A ‘Captain Scarlet’ story
by Fay Symes
Training-Major Brown was a bastard. He should be hung up by his balls and left to rot — and at that precise moment, Blue felt perfectly willing to perform the task himself.
Captain Blue had felt at home immediately in the tight-knit Spectrum community, but even the blond American’s easy going personality had been rubbed the wrong way by Brown’s arrogance and overbearing manner, and now that Brown was in charge of the special training program, he was in his element.
“Captain Blue, get a move on!” he barked. “One half hour in the dark can’t have turned you into a complete physical wreck.”
“No sir.” Not quite, thought Blue. Although he had been hard pressed to find his way through the old mine working without a light in the stipulated time, and climb the rope at the end for what seemed like hours, until his hands had been so numb with cold he’d almost fallen back to the bottom. He was tired, wet and filthy, and he’d had enough.
Brown was needling him again. “Captain Blue, pick up your feet and get to that air vent at the double before Captain Scarlet emerges, or you’ll be bottom of the list. You’re supposed to be fit and ready for anything. God help us if you’re all that stands between us and the world’s terrorists.”
“Yes sir,” he said tiredly, breaking into a slow run.
Blue was beginning to respond to his new name as if he’d never owned another. He was almost forgetting who he really was. The rule was strict. No one except Colonel White and Doctor Fawn had access to the private data file that held their real identities. A security measure that he fully agreed with in theory, whereby no outsider could use personal information against them, blackmail their families, or trace their probable off-duty movements — but he wasn’t so happy about its rigorously upheld extension within the team itself. It appeared to be the height of bad manners to ask anyone’s real name, or to give your own, and close friendships were actively discouraged. As White had told him in no uncertain terms, his stern voice addressing the assembled company on the Spectrum flightdeck at Blue’s first official briefing: “We cannot afford to lose any man, or jeopardise any mission by misplaced loyalties to friendship. Your first and only duty is to Spectrum, and to our objectives.”
Reluctantly, in Blue’s case anyway, they had all agreed.
He had been a late starter, selected from the WAS Security Department to replace the unknown casualty who had previously borne the name of Captain Blue. And if the loss of that Blue had caused anyone either sorrow or relief, no one had been inclined to tell him.
They had all accepted him readily, with professional courtesy. Lieutenant Green, a likeable, laid-back Caribbean; fellow Americans Grey, Ochre and Magenta; and the Europeans Sepia, Gold and Black. Getting to know the Angels was something like Heaven, though he knew any of them would deck him with one hand if he overstepped the line of duty; but with the enigmatic Captain Scarlet there seemed to have been an instant rapport.
As he ran across the rugged terrain, with the cold rain lashing his face and the wet ground sucking at his boots, Blue thought he would not have put it past Brown to choose a day with the worst weather prediction he could find, simply to make the whole exercise more unpleasant.
The American wished wholeheartedly he was back on Cloudbase, or in the air, or on some proper mission; not stuck here in the Scottish mud. Or if he had to be grounded, at least it could be somewhere civilised, and in the sun. If they had to suffer the British climate, it added insult to injury to have it forced on them for some ridiculous exercise invented by Brown’s warped imagination. It wasn’t that he minded adverse conditions, although he did prefer his water to be closer to the warm, white foam of American or Australian surf. Nor did he particularly mind any degree of hardship; he had come through Spectrum’s Hell Fortnight training course with flying colours. It was more a feeling of disgust at yet another faked scenario, when he should be out there somewhere doing the real thing.
Although Scarlet might be enjoying it. This at least was his home ground. Nothing could disguise his English accent or the slightly superior air of the British military upper class.
Blue hunched into his jacket and stumbled on, remembering the day two months earlier, when he and Scarlet had first met.
He had come to Cloudbase with high expectations, keyed up to the point of nervousness at finally being accepted by the organisation he so much admired. His customary laid-back cool seemed to have deserted him completely.
Weather conditions had delayed his flight, and he was late. Told to wait in the bar of the relaxabay, he had looked in vain for a familiar face among the milling Spectrum personnel, but he knew no one.
The only man he had some small knowledge of from hearsay was Captain Scarlet, Spectrum’s number one agent, who had been the subject of occasional speculation among his former colleagues. With no access to any real background information, it was said that he was a brilliant pilot with a distinguished military record, a string of university degrees, and a mind for figures like a computer; as well as being a charismatic leader of men who had earned a high rank before joining Spectrum. He had been one of Colonel White’s first selections.
All of which suggested to Blue the kind of arrogant, pushy militarist he particularly disliked. Not the sort of man he cared to trust his life to under adverse conditions.
Looking across the room, he knew he was going to have to make an effort to lay aside his preconceptions and trust his own instinct for first impressions. There was little doubt that the slim, black-haired man in the bright red tunic, who lounged at the end of the bar, was the legendary Captain Scarlet.
After a moment’s hesitation, Blue approached him. Scarlet looked was younger than he had expected; his clean-cut, boyish features undeniably handsome. For a moment he though he must have made a mistake.
“I beg your pardon, are you Captain Scarlet?”
The man looked round sharply, as if the interruption of his thoughts was unwelcome. “I am. May I ask who you are?” His precise English accent was as brittle as ice.
“I’m the new Captain Blue. Do you mind if I join you? I seem to be a stranger around here.”
“Certainly, Captain. May I buy you a drink? Metaphorically speaking that is; the choice being between a pale imitation of lager and a motley selection of fruit juice.”
“I guess I’ll have the lager, thanks.”
Blue sensed a certain reservation in Scarlet’s manner as he was subjected to close scrutiny by the brilliant blue eyes. Then the Captain smiled, and the coldness vanished. “I’m glad to have you with us, you make us a full complement again. Welcome aboard, Captain, as the saying goes.” The dark man’s handshake was firm, and the greeting seemed genuine, if not exactly enthusiastic.
They moved to a table and Blue sat down wearily, aware that the day’s stresses were beginning to catch up with him.
Scarlet raised his glass. “Here’s to the beginning of the rest of your life.”
“I’ll drink to that, Captain. And the hell with our enemies.”
“I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.” The accent took some getting used to, but it seemed to have lost some of its cold edge. “I don’t have to guess what country you come from.”
Blue began to relax. “I guess not. Nor you. What’s that, an Oxford accent?”
“Move a little south and you won’t be far wrong. I wish I could tell you more.”
Blue shrugged. “Rules are rules.”
“Ah yes, the rules.”
He wasn’t sure if Scarlet’s tone was derisory or not. There seemed to be a slight edge of sarcasm, but Blue didn’t want to step out of line too quickly before he had tested the water. “I can see why security needs to be so tight, but I’ve flown for the military of four countries, and I’ve never seen such a paranoid bunch as you’ve got here. I object to having my fillings x-rayed for radio receivers.”
A brief smile lit Scarlet’s face. “That’s nothing. Security is even tighter here than it was back in the WAAF, particularly since the last Bereznik terrorist attack. I have it on good authority that we’re being issued with mini video suppositories. So they can see if we’re passing any secrets.”
The tone was so dead-pan the joke caught Blue unawares, and he broke up. He was more than pleased to find that Scarlet’s clean-cut exterior disguised a keen sense of humour.
Blue found himself still the object of scrutiny from the Captain’s direct gaze. “Did you have a bad flight? You look a little worse for wear.” The blunt observation seemed to be motivated by friendly concern.
Blue pushed back his unruly fair hair, feeling noticeably dishevelled in his civilian clothes. “Delays. I think I could have walked here faster, we were stuck six hours in fog at De Gaulle.”
“Bad luck. Even the Spectrum shuttle service has its off days. I try not to fly unless I pilot myself, it’s safer and quicker. Commercial airlines give me a pain in the proverbial. You can get across Europe in half an hour and it takes two hours to get through luggage and security.”
Although the Captain’s manner was friendly and relaxed, Blue could see that the keen sapphire eyes were still weighing him up.
“I’m not asking for classified information, but I know you’re from WAS American Security. What made you decide to leave?”
“A chance like this isn’t to be passed up. When the selection committee approached me, I jumped at it. I like to be where the action is.” He glanced round at the other occupants of the bar, mainly maintenance personnel, too intent on their own conversations to pay him any attention. “I don’t suppose you get too many new arrivals. At least, I hope not.” It seemed like bad form to ask what had happened to his predecessor, even though he was curious to know. There were ground rules on Cloudbase he had yet to learn. “I don’t see any of the other Colour Agents here.”
“I think everyone else is on duty. I was — taking a break.”
Blue sensed a sudden dampening of the Captain’s normally outgoing personality. “I didn’t mean to delay you. I’ll go and see if they’ve sorted me out.”
“I’ll come with you. I don’t usually drink alone. Although if it was a real drink instead of this pallid fake, I might say what the hell and do just that.”
Blue looked at him curiously. “Is something wrong, Captain?”
“No.” It was a transparent lie. Whatever he had been trying to forget brought a shadow across his face.
“Do you want to talk about it, pal? I’m a good listener.”
There seemed to be a quality in Blue’s quiet request that encouraged a reply.
He gave a little shrug, as if to brush off the problem as insignificant. “Your predecessor would have been getting married today. He was leaving active service up here for a ground job.” He glanced at Blue and looked away, as if afraid of betraying any emotion in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” said Blue. “I knew you lost a guy or I wouldn’t be here, but I didn’t know any facts. Was he a special friend of yours?”
“We worked together on occasions. Nothing more. Friendships are not encouraged.”
Blue could see there was a great deal behind those words that remained unsaid. For a moment he glimpsed another man beneath the facade of cold efficiency; a man who understood that along with its supposed glory, war brought mostly loneliness and pain.
“That’s a hell of a policy your Colonel subscribes to,” he said softly. “Where I came from we liked to have a buddy you could rely on to guard your back. We lost guys — I lost good buddies, and we all pitched in. Believe me, it helps.”
Scarlet’s knuckles whitened as his fingers tightened on the glass. “Times change. Spectrum is the finest organization we have and we're all proud to serve here. We plan to protect the world from madmen who take innocent lives, and one day I hope to repay someone for what they did to — the first Captain Blue.” Cold fire kindled for a moment in his brilliant eyes.
Blue felt uncomfortably that any more questions would open doors that Scarlet would prefer to keep firmly closed. He made an attempt to change the subject. “You were one of the first Spectrum Agents, weren’t you? Why did you choose the colour scarlet?”
The dark man smiled wryly. “We’d had a hard day; there’d been blood everywhere. It seemed like a good idea, if I was going to stay a target, so I picked blood-red. And White told me no, that’s scarlet. So Scarlet I am.”
A shutter came down suddenly across his foray into the past. “This is getting personal, Captain. We’re not supposed to trade backgrounds.”
“Sorry. I’m not used to security quite this tight between fellow operatives.”
“It doesn’t affect our ability to work together as the best team there is.” Scarlet’s pride in his chosen career was obvious.
“I’m sure it doesn’t, Captain. I'll do my darndest to live up to Spectrum's ideals and I’m honoured to be one of you. Especially to be in such exalted company.” Realising how pompous that sounded, Blue tried to lighten the statement. “Your reputation precedes you.”
“Oh yes? And what do they say about me in the WAS?”
“You’re supposed to be a cross between a computer and Genghis Khan.”
Scarlet’s laugh was infectious, and his spirits seemed to lift. “I’ll have to do my best to live up to that. And what’s your opinion, Captain Blue?”
“I think I’ll reserve judgement until I know you better.”
“A cautious man. That’s an asset in this business, Captain, you tend to live longer.”
Blue tried to match his information to the man opposite, but none of his preconceived images matched the reality. He could glimpse a certain ruthless drive, but he had also seen a vulnerability that took the edge off his hardness. He decided that he could get to like Captain Scarlet one hell of a lot.
Scarlet leaned back in his chair and regarded Blue with a half smile. The liking appeared to be mutual.
“If you want to risk trading reputations, I did glance at a certain restricted file today. I was curious to see how you would match up to it.”
“Oh yes?” Blue raised an eyebrow. “There can't be much of interest on a simple all-American pilot and field agent.”
“No? I'm inclined to disagree. A superior test pilot and active security agent who caused so much trouble that the Bereznians made three separate assassination attempts, all of which you foiled, and brought the perpetrators to justice?”
Blue felt uncomfortable with that disclosure. “I'd rather you didn't spread that around. I had plenty of help from colleagues and I was only doing my job.”
“I'm sure." Scarlet half-smiled at the American's apparent discomfort. "All right, I know how it feels. My lips are sealed."
“You haven’t been assigned a cabin and your uniform yet?”
“No. My flight was delayed so long they thought I wouldn’t be here until tomorrow, and the computer can’t find me.”
“Admin usually manages to make a balls-up of everything.” Scarlet glanced at his watch. “It’s late. You must have had a long day.”
“Too long,” said Blue with feeling.
“I will personally sort out admin’s computer for you. It probably needs a good kick.” He grinned. “It’s no use being Genghis Khan if I can’t throw my weight around a little sometimes. Come along, Captain, let’s get you settled in.”
Blue followed, warmed by the feeling of friendship he had received from the legendary Captain. With no good reason, he felt he’d already known Scarlet half his life.
“Captain Blue! Where do you think you’re going?”
Blue started out of his reverie to find himself ankle-deep in a particularly foul-smelling looking bog. He extricated himself with as much speed as possible, following Captains Gold and Sepia up a heathery slope against the driving rain.
Just over the top of the rise, he thankfully saw the entrance to the air-shaft, which indicated the end of the exercise.
Ochre was already there, kneeling by the open pit beside a pile of equipment, his hand on the heavy rope leading down into the shaft.
He looked worried. “Captain Scarlet is ten minutes overdue. He’s not answering the emergency callsign, and he’s not in the shaft. Major Brown, we’ve lost him.”
Brown was not at all disturbed. If anything, he seemed mildly amused. “That may be the last time he takes bloody stupid risks just to prove how clever he is.”
Blue was shocked. “If he’s in trouble we’ve got to get him out.”
“I’m not risking any more lives. The backup team will be here in thirty minutes, it’ll take breathing apparatus to fetch him out if he’s lost his way and hit a pocket of gas.”
“Gas? Walking through radon can’t hurt anyone.”
“Not radon; methane pockets.”
“But there was no gas in the main tunnel — and you said nothing about any in the other routes.”
“Then whose fault is it if he’s walked into some, Captain Blue? He was told not to deviate from the main tunnel. If he took it upon himself to make a reckless detour, he’s paying the price.”
“Damn it, he was following orders to take the fastest route. Your orders.” A sudden cold fury filled Blue. “You didn’t tell any of the others about the secondary branch. You bastard, you knew he’d take the risk, that’s why you told him. You deliberately put him in danger. We’ve got to go down and find him.”
“If he takes unnecessary risks, he has no one to blame but himself. Captain Scarlet always has to prove himself better than everyone else, but pride goes before a fall, Captain. I’m not sending another man down there.”
Brown looked at him hard. “Why?”
“To save his life, damn it. He’s valuable. White keeps telling us he’s the best agent we have, and you’re not going to lift a finger to help him?”
“I didn’t ask for volunteers, Captain,” Brown said coldly.
“Well you’ve got one. And if you stop me by force I’ll report to Colonel White in full. In full, Brown, I mean it.” At that moment, Blue could willingly have strangled Brown with his bare hands. “Stand aside, I’m going down. Ochre — keep on the air, I’ll be in touch.”
The other American picked up a flashlight. “I’ll come with you, Captain.”
“No you don’t,” snapped Brown. “I’ll allow one suicidal fool, but not two. Stand your ground, Captain Ochre, or you’ll be court-martialled.”
Blue guessed that the Major was only letting him go in the hope of losing him as well. He rummaged in the field medical kit from the pile of equipment and extracted the emergency respirator, hanging it round his neck. Then he took the flashlight from Ochre, and climbed over the lip of the hole without a backward glance.
He lowered himself down the rope as fast as he could without falling, swinging dangerously for a moment while he tucked the flashlight inside his tunic. It was a long way down, but not as long as it had seemed to climb up, and at least now he had light.
The main tunnel was visible for some way, but he was certain Scarlet had not taken that route. He had overheard Brown telling him about minor branches, some of which were dead ends, and one that cut a straighter course back to the shaft. Knowing Scarlet, he had taken the risk of that way being unsafe or blocked, just for the hell of it.
There was only one opening it could be. He ducked into it and half ran with his head bent, stumbling over the uneven surface and bumping himself on the narrow walls. The confining blackness was illuminated patchily by the beam clipped to his shoulder as he strained his eyes for any sign of life, shouting Scarlet’s name. The only reply he received was a dull echo.
A short way in the air grew heavy, and Blue found himself breathing with difficulty. He stopped, forced to take a breath from the oxygen mask, feeling weak and light-headed. Methane must be present, as he had feared. It was invisible and odourless. The only warning he would get would be when he started to choke, and if he passed out he was done for.
He called Scarlet’s name continuously, but if there was any response it was lost in the echoes.
The rough walls seemed to eat up his torchlight, making the powerful beam almost useless. The passage was haphazardly cut from the rock, with rough niches and short cul-de-sacs, far rougher than the main route. In the dark it must have been almost impossible to negotiate.
Blue was almost up to it before he saw the splash of red uniform, huddled in a deep cleft. The Captain had only made two thirds of the way.
Holding his breath he ran forward and grabbed Scarlet under the armpits, dragging him back along the tunnel the way he had come, into what seemed like fresher air.
He activated his cap communicator. “Ochre from Blue, I’ve found Scarlet. Will you get someone down here fast, we need help.” He wasted no time waiting for a reply.
“Hey Scarlet, buddy.” He pulled the limp body over, pressing his fingers under his jaw to search for a pulse. It fluttered and died, the thready trickle barely enough to sustain life.
“Goddamn it!” He tilted Scarlet’s head back and began mouth to mouth resuscitation. If he had been unconscious for more than a few minutes in a dense pocket of gas he was as good as dead. But the concentrations must vary. He might be lucky.
Scarlet’s chest rose and fell as Blue gave the initial four quick breaths, and then began a steady rhythm.
After five breaths he unzipped Scarlet’s tunic and pushed up his black shirt, placing the heel of one hand over the lower half of the sternum with the other on top, exerting full cardiac compression. He worried about breaking ribs, but he cared more about bringing the Captain back to life. Sweat stung his eyes as he alternated the two rhythms, maintaining a cycle of two full breaths mouth-to-mouth between each fifteen compressions.
“Breathe, damn you, breathe,” he gasped. “I’m not going to lose you now.” He was afraid he would be unable to keep up the respiration until help arrived; he was almost passing out himself. The air that had seemed fresh when he began was barely breathable, and a throbbing pain began to build up in his temples.
His desperate efforts were finally rewarded by a convulsive breath from the unconscious man, and his pulse strengthened. To his immense relief, when Blue stopped his resuscitation, Scarlet continued to breathe without assistance.
Blue sat back on his heels, light-headed and dizzy with the effort, not far from hyperventilating. It took him a moment to return to reality; his whole universe had shrunk to the feel of saving Scarlet’s life.
Grimly he bent over Scarlet again. He was still unconscious, but breathing normally, his pulse rapid but steady. As Blue lifted his head and pressed the mask to his face on full flow, he groaned and his eyes flickered.
Blue coughed and had to take a breath from the mask himself to clear his head, before he got hold of Scarlet and pulled him back farther along the tunnel.
He called the surface again, and at the second try received a faint, garbled response, diffused by the surrounding rock.
“. . . repeat your message. Receiving you with difficulty.”
“Scarlet’s alive, but we need help. Ochre, do you read me? We need assistance.”
The reply was broken up, but it sounded like Brown. “. . . with you in fifteen minutes. I repeat, ground team and equipment ETA fifteen minutes.”
“Thanks for nothing, pal,” muttered Blue. He took a deep breath of oxygen himself to clear his head and the mask back on Scarlet, making a concerted effort to rouse him. “Scarlet, come on, do you hear me? Wake up. Captain Scarlet!” Blue slapped his face and he groaned faintly, twisting his head away. His eyes opened and he focussed dazedly on the fair man.
“Okay, buddy, take it easy. Take a breath of this. Breathe deeply, that’s it, you’ll be okay now. Just take it easy. Help’s on its way.” He raised Scarlet’s shoulders and supported him as he clutched at the mask, coming back to full awareness.
He coughed weakly and pushed it away. “What happened?” he whispered.
“Gas.” Blue took the mask for another welcome breath himself, sick and light-headed from the bad air.
Scarlet muttered something inaudible and twisted away to vomit helplessly, heaving until his stomach was empty.
Blue held his shoulders until the spasm was over, and took another swift breath himself before giving back the mask. “I think we’re going to have to share this, pal, they’re not going to get to us for a few minutes yet.” A slight understatement, he thought bitterly. “Can you hang on? How do you feel?”
“I’ll live.” Scarlet coughed again, his voice hoarse. “Blue, what are you doing here? You were on the other team.”
“Looking for you, pal. Looks like I got here just in time.”
Scarlet wiped a dirty hand across his face. “I didn’t expect gas,” he said weakly. “I thought I’d lost my way, I was trying to get back and I couldn’t breathe. That’s the last thing I remember. We must get out of here.”
“You take it easy for a spell, you’re damn lucky to be alive. You were right out of it. You were barely breathing when I found you. I had to resuscitate you. And that bastard Brown was going to leave you until the backup team arrived.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“I volunteered. It was a pleasure to tell Brown what to do with his orders. The bastard knew you’d be in trouble, I swear he did. He set you up. You’re the only one he told about the secondary route, and he never mentioned gas to anyone.”
Scarlet coughed and took a series of breaths from the mask before handing it back. He was very pale in the light from Blue’s torch. “I’d have been dead before anyone found me. I owe you my life, Captain Blue.”
“No sweat, pal, and the name’s Adam. Adam Svenson. Born in Boston, in the good old US of A.”
Scarlet grasped his hand in a gesture of greeting and thanks. “Adam. I’m Paul Metcalfe. Winchester, England.”
Blue knew his real name was a rare disclosure. “Paul. I’ll respect that, buddy.”
“I know you will.”
Blue took another breath of oxygen and wiped his face, feeling hot and sick. He knew there must still be gas present. “We ought to get back towards the shaft, the air might be better there. Can you make it?”
Scarlet got up, supporting himself against the curving rocky wall. “I’m right with you. Lead on.”
They made their way slowly back along the tunnel, passing the mask between them. It seemed a long way. Far longer than when Blue had started out. He stopped and reached back to Scarlet, overcome by a wave of dizziness. Scarlet gave him the mask. “How long is this thing going to last?”
Blue took one shallow breath of oxygen. “I don’t know. Long enough, I hope.” His knees buckled and he found himself on the ground, everything swimming. Scarlet was supporting him, pressing the mask to his face. His voice was sharp with concern.
“Captain Blue? Adam, are you all right?”
He lay there for a moment, feeling Scarlet’s hands gripping him while he dazedly tried to gather his thoughts. “Must have slipped.” He forced himself upright with an effort, his head pounding. Scarlet offered the mask again, but he refused. “Save it. I’m okay.”
“Come on, we must keep on our feet. If this is methane, it’s heavier than air.”
“It wasn’t this bad when I came in.”
“We must be disturbing pockets of gas. Are you sure they’re sending someone down? They seem to be taking their time.”
“Yeah, they better had,” Blue muttered, “or Spectrum’s going to be two men short.”
Scarlet was breathing heavily himself, white and sweating, holding himself upright by sheer willpower. Blue put an arm around him, but he pulled away. “I’m all right.”
“You look lousy.”
“Speak for yourself, Captain.”
“Come on buddy, lean on me and we can hold each other up. If we don’t, I can tell you, I’m not going to make it.”
The long walk became a half-remembered struggle for survival, from which the only clear recollection was the stab of pain in Blue’s head, and the determination that they were both going to make it. The knowledge that Brown waited on the surface, not expecting to see either of them emerge, was enough to keep him moving against the lethargy that threatened to drag him to his knees.
The narrow walls seemed to close in on every side, and the rock was sharp under his hands as he tried to fend them off. The only true reality left was the grip of Scarlet’s hand on his arm.
Then suddenly he was fighting for breath again, and waves of blackness swept all conscious thought away.
Events after that were confused. He remembered breathing fresh air again, seeing faces, feeling hands, asking and being assured that Scarlet was okay. But he was out of things for a long time. He retained no true recollection of the journey away from that sodden Scottish turf up into the cloudy sky.
It seemed for a while that he was dreaming a wonderful dream. He was weightless, swaying on a gauzy cloud high in a deep blue sky, and far below him the familiar shape of Cloudbase floated in its perpetual orbit.
Blue turned his head again to try to see his companion, but the movement made the blue sky fade and brought a looming white-clad figure. He blinked, focussing with some difficulty on the familiar features of Doctor Fawn.
“That’s better,” Fawn said. “It’s good to have you back with us, Captain.”
Reality filtered back slowly, displacing the nebulous remnants of the dream.
“Great to be back,” Blue whispered hoarsely. “Guess I’m home.”
There were no serious after-effects to his adventure, and Blue was out of sickbay the next day. After a memorable interview with Colonel White, the first thing he did was go to Scarlet’s cabin, unsure of where exactly to find him.
The remote-control door opened under Blue’s knock, and he entered with an exclamation of pleasure. “Scarlet! You’re all right?”
The dark man got up from his console with a smile. “I’m fine. They let me out this morning.”
“Fawn told me you were okay, but he wouldn’t even let me see you in sickbay.”
“There was nothing to see. Only a headache and a couple of sprung ribs.”
“That was me. Sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’m still alive.”
Blue sat down on the end of the bunk, his voice holding slight accusation. “Fawn also told me that when they found us, I was wearing the oxygen mask.”
“I don’t know about that, I don’t remember a thing.”
Scarlet’s clear blue eyes met his. “We both came out of it alive, Adam, that’s all that matters.”
“I guess so. But I know I owe you.”
“Nothing to what I owe you, if we’re counting scores. Perhaps we should wipe the slate clean and start again?”
“That suits me, Captain.”
“I imagine you were on the carpet the minute you were out of sickbay?” Scarlet ventured.
“Yeah, well, it was no big deal. You know Colonel White.” Blue mimicked their commander’s gruff voice. “Captain Blue, I must inform you that a count of insubordination has been entered into your record. And I should like to be assured that if that had been a real mission, you would not have jeopardised it by risking a foolhardy rescue attempt of that nature?”
“So I told him, Yes sir, if that had been a mission I’d have done exactly what was necessary to ensure its success, which might have meant leaving Captain Scarlet to die — or rescuing him because he was the best man for the job. But it was a training session, with the objective of improving every man’s potential. I should have been failing in my duty if I left a valuable officer to die while I could offer assistance.” Blue grinned. “Well, I mean, what could he do except agree?”
Scarlet laughed. “I think we both came out of it pretty well, despite Brown’s efforts to the contrary.”
“Did you hear the news? Ochre told White the whole story, and Brown’s gone. Dishonourable discharge. I don’t know what happens to one of us who gets kicked out, and I don’t think I want to. He’s ceased to exist, until some new guy takes over his code-name. I guess we’ll have to officially forget any of this ever happened.”
“But not unofficially. I don’t intend to forget.”
“Neither will I, buddy. Paul.” He offered his hand and Scarlet accepted his firm grasp.
“Thank you, Adam.”
“I guess this means we’re friends, even if it’s forbidden?”
“You don’t need to guess. You could say it’s a fact.”
“What happens if Colonel White finds out we know each other’s real identities?”
“I have no idea. Perhaps we get dropped off Cloudbase without parachutes?” Scarlet smiled at his own joke. “I always liked to live dangerously. In fact, I believe you may be right, and a buddy to watch your back is a distinct asset. We shall have to make some changes around here. Now, if you’re feeling up to it, how about a drink?
“Sure thing. And next time we’re back on Earth I’ll buy you a real drink in a real bar.”
“That sounds an excellent idea, Adam. Captain, I should say. He made an exaggerated gesture towards the door. “Lead on, Captain Blue.”
Blue made a mock salute. “No, after you, Captain Scarlet.”
Laughing, they made the exit together, heedless of who might notice that a true friendship had been forged; and unaware that such bonds would be needed to sustain them all throughout the hard, dark years of Mysteron war.