Sick bay personnel had the procedure down to a fine art. As the medijet landed and the emergency light flashed, they moved efficiently into action. Captain Scarlet’s recovery room was always in a state of readiness and the robot nurses didn’t take long to fire up.
The senior nurse had already been informed of the nature of the emergency:
One injury: CS amber alert, and one walking wounded.
Dr Fawn, currently occupied in removing a burst appendix from a Hungarian computer technician, was notified, but because it was ‘code amber’ he felt justified in completing his operation before examining his new patients.
The doors to the ward swung open and three orderlies wheeled in a gurney on which lay a comatose man in a vivid red uniform. Behind them came another orderly assisting a man in a grey uniform to walk along the corridor. The officer’s head was bandaged and his complexion pale, so that a nurse came over as he entered the ward and took his other arm, guiding him to the triage station on the opposite side of the facility from Captain Scarlet’s recovery room as Sick Bay returned to normal.
About twenty minutes after Scarlet and Grey had arrived, Dr Fawn left the operating theatre and made his way to the recovery room. Nurse Ingram greeted him with the reassurance that the patient was comfortable and handed him the medical record print out.
He scanned down the report and commented, “Hmm: four broken ribs on the left hand side, left leg, hip and collarbone broken, a broken cheekbone and a contusion to the left temple.” He looked towards his patient and back to the nurse. “Any potential damage to the optical nerve?”
“Well, he has a magnificent black eye, but I’m not seeing any evidence of internal damage on the scanners,” Belinda Ingram replied. “He’s certainly concussed, but there’s no difficulty breathing and the brain scan shows an acceptable level of activity.”
“A car crash wasn’t it?”
She nodded. “Yes, Captain Grey says a lorry came out of nowhere and forced them off the road, they skidded down an embankment and slid sideways against a concrete retaining wall. He managed to scramble out of the car, but Scarlet was against the wall and knocked unconscious. The lorry came down on top of them and crushed the SSC.”
Fawn raised one eyebrow. “I’m surprised he only sustained the injuries he has. How is Captain Grey?”
“Minor cuts and bruises - and shock, of course.” She paused and glanced at the silent body on the bed. “He’s not used to working with Scarlet and all that that can entail. I mean, not like Captain Blue is.”
Fawn closed the folder and sucked in his cheeks. “I’m not sure Captain Blue is ‘used to it’ either, Bill. He copes, but the fact that he sits out almost every recovery period at Scarlet’s bedside tends to suggest that he’s never got used to seeing his friend always recover from what ails him.”
She smiled agreement. “Yes, I suppose that’s true; Blue always looks relieved when Scarlet first opens his eyes and insults him.”
Fawn chuckled and shook his head. “Those two will never admit how much they mean to each other. To hear them talking you’d doubt they even like each other on occasion.”
“Boys, as they say, will be boys, Doctor, and it isn’t quite the done thing to be ‘best-ever friends’ once you’re out of short trousers.”
Fawn laughed aloud. “How right you are.” He handed her back the file. “Do we know when Blue is due back on base?”
She shook her head. “He and Ochre were providing security for that conference at the petrochemical site in Minsk where there was an outbreak of that new strain of pulmonary Adenovirus. They’ve been quarantined, of course, in case they’ve been infected. I did hear, through the grapevine, that it’ll be touch and go whether the Adenovirus gets them before one of them kills the other.” She grinned ruefully.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be quarantined for any length of time with Captain Ochre, especially not a bored Captain Ochre…” Fawn replied genially.
“Surely, if anyone can resist throttling him, it’d be Captain Blue?” Nurse Ingram observed.
“True, but I only hope Blue doesn’t feel the need to patronise him; otherwise I can see Ochre having grounds for justifiable homicide,” Fawn remarked.
“Well, we should have them home again in day or so now…Surely they can last out that long?” she replied, as they left the recovery room to their patient and went back to more mundane work.
The Angels were all in the Amber Room, except for Symphony, who was on duty in Angel One. The atmosphere was subdued as the news about Captain Scarlet’s latest injuries had just reached them through the medium of Captain Magenta, who had been up to the Sick Bay to see Captain Grey.
“You say Scarlet’s injuries weren’t fatal?” Melody asked, seeking reassurance from their visitor.
“That’s what Nurse Ingram said. He’s out cold – quite understandably - but he’s not critical and he didn’t – at any point – die. It won’t take him long to come round,” he added with a sympathetic glance at the silent Rhapsody Angel, “and then he’ll be wanting visitors while Fawn runs his usual gamut of tests.”
“He’ll be worse than ever about staying in sick bay,” Rhapsody said quietly, but with a brave little smile. “He’s been planning a visit home for weeks. His mother wants to have a special family celebration for his birthday and she wanted them to be together. His father is due to retire after Christmas and I think they wanted a family get together before that; I mean, it’s unlikely Paul will be able to attend the official retirement parties and so forth, so…”
“Oh, he should be up and about in time for that,” Magenta interjected. “This isn’t as serious as the usual things he … well, I mean – even we’d all get over broken legs and so forth – wouldn’t we?”
The other Angels nodded and Destiny laid a hand on Rhapsody’s arm. “I am sure that Paul will be leaping about like a little sheep in no time. And if you ask smartly, you will get the colonel to give you leave as well to be at the party – if that is what he and Madame Metcalfe wish.”
“Well, I was sort of invited,” Rhapsody said, with a grateful smile at her friend. “But, I wasn’t sure we could swing the duty rota…”
“The rota can always be swinged when something important is coming,” Destiny assured her. After a slight pause she added, innocently, “I have the memory that Symphony owes to you swapped duties, yes? You worked for her when she was invited to her friend’s wedding, in Iowa.”
“That’s true,” Rhapsody said, sounding happier. “I’ll have a word with Paul before I speak to her about it though. He may not want me to go with him.”
“And I can see some pigs flying past our windows…” Destiny remarked, to a ripple of laughter from her companions.
Colonel White ambled into the sick bay and nodded to the two duty nurses who acknowledged his presence with a gesture that was somewhere between a salute and a wave.
“Where is Doctor Fawn?” he asked.
“In his office, sir,” one young woman replied.
White tried to read her name badge, but caught himself starting to squint and sniffed slightly before nodding briskly and striding over to Fawn’s lair.
He knocked and walked in at the unhurried ‘Come in’.
“G’day, Colonel,” Fawn said, starting to get to his feet.
White waved him back to his seat. “Good day, Doctor.”
There was a brief silence until Fawn asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
White pulled a chair to the other side of the desk and sat down, crossing one leg over the other and resting an arm on the edge of the desk.
“Why hasn’t Captain Scarlet reported for duty?”
Fawn closed the file he was working on and looked across at his superior officer with a significant expression.
“Because he hasn’t recovered consciousness yet.”
“Isn’t that a little… unusual?”
Fawn pursed his lips. “Could be. There is so much we still don’t know about retrometabolism that I can’t say, for certain, if there is anything ‘unusual’ or not.”
“Edward, Scarlet’s come back in a much worse state before now and still been demanding to be let out of sick bay in less time than this. It has been almost forty-eight hours since the accident.”
“Yeah, and I still can’t say if this is unusual, Charles. There seem to be many factors involved in his recovery process: the situation immediately prior to the accident being one, the extent of the injuries and how quickly he’s brought back here being another. Even the fact that Captain Blue is generally to be found haunting his bedside might have an effect, I just don’t know.”
“Blue will be back in about another hour or two. The medics in Minsk say he and Ochre were not infected with the Adenovirus.”
“That’s good news; the nurses were running a book on how long they’d survive being cooped up together.”
The colonel struggled to suppress a smile of amusement. “Hmmph; well, be that as it may, they’ll be here. Blue will want to see Scarlet, I’m sure. You’d have no objections?”
“None whatsoever. There have been several visitors dropping by over the past day or so, I’ve placed no restrictions on that.”
Colonel White nodded but said nothing. Doctor Fawn waited mentally counting the seconds under his breath. He’d got to nine before the colonel said:
“I don’t mind telling you I’m worried, Edward.”
“You don’t say? Well, relax; you’re not the only one, Colonel. Rhapsody Angel is creeping about like a little red-eyed mouse. She’s spent all of her off-duty time here since he came in – apart from the times when I’ve packed her off to the Room of Sleep, that is.”
“This isn’t what we’ve come to expect from Scarlet.”
“One thing I have learned about Captain Scarlet, Colonel, is ‘expect the unexpected’. Stop worrying – at least, until I start. I’ve got him under continual observation and he’s not getting worse.”
“We can’t be sure that this remarkable power won’t leave him as unexpectedly as it arrived; I want to know when anything changes – anything. We must be prepared for all eventualities, Doctor.”
“Thank goodness you’re back!”
Captain Blue’s eyes widened in surprise as he walked into the Amber Room and Rhapsody threw herself into his arms.
“Whatever’s wrong, Dianne?”
“Paul’s in sick bay and he’s not recovering. No one knows why!”
Blue frowned. “Even Fawn?”
“You need to go, Adam – straight away. You need to be with Paul. He only gets better when you’re there!”
“What it is to be needed,” Ochre remarked dryly from where he was leaning against the door jamb.
“Whoa, calm down, Di. There’s nothing to prove my being there will help.”
“But when you are there he gets better – he ought to be better by now and he isn’t – ipso facto- you need to be there!”
“I’m not a miracle worker,” Blue protested. “There’ve been plenty of times when Paul’s recovered and I’ve been nowhere near him. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill here. Look, let’s go and see Fawn, eh? I bet it won’t make a jot of difference and Paul’ll wake up when he’s ready to.”
She was crying now and clung to him even as she nodded agreement. Blue put an arm around her shoulder and glanced over her head to where Melody and Harmony were sitting watching their friend’s unhappiness with dismay.
“Hi ladies; please say Hi to Symphony and Destiny for me, will you? I’ll be in sick bay for a while.”
“Of course, Captain Blue,” Harmony replied. “They are on patrol and will be back in twenty minutes from now. We will tell them – both.”
Blue smiled thanks and turned to Ochre.
“You want to come too?”
“No; much though I’d love to see a genuine miracle, I think it’d be better to keep it an exclusive gathering. I’ll drop by and see Scarlet later. Say Hi for me,” he added with a grin, as Blue led Rhapsody out.
“Hello Captain,” Nurse Ingram called, as she looked up at the sound of the door opening. “Glad to have you back. Hello, Rhapsody.”
“Nice to be back; I earned time out of my allotted spell in purgatory by being stuck in Minsk.”
“How’s Captain Ochre?” Nurse Ingram asked innocently.
“Irritating. How’s Scarlet?”
“Awake. He woke up a couple of hours ago. Doctor Fawn’s-”
“-running some tests,” Blue chimed in with the end of her sentence. They shared a smile.
“He’s awake?” Rhapsody asked sharply. “Why wasn’t… didn’t anyone tell me – us? I – we’ve been worried sick.”
“Doctor Fawn told the colonel, as usual,” Nurse Ingram explained. “He doesn’t usually tell anyone else.”
“But I always hear…” Rhapsody started and then glanced at Blue. “Oh, I usually hear it from you…”
He grinned. “See, I told you there was nothing to worry about. Shall we wait to see Paul?”
Rhapsody glanced at her watch. “I can’t, I’m on duty when Symph and Destiny get back. Tell him – tell him, I’ll drop by later – okay?”
He watched her go and then asked, “Can I help myself to a cup of coffee, Bill?”
“You always do, Adam, so go right ahead…”
Blue had finished his second cup of coffee – and the newspaper’s daily crossword - before Doctor Fawn came out of the recovery room.
“G’day, Captain,” Fawn said.
“Hi, Doc; can I go in and see Scarlet?”
Fawn considered for a moment and then said, “I’d rather you didn’t at the moment.”
He beckoned Blue to follow him into his office and the American closed the door behind them. He knew Fawn’s moods well after all the times they had watched and waited together for Captain Scarlet’s retrometabolism to work its magic. He could see that the dapper Australian was worried, and felt the icy finger of doubt touch his own psyche. He knew better to rush the doctor, so without saying anything, he sat in the same seat Colonel White had used earlier.
Fawn poured them both a cup of coffee and sat down at his desk. He took a sip of the coffee before he began:
“Don’t worry; Scarlet’s on the mend. I don’t know what took so long for him to regain consciousness, but I can tell you that his bones are starting to knit. He will make a full recovery.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Of course it is.” Fawn exhaled deeply. “He seems to have lost his memory – probably due to the concussion. He can’t remember where he was going or who he was with when the crash happened. But more than that, he’s worried about something and he won’t tell me what it is. He’s getting very agitated and refusing to eat or drink but keeps demanding to be allowed to get up. At the moment he can’t – but that isn’t going to last. I have the feeling I might have to strap him to the bed once he can stand unaided.”
“How can I help?”
“You can go and see him – he’s been asking for you, by the way – and try to and find out what it is he’s so worried about, assuming you don’t already know?”
Blue shook his head. “As far as I know he wasn’t worried about anything except when he was going to do his Christmas shopping and what to buy Dianne. But that’s nothing he’d fret about …much.”
“I wish my life was so carefree…” Fawn said wryly and finished his coffee.
Captain Blue wandered into the recovery room with a bright smile and cheerful salute to his friend.
Captain Scarlet was lying flat on his back staring at the ceiling and chewing his bottom lip.
“Hiya, Paul,” Blue said, coming to stand by the bed where he could be seen without Scarlet having to strain to turn his head.
“Hello,” Scarlet replied, staring up at Blue with a glimmer of recognition. “Where’ve you been?”
“Chilly at this time of year, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, proper brass monkey weather.”
“Was I there?”
“No, you weren’t. The colonel sent Ochre and me to provide some security for the World Government’s representative at what was supposed to be an acrimonious meeting about excessive discharge of chemicals into the water courses. Instead of anything being agreed, we were all quarantined in case we’d caught this new virulent Adenovirus the World Medical Organisation’s getting all het up about. I’ve spent the past 14 days going stir-crazy with only Captain Ochre for company.”
“What was I doing?”
“Working with Grey – as far as I know.”
“We went somewhere, Adam. He was driving.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was told.”
“I don’t remember. Not a thing. I mean I remember who I am and who you are and stuff like that, but I don’t remember anything recently.”
“What’s the last thing you can remember?”
Scarlet frowned. “I’m not sure. I think it was having dinner with Dianne and talking to her. There is something… I don’t know.”
There was a hint of frustration in his friend’s voice, so Blue said genially, “Well, when she comes off duty, we can ask her what you talked about. Maybe that’ll help.”
Scarlet turned panic-filled eyes to his friend and grabbed at Blue’s arm with his uninjured hand.
“She mustn’t come here! No one must come here – it’s too dangerous!”
“What? What’re you talking about? I’m here, aren’t I? It doesn’t look dangerous to me.” Blue made a show of looking around the austere room.
Scarlet’s grip on his arm tightened. “You’ll remember – you must remember! When the Mysterons killed me the first time it was in a car crash. After that they made me kidnap the World President and fire on my friends and I don’t remember any of it! I don’t remember a thing now; what if they’re doing it again?”
Blue’s face went pale, but he covered Paul’s hand with his own and said, reassuringly, “Look, Paul; Brad was with you all the time. He’s okay and you didn’t go anywhere or do anything he doesn’t know about.”
“No, think! I came back to Cloudbase, I was normal – that’s what everyone thought, wasn’t it? The colonel gave me my next mission without hesitation – that’s what the official report said… I know it did. I read it. No one suspected anything until I kidnapped the World President. But I don’t remember anything about any of it. I remember the car crash; I remember poor Captain Brown and then – nothing, until I woke up here. You have to believe me! I can’t remember anything about this accident, all I know is that there is something I have to do. What if the Mysterons have programmed me for another mission?”
Blue gasped, seeing the anxiety and desperation in his friend’s face.
“The Mysterons don’t do the same thing twice,” he began. “If it fails the first time they forget it and move on. And so should you.”
Scarlet was unconvinced. “You can’t check me with a Mysteron detector because I was already a Mysteron – but what if they used this crash to take me back? I am the perfect agent as far as they’re concerned. You all trust me and you can’t detect me and all the time I might be a wolf in the fold…”
Blue swallowed hard and said as reassuringly as he could: “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”
Doctor Fawn insisted they go straight to see Colonel White.
“But it’s nonsense,” Blue exclaimed, as he trailed after the doctor. “He’s just over-conscientious…”
“Yes, it probably is nonsense, but are you prepared to risk seeing Cloudbase go up in flames or crash onto a city, because you didn’t take Scarlet’s concerns seriously?”
Fawn stopped suddenly and Blue bumped into him.
“No ‘buts’, Adam. We can’t afford to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t like it any more than you do, but if Scarlet’s worried it might be the case, we have no choice but to take precautions.”
“How will we ever tell?” Blue exclaimed. “They’ll have to incarcerate him for the rest of his life and they’ll never know the truth!”
“Think I don’t know that? Come on, we’re wasting time.”
“And I used to think your bedside manner was improving,” Blue muttered grumpily, as he followed the doctor once more.
“You did what?”
Rhapsody Angel stood before Captain Blue, her hands on her hips and temper flashing in her blue eyes. It looked rather like a red bantam hen facing down a golden lion – and winning.
“I told Fawn: he’d asked me to find out what was worrying Paul and so I did. Then Fawn said we had to tell the colonel. He’s right, Rhapsody; consider what might’ve happened if we hadn’t reported the concerns. There is a risk and, after all, they are Paul’s concerns…”
“Did you stop to consider what would happen if you told White?” she snapped. “Paul’s under guard by security men with electron rifles. He’s got more broken bones than you have brains, and he’s under guard in case he runs amok and tries to sabotage the base! As if!”
“That wasn’t my idea,” Blue almost wailed in his own defence. “But we have to take precautions.”
“I wish your parents had thought of that before they had you!” she snarled and turned on her heel to storm out of the Amber Room.
“Ouch,” said Melody, as the door slid shut. “That was well below the proverbial belt.”
“She is very concerned for Captain Scarlet,” Harmony said, with an apologetic smile at the browbeaten captain. “She will apologise when she is calm once more, I am sure.”
“Hey, don’t worry, Harmony; she can’t think of me as more of a heel than I think I am,” Blue said and sighed deeply.
“She shouldn’t talk to you like that,” Symphony said coming over to her boyfriend’s side and slipping her arm through his. Unlike the others she knew Adam Svenson was overly self-conscious about the circumstances of his birth, some six months after his parents’ marriage.
“No, that’s right,” Melody agreed, “Only Karen’s allowed to speak to you like that.”
Blue chuckled and squeezed Symphony’s arm tightly as she opened her mouth to argue with Melody. She looked up at him and he shook his head.
“I’ll go make my peace with them both,” he said, “if Rhapsody will let me. See you charming ladies later.”
As the door closed behind him, Symphony glared at Melody, but bit back her angry comments: Blue didn’t want it mentioned, and she owed it to him to keep her cool.
“I wonder if what Scarlet thinks can be true?” Harmony mused.
“The colonel’s right to be wary,” Melody said. “Rhapsody was well out of line; it isn’t Blue’s fault.”
“Ah, but Rhapsody is in love,” Harmony explained. “That always puts a different perspective on events.”
Melody nodded. “And Blue’s a man who’d understand that… thankfully. If she’d said that to Ochre there would’ve been a punch-up.”
Symphony nodded. “Scarlet won’t blame Blue, that’s for sure.”
“Of course he won’t; he raised the concerns in the first place!” Melody agreed. “I just hope they find a way to resolve the uncertainty.”
“So do we all,” Harmony said quietly.
Fawn looked up in angry surprise as the door to his office opened and a slender woman with long, red hair swept in and started haranguing him before he had time to react.
“They won’t let me in – your goons! They won’t let me in! It’s stupid, it’s ridiculous, it’s not… not fair!”
“It’s Captain Scarlet’s orders, not mine,” Fawn snapped. “He is my patient and I have to allow him to make the decisions about who he sees and when. Right now, he doesn’t want to see you – and given the way you barged in here and started complaining, I can’t say I blame him, Rhapsody Angel. Now, sit down and calm down and maybe I can have a word with the captain and see if he’s changed his mind.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor Fawn,” she gulped, as she flopped into the chair. “Why won’t he see me?” She turned her large blue eyes onto him and he caught the glint of tears.
“Because he is worried he might hurt you, or turn against Spectrum.”
“It’s madness… he would never do that.”
“Quite possibly, but until he accepts that, I don’t think it wise to argue with him. He does have the right to say who he wants to see – same as any patient does.”
“But he can’t spend forever in there.”
“No, he can’t,” Fawn agreed, with a deep sigh.
“What am I going to tell his mother?” Rhapsody asked. “She’s expecting him home for his birthday…”
“He was going home for his birthday; they were planning a family party because his father’s coming up to retirement and Paul won’t be able to attend the ceremonies for that. Well, it’s not likely that he will. So, Mrs Metcalfe was going to have a combined Paul’s birthday, pre-retirement party at their home.”
Doctor Fawn said nothing, but chewed on his bottom lip thoughtfully.
“Doctor?” Rhapsody said quietly to remind him she was still there.
“Hmm? Oh, excuse me, Rhapsody; I have to speak to the colonel…”
She watched him stride from the room and sighed. If I can’t see Paul now, I might as well go back and do some work… I wonder what Fawn’s up to. I wish everyone around here wasn’t so secretive all the time!
Doctor Fawn was adamant.
“You’re my patient and I say that you will undergo a programme of physiotherapy exercises. I don’t care what you think,” he continued, brushing aside Scarlet’s inarticulate protest, “no one in my hospital is going to stay and wallow in their beds. Not while I have any say in the matter. I took a Hippocratic oath not to make things worse, and lying there consuming enormous meals three times a day while watching dross TV is not going to solve matters, Captain.”
“But what if I’m a Mysteron?” Scarlet shook his head. “You can keep me under restraint in here and neutralise any threat I may represent. You don’t want a fit Mysteron on Cloudbase, do you?”
“I sure as hell don’t want a fat slob of a Mysteron on board,” Fawn retorted. “I have arranged for Captain Blue and Captain Grey to accompany you in the gym and the pool. That should square your roundness, as my old granny used to say.”
“Don’t worry – they’re under orders to deal with you if they see the slightest sign of you being a danger to anyone or anything. And you can take your guards with you, and their electron rifles. I don’t want them in my sick bay.”
“They’ll be here in about 20 minutes; so there is just time for you to shower and shave... you look like something the cat dragged in.”
“Another one of your old granny’s pithy sayings?” Scarlet asked grumpily, somewhat disgruntled by this sudden volte-face.
“She did have a large repertoire of them,” Fawn agreed. “Do you want me to ask Nurse Ingram to come and scrub your back for you?”
“No!” Scarlet said emphatically. “I can manage… thanks.”
“Better get on with it then. I’m sure you won’t mind me pointing out that even a Mysteron needs to use deodorant and aftershave at times…”
“You’ll never win the bedside-manner-of-the-year award if you go on like this,” Scarlet sniped, as Fawn turned away with a satisfied smirk on his face.
Buoyed up by a flood of natural endorphins, Captain Scarlet was feeling much happier as he led the damp procession back from the pool to his recovery room.
“…and that’s when the leg of the bed gave way and the major, who was billeted next door, came rushing in to see what the noise was… talk about red faces, I can tell you! I’ve never seen a woman put her uniform on so quickly - before or since!” He laughed at the memory of his youthful indiscretion. “Ah, those were the days…”
“Seems like you’ve always got away with murder, Paul…” Grey retorted, grinning.
Scarlet turned his head over his shoulder to grin in response. “It’s a good job the beds on Cloudbase aren’t as shoddy-”
He came to an abrupt halt at the sight that met his eyes.
The noise from the single party-blower sounded almost mournful in the silent aftermath of the party.
Captain Scarlet blew it again.
Captain Blue pushed his radio cap up from his forehead and looked up. He was sitting in the armchair with his arms folded across his chest and his long legs stretched out onto the bed; the brim of his cap had been pulled down to shield his eyes.
“Do you have to make that noise?” he asked.
“Wasn’t that the best party you’ve ever been to?”
“It certainly went with a swing,” Blue agreed, reluctantly lowering his legs and getting to his feet.
He glanced around the recovery room and grimaced. There were paper plates, plastic cups and the debris of a finger buffet on every flat surface – and several surfaces that weren’t exactly flat – paper streamers festooned the furniture and gaily-coloured balloons bobbed around the ceiling. There was a pile of wrapping paper at one end of the bed and a collection of boxes and gifts scattered across it.
Scarlet blew the party-blower again and picked up his plastic glass of non-alcoholic chardonnay. “Cheers,” he muttered and drank the rest of it.
“Your mum certainly knows how to cater for a party,” Blue said.
“She does that. All my favourite things…”
“I can’t remember the last time I had strawberry jello and Neapolitan ice cream,” Blue admitted.
“Jelly and Ice Cream. It’s a tradition,” Scarlet replied.
“It’s all over the bed covers,” Blue remarked, pointing.
“Trust Patrick, he was so busy entertaining Nurse Ingram with amusing anecdotes, that he didn’t notice he was getting ice cream everywhere,” Scarlet said, with a huge grin on his face. “Did you see the look on Destiny’s face when that blob of chocolate ice cream slid off her plastic spoon and down the inside front of her blouse? I thought I was going to split my sides trying not to laugh.”
Blue nodded and chortled with laughter. “I don’t think she appreciated Ochre’s helpful suggestion that she take the blouse off and let him lick her clean… I can’t imagine why; any man would have offered to do as much.”
“Good job my mum missed that,” his friend agreed. “She was chatting to Symphony at the time, wasn’t she?”
Blue nodded. “Yes… and I dread to think what they were talking about. I have a strong suspicion I shall be hearing from my mother in the next few days.”
“Well, it is almost Christmas. She’s allowed to call you on high days and holidays, isn’t she?”
The American rolled his eyes. “Not if all she’s got to say is ‘why aren’t you coming home for Christmas’…”
Scarlet chuckled and then blew the party-blower towards his friend. “Party on, Adam.”
“You mean, party over. We’re supposed to be cleaning this up, remember?”
Scarlet swept the debris from his bed and lay down, pressing a hand to his forehead.
“I am still recovering,” he said. “I need to rest. But don’t let me stop you…”
Laughing, Blue stooped down and yanked the mattress so that Scarlet rolled off the bed and onto the floor in a sprawling heap.
“Oops, sorry… did you say something?” he asked, as his friend got to his feet, almost helpless with laughter.
“You Yankee bastard….”
“You despotic redcoat…”
Scarlet looked around the room. It really was a complete mess. He glanced across at Blue who was idly picking a streamer off the rail of the bed and winding it around his fingers.
“Come on then; if we work together we’ll get it done quicker.”
Blue smiled, and dropped the loop of paper streamer into the waste basket. “Man and Mysteron working in partnership, now that is something I’d celebrate.”
They made a start and the job was almost done when Scarlet suddenly sat on the bed and clapped his hand to head.
“I’ve remembered,” he said.
“Remembered what?” Blue asked, pausing in the middle of sweeping the floor with a long-handled soft duster.
“What it was that I thought the Mysterons were trying to get me to do. The thing I thought might bring everyone into danger.”
“Oh, that. And will it?”
“Bring everyone into danger,” Blue explained patiently. He was paying close attention to Scarlet, a glint of caution in his pale-blue eyes.
Scarlet pursed his lips. “Not everyone, only me.”
“Will you stop with the cryptic hints already!”
Chuckling, Scarlet said, “I was trying to remember to get some Christmas presents to take home with me when I went back for my birthday party…”
“And that’s it? That’s what you’ve been driving us all crazy with worry about?”
Captain Scarlet nodded and shrugged, an apologetic smile on his face. Then his expression sobered as a new thought occurred to him. “And I’m still in danger, Adam, I don’t have anything to send home and I doubt I’ll have a chance to go shopping, once Fawn lets me back on duty tomorrow.”
“Forget it. Dianne and Karen sorted it out when the colonel agreed that your mum and dad could come aboard for a surprise birthday party. They’ve sent your parents home with a selection of thoughtful gifts from their only son.” Blue paused. “Probably far more thoughtful gifts than their only son usually gives them,” he amended.
“Don’t think that will go unnoticed…”
The two men exchanged meaningful glances and then they both dissolved into weak laughter at the expectation of the interrogation likely to follow the opening of the presents.
“Oh well,” Scarlet said, as they fell silent. “A Spectrum agent gets used to living dangerously. You finished with that duster, Captain Blue? I feel like wandering down to the canteen for a late supper.”
Blue nodded and dropped the hated tool onto the floor. “Call it an early breakfast and I’m your man, Captain Scarlet,” he replied.
As they left sick bay Scarlet asked in a puzzled voice, “What did you give me for my birthday?”
“Can’t you remember? You’d better tell Fawn your short-term memory’s shot to pieces then…” Blue remarked casually. He hadn’t actually given Scarlet the present he’d bought for him yet – afraid that the two tickets for the 5-day Ashes test match starting on Boxing Day in Melbourne, might’ve got lost in the mountain of wrapping paper and party favours. He also had no intention of telling his friend that he had gained the colonel’s guarantee that – as long as he wasn’t on active field duty or in Sick Bay - Captain Scarlet, and one selected ‘other’, could have the five days of the test match as leave on the condition that Captain Blue covered his duty periods. That would spoil the surprise.
Scarlet grimaced. “There were so many things and they’ve all got mixed up in my memory – that’s all. My mum’d gone overboard, as usual. I mean, I’m sure whatever it was you gave me was exactly what I wanted; you seem to have the knack of hitting the nail on the head, so to speak, and I was going to thank you for it… except – I can’t remember exactly what it was.”
“Well, if you really can’t remember, you’ll have to guess. Call it a kind of therapeutic ‘Kim’s game’. It’ll sharpen your faculties.”
Captain Scarlet gave his friend a cautious glance, but the genial American did not seem offended by his confession. The merest hint of suspicion flittered across Scarlet’s mind. “Well, okay… let me see; what would you have been likely to give me?”
They stepped onto the escalator heading towards the Officers’ Canteen and Blue looked expectantly at his friend.
“The ‘Captain Starlight’ boxed set?” Scarlet hazarded, with an expression of profound concentration on his face.
“The New York Yankees baseball cap?”
“It wasn’t the bright green knitted sweater was it?”
“No… that was your aunt, for Pete’s sake. Why would I give you a bright green sweater?”
“I don’t know; but you do the daftest things sometimes…”
They were still bickering when they reached the canteen….
I am told that it is now a tradition for me to write something for Captain Scarlet’s birthday, so here is this year’s ‘birthday story’. For once I actually got it done in plenty of time - which is certainly not part of the tradition! The birthday stories are not usually more than what my CEO calls ‘fluffy writing’, and this is no different.
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™ belonged to Carlton Media – when I last looked. It was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, to the delight of children who were transfixed by this Brave New World. And I still am. I hope no one minds me playing with the characters.
Thanks go to Hazel Köhler for beta-reading services, par excellence and Chris Bishop for the best website and the inspirational chats! And thank you for reading; I hope you enjoyed it.
Happy Birthday, Mr Metcalfe.
7 November 2010.
Any comments? Send an to the SPECTRUM HEADQUARTERS site