a Captain Scarlet story by Fred Walker
The last-second field goal soared through the cold Canadian air as the crowd held its breath. A sudden gust of wind took it wide right by a foot. It fell 15 yards deep into the end zone, where the kicker for the other team caught it cleanly and punted it back, inches over the onrushing long snapper who was trying for the block. A shank job, the punt rolled out short of the goal line. But there was a flag on the play. No yards, against the offense. The rouge didn't count, and the score was still tied. Paul Metcalfe yelled his lungs out. Juliette Pontoin was just trying to figure out what in God's name had just happened. Halftime.
Bundled up in their seats on the crowded grandstand, the pair flagged down the burger dude roaming the aisles and ate the lowbrow lunch Paul had promised her. She found, to her own surprise, that it was delicious. Maybe it was because of the "ambience." Or maybe, God forbid, she actually liked buffalo burgers and beavertails!
"You haven't done an oskee-wee-wee yet," he scolded her with mock solemnity. "I'm disappointed in you."
"Anything you can do, Paul Metcalfe, I can do better. Um, what is an oskee-wee-wee?"
"You stand up and scream 'Oskee-wee-wee, Oskee-wah-wah! Holy mackinaw! Tigers -- Eat 'em raw!' It's an old Canadian saying, taught to me ..."
"... by an old Canadian. Very well." She stood up, did it, and sat down. "How was that?"
"Well," admitted Paul, trying to contain his devilish smirk, "if the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had been playing today, it might have been effective. As this game is between Edmonton and Montreal ..." He couldn't keep it back any longer, and laughed out loud. As did everyone around her, especially the big Indian beside her in the UPEI school jacket.
They were even. Julie took it with good grace and shook his offered hand.
"Now you know what it feels like," Paul told her.
"I ... want to make something clear," she began to confess. "That woman at the bar ... there is a difference. She laughed at you because she was an inconsiderate, self-centred ..."
"Don't use the word."
"But we, I mean I laugh at you Paul, because ... well ... the thing is I kind of ..."
Before she could say it Paul nudged her in the ribs and nodded his head silently in the direction of the big Indian. "I think we just made contact," he whispered.
On the other side of the stadium, Conrad Turner focussed his binoculars on our heroes.
"Is this really part of the job," his date asked him, "or are you just jealous?"
The big Indian, following a Canadian tradition, was in the process of baring his massive chest to the sub-zero temperature. He'd already tossed off the jacket, and was working the t-shirt over his shoulders. It had a picture of a bridge on it, but that wasn't as interesting as the slogan:
Cradled By the Waves.
"Excuse me, sir," she asked him. "I couldn't help but notice what it says."
He finished peeling and beat his chest like Tarzan. Then he turned back to his seat-mate. "University of Prince Edward Island," he said, thinking that she meant the jacket. "Where I got my Kinesiology degree. You folks ever been to the Maritimes?"
They explained that they were more interested in his shirt, without explaining the reason.
He handed it over. "Isn't she a beaut? They don't make 'em like that any more. Built to last!" He saw the looks of confusion, and figured it out. "Hey, the accents. You folks are from Europe, you don't know what I'm talking about."
They admitted that they didn't.
"The Confederation Bridge. The fixed link between my province and the rest of Canada. But that's the white name, which my people don't use. It's Indian name is Cradled-By-the-Waves!"
Paul left his seat like he'd been fired as a missile from Destiny's plane. He found the nearest stadium payphone and called in the tip to Spectrum, not caring if the line was monitored by Mysterons or not (it was.) Colonel White begged NAFTA to close the Confederation Bridge, and Blue flew down with Symphony ASAP.
Exiting the grandstand for the parking lot at game's end, (Montreal won the Grey Cup, in case anyone cares), Paul and Julie couldn't help but notice a limo pulled up in front of their gate. Two men outside the limo wore dark suits and wraparound sunglasses. They had telltale bulges under their armpits. And one was holding up a crude cardboard sign that read "Metcalfe."
"Oh no," groaned Julie. "MIB. I hate those geeks."
Paul waxed philosophical. "You battle evil aliens, you deal with men in black. Get in the car."
They headed north, on the old road. The MIB gave their names as Bob and Doug. Bob was a white of mature years, a little on the chunky side. His accent gave him away as Alabama bred. Doug drove, a young, thin black of indeterminate origin. But they couldn't shut Bob up, once he got started on the mission. "D'ja ever hear of a place called The Diefenbunker? Back in the Cold War, the canucks dug an emergency command post, in case them russkies got frisky. Up the Carp. That's a town north o'here. That's where we're going. Yup, after all these years, with all them records blowed up real good in the war when it finally came, Spectrum done found the Diefenbunker. Thing is, back at the turn of the century, when it looked like there weren't gonna be no war after all, it was whaddya call decommissioned. They walled it up and then forgot where it was. Maybe, they forgot sorta accidentally on purpose. Maybe, they used it to wall something up they didn't want found until we could deal with it proper. A lot of stuff got blowed up in the war. Christ, what the other side did to Dreamland, down in Area 51! First damn place they hit, can't say as I blames 'em. Jesus, the stuff our side was workin' on! Only maybe there was another Dreamland. A Canadian Dreamland. And maybe what it had under wraps got stored down in the ol' Diefenbunker ..."
He went on for an hour in this vein, as Doug passively drove. The idea was that Spectrum now believed 20th century flying saucer stories really did represent primitive contact with the Mysterons, and so any genuine government coverup or conspiracy of the type so often rumoured in those days might contain the germ of an idea of how to fight them now.
"Is there any reason to think the old national governments were hiding something?" asked Paul, not nearly convinced.
"Oh Hell yeah. Now the American project, Blue Pencil or whatever the Hell it was called, was a stonewall from the get go. But the Canadian group, Project Magnet, concluded that there was, ahem, 'a substantial probability of the real existence of extraterrestrial vehicles.' End o' quote. So what convinced 'em? The wreckage. Supplied for analysis by a US organization they were not at liberty to name, only they said it was 'a little higher up' than the FBI. Back then, most folks thought they meant the CIA."
"But you're probably going to tell me they meant Majestic 12." Paul sighed.
Bob grinned. "Hell no. They meant the New World Order!"
As Bob explained it, a Canadian scientist named Wilbert Smith had analyzed fragments of a saucer downed by a Black Helicopter during the Washington National Sightings of 1952. Worked metal, they were pockmarked by micrometeorites, indicating the metal had really been in space. And in 1952, it couldn't have been American. The fragments, once evaluated, were returned to the NWO, and the American government promptly denied their existence, in effect, accusing the Canadian government of perpetrating a saucer hoax. This absurd accusation stuck, and the Project Magnet wreckage had been ignored by ufologists ever since.
"And now," Bob smiled, "we think we know where it wound up. The Diefenbunker. We've cordoned off the area, and the canucks have been told the roads are bein' repaired. Captain Scarlet, you are goin' in to see what may have been the only real proof that UFOs ever existed. Kinda makes you proud, don't it?"
Doug had had enough of his partner's pomposity, and spoke for the first time. "You're a mine canary, sir. We don't know what booby-traps the Chretien government may have installed at the time. We could spend millions of credits designing a remote-controlled robot, but it's cheaper and more efficient to send you. If you don't get killed, real scientists will do the real work."
Paul was used to it by now, and merely nodded. He'd picked up the nickname Indestructible Man even before the Car-Vu incident, due to the reckless chances he was willing to take with his life. Perhaps it was the gambler coming out.
Julie said, "Um, is the way to Carp? The road seems narrow."
Doug: "We, um, can't drive on the main road, it's supposed to be under repair."
That made sense. They drove in silence for a while.
Paul: "Don't I know you men from another mission? And weren't you two supposed to be on R and R?"
Bob: "A week ago we skidded off the road, through the ice and into the Ottawa River. Lucky, we can both swim, so no one was hurt. Spectrum did a great job fixin' up the ol' bus, dontcha think?"
She said, "This old bunker sure is creepy."
He said, "No booby-traps, knock on wood. Ow! What's the idea?"
She said, "Call it a sudden, overwhelming compulsion."
The bunker was plunged into darkness.
"THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS!"
Conrad Turner, in full uniform and brandishing a pistol, chuckled as he turned the lights back on. "You know, I really get off on doing that!" A joke from Captain Black? What was he up to? "Excellent work on that report, Captain Scarlet. The information you forwarded to Our Man in Boston checked out."
"He's lying," said Paul to Julie.
"Of course he is," she told him.
"Julie, Julie, Julie. What have I done to deserve such scorn? Can't you remember how differently you felt, that night in Paris?" At gunpoint, he kissed her hand. "We'll always have Paris."
She slapped his face, oblivious to the gun. Then she turned to Paul. "He's lying," she said.
"Of course he is," Paul agreed.
"Of course," Black said, mopping a little blood from his nose, "we are both of us men of experience, where she is concerned."
"How dare you!" Paul raged. "Take back that insult!"
Captain Black shrugged. "Tracers don't lie. Lovers do."
"Oh no! That stupid card. I forgot to throw it out. It must have sent him a signal from my bedroom. He thinks you were there all night!"
"My my," said Black without much sympathy. "What a tangled web we weave, and so on and so forth. I'm sure somebody on Cloudbase will believe you're innocent. I just can't think of who. And we have more important matters to discuss. For a start, drop your pistols and torches on the floor and kick them to that wall. Do it now, or I'll shoot you both. I know you're indestructible, Scarlet, but she isn't. And my first shot would incapacitate you long enough you'd have no chance of saving her."
Guns and lights wound up on the far side of the room except for Black's. "Now then," he continued. "This underground edifice, as you've no doubt deduced from the exhibits you've already seen, is the Canadian Cold War Museum. I'm afraid you're not going to find any alien artifacts here. Upon decommissioning, it was stocked with historical memorabilia relating to the period between the end of WWII and the failed October Coup. It lost money and it went out of business, thereby creating an unplanned, de facto, time capsule. Then the h-bombs fell, and its location and purpose were forgotten for half a century."
"Thanks for the history lesson," Destiny spat.
"Captain, I ask you to confirm that the bookcase over there has not been tampered with by me or anyone else. That, in truth, it is as it was in the pre-Atomic War Period."
Scarlet looked. "It's true, I think."
A shot rang out, shattering the glass. "A fine collection of Cold War literature, preserved in mint condition. Including several titles that were completely lost during the war. Step over there, Captain -- very slowly -- and find me the one I want. A little tome about the JFK assassination called Oswald Talked."
Scarlet did so. With such an unusual title, it proved easy to find on the shelves. He cut his hand on the broken glass, but it healed up quickly. He had stopped being careful about such things. Looking back, he couldn't help but notice Black still wiping his nose with a black silk handkerchief. He was a man, not a monster!
For some reason, Destiny didn't seem at all surprised.
Maybe she did meet him in Paris, and knew him only too well.
Black went on: "I have a premise and a proposal. Each will take a few minutes to explain. Then you will be free to leave, unharmed. Have you ever heard of The Backyard Photographs?"
Captain Scarlet nodded. "I have. Lee Harvey Oswald was the man accused of shooting President Kennedy back in the 1960s -- I forget the exact year. He himself was murdered in custody before he could be tried, so I guess we'll never know if he was innocent or guilty. The chief evidence against him was a series of photos, 2 or 3 I think, taken in his own back yard by his wife. He's seen posing with the murder weapon and Communist propaganda, and the photos are labelled 'Fascist Hunter' in his wife's handwriting."
"A good summary, Captain. It's nice to see the British educational system hasn't completely broken down. There were in fact three photos. Most books, then and now, have published only two. The long-lost Oswald Talked is the only book that published all three. I wanted you to be here to see me break the seal on the case yourself, so I can't be accused of literary forgery. The 3rd Backyard Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald is never published, because it 'didn't turn out.' I'm afraid it turned out perfectly. Or so I've been told, by those in a position to know. Do me a favour, Captain. Turn to the illustrations section and tell me what it looks like."
With a horrible feeling that he already knew exactly what it looked like, Captain Scarlet thumbed his way through the rare book til he became the first man in years to see the 3rd Backyard Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald. The background was in focus. The figure at centre was posing with Oswald's rifle and left-wing paraphernalia. But the figure itself was a ghost. Completely white, no definition at all, it looked like someone had deleted the man in the picture with scissors. A visual effect with which he was quite familiar, as it was what happened every time his own pix were taken.
And then he remembered all the old stories about Oswald supposedly having a "double."
Shaken, he passed the book to Destiny, who saw for herself.
Captain Scarlet glared at Captain Black and shook his fist at the heavens. "OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED KENNEDY! YOU BASTARDS!"
When they returned to the surface, having heard the rest of what Black had to say, they found themselves alone. No surprise. Both suspected Bob and Doug were Mysterons since shortly after getting in the car. Somehow, probably through the traitor at Cloudbase, Black had learned of the Diefenbunker's re-discovery, and guessed what Spectrum thought it contained. From there, it was a simple matter to arrange a face-to-face meeting in completely discreet circumstances, so that Black could show them his evidence, and make his proposal.
Our heroes hiked to Petawawa, where, as we all know, an SPV is permanently stationed at the military base. Tired and footsore, short of breath from walking so far in the cold, Paul dug out his credentials and gasped his requisition to the gate guard.
"I want my ... I want my ... I want my SPV!"
Overheard in the men's room at Cloudbase:
"So, like, are they real?"
"Of course they're real."
"The Mysterons are no government hoax. I've battled them myself many times. Don't tell me you believe that stupid book!"
Overheard in the ladies' room at Cloudbase:
"So, like, is he really, um, indestructible?"
"Of course he's indestructible."
"He has the power of retro-metabolism. Didn't you know that?"
After washing up, Captain Scarlet went to his locker to dress for the debriefing. He'd have to settle for "dress pink." Sighing, he slipped it on. But there was something missing.
And he was pretty sure he knew where to find it.
Captain Scarlet stomped to the Angel lounge, where Melody, Harmony and Rhapsody seemed to be waiting for him. Melody was wearing his hat. It looked better on her than it did on him.
Melody spotted him and rose. "Looking for something, Captain? Your hat, perhaps? Think you're man enough to take it from me?"
He strode over purposefully and held out his hand. She tossed it over to Harmony, as the girls fanned out to fill the lounge.
Paul shook his head, sadly. "Ladies, I'm disappointed in you. This is very childish. And it really isn't funny, you know."
Harmony said she agreed with him that it really wasn't funny, and offered to give him his hat back. He went over to take it from her and she threw it to Rhapsody on the other side of the room.
"Okay, that's it. I've had enough of this!" All pretence gone, the girls were shrieking with laughter. "Rhapsody, we used to date. At one point, it was quite serious. Now give me back my hat!"
Rhapsody said she remembered the good times. She offered to give him his hat back. He went to take it from her, and she threw it over to Destiny, who had just walked in the door.
Everybody looked at Destiny, hat in hand. She went over to Captain Scarlet, without a word, and put his hat back on his head. They left for the meeting together, hand-in-hand.
"Oh yuck!" opined dark-skinned Melody. "They're in love!"
At the debriefing in Colonel White's office, neither Scarlet nor Destiny mentioned Black's offer. Both had decided that the best way to flush out the traitor would be to wait and see which of their Cloudbase colleagues would mention it first. If the Colonel suspected something, he never let on. Instead, he accepted their report that the Diefenbunker was a false lead, merely a museum exhibit of the late 20th century, and not the Canadian Dreamland.
"By the way, Captain," said the Colonel coldly, "it's nice to see you're now a slave to fashion."
"Oh, the hair. Not exactly regulation, I know. I can explain."
"No need for explanations, young man. What happened here is perfectly obvious.”
“Destiny gave you a haircut while you slept as one of her unending series of practical jokes at your expense."
"She did? I mean, no she didn't. I mean, I let her do it. Yes, that's what happened. We were at, let me see, name's on the tip of my tongue, Pierre's House of Haute Coiffure. It was all my idea."
"Captain, gallantry is appreciated, but that has to be the clumsiest lie you have ever told. Destiny Angel, you are suspended for 2 days without pay. There is a fine line between camaraderie and harassment, and you just crossed it."
After they left, Colonel White put his feet on the desk. "He's taking the blame for her, Green. It looks serious."
Green smiled. "We can only hope, Colonel, we can only hope."
Later that evening, after supper, Paul found himself in the Amber Room, doodling in his notepad while reclining on a couch. Off duty, he'd gone back to the jeans and turtleneck from Ottawa. Julie was also there, but they hadn't yet spoken. She was sitting with her feet up, watching Symphony on the monitor, preparing for another launch. The sleek plane looked beautiful against the stars. But no more than Julie herself, despite her casual attire.
She was, after all, suspended.
Finally, she said to him, "this is the 3rd time, isn't it?"
He looked up from his notes. "I pretended I wanted to join them in America. Then they pretended to recruit me, that time in Greenland. Black stepped out for a bit, and kept talking to me from the next room. When I could tell he wasn't answering my questions, I knew that he'd turned on a recording, and had left the building. Then I heard the ticking, and got out of there just in time."
"But now," Julie said quietly, turning to face him, "now they really mean it. Or do they?"
Paul took a deep breath and put down his pad. "He made an interesting argument, I'll give him that. 'The Mysterons are our old, old friends. They have studied us for 100 years, and we can't even prove their existence. They kill our world leaders and determine our history -- there's not a thing we can do about it. You might as well give up, and join the winning side. We can use a man like you, Scarlet -- think it over.' Defeatist propaganda."
"But you agreed to think it over."
"Yes -- to get us out of that bunker alive."
Julie joined him on the couch. They just stared into each others eyes for a while, thinking.
Paul was thinking, why did Black let her live, when he didn't have to? Why did she only slap his face, when, with a karate chop, she could have killed him? For a superbly trained agent like Julie, holding back enough to merely humiliate the man would be the more difficult blow. Maybe she was just too mad to think clearly ...
Julie was thinking, 3rd time lucky, is that what they think? Or are they hiding in plain sight? Are we supposed to conclude that Paul must be innocent because he looks too guilty?
Suddenly, Paul reached for his notepad. "Do me a favour, Julie. Write down the word 'Mysterons' for me."
She didn't know why he was asking, but she did so. He looked.
"I see you spelled it m-y-s-t-e-r-o-n-s."
"That's the way you spell it."
"Are you sure? Have you ever seen it written down?"
"Certainly. In numerous reports ..."
"Have you ever seen it spelled by the Mysterons themselves?"
She admitted she hadn't. "What are you getting at, Paul?"
"Just this." He circled the first two syllables in the word. "Do you see? Myster-ons. People of mystery. That's what we assume it means, be cause that's how we've always spelled it. But what if we're wrong, Julie, what if we're wrong?" He wrote down a different spelling: m-i-s-t-e-r-o-n-s. "What if it's supposed to be I instead of Y? Now watch." He circled the first syllable only. "You see? Mist-erons. People of the Mist."
She furrowed her brow. "People of the mist? A strange name, but I have heard it before ..."
"It's the title of a novel by H. Rider Haggard. People of the Mist. I had to read it in school. Typical Victorian adventure. In darkest Africa, a primitive tribe is frightened by advanced beings with wonderful devices and strange powers, who tell them that they come from the stars. But they are not gods from the stars. They are white explorers, and they come from England."
"But ... but aliens wouldn't have read H. Rider Haggard."
"That's my point. Aliens wouldn't have."
She stood, and turned her attention back to the monitor. Symphony was ready for immediate launch, on a mission that should have been hers. When she turned back, it was with the last question he expected. "Paul, which of us is prettiest, do you think?"
He stood and joined her, putting his arm around her shoulder. "Melody is something special. That goes without saying. I do wish she'd stop jumping me from behind and beating me up, though. I flatter myself that it means she likes me, and is just too shy to say it. But it's damned annoying." She laughed weakly and snuggled a little closer. "Harmony and Symphony are beautiful in their own way, and you know how I feel about Rhapsody. But the best, the absolute best ..."
He realized he could kiss her now, or take his cheapest shot.
"... was that Mysteron chick who stole Secret Formula x-14. Baby, where do I go to surrender to her!"
She pushed him onto the couch and stormed out. He laughed til the tears ran down his cheeks.
He knew she would be plotting some fiendish revenge.
He was looking forward to it.
But a few things still bothered Paul. He wondered why the Mysterons never showed their true form, and only worked through human drones. He wondered why, in all the depths of space, they had only been encountered on Mars, the Moon, and Earth, places within the reach of Spectrum's rockets. He wondered why the Mysterons gave hints about their targets, hints so literal it was as if Spectrum was supposed to arrive just in the nick of time, saving the day, justifying its existence -- and budget. Most of all, he wondered about the x-14 adventure. Why had that Mysteron chick stolen a deadly biological weapon in England, then travelled halfway around the world to Los Angeles to use it? It was almost as if she wanted to be caught, as though she were deliberately leaving a trail so that he, Scarlet, could track her down and stop her "just in time."
Why not use x-14 to kill Englishmen?
Mysterons. People of the Mist. People of England?
No, that was too paranoid, a thought worthy of Sir Randolph.
Still, as Paul sat in front of the monitor and watched another Angel aircraft leave on another mission, he couldn't help the feeling that all was not what it seemed. What if ... he quietly wondered. What if Spectrum is only a puppet government after all? What if, behind the scenes, a master manipulator is pulling the strings?