A "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons short story"
by Fay Symes
Captain Blue awoke with a start and sat bolt upright, his heart thudding. It was a momentary shock to find himself in a strange room, and not alone. He could hear Scarlet in the other bed. Recollection came back at once: Koala Base, and their undercover mission to root out a traitor.
Scarlet was moving restlessly, his breathing harsh. His half formed muttering clarified into words, rising to a shout. "No, no more. Not Adam!"
Blue grabbed for the light switch as he rolled out, one pace taking him to Scarlet's bed. The first light setting was dim, but it was enough to see him twisting from side to side, obviously in the grip of a vivid dream. "Adam!" he groaned.
"Paul, wake up. Come on, wake up. You're dreaming." Blue shook him hard. "Paul!"
Scarlet awoke with a gasp, staring up dazedly for a moment without recognition. He was pale and sweating, a trickle running across his cheek like a tear. Then he blinked back to reality. "Sorry. I — did I wake you?"
"That must have been some nightmare, buddy!"
"A dream. Yes, only a dream." He sat up, pulling up the edge of the sheet to wipe the sweat off his face. "I'm sorry, Adam. I'm awake now. You can put off the light and go back to sleep."
"Wait a minute. Do you want to talk about it? Was it something bad? What was it?"
"Only a dream. Nothing." His control was back, like a curtain coming down across his inner feelings.
Blue settled himself on the side of the bed, not budging. "Tell me," he said firmly. "Where were you? Paul, talk to me."
Scarlet ran a hand back over his short, black hair. "Back off, Adam, I've got to work this out for myself."
"No you don't. Not while I'm around. I guess that story I was telling to the recruits stirred up your old memories. Did you dream you were back under Mysteron control?"
Scarlet was silent for a moment, but he knew his friend and partner was stubborn enough not to let it drop. A slight shiver ran through him. "It was nothing like that. I was in a cemetery; you were dead. You were being buried, and I could see the face in the coffin through a glass plate. You were old. Very old. You died of old age — but I was standing there the same. I was immortal." The clipped English accent made his words sound cold and clinical. "You were the last one, Adam, I knew White and Green and everyone else were dead, but I'd never changed, and I never would. I still retained the image the Mysterons had made for me."
Blue's attempted laugh was strained. "That's all nonsense. It's a just crazy dream."
"Does it really make you feel like that?"
Scarlet lay back, looking up into the semi-darkened room. "How else can I feel? I die, and I come to life again."
Blue tried to lighten his mood. "It's got to be better than staying dead. You know you're a lucky son of a bitch."
The attempt fell flat. Scarlet was too close to the dream. "You think so? Even when you know you can't die, it's hard to be the only one. Colonel White's superman." He closed his eyes and Blue sensed the heavy toll the burden was exacting from his partner. Without his customary boundless vitality Scarlet was a different person, remote and unreachable behind his brittle public school facade.
"It can't go on for ever, Paul," he said softly. "There has to be an end to everything."
"Does there? Adam, it's been two years, and I've died half a dozen times. There's hardly an inch of me that hasn't been torn apart and remade. But do I look any different?"
"Physically, no." Blue had to be honest. When Scarlet was through the brief periods of pain, his face remained unmarked by suffering, his skin still firm and young. The faint laughter lines around his eyes and mouth were no more pronounced than they had been before his change. Even a previous scar on his cheek had faded more each time his body regenerated, until it was barely visible.
Scarlet's eyes were a deep, dark blue in the dim light. "I'm fit, and perfect, and I swear my brain works faster than it did before, but it still scares me, Adam. You must think I'm crazy."
"No," said Blue softly. "Go on." He wanted Scarlet to expand on the rare moment of revelation. It was very seldom he allowed a crack to appear in his visible exterior of cool efficiency, and when it did, it always came as a something of a shock to find that underneath it he was still a vulnerable and sensitive man. "When you can see it coming, you're still not sure if you're really going to wake up again, are you?"
Scarlet half smiled. "I didn't know I was that transparent."
"You're not, only to me. I saw the look in your eyes once when you faced a gun, and I understood. Even though you come back to life, you do really die."
"Yes, I think I do. But there's nothing there to remember, Adam, just — nothing. Until I wake up and know I've come through it again. And when the pain's gone I'm the same. The same; that's what scares me." His voice was very quiet. "Is it remaking me as I was, every time? The same age, the same body? Am I going to go on like this for ever while everyone else gets older and dies? Even you?"
"Surely not." Blue found the suggestion horrifying. That aspect had never occurred to him before. "Hasn't Doc Fawn told you? Doesn't he know from the tests? He's been doing enough."
"It's too soon. He says not enough time has passed to discern anything conclusive. Or if they do know anything, they're not telling me. I don't want to be immortal. I couldn't even kill myself, could I? What would I do, cut my throat? I'd wake up again in a few hours as good as new. There's only decapitation, or burning to death in a furnace hot enough to leave no residue to regenerate. That's about all. I don't know what would happen if I tried a bath of acid . . ."
"Stop it, Paul!" said Blue sharply. "For heaven's sake, you've got no need to talk like that. Come on, pal, immortality's not logical. You can only come back to the state you were when you were injured, surely? Time that's passed can't be recalled."
"I hope you're right, Adam. If we knew how the process worked we'd be sure, but we don't."
"Of course I'm right." Blue sounded certain, but it was far from what he was feeling. He was worried by the deep depression Scarlet had fallen prey to.
Below the polished veneer lay a stranger he rarely saw; a man who knew too much about pain and suffering, who had become one of the Mysterons’ victims as surely as those they killed. The world only knew the brilliant, charismatic Captain Scarlet who remained the undenied hero of Cloudbase; indestructible, invincible and always in control. The man Adam recognised was someone far more complex and vulnerable; no superman at all, only a human being the same as anyone else, forced to live with this impossible, inhuman burden.
Scarlet couldn't be killed, and unless his body was totally destroyed, burnt to ashes or separated from his brain, it would regenerate. The Mysterons had left him with a unique gift, which was slowly becoming more a curse than it was a blessing.
Blue still found it all slightly horrifying. He had never forgotten racing to the scene to recover Scarlet's body the first time he had been 'killed' in an SPV crash. The corpse had been charred almost beyond recognition, and his grief and horror had been real. Afterwards, when Scarlet appeared re-made and fully fit, his new skin glowing with health, had he felt a conflict of emotions. Slightly cheated, perhaps, and foolish for his concern. But Scarlet was more than just a colleague, he had become a close friend and brother-in-arms while they struggled against the seemingly unbeatable, invisible enemy. Scarlet meant as much to him as Spectrum, or the war, or even honour.
And there was a darker side to it all. Their chief medic Doctor Fawn really had no idea exactly how the regeneration worked, or if it would go on working indefinitely, or what side effects or other problems might occur. Scarlet was an eternal guinea pig; forever tested, measured and observed.
Blue wished there was more he could do to help, but he had learned by now that no one, least of all one simple American agent, had any idea how the Mysterons' terrible accomplishments could be undone.
"Come on, buddy, this isn't like you," he said softly. "Whatever does happen, you'll get through it, and you know I'm here for you. Whatever I can do, you only have to tell me. At least you know you'll always have a friend."
"I know. Thank you, Adam." Scarlet smiled slightly. "A good friend indeed. And we take what time out we can to ease the pressure."
"Unless we leave Spectrum."
"I can't do that."
"I know. It's your life. Mine too."
Scarlet's seriousness was intense. "No, it's everyone's lives, because of the Mysterons. Their destruction is more important than we are. Stopping them comes first."
"And when that's over? If it ever is?"
"Then there'll be time for homes and families and real lives; if we're both still alive. If we ever stop them."
"We will," said Blue, with more confidence than he really believed. "Duty first, and then, sometimes, there'll be some time for us."
Scarlet shook his head slowly, the smile faded. "There was something to be said for Colonel White's original rules. Friendships are difficult to put aside when duty should take precedence. In the field we're responsible for other lives, and I've already put you first when I shouldn't. I live with the guilt of two men's deaths because I saved you first."
Blue closed his eyes, feeling the pain in that statement because he knew he could make the same admission himself. "We've all done that, every Colour agent, and you know it. Caring about each other is what keeps us human and separates us from the soulless Mysterons. Do you think those inhuman bastards know anything about the suffering they've caused with their stupid war of revenge? They don't know what feelings are. We'll win because we care. We have to win."
"We will," Scarlet said with quiet assurance. "We shall win by fighting it together because I know we'd never make it alone."
Blue sat where he was for a while without speaking again, sharing their silent acceptance of the bond that reaffirmed their humanity; feeling it extinguish for one brief moment the cold loneliness of the war that had no end.
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