Lieutenant Green pressed the start tab on the recorder to play back the latest threat that the Mysterons had postulated to the Captains assembled in the conference room.
"This is the voice of the Mysterons. We will continue our acts of retaliation by destroying your more EXTREME top warriors and their commanders to hamper Spectrum."
Having heard it, the Lieutenant turned off the player and Colonel White nodded slightly, then looked at the group around him.
“Good one. How can they destroy totally unrelated people to hamper us?” Captain Magenta asked of those at the conference table with him.
“I can think of a couple reasons,” said Captain Grey. “One, because there is so many of them and two, because some of them have already been tapped to here. Hitting us that way is going to hurt.”
“Quite right, Captain Grey. There is more to it though. If they attempt to hinder us, they could attack anywhere and we would not be able to defend against them. We just can't be everywhere at a moment’s notice yet,” stated Colonel White. “I want lists of who ‘the extreme warriors ’ are, and in what fields, gentlemen. We need it fast. I don’t believe we’ve had this much ground to cover in one threat for some time.”
“Well, then hopefully they might be a bit cooperative and give us some help. Some of them can be rather, um… contrary,” commented Captain Scarlet with a wry smile on his face.
“And just who might those be, Captain Scarlet?” asked Captain Grey. He knew, but it was better if they heard it from Scarlet.
“I know of some real winners that won't be any help whatsoever,” said Scarlet. He ticked them off on his fingers. "We're talking about commandos, pilots, some divers, and berets. I personally know some really extreme ones."
“Why not?” asked Captain Ochre.
“They’re unconventional,” Captain Scarlet commented, with a grin. "They always try to push their limits."
“And they’re in the military?” asked Captain Blue.
Captain Grey nodded. “Call it a pressure release, but some of them go out of their way to pull extreme stunts.”
“Making them perfect targets,” Captain Blue groaned.
“That's about the size of it, yes,” affirmed Scarlet.
“Very well, find out where they are, and just what they’re up to. Maybe we can slow them down,” Colonel White stated.
“I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, sir," remarked Captain Grey. He knew of a couple of people like that as well.
At that moment, one such team was involved in exactly that, hanging under an overhang on a cliff in Yosemite National Park. The ropes linking them in their climb had been stretched around the roof of the overhang and several men were inching their way to the edge to climb up. Several climbers were stalled as the climber in front of them stopped mid-way under the overhang.
“Move your ass, Ricco! Quit dogging! The rest of us need to get up there while you hang around!” snapped Stone, slapping at the man's leg. The climber in question looked down, one hand wedged into the crack where the man needed to place his own hand.
"Yeah, come on, bail!" shouted another climber.
“Pull him off Roller!” carped yet another.
“Just checkin' out the view,” the Aussie chuckled, as he sucked in a deep breath of fresh air.
He looked up and moved upward and over the area that had stopped him, climbed over edge, to stand of the top of the cliff, the rest following a bit more rapidly since he was out of the way.
Finally they all stood on the top and looked around. Ricco nodded approval of the incredible view from where they stood. The others glared at him vindictively. Their Flight Commander stood watching the situation as it developed, grinning.
“We’ve got nothing like this back home,” he said quietly.
“Well, nothing this high at any rate either,” said his commanding officer. “Next time you decide you’re going to hang around like that, I’ll let you drop. Maybe I should let the guys throw you off.”
The implied threat had several of the team move toward him, grinning wickedly. He looked at them, distressed, and tried to back up. A crop of rock at knee level stopped him, throwing him off balance.
A warbling sound from eight wrists made them all look at their Commander. Ricco relaxed slightly. The Flight Commander raised his wrist Com to his mouth.
“In case you’ve forgotten we have those war games to get to. Last one down buys the beer! Commander excluded of course.” The echoes of nine COM links echoed out over the top of the cliff.
“Rodger transmission Cat. We’ll rendezvous with you shortly,” replied their Commander.
The team made a few changes to their gear and looked at the Commander expectantly.
“What are you waiting for?” he asked. They paused, waiting for the order. “Well, move it!”
With that, the eight men turned and shot off and out over the top of the cliff, each trying to make sure he would be clear from the other man's chute when it deployed. Anyone on the ground, and unfortunately in this case it meant a park ranger, would have assumed it was a mass suicide jump. He could hear the yells and whoops above him and groaned. He saw the first ram chute open, his legs buckling on him in relief. Other chutes deployed and finally all of the team was on the ground, with the sole exception of the Commander. He had decided to wait until it was clear to jump. Now they could see him jumping and watched to see when his chute would deploy. The men on the ground began to get a bit panicky in their own right and started yelling for him to pull the cord. Finally the chute opened, the men breathing a collective sigh of relief . When their Commander touched down, they saw the smirk on his face and knew they’d been had.
“Are you cracked?” asked Ricco, the Australians voice was wavering.
“Look who's talking? Just got a bit warm up there. I just felt like cooling off a little bit,” he laughed. “Besides, I’ve opened chutes lower than that.”
The team groaned and gathered up their things, piling everything into the jeeps and heading back to where the big Hercules was situated on a nearby runway. They reached the plane and boarded, both jeeps being secured, several of the team securing their equipment, while the ramp closed up. Once it was secure, the team strapped in and the Commander went into the cockpit, sat down by the teams pilot, and prepared and for take off. The Herc was given permission to take off from the field's controller and he watched as the bird took off smoothly, the shooting star emblem overlapping the accompanying Phoenix, emblazoned boldly on the tail.
“What results have you obtained gentlemen?” asked Colonel White.
“Sir, it looks like the Black Beret teams are preparing to participate in their annual war games. Other than that, it appears as if there will be no other groups doing anything, so we're assuming they are the target the Mysterons will try and take out,” remarked Captain Magenta. "It looks to be a perfect setup as well. The larger the group, the easier to take them out, something the Mysterons would love."
“And where are these games being held?” the Colonel inquired.
“Um, there’s a problem there, sir. No-one knows. All we’ve been able to dig up are rumors,” Captain Ochre informed him.
“Where are the rumors situated?”
“Calgary, Sandhurst, Moscow and …Koala,” said Captain Blue. He knew the Colonel would not like this news.
“I've been expecting that. Focus on Koala Base. The rest are blinds," said Colonel White.
"Sir?" questioned Captain Scarlet. He and the other Captains were a bit surprised that the Colonel already knew where it was being held.
"Relax Captain. Last night I received a message warning of the impending attack.” He picked up a piece of paper from his desk and looked at it. “ It goes "Requesting use of FORT KNOX. Big Party and there are some neighbors that don't want us to have any fun. Will adhere to any restrictions placed. Party guests will be SIX…Pharaoh, Aztec, Polar Ice, Taz, Lone Wolf, and Firestar. Highland and Crest staying at home to mind the store.” It is signed, Commander PITAC.”
"I thought our concern was to be on the Berets. Those are aerobatic flying teams," said Captain Grey.
"Only superficially, Captain. When the 'Blacks' were in their inception, it was considered giving them a cover. Bearing in mind that ninety percent of them have flying skills these days, they blended the two. Would you expect to see a group of showy pilots as the dirtiest fighters around?" said Colonel White. He heard a soft groan from someone in the room.
"No sir," Magenta replied, surprised at the information
"When do these…guests arrive?" asked Captain Grey.
"Soon," Colonel White said. “I want security on alert at those two bases that are remaining on station, Crest in St Petersburg and Highland near Inverness.”
"SIG," replied the Captains.
“Sir, We’ve just had a breech on our perimeter, five planes, all heading south,” Lieutenant Green reported.
“Launch the Angels,” he ordered.
Angel One launched and headed after the interlopers, quickly overtaking them. Two jets broke off and harassed her, forcing her away from the main group and diverting her, One of them actually getting a tone lock on her, before breaking it off. Angels Two and Three followed the other party and also found themselves in a tone lock after some rather interesting aerial maneuvers.
“Cloudbase, Destiny Angel here. I think these guys are part of a flight demonstration team. They haven’t harmed us, but they are playing with us,” she reported.
“Can you determine what team, Destiny?” came the Spectrum Commander's voice.
“Affirmative. There’s an emblem of a Phoenix and it has a wolf's head partially covering it,” she declared.
“Lone Wolf I would imagine. They're one of six teams that will be arriving, Destiny. Escort them to Koala's outer marker and return. Don't let their antics throw you off. They're one of the more… flamboyant flight teams," said Colonel White.
On board the larger plane that had come with them, the teams Commander was grinning at the overheard communication.
“S.I.G… Isn’t that just… so… cute,” he chuckled, acerbically.
“Hey, we got tone on them Leader. You can’t get any better than that,” his Twic told him.
“Yes we can. We can take out Trojan and his team,” said Leader, immediately growing surly.
“We’ll get them,” came the reassurance of another of his people.
The Angels followed and saw the planes descend nearby. They wondered how they had gotten approval to be there. Koala Base's Commander would not be happy to have so many unauthorized people on the base. Colonel White had already informed him and the Base Commander had taken precautions, assigning the teams away from the main campus, in barracks near the course. He had also restricted the cadets from going in that area for the next few days. Colonel White had Captain Scarlet go down and find out what teams had arrived. After an hour, he reported in that five teams had arrived thus far, Lone Wolf from South America, Pharaoh from North Africa, Aztec from Mexico, Taz from Australia, and Polar Ice from Canada. Firestar, the team from the States, was still absent. The Colonel asked Captains Ochre and Magenta to find the Firestar Commander as soon that group arrived.
By now, the Firestar team was nearing Koala and after several tradeoffs for pilots and several mid air refuels; the plane was finally reaching its destination. The Commander was still seated in the pilot's seat, but watching as they descended to land at the base. Glancing back into the rear of the plane, the team was listening to some music and several of the team juggling things. Trojan chuckled at that, and looked at his copilot, Lieutenant-Commander Devon Ricco Richards. The Australian was a bit tense.
“Look, Angel's going to be fine okay? I know I asked you to come, Dev; but you didn't have to now, did you? Geez, you’re behaving as if you were going to bust,” Trojan laughed.
“Hey, just never been a dad before, is all,” he grinned.
“Look, Jess has promised to keep you informed okay? He’s good for that and you know it. Now relax. She’s not due for another month at any rate, if you’re lucky that is. It's too bad this base is so high security or we could have sweet talked her to come see you to calm you down,” Trojan teased him.
“Just my luck she goes into labor while we’re in the middle of something. It’s not fair!” Ricco grumbled. "You better remember you promised that I'd be home in time for this. I'm holding you to it."
"I know and we’ll both be there, now just relax okay? Do some of that breathing she’s so fond of. Just be glad she isn't letting you feel her false labor pains, its not fun and her cravings! GEEZ!" Trojan complained. "Be good and we'll divert to Sydney after this is over so you can make sure she's okay."
Trojan could understand the man's nerves were shot over this. The fact that Angel was due to have twins didn’t help either. Dev was literally a basket case. Trojan didn't really know how he was functioning because of it.
The plane landed with no problem after receiving clearance, and was guided to where the other Beret planes were secured. Trojan shut down systems and looked back again, the team stowing equipment and getting ready to be checked over by base security as was to be expected, the high security checks being a major portion of their being given access to the base. An eyebrow arched as Trojan caught sight of two Spectrum Captains boarding the Herc. Trojan undid the flight harness and stood, stretching slightly, pulled on a team cap, then went to greet the new arrivals. A sleek silver and black dog padded beside him. Captain Ochre cast it a quick glance. The dog had sat down and had its right paw in the air, as if it were saluting.
“Captains, may I help you?” Trojan asked.
“Maybe. We’re looking for the Flight Commander,” said Captain Ochre.
“That would be me,” the lanky commando replied, the pale eyes alert and checking Ochre and Magenta out.
“Would you please come with us?” requested Captain Magenta.
Richards was exiting the cockpit and he looked at the two Captains, Trojan observing a slight start on Richards’s part.
“Its okay Ricco. Go get settled with the others for now okay? Tell Gander I’m with these guys”, Trojan informed him, smiling. “Keep Brown Eye's here. I don’t think she’ll want to fly anymore,” He caught the unconscious flinch from one of the Captains at the mention of Richards nickname as he leaned to stroke the elkhounds head.
“Confirm. Come on sweets,” Ricco chuckled, and with a hand signal called the dog to his side, where she sat down once more, then repeated the salute to Ochre.
Trojan left the plane and went with the two Captains to a copter that was waiting nearby. After looking it over appreciatively Trojan smiled slightly at it, nodding approval.
“Very nice,” was the comment.
“You like copters Commander?” asked Captain Magenta.
“Yes. Planes are a stop gap, but copters now, these babies are the real workhorses,” the commando remarked, running a hand over the side of the unique chopper. Captain Ochre got the impression the man would drool any second. The way he was eyeballing the vehicle was so familiar. It was like he’d seen this before.
They boarded the copter and headed to Cloudbase, and after being checked through security once more; Trojan was shown to where Colonel White was waiting in a conference room. Trojan grinned and nodded as he entered the room and removed the Firestar cap he wore. He saluted Colonel White. The Colonel looked at him, and returned the salute a bit sharply. Trojan sat down running his fingers through his hair after he had been seated.
“Commander, we need to talk,” White said, irritably.
"Yes sir I believe we do," agreed the Flight Commander.
“Thank you, Captains.”
Both men nodded and left.
“You get the impression he knows him?” asked Captain Ochre.
“Looked a bit like it, didn’t it?” agreed Magenta.
“I wonder where from?” questioned Ochre.
The two men discussed the problem of the teams being at Koala and Colonel White found himself agreeing with Trojan on why the base had been requisitioned with the advance knowledge of the threat to come. The Colonel and Trojan went to the Mess and had a light lunch together, still discussing the war games to be held below them. Captain Scarlet observed the two surreptitiously, for securities sake. The Colonel was in a seemingly better mood now for some reason. Both of them seemed like old friends.
They returned to Command Central and the Colonel called Captain Ochre to take the Commander back to Koala. Ochre went to get the Flight Commander and the two walked side by side to the hanger, Ochre getting the impression the man knew his way around the base, the Captain not having to correct him on their destination as they made the turns to reach the hanger. They boarded the copter and after launching, Trojan looked at the Captain.
“Captain, would you mind if I tried to fly this little darling?” Trojan inquired.
“These are highly complex machines Commander, and very different from regular copters,” Captain Ochre said trying to dissuade him.
“Oh, I’m well aware they are not like normal copters,” Trojan conceded. He watched the Captain as his hands played over the copters controls while he flew them back to Koala.
Nothing more was said and they landed near the Firestar Herc to find the team waiting and running through a practice of some kind. Captain Ochre chuckled as two men worked out with swords. He glanced at Trojan.
“A bit archaic don’t you think?” he inquired.
“No. Anything can be a weapon. They use swords, but they’ve used pipes as well. Anything in a pinch. That kind of thinking has kept them alive Captain,” Trojan laughed. "Our C in C is very happy they do know that there are more than just guns and grenades. We even use the banned items list from several plane hijackings as well." Captain Ochre nodded in appreciation. He would have never considered that list as helpful in such a manner.
Trojan slipped out of the copter and Ochre saw him take one of the swords and ‘fight’ the other man. Both men moved quickly and Trojan got him in short order. Trojan then handed the sword to another man and walked off. Captain Ochre headed back to Cloudbase and when he landed, Colonel White requested his presence. He hurried to Command and as he entered, he saw Colonel White standing near the observation tube. Captain Scarlet was with him.
“Captain Ochre, how many people did you see in the Firestar team?” asked White.
“Ten, sir,” reported Ochre. “Why?”
“Good. That seems to be around their normal full compliment,” he commented. “Are the other teams about the same size?”
“It does seem to be the average size Colonel,” said Scarlet. "Several of them have a few more however."
“Excellent,” said Colonel White. “Trojan informed me that the two other teams that are not participating, is due to the possible chance of a situation arising while they are here. If all the teams were present, there would be eight teams, and therefore a great deal harder to keep an eye on these men. Security was dispatched to watch the two remaining teams, and they are in place now.”
“Do you know Trojan, sir?” asked Captain Ochre.
“I’ve met him before, yes Captain,” said Colonel White. “I was able to obtain more information about what's happening with the war games. Firestar is the top team this year, and as the top team, they set the rules for the rest of the teams. Sadly, they cannot enforce the rest of the teams’ agreement in letting us watch over them, but in bringing them here they took control of the situation and made the decision moot. Trojan is willing to have us watch over his team, and if the top team says its one way, the rest normally follow suit. He won't vouch for the others so the two of you will still go and talk with the other team commanders to get them to agree for us to levy higher security about them. Let them know that Firestar has acquiesced to our request if you need to. Trojan believes that the others will agree but thinks there might be a bit of resistance from Lone Wolf. He’s offered to help us convince Leader, if it comes to it. Gentlemen, don’t let what you see deceive you. All of these teams are worried. They heard the threat and none of them like it. They have a schedule of what they have planned for their games, which the Commander gave me a copy so we can make arrangements on how we’re going to keep an eye on them.”
“Why did they come to Koala, sir?” asked Captain Scarlet.
“I asked that of Trojan and he explained Firestar's early warning system suggested it. As to how she knew about Koala is quite beyond me,” said Colonel White. Captain Scarlet grinned and nodded.
“Sir?” questioned Captain Ochre, uncertain over the reference.
“Where is she now, sir?” Captain Scarlet inquired.
“At Koala with the rest of the team,” Colonel White replied.
“I didn’t see her.”
“Regardless of that fact, she is there. Trojan assured me that all of the team members are present,” said Colonel White. “Get down there and talk to the team Commanders and make certain they will cooperate.”
The two Captains left Cloudbase and headed back down to Koala.
“I’m starting to feel like a yo-yo,” said Captain Ochre. “What were you and the Colonel talking about anyway?”
“The warning system?” he chuckled wryly. “ My cousin, Cijay. Remember the picture frame you made for me?" Ochre nodded. " It was her. She has premonitions and had the wit to have the Beret teams placed on our doorstep because she had one before the Mysterons made their threat,” said Captain Scarlet." She's getting better; the last major one that I know about, she had on the day her boyfriend died. Too bad it was as it occurred."
"So she sent the letter?" Captain Scarlet nodded. "I thought it was a Commander Pitac," said Captain Ochre.
"It was, sort of. PITAC is her term for 'Pain In The Ass Commando'."
“You know, I was on board the plane right after it landed and I didn’t see a female there. Are you certain?” asked Captain Ochre; his heart pounding, knowing Charlie was so close.
“If the Colonel says she’s there, then she’s there. Why are you so curious about her? Don’t tell me you actually want to meet her,” said Scarlet.
“Why don’t you introduce us? I’m starting to think she is interesting,” said Ochre, grinning at his friend.
“If I see her, and If she’ll want to meet, and If we get the chance, then okay,” agreed Scarlet. “Although why you would want to meet her is beyond me.”
“Curiosity. It seems to me she can handle a motorbike pretty well. She avoided me and that takes a bit of doing,” Ochre chuckled.
“Damn stupid if you ask me. She could have been killed. Mind you it wouldn’t be the first time. Some twit almost got her killed when she was thirteen.”
Captain Ochre looked at the man beside him and wondered if he knew just who the ‘twit’ had been. He had to bite his tongue to keep from telling him exactly who had gotten who involved with that little episode.
The copter landed and they headed to see the base Commander to learn exactly where he had quartered the Beret teams. Once they knew where each of the teams had been lodged, they started to make the rounds to discuss the situation with the remaining Commanders and their Twics. They reached the barracks that Lone Wolf had been assigned, and they learned that Leader was in the Ranks club, and unfortunately flirting with a couple of the female Spectrum cadets he had met outside the barracks. This rankled both men, since they were aware that the teams had agreed to stay out of the Ranks club, and away from the female cadets to boot. They headed to the Ranks club, entering to see a large group at one table. All were female, except for one man. They didn't hear the door open and close behind them.
“One of these days… I’ll kill that SOB,” came a soft, quiet voice behind them.
Both Captains turned and looked to see a Major standing behind them, hands on her hips, a murderous look on her face.
“Cijay?” asked Captain Scarlet. This did not look like the cousin he had encountered recently on his last trip home.
“What?” she snapped waspishly, glancing at him, the anger on her ice-blue eyes unsettling to him.
“Hi?” he replied weakly, hands up in a warding gesture.
She only nodded and walked over to the table and grabbed the burly male seated there and started to reprimand him. As she did, the cadets bid a hasty retreat passing by the two Captains and keeping their heads down so hopeful neither Captain would be able to tell who they were. Both Captains however, smirked at them as they headed out the door. Scarlet looked at Cijay as she kept up the tirade on Leader.
“Are you absolutely certain you want to meet her?” he questioned as Ochre watched the now forceful Major, his eyes going wide at the dressing-down she was wreaking on the man.
“There has got to be a soft side to her under that,” Ochre said. He knew it was there, somewhere. He had never seen her like this either and it troubled him.
“If there is, I haven’t seen it so far," Scarlet remarked, in dismay.
“Neither have I,” came a new voice. They looked to see Terry standing there. Watching her, his eyes reflected his alarm in her behavior. He shook his head. “She's never been like this before.”
As they looked on, she pulled the Lone Wolf Commander with her to meet with the Captains.
“Leader, Captains Scarlet and …?” She stated, introducing them, virtually shoving the Lone Wolf Commander in their faces in her anger.
“Ochre,” replied Ochre quickly.
“You need to have a chat with these guys and you KNOW you’re not allowed in here!” she snarled at Leader, shaking his jacket and thus forcing him to get her point across. “That was part of the deal!”
“Trojan has you playing cop, does he?” Leader growled.
“Damn right. I know the places you pains in the butts will hang out. Go with the Captains and I won’t tell Trojan you were here, but you come back again, or any member of your team and you’re OUT for the year,” she hissed. “Then you stay on base the next time around for cover.”
“You can’t do that. Only Trojan can!” he objected.
“I tell him you were here and he’ll back me up and you know it!” she reminded him, her voice venomous.
“I refuse to take orders from a female!” he snapped and made a move to attack her.
All three Spectrum men attempted to prevent anything from occurring. They never had a chance to do a thing. Cijay grabbed Leader in a Sleeper hold and held him firmly, an arm around his neck and her mouth close to his ear. From where Captain Scarlet stood, her eyes were flashing in anger. Captain Ochre and Terry were truly startled at her behavior.
“Don’t mess with me Leader, or I’ll break your neck. You know I’m Trojan's Twic. Gander even agreed to let me be Second for this. So, do you want to head back home now or what?” she snapped.
“You bitch!” he started, she began to choke him slightly. He felt his head being pulled back slightly, her arm tightening around his neck. “Alright. We’ll stay out, but I want you, one on one.” His voice was strangled sounding to the three men.
“Fine. After it’s all decided, one on one. You really want to be brought down so far?” she asked, as she released him.
“I’ll wipe the floor with you,” he snarled as he rotated his neck slightly.
“Only in your dreams, Leader,” she said calmly. “Go talk with the Captains.”
“Fine,” he looked at the two Captains, then back to her, and pointed at her. “You’re dead.”
They all left the ranks, Cijay walking along one of the sidewalks to head back to her barracks when Terry caught up with her and grabbed her arm to stop her. She turned to look at him and saw his concern.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” he asked.
“I’m with Firestar, Dad. I'm part of the team. I’m supposed to be here,” she stated, matter-of-factly.
“When did this take place?” he asked, in shock over the revelation.
“After Commander Fraser vanished,” she said. He caught the glare in her eye. She was still angry. “I’ve got to go. I have stuff that I have to do.”
He watched her leave, and let her go, not wanting to make any further attempt to continue the discussion. Trying to talk with her when she was angry never served any purpose. He'd hunt her down later on. He returned to where both Captains were having little success in persuading Leader to cooperate. Before they could do anything a number of black garbed men swooped down and took Leader captive. One of the men looked at them from behind a balaclava.
"Captains, Major, we need to take our associate for a discussion. He won't be harmed, although if you want, you can come along and make sure as to the veracity of his safety. I know our Flight Commander won't mind," he said as Leader glared at the hooded commandos.
Captain Scarlet nodded and they watched as Leader's eyes were covered. They were taken to a barracks near the lake where Leader was quickly bound to a chair. The trio from Spectrum was astonished to see rest of his team waiting. They all looked as Trojan entered the room with some papers in his hand. Trojan motioned they take seats to one side where they could observe everything. He looked at one of the team and nodded.
“Well, Leader, ole buddy, you’re at it again, are ya? Not going to do any more than you have to, eh?” asked the man.
“Let me go. Snatches mean disciplinary actions!” he snapped.
“I don’t think so. Leader, your life’s in danger in case you haven’t realized it. Spectrum wants to keep us alive, but you’re giving us all a bad name. You better cooperate or it will go very hard on you,” said another man.
“Yeah, HOW?” he hissed in anger.
“This. We show it to them, you’ll never make it!” came the reply.
The hood was pulled off and he was looking at some paper. He groaned loudly.
“Recognize it don’t you? Thought you might. You know they won’t put up with this kind of baloney from you once they know who you are and we can tell them. You’ll never get in. The attitude you have sucks Leader. Disobeying direct orders from the Admiral of all things for a start. No-one on the teams is allowed NEAR the Spectrum cadets, especially the girls! The Ranks is out of bounds! You know that! All the teams do! All the team commanders agreed with the Admiral's stipulations, even you! Two choices are open. One, you behave and do exactly what you’re told, no haggling, or two, you head home now and lose all points for the year. What’s your choice?” snarled a male voice.
“Okay! We’ll cooperate,” he groused.
“One more wrong move on your part and you’re headed home. Got me?” Trojan now snapped.
He grabbed Leader’s shirt and leaned close to him, so he could see who was telling him off. Leader didn’t respond.
“Do you understand, soldier?” Trojan reiterated, angrily.
“Confirm,” Leader snarled. “Watch your back though, Trojan. I can take you down. I plan on taking your honey down too.”
“You’ll only try once Leader, on either of us. You have no idea what Skip's truly like. I heard about the Sleeper hold. A girl did that, Etienne, MY girl. Now get out of here. I only want to see your face on the course,” Trojan ordered, his eyes blazing at the man seated before him.
One of Firestar released Leader and he headed out the door and into the night. Captain Scarlet looked at the team around him and slightly shook his head. These guys were not what he’d imagined them to be. Moreover, Cijay was one of them? He was finding it very hard to believe. What had happened?
Captain Ochre was looking at Trojan, his stomach in knots. His girl? I don’t think so, he thought.
Trojan looked directly at him and a slight smile appeared on his face, a foreign thought suddenly invaded Ochre's mind.
'I’m aware of that Commander Fraser. My girl in regard to being a member of my team is what I meant. I know the lady is taken, and by who.'
Ochre looked at the man, startled. He knew who he was? The only other person who had ever been able to pick up his thoughts, or even send him thoughts that strongly was Charlie. Was the whole team like that? There was something about his 'mental voice' that suddenly nagged at him. Trojan only smiled again. He then turned to look at Captain Scarlet.
“Captain, I hope you’ll understand our method of discipline and not take offense," said Trojan." Leader has always been one of those people that figures he should be top man on the totem pole. He didn’t like the idea when I was assigned command of Firestar. He doesn’t understand why I’m in this position and he isn’t. Unfortunately, I can’t explain it to him, or you either for that matter. Accept our apologies if any of you were unduly manhandled, it was not intentional by any means, and I ask you not to judge the rest of us by Leader. None of us like this situation as I told the Colonel earlier. We do intend on cooperating to the best of our abilities."
“I can understand the discipline, Commander, I’ve seen it in effect before. We don’t judge and we do understand you don’t like being in this position. One question I do have, is why and how a female got on your team," said Captain Scarlet.
“She was tapped to us. Our C in C thought she had some exceptional skills. Now she’s our good luck charm,” said Trojan, chuckling. “Since she’s gotten to Firestar, we’ve managed to walk away from some really unusual situations and only lost one man in three years. I think you know she’s just as qualified as any one of these guys. She wouldn’t be here if she couldn’t handle the situation. Understand that. She gets no special treatment whatsoever.”
“Somehow I don’t think she’d ask for it if she could,” said Captain Ochre.
“Quite true Captain. She plays our cop at the games and makes sure no-one gets too far out of line. The other teams respect her too. I’ve seen a couple of the guys try and take her on in training scenarios and seen them heartily regret it when she whipped their butts. She can put a cop to shame, and with very little trouble at all. I don't know how we managed to survive as long as we did without her,” Trojan grinned. “If you’ll excuse us, we need to get some sleep as lag is beginning to make itself known.”
“Of course, Commander. The Colonel showed us a copy of the plans. We’ll see you tomorrow," said Scarlet.
He turned and left, Captain Ochre and Terry behind him. Once they were outside, He paused.
“Seems a decent guy, doesn’t he?” asked Scarlet.
“Yeah, for all the fact that he is forceful in controlling these guys. Man has an iron will to keep them toeing the mark like he does,” said Captain Ochre.
“Remind you of someone we know?” chuckled Captain Scarlet.
“Yeah. Big time,” grinned Ochre.
" I wonder who the Admiral was he mentioned," Terry wondered.
"I've got an idea of who it was," said Scarlet.
Terry left them, and headed to check on other details that needed covering with his people while he was there. Captains Scarlet and Ochre were heading back to the copter, discussing the events that had occurred, when Ochre plowed into a soldier who wasn’t watching where he was headed. He was looking into a bag, checking something. Ochre grabbed him to keep him from losing his balance even more. A low growl caused him to look down and release the major suddenly. It was the dog he'd seen earlier with Commander Frazier.
“Sorry Major,” Ochre said, spotting the crowns on his shirt.
“Quite all right, Captain, not to worry. I was preoccupied and not really watching where I was going,” came the soft reply, ice-blue eyes meeting his. His heart was in his throat at seeing her again. He couldn't take his eyes off her, and he couldn’t find the strength to move a muscle.
“Hmm. Cijay, are you following me?” asked Captain Scarlet.
“Now why would I do that? I had to get something from your PX,” she replied, looking at Captain Scarlet. She jerked her thumb behind her at the building she had just left.
“What?” he asked.
“Floss, toothbrush, razor, razorblades, bootlaces, some glue, and a few other odds and ends for the guys. Want to see? Are you sure you’re not following me?” she inquired, extending the bag to her cousin and smiling slightly, then cast a quick look to Ochre.
“Hard to tell right now. You heading back to the barracks?”
“Yup,” she yawned. “Are you going to be around tomorrow?”
“Never know. Why?” he replied.
“Nothing serious. I just wanted to know if you’d put me onto the guy that made my frame. There's something I’d like to find out,” she said.
“Oh well if that’s the case, that’s this guy right here,” said Scarlet, motioning to Captain Ochre.
“Captain… Ochre wasn’t it?” He nodded, hesitantly. “Would you be willing to make another frame with parts of the harrier this time? One of my relatives birthdays is coming up and he owns a harrier. I thought it might be good for a laugh,” she said grinning.
“A functioning harrier?” asked Ochre. She nodded. “I’m at your disposal.”
“Good. How about we get together and talk over the arrangements while I'm here?” she suggested.
“Fair enough,” he replied. “I’ll need to see the picture so I can show it off for the best effect,” he said.
“Oddly enough, I have one with me. If I see you tomorrow, remind me and I’ll give it to you,” she added.
“Okay,” he replied. His hand had surreptitiously gone to her waist and remained there. His heart was pounding at seeing her again.
“I better get a wiggle on. Nite guys,” she said, her hand catching his for a moment and she was off. "Come on Kinza." The dog trotted after her.
“Nice lady,” Ochre commented. He smiled to himself. Now that had been his Charlie. He looked at the dog beside her. Kinz? He remembered the day he'd given the cute little puffball to Charlie for her birthday. She'd still been a puppy when he'd joined Spectrum. She was a striking animal now.
“You’re batty,” said Scarlet, shaking his head.
They returned to Cloudbase and made their reports, informing the Colonel on all the events leading up to their return including a mention of running into Cijay. The Colonel nodded with this bit of information. They then headed to their quarters to get some sleep. Ochre undressed and placed his uniform so it was ready for the next day and found some folded paper in his pocket. He hadn’t recalled putting anything in it so he opened it.
“No more hide and seek, okay?” he grinned as he read. Promise he thought to himself.
He pulled on his pj bottoms and slipped under the sheets when a sudden urge to check his clock overwhelmed him. He looked at it and after making sure it was set, he hit the light controls, turning them off, chuckling.
Nite, Sweets, he thought to himself.
Merrrowf! He heard in his mind. He smiled. He’d really missed her being able to touch his mind like that. Just as he was dropping off to sleep, he got the distinct impression of someone giving him a kiss.
The next day had its problems, regardless of all the plans. There were some situations causing the better portion of Taz to have to run around to correct details and straighten up some mix-ups as to who was participating when. Through all of this the overlaying dilemma of the threat aimed at the teams was paramount. Colonel White had instituted procedures that helped a great deal. No observers were allowed from one team or another, only teams that were in competition with each other were allowed access to the venues. Various Captains were assigned to observe teams, and Security was encompassing the base. Spectrum cadets were also requested to help with various situations, but they were restricted to senior male cadets only, and that was running messages from team to team. The cadets alone were permitted to let various teams know who had done what on the course. Trojan or Cijay were allowed to oversee some situations, but not so much as to make the other Commanders feel there was any favoritism by them not being kept in their barracks, as with the other teams.
Colonel White kept in close contact with all his men. The reports coming back were favorable, to the point where he had begun to feel they might be able to ruin the Mysteron's plans. He also knew, that just because they had done nothing to this point, they weren’t beaten yet. This was all far from over.
Preliminary rounds were only just finishing. Other parts were about to begin, one being with weapons. Rifles and handguns had been checked by Senior staff and returned to their respective participants The armourer at Koala had supplied fresh ammunition so nothing would have been tampered with. To make sure no teams were placed in jeopardy, the teams went out in twos, each with a Spectrum Captain to watch them. When it came to Lone Wolf and Firestar's competing, Captains Magenta and Blue drew the short stick. They had to deal with a very surly Lone Wolf Commander and a seemingly relaxed Firestar Twic.
Both were stationed on site and left to fire in a variety of positions, standing, seated, kneeling, and prone. Leader seemed to have the Twic beat, but the Firestar Twic had only fired half his required rounds. Captain Blue watched as the Twic proceeded, taking some time, but finishing in the required time allotted, his final firing position being prone on the ground. When he finished, he stood up and calmly watching the scorekeepers. Magenta looked as well. The Firestar Twic was shown a black flag, for a perfect round. This got Leader a bit more perturbed and the two left the field, others quickly coming to perform their rounds and try to nip Firestar's now growing lead away from them; or at least narrow the point spread from one team to the next. Magenta was shaking his head at the end of the round.
“What’s wrong?” asked Captain Blue.
“A perfect round? Geez. That’s the second one today,” he commented.
“Who got the other one?” Blue inquired.
“The Commander of Polar Ice,” said Captain Magenta. “I’d hate to have those two hunting me if they were cops.”
“Why? Did it ever happen before?” asked Captain Blue.
“Yeah, and the cop that did it is still a thorn in my side. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Commander had been taking lessons from him too,” said Magenta.
“I’ll take that as a compliment then. You don't know, he might have learned something that I taught someone else,” chuckled Captain Ochre coming up behind them. Magenta jumped in surprise at the sound of Ochre’s voice behind him, rolling his eyes in frustration. Captain Blue chuckled at Magenta.
“Don’t DO that!” complained Captain Magenta.
“Do what? I just came to see how things were going,” said Captain Ochre. “Also to tell you the Colonel wants to know how they did, and who did what.”
“I’ll go report in with him. One of these days you’re going to give me a heart attack, Captain,” griped Magenta to a grinning Captain Ochre.
“Well if I do, do you want me to give you CPR?” asked Captain Ochre.
Magenta looked thoughtful for a minute and made a face.
“I’d take that as a 'no' then,” replied Captain Blue. Both Captains chuckled as their friend stalked off. “You’ve got to start making more noise when you come up behind him.”
“Do you know how long it took for me to be able to sneak around like that?” complained Ochre.
“And neither one of you bothers to listen. I could slit your throats and you’d be dead on your feet and still have no idea,” came a new voice, startling both men. They turned to see Captain Scarlet there, grinning. “I’m starting to think this was a good idea to have it here. We’re really lax, it seems.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” groaned Captain Blue. “This wouldn’t happen to be old habits rising to the surface again, would it?”
"It could be," the British Captain grinned. “I think I need to talk to Terry. If Captain Ochre and I can sneak around in broad daylight, what are these guys doing at night?” Scarlet questioned. “Something to ponder.”
“They did agree to behave you know,” Captain Ochre reminded him.
“We’re talking about some people I would consider as seriously demented here Captains,” said Scarlet.
“Ohhh…come OFF it! Since when? I thought the Reds had that nailed,” came a crisp response.
They turned to face a shooter in standard issue fatigue pants, regulation boots, and a black t-shirt with skull and crossbones on the front, the back saying ‘sniper’. She looked at them from under the brim of the Firestar cap she wore and raised an eyebrow, she was shaking her head in, a broad smile on her face. Captain Blue saw her rifle shift slightly as she crossed her arms.
“After seeing these guys, I can honestly say the Reds have NEVER behaved like you have,” said Captain Scarlet.
“No, and they don’t paint statues or steal goats either. Riiight. Why would we want to behave like the Reds? I’ve heard about their ‘parties’. Ours are tame, at least. Captain, no-one sneaks around when I'm here. They don't dare. Last guy that tried it found himself glued to the ceiling of his barracks,” she snickered. “Oh, keep an eye out on Leader. He still might try something, and possibly tonight. Seems to be interested in one of the cadets. At least I think she’s a cadet. Red hair, and she was wearing a tan jumpsuit.” Captain Scarlet flinched.
"The ceiling?" repeated Captain Blue. She grinned and nodded.
“She’s not a cadet,” said Captain Ochre. “More like one of the instructors.”
“Oh well warn her, okay? Leader will go after any female that has a set of bazzoons over size 34,” Cijay stated. “I’d like to stick him in a permanent cold shower.”
“Has he tried to go after you?” asked Captain Blue.
“Yup. And was singing high soprano for a week. I bruised more than his ego that day. One of the many reasons he can’t stand me."
“I bet he’s got quite a list,” commented Captain Ochre.
“Well, let’s see… Trojan bugged him once and teased him that I could outshoot, out fly and generally outclass him at anything I set my mind to do. Not that it wouldn’t be too hard. The man is full of himself. He also has no brain to speak of. It’s unfortunate in a beret, but it happens. Reminds me someone else I'm acquainted with,” She chuckled, looking right at Scarlet.
“And what do you think about it?” asked Captain Scarlet, frowning at the remark and refusing to rise to the bait.
She sighed. “What, about him being an airhead?” Scarlet scowled at her continual attempt to get a rise out of him. “I try not to. When the guys tell everyone 'Skips so great at what she can do', it makes me uneasy. I’ll only go so far as saying I'm okay at what I do. That’s about it,” she replied.
“Uh huh… so was it or was it not you that got that perfect round?” asked Scarlet.
“I haven’t even fired my rifle yet, so how could it have been me? It might have been Gander,” she commented. “I’m up almost last.”
“Funny, I thought it looked like you,” said Captain Blue.
“Dressed like I am right now?” Captain Blue nodded. “So are half a dozen other guys.”
“So you can actually fire a rifle now,” teased Scarlet, finally deciding to have a bit of fun and get back at her.
“Now, yes. I had a few things I had to unlearn after a West Point Grad supposedly taught me a few things. At least I didn't have to unlearn anything my cop friend taught me,” she commented, grinning impertinently. She swung the rifle off her shoulder to display it in the “present arms’ position. "Like it? It’s a SIG Sauer 550. Better than your old H&K PSG-1. It used to belong to a gent named Commander Richard Fraser."
Captain Scarlet looked at her, the suddenly grabbed the rifle and inspected it. He grinned as he handed it back to her, giving her a slight nod in approval. Captain Ochre smiled slightly. Now he knew where his rifle had gone. He was starting to see where some of his things had vanished to.
“So who do you shoot against?” asked Captain Scarlet.
“Some crook named Richards, I believe,” she commented.
“Cij, you’re always making fun of my unique ancestry. Be nice,” complained an Australian accented voice. She turned to look at him, grinning as she did. Captain Scarlet's jaw dropped as he turned to look at the man. He looked at Captain Ochre quickly.
“I’ll think about it Dev. I think you know I can whip your butt, but I’ll let you shoot first,” she sniggered.
“Oh that is just so sweet of you,” groaned the Aussie.
Captain Blue looked at the commando puzzled, then at Captain Ochre. He too, was staring at Richards in surprise. Except for the hair color being a few shades lighter, and the mustache, Ochre was looking at himself in military fatigues.
She blew a kiss at Richards and let him start shooting. Watching him firing his C7, she waited till his scores were tallied. Then she got ready for her turn. She turned the cap she was wearing around, and began firing the 550. She shot quickly and lowered the barrel when she was finished. Richards watched for her score then started swearing. Both shooters had scored perfect rounds.
“Geez Dev, you’re improving. Has Angel been telling you what to do?” she asked.
“Cij, leave off. I get enough hassle from Angel. I don’t need it from you,” he protested.
“Awww, too bad. Get back to barracks then Ricco,” she told him, slapping his shoulder. "Actually, maybe we better change your nick… how about…um…Guppy. Angel likes small fish, and you were World Navy after all."
He gave her a bland look then left. She looked at the Captains. They were watching the departing man with interest, especially Captain Ochre. He wondered why she seemed so friendly with him.
“If you’d like, you can come and get that picture Captain,” she suggested to Captain Ochre.
“I think we can spare him for a couple of minutes before we have to report in,” said Captain Scarlet.
“Okay then,” Ochre agreed.
They went to the barracks and as they entered, the rest of the team looked up briefly and went back to what they were doing, preparing equipment for the next event, that being the survival run. Cijay went to one on the rooms and entered it, Captain Ochre behind her. He closed the door and looked at her. She placed the rifle in a carry case and turned to face him.
“So, let’s see this picture,” he commented.
She dug into a bag and produced a brown envelope from the bottom of it and removed the picture. It held an older picture of a young man and woman.
“So who are they?” he inquired.
“William Jessup and his wife, Lex Kristatos”, she chuckled.
“Good looking couple,” he remarked.
“I’ll relay that next time I see Jess,” she chuckled. “So can you plan on coming to Arizona next month?”
“I suppose so. Why?”
“Because there’s no way we can talk this all out now. One thing I do need to ask you, though, and that is a priority because it’s going to effect some decisions,” she said quietly.
Outside the room, two of Firestar were listening when Gander came along and pulled them away from the door quietly.
“Would you two at least give her a chance?”
“We are. We would have known where things stand if you hadn’t pulled us away, Gander. Now she’s going to have to tell us,” complained Tree.
“Let them work it out themselves!” Gander admonished. “You better get your stuff ready. I don't think Skip is going to want to see you guys missing something for tomorrow. Go double check your gear.”
“Awww,” groaned the other man.
“Go,” he reiterated, softly.
They were walking away from the door when Cijay and Captain Ochre exited, the Captain carrying a brown envelope in one hand. The Captain left the barracks and Cijay looked at the team, they in turn were staring at her.
“Where’s Cat?” she asked.
“Talking with someone named Father Ivory. He came for a quick visit. Cat said they were in seminary together, Why?” asked Gander pointing to another of the rooms.
“Just something I need to discuss with him. Nothing too earth-shattering,” she remarked. She walked over and knocked on the door, then entered the room.
“Gentlemen, I think the time to collect on those bets is drawing near,” Gander chuckled, looking at the closed door. The men behind him sniggered softly when he turned to face them, grinning.
The next day marked the start of the survival part of the events. Two teams again went out, this time each had a Spectrum observer to go along. Not surprisingly, Captain Ochre tried to bow out of observer duty, asking instead to keep and eye on the remaining teams. His fellow officers snickered at the request, knowing why he had asked for it. Deserts just did not like the man, nor he, them.
Firestar and Lone Wolf were the first teams up this time, as they were holding first and second place. Captain Grey was observer for Firestar while Captain Magenta went with Lone Wolf. Both teams were taken out and dropped off, their goal to make it back to the base before sunset. Captain Magenta slogged along after Lone Wolf and found the team extremely talented in survival techniques.
Firestar was making sure Captain Grey managed to keep up with them. He too was impressed at the team's adeptness for survival. Realizing they came from a desert state, he understood this was easy for them and they could tolerate the heat better than himself. Firestar had surprisingly stopped him just after they were dropped off and made him change clothes, virtually stripping him from the dark garb he usually wore, to lighter clothing that surfaced from various members of the team, and surprisingly enough, in his color. They also gave him some equipment, one of the items being a hydration system so he would have a water supply. Once he was in the new clothing and with his gear, he felt better and the team made sure he kept up with them, several of the team members keeping an eye on him.
Leader didn’t like being saddled with an observer and at one point, he, and five of his men slipped out of sight of the Captain. Others had been detailed to make sure Captain Magenta had some ‘company’ and to make sure he got back safely. The soldiers assigned to Captain Magenta had him fitted out with a hydration unit as well, Skip having learned they were to keep tabs on him.
The second group of the Lone Wolf team, were following the same trail back, Captain Magenta a bit angry at the fact that Leader had split the group into two, but there was nothing in rules that stated they could not do it. They caught up with the first part of the team at the rest spot, the first part of the team seated and waiting for them. Leader, as surly as ever, gave them ten minutes to rest and they continued on. They reached base, most of the team quiet, but considering the heat of the day and the distance covered, Captain Magenta chalked it up to weariness and went to make his report. Lone Wolf went back to their billet to sleep.
The rest of the teams were sent out over the next two days and they also returned quickly, all teams members accounted for, none lagging behind. So far everything was fine.
Colonel White came down from Cloudbase for the team warfare and to see first hand how things were going. As yet, there had still been no sign of an attack on the teams and the Colonel was now starting to wonder what the Mysterons were waiting for. The two teams that had been relegated to standing at base instead of coming were still all right, the security teams reporting in that all were safe. Firestar and Lone Wolf were still one and two. They would go first once more. Both teams headed out onto the obstacle course and Lone Wolf quickly disappeared from sight, among the trees, shrubs, and bush strewn all around. Lone Wolf intended on ambushing Firestar, especially their Commander. Unfortunately, Trojan had stayed in the barracks to handle some last minute business so Skip was delegated team Commander. Leader was going to love this, thought one of the team members. He had been waiting for just such an opportunity, This was one time observers weren't supposed to be with them.
Colonel White was not pleased with the thought of there not being any observers with the teams during the stalking event on the course. He instructed Captain Scarlet to attach himself to one of the teams with each set of combatants that went out onto the course. His background made him the logical choice to blend in with the combative teams. Captain Grey or Captain Ochre would align with the other participating team to further ensure their safety. All three would be there for backup if needed and could defend if someone was in trouble. In a quick discussion with Trojan, it was agreed that Captain Scarlet would go with Skip and her group, due in part to the fact that Colonel White thought Leader wouldn't want an unknown man in his team. Cijay nodded her own agreement grudgingly, and calmly walked over Trojan's foot, glaring at the commander, as she headed out the door. Trojan grinned at her. Scarlet groaned inwardly at her behavior.
Both teams had split into several groups. Leader, and two of his men went further up the course and concealed themselves. Skip and her men were wary of the hidden group and detoured before they reached the area, driving the Lone Wolf commander crazy. Somehow she knew where hot spots were! She and her men moved along through the trees and brushes without making so much as a sound. Leader delegated his two men go after her two when they separated, and he went after her directly. Slinking along the course, he saw her ahead of him through some brush and made his move. Grabbing her, he spun her around and slugged her, sending her to the ground. She looked at him and he pulled his weapon, not the paintball gun that was supposed to be used, but his own, a real one with a silencer on the end. He fired. She fell back and he knelt beside the body, checking to make sure there was no pulse. After a moment, he stood and looked down as two green circles crossed over her body. He heard someone approach and saw part of his team, and a man dressed solely in black. By now, a twin of Cijay was standing at his side. The group proceeded to start on the elimination of the Firestar team and to bring the other Lone Wolf members that hadn’t been Mysteronized into the fold. Everything was going according to plan.
Unaware of what was going on, the rest of the two teams were still engaged in ‘combat’. Several of Lone Wolf had been ‘killed’ and sent off the field, two of Firestar also being ‘killed’ and sent off. From an observation area, Colonel White could see that Firestar almost seemed selective in who they were dispatching from the field. He saw some movement to the back of the course and raising his binoculars to his eyes, he could see two of Firestar with Trojan. He and the two men were moving across the course stealthily and had dispatched several of Lone Wolf with an almost surgical precision. As the Colonel watched, he could see Cijay a prisoner of Lone Wolf members and they were forcing her along as several of Firestar ‘fell’ to them. She resisted them as they pushed until one put the muzzle of his rifle to her back. Leader reached the flag designating the end of the playing field and raised an arm. Other Lone Wolf men were close behind him. A flare went up and the Firestar team went to their knees for a moment, doing something with the weapons, then they stood up and started to take aim on the Lone Wolf team. Colonel White thought he caught a glimpse of Trojan sprinting up the course, his two escorts, nowhere in sight.
In the same instance, Cijay looked at Leader and said something. The Lone Wolf team rushed to attack anyone that was at the observation post, Colonel White included. Captain Scarlet spotted the incensed face of the sprinting Flight Commander and saw the two escorts leaning over someone on the ground further back on the course. Deciding that whatever had given Frazier cause for alarm pertained to the threat, he followed him, reaching him just in time to see Frazier jump the Lone Wolf Commander, sending both men to the ground. Scarlet reached the fighters, and grabbed at a soldier to move him out of the way when Cijay slammed a fist into his face. He slugged her back, in an automatic reaction, and saw Trojan fighting Leader on the ground behind her. She attacked him again, forcing him to grab her in a headlock. He felt dizzy all of a sudden and looked at his opponent, in dismay. He then felt a sadness cut him like a knife. He shoved the emotions down, then broke her neck, wincing slightly as he did. He let the body fall to the ground to go in pursuit of the man fighting the Colonel. As Scarlet freed his Commander from the attack, the man pulled a knife on Scarlet. The Spectrum Captain stopped it, clapping it in both hands, and disarmed the man before pulling his weapon and firing it, killing the man instantly. Some shots had been heard during this and several other men lay on the ground, dead. All wore Lone Wolf patches.
No-one had interfered with Leader or Trojan. The two were on the ground and Trojan had his arm against Leader’s neck, his body pinning the Lone Wolf Commander. Colonel White had Captain Scarlet grab Leader and from nowhere Captain Ochre appeared with a detector, Colonel White absently noting his combat gear had been struck by a 'bullet' of mustard colored paint. Trojan was getting to his feet, and getting his breath back as Scarlet took charge of ‘Leader’ . They used the detector and it proved Leader had been Mysteronized. Trojan was staring at him and shook his head. Captain Scarlet was holding the Mysteron firmly and several security men came and secured him.
“Where are the bodies, you piece of shit?” Trojan demanded, angrily.
The Mysteron said nothing, glaring malevolently at him, and then grinned as the guards hauled him away at Colonel White’s hand motion. The Spectrum Commander looked at Trojan. The Mysteron suddenly broke free from his captors and grabbed for Colonel White. He held him captive, an arm around his neck, a grenade in one hand. Scarlet motioned no-one move so as not to agitate the Mysteron. Colonel White stood ramrod straight, not moving.
“We will be AVENGED Earthmen!” he growled, his thumb getting ready to pull the pin.
A soft pfft was heard and the Mysteron dropped to the ground, dead. Captain Scarlet looked around and saw a gun in Trojans hands. He was just lowering it as he glared at the dead body. The Mysteron hadn’t even had a chance to pull the pin.
“That’s what you think, mate,” Trojan muttered. He looked at the Colonel.
“Good shooting Commander,” White commented, looking at the dead Mysteron, then Trojan. “I’d heard your specialty was close quarter engagements. I see the reports were not exaggerated.”
“Thank you sir,” he replied. “I didn’t get any blood on you did I?”
“It doesn’t appear that you did,” the Colonel told him, checking over the tunic, Trojan nodded.
Captain Ochre looked at the Mysteron body and saw that the bullet had pierced the mans left eye. He gave a quick look in Trojan’s direction and wondered how many hours the man spent on the target range to be able to shoot so precisely. He wished, belatedly, that the marksmen for the WGPC were as precise, it could have saved several unpleasant situations.
“Captain Scarlet, would you have Security begin checking to see what has happened to the real berets, please? I want them to go over everything that Lone Wolf has done during the contests so far and where. Have them remove all the Mysteron bodies for destruction as well,” Colonel White told him.
“SIG Colonel,” Scarlet replied. He moved to speak with the security group that would handle the situation.
“Commander, we’ll find the real ones if they can be found, rest assured,” said Colonel White.
“I hope so,” Trojan replied looking back to the Colonel. Trojan watched as Ochre and Scarlet looked despondently at the Mysteron body of Cijay on the ground before them. “They don’t look too happy.” Trojan considered that it was going to be tough telling Josh he needed a replacement for Cijay.
“I expect not,” said the Colonel. He was having a hard time keeping calm himself. The Mysterons had been known to miss killing before, but that had been fluke.
Colonel White looked onto the course and saw the two Firestar men that had been with Trojan approaching them, carrying a third. The team doctor ran over to them and they lay the soldier on the ground. Colonel White walked over to see the bloodied body and sighed unhappily. It was Cijay. The team doctor felt her neck and then her wrist, just in case. He looked over at Trojan and shook his head to the negative, the doctors own face, concerned. Trojan looked extremely distraught for a moment, before his face suddenly became unreadable. Captain Scarlet and Captain Ochre joined the growing group and saw her body. Both men were upset, Captain Ochre’s face was extremely distressed. Colonel White decided to take her body with him to Cloudbase and have an autopsy performed there, allowing for more privacy, and the chance for Terry Metcalfe to make some decisions in private. A copter arrived and he boarded it, Captains Scarlet and Ochre boarding the copter with him, none of them saying a word. The body was placed aboard in a separate compartment.
When the copter landed, several of Dr. Fawns people came to take the body. They removed it to Sickbay and Dr. Fawn gave a quick perusal of it. He looked up as Colonel White came in.
“I know it looks like she was shot, Doctor, but there might be other underlying factors involved with this,” said Colonel White.
Dr. Fawn nodded and had two of his junior physicians prepare her. One had started to cut off her shirt and he looked at his partner. The latter gaped at him and cut the shirt off as quickly as he could. Both men looked at her torso, puzzled. Looking at her neck, one of the men saw something odd. He looked closer, puzzled, and pulled at something. What looked like skin came away in his hand. He looked at the piece and dropped it. His fingers went to her neck. Dr. Fawn, who was still talking to Colonel White, noticed the activity and they went over to the two assistants.
“What’s the matter?” Dr. Fawn asked.
“Sir, um, she’s playing possum,” said his assistants. "She's got a pulse."
“What?” questioned Dr. Fawn.
“She faked it,” remarked the other. “Look under the shirt.”
Dr. Fawn lifted the shirt and found the body armor and a vest that had pouches of what looked like blood. Several of the pouches were broken. Dr. Fawn looked at the Colonel. Colonel White smiled slightly in relief. He realized all of Firestar would have the same equipment on, remembering the threat to them. He wondered why the vest with the ‘blood’ pouches though.
"It would appear she isn't dead Colonel," said Dr. Fawn, at a loss.
With the help of his assistants, they gave her a perfunctory examination and then had a nurse change her into a hospital gown. She was moved to a bed, Dr Fawn and Colonel White being forced to wait for her to wake up to find out what had occurred. The monitoring systems showed she had strong vital signs, but she remained unconscious.
Terry arrived and spoke with Dr. Fawn and Colonel White briefly, and was assured his stepdaughter was alright, even though she hadn't woken as yet. Fawn allowed him to look in on her. One of the newer doctors slipped in briefly after both men had gone and looked at her then left, grinning slightly.
By now, it was night and an off duty senior Captain came into Sickbay and moved to where Cijay lay still asleep. He looked around to make sure no-one was around and sat down on her bed, looking down at her, wondering what was wrong that she didn't wake. He gave her cheek a caress and watched her, still concerned. His hand slipped into one of hers and he gave it a squeeze. He left after several minutes, but not before he'd given her a kiss on the back of her hand.
Dr. Fawn had been curious about the contents of the 'blood' packets and had taken a pair of scissors to cut a piece of the destroyed shirt and slipped the sample into the analyzer to find out what the ghastly stuff was. The report came back and he read it, frowning over the last item. He then went back to where Cijay lay sleeping and checked her over again. There was some bruising on her stomach and chest, and initial scans had shown no internal damage when they had determined she was still alive. Oddly, the bruising seemed less than it had before, but that could be his imagination. He left and went to file his report. He decided to mention his findings to the Colonel later on, to see what he thought.
Colonel White took a few minutes and came down to talk with Dr. Fawn, but found he'd gone to get some sleep. He saw the junior doctor enter where Cijay was asleep and followed him. The man bent over her and seemed almost to be whispering something. He started when he realized the Colonel was behind him.
“I take it she’s done this before?” asked Colonel White. He remembered the man slightly.
“Yes sir, several times in fact,” he replied. "Call it part of the job description."
The Colonel nodded and they both looked at her. At first, nothing seemed to happen, she then took a deep breath, wincing as she did, and then opened her eyes slowly.
“Uhhh…,” she groaned. “Oh god… that hurts.”
“I would expect so,” commented Mat Bones Ryan, formerly Firestar’s field surgeon, as he grinned at her. "Ribs a bit tender still?"
“Yeah,” she whispered. She looked at the Colonel and sighed. "This might be a bit late, but permission to come aboard, Admiral?"
Colonel White looked at her. "Granted," he replied irritably. “Just what other shenanigans have you pulled?” he questioned.
“Colonel, you don’t really want to know,” she replied, wincing slightly, as she slowly elbowed herself to a sitting position. "If, however, you do insist, have you got a week?"
“I should have expected this from you,” he commented, relieved she had done so. “I want Dr. Fawn to look you over.”
“Fine…I’ve got no problem with that,” she replied, wincing again.
Dr. Ryan now looked at her wrists and removed similar strips of the skin-like covering and set them on the table beside her bed.
Dr. Fawn was woken so he could examine her, relieved at word she had regained consciousness. He gave her a thorough examination and when he had finished, he exited the curtained room, looking at the Colonel who had been nearby, waiting for his verdict.
“She’s going to be sore for a while, Colonel, but there are no serious injuries. There are some nice bruises but that's it. Strictly speaking… she's fine,” he announced, finally.
“You’re damn lucky,” Colonel White told her, through the curtain.
“I know. One day, I won’t be. 'Til then though, I'll do the best I can with what I’ve got,” she remarked, gingerly pulling on her clothing that Ryan had brought to her. She finished dressing, slipped off the bed, and moved to join him. The Colonel looked at her, concern evident in his eyes.
“You’ve got to be more careful,” he said quietly. She felt his relief even if he didn't vocalize it, and she nodded slightly, a trace of a smile on her face.
“I‘m as careful as one can get considering the nature of the beast here,” she stated. “I’d like to get back to my team if that’s okay? It’s not that I’m not enjoying the company you understand, but I have things that have to be handled.”
“I should make you stay here. I don't really think you're ready to leave, but I’ll have a security man shuttle you down,” he replied. “You get some rest though. I can tell you’re depleted.”
“I concur. You take it easy, when you get back there,” said Dr. Fawn.
“I’ll think about it Doc,” she replied. “I'm more hungry than tired, though.” The Colonel gave her a scathing look. She always used that avoidance response if there was something she didn't want to do.
“Cijay. Don't dismiss this as trivial,” she looked at the Colonel. “I want you to rest. That is an order Commander.”
“Aye sir,” she replied. He knew her too well, and he knew she would do exactly what he wanted.
Colonel White had one of Terry's people come to get her and she was shuttled back to Koala base. As she entered the barracks, all of Firestar looked up expectantly at her.
“I’ll live,” she chuckled, bringing sighs of relief from all around.
“Nice to know our new armor works,” came a jovial response. Trojan came over and gave her a cautious hug. “Now if you don’t mind, would you please take this off? I can feel the rash already,” his hand motioning at his face.
She chuckled and began pulling at his neck to remove a mask. Free from the mask, Devon Richards began to scratch his face and he removed the voice synthesizer from around his neck.
“Sorry about that, Dev, they had to see all of us there or someone would have gotten curious and we can’t have that yet. Why do you think I asked you to come along?” she snickered, holding the mask up to her face. All of Firestar chuckled. "Your Reds would never forgive me if I don't give you back in one piece, and the very last thing I need is Excelsior on my back."
“Well you just about blew that by getting shot,” said Spook.
“I’m just glad that this does work or you would be calling Josh again. We’ve gotten over the hump. It’ll be fine now,” she said, looking at the mask in her hand. “Any word on the bodies?”
“They found them concealed in a cave not far from here. They were all dressed in their survival gear. We’ve already started making the arrangements for their return to next of kin,” said Gander.
“To be safe, I think it might be an idea if they were cremated. See if there are any objections first though,” she instructed.
“You got it Skip. Thank goodness Leader doesn't like 'watch dogs' or you would be in some serious trouble. I’m damn glad Leader ditched Captain Magenta or it might have resulted in a Spectrum Captain being mysteronized as well. God only knows how the Admiral would have taken that news. That would’ve been the last thing he’d ever want. Think of the havoc a mysteronized Captain would cause there,” stated Gander.
She frowned suddenly, “Rest assured, when Colonel White does finds out just what happened and where, He will have me up on the carpet despite the fact that Captain Magenta was nowhere near the mysteronized team members and was alright. Who’s left from Lone Wolf? We’ll pull Prerogative on them and bring them back with us.”
“Everett, Garneau and Blake,” said Spook. “Gander already nabbed them after they were checked out with that detector from Spectrum. Everett's a combat specialist, Garneau is a wiz at languages, knows ten of ‘em. Looks like he'll give Tree a run for his money. Blake is a demolitions specialist. Good to have a couple backups. ”
Cijay nodded approval. “Good enough. Get some sleep, guys. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow,” she said. Wearily she headed to her room, Spook tagging along to make his own assessment of her health. He determined she was fine. The bruising was almost gone. Before leaving her room he also insisted she rest. She just rolled her eyes and went to have a shower before getting some sleep.
The deaths had placed a pall over the remaining contests, and at the conclusion, Firestar had remained top team, the other teams now glad that they were. The loss of Lone Wolf had upset them all, the ‘Blacks’ C in C sending a message that he too wanted to see the Flight Commander of Firestar as soon as he was free, his presence required at Futura a priority. Those who saw Skip at that point, noticed she seemed to be a bit frustrated over something. Plans were set in motion to pay condolence calls on the deceased soldiers' families. Honor guards would also be arranged for the funerals that would occur. In Leader’s case the honor guard would be all the teams' Commanders.
On Cloudbase, Colonel White was looking out into the darkening sky. The Mysterons had won part of this round, it seemed. They hadn't gotten their complete objective, at least that was his fervent hope right then. Six men had died and it could have been much worse. In not knowing just where the strengths of the team had lain, they might have just succeeded in some small way. They wouldn’t know immediately. Firestar had managed to help hold the rest of the teams together and Trojan had explained to the team's Commanders the problem as it stood. The Commanders had been in accord and Trojan had explained to them only after obtaining limited permission from Colonel White. If they knew what they were up against, it made for a larger group of defenders. It also meant that some new people would come to Spectrum quicker, knowing the problems going in and with the definite mindset to help stop them, some of those people already having received letters. By the same token, with the team Commanders knowing which of their teams would be leaving, said Commanders could begin checking on prospects as replacements for those departing the teams. Trojan started to set up meetings with those Commanders to discuss possible recruits for the teams. Those discussions would take place as soon as they all returned to their bases, the Flight Commander knowing he would be jet-lagged for the next while.
The Colonel went back to his desk and opened a file there. It was the file on Trojan, or Jean Charles Frazier as his real name appeared to be. Lex had passed it along to him suggesting he might find it interesting reading. She’d been right, but there was something odd about the man. He was thinking of seeing if Captain Scarlet remembered him from West Point. After all, they had graduated the same year before he'd gone World Navy for some odd reason. It wasn't normal procedure to go through a military academy like West Point, then go World Navy at the last moment, and the list of skills he had couldn't be found in one place. It almost seemed as if he were more than one person. Maybe Scarlet could shed some light about him. If the man made his decision to join Spectrum he wanted a better idea of what he was getting. Frazier had been sent a letter at any rate, but to date, hadn’t responded to it.
As she'd assumed, the Colonel ordered Cijay's presence for a private discussion, which, in Lieutenant Green’s opinion got a bit loud, the Colonel reprimanding her for almost getting Captain Magenta killed. She stood quietly at attention, and watched him yell at her as he paced, replying only 'yes sir' and 'no sir' when he was catching his breath. The Spectrum Commander threatened to bust her and found himself a bit amused when she told him to go ahead. All he could do was shake his head.
Both Captain Scarlet and Captain Ochre had, by now, learned the complete details of Cijay's demise, and Scarlet was a bit disillusioned over her pulling that kind of trick. Captain Ochre was just relieved she was alright, and very glad she had resorted to the trick she had played or the Mysteronized version of Leader might have shot her again to make certain she was dead. They heard she had come back on board Cloudbase the next day to go over a few details with Terry, dealing with some security concerns that the Colonel wanted clarified, before she headed back to Tucson with Firestar. The two men tracked them down, and found them in the Mess, having coffee, the table having papers on it that both were looking over. They moved to stand by the table where the two were seated. Terry looked up at them and nodded. Cijay half turned gingerly in her seat to face them, Ochre seeing a slight wince of discomfort.
“Morning, Captains, something you need?” Terry asked.
“Someone is more like it. Major, could we have a word with you please?” questioned Captain Scarlet.
“Which one?” Terry inquired. Scarlet pointed to Cijay.
“Can’t it wait a half hour Captains? Dad and I are almost finished. Then you can have my full attention,” she said.
“I suppose so,” Captain Ochre agreed. At least he had finished his duty shift, and he didn't have to rush any place.
He sat down almost beside her at the next table. Pulling out a book to read, Ochre constantly looked at her, while pretending to look at the book and then proceeded to shift around a bit. He crossed his right leg over his left knee and his foot seemed to be tapping in mid air. Then he looked at his book once more, then at her. Cijay glanced over at him. He was distracting her from what she and Terry were dealing with, and she wanted to get this taken care of.
“Hang on a moment, Dad,” she asked. “Captain, is your book interesting?” She looked at the cover of the book, tilting her head slightly to read it.
“I think so. It’s a book on the Arrow,” Ochre replied.
“Uh…huh. Clancy's I see. What part are you reading about?” she asked, watching his foot ‘tapping’.
“About the tail assembly,” he remarked.
“Captain, now please don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you just might be able to read a bit better if you had the book open to the right page, and had it the right way up. Of course, looking at the book instead of my tush might help too,” she said acerbically. She took the book from him, turned it over, flipped to the right page in the book, and returned it to him. He took it looking a bit mystified. Captain Scarlet stared at Ochre in surprise, having just returned from getting them both a coffee.
Captain Ochre looked at her, then the open book. He sighed, grinning. She didn’t miss a thing. Cijay returned to talking with Terry. Finally they finished and she turned to face Captain Ochre and her cousin once more. Terry hung around to see what was going on.
“Thank you for being patient. Now, what’s this all about?” she asked, looking at both men.
“Ask him,” said Scarlet, pointing.
“Captain?” she asked looking at Captain Ochre.
He closed the book and looked at her in silence for what seemed like an interminable amount of time, his face unreadable.
“Well?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
He took a deep breath, and took her hand in his. “Major, will you marry me?”
Captain Scarlet had been taking a drink of his coffee and started choking. Cijay grinned as she had to lean across the table to thump his back. Terry sat looking at them; his chin was cupped in his hand. He took a drink of his own, now cold coffee.
“And just why would I want to do that, pray tell?” she replied, her other hand still hitting her cousin's back, Captain Ochre not letting go of her hand.
“Oh simple. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you manhandle that other beret. Got all shivery inside," he told her, his voice echoing his feelings.
“You just met!” protested Scarlet, recovering from his coughing fit, and staring at Ochre in disbelief.
“Hey, sometimes it only takes a moment,” Captain Ochre replied, glancing at his friend. Then his eyes went back to Cijay. “Well? Must I do the ‘on bended knee’ routine? I will,” his question bringing a smile to her face.
“A couple of questions first I think, then I’ll reflect on it,” she commented.
“I’m all yours,” he replied emphatically, looking into her eyes.
“Hmm… yes…well,” she sighed, giving him a guarded look over his remark. “What would you consider a good first date?”
“Oh, I don’t know, something exciting might be good," he said. “Go flying maybe?”
“What kinds of clothing would you expect me to wear?”
“Hmm, tough one. Jeans, western shirts, boots maybe, or runners. A swimsuit can come in handy too. And once in a great while, a slinky dress when I take you dancing,” he said, looking adoringly at her. Captain Scarlet was staring at them, shock written all over his face. He liked the clothes she normally wore? Oh this is just too much, he thought.
“What's your best hitting on line?”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Want to come check out my aircraft collection?” She grinned at the reply, nodding.
“You like animals?”
“Dogs or cats?”
“Both,” she said.
“Calicos and elkhounds are my favorites.”
“Any hobbies we might be able to share?”
“Model building?” he asked, looking optimistic. She sniffed loudly. Captain Scarlet started to snicker and Ochre looked at him, poutily.
“You might want to change glues from the one you’re using. I was thinking more along the lines of paintball,” she said.
“I haven’t had a chance to play for a while, but I think I’m a fair hand at it,” he said. She was grinning with a predatory grin, Captain Scarlet realized.
“Can you cook?”
You know how to make a good cup of coffee?”
“Can you do anything, aside from shoot a gun?” she asked, sounding frustrated. Scarlet grinned at this. Ochre was losing ground with her.
“I have been reliably informed I give a mean body massage,” he stated proudly.
“Uh…huh. By who?” she asked, looking at him warily.
“My last girlfriend.”
“What happened to her?”
“Not sure, we just seemed to lose touch. There was a lot we left unsaid too,” he sighed sadly. Ochre's face showed his regret over this. Scarlet thought his last girlfriend must have been something special.
“Are you a good kisser?” Cijay raised an eyebrow over this question.
“Want to find out?” He puckered up. She smiled and shook her head.
“Do you snore?”
“Only if I’m really tired, I’ve heard.”
“The old girlfriend again?”
“Yup. She liked it though. She said it reminded her of her Dad,” Terry grinned slightly at the remark.
“Well, what's your name?”
“Captain Ochre,” he informed her.
“I mean the name your parents gave you,” she said, an eyebrow arched.
“Oh… hey you!”
“Uh huh. Get real Captain,” she snapped. She made a move as if to stand up to leave.
“Okay… okay… it’s Rick,” he said quickly, placing his hand on hers to stop her from leaving.
“Uh huh. Practical joker huh?” He nodded, grinning cheekily. “Well Rick, that’s an interesting proposal, a very interesting proposal,” she remarked. “Marriage isn’t something you jump into though. I should give this some serious consideration. Take time to get to know you better and all. Captain Scarlet is right, we did just meet,” she sat looking at Ochre, her eyes running over him appraisingly for several minutes, then took a drink of her own coffee, still watching him. He shifted in his chair a bit uneasily. “Okay, I think that’s long enough. Sure, I’ll marry you.”
Captain Scarlet looked at them, his mouth open. “I don’t believe this! You’re NUTS! THE BOTH OF YOU!!” Terry was shaking with suppressed laughter by now.
“Captain, I’ve been looking for the Detective Commander for almost three years,” she said, sharply, pointing at Rick. “I am not nuts. Richard Fraser, if you EVER try that again I’ll make sure they never find any body parts because I’ll make certain it’s a car bomb that WORKS!” she was grinning wickedly at him now. “Then I’ll just hold you incommunicado for myself.”
“I love you too Charlie,” he replied, smiling happily. He pulled her chair to the side of his and hugged her carefully. He knew she was sore.
“God, I missed you…” she said quietly, stroking his cheek. “I’m going to miss the beard I hope you realize,” she hugged him back and gave him a kiss that devolved into a serious liplock.
Uh, Charlie, that kind of kiss is going to create problems, he thought.
So what? She thought.
Riiight. He thought to himself. He closed his eyes and held her a bit tighter. I wonder if Father Ivory is busy right now. She pulled back slightly and looked at him, eyes wide.
Go find out bright boy. She 'sent'. He grinned crazily.
Captain Scarlet just looked at them in surprise.
“They gotcha, Paul,” Terry told him.
“Looks like it. Here I thought Cij was bad by herself, and Rick… we just won’t go there. The two together…this is not good,” Scarlet groaned. “You’re Ricco?”
Rick looked at Scarlet and nodded, grinning smugly, then turned his gaze back to Cijay. “You’ll get me with a car bomb eh? If you ever do anything so stupid as sliding under a semi again I’ll tan your backside within an inch of your LIFE!” he snapped back.
She grinned at him in retaliation, and then cheekily blew him a kiss. “That was you, was it? Nice driving. You've improved since you crashed that WGPC patrol car." Ochre looked at her and shook his head, smiling slightly. Only she would remember that incident.
“You did that, Cij?” Terry asked. Right now, nothing he heard would surprise him.
“I was trying to lead him around a bit so the guys could get away. The semi, got into the way,” she snickered. “I didn’t get hurt, though, if you’re wondering, but your flack jacket was a bit torn up.”
“You’ve been wearing my flack jacket?” he questioned, incredulous at this news.
“Well, duh, yeah. I'm surprised you didn't recognize it,” she replied. “At first, I didn’t know if any of your … um ‘old friends’ would come after me because of your little disappearing act, so I wanted to make certain I had some kind of protection. Now its just habit that I wear it. I didn’t know at first what the heck was going on!”
“Careful, Cij,” said Scarlet.
She glared at her cousin for a moment before looking back at Ochre. “Or what? I can kill him. Technically he’s dead already. He knew I was arranging a transfer to join him in Chicago when he went poof, it was his idea to rush it! All he needed to do was tell the Colonel.”
“And I did tell him, Charlie, but training took priority. Then with one thing and another and the Mysterons showing up, its been one set of circumstances after another. To top it all off, YOU turned around and vanished from Cold Lake, just as I was able to come tell you where I was. Do you know how hard it is to locate someone who’s vanished into the teams, especially when you don’t have a clue as to their nick and Pendergast wouldn't tell me a thing, the SOB! The first chance I had for ANY contact was the picture frame. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is?” He held her close to him and looked into her eyes, his own frustration very evident over the circumstances that had occurred. “I didn’t want it to work like this, it just did, okay? Now, seeing as how we’ve cleared the air over certain details, how about we put this back where it belongs,” he said, his eyes meeting hers while he slipped the previously lost ring back on her finger, then grinned at her. She looked at the ring in surprise and flung her arms around him tighter. He hugged her happily, grinning at Captain Scarlet. He'd seriously missed holding her, he realized.
She then looked at her father. “And you didn’t tell me, or let him know where I was, WHY?”
“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds I might incriminate myself,” Terry replied, grinning.
“Pleading the fifth amendment huh? Dad, you're British, I don't think you can use an American plea of innocence. Khoritza.* I bet I know whose idea that was,” she grumped.
"So, how's my Baby been?" Rick asked her softly, his eyes dancing, his forehead resting against hers.
"Cranky, but she'll be find now," she chuckled.
"Baby? What baby?" Terry yelped, Captain Scarlet looking at them, stunned. Captain Grey glanced in their direction and grinned.
Rick and Cijay started snickering. Terry and Captain Scarlet just looked at each other.
"Dad, relax. Baby's his nickname for me," she chuckled. "I'll let you know when you're going to be a grandfather. Would any of you mind if I got something to eat? I'm a tad hungry."
"Go for it," said Terry.
Cijay went and soon returned with a tray containing a hot fudge sundae and a large glass of milk. Captain Scarlet noted a small dish on the side and looked at her as she sat down with the tray. Not saying a word, she shook juice off of several pickles and put them into the sundae, then stirred it up. Scarlet was looking a bit confused. Terry shook his head. As she took the first mouthful, she noticed they were all watching her carefully, and in her stepfathers case, a bit puzzled. She ate it, the men grimacing a bit as she did. She took another bite and looked at Rick, then winked surreptitiously. He chuckled.
"Um, Dad, remember I said I'd tell you if you were gonna be a grandfather?" she started.
"Yeah," he replied cautiously. He looked at her, then Rick.
"Not me!" she protested, looking at her stepfather. "Angel. She and Dev are having twins," she added taking another mouthful of the desert.
"When?" asked Terry, going pale.
"Next month," she said, finishing off the sundae with its pickles.
"What… what does that taste like?" asked Paul, pointing at the dish.
"Like a sundae, the pickles taste like pickles. They get crispier being in the ice cream. The flavors don't blend so it's actually pretty good," she told him. "Want to try it?"** She waved the spoon under his mouth.
"No… that's uh… quite all right… really," he replied.
Cijay snickered. "The iron gut has met his match! I hope I don't have weirder cravings when I get pregnant, Angel’s are bad enough."
"You're picking up her cravings?" asked Terry.
"You think I'd eat this on my own? Not! "
A new sound came from Cijay's side, similar to laughter and they noticed Kinza seated by her owner.
Terry looked at Cijay and shook his head. "Even the damn dog laughs at me," he commented to Captain Scarlet, who looked at Kinza, the 'grin' on the dog’s face apparent. Captain Ochre leaned forward and petted her, Kinza in turn, raising her right paw to him.
* Phonetically spelt, but translated from Russian. It means chicken.
** Considering the old wives’ tales about cravings in pregnant women, Soft ice cream does work best and it was a hot fudge sundae, with a side of pickles. They ones they gave me were the ones for hamburgers. It actually is quite good.
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