A Captain Scarlet Story by Marion Woods
Captain Blue watched in distress the harrowing sight of the rocks and shingle crashing down around the mouth of the tunnel he had just squeezed out of. Before his astonished eyes, the rock seemed to twist and buckle, sealing itself in the process, and the entrance to the tunnel, in which he had left Symphony’s doppelganger and Lieutenant Garnet, disappeared. Forced back onto the narrow beach of black sand by the avalanche, he only clambered back to where the gap had been once he was sure the danger had passed. Running his hand along the rough cave wall, he was unable to detect even the slightest crack. His thoughts went to Symphony and Garnet, trapped within their rock tomb; he could only pray they had got out into the cave at the other end of the portal. He slammed his fist against the solid barrier, cursing the fact that he had not insisted on Garnet returning with him. Now it seemed he was back at square one, with no route to Garnet or Scarlet and no way of contacting help in either of the dimensions.
He threw himself down on the shingle slope; his back pressed against the impenetrable rock and stared with hopeless eyes at the fantastic forest of rock stalactites that covered the pitted ceiling. The vision only seemed to underline his dreadful situation and he looked away. Tired and dispirited, he dropped his head to rest it on his arms, which were stretched over his knees, and closed his eyes.
Here I am, trapped in a volcanic cavern – I can’t swim out the way I arrived, I can’t climb out through the roof holes and I don’t even know if this reality is the one I need to be in, in the first place. I found Garnet and lost her again. I met a Karen Wainwright, who felt like my real Karen, and I lost her too. My Karen is probably going frantic over my safety and making the lives of Stingray’s crew sheer hell, and I can’t even let her know I am okay. I know Scarlet is alive, I even know, theoretically, where he is and I can’t reach him either. I have made a complete hash of everything…
Never at his best in confined spaces, he felt close to tears and drew a deep breath to stave off that final indignity. He blinked furiously and then screwed his eyes tight shut. Without realising it, he dozed off, his feet slowly slipping down the bank until he woke with a jerk as his elbows dropped too low to support his head any longer. He rubbed his tired eyes and looked around his prison. He blinked and rubbed his eyes again.
Standing in the middle-distance, watching him, was a tall, dark figure. The upright stance was familiar, but on examination this man was bearded and had long, wavy black hair, roughly tied back with a torn piece of red cloth. “Paul?” he croaked, unsure if he was dreaming.
The man did not reply, but raised a hand in a friendly gesture.
“Paul!” he cried again, and sprang to his feet. “What on earth has happened to you?”
The man held up a hand to deter Blue’s hectic advance.
“Paul…” Blue ignored the gesture and accelerated over the treacherous ground towards the still silent apparition, watching him more than his path. He was alarmed to see him turn.
Something had obviously reached his sharp hearing, for he glanced away across the cavern, a frown casting a dark shadow over his intensely blue eyes. He placed a hand to his lips. Automatically, Blue stopped and frowned in concentration, straining to catch what Paul had heard – he had learned from experience to trust his partner’s senses, heightened as they were by his retrometabolism - he could hear nothing, and turned back to his companion with a questioning expression on his face.
Paul began to move away towards an hitherto unsuspected tunnel entrance. With one final glance over his shoulder, he raised his hand in a wave of farewell, and stooped, vanishing into the darkness.
Blue gave a despairing yell and rushed forward, cursing his own gullibility. Before he could reach the entrance, the ground shifted again, spilling him down the shingle bank and he watched in impotent fury as the opening sealed itself.
“Why won’t anyone stay put long enough to explain what the frigging hell is happening here? I am sick to death of half-truths, tunnels that vanish and of being rolled around in this hell-hole….” he shouted. There was no reply, except the faint echo of his own voice. He stomped along the bank, kicking moodily at the pebbles and muttering to himself.
Almost immediately, he became aware of the distant murmur of voices. Someone was moving about on the far side of the cave. He focused on the middle distance and realised that a rope was hanging from the largest of the ceiling holes. How has someone climbed into this cave without me seeing them? he thought. Remembering the new Symphony’s sketchy warning that, in her world, not everyone was as friendly to Spectrum’s cause as he might imagine, he remained motionless, watching from the shadows for some clue as to who his unexpected companions might be. And this time I want some answers….
“I don’t think this is going to lead us anywhere, Paul,” a woman’s voice called rather tetchily. “Besides, why would the Agency come this far into the caves? The pacifier is much closer to the entrance and that is what they intend to sabotage – isn’t it?”
“These caves are a warren, Claudia, maybe they hope to use them for arms stores or prisons for ransom victims? I am sure the lead I had was a good one. There is something going on here, something that won’t be obvious but can only be ignored at our peril.”
“I believe you, of course, but won’t you tell me just what you’ve learned?”
“It is better you don’t know, Claudia.”
“I’ll be thinking you don’t trust me next…”
“You know I trust you – or I wouldn’t have invited you to come with me - I need your help, darling, just as much as I want your company.”
Blue’s eyes widened in surprise. He recognised the man’s voice immediately – Captain Scarlet had a highly distinctive accent – and ‘Claudia’ had to be Lieutenant Garnet – a surmise confirmed by the sight of them when a dark-haired man, in a familiar Spectrum tunic, emerged round the corner and waited for his companion. They walked hand-in-hand along the beach.
Blue frowned, wondering if this ‘Paul and Claudia’ were from the long-haired ‘Second’ Symphony’s dimension, or if he had arrived in yet another one. Either way, he felt like a voyeur when, arriving close to a rounded boulder across the beach from his vantage point, ‘Captain Scarlet’ took ‘Lieutenant Garnet’ in his arms and began kissing her with enthusiasm, pressing her back against the boulder as his hands caressed her body.
He thought, from her body language, that she was slightly less enthusiastic than he was…or maybe she was just uncomfortable…
He averted his gaze back to the fantastical ceiling as his embarrassment mounted, and debated whether he should reveal his presence, before they got too ‘carried away’. Counting the stalactites on the ceiling, his eyes travelled towards the largest of the holes and, despite the dimness of the cave, he saw the familiar figure of Sergeant Ruffolo peering through. His hopes rose as he speculated that his rescue had arrived.
Of course, Tempest must have informed Spectrum of my disappearance and Cloudbase has ordered the Neapolitans to start searching. He smiled. Or, at the very least, Symphony has ordered Ruffolo to search the volcano… and, luckily for me, he’d be happy to obey her, if it got him another one of her smiles…
‘Scarlet’ and ‘Garnet’ had not seen the Sergeant, preoccupied as they were with each other. Captain Blue considered for a moment. Ruffolo could not know about the differing realities and would believe he had found his commanding officer in the arms of a Cloudbase captain… which was probably why he was creeping about – Carlo was a considerate man and he wouldn’t want to embarrass Lieutenant Garnet. It was obvious from their conversations about her, that he liked and respected the young American woman.
Perhaps the two ‘lovers’ were strays from ‘Long-haired’ Symphony’s universe, who had wandered into his own dimension, as unintentionally as he had blundered into theirs? He had to think of a way of letting Ruffolo know he was here, without, if possible, getting too involved with the love-birds on the beach. The problem of what to do with the other Spectrum officers was something he’d have to give a great deal of thought to… but not right now - right now, he had other priorities.
Once he was safely out of here, he’d get Troy and Phones to help him search every cave under these cliffs, so sure was he that there must be a way through to other worlds - and that the true Scarlet and Garnet could be found.
He continued to watch as Ruffolo stood warily at the edge of the opening and carefully untied the rope, before inexplicably dropping it down into the cavern. Blue barely caught the gentle sound of its landing and the lovers – still occupied with each other – heard nothing at all. He wondered what the Italian intended to do… if they were to get out of this place they would need some way of making the climb. A vague suspicion began to form in his mind and he drew a deep breath, watching intently for the sergeant’s next move.
Unaware that he was being observed, Ruffolo crouched down and steadied himself at the edge of the hole, before drawing his Spectrum issue pistol. He took a careful aim and, as he did so, Blue realised the man was going to kill the others.
Instinctively he sprang to his feet, shouting, “Carlo, no!”
He slithered down the shingle bank towards the beach in a thunderous avalanche of small stones, just as Ruffolo’s gun fired. Distracted by Blue’s shout, Scarlet spun around to look in his direction, turning his back on the assassin. Ruffolo’s bullet hit its target with a deadly force, burying itself in Garnet’s back. As she screamed and fell to the sand, Scarlet spun back, drawing his pistol, ready to return fire. Ruffolo’s second shot caught his arm, sending his bullet off at a tangent. It struck a stone stalactite and ricocheted around the ceiling. Ruffolo ducked down but continued firing and Scarlet, screaming in rage, returned the fire.
“Stop it – I order you both to stop firing!” Blue roared over the echoing gunshots, making frustratingly slow progress over the shale that littered the cave floor.
Somewhat to his surprise, both men obeyed. There is something to be said for the military discipline Spectrum employs after all, he thought as he panted up to where Scarlet stood astride the motionless body of his girlfriend. “Sergeant Ruffolo, what do you think you are doing?” he demanded with as much authority as he could muster.
“Capitano Blue, I have orders from Capitano Magenta and I am told to kill these two,” Ruffolo said with offended dignity. He could see the disapproval in the tall American’s face and he wailed piteously, “If I don’t do it, Capitano Magenta will kill me.”
Magenta? Blue’s hope started to ebb away; it seemed that Ruffolo wasn’t here to rescue him after all. He continued with as much authority as he could, “Ruffolo, Captain Magenta has no authority in this matter. You will obey my orders and I am ordering you to get us all out of here – right now!”
Muttering darkly, Ruffolo saluted and disappeared from the hole side. Blue glanced at Scarlet, wondering how badly hurt he was. To his experienced eye, the man had what looked like a flesh wound, which was bleeding profusely. That shouldn’t cause too much bother. It should only be a matter of minutes before it heals up, he thought.
Ignoring his own injury, Scarlet dropped to his knees and stared helplessly at the young woman lying motionless in the sand.
Blue had had a better view of what had happened and he doubted she could have survived such an assault. He watched as the distraught man lifted her from the sand, turned her over and tenderly cradled her in his arms. There was a blood soaked patch of sand beneath her and he knew that, unless she was a Mysteron, she was either dead or dying. Considerately, he backed off some distance and left Scarlet to his anguish, as he hugged the lifeless woman to his chest and crooned her name over and over.
Blue had no way of knowing how long it was before Scarlet gently placed Garnet on the sand and kissed her lips, but by then the man had regained his composure and when he turned to face him, Blue could see the anger blazing in his deep-blue eyes.
“I suppose you can still live with yourself after that, you murdering bastard?” Scarlet asked in a whisper. He stepped towards the unsuspecting Blue and suddenly launched a spirited attack on the startled captain.
Taken by surprise at the speed and ferocity of the attack, Blue was already at a disadvantage and Scarlet was a fierce opponent. Yet, even as he dodged and defended himself from the punches, Blue found that there was less strength behind them than he expected and he noticed the patch of blood was still growing on his assailant’s arm. But before he could draw any sensible conclusions, a fist connected with his face as he ducked away, and the blow to his left eye-socket made his head ring. He staggered back and sat down heavily on the sand. Scarlet pressed his advantage and straddled his legs, raining blows down on Blue as he tried to defend himself.
Blue was weak from the battering he’d experienced in the whirlpool and the repeated falls he’d had in the earth tremors. His ability to defend himself was faltering under the merciless barrage of blows. Gasping for breath, he pleaded, “Paul…” and Scarlet’s attack hesitated and slowed until finally he stopped. He did not have the ruthlessness to kill a defenceless man with his bare hands. Panting with exertion, he went back to where Garnet was lying on the sand and picked up the pistol he had dropped.
Blue rubbed his jaw and sat upright on the sand. “What on Earth was all that for? Exactly why did you object to my stopping Sergeant Ruffolo from shooting you both in cold blood?”
“Nice try, Blue,” Scarlet said coldly. “I must admit I am surprised that Magenta sent you to destroy the pacifier, I never realised he trusted you so much. And… at your unorthodox way in. Presumably you feel this way might preserve the fiction that you were nowhere near the place when the damage was done.”
“I have a submarine waiting for me; just beyond that cave mouth… they’ll come looking for me if I don’t go back within a given time, ” Blue replied indistinctly and with more conviction than he felt.
“No doubt. Magenta wouldn’t want to lose his co-conspirator.”
“Magenta?” Blue considered that the Irish-American’s name was cropping up far too frequently in connection with nefarious activities. “What has he got to do with this? The colonel sent me.”
“The only place the colonel would willingly send you is prison,” Scarlet snapped.
Blue frowned at him. Still dazed, he ran his hand through his hair and tried to make sense of it all. “You know who I am, right?”
“Yes, and why you are here, so don’t bother to deny it.”
“Then, perhaps you would care to explain to me what you imagine I am doing here?”
Scarlet‘s deep-blue eyes stared scornfully. “I have proof of the Agency’s plot to turn off the pacifier and cause the volcano to erupt, unless the Italian authorities make the payments you demanded. Your presence here is merely gilt on the gingerbread. Adam John Svenson, I arrest you for extortion, international terrorism and laundering the proceeds from organised crime,” Scarlet said, and went on to read his prisoner his rights. Blue lay back on the sand, staring up at the surreal ceiling, through his one good eye.
“Don’t panic….” he muttered. It was perfectly obvious now that, wherever he was, he was not back in his own dimension. The warning from ‘Second-Symphony’ that the tunnels might shift had been proved correct. The realisation that he might never get back to the correct dimension hit him like a cold shower. Wonderful, now all three of us are lost… he thought miserably.
When Scarlet’s droning voice came to a halt, he sat up again and focused with difficulty on his antagonist. “Happy now?” he asked sourly. “What would you say if I told you I am not the man you think I am?”
“Is it the kind of thing you are likely to say?”
Blue shrugged. That had not been the answer he’d expected. “It depends on how open a mind and how keen an intelligence you have, Captain…”
“Lieutenant.” The correction was spat out with some venom.
Blue’s eyebrows rose in genuine surprise and he grimaced at the pain that shot through his head as a consequence. “Really? Now that does surprise me. Where I come from, Paul Metcalfe is a captain – and a very important one at that…” He spoke with as little sensationalism as he could, there was no doubt that this man would reject anything he said if he thought it was done for effect. He was rather surprised that he got such an attentive hearing – especially after his first mention of the portals between realities.
Lieutenant Scarlet’s heart was thumping so much that he sat down opposite the American, as the carefully unemotional voice explained who he was and where he had come from. As Blue stopped, he glanced up and their eyes met – the bright sapphire and the pale cerulean blue - each assessing the other with anxious concern, neither willing to look away first. The dark-haired man shifted uneasily on the sand and dropped his gaze. Some instinct told him that Blue meant his protestations of innocence. Yet, he was reluctant to respond, and only shrugged, keeping his own counsel for the time being.
Blue sighed with frustration; he was unused to a Paul Metcalfe who did not trust him implicitly. He considered his options: he did not know if he would ever get home – or if any portals that might open would even lead back to the right dimension. This Scarlet was upset by Garnet’s death, and still suspicious that he had, in some obscure way, engineered it. The prospect of spending the rest of his life – which might well be a short one - with a man who held him responsible for the death of his lover was not an attractive one.
“What made you dream up that story?” Scarlet’s brusque question startled him back to alertness.
“I didn’t dream it up – it’s true, as far as I know. I don’t know how or why I am in this reality, but here I am.”
Scarlet hugged his knees and, carefully avoiding looking at Blue, he began to speak.
“When the volcanic pacifier was installed here, I was part of the security detail. There were rumours of a planned attack by the Agency on the site and I patrolled through the caves and tunnels, checking they were clear. I came to the cave above this one and … and I found someone there – someone who claimed to be Paul Metcalfe… but a Paul Metcalfe from a… parallel world. He asked me some very strange questions… about the abduction of the World President, at the start of the Martian War of Nerves, and then… about you, and your family. I answered his questions – as best I could… what else could I do? It was surreal, talking to myself…”
“He said he was Captain Scarlet – much as I had been, before the Agency paid that woman to lay false claims about me and get me demoted. He had come, he said, back in time - through a time-shifting, dimensional portal – to warn us that the Mysterons had discovered this same way to move through the dimensions and that the volcanic pacifier, which had been developed many years earlier in his reality, had been brought into our world, and quite possibly other realities, to destroy civilisation. His own dimension had been further devastated that way, following a direct attack by the Mysterons on Cloudbase, which effectively removed Spectrum’s ability to fight them. He was also confident that someone from this world had visited his dimension and he knew this, he said, from his colleague, Captain Blue.”
Scarlet looked directly at his attentive companion. “What was I supposed to think? I could see him and touch him and he spoke like me. He was unkempt and bearded and dressed in a rag tag of clothes, but he was earnest, I am sure of it. For no logical reason, I believed him. He would not come back to Cloudbase with me, said he had to return through the portal when the next earth tremor opened it. He suggested the portals were relatively stable – although he was not sure exactly when he might arrive back… ‘they hop about in time’ – that was how he put it. He said it was lucky I came by… he’d been waiting around some time in the hope of seeing someone he could speak to and that the first time he went back, he ended up in the right place at the ‘wrong’ time and he was waiting in the cave for the portal to shift back to the right time and place… he said he couldn’t risk missing the link. When I asked him what the hurry was, he said he had promised his companion that he wouldn’t be long, and he had left her and the child in a ruined town, some distance from the volcano. Naturally, I thought he meant Claudia.” Scarlet’s voice caught on a gasp of raw emotion as he spoke her name.
Blue laid a hand on his arm in sympathy and winced as the Englishman’s eyes showed his surprise at even this small kindness. Things are really not the same here, Blue thought sadly, removing his hand.
Heartened by the unexpected compassion he had seen in his companion, Scarlet continued his story, “But he didn’t even know Claudia; he said the woman was Karen Wainwright … Symphony Angel?” Blue nodded to show he knew the identity of that particular person. He was gratifyingly successful at hiding the sharp stab of jealousy that shot through him at the thought that any Karen – anywhere - could be in love with anyone but him… “All in all, we spoke for several hours before the next tremor began. Then he walked over to the cave wall and went into a crack that opened. When the tremor stopped, the crack was empty - just a dead end – but he was gone. I didn’t know what to do. I could hardly explain it to myself, let alone make it sound even remotely plausible to the colonel. I tried to make people see that the pacifier must be dismantled – or at least turned off - but that just got me into trouble when I couldn’t explain why. There hadn’t even been a Mysteron threat concerning it. Some people thought I had defected to the Agency – presumably in an attempt to regain my captaincy. Eventually, I managed to get permission to come down here… very grudging permission, from the colonel. I have been trying to keep watch here, with Claudia’s help, ever since.” He pursed his lips and stared at Blue. “Now you tell me you are from another reality as well…”
Blue sighed and gave the other man a wary look. He had to force himself not to concentrate on the details of the personal relationships, despite the ache it gave him to imagine… they had a child…. He supposed it wasn’t that outrageous to imagine that she might have formed a relationship with Paul – they were good friends in their own right, and Karen often turned to him, in the midst of their own arguments, demanding – and usually getting – his mediation on her behalf.
Scarlet was waiting for his response and he banished all personal thoughts from his mind. “Well,” he reasoned, “in my dimension the pacifiers are still at the prototype stage – so I don’t think your visitor could have been the Paul I know. There must be a third dimension – or maybe even more than three. You realise that, if he was speaking the truth about the Mysterons, we are in big trouble…”
Scarlet nodded, “Yeah, I worked that out by myself,” he said cynically. He turned to look at Blue and mused, “Over the course of our conversation it became clear that his closest associate was Adam Svenson. In my world, Captain Blue hardly even speaks to me – never mind being my closest friend –which seemed to surprise him. In your world, are you friendly with Paul Metcalfe?”
“He is my partner, and, yes, he is my closest friend. We were working together on this mission, as we have on many others, when he disappeared. I am here trying to find him.”
Lieutenant Scarlet considered this. He came to a decision and, deciding to trust this man, he said briskly, “If I can help you to find him, I will – if you will help me stop the Mysterons from using the pacifier to destroy my world. It may be that in doing that, you will be helping your own world.”
Blue extended his hand. “Deal. However,” he continued, with a smile as they shook hands, “our biggest problem is still ‘how the hell we get out of here?’”
“Not quite our biggest problem, Captain. That is – what the hell do we do when Ruffolo gets back?”
Their eyes met and they both grinned.
Symphony had endured a difficult conversation with Colonel White. It wasn’t that the colonel had been angry with her - quite the contrary - but in an odd way it might have helped if he had been. His unexpectedly sympathetic response made it difficult for her not to burst into tears as she told him about Blue’s disappearance. It had only been the proximity of Captain Tempest and his crew that had given her the determination not to weep – it would never do for the other security services to think Spectrum officers were wimps.
Colonel White had agreed solemnly that a thorough search for Captain Blue was necessary and immediate action was essential. It was after he had pronounced this that Captain Tempest leant forward to join in the conversation, outlining his plans for a rescue attempt and explaining that, now they had refilled their air tanks, he and Phones were ready to go out once more.
“S.I.G., Captain Tempest,” White nodded and added unexpectedly, “and thank you.”
“No problem, Colonel. We’ll find them both, if anyone can!”
The rescue party suited up and Phones strapped on an additional air tank and respirator, which Symphony considered a hopeful sign. At least Troy and Phones were not dismissing the chance of finding Adam alive out of hand.
She stood next to Atlanta as they watched the pair swim towards the ominously jagged rocks.
The petite brunette could not keep the worry from her dark eyes, but she gave Symphony an encouraging smile. ”They are both experienced divers, Symphony, I am sure Troy and Phones will find Captain Blue.”
“Yes, I believe they do represent the best chance he has right now…”
”Have you known him long?” Atlanta asked. The Spectrum pilot had been reluctant to discuss her colleague before.
“Sometimes it seems as if I must’ve known him all my life – the first day I met him it was like we were old friends already – but, chronologically speaking… it’s only been a few years,” she murmured in reply. “I sincerely hope I will get the chance to know him for the rest of my life…” she added with a catch in her voice.
Out in the swirling currents of the straits, the aquanauts were making steady progress. They reached the top of the cliffs, and Troy manoeuvred his sea-bug into a position parallel with the drop and allowed it to sink into the depths. Phones followed him down into the narrow, dark crevasse. The darkness seemed to be impenetrable but then they saw a faint glimmer, suggesting a distance light source. Troy abandoned his sea bug, giving Phones instructions to remain with the craft, and kicked out in that direction. It took all of his skill and experience to swim under the rock shelf that guarded the entrance to an underwater cave. He surfaced and cautiously removed his mouthpiece, sucking in the air. It was sulphurous but wholesome enough. He swam to the shingle beach and crawled out. Over the radio he could just make out Phones, asking if he should follow him and, glancing around the cavern he found himself in, Troy told him to wait.
“We may need to get out of here in a hurry, Phones. If Captain Blue is hurt, the sea-bugs remain our quickest option…”
“‘PWOR,” he heard Phones reply before a burst of static nearly deafened him. He whipped off his radio and rubbed his ears.
An exploration of the narrow beach produced an unfamiliar, punctured air tank and battered breathing gear, but no sign of anyone, beyond a scuffling of the shingle suggestive of footprints. Picking up the unfamiliar diving gear, Tempest made his way back to the water. Maybe Symphony would know if this was the standard Spectrum equipment Blue had been wearing. If it was, then they would have to mount a full scale rescue to discover where Blue had wandered off to.
He replaced his radio, and as he dived and headed for the tricky exit, Phone’s crackly voice warned him of another earth tremor. He could feel the water beginning to seethe around him. He had just managed to get out into the crevasse and rejoin his partner when the full force of the tremor hit and they were both tossed back towards the cave mouth.
“Abandon the sea-bugs!” Troy yelled. “They could crush us against the rocks!”
The water was sucked back into the cave and they were powerless to escape the drag. Both men were pulled downwards and found themselves tossed into the broiling cauldron of water. They surfaced and struck out for the shore. As they dragged themselves out onto the shingle bank, gasping at their narrow escape, they were shocked to hear Captain Blue’s voice asking in some amusement,
“Hello, what took you so long?”
Tempest looked up in surprise; he had been so sure the cave was empty. Blue was standing beside a man dressed in a red Spectrum uniform. Tempest rolled over and lay supine on the beach, shielding his eyes with his hand.
“Well,” he responded in the same light tone, “we weren’t sure if this was a private party or if anyone was welcome to join it?” Noticing the damage Scarlet’s fist had done to his friend’s face, he added, “That’s a splendid black-eye, Adam
Phones was watching the two Spectrum officers. “Looks like you found your friend, Cap’n,” he said jovially, “but maybe he wasn’t so pleased to see you after all?”
“I think he was just taken by surprise, Phones,” Blue replied with a painful grin. “You had better help Scarlet back to Stingray and let Symphony do what she can for him...he won’t be recovering from these bruises so quickly… I mean, I did manage to land a few punches myself.” Blue just managed to turn his sentence away from the subject of retrometabolism.
He was more dazed than he had realised.
Symphony had refused to leave her post by the observation window and sat scanning the area with Captain Blue’s binoculars, while Atlanta pottered about the submarine, making sandwiches and flasks of coffee. Her argument - that Troy and Phones would be hungry when they got back – carried little weight with the Angel, who was of the opinion that they ought to make their own sandwiches, especially if they returned without Captain Blue.
She saw the nose-cone of a sea-bug edging cautiously from behind the row of cliff-tops and held her breath wishing, harder than she had ever wished for anything, that she would see Adam next. In fact, she saw Phones and attached to him by a safety rope was a red-clad Spectrum officer. They had found Captain Scarlet! Whilst part of her rejoiced at his safe return, a more selfish part resented the fact that the indestructible officer was wearing the emergency air tank and breathing gear. If they had found Adam, it meant he would have to wait until the air tanks could be returned to the cave, so he could swim back to safety. Her heart sank with a painful thud when she saw the second sea-bug nose cone negotiating the cliffs.
Fate can’t be so cruel as to throw my final words to Adam back in my face and return Paul and not him! She could hardly bear to watch as Troy Tempest’s stocky form rose into view. Moments later she saw another figure rise behind him - attached by the safety line was a blond-haired man and as soon as the man was alongside, Tempest steered the sea-bug towards Stingray and coaxed it up to its maximum speed. Every so often the respirator passed from man to man as they swam strongly for the submarine with the sea-bug at maximum speed.
They‘re sharing the air tanks! Symphony’s breath was released with a sob as she realised that Adam was going to be all right. She dropped the binoculars, racing across to the airlock.
Atlanta looked up and glanced across at the approaching rescue party with a satisfied smile. “There, what did I tell you?” she said to the tall blonde, who was almost hopping up and down in excitement, whilst she watched the airlock gauge sinking as the water was pumped out.
Symphony was even prepared to accept that Scarlet would be the first one on board and when the lock opened and two men emerged, she threw her arms around the Spectrum officer with a delighted squeal.
“Paul, thank the heavens you are safe! Adam’s been frantic with looking for you and I’ve been frantic with the WASPs looking for him!” She kissed the startled man’s cheek and shook a reproving finger at him. “Dianne will be so pleased when she hears you are back with us. She was distraught before we left Cloudbase, you must call her – straight away!”
“Dianne?” Scarlet repeated, the confusion clear in his eyes. “Do you mean Rhapsody Angel?”
“Of course I do, but it’s okay, Paul, the crew won’t report us for using our names instead of the code names!” She danced back to watch the gauge filling once more. “Don’t tell Adam how relieved I am to see him, will you? – I still haven’t quite forgiven him – but I don’t expect he’ll be fooled for one minute. He knows me too well,” she laughed and turned once more to hug the bemused captain.
Phones gave the surprised Scarlet a conspiratorial grimace at the vagaries of the female of the species, and then helped him remove the emergency breathing gear whilst Atlanta gave him a warm blanket and tutted over his gunshot wound – wondering how Symphony could have missed it, even given her excitement.
As the air-lock opened for the second time, Symphony threw herself into Blue’s wet embrace and kissed him so hard he was in danger of suffocation. When her own breathlessness forced her to release him, she slapped his face – rather harder than she had intended.
“Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” she commanded, and attempted to kiss him again, fretting over his bruised face and black eye, whilst he backed off in alarm.
“I’ll do my best,” he reassured her, his face registering a mixture of apprehension and embarrassment.
“Where did you find Paul?” She clung to his arm and questioned him, smiling her thanks to Captain Tempest when he squeezed past them. Realising they were still blocking the air-lock entrance, Blue gave an apologetic shrug at his friend and tried to manoeuvre her out of the way as Tempest grinned back.
“I didn’t exactly find Paul,” he said. “How is he, Lieutenant Shore?” he asked over Symphony’s head. She turned to see that Atlanta had got the man to remove his uniform and was cleaning up a nasty flesh wound. Blue couldn’t help smiling at her alarm at the situation.
“It will be okay, Captain Blue,” Atlanta replied. “I have cleaned it up and I’ll bandage it. There doesn’t seem to be a bullet in there and it’s not very deep.”
“Good, I would hate to think we would have to return to one of the land bases to get you seen by a doctor, Lieutenant.”
“Me, sir?” Atlanta questioned.
“No, he means me,” Scarlet answered. “I am Lieutenant Scarlet.”
Symphony looked at Blue in confusion. “I don’t understand…”
“It’s a long story, Symphony. Is there any coffee?” he asked, adding, “I would cheerfully commit murder for a sandwich, but I don’t suppose there is anything to eat, is there…?”
Blue changed back into his uniform and then, over coffee and Atlanta’s excellent sandwiches, he tried to explain what had happened in the cavern. It was an uphill task as Tempest, in particular, was incredibly sceptical.
Lieutenant Scarlet sat nervously at one end of the passenger bay, devouring sandwiches and saying nothing, as Blue reasoned with Tempest and Symphony, and Atlanta kept a wary eye on him. Phones had taken Stingray back to the surface and occasionally he could be heard from the cockpit, humming to himself as the others wrangled.
“This other Symphony I met - with the long hair - claimed that the Lieutenant Garnet she knew was engaged to a Lieutenant Scarlet,” Blue explained, jerking his thumb at their silent guest. “But that she had used to be engaged to Captain Ochre – a relationship which foundered when Ochre kidnapped the World President and was chased to the London Car-Vu. Now that is what this guy says, which suggests they are from the same place - at least, it does to me.”
He finished the last sandwich and gave Atlanta a grateful smile. The lieutenant simpered back and Symphony glared at them – she was already feeling threatened by the ‘other Symphony’ Blue mentioned with such warmth.
Captain Tempest protested. “Wait a minute – it was Captain Scarlet’s doppelganger that kidnapped the President, wasn’t it? You had to shoot him and air-lift the President to safety. I clearly remember President Younger telling me all about it at the medal ceremony. He wasn’t likely to confuse the protagonists of that incident.”
“Yes, it was Scarlet,” Symphony agreed when Blue made no reply. She looked towards him, knowing his habitual reluctance to talk about events at the Car-Vu, but realised that he was simply not listening to what Tempest had said. He had retreated into a thoughtful silence, lips compressed, brows lowered and his eyes focused on nothing in the middle distance.
She was used to this – it generally signified that Blue was wrestling with some intractable problem and was unlikely to answer even if you spoke to him. She turned her attention to the uneasy man in the stern of the submarine.
“We should hand him over to the authorities for impersonating a security officer,” Tempest suggested, following the direction of her gaze and wondering why Captain Blue had gone so quiet.
“It’s an idea,” Symphony agreed, to keep him happy. She doubted that Blue would agree and, if Blue objected, it was odds-on that the colonel would back him. If this stranger went anywhere, it would be to Cloudbase.
Blue suddenly came back to life with a decisive nod. “I have to conclude from the evidence of our friend here, and the other… er – the second Symphony that, somewhere under that volcano is a wormhole to other realities. Lieutenant Scarlet, here, is Paul Metcalfe right enough – but not our Paul Metcalfe. Our Paul has wandered into a different reality and their Scarlet has wandered into ours….”
“I think you banged your head on your way into that cavern,” Tempest scoffed. He found it hard to understand how Blue could give this hogwash any credence – let alone take it so seriously.
“Ever heard of synchronicity, Troy?” Blue asked. Tempest shook his dark head. “It’s an early Twentieth-Century philosophy, developed by Carl Jung, which describes apparently meaningful coincidences, or identical events, that are causally unrelated. It has often been used to bolster the possibility of parallel universes.”
“And it’s about as likely as mermaids…” Symphony murmured under her breath. No one noticed Tempest’s guilty start at her words, and in fact, Blue pretended he hadn’t heard her at all.
“If you prefer, there are more scientific theories that postulate on alternative universes as well, but you don’t need me to explain quantum theory, do you?” he offered.
Symphony shook her head emphatically - let Adam get started on that and we’ll be here all day – she thought with a warning glance at Tempest in case he seemed likely to ask for a fuller explanation..
Seeing his colleagues were still disposed to reject his reasoning, Blue continued with one of his annoyingly superior smiles. “Look, even if you don’t believe me, maybe you could just humour me - Okay? - because, unless you can think of a better reason for his conviction that Magenta and I are some sort of latter-day Al Capones, what other explanation could there be?”
“You really think our Scarlet - and Garnet too – may be in a different dimension?” Symphony asked, still needing to be convinced that, for once, Adam wasn’t ‘away with the fairies’, in Rhapsody’s delightful phrase.
“I damn well hope so…I certainly believe that the woman I saw with Symphony – the second Symphony – was Claudia Vecchio… our Claudia Vecchio, too. She said she had been trapped in the cave and rescued with Captain Scarlet and that she didn’t know me.” He turned to question Lieutenant Scarlet. “Your Lieutenant Garnet knew your Captain Blue, didn’t she? You said she was posted to Cloudbase.” Scarlet nodded but still said nothing.
Satisfied, Blue continued, “All we have to do is find out how to get them back here and send our ‘guest’ back in return.”
“Well, that shouldn’t take very long…” Tempest rolled his eyes ironically. “After all, it just demands mastery of the laws of space and time…”
“May I use your Internet link?” Blue asked suddenly.
“Be my guest... we aren’t planning to go anywhere in a hurry.” Troy said, not bothering to hide his surprise. “I’ll get Phones and we’ll go and have another look for your missing box of tricks. I assume that must still be somewhere in this universe….”
“Thanks, Troy. If I’m wrong – you can say you told me so.” Blue smiled.
“And don’t think he won’t,” Symphony added quietly as the aquanaut walked away. “He thinks you’re crazy.”
“If it was anyone other than you, I’d probably agree with him, but my guess is that you have the edge over most people.” She smiled at him and he reached out and hugged her. She might not believe him entirely, but she would never allow anyone else to see that.
“It is the only explanation that fits the facts, as Lieutenant Scarlet and the second Symphony tell them.” He tried to cajole her into believing him. “He is convinced that Captain Magenta and I are using Spectrum for criminal activities, that Lieutenant Garnet was based on the carrier and that the volcanic pacifiers have been in use for some time. We know all of these statements to be incorrect. Incidentally, on a more personal level, it also seems that, in some dimensions, you and Paul are a couple, and not you and I. Scarlet there, says that, in his world, we are ‘estranged’ – which is hardly the case here, even if we do have the odd disagreement now and then….”
“Humph! It didn’t sound like you and she were estranged, from the way you were speaking of her just now…”
He smiled at her pouting expression. He was only too well acquainted with her possessive jealousy. “I’m not estranged from her – any more than you are in a relationship with Paul.” He couldn’t quite keep the edge from his voice, and she grinned in delight at his rare admission of a jealous streak too. Perversely, the relating of these personal matters seemed to make her more prepared to believe him, far more than any amount of explanation of string theory would have done. Pleased to see her reaction, he continued placating her. “Besides, you have to realise that I thought she was you - to start with – it took me a second to remember your hair is short now…you know how much I always liked your hair long.”
She gave an exasperated smile. “Don’t start going on about that again!” She saw his grin and exclaimed, “Oh, I know, you are the most put-upon man in existence and I’m a termagant. But, Adam, you did promise we could go away together...”
“And I will keep my promise, just as soon as it is possible to do so without shirking our responsibilities. You know that, don’t you? Have I ever broken a promise to you?”
She pouted and reluctantly shook her head. “No, you always come through… eventually. But I always seem to take second place to your work.”
Blue looked at her in exaggerated alarm, “Now you sound just like my Mom, complaining to my Dad when he ducks out of yet another social commitment. And we aren’t even married yet! Be warned, Karen, I may be a bad bet… after all, I come from a long-line of workaholics,” he teased.
She grinned at him. “I’ll take my chances. Now, what are you going to do about Paul and Claudia?”
“I think I know of a way we can get a message to Paul – with a little help from our friend over there - and a fair bit of research data from Stingray’s Internet link, and some number crunching… which is where you come in, Karen.” He was galvanised into action now he understood the problem he faced. “I am sure we will find Claudia and, hopefully, Paul too!”
“Well, what are you waiting for? This is a Spectrum mission, not a sea cruise…” she said pompously.
“Sorry, älskling, but it just doesn’t have the same impact coming from you… you’re so much prettier than the colonel…”
Once the volcanic pacifier was in no state to ever be reconstructed - in any dimension – the exhausted Spectrum officers took a break – all except Captain Flaxen, who trudged back to the surface to report to Colonel White and see what orders he had for them now. She was also anxious to get an additional security detail sent – preferably of trusted operatives from Spectrum’s London Headquarters – to collect Magenta and his two collaborators and remove them to a secure location to await interrogation and trial. She remained uneasily aware that the place was littered with Mysteron agents, albeit the ‘de-activated’ kind that were the result of the Mysterons withdrawing from a situation. It was received wisdom that, once de-activated, these agents posed no threat, but such strange things appeared to be happening that she wasn’t happy to leave them unguarded for long, in case the Mysterons decided to come to the assistance of their gangster friends.
That Captain Ochre preferred to sit in the caves with the rest of the exploration party – including Lieutenant Garnet - was something else that was bothering Flaxen. She worried that Ochre – who had been beginning to come to terms with Garnet’s original desertion – was regressing to his former state of devotion. She told herself that she didn’t mind if he ignored her, just as long as he didn’t get hurt again. After all, this Claudia Vecchio would be leaving them soon, but she would be the person who had to drag Richard Fraser back to functioning normality – again.
She doubted if he would ever realise how she felt about him – or be able to reciprocate if he ever did know – but he was her friend and her partner and she … worried about him. Few of the other Spectrum personnel did. They apparently assumed that, now he was indestructible, he was also impervious to human emotions. Little do they know, Flaxen thought, as she stepped into the fresh air with a feeling of relief. The foundations of Richard Fraser’s life had started to crumble within weeks of his contact with the Mysterons. Many of the personnel on Cloudbase still regarded him with suspicion, and blamed him that the personable Captain Brown had died whilst he had survived. She rather thought Ochre felt the same way himself; he had been Brown’s partner for many months and the pair were close friends. When it had been agreed that Captain Ochre would return to active duty, Colonel White had interviewed all of the colour captains individually, before asking her to partner Ochre from then on. She suspected the colonel knew how she felt, and that he believed her friendship might help Ochre come to terms with his new situation.
He had still been struggling to come to terms with it, when the woman he adored walked out on him.
Privately, Flaxen thought it was the best thing that could have happened, but Ochre failed to realise that fact. She had debated long and hard with herself, about the wisdom of telling him of the times she had seen Garnet coming out of Blue’s quarters, finally deciding that he had suffered enough at the hands of that conniving, two-timing bitch and there was nothing to be gained by making his gullibility even more obvious. Besides, Ochre was already so full of resentment at Captain Blue, that giving him further cause to hate the man might well lead to violence.
Not that she would have cared if Ochre had beaten Blue - or Scarlet, either - to a pulp. Except that it would have landed Richard in trouble.
When Garnet had dropped Ochre and started dating Lieutenant Scarlet, she had been less surprised than most. Presumably, the competition around Captain Blue was too hot for Garnet to handle, she thought uncharitably. Still, Scarlet’s people had money – not as much as Blue’s, but heaps more than Richard Fraser!
And now there was another Garnet – a woman exactly the same as the one who’d broken Richard’s heart before – and he was smitten all over again, just because she looked at him all wide-eyes and shy smiles. It isn’t fair! she thought, and sighed with resignation as she contacted Cloudbase and asked for the colonel. Perhaps I can get her out of here before she does too much damage. She started her report.
Some time later, she was able to close the conversation with a feeling of satisfaction. Reinforcements from London were on their way and Colonel White had agreed that the search for the portal leading to Scarlet’s way home should continue. Before she returned underground, she marched briskly down the slope to where the armoured car was parked, determined to make sure that Magenta and his henchmen were still safely under lock and key.
When Flaxen walked back into the cavern, and before she was even able to relay the new orders from Cloudbase, Symphony welcomed her with the news that they had decided to continue the search, whatever the colonel said. With a jaundiced smile, Flaxen was able to assure them that Colonel White was as good as his promise and Scarlet had full permission to continue the exploration of the tunnels.
She included Ochre in her instructions, but not Blue. Scarlet was standing close beside him and it was him, rather then the blond American, who asked, “Did the colonel say anything about Captain Blue?”
Flaxen looked at the long-legged man, lounging insouciantly on a boulder. “He was surprised that he’d helped us dismantle the pacifier and subdue Captain Magenta. He has decided to let him remain with the exploration party for the time being, but under the command of Captain Ochre and myself.” She turned to address Blue directly. “Should there be any reason to doubt your sincerity, Captain, you are to be arrested and sent to join Magenta and his men in the armoured vehicle. I doubt that you will get off without being tried for your involvement in the Syndicate, and for the Agency’s criminal activities, but for now you are released into our custody.”
Blue’s fair brows rose at the conclusion of this speech. “How that must please you, Captain Flaxen. You’ve waited a long time to be able to order me about. Obviously patience is a virtue and, as ever, virtue is its own reward. However, don’t get too cock-a-hoop about it; I am minded to do as I want - the same as always.”
“Blue, don’t provoke her,” Symphony pleaded. She was too tired to face up to another bitter argument between her colleagues. “We owe it to Scarlet and Garnet to find the right portal for their way back, so let’s not argue, okay?”
Flaxen glanced at Ochre, hoping for his support, but he was watching Garnet with a concern that made her heart sink. “Let’s get a move on – sooner we start, the sooner you’ll get to go home,” she said with a weary resignation that was not lost on Captain Scarlet.
After the usual heated discussion, it was settled that Scarlet and Blue would make the initial exploratory trips through the crevices in the tunnels, systematically trying every one until they found the right one – back to the world Garnet and he had left so precipitously. Between them, the officers had the most experience of the dimension-jumping properties of the tunnels. As there was no way Cadenza was letting them out of her sight, they eventually agreed that she might accompany them. She pointed out, with a wry glance at her counterpart, that she had to get home too…
“Too damn right you do…” he muttered.
Symphony told them about her meeting with the man she believed was the Captain Blue from Scarlet’s dimension, and it made sense to begin the search through that particular portal, in the hopes he might still be there. Scarlet was optimistic that they might find the right way through on their first attempt, but his hopes were dashed when they arrived at the location. Where Symphony was sure the crevice had been, was a smooth wall of rock.
Rather than listen to the endless speculation this started amongst the group, Cadenza wandered along the dark tunnel, she ran her hand over the wall as she walked, as much for guidance and stability on the treacherous shingle as in the hope of discovery. Her hand suddenly reached an opening and staring into a stygian blackness she could almost imagine that she saw a glimmer of light.
“Paul, Adam,” she called, “I may have found another portal. Bring those torches over here.” She waited with as much patience as she could muster whilst the entire group stomped up the incline and shone their torches in the direction of her voice.
“It’s a tunnel, all right,” Scarlet agreed. “There is a chance it leads to the same place as the one you found, Symphony.”
“Only way to find out is to go through it,” Blue said prosaically.
“And what if you end up in another war zone?” Ochre asked.
“We turn round and come straight back,” Cadenza replied quickly, but politely enough, sensing Blue was about to make some disparaging put-down. The truce between the men was still a fragile one
“Let’s do it,” said Scarlet briskly. Like Cadenza, he was not inclined to tolerate seemingly endless arguments.
They emerged some minutes later with disappointed faces. It had not been the same place, and they had not stayed long enough to explore further, for fear of becoming involved in further ramifications of the convoluted situation they already found themselves in. But it had set the pattern and Ochre had no quibble with them trying other portals after that.
They tried several apertures without success - despite gaining some interesting insights into their pasts. Sometimes they could not be really sure if they were seeing themselves, or events in other dimensions. Captain Scarlet certainly remembered taking a painful dive over the handlebars of his new mountain bike, whilst showing off to his parents one birthday, and reflected ruefully on how his youthful-self would have welcomed the ability to heal quickly on that occasion.
They also witnessed a gangly, teen-aged Adam Svenson, with braces on his teeth, peering from beneath a mane of blond hair and pleading vociferously with his father for permission to start flying lessons. Captain Blue went very pale when his mother came to see what all the shouting was about.
A third tunnel revealed a chubby Karen Wainwright, her long, red-gold hair in a heavy single plait down her back, nervously bursting into tears when her delighted parents told her that she had won a mathematics scholarship to Yale University, which would mean her leaving her Iowan home.
“All very fascinating but not much help…we’re getting even further away from the present,” Scarlet explained to Symphony on their return.
“I sure would have liked to see your bicycle trick though, Paul!” she said cheerfully, apparently unmoved by the misery of that other Karen. He grinned at her and turned to follow Blue and Cadenza back into the next tunnel.
During their absences, Garnet wandered around different parts of the cavern, putting an idea she’d had, about finding a way through to their dimension, into practise. Captain Ochre followed her closely. Flaxen was trying to ignore them, by assiduously discussing anything and everything she could think of, with the Angel pilot, but Symphony was in no mood to provide a salve for her colleague’s aching heart and she finally gave up even the pretence of listening.
By the time the explorers emerged from the next portal, with disappointment written large on the faces, Garnet was back, and with barely suppressed excitement she reached out to catch Scarlet’s arm.
“Captain Scarlet, I am sure I have found the way back to the cavern we were found in. I recognised the entrance to the cave below this one. I am sure it is the right cave … you can just make out the water’s edge and the shingle bank.”
As he approached the drop, Scarlet’s hopes began to rise. He too felt he was on familiar ground. He peered over the edge to take a look.
“See, doesn’t it look familiar to you? Look, Rick, that is where you found us, don’t you remember?”
She was leaning perilously over a hole in the cavern floor, with Ochre holding on to the belt of her jacket.
“Rick….” Symphony muttered significantly to Scarlet as she peered over his shoulder, adding, “Ochre looks like a fond father holding his child by leading reins.”
Ochre agreed that it did look familiar. He had been the only member of the rescue team who had actually descended into the cave where Scarlet and Garnet had been trapped.
“Give me a rope, I will go down and investigate,” Scarlet ordered.
“Is that wise, to go alone?” Cadenza demurred. “You may be wrong, or, just as the horizontal exits from the caves do, this one may shift in the time dimension and you could end up anywhere.”
“He isn’t going alone,” Blue commented. He dropped the rope down into the cavern. “I am going too.”
They dropped to the shingle beach safely and looked up to see their companions staring down in concern. Scarlet raised a hand to signify they could see each other and Cadenza waved back.
Blue was already pacing along the shingle beach, ostensibly looking for signs that someone had been there before, but in reality looking for the bodies of Lieutenant Scarlet and Garnet. Suddenly he stopped and stooped in the shadow of a large boulder.
Alerted by the urgency in his companion’s voice, Scarlet sprinted over the shingle and stopped some distance away from where Blue was examining the inert body of a young woman. Blue looked up and confirmed his suspicions.
“It is Lieutenant Garnet. She has been shot.”
“But where is the other body?” Scarlet cried. “When I was here before, there were two bodies – Claudia’s and mine!”
Blue stood and looked with some sadness at the corpse at his feet. “She has been shot with a Spectrum weapon, so we can assume it was Ruffolo. It seems that here, he only managed to get half of the job done. Perhaps Lieutenant Scarlet is still here – he may well be injured. We should make a thorough search.”
Scarlet nodded. He glanced up to where he could see the others peering anxiously in their direction. He frowned as he tried to focus on the person of Symphony as she leant perilously over the edge. He could see that she was calling, but he could hear nothing. He reached out and touched Blue’s arm, “Look, Adam, do you see it too? The others – they are… fading.”
The sudden jolting of the ground beneath their feet and the loud crash of falling boulders drowned Blue’s response, and both men threw themselves onto the beach, covering their heads with their arms in a futile, yet instinctive, reaction to the tremor. All around them the ground shuddered and the shingle bank opposite cascaded down in an unstoppable torrent. Scarlet scrambled to his feet, pulling Blue out of the way of the avalanche of stone. They raced for the water’s edge, prepared to dive in, if it would afford them any protection. The water itself boiled and swirled around their legs as the volcano shook. The shingle beneath their feet shifted and Blue was sucked down into the maelstrom. Scarlet screamed out his name and reached to grab the American’s hand, hauling for dear life. Blue scrambled back on to the bank, soaked and breathless, but unhurt.
The tremor died down and as Scarlet was observing that it was the biggest quake so far, Blue stared out into the gloomy water as the ripples revealed the approach of a diver. A dark head emerged from the water and slowly a figure waded to the beach - a tall, sturdily-built, dark-haired man, with brilliant blue eyes and cleft chin.
Blue nudged Scarlet’s leg and nodded down towards the water.
“We have company. Paul, meet … Paul Metcalfe,” he said with a grin.
The two Metcalfes saw each other at the same instant. And Captain Scarlet felt the shock of surprise at seeing himself, standing looking at himself, with suspicion.
After a long pause, the newcomer extended his hand and said, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain Scarlet.”
“You’re not dead, then,” Scarlet said, stating the obvious.
“Not yet, thanks to Captain Blue – your Captain Blue,” he explained, glancing dismissively at the man sitting on the shingle. “I suppose this is the Blue from my dimension?”
“Yes, Lieutenant, I am,” Blue said, standing and staring down the dark-haired man. “And surprise, surprise, I am still your superior officer.”
Lieutenant Scarlet shrugged and turned back to Captain Scarlet. “I was sent here with a message from the other Captain Blue…”
“Call him Adam, it saves the bother of trying to differentiate between us all,” Scarlet suggested.
Lieutenant Scarlet grinned. “Okay, well, Adam sent me here with a message – I was to try to find you and give you the details he’s arranged for a rescue.”
“We know he was here, Symphony met him and told us.” Scarlet nodded. “Why didn’t he come with you?”
“He intended to, we left Stingray together. But, as we approached the cliff face, a tremor started and he was swept away from the entrance, whereas I was pulled back in. He’d said that if that happened, the one of us that got through should proceed alone. I know what he has planned; he thought it best we both have all the details, just in case something happened to separate us.”
“That sounds very much like Adam – he’s a ‘belt and braces’ man, if ever there was one,” Scarlet remarked laconically.
“He’s on the ball though,” the lieutenant agreed, “and he catches on pretty quickly too. I rather liked him,” he added, unable to disguise the mild surprise in his voice.
Scarlet gave a broad smile. “Oh, he’s a nice guy – if you discount his inability to refrain from explaining everything in minute detail – and his appalling singing.”
“I didn’t hear him sing,” the lieutenant admitted with an amused smile.
“Count yourself lucky,” Scarlet responded with a grin.
“Don’t mind me, will you?” Blue interjected peevishly. “I mean, it’s only my other self you’re discussing as if I’m not here…”
“Oh, you sing much better than Adam; I heard you on Cloudbase, remember?” Scarlet reassured him with a crafty wink at his double. “Actually, it was that, as much as anything, that made me realise the two dimensions were not the same, in a variety of subtle ways,” he explained.
“He sounds…rather dull,” Blue commented.
“Hey,” Lieutenant Scarlet said fiercely, “I will take his ‘dullness’ over your treachery any day, buster!”
“Cut it out!” Scarlet snapped. It seemed that with every reintroduction to the people of his own dimension, Blue slipped back into his persona of an objectionable waste of space. “We are all stuck here together and - until we get back to our correct worlds – I suggest we bury our personal feuds and co-operate.” He looked at both men sternly before he added pointedly, “It is what Adam would do.”
“Speaking of being stuck,” Blue said, “the others seem to have vanished from the aperture.”
Scarlet turned and looked towards the ceiling. “Damn and blast!”
“I have noticed that both the dimensional and the time slips seem to coincide with the tremors,” Blue theorised. “Whatever Dull Blue has planned may well depend on the random instances of earthquakes.”
“They are not so random as you imagine,” Lieutenant Scarlet replied, impressed that both Captain Blues seemed to have arrived independently at a similar conclusion. “Stingray has been monitoring the earthquakes since they arrived on the site and there seems to be a pattern. Captain Blue went on-line and got more data from the Vulcanologists, then he combined it and …” he rummaged in his diving suit and produced a print-out, “it’s all on this.”
Blue reached and took it before Scarlet could, and so he was reduced to peering over the taller man’s shoulder as Blue read the columns of figures and frowned absently into the distance as he calculated.
“Make any sense of it?” Scarlet asked.
“What makes you think he can count anything except money?” Lieutenant Scarlet muttered in a snide aside.
“I won’t tell you again,” Scarlet snapped. “We are both your superior officers and, if push comes to shove, I will shut your mouth for you.” The man’s attitude was annoying him. He considered the edginess between Blue and Cadenza with a whole new understanding.
“It’s okay, Paul,” Blue said, emerging from his distraction. “I can fight my own battles. The lieutenant probably believes he has a right to feel aggrieved.” He waved the piece of paper. “I take my hat off to Dull Blue – he’s right – there is a pattern. Chalk one to the tone-deaf Svenson.” He winked at Captain Scarlet.
“I didn’t say he was tone deaf,” Scarlet said.
“My father is… so it’s not that big a gamble. If my mother hadn’t insisted I had music lessons - from a very early age – I would probably be just as bad.” Blue winked.
“You’re a fraud, Svenson,” Scarlet grinned.
Blue laughed aloud. “Well known for it, Metcalfe.”
Lieutenant Scarlet watched this by-play with a frown. He had never expected to find that his double was friendly with a man he disliked so strongly. But then, he reasoned, he had been surprised at how affable he found the Captain Blue from the other dimension. It wasn’t worth fighting over, anyway. “Can you work out the pattern?” he asked Blue levelly.
“It’s a complex one, but as far as I can work it out, there are major quakes, like the one we just experienced, every 40-48 hours, followed by a series of smaller quakes, that seem to occur every 60-90 minutes – the frequency decreasing until there is a flurry of small quakes preceding the next big one.” He looked at Lieutenant Scarlet. “What is the plan?”
“The next big one – he’ll be here.”
“Concise and to the point, I commend it.” Blue smiled.
“Do we sit here for the next 40 hours?” the lieutenant asked.
Blue glanced at his watch. “Probably not - there should be another small quake in the next 10 minutes or so – with luck, that will return the others to their vantage point above the way out. I suggest we go back to Cloudbase, tie up the loose ends and then – back we all come - in time to meet with Dull Blue and send everyone home,” he concluded flippantly.
“What about Claudia? If we can all swap times and dimensions, is there anyway I can stop Ruffolo shooting her?” Lieutenant Scarlet asked, his gaze finally moving to the boulder where he had left his fiancée.
“I am sorry, Paul,” Captain Scarlet said, placing a hand on his doppelganger’s arm. “She has not recovered from the wounds. She is dead.”
“But then, so was he, according to you,” Blue reminded him. He sighed and shrugged at the Lieutenant. “Look, if it is any consolation, maybe somewhere in the multiverse, there is a Claudia Vecchio married to Paul Metcalfe, with half a dozen ‘bambinos’ crawling around their feet.”
“I applaud the sentiment, but not the way it was expressed,” Captain Scarlet sighed.
Blue shrugged again. “Somewhere Adam Svenson is married to Dianne Simms - the poor bastard - mind you, they probably deserve each other.”
Captain Scarlet was angry at a slur that seemed to encompass his Dianne. “And you don’t deserve to be married to her? Or maybe, she doesn’t deserve to be married to you – ever thought of that aspect of it?”
“Nope, she doesn’t deserve to be married to me. And I have quite different plans…” Blue moved towards the hole in the roof where he expected to see Karen again. Scarlet shook his head in angry exasperation as the strains of ‘I’m a believer’ came wafting back towards them, in Captain Blue’s light tenor.
“What’s he on about?” Lieutenant Scarlet asked.
“Ah, well, you see….”
The explanation lasted nicely until the next tremor revealed the anxious rescue party – just as Blue had predicted.
Once the parties were reunited, Blue gave an explanation of what had happened and the theory that the other Captain Blue had come up with to explain events and provide a way home. Cadenza took the papers from him and, with Symphony looking over her shoulder they made their own calculations, checking the validity of the original work.
“Well, it should get you home, Paul,” Cadenza said ruefully. “It doesn’t offer me a promise of returning, though.”
“Look, we go to the portal we found you in, and wait until the tremors coincide with your home…” Blue said, rolling his eyes.
“So, I have to wait here, popping in and out of the crevice after every quake, while you all go back to a party on Cloudbase?” she snarled.
“No,” Symphony said. “Look, these figures have time codes… we know Paul found you then,” she pointed, “and you came back before the next quake. So... it’s like one quake is home, one quake isn’t…”
“And what if the tunnel ends at hundreds of different realities before it gets back to mine?” Cadenza asked, her eyebrows raised.
Symphony grinned, raised her own eyebrows in response and chewed on her gum.
The other Angel pilot laughed. “My God, you are just like Kevin… damned annoying,” she confessed.
“I guess the decision is up to you, Eva,” Captain Scarlet said. “You can wait here, and,” he sighed, “if you decide to do that, I’ll wait with you, or you can come back to Cloudbase and try when we all come back before the next big quake.”
Cadenza smiled at him. “Thanks, Paul; I knew I could rely on your help. I think I will come back to Cloudbase with you all. I want to see just what is different…”
Captain Ochre agreed that they should all return to Cloudbase. He was sure the colonel would want a full report, and he had a sneaking suspicion his commander wouldn’t believe his story if he had to tell it unsupported by the testimony of the others. Flaxen was still highly sceptical of the whole series of events since the away mission had arrived at Etna – so it was odds on that White wouldn’t believe either. Besides, Ochre was gentleman enough to give credit where it was due, and he was grateful to Cadenza and Captain Scarlet for the significant parts they had played in the unravelling of the Mysterons’ plot and believed that Colonel White would want to thank them, officially.
He could even feel pity for Lieutenant Scarlet’s anguish at losing Claudia, although part of him ached to say it was the Englishman’s own fault, for dragging her into the morass of Agency schemes. Oddly enough, he found it hard to mourn the woman he had loved when her double stood so close beside him, her eyes brimming with tears at the news that her doppelganger had not survived. Perhaps it was shallow of him to feel this way, or perhaps it was a consequence of his Mysteronisation that he could no longer see death as a final separation, but he rather suspected it was because he felt that the new Claudia returned his love with an intensity he had not experienced with his ex-fiancée.
Somewhere, in his heart of hearts, he could not believe he would lose her a second time.
It was with mixed feelings that the away party clambered aboard an SPJ at the airfield. Sergeant Harcourt had been left in charge of the remaining security personnel, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from the trusted personnel in Spectrum London. Captain Magenta and his cronies were being transferred to a secure facility operated by Spectrum’s internal security department ‘Spectrum Intelligence’, where a team of interrogators were itching to get their hands on him and as much inside information on the Syndicate and its various off-shoots as they could.
Scarlet watched the three men being hustled onto a second SPJ with an unavoidable feeling of unease. He glanced at Captain Blue who had also stopped on the tarmac to watch the loading.
“Do you reckon they’ll crack him?” he asked the American.
Blue pursed his lips and gave a minute shrug. “I damn well hope so, because, if they don’t, I’m going to have to do it myself. “ He turned to Scarlet, who saw an unexpected flicker of anxiety in his eyes. “I can’t risk Magenta getting loose and going after my father… or anyone else he assumes I care about. I will kill him with my bare hands before I allow him to harm any of them.”
Captain Scarlet watched him walk up the steps to the plane with a frown on his face. He had come to accept that he did not understand most of the people in this dimension, but with this man he felt it more… he felt he ought to know him, but every time Scarlet thought he had him sussed - Blue surprised him again. He started to follow him, wishing he could go home straight away and missing his friends and the companionship he valued, more than ever.
Back on the vastness of Cloudbase, they were met at the hangar door by a security team of unknown officers, who delivered them to the conference room.. Each of them was scanned with a Mysteron Detector… although, as Ochre pointed out, three of them made that precaution redundant. Colonel White had obviously been busy in their absence, and once Captain Magenta had left for Mount Etna, he had shipped in loyal troops from London and Sydney. They had rounded up the senior figures in the Agency, and those not already on their way down to SI were languishing in the brig.
Once the tests on Symphony and Lieutenant Garnet proved negative, Colonel White ordered them down to sick-bay. Both women were looking pale and tired after their exertions at Etna. He was concerned to see Symphony’s pallor and her lethargy, and he spoke to her for several moments before he ordered her to see Doctor Fawn. His concern for his senior Angel pilot made her blush guiltily, and she left meekly enough.
Colonel White accepted that Captain Ochre and Captain Scarlet posed no threat, but he was uncertain about Cadenza and took a deal of convincing that the young woman was as loyal to her Spectrum – and its commander – as his own men were to him. Eventually, it was the fact that Captain Flaxen acknowledged that the Angel pilot was on their side that convinced White to relax the guard on her. But he could not help staring at the young woman with obvious amazement. Cadenza shrugged at Captain Scarlet – she was getting used to being pointed out as an oddity.
It was only after he had dealt with everyone else in the away party that the colonel turned to Lieutenant Scarlet.
He was thankful that he had delayed telling the young man’s family about his ‘death’, and relieved and delighted to see him so hale and well.
For his part, the lieutenant was unsure of his welcome. He knew he had bent the rules, both in returning to Etna and in involving Garnet in his unauthorised scheme to deactivate the pacifier. He hoped that his story of meeting the ‘other’ Paul Metcalfe would be more believable now, given that there was not only a second Paul Metcalfe but also a female version of Captain Blue on Cloudbase. However, he had no doubt that his insubordination would not go un-noticed, or unpunished by his commander-in-chief. His Uncle Charles was a tough old bird – but, he acknowledged, fair to a fault. Whatever he decided as suitable punishment would not be tempered by his undoubted affection for his nephew, and Scarlet knew that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Paul,” White said, and rather surprisingly enfolded the younger man in a rough embrace.
“Uncle,” Scarlet responded quietly.
White disengaged. His face was stern and his voice clipped as he said, “I am so sorry to hear about Claudia. I cannot begin to say how much I sympathise with you… I know we all pay a certain lip-service to the possibility of death in service – but it never ceases to hurt every one of us when the ultimate tragedy happens. My dear boy…”
Scarlet hung his head. “Thank you, sir.” He raised his face, his eyes heavy with unshed tears he could not banish. “I know Claudia was special to us all… she will be missed by more than just me…”
White nodded, dismissing the sentiment he was as uncomfortable with as his nephew. “Her body will be buried with full military honours, Lieutenant. Please rest assured that no blame attaches to her, she died in the line of duty.”
Scarlet nodded. His Uncle was letting him off lightly – so be it.
Colonel White knew his nephew had been very deeply in love with the dead woman. Since the other officers all agreed that they saw little chance she might still be found alive, Paul would take time to adjust, not only to her death, but to his own apparent escape from it. There was time later for any recriminations to be expressed – in private.
An hour later, after time to freshen up and get something to eat, the officers and Cadenza sat around the conference room and told Colonel White their stories, each adding a little more to the overall picture of the events at the volcano. It was quickly apparent that they had all acted with the best of intentions, and that, whatever the result was from breaking up the pacifier, they had done it with the objective of preventing far more serious and wide-ranging catastrophes in this and other dimensions. It was going to take some explaining to the senior executive and the local governments, but on the whole the colonel believed he could make a strong enough case, even without bringing the inter-dimensional portals into the matter.
The colonel couldn’t help glancing from one ‘Scarlet’ to the other. He could see a few subtle differences between his somewhat stiff-necked nephew and the ‘alternative’ Scarlet. Despite the fact that he had been a victim of the Mysterons, Captain Scarlet was far more relaxed than his alter ego – or perhaps, the colonel mused, he was relaxed because of his situation? Either way Paul had an air of wariness about him and a cynicism in his blue eyes, which the other man lacked. On the physical side there was nothing to distinguish them, apart from the fact that Paul had a healthy tan, whilst Captain Scarlet’s pallid complexion was similar to Captain Ochre’s which, various reports had noted, was strikingly similar to Captain Black’s tomblike pallor.
It was Captain Ochre who was the most surprising of the returned officers. There was a lightness in his demeanour and an optimism in his voice that the colonel didn’t remember hearing since before the incident at the Car-Vu. He was far less acerbic than he had been and even spoke voluntarily to Captain Blue, appealing for his support to verify incidents and justify reasonings. All three of the Mysteronised officers – for he had to accept that Cadenza was the same as the two men – seemed relaxed and far more at ease than he had ever seen Ochre before. He could only ascribe it to the fact that they had met other people in the same condition as themselves. Misery, he reasoned, likes nothing better than company.
Cadenza was not over-awed by being on an ‘alien’ Cloudbase, and had obviously accepted it as a perfectly logical development of her situation. She showed no uneasiness that the commander-in-chief of this reality might pose a threat to her, even when he was told of the mix-up that had, ostensibly, allowed Captain Black to escape. Despite a tendency to call him ‘General’, she treated Colonel White with a polite deference that was a long way from fear.
Finally, Colonel White commended them. Overall, they had done a good job, he reassured them, adding that the arrest of Captain Magenta was a welcome, if unexpected, consequence of the main mission. With Magenta off Cloudbase, the Agency had become vulnerable and he had taken the chance to implement a long-formulated plan to prise the organisation from its stranglehold of the base. The general assumption was that Magenta would now seek to make a plea bargain, for his information would be crucial in attacking ‘The Syndicate’ itself. With a proven link between The Mysterons and organised crime, Spectrum could justifiably join the other terrestrial security agencies in targeting The Syndicate and its various branches around the globe.
“I have the World President’s word that the dismantling of the power of the Syndicate will cover every aspect of international government bodies and no-one will be above suspicion or above sanction. Anyone involved with the Syndicate or the Agency, or proven to have links with either of them, will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Captain Blue had listened to everything with commendable calm, but as the colonel concluded, he heard himself denounced by Captain Flaxen as both a traitor and a gangster. In the absence of his making any defence of himself, Captain Scarlet spoke up on his behalf and Blue acknowledged his positive rebuttal of the charge with a gracious bow of his head. Captain Ochre’s comments, in response to further charges against him made by Lieutenant Scarlet, elicited a wry smile. But he never said a word in his own defence.
Colonel White turned to Cadenza and looked at her carefully for some minutes, until even the self-confident and self-possessed Eva began to blush. “Miss Svenson, you have remained uncharacteristically quiet on the subject of your… other half. Do you have anything to say about the events of the recent past?”
Cadenza bit her lip and drew a deep breath. “Only one thing, Gen…Colonel; I have thought all along that Captain Blue is hiding something. I get an impression he’s rather enjoying himself too, but I don’t have any idea why,” she admitted with a glance at her other self, “apart, maybe, from his impending fatherhood.”
“His what?” Colonel White asked in alarm.
Blue, quite unable to restrain himself, gave an absurdly proud grin. The colonel’s heart sank as he realised the situation. It didn’t take genius to figure out who was the other person involved. He’d been aware that Symphony had not been in the peak of health lately, but Doctor Fawn had not included her on his weekly health report, so he had not worried. Presumably, White thought caustically, Fawn will argue that having a baby is not an illness, when I ask him why I wasn’t informed. Oh, there are going to be changes around here and they are going to start right now!
He kept his tone as neutral as he could and said, “I think we will leave discussing that matter until after this meeting is concluded, Miss Svenson. Captain Blue, it looks as if the stage is yours. Can you provide any justification for your actions and a reason for me not to commit you to the brig for trial, by a military or civilian court, as the World Solicitor-General decides? You surely admit to having been involved with Donaghue’s schemes and to having knowledge of his criminal activities?” White looked sadly at the younger man. “You always had the potential to be a good officer, a potential, I have to say, that you have not fulfilled.”
Unabashed, Blue finally spoke up. “I am sorry you think that, sir. It has always been my objective to do whatever job I undertake to the best of my ability. When I was a test pilot, I was the best test pilot the WAS had. I can’t claim to be the best agent Spectrum has…”
“No, you damn well can’t!” Ochre muttered, but he sounded more amused than angry. The colonel glanced at him quizzically; he had noted with interest that Ochre’s voice had not been one of those raised in condemnation of his fellow American – which was, in itself, surprising.
Blue grimaced and continued, “But I would ask you some questions, sir, if I may?” White nodded curtly and the younger man continued, “What is the most important – your duty to your employers or to your family? I learned very soon after I joined Spectrum, that my family – specifically my Uncle - was involved with organised crime. He embroiled my father in laundering money for the Syndicate, and I believed my father when he told me that, initially, he was unaware of what was happening and, that by the time he did realise, he was too far in to get out. The reach of those criminals is extensive, and I hadn’t been here long before Magenta approached me, with various ‘threats’ to my father and his company. I have not always seen eye to eye with my father – but he is the only family I had…” he turned and grinned at Cadenza, “until now. So I resisted the Syndicate’s initial overtures. Until, that is, after what happened at the Car-Vu.”
Ochre had been fiddling with his pen during this speech, but he looked up abruptly at the mention of the Car-Vu. His newly acquired peace of mind did not extend to thoroughly accepting what had happened to him, and he still wished, with every fibre of his being, that it had not happened to him. Unaware of the man’s scrutiny, Blue continued his story.
“When Ochre kidnapped the World President, I was the nearest officer with a chance to stop him. We all know what happened, but what happened next is perhaps not so well known. I escorted President Younger back to Futura and, if you remember, sir, I remained there for a week. During that time, the President… convinced me that it was… my duty …to…” Blue hesitated and, for once, really seemed to be lost for words.
Captain Scarlet spoke quietly into the silence, “Whatever it was, Adam, you have to tell us now.”
Blue nodded. “Let me try and explain…I need to go back a bit, to before Spectrum was created. Whilst I was in the WAS, I was made responsible for security, and my main task was to trace and remove several espionage organisations that had infiltrated the service. That’s basically what Younger wanted me to do for Spectrum. In addition to his appeal to my duty, and my loyalty to the World Government and himself, he mentioned that he had irrefutable proof of my Uncle’s involvement with the Syndicate, and of just how far into the morass my father had been dragged. I don’t like my Uncle – I never have – but he is my mother’s eldest brother and as such he is family. I have always been taught that my first loyalties are to the family, and I couldn’t risk the possibility that he might drag my father down with him, so I agreed to do what was asked of me.
“Most of that week I spent being briefed on what the World President wanted me to do, and – with the help of a couple of President Younger’s trusted associates – how we could do it. It wasn’t going to be possible to use USS agents, because you are familiar with so many of them, Colonel, and so, it was decided to use agents from the secondary intelligence services. In fact, one of the people assisting me during that week was André Verdain. He and the President go back a long way, it seems.
“When I came back, I went to see Captain Magenta. I said I had been asked by my family to co-operate with his schemes, to ensure their safety. I am not sure that Donaghue believed me, but he saw me as another way of ensuring my father’s compliance with the Syndicate’s demands, so he let me into the inner circle of the Agency’s controllers – to keep an eye on me, I suspect. It was hard work convincing Patrick of my enthusiasm, I had to move carefully, or the Syndicate would have killed my father, and possibly me as well. Gradually, he came to trust me a little, and I was able to start acquiring the evidence the President needed to destroy the Syndicate and ‘cleanse Spectrum’. His words, by the way, not mine.
“Once I was an established member of the Agency, I was able to tip off their intended targets and blow the cover of their agents and their dummy corporations, when I could. All of this I had to do without anyone here knowing about it,” he looked up and gave a slight smile, “and I guess I succeeded, because one by one, I lost my friends and … the people I cared about. But I infiltrated the Agency so completely that there isn’t a shred of cover for them to hide behind. Donaghue and his confederates will be in prison for a very long time.”
Captain Flaxen gave a slow, mocking round of applause. “You always were a damned good liar, Svenson,” she said. “I have to hand it to, you this is the biggest piece of bull-shit I’ve heard in a long time.”
“Why should he be lying?” Cadenza snapped. She had watched Blue throughout his long monologue and had no doubt he was telling the truth.
“Because, Miss Svenson, he will be joining Donaghue inside for a decent stretch himself.” Flaxen’s reply was heavy with derision.
“I have proof,” Blue said quietly, “and I have a few accomplices here on Cloudbase.”
“Who?” Colonel White demanded angrily. His face was ashen.
“Primarily, Lieutenant Cerise and Heidi Kleditzsch, they acted as my couriers and, sometimes, as my eyes and ears too.”
“Heidi? The physiotherapist I saw in your room the first time we met? I thought she was a … well, not to put too fine a point on it …I thought she was a hooker.” Captain Scarlet blushed.
Blue laughed. “Oh no, not Heidi, she’s a senior agent with the European Area Intelligence Agency. I recruited her through the auspices of Verdain. You may recall, Colonel, she was appointed to Cloudbase some weeks after I returned from Futura? As a matter of interest, Captain Scarlet, several of the ‘Agency’s girls’ are E.A.I.A. plants. Heidi keeps a strict eye on them.” He couldn’t resist a knowing glance from beneath his brows at the other men present. There were several uncomfortable expressions around the table. Cadenza was trying hard not to snigger.
“Well, I agree with Captain Flaxen,” Lieutenant Scarlet snapped. “These girls are Agency girls – you just admitted as much. They’d claim they were nuns if you told them to!”
“True, they might at that.” Blue did not look too worried by this. “The whole mission nearly came to grief in Monte Carlo. Verdain had discovered that this was the ‘powerhouse’ of the whole set-up, if you like. Some of the members of the Syndicate’s gangs had been Mysteronised, and the money they were siphoning off from the casinos was being used to recruit humans to work for them, the kind of people who will do anything for money. Naturally, these humans are immune to our Mysteron detectors, and trying to stop their schemes is impossible if we can’t spot the reconstructs. Verdain needed help. He had unearthed this scheme and it seemed to be our best hope of linking the Syndicate to the Mysterons, and so having a legal excuse to use the resources of Spectrum against them. Symphony is nobody’s fool and she’s a good agent, she came too close to what was really going on, and I had to… divert her attention….”
“Boy, was that a diversion and a half,” Cadenza sighed mischievously. “You do have some wonderful ideas.”
Blue flushed. “Yes… well, it got rather out of hand – you can blame that on the champagne…”
“It would certainly explain your impending progeny,” Ochre mused with a wry tilt of his head.
“But,” Lieutenant Scarlet said to Blue, “I don’t understand why you would want to alienate Symphony in the first place. I mean, you two were… good friends… before all this happened. Surely she’d have been an asset to you in your ‘so called’ mission?”
Blue smiled ruefully and explained, “I had to make sure Magenta believed in my ‘conversion’ to his cause. Any ties with loyal members of Spectrum would be suspect and I wasn’t prepared to turn Karen into a hostage – someone Magenta could use against me - if I was ever found out.”
He could see that Flaxen and Lieutenant Scarlet were still not convinced, but Captain Scarlet’s face was wreathed in smiles. “I should have known you couldn’t have been such an unmitigated jerk! It never felt quite right. I’m sorry I doubted you, Adam, but you are a bloody good actor at times.”
Blue smirked. “Noted for it, Captain Scarlet.”
“Captain Blue is a founder member of the amateur dramatics group here on Cloudbase,” the colonel explained, his expression perfectly neutral.
Scarlet grinned. “Likewise, at home! Say, have you ever done a production of ‘Macbeth’?”
Cadenza glanced at him. “We did. I played Lady Macbeth…”
“Then, will you tell me all about it over dinner?” Scarlet asked.
“This is all very suspect,” Lieutenant Scarlet said, still unwilling to accept the story.
“Well, I do have one unimpeachable witness,” Blue responded. “I made a call from the SPJ before we got back to Cloudbase, Colonel. I think you will find that the World President’s jet is on its way to Cloudbase from Futura. Even the Commander-in-chief of Spectrum has to listen to the World President, Lieutenant Scarlet.”
The World President arrived at Cloudbase within the hour and was ushered by security into the Officers’ Lounge. There he met a party comprised of Colonel White, both of the Scarlets, Cadenza and Captain Blue, Captains Flaxen and Ochre, Lieutenant Garnet, Symphony and Rhapsody Angel, who had managed to wangle herself an invitation.
Captain Scarlet, convinced his news would receive a generally warm welcome, had taken it upon himself to see that the three women intimately connected with the chain of events were brought up to date, including Blue’s justification for his actions. He had gone along to the Amber Room, where he found Rhapsody and the other off-duty Angels, including Symphony - who had recently been released from sickbay - entertaining Lieutenant Garnet and Cadenza. He told them the outcome of the debriefing conference, without alluding to Symphony’s condition, which he saw as a private matter for the two lovers to sort out. He concluded his explanation with a beaming smile and waited for the women to react. But things did not go quite as he expected.
Garnet showed a great deal of pleasure to think that the captain had been acting under orders – she really did not like to think ill of anyone.
Rhapsody gave the news a lukewarm welcome. She was busily assessing how it might affect her relationship with Blue. Her scheme to marry him had been shaken by the news of Symphony’s condition, and it was only with great difficulty that she was keeping a hold on her frustrated anger in the face of Destiny’s twittering and Melody’s tactless questioning of the mother-to-be. In the light of this new information, she began to hope that, perhaps, Blue had no intention of marrying his former girlfriend…even given her situation. Symphony certainly did not seem to be taking Captain Scarlet’s news very well. It was a close call, but there might yet be a chance, she reasoned. A rehabilitated Adam Svenson might not be looking to get married and quit the service, which he would surely have to do with a baby on the way… and I have always made it perfectly clear that if he wants to stay on Cloudbase after we are married, that would suit me fine….
To Scarlet’s surprise, it was Symphony who showed the most unexpected response. “How very considerate of him, Captain Scarlet, but I am perfectly capable of looking out for myself!” she snapped after hearing his explanation for Blue’s break with her. She turned away and Scarlet never saw the tears that flooded into her eyes.
All she could think was, he has played me for a fool – again - and I let him! Everything that happened between us was all a trick – a diversion – to keep me from doing my job. And I was stupid enough to fall for it! Is there no end to his duplicity?
In the formality of the Presidential reception, the women were forced to keep their emotions under control. All three of them greeted World President Younger with polite smiles, and then moved on the colonel and Captain Blue who stood alongside of him. White watched them with interested concern.
Garnet was obviously delighted, her smile was sincere and she held on to Captain Blue’s hand for slightly longer than was customary. She moved on to be met by a genial Captain Ochre, whose smile mirrored her own in its delight.
Rhapsody, accustomed to dealing with VIPs, charmed the President and moved on to flirt with a surprisingly disconcerted Captain Blue. She did not move far from the reception line, but turned with blatant interest to watch her fellow Angel.
Symphony moved along the line of guests with barely concealed fury. Her smile at the President was perfunctory and her hand merely grazed Captain Blue’s as he extended it to take hers. She pointedly turned her back on him and strode across to join Captain Ochre – thereby innocently disrupting that man’s plan to get a little time alone with Lieutenant Garnet. Captain Blue, more than adept at reading her body language, turned away and Rhapsody swooped on him, playfully berating him for deceiving them all with his ‘bad-guy’ act and making no mention of Symphony.
Formalities over, President Younger was in an exuberant mood; cheerfully heralding the dawn of a new era in World Government, one where there was no place for corruption - not even Captain Blue’s uncle, World Senator Thomas Ellis, would be protected, Younger promised – although he did confirm to Captain Blue, in a quiet aside, that John Svenson was safe. He congratulated everyone on doing an excellent job, referring to Captain Blue in glowing terms. He hardly seemed to bat an eyelid when he was introduced to the people from the other dimensions – which suggested Blue’s telephone call had been far more than just a request for personal support. He confirmed that Magenta was to be committed for trial, but that he had made a bargain with the prosecuting service, dependent on his naming names and providing back-up proofs. The Syndicate would be seriously weakened – if not obliterated – all members of the government would be investigated and any found to have links to the Syndicate would be dismissed and committed for trial.
This eagerness lasted right through to the meal. “I have found just the man for the job, Colonel,” Younger enthused. “As dedicated an officer as there is and one who most definitely puts his integrity above price – he’s incorruptible.”
“That sounds ideal, Mr President,” White agreed dubiously. “Anyone we know?”
“But of course you do, Agent Conners is in Spectrum Intelligence. He will head up a team, initially dedicated to eradicating the Agency from Spectrum, and then he will turn his attention to the officials – elected and otherwise – who have been implicated, either by Magenta’s evidence or his own investigations. This will be a clean-sweep, Colonel – my administration will leave no stone unturned in its task of ending corruption within the public service.”
Younger was beginning to sound as if he was addressing a political conference and in order to curb his natural prolixity, White replied,
“A very reliable man, as far as I understand, Mr. President. We will welcome him on Cloudbase and I can assure you, all of my personnel will be happy to co-operate with his team of investigators.”
Captain Scarlet choked on a mouthful of wine. “Oh, sure… right enough. Everyone will co-operate like crazy,” he muttered under his breath. Captain Blue, sitting next to him, raised an interrogative eyebrow. “He’s kidding, right?” Scarlet added hopefully.
“I doubt it. Why should he be?”
“You mean you haven’t experienced Mr. Conners yet?” He grinned. “Oh boy - do you have a treat in store! I almost wish I could stay and witness it! Like lambs to the slaughter, the lot of you!”
“Maybe you had better brief me, before you go. I want to know everything you know about Conners that we don’t,” Blue replied with an amused smile.
“How long have you got, Adam?”
Their attention was diverted from this interesting conversation by the World President tapping a spoon on his wine glass and starting another speech. Scarlet stifled a grin as he noticed the colonel roll his eyes heavenward and sigh. He couldn’t imagine his colonel showing his ennui, even half that much. He tuned in to Younger and tried to see beneath the political flannel to what the man was really saying.
He thought it ironic that the President was more pleased with their, almost incidental, victory over the Syndicate, rather than their ground-breaking success at foiling another Mysteron attempt to destroy the World. That’s politicians for you, the same everywhere, he thought cynically. It did, however, give him a frisson of mischievous glee to recognise that Younger was acting very cautiously towards Captain Ochre, and yet including Cadenza and himself in his general bonhomie. He knew that situation all too well – back in his own dimension.
After the meal, the President and Colonel White retired into the top security room for a meeting and Captain Flaxen and Lieutenant Scarlet went back on duty, leaving the others to naturally break up into smaller groups. Captain Ochre offered to show Lieutenant Garnet the sights of the base – as she had never seen them - and the pair wandered off together.
Cadenza shepherded Captain Blue into a corner and proceeded to deliver a few home-truths.
“You have to sort out this mess you are in with the Angels… you cannot go on pretending you are God’s gift to girls, whilst you play one off against the other. The time has come to make your mind up,” she announced.
“I have made my mind up… not that it needed making up, really. I intend to marry Karen – just as soon as she’s speaking to me again…” he confessed with a wry grimace in her direction.
“And Rhapsody?” Cadenza asked pointedly. “When are you going to let her into this well-kept secret?”
“Oh…. Dianne? Well, I guess she’s figured it out for herself. I mean, Karen’s pregnant and… and…”
“I don’t think so,” she warned him. “Otherwise I doubt you’d be standing upright, for a start. You owe her an apology – a major apology.”
“It wasn’t like she thought I was serious…” he blustered. “I mean, she wasn’t ever serious about it…”
“Oh yes she was. She was quite prepared to marry your bank account – even if it meant marrying you with it.” He pulled a petulant face and refused to meet Cadenza’s hostile gaze. She shook her head in exasperation with him. “Adam Svenson,” she sighed, “when are you going to wake up and smell the shit you’re in?”
Scarlet smiled to see the tall American squirming under a tongue-lashing that, no doubt, contained exactly the same mix of moral indignation and verbal skills he used so effectively himself.
Rhapsody and Symphony, uneasy in each other’s company, watched the party fragment with a feeling of helplessness. Both of them sensed that they were in line for some kind of showdown.
Rhapsody had been determined to attend the gathering; if there was something going on between Symphony and Blue, she needed to break it up, before it got too serious. Knowing Karen’s hot temper, she might be able to drive a wedge between them once and for all, before her colleague calmed down and decided she would forgive Blue… something she had no doubt would happen – given time. She was not prepared to see her hard work cultivating the rich captain wasted. She had witnessed the reunion of Symphony with Captain Blue with some satisfaction – it did not look as if the couple were about to become ‘reunited’ – although, from Blue’s expression, he had obviously expected to be welcomed. Rhapsody sighed and thought back over the past few months, reviewing how the latest twist in the situation might affect her own plans.
The affair between Symphony and Captain Blue had been the worst kept secret on Cloudbase and there was little doubt that, on her part at least, it had been genuine enough. Blue was far more reserved than Symphony, but at the time, he had seemed sheepishly happy in her company. All this had changed when he returned from Futura, after being awarded the Valour Star for his actions in the Car-Vu incident by the World President himself. With an uncharacteristic openness he had begun philandering with other women on the base, and his attitude towards Symphony changed dramatically. Of course, now she knew why he had alienated her - and done it with all the thoroughness for which he was justifiably noted. Not known for her meek acceptance of things she didn’t like, Symphony had reacted with anger, and they had started arguing, each row more acrimonious than the last, until finally they had split, just before Blue declared his alliance with Magenta. Symphony had been forthright in her denunciation of him and the bitterness she felt had soured her temper for weeks. She devoted herself to helping the colonel in his seemingly fruitless battle to combat the Agency’s growing power on Cloudbase, whilst her fellow Angel pilots had succumbed to Magenta’s blandishments.
And that’s when I set a determined course to capture a rich American for myself, she mused. Free from his entanglement with one Angel, Blue accepted her overtures with every sign of wishing to reciprocate and it was noticeable that his pursuit of other women had decreased as a consequence. Not that she imagined for one moment they had stopped all together.
When Symphony had been included on the away mission with him, Grey and Destiny, she had been jealous, and not a little uneasy. Grey and Destiny were happily involved in a pretty torrid affair and not likely to be keeping the others company, if chance permitted. They were supposed to investigate suspected Mysteron activity in the Mediterranean, centred around Monte Carlo. It didn’t appear to have been an onerous mission, from what she’d heard from Destiny on her return, and they all had splendid tans -and, in Destiny’s case, a whole new wardrobe of designer clothes, as well. The Frenchwoman hadn’t been able to confirm, or refute, Rhapsody’s concerns that, whilst the others were indulging in some hanky-panky of their own, Blue and Symphony had been ‘behaving themselves’.
Whatever had happened between Blue and Symphony during those two weeks – and, despite her snooping, Rhapsody had never been able to find out if anything did happen –Symphony’s attitude towards her former lover had noticeably softened and Rhapsody had been suspicious of her re-burgeoning interest for some time now, culminating in her discovery of the American Angel in Blue’s quarters the other evening. Of course, this pregnancy explained a great deal…
She glanced over at the corner where Blue was in earnest conversation with the new Angel – perhaps this apparent rapprochement with Symphony is merely a hiccough? Perhaps they are still at loggerheads? I hope so… if he’s going to be any help – even with all the money he has – he has to marry me soon…. She drew a deep sigh and decided to break up that tête-a tête; she suspected that Cadenza was more on Symphony’s side than hers.
At Rhapsody’s approach, Cadenza stopped mid-sentence and gave Blue a significant look. He sighed deeply but at a stern glance from Cadenza, moved to greet her.
Before she could say a word, he began, “I feel I owe you an apology.” His eyes were downcast. “I have behaved abominably towards you, and I can only ask you to remember that I was under orders and not to judge me too harshly. If I try to apologise for every last offence, we’ll be here for months…so, I hope you’ll accept this apology as covering all of my transgressions?” He glanced up at her, as if expecting that she would reject his olive branch.
Rhapsody broke the acid silence, her hopes were in ruins and she was in no mood for forgiveness. “I have to say that I am not convinced that you acted fairly - towards either of us, Adam. It wasn’t fair to try to seduce me, as you had seduced Karen, if you meant to dump us both… playing with our emotions as if we were of no importance!”
“I never did!” he protested. “Dianne, I was a complete bastard - I’ll agree - but you didn’t love me, and what happened between us never touched your heart. Admit it; it wasn’t as if you cared.”
“How can you say that?”
“No, Dianne – it’s time for the truth – all you cared about was getting your hands on my money. Well, it isn’t mine, it is the family’s - but setting that aside - you would have married a monkey if he could have delivered the hard cash! You were using me and I was using you – so we are even, Miss Simms – admit it, take the medicine and move on. I apologise for your disappointment – even the hurt pride I may have caused - but I can’t apologise for playing the same game as you.” He looked obdurately at the red-head. He knew Rhapsody was intelligent enough to know that she was on a losing wicket and honest to know he was speaking the truth – however unpalatable that was to hear. He also knew just how much he had led her on and he was not entirely heartless. He added, “I would like to make some amends, Dianne, and I can offer the services of SvenCorp to cover your family’s mortgages and extend their credit lines. On that you have my word and that of my father. We have favours owed us in the City; it’ll be sorted out, don’t worry. We pay our debts.”
“And that is supposed to set us even, is it?” she snapped, glaring up at the stony-faced American, but even in the depths of her apparent defeat, there was a fierce joy that she would not have to marry him. She had tried to do as her father ordered and could not be blamed if the favourite contender baulked at the final hurdle and shied away from the ultimate commitment. And judicious handling of SvenCorp’s assets, through the medium of Adam’s guilt, might yet solve the budgetary crisis at home. “I still say you behaved badly.”
“And I still say you didn’t care…” he retorted.
“You have been trying to get me into bed for months!”
“True – but it doesn’t follow that I want to get married…”
Cadenza, watching from across the room, cleared her throat significantly and stared with forthright disapproval at Blue. He sighed and apologised once more. This time Rhapsody gave a curt nod, indicating that – for now – she was prepared to accept his contrition as genuine. She had better things to do than listen to Blue’s ramblings… She needed to discover just how desperate the financial situation was at home, so that she could ensure his ‘apology’ was enough to cover the immediate crisis.
Symphony had been watching this with a sullen expression from her seat across the room. If she could have, she would have fled the room, but she was hemmed in by her colleagues and Captain Blue and Rhapsody had chosen to have their altercation in the doorway. She was not feeling up to a confrontation with him right now. She was tired, and worried about what Colonel White was going to do, now that he knew about her pregnancy. His only remark alluding to it had left her uncertain and fearing the worst. She foresaw a terrestrial posting and, quite possibly, permanent exclusion from Cloudbase. Added to that, she would be separated from Captain Blue and - she could admit to herself at least – that would be worst punishment of all.
She came to with a start as she saw Rhapsody stalk away through the exit and realised that Cadenza had melted away as well. Adam was walking across to her, a determined glint in his eye. Dragging up her last reserves of inner strength, she hardened her heart to him.
“I don’t suppose you will ever forgive me,” he said ruefully.
His expression reminded her of a naughty little boy whose mischief has been discovered and she wasn’t fooled for one minute. “No, you may be right there.”
To her surprise he crouched down before her chair, reaching for her hand. “Karen, where can I start? I was … unbelievably cruel to you. I apologise.”
“Okay,” she said coldly, aware that many people were staring at them with unfeigned interest. “Get up, please… and let me go.”
“You forgive me?” Blue asked in surprise.
“No, but I see no point in arguing. Adam, if you apologised for a decade, it wouldn’t begin to balance out how angry I am with you. But I am tired and I’ve had enough of this, I just want to get some rest.”
“You must take care of yourself,” he agreed. “Let me take you back to your quarters…” To her relief, he stood up and held out a hand to assist her from the chair.
“No. I am perfectly capable of walking there unaided, thank you.”
“Karen, please. I want to help…besides, we have to talk.”
“Älskling, be sensible… there is the child to consider. You didn’t mean it when you said you wouldn’t marry me, did you? That was just temper, wasn’t it?”
“No, I meant it – I wouldn’t marry you if you crawled on your knees and begged me. If Dianne wants to cheapen herself by marrying you – she’s welcome to. Besides, I can’t see what good our getting married would do, Adam. You aren’t going to change and neither am I. I’ve watched you on the prowl over these past months… you like women you have to chase a lot. Oh, for now I’m all you want, but it wouldn’t be long before you’d stray. You have no self-control, Adam! Don’t bother to argue - I know how you work - I probably inspired most of the lines! And, the worst thing is, you’d expect me to tolerate whatever you decided to do – and whoever you decided to do it with – until I’m the one who’d end up looking like trash! Besides, I don’t want a marriage based on lies and coercion, because one day I’d wake up and realise I hated you, and that’s not the atmosphere I want to raise my child in.”
“It’s our child and I want to be part of its life…” he replied.
“It’s not a toy, Adam, not something you can play with until you’re fed up with it and then consign it to the scrap heap!”
“I wouldn’t do that!”
“No? You do it with everything else… I’ve never seen you stick at a relationship yet!”
“I’ve never met a woman I wanted to have a long term relationship with before...”
She laughed cynically at him. “And you’re telling me I am that woman? Oh, Adam, you’re cute! You get such weird ideas…” She pushed past him, hoping to get away, but he caught her arm and turned her, enfolding her in his arms.
“You don’t have to believe me now, but I do love you, and I will prove it to you – if it takes me the rest of my life.”
“Let me go…”
“No, not until you look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t love me and you don’t want me around you.”
“Let me go!”
Her eyes met his and she was lost. He kissed her. She struggled briefly in his arms, but her treacherous body responded to his and she melted into his embrace.
“You didn’t mean it, did you?” he whispered, unwittingly allowing the merest hint of the victory he sensed to creep into his voice.
It was enough to stiffen her resolve and she pushed him away. “Yes I did… even if I do love you,” she ignored his triumphant grin, “if I loved you – I wouldn’t marry you now. You have a lot of proving to do, Mr Svenson – proving you care about me and the baby – proving you can act like a responsible adult and parent and that you know the difference between partnership and possession. I am not a thing you can own and neither is my baby – nor are we some kind of trophies to your masculinity that you can brag about! When you have grown up enough to convince me you understand what I’m talking about, then - and only then – I might re-consider my answer….”
“You are in love with me though, aren’t you? You said as much and I know you meant it…”
“Adam,” she sighed, “you can’t just take love for granted… it takes some working at and … why am I even trying to make you understand? You’ve never had to work at it, have you? There have always been women willing to give you what you wanted – if not for yourself, then for your money - so, like everything else you’ve ever wanted, you expect it to just land at your feet. Well, there may have been a time when I would have given you that kind of …blind adoration,” she corrected herself, “when I did give you exactly that – but those days have well and truly gone. Even allowing for your undercover mission, you hurt me too much for me to ever feel I can really trust you…”
He kissed her again. “We’ll have the most fun ever…” he promised.
“Have you heard one word of what I’ve been saying?” she raged.
He nodded. “Sure… whatever you want me to be, I will be. I can be a responsible, grown-up, parent-type person….starting any day now.”
She sighed. “You are hopeless.” She pushed him away and as she turned to leave him she said, “You won’t get your way with ease, Adam, not this time – you’ll have to start with me all over again - and properly, this time! Because I have finally realised what you knew the first time round… that just because someone wants you, it doesn’t mean you have to want them in return…”
“So you will marry me?” He looked slightly confused by this newly self-assured Karen.
“No! I won’t – don’t you ever give up?”
He shook his head and smiled affectionately at her. “No, not when it really matters.”
Captain Scarlet and Cadenza found themselves alone for the first time. On one unspoken accord, they left the reception and wandered along to the Promenade Deck, sitting in companionable silence for some time, gazing out over the flight decks. It was a favourite haunt for both of them.
“We’ll both be going home tomorrow,” he said, as the silence threatened to become deafening. He was surprised at how much the thought saddened him. “I wonder if Sonata will still be waiting for you in the corridor?” he asked with a forced cheerfulness as he tried to lighten the mood.
Cadenza smiled. “Oh yes, she’ll be there. You can’t stop Paula from doing what she decides is the right thing to do. I just hope she hasn’t had to wait too long.”
“Some things never change, I guess.” He gave a broad grin.
“Agreed, and it seems like the basic blueprint of every Metcalfe and every Svenson remains fairly constant – even when there are fundamental differences.”
“It’s funny,” he admitted, “when I first met you, I could only see you as a… a faulty version of the real Adam Svenson. But now, now that I have come to know you, I realise you are a personality in your own right – a separate person entirely.”
“A person you could call your friend, I hope?”
“Why yes, indeed! I hope we are friends, Eva.” He placed his hand over hers. It was silly to be shy with this woman. He felt he had known her for years and besides, she understood better than anyone ever could, the sensation and responsibilities that being indestructible imposed.
“For my part we are, Paul,” Eva replied, squeezing his hand. It seemed that she felt much as he did.
They lapsed back into silence, both conscious of the proximity of the other and the touch of their hands.
“You’ll be happy to see your Dianne again, I think,” she mused, gently disengaging her fingers from his.
“Yes, I’ve missed her…” He turned and saw the smile in her pale eyes.
“She’s a lucky woman,” Eva said. “I hope you will be very happy together – well, it’s more than a hope, really - I am sure you will be very happy.” Then she leant across and kissed his cheek. “Give her that, with my love and,” she kissed him again, “that’s for the other Adam – your real one!”
His hesitation was only momentary before he returned her kiss and hugged her. “You know, I wish you could’ve met Adam – the one from my dimension, I mean - you two would get on like a house on fire!”
“You think so? He might not like me any more than the Adam here does.”
“But he likes you, of course he does,” he protested.
Cadenza smiled and shook her head slightly. “No, he doesn’t. I make him feel uncomfortable; although, maybe it isn’t just me and he’d feel the same way about your Adam too, if they met. It’s an odd sensation to see yourself from the outside. You didn’t spend that long with Paula, but I bet you anything, you’d have got edgy around her too, if she’d come along!” Scarlet considered his own edginess with Lieutenant Scarlet and gave a wry shrug. Perhaps it was always the case that two versions of the same identity would find it hard to co-exist happily for long, he thought.
She sighed. “You know, I grew up listening to my Dad’s perpetual complaint that I wasn’t the son he wanted, but having met one of the potential sons he might have had instead, I’m not sure he would have been that impressed.”
Scarlet grimaced. “This Adam’s not typical – well, not typical of the ones I’ve met anyway. We met one in an alternative dimension, in Boston, who was far more like you and my Adam… if you know what I mean. Besides, even this Adam wasn’t as bad as we all thought he must be…” he added in fairness to the man he had shared so much with over the past few days.
“I’m not that sure I like the idea of all the other Svensons being men that much, so I can guess how they’d be feeling about me!” Eva confessed with a self-deprecating grin.
“Who says they are all men? There must be dozens of dimensions we haven’t explored yet!”
“Well, if you decide to spend a vacation exploring them, drop by and say ‘hello’, won’t you?” she teased, amused by his vehemence.
“I wouldn’t dream of missing you off my visiting list.”
He smiled at her and helped her to her feet. They walked back to her apartment in the VIP quarters.
“Good night, Paul.” She kissed his cheek one more time. “That one is just for you,” she said with a gently mocking smile and a twitch of her expressive eyebrows.
She went into the room, leaving him smiling thoughtfully as the door slid closed. Perhaps she was right about the way Blue felt towards her… he found it more than a little unsettling having a woman who was so like his friend around. The temptation was to treat her much as he treated Adam, but such familiarity might be misconstrued by a woman. Maybe she felt the same about him in relation to Sonata, back in her own dimension?
He glanced at his watch and sniffed. It was late, but not so late that he was sleepy. It was fairly normal that, unless he was retrometabolising or recovering in some way, he needed very little sleep. He had always been that way and it was a trait he shared with Adam, whose ability to function without much sleep bordered on chronic insomnia, according to an incredulous Doctor Fawn. It was one of the reasons they had got to know each other so well in the early days, even before he had been Mysteronised. In order to while away the midnight hours they had often gone to one of the gymnasiums or ploughed up and down the swimming pool together. If such exertion did not appeal, they would visit the Promenade Deck to do some star-gazing or just loaf around, until the urge to sleep overtook them.
So he wasn’t too surprised when his ambling footsteps took him back to the Promenade Deck now. At least, he thought, the stars are the same; I wonder if Dianne is gazing at the self-same stars at this very moment? Oh God, how I have missed you, my sweetest Angel. Nothing will stop me finding my way back to you… “Please God, let me go home!”
He was surprised he had spoken aloud and even more surprised when a familiar red-head appeared, partly hidden by the overhanging foliage.
Rhapsody stood and said, “Captain Scarlet.”
He was discomfited to see her, given that his mind was full of thoughts of her double, besides, he had never spoken to her alone. “I am sorry to disturb you, Rhapsody, I thought I was alone. I will leave you in peace, if you will excuse me?”
She smiled, making his heart thump with the memory of Dianne. The fact that he would soon be back home was making him even more conscious of what he had lost.
“Please, don’t leave on my account, Captain. I have to get ready to start my duty shift very shortly.”
He felt he had to speak to her. “It is none of my business, and you have every right to tell me to drop dead, but, Rhapsody, you are too fine a woman to marry someone you don’t love for money…”
He thought she was going to slap his face but even as her anger mounted she gave a shaky laugh and said, “I will make my peace with Karen… and Adam. Although I find it hard to be charitable towards that two-timing, double-crossing, self-centred bastard.” She smiled ruefully. “Still, he was fairly contrite – for him – and he’s offered to arrange re-financing for the mortgage.” She pulled a face.
“Will you take him up on it?”
“Oh yes, otherwise we will lose the Park and I care very passionately about my home. Besides, that way I may not have to marry someone I don’t want to – at least, not for a while.”
Scarlet watched as she turned away, hiding her angry tears. He was experiencing mixed emotions. This was the image of his Dianne, weeping and looking so miserable that he would normally have swept her into his arms until the pain and hurt had evaporated. However, this woman was crying not for a heart broken by a lost love, but for the disappearing prospect of a fortune. To her mind it didn’t matter if the money came in the shape of Adam Svenson or any other man – just as long as it came.
A crushing sadness settled on him and he longed for the reassurance of his own reality. As with almost everyone here, she was a corrupted and tarnished image of the person he loved. Karen came closest to the original woman he knew – and liked – but even she was far more cynical and manipulative than he’d expected. But Rhapsody – his charming, generous, delightful and contented Dianne – seeing her like this was breaking his heart.
He continued to watch as she dabbed at her face with a lacy handkerchief, and raised a hand to tidy her mussed hair. She gave a shaky sigh and squared her shoulders. Seeing his steady, reproving gaze, she flushed and looked away. Scarlet felt the first glimmer of hope – she really wasn’t happy with what her family had expected of her. Perhaps his Dianne was imprisoned beneath this superficial and hedonistic veneer.
“You cannot possibly owe your family so much that you need to sacrifice yourself for them like that. And don’t talk to me of duty – Dianne, I am a general’s son, I come from a family where, for generations, we have lived to serve our country and do our duty. However, I can say with pride that no Metcalfe ever did something his family, or his descendents, would have to apologise for. If the estate is forfeit – let it go, start afresh and move on - be your own woman and make your own life. The Dianne Simms I know would do that.”
“Maybe she doesn’t have a father who gambled and frittered away a fortune?”
“No, but then Lord Robert didn’t have a fortune to fritter away to begin with. Dianne has always worked to keep herself, as does her father. They are comfortable – they don’t live on the breadline - but they have no fortune.”
“Then she’s lucky. I grew up with everything and I have watched it go – sold to keep my father in his luxuries. My home is all I have left, Captain Scarlet. I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it.”
“Then I don’t censure you – I pity you.”
Tears welled up again, but this time they were the hot and painful tears of shame and misery. Those clear, sapphire-blue eyes showed her an image of a different Dianne Simms, a woman who had the heart of this man, in a way she could never imagine having the love of another human being. A woman who knew the comfort and solace of being loved and cared for – whatever her faults – and who could love in return with the same selflessness.
By comparison she felt cheap and mean-spirited.
“I am sure you must have been under considerable pressure, Dianne,” he added stiffly, moved, despite himself, by her obvious misery.
“Yes, but I ought to have known how to deal with it – that’s what I have been trained for, after all.” She gave a wan smile and admitted, “I’ve had a chat with the colonel and I am going to take a sabbatical for six months to sort out the problems at home. Apparently, Lieutenant Scarlet will be doing much the same – compassionate leave – and then we’ll get two months’ intensive training in Camp Sahara and Camp McKinley, Alaska. It should be fun.” She grimaced. “If that doesn’t stiffen my resolve and strengthen my back-bone, nothing ever will.”
“I’m sure it’s not needed really,” he smiled at her. “Most people I have met here have been close to the ones I know and I would imagine you are much the same too. Dianne Simms has more backbone than most and a will of iron under that pretty exterior. I don’t think you’ll have to look far to discover your inner strength, Rhapsody.”
“Thank you, Captain Scarlet.” She hesitated, “I hope you find your way back with a lot less effort than I shall need.” She held out her slim hand to him and he took it, reaching down to kiss her cheek. “Goodbye, Captain and God bless…” She walked away from him, with her head held high and her shoulders back.
God help them all when she does ‘find herself’, he thought, this place won’t know what’s hit it!
An hour or so later, he went to the VIP quarters they had given him, now that Lieutenant Scarlet was back in his own room, and spent a few hours musing over his recent experiences. He wondered if – by some inevitable draw of fate – Rhapsody and his own double might find themselves well-matched, during those training sessions. After all, they both knew now that there was a precedent for their relationship.
Well, I hope they make each other happy – if they do make a go of it - she’d do him good… just as my Dianne is good for me. It will be wonderful to get back to normality. I just hope everything goes okay tomorrow.
He lay down on top of the bed and managed to doze off, smiling in his dreams of his Dianne.