I would like to thank Chris both for her encouragement and advice, and for her seemingly tireless efforts in getting the following story ready for its appearance before the public. Any errors are mine alone! I also acknowledge a debt to the writers of all the fiction I have read and enjoyed on the website and I hope you will enjoy the story you helped to inspire.
A “Captain Scarlet” story for Christmas
By Marion Woods
“You know very well that love is, above all, the gift of oneself!” Ardèle (1949) Jean Anouilh (1916-87)
Colonel White re-read his year end report to the World President on the progress of Spectrum, the World Government’s new flagship security organisation. 2067 had been a momentous year. The personnel had been chosen from amongst the best in their professions, they had trained hard and those who had made it through the rigorous selection process were now ensconced on the state of the art, command centre, known as Cloudbase, hovering 40,000 feet above the surface of the earth. Only fully operational since July, Spectrum had come along way in a short time, but they were still under pressure to perform. President Younger had a great deal of his personal cachet invested in the success of the operation – not to mention the responsibility for providing the funding needed to keep it going. The funding was the major problem –wasn’t it always? White thought cynically.
Many of the commanders of existing security and military forces had fought the creation of Spectrum on the grounds of cost and that concentrating on an elite force would inevitably weaken the established forces. They wanted nothing more than to see it fail.
The men and women of the elite force, living lives that necessarily cut them off from their families and friends, were forced to find companionship from amongst their peers. Not all of the personalities had gelled – as might be expected. There were too many egos jostling for position to make it all plain sailing, but the few that proved to be irritants were slowly being weeded out – moved to terrestrial assignments or in rare cases – dismissed the service altogether.
As a former Admiral and head of a security force, Charles Grey believed in maintaining strong discipline and although he made certain allowances, he laid down clear guidelines and punishments for any who knowingly transgressed. He, personally, had welcomed the inclusion of five female pilots – known as the Angels after the jets they flew – even though he anticipated it might lead to problems amongst the exclusively male senior officers. He let them know that any hint of scandal involving the Angels would earn the perpetrators the severest disciplinary punishment and would almost certainly lead to their being dismissed the service.
What he hadn’t reckoned on was the women themselves.
Juliette Pontoin, their unacknowledged leader, was a worldly and beautiful Frenchwoman, with a mind of her own. Destiny, as she was called, had made a name for herself in the WAAF, a notoriously difficult profession for a woman. Yet Juliette had done it without sacrificing any of her femininity and elegance. Some years ago she had had a brief, but passionate, affair with a handsome young English officer. They had parted with mutual goodwill and even now Juliette retained some lingering affection for the dark haired, blue eyed man. Discovering that he was now Captain Scarlet had been something of a jolt – for them both!
Their reunion had been amicable, but they both quickly realised they had moved on and had no desire to turn back the clock. The Colonel had worried that they might resume their relationship, about which he far knew more than either would have wished – so he was relieved to see them settle down to an excellent friendship and if Destiny presumed to be an expert on Captain Scarlet – well, no-one questioned why.
No one except for Rhapsody Angel - the youngest member of the team. A pretty redhead with a taste for fashionable clothes and classic romantic novels, underneath her apparent flightiness was a keen and sharp mind, with a clear insight and iron will. As Lady Dianne Simms, the daughter of an English aristocrat, she had grown up with every advantage and through a meeting with the near legendary agent, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward; she had trained in espionage, before throwing it all up to fly planes. It was noticeable that she gravitated towards the only other English officer. At first she was wary of intruding on Destiny’s friendship, but as it became clear that the pair were not an item, Rhapsody allowed herself to hope he might return her interest.
Currently the most problematical of the Angels was a moody American – Karen Wainwright, codenamed Symphony. An only child, she had had a hot-house education, attending Yale University on a mathematics scholarship at the tender age of 16, where she had been spotted by the security forces and recruited into the service. Eventually, her wilfulness had led her to leave the service and take up flying, for which she proved to have natural adroitness. The Colonel liked Symphony, who was popular with all of her colleagues, although they had learnt to avoid her in her darker moods. These had been more frequent of late, following on from the sudden death of her Grandfather. In fact, the only person who seemed able to draw her out from these pits of melancholy was the urbane Adam Svenson – codenamed Captain Blue.
Blue was the eldest son of a wealthy financier, whose domineering attempts to direct his son’s quick and impressive intelligence into the family firm, had led to innumerable conflicts between them. But Blue had inherited more than his share of his father’s stubbornness, and chose to employ his abilities as a test pilot, moving on to become a security agent and proving more than equal to the task. The Colonel had ‘expectations’ of Captain Blue, seeing – perhaps - his natural successor in the cool headed, intelligent American. But Blue had confounded him somewhat, firstly by forging a friendship with the headstrong Captain Scarlet and – more surprisingly still – with the volatile Symphony.
If anyone had asked him, the Colonel would have paired Blue with Destiny. Both were from wealthy, cultured families, both well-read and widely travelled, both with the sense of élan a moneyed upbringing could instil. The pair seemed friendly enough but The Colonel sensed a restraint between them that was not apparent in their dealings with their other colleagues. What his research had somehow failed to reveal, was that some 30 years ago – in an unwise attempt to crack the American market, Juliette’s grandfather had borrowed a lot of money from his acquaintance Stefan Svenson’ s finance company. When the project failed, nearly bankrupting the French firm, Stefan had courteously renewed the line of credit and kept the company afloat. However, when Stefan went into semi-retirement handing his business to his son - John Svenson had engineered a board room coup to remove Armand Pontoin from control and put in his own mangers. It had undoubtedly saved the company, but it had taken Juliette’s father a further 8 years to get rid of the ‘requins de la finance’ and regain control of his family’s firm. The very name of Svenson was anathema to the proud Pontoin family and however much Juliette told herself Adam was entirely innocent of any offence, she could not help harbouring a slight residual animosity. Beyond establishing that each realised the significance of the other’s identity, neither mentioned it and Juliette gave Adam unmerited credit for the absence of his father from the commissioning ceremony earlier that year.
The Colonel rarely discussed his staff officers, but when he did it was with Captain Black – the man who had been responsible for overseeing the construction of Cloudbase and for directing the training of the selected recruits. Conrad Turner was an old friend, and the Colonel valued his judgements. Confronted with his commander’s qualms Black ventured the opinion that Blue was an archetypal big brother – he had a number of younger siblings - and it was only natural that the two most headstrong officers, who were both only children, should gravitate towards him as an unshockable safe haven – he was never phased by anything they did. That Symphony should subsequently turn this unconscious need into a romantic attachment was hardly surprising – for in addition to his boundless patience, Svenson was a good looking man. Black could not say if Blue returned the young woman’s feelings – if Svenson wanted to keep a secret it stayed kept, but either way, he did not share the Colonel’s misgivings.
Concerning Captain Scarlet, Black maintained that Blue would act as a natural curb on the younger man’s recklessness, whilst Scarlet would balance Blue’s proclivity to be over cautious. In fact, Black was convinced the pair would make a near perfect partnership and had said as much on several occasions.
The Colonel was still trying combinations amongst his officers to find the best partners. Currently, Captain Brown was his main concern. Brown had little military experience, so Scarlet was the obvious choice to partner him, yet Brown’s inexperience made him less able to curb Scarlet’s rashness. Paul Metcalfe was an excellent soldier – much decorated and promoted through the ranks of the WAAF. He had a clever mind, with an aptitude for strategy – exemplified by his unbeaten record in the chess league that occupied much of the spare time on base - and he was an expert on many forms of armed and unarmed combat. He seemed destined to add to his family’s illustrious military service record. On duty he was a thorough professional; his only real fault was an impetuosity that could amount to rashness in the face of personal danger. The Colonel could only hope that Scarlet’s professionalism would extend to keeping his partner intact and act accordingly. Yet, Metcalfe himself displayed a cheerful vivacity, at odds with his reputation as the consummate soldier on the Base, and he enjoyed his off duty hours to the full.
Surprisingly enough, two other American officers, Captains Ochre and Magenta were shaping into an effective unit. Ochre had been a policeman, whilst Magenta had turned from the boredom of a routine office job to use his computer skills to control parts of the New York’s criminal syndicates. Realising his skills could be better employed; the World Government had approached Patrick Donague with the offer of immunity from prosecution and a free pardon, to devote his computer skills to Spectrum’s service. Intrigued by the prospect of starting a new life, Donague had willingly accepted the offer. The two men got on well together, once Richard Fraser had overcome his natural suspicion of anyone with the criminal background of Patrick Donague and they seemed likely to remain as a team.
Currently Captain Grey was partnered by Captain Indigo, but Indigo was in the process of being transferred to a ground assignment. There would have to be a reshuffle when that was finalised, although, hopefully, the other impending change would happen around the same time. It had been announced some weeks ago that Captain Black was to lead the latest expedition to Mars – to investigate recently discovered signals emanating from the red planet. With his long experience in the World Space Corps he was the obvious choice. Presently Black was partnering Blue, a euphonious situation the Colonel was in no hurry to change; but Blue could partner Grey in the New Year. Eventually, the Colonel expected he would end up partnering his two most outstanding officers and trusting to Black’s analysis that they would balance out each others’ shortcomings.
The two remaining Angels – Melody and Harmony gave the Colonel no cause for concern. Melody was a tomboy, who drove cars and flew planes with a dare-devil skill that the male officers admired. She had grown up in the Southern States of America with four brothers and treated the men around her much as she would have treated them. She was never happier than when she was tinkering with engines or better still, testing the Angel Jet to its limits. Everyone was fond of Melody and if anyone had been silly enough to upset her, they would have found their fellow officers more of a threat than the Colonel!
Harmony Angel, the quietly spoken Chan Kwan, had settled down to life on Base better then anyone. She went through her day with unruffled calm and her unexpected martial arts skills left none of the officers in any doubt that tackling Harmony would lead to broken bones! She even gave some of the more inexperienced officers classes. The other Angels trusted her and valued her good sense, often turning to her when they had a difference of opinion that needed resolving.
All in all Colonel White thought they had come through their first year with far fewer problems than he had expected and he was in the mood to be generous when a deputation of Angels came to see him. They stood in a line before the circular desk in the control room, caps tucked under their arms and hopeful smiles on their pretty faces, as Destiny outlined their plan for a party – just a little party – to celebrate their first Christmas on Cloudbase.
There was mounting excitement in the Amber Room as the Angels prepared for their Christmas Eve party. They were still amazed that The Colonel had agreed to the party at all – within strict guidelines. Harmony had volunteered to man Angel one for the duration, having, as she expressed it, no interest in Christmas – the remaining four were determined to make the best of it. They knew they could not have a ‘real’ party, but they had an array of soft drinks and nibbles from the canteen, balloons and party streamers, a tree and - finally, a large bough of mistletoe which had arrived that morning from Rhapsody’s Family estate in England. There were presents for the guests –bought as joint presents from them to all the Officers and exquisitely wrapped by Harmony, as her contribution to the preparations. Destiny had set a firm limit on the amount to be spent on each individual and despite Melody’s suggestion that they just buy the same gift for everyone, the others had preferred to try to fit the gifts to the recipient.
The door opened and Captain Ochre looked in, “Am I too early?” he asked with a grin.
“No, come in Captain, we’re all ready!” Rhapsody cried excitedly.
“Well, as ready as we will ever be,” the less excitable Melody amended.
Ochre was enjoying the attention as the girls made him comfortable, when Grey and Magenta came along, closely followed by Lieutenant Green and Dr Fawn. Destiny started the music and the first balloon got burst. Captain Scarlet arrived with a large carrier bag full of the Officers’ presents for the Angels, and was hailed, by the now thoroughly over-excited Rhapsody as ‘Santa’s little helper!”
The Colonel wandered in a short time later and was swept up by Destiny and plied with goodies from the buffet. Gradually the room filled up with the senior officers and the invited guests from amongst the support staff.
Symphony was watching the door, and only paying moderate attention to the chatter of Captain Magenta along side, when Scarlet came over and wished her a happy Christmas.
“What? Oh thanks, same to you,” she said distractedly, then “Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue did know the party was today, didn’t he?”
“Of course, but he’s covering for the Colonel. We couldn’t have every senior officer partying away and let the base flounder in the control of underlings! We drew lots and Blue got the short straw.” Scarlet gave Magenta a warning glance – it wouldn’t do any good to tell her that Blue had volunteered for duty. “He and Lieutenant Claret are up in the control room. I promised to save him a sausage roll.”
Her face fell. “Oh, I hadn’t realised. I thought you were all coming along.”
“Well, if the Colonel leaves early, Blue might get along later.”
Symphony gave a half hearted smile and slipped away. Magenta and Scarlet exchanged glances,
“Now, what do you think that is all about?” Magenta asked as one dark eyebrow rose in query.
“I couldn’t possibly comment,” Scarlet replied. “But I think someone’s just realised the mistletoe is going to be wasted. “
“He’s a lucky son of a gun and he doesn’t deserve her,” Magenta responded with a sigh.
Scarlet gave him a quizzical look. “Ah, so the wind’s from that quarter is it? I think you could have an uphill struggle with that one.”
“Oh, I know. Symphony’s a lovely girl, I like her a lot, but I know I can’t compete with Mr Blond Matinee Idol,” the Irish American said ruefully.
Scarlet pursed his lips, “I think it may be pretty one sided. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of chap to get emotionally involved and risk his career. When all is said and done, he probably hasn‘t even noticed.”
“You know, Grey said that a while ago and I thought he was off the mark, but if you say so too, perhaps it’s me that’s wrong? You do know him best.”
“Hmm, I do don’t I?” Scarlet shrugged.
Rhapsody came by and dragged them to where Melody was organising the party games and it was only later that Scarlet realised Symphony had disappeared.
Symphony walked through the corridors towards the Control Room. She was carrying a large plastic serving plate, piled high with sausage rolls and potato chips, cashew nuts, vol-au-vents and a selection of other finger foods. In the pockets of her jacket were an individual carton of apple juice and a handful of serviettes, two of which held the sprig of mistletoe she had broken off from the bunch Rhapsody had fixed across the doorway. The door slid open and she entered the room to stand on the moving walkway, carefully balancing her burden.
Blue looked up to see who had arrived. He was seated behind a pile of files, pen in hand, whilst Lieutenant Claret scanned data into the mainframe and monitored the radio communications.
“Merry Christmas!” she called as she approached the circular desk. “They told me you had drawn the short straw and so I thought I’d do my best to spread a little festive cheer your way.” She deliberately turned to include Claret; it would never do for Blue to think he was the only person she came to see.
“Why thank you M’am,” Claret said, in his heavy accent. She remembered that Blue had told her he was a Parsee and, in the face of her blank expression, had gone on to explain about Zoroastrianism. She was always surprised by the extent of things he knew something about! She stopped and fished out a serviette allowing Claret to select from the dainties. Then she went towards Blue.
He was watching her with a surprisingly wary expression, absently twirling the pen around in his long fingers. She handed him the platter, careful not to fish the mistletoe out with his serviette.
“Thank you Symphony Angel,” he said, his voice making her go as weak at the knees as usual, “It is a kind thought. How is the party going?”
“Very well, Melody was starting the party games as I left.” She glanced at him and was in time to see a fleeting grimace. So, it seemed that Blue was not into party games.
“Don’t let us make you miss them then,” he smiled.
“Oh, I’m in no hurry and anyway I ought to take the plate back when I go. “She fished out the juice carton and he nodded his thanks.
“Is it quiet?” she asked.
Blue had selected a few cashew nuts, for which he had a particular fondness, and was crunching one in his teeth. He chewed, swallowed and answered, “Well, there is trouble in the Middle East, as usual and the Pope is calling on the World Government to intervene, as usual. New York’s under a blizzard, as usual, and there’s turbulence across the North Atlantic, so nothing new there either. Apparently, everything is much as expected and, yes, it’s quiet.”
He lobbed another cashew into his mouth and chewed again, then thoughtfully pushed the plate towards her.
“No thanks, I’m stuffed with nibbles already!”
“I thought the party had only just started?”
“It has. I was ‘helping’ with the food,” she explained with a rueful smile. “I’m a sucker for little cheesy things on sticks and crunchy concoctions of E numbers. A hopeless case, I’m afraid.”
“Sounds like it.” Blue smiled and broke the carton open, grimacing as juice squirted on his sleeve.
“Let me,” Symphony said and mopped at the damp patch with a serviette.
“My mother always maintains I’m a messy eater.” Blue glanced up at her, somewhat surprised to find her face so close to his.
“Those cartons are notorious for doing that, though.” Symphony flushed and drew away to sit gazing anywhere but at him.
Blue sighed to himself. He was neither as obtuse as Captain Scarlet thought, nor as indifferent, and he knew Symphony had a soft spot for him - perhaps more than that. He admired her tremendously; she was clever and witty, a splendid instinctive flyer and very attractive to look at. They had hit it off immediately on meeting at the Koala Base training centre and for a few heady weeks he had speculated on a bright future. But when it was made clear that Spectrum’s rules of conduct discouraged personal relationships, even if they weren’t actually forbidden, it threw him into turmoil.
In addition to that setback, the surfacing of long dormant emotions brought the memory of the searing pain of losing someone dear. As they learned more of the hazards in their new duties, he recalled his vow never to put himself – or any woman he cared about – in the situation he’d been in, when his fiancée had died in a car bomb attack intended for him. He’d only recently moved to the WAS Security Department, and they were still living close to the base where she worked. He’d arrived back in the early hours from a two day conference in New York and left his car at the end of the drive. Next morning, in her rush to get to work on time, she’d called up the stairs, “You’ll have to use my car today - the keys are in the drawer and please don’t forget to collect the dry-cleaning again!“ He’d barely acknowledged her, still sleepy and sated by their early morning passion. He could still remember, as a physical sensation, the force of the blast shaking the house. The doctors assured him that she must have died instantly. But it was never like that in the dreams that haunted him for months afterwards – fuelling his determined pursuit of the perpetrators. He would clearly see her face and the look of betrayal in her dark eyes, which rebuked him for making her so late they forgot the basic security routines they’d been coached in.
Faced with such obstacles to his growing attraction for Symphony, he had reluctantly begun to distance himself from her. It had not been easy – she was an open and warm-hearted woman and he did not want to hurt her. Then came the news of her Grandfather’s death. The Wainwrights were a close-knit family and as an only child she had been the focus of their attention. This death – the first she had personal experience of, had devastated her and she instinctively turned to him. She knew he had been close to his paternal Grandfather, whose support and affection had been a refuge from his turbulent relationship with his father. Stefan’s death – whilst Adam was in the WAS, had been a bitter blow. He had been touched by her misery, knowing she needed someone to talk to; someone who would listen to her memories and it would have taken a much colder heart than his to turn her away. Yet he envied men, like Scarlet and Ochre, who seemed able to indulge in relationships and move on when necessary, without all the emotional baggage he habitually accumulated.
Unnerved by his long silence Symphony had gone to speak to Claret and they were laughing at some joke when Claret moved the chair along the console to acknowledge a flashing light. There was a muttered conversation and then he called, “Sir, permission to go to the Computer Room? There appears to be a malfunction with one of the navigational beacons, which the technicians say is a programming fault. I will need to run the diagnostic from there to compensate.”
“S.I.G, Lieutenant, who is your standby here?”
Claret punched a button. “Lieutenant Viridian. He should be in the admin office. I’ll call him up...”
“Viridian? No, no wait. Don’t disturb him. I can manage from here for the time it will take you to do what’s necessary. You go now.”
“Yes sir.” Claret left the room at a jog and the door whooshed shut behind him.
“What’s wrong with Viridian?” Symphony asked.
“I can’t stand the man,” Blue admitted with a shrug. “Just rubs me up the wrong way.”
Viridian was a large and somewhat self-important American from the Bible-belt, with a loud voice and exaggerated manners, but she was surprised that Blue should be so anti. She thought he got on with everybody on the base. He returned her gaze with a steady smile as she looked at him thoughtfully,
“I know it’s irrational, I don’t like the way he’s always trying to push his own opinions as the only acceptable ones,” he said, then seeing her surprise he added, less forcefully, “Apart from that he’s never done anything to me, except nearly deafen me from time to time!”
“Yes, he does like the sound of his own voice," she agreed, grinning at an idea that occurred to her. “Perhaps he’s still smarting after the Appomattox bi-centennial?”
Blue joined in her laughter and suggested, “Or perhaps I just look like a lost soul?”
He was still smiling as he turned his attention to a flashing light on the console. He flicked a switch, heard a burst of music and a laughing voice shouting,
“Merry Christmas Greenie, you old Bastard!”
“Thank you, Spectrum London. I will pass your message on to Lieutenant Green at my earliest opportunity.”
“Oh Lord! S’that you, Bice?” the voice asked hopefully.
“No, this is Captain Blue. Is there anything else you wish to report?”
There was a burst of laughter from the intercom and a different voice was distinctly heard to say, ‘Oh my Gawd - now we’re for it - he’s got the merciless Blue!’
The original voice came back with, “No sir, Captain Sir. All quiet here.”
“Hardly,” Blue replied. “Merry Christmas London. And try to keep the lines clear for genuine emergencies.”
“Yes sir.” The line went dead.
“Merciless Blue indeed,” he muttered, seeming genuinely put out by the incident.
“Well you can sound a little severe, you know?” Symphony told him, wondering if he would be annoyed.
“Me? I’m a pussycat!” he protested.
“So is a tiger, but you don’t expect it to purr at you.”
He gave a spurt of laughter and they both grinned.
“It sounded like another great party,” she smiled.
“Yes.” He crunched on a cashew. “Look, I’ll dispose of the plates, you go and enjoy yourself. I’d hate you to miss all of the fun down there, just from a sense of… charity. ”
Symphony stood up - it was now or never - and taking her courage in both hands, said, “Will you come down to the party later? I was hoping we could talk. I haven’t really thanked you….”
Blue interrupted her, shaking his head. “Nothing to thank me for, Symphony Angel.”
“When you helped me out of that… mess I was in.”
He had found her a few weeks ago, weeping over a final demand from the credit card Company. Over–riding her protests he’d given her the money to make the immediate payment.
“It was nothing. I’d have done the same for anyone.”
“But you did it for me, Adam. I am grateful.”
“It was nothing,” he repeated, harsher than she expected.
She was irritated by his sudden volte-face. Lately it had been so difficult to read his mood – he’d be friendly and chatty one minute and then just as suddenly as prickly as a holly bush and so dismissive that it verged on rudeness.
She gave it one last try. “Festive cheer, I said.” She fished out the mistletoe. “It’s obligatory, I’m afraid.” She watched his face for a reaction.
Surprisingly, he smirked at her. “Well, we mustn’t break with tradition, now, must we?”
She reached over and held the mistletoe above his head. To her surprise, he turned and kissed her full on the lips. She lost her balance and fell across his lap.
He helped her to her feet and teased, “You never want to read too much into events at Office parties.”
Blushing, she straightened her uniform and looked angrily at him. “Why do you pretend so hard that you don’t care? You say one thing and do another! And they call women fickle… ”
Without waiting for an answer, she turned on her heel and left him looking unhappily after her.
Back at the party, Scarlet had extracted himself from the game of charades and slipped out into the cool corridor. He averted his eyes from Captain Ochre and a young woman who looked like Janice Desoto - a technician of the Angel flight - who were busily getting better acquainted in the corner. He smiled and sprinted up the down escalator and along to the Control Room. He took the door at a rush and squeezed in before it was half open.
“Whatcha Blue-boy!” he shouted.
Blue jumped and cursed as his pen scrawled across the page he was studying.
“Oh heaps and heaps. Have a sausage roll.”
“Where did they spring from?” Scarlet asked, shoving one whole into his mouth and chewing furiously.
“Symphony brought them up.”
Scarlet looked round. “Where’d she go?”
“I don’t know where she went. She waved some mistletoe over my head, fell over when I kissed her and stormed off in a huff, muttering something,” Blue said, almost truthfully.
“Wow, some kiss, heh?” Scarlet perched on the console. “Where’s Claret?”
“Running a diagnostic on the navigation beacons.”
“So where’s the standby officer?” Scarlet asked a little surprised that Blue had contravened regulations about manning the Control Room. He screwed up his face. “Oh, I know it’s your favourite Lieutenant - Viridian, yeah? You’ll have to get over this thing you have about him, it could be important one day.”
“I know, but I don’t like being told I’m some kind of pagan...” Blue muttered.
Scarlet rubbed his chin reflectively. Blue had been angrier then he had ever seen him after Lieutenant Viridian had hijacked an amicable discussion of Christmas traditions, in the various cultures represented by the Spectrum crew, to deliver what amounted to a sermon. Most of the audience had just shrugged it off as another of Viridian’s little foibles.
“Well you did say some pretty cutting things in return,” he mused, remembering the general astonishment when Blue had ripped into Viridian at the conclusion of the speech, with an acerbity that had shocked them all.
“And I meant it,” Blue snapped, starting to get angry again.
“Whoah, hold on, there! We don’t want civil war breaking out on Cloudbase – that’s not what Christmas is about – peace and goodwill and so forth.”
“I have no intention of starting a war – you idiot,” Blue said tolerantly, as Scarlet helped himself to the last vol-au-vent. “You seem to be having a good time at the party.”
“Yeah, but not as good as Ochre.” He nudged his friend suggestively, “He’s busy making out with Desoto.”
“Scandalmonger,” Blue said, amused by Scarlet’s archness.
“No really! It was getting awfully passionate in that corner. Would you like me to cover here and you can go and see for yourself?”
“Perhaps get a little action of your own? After all if Symphony fell over after one kiss, then I’d say you were in with a chance there, Blue-boy.” Scarlet watched for a reaction, wondering if Magenta could have sensed something he’d missed in his friend.
“What did they put in the punch?” Blue asked severely.
Scarlet decided Patrick was imagining things. “It is a good party. Even the Colonel got roped into playing charades.”
Blue raised an eyebrow and sighed. “Seems like a long time since I went to a really good party. My parents always give spectacular parties at Christmas - fancy dress ones. Some of the costumes were amazing. I remember my Mother had this fantastic dress one year taken from a portrait of Madame de Pompadour. She looked stunning.”
“What did you go as?” Scarlet asked intrigued.
“Oh, just about everything in my time. Cowboys, spacemen, pirates – even went as a Viking once – we all did my brothers and me.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Yeah, sometimes.” Blue gave a slight, embarrassed laugh. “I haven’t been to one in years.”
“Look, Adam, I know it’s none of my business but, maybe you should call them up. It is Christmas.”
“You’re quite right – it is none of your business.”
Scarlet frowned as Blue ducked his head to the papers on the desk again and refused to look at him. He knew that relations between Blue and his family were strained – had been for years – but since he joined Spectrum things had got worse.
When they had held their commissioning ceremony everyone’s family had come to join in the celebrations– both of his parents had come along – but only Blue’s mother had attended. Apparently his father had refused to consider it, returning the invitation with a short, handwritten note, which his son had read once, crumpled and thrown into the waste shute. Blue had confided to him, whilst deciding whether to send the invitation at all, that his father had never forgiven him for firstly refusing to join the family firm and then for joining the WAS Security Department, which had meant he didn’t even have the consolation of talking about ‘my son the test pilot’ any more. Joining Spectrum and using a code name was just another insult in John Svenson’s mind.
At the ceremony, seeing Mrs Svenson standing alone by a window, Scarlet went to speak to her, and introduced his parents. She had turned out to be a perfectly reasonable and charming woman, obviously devoted to, if slightly in awe of, her eldest son. She had been largely ignorant of Spectrum’s role in the World Government’s security arrangements and had asked intelligent and pertinent questions, until Adam approached with a tray of champagne for them all, when she had pointedly changed the subject.
Personally, Scarlet couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be estranged from your parents – to keep secret something so central to your life that it made you an outcast from the people who loved you most. General and Mrs Metcalfe were an important part of their only son’s life and he was devoted to them in his own way. Both of his parents knew all about Spectrum, had encouraged him to accept the offer to join and celebrated his successes and his commission with genuine pleasure, whereas Blue had told his parents as little as possible about the organisation and his part in it.
Scarlet pondered on the problem, as he watched Blue checking through the documents with unnecessary diligence. He liked him – had done since they’d met up on their Spectrum training, but he thought the man was sometimes way too stubborn for his own good. He also felt sure that, beneath that calm exterior, Adam was hurting.
“Did you send them a card?” He asked suddenly.
Blue looked up, a sour expression on his face. “We are on speaking terms – just.”
“Did they send you one?”
“What is this - The Spanish Inquisition?”
“No – you’ve got it mixed up, Svenson – probably because you’ve only had a Yankee education. I’m British and that was the Spanish… hence Spanish Inquisition? We didn’t have one – an Inquisition – because we were already C of E and terribly enlightened.”
Blue grinned at him. “You’re crazy, d’you know that Metcalfe?”
“MetCARF – not MetCAFF,” Scarlet corrected with mock severity.
“Okay MetCarf – and its SVENson not Svensun.”
They both laughed and Blue leant back in his chair and stretched. Poking fun at each other’s accents and nationality was becoming something of a tradition with them.
“Yes, I got a card. Actually I got three. My Mother sent one and my sister and youngest brother sent one together. And there was the official family card – Dad has them printed by the van load. You know the kind of thing – embossed wording, season’s greetings from John and Sarah Svenson and family. I assume that was from my Dad.”
“Oh.” Scarlet was at a loss. He’d received a huge parcel from his parents a week or so ago full of birthday and Christmas presents carefully wrapped, and two sets of cards, each with a loving handwritten message in.
Blue turned to look at him, his eyes suspiciously bright. “So you see, the spirit of Christmas really is dead. At least in my father’s house - where it takes its lead from Scrooge: Bah, humbug.”
“Forget it Paul, I have.”
Scarlet could see the lie in that, but he let it drop. No point in getting the guy more upset. He wondered if he should go and leave Blue to his moping, but on the whole he thought it better to stay awhile.
Blue stopped staring into the distance and picked up his pen again. He had considered calling his parents; in the past, his mother had always called him on Christmas Day, but it would be more difficult now that he was on Cloudbase. The Officers were not allowed mobile phones in case the signals interfered with the base’s electronics, and he knew his Mother wouldn’t be able to get through to the Base itself. His reluctance to phone them was because, deep inside, he was not at all sure his Father would accept the call. He had tried to speak directly to him about attending the commissioning ceremony, only to have his calls refused at the office and hung up at home. He had no intention of giving his Father the satisfaction of doing the same again – or of allowing him to upset his Mother by so pointed a humiliation of their wayward child.
It was silly, but there it was – John Svenson could win Olympic gold for irascibility!
The Amber Room party was in full swing. Destiny and Rhapsody were plying everyone with food and drink; Melody was deep in conversation with Captains Grey, Black and Brown about motor cars, whilst Symphony was perched moodily on a stool as Captain Magenta and Doctor Fawn tried to cheer her up.
The Colonel drained his third cup of fruit punch and decided that enough was enough. He had already consented to join in charades and he felt sure there would be dancing some time soon, and he didn’t want to get involved with that. He waited until he could speak to Destiny to excuse himself.
“It has been an enjoyable evening, Destiny, thank you for inviting me.”
“Oh but Colonel, you must not go! We are to have dancing and there are presents...”
Colonel White gave a slight bow of the head. “I’m sure that Captain Blue is better suited to dancing than I am and he deserves a chance to join the party, don’t you think?”
“Bien sûr, but why must you go?”
“Someone has to command the base, Destiny.”
“Poohf, there many officers here who could do it for once, it does not have to be you, Colonel.”
“I think it best that the younger officers get a chance to unwind. I have enjoyed myself and I think you have all done marvellously well with organising it.”
“Then you must ‘ave your present before you go.” Destiny whirled away to the pile of gifts surrounding the tree and rummaged through them.
“Ah bien.” She turned to the Colonel and presented it to him, “Joyeux Noël, Colonel.”
“Why, thank you, Destiny.” The Colonel looked a little embarrassed. “I do not have presents for you…”
“Poohf – there are too many of us, and it does not surprise me that the silly men did not think to make you one of their consortium!” She smiled gaily and tiptoed to kiss his cheeks.
The Colonel cleared his throat and noticed the grinning faces of all the other guests watching Destiny’s little ceremony.
“Yes, well, thank you Destiny and all of the Angels, for the charming party and for my gift. I shall open it tomorrow morning. Please, continue with the festivities, everyone.”
“Merry Christmas, Colonel!” Black called out as the Colonel was about to leave the room.
“Thank you, Captain. The same to you – to all of you!”
“Merry Christmas, Colonel!” Everyone chorused and the laughter and talking broke out again as the door closed.
Colonel White examined the elegantly wrapped present as he strode to the Control Room. He was surprised to find Scarlet in there, chatting away to Blue and Claret.
“Good evening Colonel, is there anything wrong?” Blue asked standing to attention.
“No, Captain. I have come to relieve you and allow you to go to the party.”
“See Cinders, you shall go to the ball,” Scarlet quipped.
“I hardly see myself as a fairy godmother Captain Scarlet, but in essence that is true enough.” The Colonel smiled. “How about you, Lieutenant Claret, do you wish to go?”
Claret shook his dark head, “I am fine, Colonel Sir.”
Blue needed no second urging and cleared the desk. Scarlet waited for him and with a smart salute, the pair left the Control Room and strolled down to the Amber Room.
The dancing had started by the time they arrived. Melody and Lieutenant Green were dancing the twist and Destiny was rock and rolling with Captain Magenta, whilst Rhapsody, wearing Captain Scarlet’s cap which she’d found discarded somewhere, was bopping around a rigidly stationary Captain Black. Brown was still talking cars to Grey whilst Ochre and Janice Desoto had completely disappeared!
“I told you it was a wild party.” Scarlet grinned at his friend and then noticed Rhapsody, “Oy! That’s my cap young lady, I want it back now!” he darted across to her and Rhapsody dodged behind Captain Black.
“Save me Captain!” she squealed.
Black wore an expression of tolerant disgust as he was used as a maypole by his younger compatriots.
“Give me back my cap!” Scarlet threatened.
“Or what?” Rhapsody danced away to the bunch of mistletoe. “You can have it if you pay the price,” she teased, pointing upwards.
“Extortion, heh?” Scarlet laughed. Nothing loath, he grabbed her by the waist and tilted her backwards until the cap fell off, and then he gave her a long, flamboyant kiss on the lips, whilst men nearby egged him on. Finally he dropped her the few remaining feet to the floor and left her to get to her feet as he rescued his cap and took the plaudits of his fellow officers. A somewhat breathless Rhapsody straightened her tunic and flounced off in an exaggerated huff, rubbing her backside as she went.
Blue was filling a glass with the remains of the fruit punch as Rhapsody came over.
“Any left?” she asked.
“Only this – have it if you want.” Blue proffered the glass.
“Thanks, but you can have it, I’ll take the lemonade.”
“Are you okay?”
“Of course, why shouldn’t I be? I’ll get Metcalfe back for that later.” She grinned up at him. “I’m not gonna tell you how, though, you’re one of the enemy.”
“I wouldn’t tell,” Blue protested, with wide eyed innocence.
“Oh no?” Rhapsody demurred. “You’re all the same, you men.”
Symphony joined them, giving Blue the merest glance of acknowledgement. “Dianne, we have to get revenge for that,” she hissed, conspiratorially.
“Oh, we will.” The pair put their heads together.
“Not dancing Captain?” Melody asked as she joined them by the drinks.
“I only just got here,” Blue excused himself. “Besides, terpsichore is not my forte.”
Melody pulled a face. “Massa Blue, I can’t unnerstan’ dem forry-gen tongues.”
“Stop it Magnolia,” he grimaced.
She gave him a bright grin. “Talk proper then!”
“Okay – I am quite possibly one the world’s worst dancers,” he admitted.
“Well, I is a brave lil’ girl, so I will risk it, Massa Blue.”
“I’ll have you know my family were fervent abolitionists. I lost ancestors in the civil war.” Blue chuckled.
She smiled and took his hand. “Come on, you damn Yankee, let’s shake a leg!”
Symphony watched Melody lead Blue onto the improvised dance floor and allow him to sweep her into his arms as they rocked to the music. Rhapsody had been pouring herself a drink and glanced up to see the expression on her friend’s face.
She hid her smile and said, “You can always ask him to dance later – if he doesn’t ask you first, that is.”
“Why should I want to do that?” Symphony snapped.
“Oh come off it, Karen! It’s written all over your face.”
“What is?” Symphony demanded.
“Jealousy… or is it longing, perhaps?”
“Dianne Simms, you have an overactive imagination!”
Rhapsody shrugged. “And you have it bad, girl.”
“Well? What about you and Scarlet?” Symphony retaliated.
Rhapsody smiled. “Oh that… well, if he’s lucky, I just might… when he learns to take me and it seriously.”
Symphony sighed, “I can’t seem to get through to him any more,” she admitted. “I thought he liked me – I was sure of it at Koala Base, but once we got here it was like… who are you?”
“They’ve got a lot on their plates, Karen. We all have. Face it, the Colonel isn’t exactly keen on on-board romances and Adam is nothing if not a good, obedient boy.”
“He’s not a boy,” Karen corrected absently.
“Is that the voice of experience?” Dianne wondered aloud and finished her drink, grinning at her friend’s discomposure.
“Ten… Eleven… Twelve! Merry Christmas!”
Everyone counted the strokes of Big Ben, relayed through to the party from the Control Room by the ever obliging Lieutenant Claret. There was an orgy of hugging and kissing around the room, with the officers very keen to get a kiss from all the Angels.
Destiny held out her hand to Blue and he gallantly kissed her fingers.
“No Adam – you do it like this!” Scarlet cried and swept Destiny into his arms.
“Drop me on my derrière and you will live to regret, it Paul,” she warned.
“Would I?” Scarlet spread his hands in innocent appeal.
Destiny nodded, but submitted with good grace to his embrace and kiss. It went on somewhat longer than she had anticipated and she thumped him until he let her go.
“I prefer Captain Blue’s gallantry to yours!” She laughed at them both.
“Wow, this is a splendid party,” Scarlet said and went in search of Symphony to claim his kiss.
Rhapsody came to Blue’s side. He smiled down at her.
“Don’t make me use this Captain,” she giggled, waving her sprig of mistletoe at him. Obligingly he kissed her. “Have you seen Melody and Symphony? Must do the rounds, you know.”
“I just have Melody to do. Symphony caught me earlier with some of that.” He pointed at the mistletoe.
“Earlier doesn’t count,” Rhapsody warned, turning to give Doctor Fawn his kiss.
Blue saw Captain Black hovering near the door. “Don’t forget Black, Rhapsody,” he said, sacrificing his partner to save himself. He gave the Captain an apologetic smile as the energetic kisser made her way towards him.
He turned to see Melody smiling at him and he gave her a hug and a kiss, whispering, “One more Massa Blue from you and I will do a Scarlet on you!”
“Oh, promises, promises!” Melody laughed. “That would get me in awful trouble with a certain American lady.”
Blue flushed – was everyone determined to throw Symphony at him? She came across to join them and Melody watched them exchange their kiss.
“Some people just can’t be helped,” she muttered, rolling her eyes at the perfunctory display of affection she’d just witnessed and went to finish her duty by collaring Lieutenant Green.
“The presents!” Rhapsody cried and had to be restrained by Melody and Destiny from diving in to the pile in search of hers.
“Someone sensible ought to hand them out,” Fawn suggested, seeing the wrapping paper straining under the onslaught.
“No - Captain Scarlet has to do it!” Symphony shouted. “He’s already wearing a coat of the right colour.”
“And I have a nice fluffy white beard here that will suit him a treat!” Rhapsody agreed. She waved the beard at Captain Scarlet.
Grey and Brown escorted him to the tree and he looked like a man waiting execution as Rhapsody fixed the beard over his ears, giggling. Symphony then produced a red felt hat, trimmed with white fur and a large pompom. It was too big and slipped over his eyes. Melody stepped forward and took several photographs of the unfortunate Captain, struggling with his costume. Rhapsody had her revenge!
Scarlet grinned good-naturedly as the girls had their fun, before getting the first of the pile of presents and squinting at the name on the label.
“Captain Grey, merry Christmas, Brad.” Scarlet handed out the gift and looked at the next label, “Lieutenant Green, have you been a good boy, Lieutenant?” He asked sternly and withheld the present until he got a reply.
Amidst the laughter of the crowd Green replied, “Yes Sir, Captain Santa.”
“La belle dame sans merci – sorry, I mean Destiny Angel.”
“Merci bien, tout le monde.” Destiny clipped Scarlet’s ear as she took her present – which it had to be said, was pretty shoddily wrapped by the exacting standards of Harmony Angel.
“Melody Angel –this one is all for you, merry Christmas, Mags!”
“Captain Ochre. No response? Now I wonder where he’s got to.” Scarlet mused as Lieutenant Green sniggered and wondered if he really needed to be told.
“Captain Magenta – you had better not drink it all at once, Patrick.” Magenta grinned and took the bottle shaped parcel carefully.
“Harmony Angel – What? She’s still in Angel One? You girls are heartless. Now, let’s see who’s next? Rhapsody Angel – we know you don’t deserve a present!”
“I do too! I made all the punch and put the sausages on sticks,” she protested reaching for the parcel Scarlet was holding out.
“Oh, well that’s different then.” He smiled up at her. “Merry Christmas Dianne.”
“Thank you, Santa; same to you.”
“Doctor Fawn - whoops! I hope it isn’t broken. Captain Brown, merry Christmas! Captain Black, Wow, Conrad, its heavy whatever it is.”
“Thank you.” Captain Black gave a taut smile and tried to peep under the wrapping paper.
“This one’s for someone called Captain Scarlet – can’t imagine who that is! Perhaps you would be kind enough to hold it for now, Captain Black – it will stop you from trying to see what’s inside your present. Nearly done folks! One for Captain Blue - can’t guess what that is, Adam, but I hope it’s a good read and not the same as the one I’ve got you! And finally… Symphony Angel – there you go, good things come in small packages, they say.”
Black handed Scarlet his present as Rhapsody started her own countdown, “Five, four, three, two, one – open them!”
The sound of ripping paper filled the air as everyone tore at the wrappings.
“Tiens, someone has put the whole of a sticky tape on this!” Destiny complained, and then added, “Merveilleux! My favourite parfum! How did you know it?”
“That was Paul’s best guess,” Blue volunteered from the crowd. Destiny blushed slightly and Rhapsody glared at the unrepentant Santa.
“Wow, thanks folks, kid leather driving gloves, and just the right size too!” Melody said, displaying her hands.
“Phew, that was lucky!” Blue whispered to Brown.
“I got a radio alarm clock – is that a subtle hint?” Grey asked with a cheerful grin.
“I hope not, I got aftershave and toiletries,” Brown added.
Magenta thanked everyone as he opened his Irish whiskey and Symphony reminded him to keep it hidden from the Colonel! After all, a dim view was taken of keeping alcohol on the base.
Lieutenant Green had a hand made guitar strap in soft leather and Doctor Fawn had a Newton’s cradle, which accounted for the clanking Scarlet had heard.
“Hey, I got a Liberty silk scarf.” Rhapsody tied it over her hair. “How do I look?”
“Smashing, “Scarlet replied. “It suits you.” He glanced at Blue, with an ‘I-told-you-so’ smile.
Blue conceded the point. “What was in there, Con?” he asked as Black screwed up his wrapping paper.
Black held out his hand to reveal a paperweight, containing a representation of the solar system, with delicate miniature planets orbiting a golden globe. His Spectrum colleagues knew he was torn between staying with them to consolidate their new organisation and returning to space one last time. “It is possibly the nicest present I ever received; my thanks, ladies.” He said stiffly.
“Only possibly?” Symphony smiled and kissed his cheek. “Merry Christmas Conrad, you old fraud! Don’t forget to bring us all back some Martian rock.” Black gave another of his taut smiles and cleared his throat.
“Now, what did the mysterious Scarlet get?” Rhapsody asked, peering over his shoulder.
He held up his gift. “A boy’s own army pen-knife!”
The room erupted into laughter.
“What were you saying about subtle hints, Brad?” Blue asked.
Scarlet grinned ruefully. “What was the book, Adam?” he asked to divert attention.
“An edition of Le Chanson de Geste I had intended to buy for myself.” Blue offered the book up for inspection.
Melody pulled a face, as she examined the cover. “You like this?”
“Sure. I used to read these old stories with my Grandfather – he liked the Norse sagas and these medieval romances too. He could read the originals, but luckily this edition gives both texts, see? The original and an English translation.”
“Weird,” she said looking at the pages with their archaic printing and bright medieval illustrations. “What is it about?”
“Roland and Oliver - Paladins at the Court of Charlemagne. They are forced to fight to the death but when neither is victorious they become great friends. Then they fight the Saracens at Roncesvalles to protect the retreat of Charlemagne’s army, after another of the Knights has betrayed them all. It’s all very chivalrous and noble. They don’t make it, of course and Oliver’s sister, who is betrothed to Roland, drops down dead when she hears of their deaths,” he explained enthusiastically.
Melody’s expression grew more glazed at every word. “Well, each to his own, of course, but give me a good who-done-it any day!”
Blue smiled, sheepishly. “Well, somebody must’ve read my letter to Santa anyway.”
“No way – some things remain sacred,” Melody replied. “Symphony heard you talking to Harmony about it.”
Blue looked across at the blonde Angel, laughing with Captain Grey. “Really? I do remember reading a review of it in a Sunday supplement and Harmony asked me about the story. I didn’t know Symphony was listening.”
“See, you don’t know everything, after all,” Rhapsody chuckled.
“What did you get?” Grey was asking his companion.
She held up a smart burgundy coloured leather purse. “All I need now is something to put in it! I am as broke as always!”
Grey nodded sympathetically.
“My grandmother always said it was bad luck to give someone a purse without anything in it,” Blue commented, walking over to join them. “Have you looked inside?”
She gave him a sceptical look and unzipped the purse. Her eyes widened as she pulled out a silver dollar. “My Grandfather gave me his collection of silver dollars when I was a kid and I managed to loose one of them – I never dared tell anyone at home and I’ve been trying to replace it ever since! I was told you couldn’t get these any more.” She looked suspiciously at Blue, who was trying to look innocent, but only succeeding in looking absurdly pleased with himself.
“You can if your Godfather is the President of the Federal Reserve.” Magenta commented, looking over Grey’s shoulder.
“Your Godfather – are we talking about the Mob?” Symphony gasped.
Magenta laughed, “No – his Godfather.” He pointed towards Blue. “And I think he might resent the implication that there isn’t much difference between the mafia and the banks: possibly.”
“Uncle Martin owed me a favour; I’ve been providing him with an alibi for years. And he’s only President of the Massachusetts State Reserve, not the Fed,” Blue corrected. He saw no harm in using family contacts to get what he wanted.
“Alibi?” Grey asked.
“Yeah, every weekend he spent away with his mistress he was supposed to be with me. I just said yeah whenever his wife asked me if I’d seen him lately,” Blue stated matter of factly.
Rhapsody voiced her disapproval and even Destiny – not noted for her narrow mindedness - seemed shocked.
“What?” Blue asked, genuinely surprised by their reaction. “I did nothing wrong.”
“I think its more that you did it rather than what you did.” Scarlet commented. “Boston born and raised – a puritan to your core. Tut tut, Adam.”
Blue pulled a face and shrugged in exasperation.
“Well, it seems as if everyone got something nice,” Melody said. “I think Santa did a fine job.” There was general agreement on that score.
“I hope the Colonel likes his present,” Rhapsody mused, starting to collect the torn paper.
“What did you get him?” Brown asked.
“A silver fountain pen, engraved with his initials,” Rhapsody said. “I would have liked to get the Spectrum insignia, but it would have been too obvious.”
“And too expensive,” Destiny commented.
“I’m sure he’ll like it,” Black said. “He’ll appreciate the gesture.” He paused. “Which initials?”
“CW – for Colonel White, of course!” Rhapsody said. There was a ripple of laughter. She hastened to explain, “If we’d put Charles Grey on it, everyone would have thought it stood for Captain Grey.”
“Yes, Angel, of course they would,” Scarlet patronised, smirking all the time. Rhapsody put her tongue out at him and bombarded him with the wrapping paper she’d collected.
“Children, behave!” Blue admonished, shaking his head in despair. “There’ll be tears before bedtime…”
Scarlet threw the Santa hat at him. “Oh shut up!” He advanced towards his friend with exaggerated belligerence. Blue accepted the challenge, swaggering to meet him swinging the Santa hat in his hand.
“Give over, you two,” Rhapsody pleaded, shaking her head at such a childish display.
But honour had to be satisfied and shoulder to shoulder the two men shoved each other back and forth, both trying hard not to laugh. It developed into a friendly scuffle between the pair of them, which Scarlet was getting the better of when Destiny finally pulled them apart.
Unable to find any further reason to remain in the Amber room, Melody finally went to relieve Harmony in Angel One. Most of the officers drifted away to get some sleep or start their duty rotas. This left a small group willing to start the clear up.
“I want to say thank you – how did you manage it?” Symphony asked Blue, joining him in collecting dirty glasses and plates so that she could speak to him privately.
“Uncle Martin did it all. Did I get the year right?”
She nodded, “2015 – the year I’d lost. I’m impressed that you remembered, it was ages ago we were talking about it.”
“He’s been looking for quite a while,” Blue admitted, adding, “Well, now your collection is complete again. Did you look in the rest of the purse?”
With a wary shake of her head she unzipped the billfold to reveal four crisp new $500 notes.
“Did you put these in here, Adam? I can’t accept this!”
“Yes you can; if you will do something for me.”
Her frown deepened and she bristled at her first thought. He shook his head, smiling, amused at her all too obvious conclusion.
“That should cover the balance, so pay off your credit card and cut it up. Then you won’t have to worry any more about the Colonel discovering you’re in debt.”
She looked at him in confusion. “Why are you so wonderful to me one minute and so horrible the next?”
“It’s a long story – I’ll tell you about it one day – but not here. Just promise me you’ll clear the card and destroy it? You can’t spend your way out of misery, sweetheart.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“You’ll answer me truthfully?”
He hesitated and shrugged.
“When we were at Koala Base, you said some things to me that meant a lot. Did you mean it?”
“Do you still mean it?”
“Our situation has changed radically since then, we’re….”
She put a finger across his lips and repeated her question.
Blue heaved a deep sigh. Months of emotional frustration and unhappiness surged through him – over ruling his intellect and reason. “I have tried not to,” he admitted finally, “but yes, I do – more than ever.”
“Oh Adam,” she said gently, her eyes shining as she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“I thought we had finished with that bit,” Scarlet said to Rhapsody as he held the plastic waste sack for her to put the rubbish in, adding, “Without benefit of mistletoe too.”
“Let them alone!” she threatened, and leaned across to the music centre, programming in a series of numbers. The room began to fill with the rich sounds of a classic romantic ballad.
“Do I know this?” Scarlet asked, peering over her shoulder.
“Probably not, but its one of Karen’s favourites. Now she can have her dance.”
“You are just an old romantic, aren’t you, Di?”
She grinned at him. “Yes, but I will still dance with you, if you ask me nicely.”
“Lady Dianne, may I have the pleasure of this dance?” He bowed.
Rhapsody gave him her hand and they joined Blue and Symphony on the dance floor.
Seeing them, Fawn offered his hand to Destiny, who gave him a bright smile and they whirled out to join the others.
Harmony stepped out of the Angel lift and stretched. She came to stand beside Captain Black, who was eating the last mince pie and asked, “Was it a good party? Did I miss much?”
“It was a good party and some people enjoyed it even more than others.”
Harmony surveyed the scene. Scarlet and Rhapsody were smiling into each others eyes, blissfully unaware of the spectacle they presented, whilst Blue and Symphony appeared to be joined from top to toe. She felt no real surprise, having had her own suspicions about Rhapsody’s and Symphony’s plans involving the two Captains for some time.
“Is there any food left?” She looked at the debris on the table behind them.
“I think Scarlet ate it all,” Black confessed, guiltily swallowing his last mouthful.
Harmony snorted. “Definitely no surprise there then!”