A Spectrum Short Story by Marion Woods
“Can’t you get this crate to go any faster?”
“No; d’you wanna try?”
The dark-haired co-pilot shook his head. “We’re running out of time,” he explained.
Without looking at him, the fair-haired pilot snorted and replied, “Why do I always get landed with people who like to state the obvious?”
“Just lucky, I guess,” his companion replied, with a grin.
“You concentrate on keeping that safe,” the pilot snapped.
“It wasn’t me broke the last one.”
“I know, I know… just work with me on this, please.”
The co-pilot nodded. “We should still just make the deadline, even given the delay at the airport.”
With another, and angrier, snort, the pilot replied, “There’s no one like the Brits for damnable paperwork. They could see it was an emergency!”
“Yeah, but you have to agree the fog was pretty dense and we were, in effect, flying blind on that runway.”
“We didn’t hit anything, did we?”
“No,” his companion agreed, with a grimace. “But they had a point; and all they wanted was a duly signed indemnity, in case you did hit something. Still, I wouldn’t want to do it again in a hurry, it scared the shit outa me.”
“You should trust me more. I know what I’m doing.”
“Sure you do; but I think I’m gonna have to consider changing your nickname from Captain Cautious to Captain Reckless.”
His good humour restored, the pilot chuckled under his breath and adjusted their flight path.
“There she is,” he muttered, nodding in the direction of a huge structure in the distance.
“Cloudbase; you know, I think we’re going to make it on time, after all.”
“I won’t say, ‘I told you so’; but I did.”
“No, of course you won’t say it. You’re far too much the gentleman for that,” his companion retorted.
“Coming in to land,” the pilot said, pointedly ignoring the remark.
“Hangar Bay 3! It would have to be Hanger Bay 3, wouldn’t it? We couldn’t be much further away and still be on the base.”
“It’ll be a stroll. We have plenty of time.”
The Base wide communication system bleeped and the precise recorded voice issued the usual ten-minute warning for the change of shifts at midnight.
“Midnight?” The pilot glanced at his watch and saw the minute hand jerkily moving to adjust to Cloudbase time. “Damn, we must’ve crossed a time zone. We’ve only got ten minutes!”
“What? Oh no… but we should still do it, if the elevator gets here in time.”
The fair-haired man, who had exchanged his flying helmet for a peaked cap that matched his pale-blue uniform, pressed the call button for the elevator again. “Come on, come on…”
His companion was lounging against the wall beside the elevator, cradling a small, wooden box in his arms. He shook his dark head in pity, but as the elevator arrived he sprang upright and made ready to step inside.
The door slid open with irritating slowness.
“Damn!” the pilot said. “Why’re you bringing all that gear down in the personnel elevator?”
The technician looked up and smiled apologetically.
“Sorry, Captain Blue, sir. The goods lift’s out of commission for maintenance and Angel 3 needs work on a fuel lead. I’ve got to move the equipment somehow…”
“Wouldn’t you know it? It’ll take too long to shift that lot; we’re pressed for time.” An idea struck him. “The stairs! Come on,” Blue snapped to his companion. “We still have a chance!”
With a rueful grimace at the heavy crates filling the elevator, the co-pilot turned and reluctantly followed Blue to the emergency stairs.
“Tell me you’re not proposing we walk all the way up to the Lounge?” he pleaded, as Blue waved him through the door to the foot of the metal staircase.
“No, I’m proposing we run up them.”
“I could almost imagine you arranged this on purpose,” his friend said cynically.
“Don’t judge us all by your own standards,” Blue retorted, “and save your breath for the climb.”
Both men were gasping as they emerged from the stairwell onto the corridor at the foot of the stanchion that rose from the flight decks to the Command Tower of Spectrum’s headquarters. Two flights of escalators moved on an endless circuit, providing access between the two contrasting decks. Normally, Blue enjoyed the fairly leisurely ascent, but he was too concerned about the time to do more than complain at the sedate pace of the stairs as they glided upwards.
“This is taking an age, let’s move…” his companion suggested, revealing that he was none too confident they’d make it in time either.
The two men started running up the escalators, their speed hampered by the depth of the steps.
The co-pilot stumbled, crying out in alarm as he dropped his precious charge. Captain Blue made a wild grab and caught the box as it teetered on the edge of a step.
“That was lucky!”
“You should be more careful!”
“Have a heart, Blue.”
The end of the escalator came as a welcome sight to both men; with their sides heaving they both paused to catch their breath in the corridor. Then as the Tannoy began to bleep with the Midnight time signal, they hurried to the door of the Officers’ Lounge and marched in, side by side.
Captain Scarlet looked up from his enjoyable conversation with Melody Angel and grinned.
“I wondered where you two had got to. You’ve missed the party,” he called.
Captain Blue and Captain Ochre gave apologetic smiles, and Blue said, “We went to get you this. I’m afraid there was an unfortunate accident with the bottle we’d originally got for you, but the colonel was kind enough to give us permission to fetch another one. Happy Birthday, Paul.”
He handed over the wooden box and had the satisfaction of seeing his best friend’s expression of delight as he opened the lid and stared at the contents.
“The Gailbhinn, my God, Adam…”
“It’s the same age as you.”
“And just as much trouble,” Ochre remarked. “We had to go to some tiny shop in the middle of nowhere to get it.”
“This stuff is hard to get,” Scarlet agreed. “But every drop is like liquid gold on your taste buds. It’s my favourite whiskey.”
“Your father tracked one down for us from a specialist merchant in London, but… ermm, when the bottle got broken, we wanted to get a replacement,” Blue explained.
“It’s from all of us,” Ochre explained. “Just to say… well, just to say thank you, Captain Scarlet – for everything. And to wish you a happy birthday, of course.”
There was a smattering of applause and a hearty cry in agreement from the other guests.
Captain Scarlet grinned at his friends and hugged the whiskey to his chest.
“What can I say, you guys? Except, thank you, so much – and you’re more than welcome.”
Captain Grey thrust glasses of non-alcoholic champagne into Blue and Ochre’s hands.
“A toast,” he cried. “To Paul!”
“To Paul,” everyone chorused. “Happy Birthday!”
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons ™ belongs to Carlton International Media - but the concept belongs to everyone who has ever been enthralled by the creativity and imagination of the series makers – Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and their dedicated team in the 1960s.
I would like to thank the doyenne of beta-readers – Hazel Kohler – and the best webmaster about – Chris Bishop – for their help with this short story.
Happy Birthday, Paul Metcalfe.
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