aware of the reasons for Greyís visit other than he was to speak to Riordan, but now it was fairly apparent that he had touched a raw nerve. There was something about Grey, a certain edginess; he hadnít expected to see in a Spectrum Captain. Whatever the problem, Grey seemed to be feeling it personally.

"Heís in here, Captain. Iíll be outside if you need me. Good luck."

Grey smiled thinly; he became suddenly aware that his expression gave away too much information. He took a deep breath and entered the room.

Riordan looked up as Captain Grey entered the small interview room. Grey could tell by the look on his face that he had an inkling of why he was there. The prison grapevine was apparently working fine.

"Good afternoon, Mr Riordan, Iím Captain Grey of Spectrum."

"It is serious, then?"

"Excuse me?"

"You donít get called ĎMisterí around here unless itís serious."

"If youíd rather I just called you Riordan, I can oblige," replied Grey testily.

Riordan smiled. "No need, Captain. Iím just testing the waters here. Weíve been hearing some interesting things, I was just wondering if they were true."

Grey sighed heavily, how on Earth had he heard?

"Really?" Grey asked, trying to sound sceptical. "And what exactly have you heard?"

"One of your officers is missing," replied Riordan flatly.

Grey frowned; he hadnít been prepared for this. He knew he would have to tell Riordan something of what was happening, but it was starting to sound like Riordan would be telling him.

"Itís true isnít it?" Riordan smiled broadly, more out of amazement than out of pleasure for the missing captainís predicament.

Grey slammed his hand down on the table in frustration.

"Itís no laughing matter, Riordan!"

"What do you want from me? I donít know anything about it!"

"Thatís not how it looks."

"Look, Captain," began Riordan, he seemed to grow in confidence, he started to sense that he held most, if not all, of the cards. If he played his hand well, he may even secure his release, "suppose you tell me whatís going on and what you want from me? Then, Iíll tell you what I want from you."

Grey sighed, containing his anger for the time being.

"Tell me what you know," snapped Grey, not wanting to give away more than was necessary.

"Payment in advance, Captain. I want out of here."

"I canít grant you that."

"I know you can. Thatís why youíre here; you know full well that Iím not going to give you any information otherwise. Iím sure youíve come prepared."

"We can negotiate your Ďfeeí later. Tell me whatÖ"

"No, Captain. Now!"

"There are lives at stake here!"

"Lives? You mean heís got more than one?" Riordan raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Now, I did not know that."

"Two, he has two," Grey reluctantly admitted.

"Two Spectrum Captains? Captain Ochre and who else?"

"Captain Magenta."

"Donít know him."

Oh yes you do, thought Grey, but he remained silent. "Alright, I can arrange for your release, and I will, if the information is good."

"Right then, this is how weíll play it," he paused as Grey sat down opposite him. Grey was clearly unhappy at being dictated to in this way, somehow, heíd thought Riordan would be easier to handle. "Iíll give you the information you want here and now, but you will put the word out that you have to take me to your Headquarters for questioning. On the way, I will escape."

"I can arrange a proper release, you know. You go out your way, youíre a wanted man."

"If I go out your way, Iím a dead man."

Grey raised an eyebrow, and sighed. "Okay, tell me what you know, Iíll fill in any missing details."

"James has been bailed. Thereíre only two people with enough money to do that."

"Abbott and Fisher."

"Right, and this is where I lose it. I know theyíve got OchreÖ"

"Captain Ochre," Grey corrected him abruptly.

"I know theyíve got Captain Ochre," repeated Riordan irritably, "and I presume heís being held for ransom." He laughed. "I heard Mr James owes them a lot of money! But I donít know how they got him, or anything about the other guy."

"How they got him isnít importantÖ" began Grey but was interrupted immediately.

"It might be."

"Trust me, we know and it isnít."

"Okay, so I guess you want to know where they are?" Riordan frowned. "And youíre getting me out right?"

"If youíre right."

"Oh no. Iím not giving you anything until Iím out of here. You can hardly pretend youíre questioning me after youíve found them. Iím telling you, Captain, if you find them and then release me, Iím a dead man. No, Iím sorry, if thatís the deal, Iím not going to help you find your friends."

"Damn it man! Heís your friend too!" Grey turned on him, standing and shouting in his frustration. Whatever might happen to Ochre, his gut feeling was that theyíd never release Magenta, not alive, not after what heíd done to their bank accounts. The words were scarcely out of his mouth before he was biting his lip, cursing his own stupidity. How had he let that slip? There was no chance that Riordan would overlook that.

Riordan shot Grey a puzzled glance, slowly a smile started to form through the still curious expression.

"And who is that, then?"

Grey could tell he was racking his brain trying to work it out.

"Okay, Iíll get you out, now tell me where theyíll be." Grey turned away from Riordan; he desperately hoped that the promise would be sufficient to distract him.

"Iím sorry, Captain, Iím not letting you off the hook that easily."

Grey turned back, Riordan was grinning at him.

"I know youíre not talking about Ochre, sorry, Captain Ochre," Riordan continued, "so I take it Iím supposed to know this Captain Magenta guy?"

Grey watched him silently for a few moments, sitting back down again, he sighed heavily. "Just tell me where you think they are, please."

Riordanís smile disappeared; he could see Grey was desperately worried, but if this really was a friend, he wanted to know who. Even if he Ďescapedí, when Spectrum rescued the man supposed to be his friend, he could still find himself a target of anyone able to put two and two together.

"Not until you tell me who youíre talking about. Itís my life on the line too, Captain, and I have to say, right now, Iím more concerned about mine than his."

Grey looked down, at the table, aware of the seconds ticking away, each one potentially taking his friends closer to an early grave. He had to make a decision quickly. Riordan was, after all, a friend of Patís, surely heíd keep it to himself? He had helped Pat before, even though it meant going to jail, that was some friendship. Besides, Grey realised that he had very little choice.

"Pat Donaghue," he replied resignedly, and without looking up. As it was, he missed a muddled collection of emotions jostling for position on Riordanís wide-eyed expression.

"What are you talking about?"

Grey looked up. It was not only reasonable that Riordan wouldnít believe him but he should have expected it; he hadnít. Now it was Greyís turn to be surprised.

"Do you think Iím going to fall for that? What kind of an idiot do you think I am?"

"Iím not trying to trick you, Riordan! Iíve no reason to; Iíve already agreed to free you. Now..."

"Youíre serious?"

Grey nodded slowly as he looked at Riordanís disbelieving stare.

"Yes," he sighed, "Iím serious."

"I donít believe it!" Riordan leaned back in his chair astounded. "So, I take it heís not in de Wittís then?"

Grey gave a small laugh. "No," he shrugged, "he couldnít tell you."

"Guess not," replied Riordan nodding. "So, I suppose he didnít kill Commander Fraser then?"

"No. But I thought you didnít believe that anyway?"

"Itís always good to be sure," Riordan shrugged and smiled, "but, no, I didnít believe it. Next youíll be telling me, Fraser isnít dead and heís working for you too!"

Grey smiled thoughtfully. "No, I wonít be telling you that."

Riordanís expression suddenly changed as he realised the terrible predicament in which Pat now found himself. "Does Mr James know?"

"He does now." The tension flooded back into Greyís face. "Where are they?" he asked, completing his earlier sentence.

"Okay," Riordan sighed. "There are two possible places that I know of."

Riordan stared intently at Grey, he was still having trouble believing what he had just been told, but it was evident from the level of sheer relief displayed in his eyes, that Captain Grey was desperately concerned for his two missing colleagues.

"Okay, Mr Riordan, tell me anything you can."

"Abbott and Fisher both have properties like the one where Pat was held, some weeks ago. Fisherís is quite small and, to be honest, not desperately secure." Riordanís tone changed as he thought about the other possibility. His expression, too, reflected a sudden serious and concerned note. "Abbottís on the other handÖmy guess would be Abbottís place."

Greyís concern seemed impossibly to double at Riordanís latest statement.

"Itís not a nice place, Captain." Riordan clarified. "If theyíre there, Iíd get them out as soon as you can."

Greyís eyes narrowed. "What about it?"

Riordan shook his head. "I donít thinkÖ"

"What about it?" Grey insisted.

"Theyíll be in the cellar. Abbottís had it converted; there are four cells down there. It looks more like a dungeon than anything else." Riordan frowned with deep concern, then continued: "Heís a violent man, Captain. Heíll kill them."

 

***

 

Abbott replaced the handset of the phone back onto the receiver and smiled thoughtfully.

"Baxter again?" asked Fisher.

"Yeah," nodded Abbott. "Heís not very careful, is he?" Abbott directed his comment to James.

"Good enough for me for the past two years," replied James indignantly.

"Well, Iíd say you were lucky not to have gone to prison a long time ago," Abbott replied still unimpressed. "And I canít say Iím pleased that you gave him my phone number."

"How else is he supposed to stay in touch?" snapped James.

Abbott glowered at him. "A falsely registered cell phone would seem the obvious answer. The manís careless, heís calling from his desk, heís going to get himself arrested, and us with him. How you managed to stay out of prison for three years is nothing short of a miracle, if this is an example of the way you usually operate!"

"You do things your way, and IíllÖ" James began but was cut short abruptly.

"No, Gabriel, in this operation, there is no your way. We make the decisions here, not you."

"What did he want anyway?" Fisher interrupted, growing tired of Jamesí attitude.

Abbott frowned again at James; his little tirade having made him almost forget the important news he had just received.

"Spectrum is taking Riordan to their New York Headquarters to question him."

"What about?" asked James.

"I should have thought that was obvious!" Fisher scowled. "Riordanís the only person they have who can tell them how to find us."

"Is he already there?" asked James concerned.

"No," replied Abbott, "one of their captains is at Belmont arranging it now."

"Belmont?" Fisher smiled. "Thatís only a few minutes drive away."

"Yeah," Abbott nodded, "I think we should maybe Ďrescueí Riordan."

Fisher smiled slyly, understanding his meaning perfectly. "Iíll call Ox, heís on standby anyway."

The man to whom he referred was Robert Oxbury, an associate of Donaghueís, from the days when he had been in charge. Known to the members of the Syndicate as Ox, the huge, immensely strong man had been absolutely loyal and devoted to Donaghue. Following Donaghueís disappearance three years earlier, Ox had remained with the Syndicate and was now working for Gabriel James. James had never treated him badly, probably out of fear of him, but like with the other original members, had never treated him well either.

"I see my guys are acceptable to you when you need them!" growled James.

"Weíve never had a problem with your guys, Gabriel, just you," Abbott replied wearily.

"Oh yeah? Well I wonder what Ox would say, or rather do, if he knew you have Donaghue here!"

"Youíd never hear his reply, Gabriel, youíd have a bullet in your brain," Abbott replied coldly. Turning once again to Fisher, Abbott continued: "Ben, call Ox, get him here as quick as you can. I want Riordan here, where we can keep an eye on him."

 

***

 

Ryan slumped down on the chair in the cell in which he had been sat when Ochre had woken from his drugged sleep. Still his eyes were averted, he simply couldnít face him. How could he tell him that it hadnít been his intention that he be killed, let alone a colleague of his too? It seemed such a feeble thing to say, so naÔve.

"Ryan?" Ochre spoke quietly.

"What?" mumbled Ryan in return.

"Donít you think we should get to know each other after all these years?"

Ryan laughed mirthlessly. "Whatís the point? Weíll both be dead soon."

Ochre smiled. "We havenít got long then. Better start now."

"How can you be so calm?"

Ochre smiled wistfully. He felt certain he only appeared calm; he knew he shared the same uncertainties and fears as his nephew.

"Ryan, why did you do it?"

"Itís a long story."

"We donít have time, make it short."

Ryan looked up at him for the first time since he had been locked in. It was difficult to face him still, he felt so ashamed and useless.

"I wanted you to notice me," he finally admitted. "Pathetic isnít it? You end up being killed because I feel insecure."

"Notice you? But we havenít seen each other for years, you thought I was dead, how could you want me to notice you?"

"That was after I found out. Look, what would you have done? They tell me theyíll get me out of prison and all I have to do is make one phone call to a guy who I knew died three years ago. When I heard your voice, I canít tell you what was going through my mind!"

"Try me."

"I was hurt, Uncle Rick, I thought you were dead but no, youíd just turned your back on me."

"Thatís not true, it was my job. I had to completely break from it to join Spectrum." It was a partial truth; Ochre hoped that Ryan would accept it unquestioningly.

"So do you all have to pretend to die?" Ryan asked.

"No, butÖ"

"But what? You pretended to die to get me off your back, off your conscience too, no doubt!"

"Off my conscience?" Ochre couldnít help sounding surprised at this. "What did I do to feel guilty about?"

"You said it yourself, your job. Dad always spent time with me, we did things together. When Mom and Dad died, you didnít want me. I was a burden, another trouble-making teenager to clamp down on."

"Thatís not true!"

"It is true." Ryan started to pace up and down his movements getting faster and more jerky as he got increasingly upset. "You left early for work, you came back really late. You had no time for me, you didnít want to make time for me."

"I was a captain in the WGPC, it was a demanding job, I couldnít just abandon it."

"No, you abandoned me instead."

"No! I fought hard to keep you. They wanted to put you into an orphanage instead. They said my job would prevent me giving you a proper family life. You donít know how many ĎI told you soísí I got when you proved me wrong."

Ryan sat again and brooded over Ochreís last statement. He had no idea that he had almost ended up in an orphanage. He chewed his lip, merely staring silently at his uncle.

"Why didnít you tell me?" he asked finally.

"I didnít want you to worry, youíd had enough to deal with. Then when I worked out all the details, and they said you could stay with me, what was the point?"

"Iíd have known I was wanted, not just forced on you."

"I didnít think about that. When Will and Carol died, I was devastated. Before you say it, I know, you must have been too. I threw myself into my work. I wasnít a parent, Ryan, it was as new to me as it was for you. I didnít always make the right choices, but I thought we were okay. Alright, you were a little out of control, but I thought we were getting on, things were picking up. Then, you stabbed that guy. Why?"

"Getting arrested was the only way I knew youíd sit up and take notice of me."

The simple statement tore at Ochreís heart; he had no idea how much hurt Ryan had inside him. How much turmoil he had felt at such a tender age.

"I had no idea," he replied quietly.

Ryan took a deep breath. "I guess we were both coming at each other from the wrong angle."

"You were only fifteen, Ryan. I should have known better."

"Why? Iím twenty-six now, you were two years younger when I was dumped on youÖ"

"You werenít dumped on me," Ochre interrupted him.

"Okay, Iím sorry. But the point is you were only twenty-four. I didnít see it then, but I realise now how unready you must have been for an unruly teenager. I mean, the age difference between us is less than between you and Dad. Iím old enough to be your brother, not your son. Iím sorry, Uncle Rick. I just wish there was some way I could make it up to you."

"You already have." Ochre heaved a sigh. "Ryan, if we get out of this, what will you do?"

"Are you kidding? Iíll be going back to prison, and for a lot longer than I previously imagined!"

Ochre gave a small quiet laugh. It was true, Ryan would probably be indicted for Ochreís kidnapping and would serve an additional sentence, but it would be better than his current options. "What will you do?" Ryan added.

Ochre contemplated the question for a few moments. "I had a disagreement with a friend about what to do in a hostage negotiation situation. As usual, I insisted I was right. Well maybe I wasnít, Iíve never done it, she has and it worked. Iím going to apologise to her."

Ryan smiled at his uncle for the first time since either of them could remember. Ochre returned his smile; uncertainly at first, but after only a few moments it had broadened into a wide grin. Ryan followed suit, neither of them could remember such a moment ever happening before. It felt good.

 

***

 

The door opened briefly and the prison guard signalled briefly to Captain Grey.

"Okay, Mr Riordan, everything is arranged, weíll be on our way."

"Youíve got everything you need?" asked Riordan nervously.

"I believe so," Grey replied with a sigh.

"Once Iím gone, I canít help you any more."

"I know," Grey replied simply.

"How," Riordan pursed his lips, "how will I know that Patís alright?"

Grey rubbed his eyes, distractedly, he hadnít thought about it. "I donít know," he admitted, "can we reach you somehow?"

Riordan frowned and shook his head. "Iíll find out."

Grey nodded. He had passed all the details Riordan had imparted to Colonel White as they waited for the Ďescapeí arrangements to be made, all Grey had to do now was appear to lose his charge. Riordan would escape, Magenta and Ochre would be rescued, and Abbott, Fisher and James would be jailed. It was that simple. Grey chewed his lip, he knew it was never that simple.

It had taken some two hours of precious time to get the information they needed, and now as Grey and Riordan left the prison it was already starting to get dark. Briskly leading the way to the car park at the rear of the prison, where he had earlier parked the Spectrum Saloon, Grey brooded over Riordanís description of Abbottís cellar. Given everything Riordan had said and the necessity to ensure that Ochre and Magenta didnít escape, Grey felt certain that it wasnít even worth checking Fisherís property. Scarlet and Blue should go directly to Abbottís. But it wasnít his decision to make, that was Colonel Whiteís prerogative. He wanted this part of the mission over with quickly, then he could assist in the search. As capable as Scarlet and Blue were, if both properties were to be searched, then they would both be on their own against three very dangerous men.

Turning into the prison car park, Grey sensed almost immediately that something was wrong; the car park, whilst still full of cars, was in total darkness, the whole area shrouded in blackness. Grey slowed his pace drastically as he surveyed the scene. Suspicious, his hand hovered over the pistol at his side. Hearing a whisper of a sound behind him, Greyís hand closed on the butt of his pistol, but, before he could draw it and turn, he felt the powerful slam of a huge fist and forearm smash at speed into his back across the shoulder blades. He gasped in agony and breathlessness as the action drove the air from his lungs. Dropping to his knees, surprised at the sudden and unexpected attack, Grey fought for breath against the stabbing pain. Falling forward onto one hand, he tried again for his gun, only to be thwarted once more by a brutal kick to his right side. Spinning onto his back, Grey blinked rapidly and took shuddering painful breaths. Unable to prevent the assault, he felt the cap torn from his head and his pistol wrenched from its holster.

Behind where he lay, he could hear a scuffle. Riordan was engaged in a tussle with another man. Riordan now realised, much to his surprise, that he recognised Greyís attacker.

"Ox! No!" Riordan shouted. It was Riordanís conviction that Ox remained loyal to the Syndicate because he truly believed that one day Donaghue would return. Riordan knew full well now that this simply would not happen, he knew too what Oxís reaction would be if he realised that Fisher held Donaghue prisoner.

Immediately he felt the barrel of a gun pressed firmly into his side. Fisher had realised it too. He had no way of knowing at this point if Riordan was aware, or even suspected, that he had Donaghue, but it was not a chance he was about to take.

"Not another word, Riordan!" hissed Fisher, determined to prevent any warning shout.

Riordan felt the gun just below his rib cage, he didnít doubt that Fisher would use it; this didnít appear to be a rescue so much as a snatch. Fisher bundled Riordan into the back of his car and locked him in.

Looking up as a dark shape loomed over him, Grey saw the huge hand seize his tunic and he was dragged to his feet. Gathering his senses, Grey struggled free of his attacker and stood back, setting his balance ready to fight. Grey stood at just a shade under six feet tall, and yet the man before him, still half hidden by shadows, seemed to tower over him. Broader set than Grey, on sight alone it would appear a severe mismatch, but the dazed Captain was in no mood for considering the odds.

Grey edged backwards cautiously as Ox moved towards him.

"I have to leave with Mr Riordan. Iíll leave you to finish up here, shall I?" Fisher spoke, suppressing a laugh as he watched the retreating Spectrum captain.

"Yes, Sir," replied Ox without emotion. This was neither something he enjoyed nor disliked, it was merely his job. He was going to do it well.

Fisher laughed softly as he turned away. Momentarily distracted by the conversation, Grey didnít see the man lunge forward with a speed that defied his size. Ox seized Grey once more by his tunic and dragged him closer. Holding him with one hand, Ox swung a clenched fist across Greyís face. Greyís head jerked to the side under the powerful blow. More than aware of his size and strength, Ox knew that it often took only one crushing blow from his huge, hammer-like hands to render a man unconscious. He was impressed by Greyís strength, but even Grey was reeling and now unable to focus or even support his own weight; he slumped in Oxís grip. Ox pushed him violently up against the wall with a force that once again left the Spectrum captain gasping for breath. His head too slammed backwards striking the wall with equally severe consequences. Greyís knees buckled under him as his mind clouded over; his struggles were now, at best, ineffectual. Ox realised that if it werenít for his sheer strength holding him upright, the Spectrum captain would not still be standing. Releasing his grip, Ox watched Grey slowly sink to the floor, scarcely conscious. Ox smiled to himself; he was satisfied, they had rescued Mr Riordan, there was no need to continue any further. Leaving Grey collapsed on the ground, Ox slipped away into the shadows.

 

***

 

Mark Abbott entered the dining room to find Gabriel James leaning against the fireplace. In his hand he swirled a brandy around inside the large bowl of a brandy glass.

"Help yourself, by the way." Abbott frowned looking at the drink in Jamesí hand.

James scowled. "As youíre going to be about eight million dollars richer very soon, I think you can spare a glass of brandy!"

"How do you work that out?" Abbott asked, perplexed.

"Donít tell me you havenít thought this through?" James gave an exaggerated sigh as he realised he was about to announce an as yet unconsidered idea. "Youíre getting ten million ransom and you can get Donaghue to reverse his programming. You and Fisher can get all your money back too."

James smiled a self-satisfied smile and took a sip of brandy. All Abbott was really interested in was money. It had surprised him that it hadnít occurred to Abbott already, but nevertheless he had now suggested it. Perhaps now Abbott would show a modicum of gratitude.

"Are you serious? Do you really think Iím going to let him anywhere near my bank accounts again?" Abbott snapped angrily.

"You think heís going to risk anything if you have a gun to Fraserís head? Theyíre friends, they must be, why else would he come to his rescue on his own?"

"Possibly because they work together," replied Abbott, his voice clipped with irritation.

Abbott was starting to reach a point where it really didnít matter what James said or even how much sense he made, just the act of him speaking was annoying to Abbott. Inwardly, Abbott had to admit that it was a good idea and he was considering it. There was also Riordan; Fisher had left earlier with Ox to collect him. Perhaps he could perform the deed; his skill was no match for Donaghueís but it was infinitely greater than his own. Besides, he thought, Riordan was easily intimidated, which made for a greater level of trust.

"You know Mark, you warned me about Ryanís attitude, but at least heís got an excuse. Whatís your problem?"

Abbott stiffened, he didnít know why Donaghue hated James, but one thing he did know was that he was starting to share those feelings.

"My problem, Gabriel, is you! You seem to think you can make a huge mistake that cleans out our bank accounts, and yet you stand there demanding respect!"

"Iím fixing it, arenít I?" demanded James.

"Yet to be seen, Gabriel, Iím still not convinced that Spectrum will pay up and even if they do, fixing it is the very least you could do. We got you out of jail for one reason and one reason only and that was to fix this mess. You only get one chance with us Gabriel!"

"No chance more like it! It doesnít matter what I do or say, youíre never going to drop it are you? Why donít you admit it? Youíre not prepared to afford me the respect you used to give me, the respect Iím due!"

Abbott frowned and gritted his teeth. There it was again, Abbott felt that there wasnít another man alive less deserving of his or anybodyís respect. It was the last straw.

"You never had our respect, Gabriel, weíve always loathed you. Youíre a weak self-seeking little man, and Iíve had enough of you!"

With speed backed by a rush of anger, Abbott had drawn his gun, aimed and fired. Abbott was a very good shot; it was unlikely that James even felt that much pain or awareness as the bullet passed between his eyes into his brain. Remaining upright for a split second, as if his body hadnít registered that he was dead, James fell swiftly and heavily to the floor, the glass tumbling out of his hand rolling away, spilling its contents on the floor.

Returning his gun to its holster, Abbott continued to glare angrily at the body of James lying on the floor. He took a deep satisfied breath, and nodded to himself; killing James was something he should have done a lot earlier. Turning to leave the dining room, Abbott did not see the slow moving circles of green light as they passed over the contours of Jamesí body.

 

***

 

Colonel White was getting impatient, he wondered why Captain Grey hadnít called in yet, they should be on their way by now. A suitable route had been agreed and a plausible chance for Riordanís Ďescapeí arranged. Grey was then to join the rescue party, but it appeared that he had not even got underway yet.

"Lieutenant," White addressed Green as he finally lost patience. "Contact Captain Grey, I want to know where he is."

"Yes, Colonel," replied Green turning back to the main computer.

After several minutes with no luck, Green frowned with concern, "Iíll try Spectrum Headquarters, New York."

No sooner had he said those words than the voice of Lieutenant Hendricks sounded over the comm.

"This is Spectrum Headquarters, New York, Lieutenant Hendricks."

"Go ahead Lieutenant," replied Green.

"Captain Grey has been attacked at Belmont prison. Heís on his way to a Spectrum Med Centre now, I believe heís still unconscious. Riordan has gone."

"Lieutenant," began Colonel White, "as soon as Captain Grey has been confirmed fit to travel, I want him back on Cloudbase with Doctor Fawn."

Green passed on the message and took all the details available. Once the transmission ended, he turned to face White.

"Colonel? You think this is Riordanís doing?"

"I doubt it, I doubt that very much. He knew he was free, there was no need. No someone else has done this, someone who wanted Riordan."

 

***

 

Fisher drove until he felt he was a sufficiently safe distance from Belmont and Spectrum Headquarters and brought the car to a stop, parking in a quiet street in an office district. Turning, he pushed back the panel in the perspex partition to speak to Riordan, sitting, appearing nervous in the back seat.

"Nervous, Riordan? Why is that I wonder?"

"I donít know what you want, Mr Fisher."

"I see," he replied with a sceptical tone. "Iíll get straight to the point then. Do you know where Pat Donaghue is?"

Of course he did, Captain Grey had just told him. He even knew about the Spectrum connection, but there was no way Fisher was going to believe that heíd only just heard.

"Heís in de Witts," he replied, trying to sound puzzled by the question.

"No he isnít, never has been. Try again."

"Never?" Riordan furrowed his brow, "What do you mean?"

"Donít act all innocent with me, Riordan. You called in Spectrum to rescue him when James had him, youíve known all along. Now what I want to know is what part did you play in the theft of our money?"

"Known what all along? Where is he, if not de Wittís?"

"I havenít got time for games, Riordan!"

"Then stop playing them!" Riordan shouted in return. "I donít know what you mean!"

"You know that Donaghue works for Spectrum."

"Heís an informer?" Riordan asked with feigned surprise.

"No," snapped Fisher, "a Cloudbase Captain."

Riordan gave a short derisive snort. "Iím afraid someoneís been pulling your leg."

Fisher stared at him, he seemed to be considering something, then finally he spoke. "You donít know then?"

"Are you serious?" asked Riordan, then added, "Whoever said thatís lying, must be."

"Nobody said it, weíve got Donaghue at Abbottís place, heís in uniform, and itís a dead giveaway!"

"You are serious!"

"Youíre saying you didnít know? I donít believe that. When James had Donaghue, a few weeks ago, why did you go to Spectrum?"

"Pat wanted me to get Sarah away from Mr James. He suggested I take her to Spectrum, he said it would be the safest place for her. Now I know why."

"So how did they know where to find him? You must have told them."

"I did. Mr James was going to kill him after he did the robbery. I didnít know he was with Spectrum, I thought heíd do the job and he and Sarah would be safe. Youíd still have your money, lots more in fact and I didnít really care about Mr James, not after the way he treated us."

Fisher had expected conflict with Riordan, but it now came as something of a surprise that Riordan had very plausible explanations for his actions.

"How do you know about our money?"

"Prison grapevine, Mr Fisher, itís usually pretty reliable."

"Great! Weíll have every two-bit Mob on our backs trying to muscle in now!"

"I can help you get your money back," Riordan spoke slowly.

"How? Donaghueís code is password protected, Gabriel said it was impossible."

"Yeah, well," Riordan gave a mocking laugh, "what Mr James knows about computing can be written on a postage stamp."

"Iíve heard promises like that one before."

"From what I hear, youíve got nothing left to lose. I managed to decipher the passwords he used on his other computers, I donít see why I canít do it again. Itíll take a few days, but I can get you that money."

Fisher appeared thoughtful for a few moments, then nodded. "Welcome aboard then," he finally replied after the long pause.

"No. Iíll get your money back, but I wonít work for you," replied Riordan, not wishing to elaborate further.

Fisher narrowed his eyes, was this related to Donaghue he wondered. "Why not?" he asked finally.

"I canít work with Mr James again," Riordan said simply, without explaining anything. "I have my reasons."

"Donaghue?"

"No."

"But you know weíve got him?"

"I do now," replied Riordan carefully.

"And Fraser?" added Fisher.

"Fraser?" Riordan was puzzled.

"Commander Fraser."

Riordan heard the words but found it hard to believe. "Commander Fraser?" he repeated slowly. "But heísÖ"

"Very much alive," Fisher interrupted.

"ButÖ" Riordan didnít even know which question to begin with; the news was surprising to say the least.

"Thatís how we have Donaghue, he tried to rescue Fraser, or should I say Captain Ochre?"

"Fraser works for Spectrum?" Riordan was astounded. He thought back to his conversation with Captain Grey. He had joked about that very idea; Greyís reply, whilst appearing to deny it, had actually been cleverly non-committal. Then another thought occurred to him. "Captain Ochre?"

"Yes, why?"

"I spoke to him when I took Sarah in; I didnít recognise him."

Fisher laughed. "Neither did I, but then he didnít recognise me either. He just stepped into my car without a second thought."

"You have changed a lot, Mr Fisher."

"Yeah well, sometimes itís necessary."

"So, Pat and Fraser, what are you going to do with them?" Riordan asked, the uncertainty in his voice more than apparent.

"Theyíre up for ransom. Ten million."

"Then what?" asked Riordan pointedly.

Fisher frowned, Riordan was a friend of Donaghueís, how would he feel now, he wondered, to hear that they would both be killed? The hesitation in Fisherís response was enough to answer Riordanís question.

"Is it necessary?" Riordan asked quietly.

"We have two Spectrum officers locked in the cellar. They know exactly whoís kidnapped them and even where they are and you have to ask if itís necessary?"

"I donít feel very comfortable with this, Mr Fisher."

Fisherís eyebrows furrowed. "Okay, Riordan, hereís the deal. Youíve seen and heard too much, youíve got evidence that can put us away. Weíre not going to let that happen." Fisher let his arm rest on the back of his seat; clearly visible through the partition, in his hand he held his gun. Even though he wasnít aiming the gun, it was threatening enough. "Youíre either with us, Riordan, or youíre dead."

"I told you," Riordan insisted, "Iím not working with Mr James again."

Fisher smiled, it was a cruel sadistic smile. "I donít think Markís going to hold his temper with him long enough for that to be an issue."

"Youíre gonna kill him too?" asked Riordan, almost with a sigh.

"I think weíd all be a lot happier without Gabriel James. Whatís your reason anyway? You said it wasnít DonaghueÖoh, but is it a different Donaghue?"

Riordanís eyes widened. "Leave Sarah alone! Itís bad enough that youíre going to kill her brother!"

"Iím not going to touch her, but Iím right, arenít I?"

"Leave her out of this!"

"We know James threatened her, is there more? You got something going on there, Riordan?" Fisher smiled again.

Losing his temper, Riordan slammed his palm against the partition separating him from Fisher.

"Leave her alone!" he yelled. Of course there was nothing; he doubted Sarah would give him a second glance, but it didnít stop him feeling protective of her.

Fisher sat back and laughed. "Iím not going to touch her, I just want to know your motives. I donít want you messing up our plans," Fisher paused, "again," he added, suddenly losing all the humour from his voice.

 

***

 

Scarlet and Blue had spent some considerable time already talking to a number of different people at Spectrum Headquarters, New York and had achieved very little. It seemed to them that whatever it was that had happened to Magenta had very little, if anything, to do with what he had learned at Headquarters.

"Thank you, Lieutenant, youíve been very helpful," Blue said, rising from his seat. "I guess we contact the Colonel now."

Scarlet nodded. "Perhaps heís got some more news for us."

Blue shrugged, it didnít look good.

Stepping out into the corridor they headed towards the small office designated for their use.

"You think Greyís come up with anything?" asked Blue.

"Heíd better, thereís nothing here," replied Scarlet with a frown.

Inside the office, Scarlet lowered his microphone and waited.

"Go ahead, Captain," White responded immediately.

"No luck here, Sir. Thereís nothing for us to go on."

"Then youíll be pleased with our progress. Riordan gave Captain Grey two possible addresses. Our telephone checks run over the last few days have narrowed that down to one property in Nassau County. I believe weíve found them, Captain. You and Captain Blue are to go there immediately."

"And the traitor, Sir?"

"Donít worry, Captain, weíve got him."

"Yes, Sir."

"Lieutenant Green will relay the location to the SSC. Good luck Captain."

"Thank you, Sir."

His microphone raised once more, Scarlet turned to Blue, barely able to contain his relief. "Theyíve found them!"

Both Captains quickly left the New York Headquarters building and headed for the Spectrum Car.

 

***

 

Mark Abbott opened the door to Magentaís cell and stepped quickly inside; settling himself on a chair opposite Magenta he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

"We want our money back," he said curtly.

"I know."

"I want you to reverse your program, I want all that money back where it was, as if it never left."

"No." Magenta flatly refused.

"I thought youíd say that."

"So why bother asking?"

"To give you the chance to save Fraserís life."

"What?" Magenta asked, his voice tinged with concern.

"Hereís the deal. You do this for us, your friend lives." Abbott smiled at Magentaís pained expression.

"Youíre going to kill us anyway, or if not you, Gabriel will."

"Gabrielís dead."

"You killed him?"

"Yes, and Iíll kill Fraser if you donít get our money back. Donít push me, Donaghue, and donít try to trick me either, Iím not in the mood for your games."

Magenta paused. Donít refuse, he thought, the longer Abbott needed him the more chance they had of being rescued. He gave the impression of contemplating Abbottís words then reluctantly giving in.

"Iíll need more equipment than you have here."

"You just tell me what you need and Iíll get it. But remember, you make one false move and Fraserís dead."

Magenta looked down and sighed; he hated this. It was bad enough being kidnapped twice in as many months, without being blackmailed too.

"Itís quite a long list," he said finally.

"Then Iíll get some paper and a pencil," Abbott smiled triumphantly, opening the door and locking it behind him.

Abbott practically ran up the stairs, he was in a very buoyant mood. Something James had suggested may actually pay off, shame he wasnít around to see it. A noise in the dining room made him turn sharply.

"Ben? Is that you?" Abbott called, edging slowly towards the door. "Ben?"

The lack of reply and the noise of someone moving about in the living room was enough to send warning signals to Abbott. Drawing his gun he moved forward, pushing the door open quickly he aimed his gun inside the room planning to quickly despatch the intruder, but the room appeared empty. Abbott edged in slowly and carefully, but saw no one. Turning once again, he now saw someone stood in the doorway. It was impossible, how could it be true? The same man lay dead on the floor only feet from where he stood now.

The figure in the doorway, a Mysteron reconstruction of Gabriel James, raised his gun. One shot was all it took to fell the petrified Abbott. Now the Mysteron could carry out his orders unhindered.

 

***

 

The SPJ carrying the tired and aching form of Captain Grey arrived on Cloudbase. Bruised and battered, Grey was taken from the jet the moment it returned to its hangar and was rushed to sickbay under the care of Doctor Fawn.

Lying in a bed in one of Sickbayís many rooms, Grey drifted in and out of consciousness as Fawn examined him. From his patientís semi-conscious reactions, Fawn deduced that there was a good chance that Grey had sustained at least one, possibly two broken ribs, in addition to severe bruising and a mild concussion. It appeared to Fawn as though two or more men had attacked him, probably with some sort of clubs as weapons. If he had been told that this was the work of one unarmed man, he would simply have laughed it off as impossible. Grey was strong and fit, trained in unarmed combat. It would take a unique individual to inflict that kind of damage on his own.

"Grey? Can you hear me?" asked Fawn, keen to test his patientís response.

Greyís eyelids fluttered and Fawn could tell he was trying hard to remain conscious. Closing his eyes again, he grimaced as the effort to stay awake used up all of his energy.

"Itís okay, Grey. Get some rest, weíll talk later," Fawn spoke softly, reassuringly.

Grey nodded slightly, his concussion forcing him to rest.

 

***

 

Fisher pulled up outside Abbottís house. Switching the engine off, he turned to face Riordan in the backseat once more.

"So, assuming no James, youíre with us?" he asked.

Riordan nodded; it was what he knew best and maybe, just maybe, he could prevent Pat Donaghueís death.

Fisher stepped from the car and opened the rear door to allow Riordan to get out. He offered his hand, which Riordan accepted readily, the two men shaking on the deal.

Fisher led the way towards the house, unaware that what lay within would shake the foundations of their deal.

Fisher and Riordan were no sooner through the door before they encountered the now Mysteronised James leaving the dining room having made an effort to hide Jamesí original body.

"Gabriel," Fisher nodded to him, "whereís Mark?"

"In the dining room," replied James coldly.

Fisher glanced to his right; through the wide open door he caught sight of the body of Abbott lying in a pool of blood, face down on the floor. He had to do a double take; he couldnít believe the evidence of his own eyes.

"YouÖ" he stared with disbelief, his eyes darting between James and Abbott, "you killed him?" Fisher was very much aware that there was no love lost between the two men, but Abbott was as shrewd as he was tough; Fisher simply couldnít believe that James had got the better of him.

"Yes," replied James icily. There was no emotion, James was neither gloating nor threatening, merely stating it as fact. "And now, I have two more to kill," he added as he turned towards the cellar.

Fisher caught his arm as he turned. "What do you think youíre doing?" he asked, confused and a little edgy at the recent turn of events.

James raised his gun and pushed it hard between Fishers ribs. "Or maybe three," he growled pulling his arm out of Fisherís grip.

There was something about Jamesí tone and attitude that sent alarm bells ringing for both Fisher and Riordan; something was definitely wrong. The lack of emotion seemed wholly out of place for someone as fiery as James; it unnerved them greatly. For all his bluster, James had never felt so threatening as he did now; all Fisher and Riordan wanted to do at this present moment was leave. Without a further word James turned his back on them and headed for the cellar. Fisher briefly contemplated reaching for his own gun. It was almost as if James had read his thoughts; as he reached the cellar door he turned a cold stare at and almost through Fisher.

"Donít," he warned, reaching for the handle.

As he disappeared from view, Fisher and Riordan exchanged brief glances; both knew the otherís thoughts as each turned and headed back towards the door. Riordan felt a stab of guilt as he left Donaghue to his fate, but there was relatively little he could do to prevent it and would almost certainly be killed himself. His unwillingness to take the chance was an element of his nature that didnít make him proud.

Fisher left the house swiftly and in his haste almost ran straight into Captain Blue. Blue seized his arm and pulled him back.

"Who are you?" the blonde captain asked angrily, realising that whoever it was, he was likely to be one of the kidnappers. "Scarlet!" he shouted as he noticed Riordan, exiting behind Fisher, try to race past. Riordan didnít get far, before Scarlet held him and pushed him back to where Blue stood.

"Riordan," Scarlet recalled their meeting from only a few weeks earlier, "youíre under arrest!"

"You donít have time to arrest us," Fisher spoke quickly, "not if you want to save your friends."

"What do you mean?" asked Blue, looking from Fisher to stare past him and into the hallway beyond.

"Theyíre in the cellar, James has gone down to kill them. You can save them or arrest us, but you donít have time for both."

It could have been a lie but they had no choice but to believe them. Pushing the pair out of the way, Scarlet and Blue raced into the house and headed for the cellar door.

 

***

 

James opened the door to Ochreís cell and stepped inside, his gun already in his hand, he kept one eye on Ryan as he turned to Ochre.

"What do you want?" asked Ochre uncertainly.

"Itís time," James replied raising the gun and taking aim.

"No!" shouted Ryan, his eyes wide with horror. He heard the shot and swung around to face Ochre. "Uncle Rick! Oh God! No!"

Ochre had turned away as best he could given the restrictions of the chains, but now looked up, apparently unhurt. Ryan turned, confused. James lay crumpled on the floor with Scarlet standing behind him, replacing the gun in its holster.

"Close one!" Ochre gasped.

"Rick! Rick are you alright?" Magenta was yelling from his cell where he had heard the shot, anxious and frustrated.

"Iím okay!" Ochre yelled back still slightly breathless from the tension.

It wasnít enough, Magenta wouldnít be calmed, frantic with worry for his friend. Even though he had confirmed that he was alive, at the very least, Magenta needed more, Ochreís reply had not convinced him that all was well.

"Scarlet, please, go and calm him down. Iím okay, really."

Scarlet nodded with relief. "Iíll quieten him down, donít worry. Itís good to see you, Ochre."

Ochre returned the smile as Scarlet headed back out of the cell.

"Iíll get a set of bolt cutters from the car," Blue announced, leaning in the doorway.

"Hey, Blue," Ochre smiled. "By the way, this is Ryan, my nephew."

Blue turned a suddenly cold stare towards the younger man. Silently Ryan returned his gaze; he knew what the captain was thinking and he felt sure that he deserved it. His uncle had come so very close to death and all because of him. He had been so selfish and cruel to think he was entitled to treat him that way. He had been very wrong about him; Ryan just wished there was something he could do or say to make it up to him.

"Itís okay, Blue, ease up," Ochre advised.

Blue gave a brief nod, prepared to abide with Ochreís feelings. "Iíll get the cutters," he repeated turning to leave.

"Heís got no time for me," Ryan commented sadly.

"Yeah wellÖ" began Ochre.

"Itís no more than I deserve."

"I wasnít going to say that," Ochre replied quickly.

"I know, but, itís me saying it, Uncle Rick, and itís true."

"Ryan, thereís something thatís been bugging me," Ochre spoke with a sigh.

"What?" asked Ryan with concern.

"Will you please, stop calling me ĎUncleí!? Youíre making me feel so old."

Ryan smiled despite himself, taken by surprise by Ochreís lighthearted change of subject.

"Well, whatÖ?" he began with a shrug.

"Call me Rick, just Rick, please," Ochre smiled broadly at his nephew.

 

***

 

Scarlet had taken the key from the lock in Ochreís cell door and hoped it was a master. Turning it, he was relieved to find the door opened easily. He stepped through the doorway to see Magenta, his face creased with concern.

"What happened? Is Rick okay?" he asked immediately on seeing Scarlet.

"Heís fine." Scarlet withheld a laugh as he saw Magentaís split lip. "Heís in a better state than you are, thereís not a mark on him."

"But the gunshot, what happened, Scarlet?"

"Relax! I shot James."

"James? No, thatís impossible. Itíll be Abbott or Fisher," Magenta corrected.

"My memoryís not that bad, Pat. I only saw him a couple of weeks ago. Tall, wiry guy, dark hair, sharp features."

Magentaís eyes widened, he knew that description couldnít possibly fit either Abbott or Fisher but he also knew that James was dead.

"Scarlet, heís a Mysteron!" he shouted, inwardly cursing the chains for preventing him helping.

Scarlet needed no more warning before turning on his heels to run back to the adjacent cell.

Enjoying their conversation for the first time in a great number of years, both Ochre and Ryan were oblivious to the Mysteronised James who was pushing himself into a seated position. Quietly removing Magentaís pistol from his pocket, he smiled to himself as the foolish Earthmen continued to chat, unaware of their impending deaths. It was Scarletís warning shout that finally made them look up. Ryan gasped in horror as he spied James with the gun aimed directly at his uncle, his finger already squeezing the trigger.

"No!" Ryan yelled as he launched himself towards James in an attempt to reach him and wrestle the gun from him. James was already firing, the surprise of the young manís leap made James pull back, slightly ruining his aim, but the shot was already fired, hitting Ryan squarely in the chest. The impact of it forced the air from his lungs; it felt as though heíd been hit with a sledgehammer. Only momentum was driving him forward now. He fell uselessly at Jamesí feet, clutching at his wound, blood pouring between his fingers; the pain searing through him was overwhelming. As he gasped for breath, the last thing he heard, before he passed out, was his uncle scream his name with a voice filled with panic and dread.

The sound of a second shot filled the air. Scarlet had shot James once more, but this time Ryan lay on the floor next to him bleeding heavily from the chest wound. Scarlet dropped to his knees, trying to block out the shouts of concern from Ochre and Magenta; it was rapidly descending into chaos. He tried to use his cap microphone to call for medical assistance, and found he could barely make himself heard.

"Ochre, please!" he yelled above the noise. "They canít hear me!"

Out of necessity, Ochre fell silent. Now on his knees he strained forward as far as the chains would allow. He looked up as Blue re-entered the cell carrying a pair of small but sturdy looking bolt-cutters.

"Free Magenta first!" Scarlet barked.

"Scarlet!" Ochre cried in disbelief.

"I need a bit of quiet around here!" he replied a little harsher than he had intended.

As Blue headed towards Magentaís cell, Scarlet turned Ryan onto his back to assess the wound. He grimaced involuntarily as he saw the gaping hole.

"Scarlet?" Ochreís voice became little more than a hushed whisper as he saw Scarletís reaction to Ryanís injuries.

"We have to get him to hospital, Iím told thereís one nearby."

"No!" cried Ochre in disbelief. "I want him to go to Cloudbase, I want Fawn to see to him."

"Rick, I spoke to Fawn." Scarlet paused slightly to consider the phrasing as he tried his best to stem the bleeding. "We donít have time to get him to Cloudbase. Fawnís arranging everything, itís in his hands; an ambulance will be here in no time."

Ochre looked up as Blue returned to the room with Magenta following. Still around Magentaís wrists were the metal clasps and a few chain links; in his haste to free him, Blue had cut through the chains themselves leaving part still attached to be removed later. As he cut through the chains attached to Ochreís wrists, he couldnít help but be distracted by the already pale complexion of Ryan.

"Weíll have you back on Cloudbase in no time, Rick," he said comfortingly.

"Are you kidding?" Ochre asked finally able to lower his arms as Blue cut through the second chain. "Iím going with him to the hospital."

"I donít think the Colonel wouldÖ" began Blue only to be interrupted abruptly by Ochre.

"I donít care what the Colonel thinks, Iím going!"

Blue turned to look at Scarlet who merely shrugged in reply; there didnít see any way to stop him.

"And Iím going too," added Magenta, his tone suggesting that he would not tolerate any argument.

Ochre was now at Ryanís side. As much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, Ryanís injuries looked bad, very bad. His breathing was already shallow and laboured and he was pale and cold.

"Hold on, Ryan," Ochre urged.

At the mention of his name, Ryan briefly half-opened his eyes and offered Ochre a weak smile. In return, Ochre squeezed his hand and managed an anxious smile.

Scarletís epaulettes flashed.

"The ambulance is here," he announced. Looking up at Magenta, Scarlet knew his colleague required medical attention himself; they probably both did. "Weíll come too, you can get some treatment."

Magenta shook his head. "Weíll be fine."

 

***

 

Perhaps it was his police background, but Ochre had transformed pacing almost to an art form. His strides were slow and methodical and yet he traversed the room with remarkable speed. The hospital waiting room was quite large and yet it seemed to him to shrink with every step he took. He felt claustrophobic and tense, his frustration mounting with the agonisingly slow passage of time.

Magenta looked up at him again and gave a partial frown. He barely knew what to say to him, all previous attempts had been met with barely audible grunts for replies. What could he say? Ochreís only surviving relative, his nephew, Ryan, was currently undergoing surgery, the doctors fighting against the odds to save his life. He had been in surgery almost an hour with still no word. In this time Ochre hadnít sat down once, almost constantly on the move and in truth, he appeared exhausted. His furrowed brow framed his darkened eyes. It was distressing Magenta to see him fret like that, he wished desperately that he could do something, anything. Ochre looked fit to drop and Magenta felt sure it was purely his plain stubbornness that prevented him from doing just that.

A small click drew Magentaís attention back down to his wrist as the second clasp fell away. He was getting better at picking locks; he had improved significantly, but still needed to work on performing the task with his left hand; that was still taking almost twice as long as it did using his right. He smiled wistfully; it seemed strange that in all the time he had been a New York mobster, it was a skill he had never needed; yet now, in the space of only a few weeks, he had already called upon it twice and was about to attempt a third.

"Rick?" he called, setting the clasps to one side.

Ochre looked at him, or rather looked through him, appearing to merely glance in his general direction.

"Itís your turn, but youíre going to have to sit down," Magenta continued.

Ochre cast him a puzzled glance; Magenta wasnít sure if Ochre had even heard all of what he had said, let alone understood it.

"The clasps," he explained, holding one in his hand and shaking it from side to side, "I can get them off, but you have to sit down."

Ochre continued to stare. Magenta knitted his brow and offered a sympathetic smile to his friend. He hadnít realised quite how distracted and upset Ochre actually was; he clearly hadnít understood a word of what heíd said. Getting to his feet, Magenta took hold of Ochreís arms and guided him to the seat next to his.

"Sit down, Rick," he said softly, nodding to emphasise that Ochre should listen and comply.

Ochre almost fell into the vacant seat, staring down at the floor. Silently, Magenta took the hand nearest to him and started working on the metal clasp about his wrist. Ochre looked up, the rest seemed to give him the additional energy he needed to acknowledge Magentaís presence.

"Heís not a bad kid, you know, Pat," he said finally.

Magenta looked up and smiled thinly, he could see the turmoil in his friendís eyes; it was heartbreaking to see Ochre reduced to this; he was normally so strong, so determined. Magenta nodded his agreement.

"I know," he offered, "just got in with the wrong crowd."

"Youíd like him, heís a lot like you in many ways."

Magenta smiled; he didnít quite know how to take that, he felt sure that Ochre had meant it kindly, but there were so many other interpretations, other more unpleasant similarities that he didnít care to think about.

"Heís got a heart of gold," Ochre clarified as the first clasp fell away in Magentaís hands.

"He saved your life," replied Magenta nodding and reaching for Ochreís right hand. "He didnít think about it, he just went for it. He was in over his head, Rick. Heíd never have done what he did if heíd have known what they were like. I could tell, even when he was sent to get me, I knew he cared for you." The second clasp fell from Ochreís wrist, Magenta smiled with an air of satisfaction; he was indeed getting better.

"Heíll be alright wonít he, Pat? I just wish we were on Cloudbase and it was Fawn in charge."

"Rick, you know, if weíd have waited to get him to CloudbaseÖ" Magenta hesitated; Ryan had been in a very bad way, he didnít want to use certain phrases. "Fawn said himself, it would be best to go to a civilian hospital. Itís a guy he knows performing the operation."

"IÖI know, butÖIÖ" Ochre was interrupted by the entrance into the room of a tall fair-haired man of medium build. Both Ochre and Magenta rose, fixing their eyes expectantly on the doctor.

"Iím sorryÖ" the doctor began.

Ochre didnít hear any more, the room swirled, darkened and closed around him. He felt suffocated, and everything echoed. He felt Magenta grip his arms, it was the only thing holding him upright, he stared at nothing with a pained and distant expression, his brow creased. Slowly his hearing returned. The doctorís voice filled his ears with the last of his explanation.

"Öheíd just lost too much blood, his heart failed. There was nothing we could do. Iím sorry."

Ochre looked directly at the doctor, pulling free of Magentaís grip he stepped forward towards the doctor, almost within inches of him.

"Nothing?" he shouted. "Nothing! Why? Why couldnít you keep trying? Heís young, strong, there must be something! There must be!" Ochreís head dropped forward, he took deep shuddering breaths as he tried hard to choke back the tears. "I only just got to know him." Ochreís features crumpled, the news seemed more than he could bear. Turning away, he fell back into the chair, now unable to hold back his pain; his tears flowed in wrenching sobs. He coughed hard as he pulled air into his tightening lungs with increasing difficulty.

"Iím sorry," the doctor repeated to Magenta. He was torn, filled with concern, for the doctor, coping with a difficult task and for Ochre, his best friend, utterly distraught. He rested his hand gently on the doctorís arm and nodded.

"You did what you could, thank you," he replied quietly. Sitting down, beside Ochre once more, Magenta place a sympathetic arm around his shoulders. "At least he knew you were proud of him, Rick."

Ochre let out a sigh, he felt hollow and helpless. Drained of all energy, he allowed Magenta to help him to his feet and lead the way from the busy hospital. For the first time since he could remember, he found himself sobbing uncontrollably and was compelled to allow his friend to take charge of even the simplest of tasks. It wasnít the first time he had lost Ryan, but it would be the last and this time was the hardest of all.

 

***

 

"Theyíre here, Colonel," Lieutenant Green announced.

Colonel White heaved a sigh; this was going to be difficult. Glancing to his left, he looked briefly at Agent Conners standing nearby.

"Remember Mr Conners, I have jurisdiction here and Iím going to handle this my way. You are only here should a matter arise which concerns Spectrum Intelligence. Understood?"

Conners merely nodded, ready to witness Magentaís reprimand and likely arrest; it was and ill-concealed fact that Conners held the belief that a man with Magentaís background had no place within Spectrum.

"Ask them to come in please, Lieutenant," White addressed Green, sat at the main computer.

"S.I.G.," Green replied opening the door and advising Captains Ochre and Magenta that the Colonel was ready to see them.

This is it, thought Magenta as they approached Whiteís desk, they would certainly be sent for court martial. He caught sight of Conners stood nearby, the look on his face was one of smug satisfaction; it only served to confirm his fears. He had spent most of his adult life trying to stay out of prison, and but for a brief spell whilst he was in college, he had managed it successfully. It seemed ironic, now that he was on the right side of the law, that it seemed his most likely destination.

White watched the pair as they approached; Ochre walking with his shoulders back, trying hard to appear his usual confident self, but he was still very pale, the distant look in his eyes giving away more than he could realise. Magenta was clearly nervous; occasionally affording his companion brief glances of concern as they approached. As they reached Whiteís desk, for a brief moment, Magenta appeared as though he might be about to speak, but the harsh stare from White caused the words to die on his lips.

White stared at the two captains for a few moments, with an expression more severe than any they had previously seen from him. He could see the nervousness in Magenta and could tell that he was certain that his immediate future held in store a long sentence in a military prison. White didnít approve of Magentaís actions. He believed in discipline, something that Magenta, with his more unorthodox methods, frequently didnít seem to understand. White tried his best to accommodate his maverick captain, provided he remained within certain boundaries, but now he had disobeyed direct orders, and yet he understood why. Captain Ochreís presence served as a reminder of Magentaís reasons. To the casual observer, the pair couldnít appear less suited to work together, almost exact opposites. But they were a natural team, complimenting each other perfectly. Out of this a strong friendship had grown and it came as no surprise to White that Magenta had been perfectly willing to risk his life and career to try to rescue Ochre. Rightly or wrongly, Magenta had acted bravely and without fear in his attempts. If he had succeeded, he would have been hailed as a hero; but instead he was stood before his commanding officer preparing himself for court martial.

Turning his attention to Ochre, White found it difficult to maintain his stern expression. It was plain to see that all of Ochreís energy was focussed on remaining alert and in control. Ever the professional, Ochre needed to prove that he could be relied upon, whatever the situation. Looking beyond Ochreís outward expression of determination, White saw an underlying air of sadness, which even Ochre was having difficulty concealing.

"Well, gentlemen," White finally spoke, his tone brimming with anger, "in my position, what would you do now?"

His eyes moved quickly, looking from one to the other. He noticed that, once again, Magenta made a motion as if to speak. White decided to cut him off; if he knew Magenta, he would admit everything and force a court martial, which, White had already decided, was not going to happen. Not that he was going to let them know that, not just yet anyway.

"Never mind!" he snapped. "This is a military base and I will not have my officers showing such a flagrant disregard for orders!"

"Itís my fault, Colonel," began Ochre only to be interrupted by Magenta.

"No, Colonel, itís mine, Iím the one who disobeyed orders, not Ochre."

White raised his eyebrows; Magenta was doing it again, willing to risk everything for Ochre.

"Neither of you is without blame hereÖ"

"But, Colonel," Magenta interrupted again.

"Captain Magenta, I will ask you to remain silent!" White bellowed. He had to stop him somehow or he was very liable to talk himself out of a job. Their actions, though foolish, were brave and well intended and they had both suffered enough. Neither would it serve Spectrum well to lose two such good officers, even for a short period.

"Captain Ochre," White continued with a calm voice, "why didnít you tell me the truth about Ryan?"

"I couldnít, Sir, I was under strict orders from Spectrum Intelligence not to reveal any information about him to anyone, not even you, Sir," Ochre replied, still staring straight ahead not making eye contact with White.

"Really?" White turned a suspicious glance in Connersí direction, wondering what else was being withheld from him. "Did you not see the potential for trouble going to meet an escaped prisoner?"

"I didnít think, Sir. I believed Ryan was acting alone; I had to preserve my anonymity under Spectrum. I thought I could control the situation myself."

"You were wrong Captain and you put yourself and the lives of others at risk."

"Yes, Sir." Ochre swallowed hard, one of those people was standing right next to him, that had been the last thing heíd intended.

"Captain Magenta, you deliberately disobeyed direct orders, twice."

"Yes, Sir," Magenta admitted with a slight sigh.

Conners drew nearer to Whiteís desk, addressing Magenta as he spoke. "How did you know if Ochre hadnít said anything to anyone?"

White felt sure he knew the answer to that question and was fairly certain he knew when he had found out too. He thought back to his early return from lunch only to find a very guilty looking Magenta claiming to be writing to his father.

"Mr Conners, if you please, Iím handling this!" White snapped, hoping he could prevent Magenta admitting to Conners that he had hacked into the Spectrum Intelligence database.

"No, Colonel, this is my job. I want to know!"

"If you were so proficient at your job, Mr Conners, you would have identified and arrested a traitor in the New York Headquarters. As it is, my men have done your job for you. As we discussed earlier, this is my responsibility and I suggest you allow me to continue."

"Magentaís not being straight with us! He knew alright, and if no one told him I want to know how."

"How can you be so certain that he did know, Mr Conners? Captain Magentaís prompt for leaving the base was recognising Gabriel Jamesí voice when he called. Now, if you please?" Whiteís tone was severe. It had been a carefully worded statement; he had not said that Magenta did not know, nor that he was aware of it.

Conners frowned and stepped back, appearing to accept the Colonelís advice; even Conners now recognised that White had reached the limit of his tolerance. Turning back towards the two captains, White allowed himself a few moments to calm his voice before addressing a more sensitive subject.

"Captain Ochre, the funeral is the day after tomorrow, am I right?"

"Yes, Sir," Ochre replied. "Iíd like to attend, if I may?"

"Of course, Captain."

"Sir, if I may ask a favour?" Ochre lowered his gaze and looked directly at White for the first time.

"Go on."

"Iíd like to attend as Rick Fraser, Ryanís uncle, rather than as Captain Ochre."

White took in the words with a thoughtful sigh. He glanced at Conners who immediately shook his head.

"Iím sorry, Captain, that wonít be possible."

Ochre returned his gaze to the wall behind Colonel White, staring straight ahead, unflinching. Magenta looked from White to Conners and back again. He was in enough trouble already, what was a little more?

"Colonel, thatís a little harsh, donít you think?" he asked as respectfully as he could.

"Itís okay," Ochre insisted.

White sighed.

"I understand how you feel, Captain Ochre, I really do." White paused and looked again at Conners. Frowning he turned back to the two captains. It wasnít as if there would even be anyone else attending the funeral; Conners was overreacting again. "Damn it, I do understand! Yes, Captain, of course you may attend Ryanís funeral under your own name."

"Thank you, Sir." Ochre spoke with relief and gratitude in his voice.

"Colonel!" Conners tried to cut in.

"My way, Mr Conners, remember that!" White turned on him. "This is a matter of relative insignificance to Spectrum Intelligence, Captain Ochreís anonymity has already gone, Riordan and Fisher know about him, it can no longer be of importance to you. His nephewís funeral however is of supreme importance to Captain Ochre and I will not have you dictating such pointless terms." White paused for a few moments, then turned back. "Captain Ochre, you may return to duty."

"Sir?" Ochre questioned, somewhat taken aback.

"Dismissed, Captain," White said kindly.

Magenta looked over his shoulder as Ochre left the room. Now it was his turn; out of the corner of his eye, he could see Connersí smugness return.

"Captain Magenta." White called.

"Sir?" he replied turning back.

"Go with him," White added with an understanding nod. "You may return to duty, too."

"Thank you, Sir!" Magenta replied, grateful, but almost disbelieving as he turned and left quickly to follow Ochre.

"Is that it?" asked an astonished Conners. "Itís no wonder you canít maintain discipline on this base!"

"Mr Conners!" White fumed. "These men face more danger in one single day that you will ever face in your entire life. I sincerely hope that, if your reaction now is anything to go by, you never reach a position of command, because I assure you youíll have a mutiny on your hands within hours! And may I remind you that, however far you progress within Spectrum, I will remain your superior. I suggest that you remember that and behave accordingly!"

"Allowing Magenta off the hook will only encourage him toÖ"

"I am fully aware of your opinion of Captain Magenta, Mr Conners, and let me tell you that if you were even fit to stand in his shadow, Iíd like you a hell of a lot more. Now, Iíd like you to leave Cloudbase, immediately."

White watched as Conners silently left Cloudbase Control and reflected on recent events. The Mysterons had gained a partial victory, they had promised that someone with a criminal background would die and this had indeed happened. Ryan, he knew, had not been their intended target, neither had James nor Abbott; they had merely been unfortunate enough to be in the way. The war would continue, but one day, White hoped, prayed, it would end.

 

 

THE END

 

 

This story is based on characters created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson for the TV series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

 

Some events and characters Copyright © of all trademarks materials (Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, Stingray, all characters, vehicles, crafts, etc.), owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton.  Information of the series are all been taken from copyright © materials (books, magazines, videos, T.V.  media, comics, etc) owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton.

 

OTHER STORIES BY SUE STANHOPE

 

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