Tarquin
A Captain Scarlet Short story for Christmas
by Marion Woods

 

Even at Christmas, Cloudbase remained a working base.  The colonel allowed some relaxation of the strict duty rotas and rules, but the Angel Interceptors still had to be manned and the duty officers ready to leave for any part of the world at a moment’s notice. 

This year was no exception and indeed the base was on yellow alert due to a rather obscure Mysteron threat that had been issued on Christmas Eve.  “We the Mysterons will destroy fidelity aboard Cloudbase to its ultimate destruction.”

The elite officers had puzzled over what it might mean for hours without much success.   Eventually the colonel had given a base-wide speech commending everyone for the loyalty and spirit of co-operation for which his command was justifiably renowned and urging them to remain ‘steadfast at their posts’.    So Christmas Day was a rather tense affair, even though the personnel were determined not to let the little matter of a Mysteron threat spoil all their fun. 

 

 

Yap, yap, yap.

Whirr… Click. 

Yap, yap, yap.

Whirr…  

In the Amber Room, the assembled off-duty captains and Angel pilots laughed. 

 Destiny clapped her hands in delight.  C’est adorable,” she enthused, watching the slightly-less-than-life-size toy on the floor as it cocked its head towards her voice and responded with another series of yelps. 

Yap, yap, yap.

Rhapsody swooped down and picked it up, cuddling it to her heart with a smile. 

“He is, isn’t he?”

“He?” Captain Blue asked.  He was leaning over the back of the couch where Symphony was sitting with her head resting discreetly against his hand. 

“Oh, yes,” Rhapsody replied and went on to explain.  “When I was a little girl, I had a dog just like him: a white West Highland Terrier.  I guess that’s why Mummy sent him to me.  She says she saw him at a craft fair she went to with Aunt Lynne and thought immediately of Quin and me.   We went everywhere together; you could say that he was my first boyfriend!”

“Hmm, maybe you ought to rephrase that,” Captain Scarlet suggested, with a slight smile.  “The Americans already think the British are completely out to lunch, and the idea that we have romantic liaisons with small, furry animals will go no way towards disabusing them.”

“Oh, be quiet, Paul.  I only meant that Quin was my utterly devoted slave.”

“Something like you, in fact,” Captain Ochre chipped in, glancing at the dark-haired Englishman with a mischievous grin. 

Scarlet fought to suppress his amusement as he tried to glare at the facetious mid-westerner. 

“Well, I think he’s adorable…” Symphony Angel said.  “I wish I had one just like him.”

“Like Paul?”  Rhapsody glanced conspiratorially at Captain Blue.

“No!” her friend exclaimed, with a shriek of laughter.  “I meant someone all soft and cuddly, absolutely gorgeous, and slavishly devoted to me.”

“Tough call, Adam,” Ochre commented.  “Where’re you going to find one of those?”

This time Scarlet did chuckle. 

“What shall you call him?” Harmony Angel asked, reaching out to stroke the small dog in Rhapsody’s arms. 

“Tarquin; naturally.”

“Tarquin?” Ochre blurted out in surprise.

“Yes, after my dog.  He was Berryhillfarm Tarquin of St Frevisse – Quin for short.”

“That’s a hell of a lot of name for a little dog,” Ochre said dubiously. 

Rhapsody put the toy back on the floor and stood back from it.  She crouched down and called:

“Come to Mummy, Tarquin!”

The dog’s head slipped sideways as it looked towards her. 

Yap, yap, yap.

It took a few jerky steps towards her, its tail wagging furiously, and then jumped up and down yapping excitedly. 

“That’s going to get on my nerves pretty quickly,” Blue muttered. 

“It’s so cute.”  Symphony chided him, “You’re such a grouch, Adam.  If you had any romance in your soul, you’d buy me one too.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“I’m not.  I want one.” She tilted her head back and smiled up at him.  “I have a birthday coming soon…”

Even the vision of her face at this oddly inverted angle, smiling up at him appealingly, wasn’t enough to convince Captain Blue.  He rolled his eyes dismissively and stood up. Tarquin turned towards the movement. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

“And the same to you,” Blue retorted, amidst the general laughter of his friends. 

 

 

December 26th – which the Britons on the base called ‘Boxing Day’ to the bewilderment of the Americans, who were, nevertheless, happy enough to consider it a holiday – found Rhapsody and Destiny on duty in the Amber Room with Melody manning Angel One on the deck above them.  Harmony was catching up on some sleep and Symphony was… well, she was wherever Captain Blue was, doing whatever they did when they disappeared from the public gaze. 

Destiny was writing a letter to her parents to thank them for their generous Christmas gifts and Rhapsody was curled up on the couch with Tarquin beside her, lost in the pages of the latest romantic blockbuster she’d received for Christmas.  She turned the page.

Yap, yap, yap. 

“Sssh…” she whispered absent mindedly. 

Destiny looked up and smiled. 

“He wants you to pay to him more attention than to that book,” she teased. 

Rhapsody grinned and sat up, closing the book. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

“You know,” she confided, “I think I might have to start agreeing with Captain Blue; the noise could get a little bit irritating.  Last night, when I came off duty, Paul dropped by… just to wish me ‘Merry Christmas’,” Rhapsody explained, blushing slightly.  Destiny nodded understandingly, and didn’t believe a word of it.  “Well, every time he tried to ki…move… Tarquin barked at him.”  She grinned.  “He got rather cross and in the end he dropped a pillow on top of him.”

Destiny smiled and said sympathetically, "He must have found it frustrant making love to his jolie petite amie while the little dog was making the barks to you at the same moments."

“Oh, it wasn’t anything like that,” Rhapsody hastened to assure her.  “He’d just dropped by, as I said.”

“Of course, I understand.”  She fell silent and Rhapsody thought the conversation was over, so she was surprised when Destiny continued, “Perhaps you might ask Captain Ochre if he could make a closed switch for Tarquin, or Captain Magenta if he could make the sharpness of the motion sensors less.  Then Paul would not have to expel him to beneath the pillows…”

“That’s a good idea, Juliette.  I do adore Tarquin, but he can be a little bit annoying.  I’m sure Rick would be able to work something out – even if he had to ask Patrick to re-program the sensors.”  She smiled and swept the little toy into her embrace.  “I’d hate to have to put Tarquin away in a cupboard, because he is such a cutie; aren’t you, Quin?”

Yap, yap, yap. 

 

 

Later that day the robo-vac came into the Amber Room on its routine sweep of the floor.  Rhapsody and Destiny were busy checking system back-up reports on their Angel Jets and barely noted its appearance.  Tarquin was on the floor in the middle of the circular seating where Rhapsody had left him. 

The robo-vac, humming quietly, started to traverse the floor.

Yap, yap, yap. 

The Angels turned and laughed to see the toy backing away from the approaching machine.

“He does not like it,” Destiny chuckled.  

Yap, yap, yap. 

Rhapsody started to go to collect the toy dog, intending to remove it from the path of the vacuum cleaner.  Suddenly, the robo-vac issued a screech and started spinning wildly, careering across the floor. 

Tarquin went berserk.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap. 

“Oh, hush,” Rhapsody said, stooping to pick him up.  “Ouch!” she exclaimed as her fingers touched the toy.  “I just got a shock.”  She jumped up a step as the robo-vac banged into her boots and careered off again. 

Destiny joined her.  “Are you all right, Rhapsody?”

“Hmm, it was just static, I think.”  She examined her toy carefully.  “I don’t think the vac hit him or made him short-circuit.  How could it?”

Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap. 

“Be quiet, you daft animal…” she pleaded as Tarquin continued to yelp. 

The robo-vac was still emitting a high pitch tone and the lights in the Amber Room flickered on, started to dim and then flared to full brightness.  The music centre on one of the wall units clicked on, deafeningly loud, and cut out before Destiny could reach it to turn it off.  The TV screen lit up and skipped from channel to channel until Rhapsody, who had put Tarquin down on the floor, turned that off.

The Angels exchanged bewildered glances.   

The base tannoy crackled into life.  Control to Amber Room: can you hear me, Angels?”

“Yes, Lieutenant Green,” Rhapsody replied. 

Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap. 

“Come in, Amber Room…”  Green’s voice sounded concerned.  We have a systems’ warning light.  Come in, Amber Room…”

“He does not hear you,” Destiny said, going to adjust the settings of the intercom.  “It is not broken,” she added, frowning.  “The dials are all showing the correct settings.  What can be happening?”  She reached out and put on her pilot helmet.   “Destiny Angel to Lieutenant Green, do you hear me?”

Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap. 

Destiny glared at her companion.  “Please, make the toy to be quiet, Rhapsody,” she ordered, her voice betraying her exasperation. 

“I’ll try,” she replied and bent down to pick Tarquin up again. 

The robo-vac made a charge towards her, making her lose her balance and knocking her back onto the step. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

The door to the Amber Room slid open and, as two technicians started to hurry into the room, it snapped shut again, trapping one man’s leg as he stumbled back to avoid it. 

They heard the bone snap.  The man screamed and his companion dragged him back into the corridor as the door opened again.

Yap, yap, yap. 

Overhead, the lights started to flash on and off, and the emergency launch sirens started to wail.

Sacre bleu,” Destiny breathed.  Regardez.”  She pointed out of the window to the far end of the runway where the Spectrafan was jerking up and down.  The entrance door to the Angel launch tubes opened and closed with a frenzied speed and from the deck above them they saw Melody launch in Angel One. 

“Destiny to Colonel White:  S.I.R… Spectrum is Red… there is something wrong with the electronics here…”

Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap. 

Destiny turned on Rhapsody, who had managed to pick Tarquin up from the floor and cover his eyes with her hand to deaden his sensors.  “This is the work of that dog!” she exclaimed.  “He has made the electronics go awry and put us all in danger.”

“No, he hasn’t – how could he have?  It’s just a little toy, Juliette.”

The door to the Amber Room was still opening and closing but they heard voices and turned to see Captain Scarlet and Captain Magenta out in the corridor. 

“Are you girls okay?”  Scarlet shouted.

“Yes; what’s happening?” Rhapsody called back.

Captain Magenta answered.  “All over the base the electronics have gone haywire.”

“This we see for our selfs,” Destiny interjected.

“We think it might be part of the Mysteron threat,” Magenta concluded.

When the door opened again, Scarlet stepped inside the Amber Room, with Magenta close behind. 

 “It is the fault of that toy.”  Destiny turned and pointed an accusing finger at Tarquin. 

“It is not!” Rhapsody asserted.

“All things go awry when the dog begins to bark!”

“That doesn’t mean it is his fault!”

“That’s enough - put him down, Rhapsody,” Scarlet said sharply, before the girls’ argument could get any more heated. 

She met his gaze with a belligerent stare, on the verge of refusing to obey. 

“I gave you an order, Rhapsody Angel,” Scarlet reminded her. 

Slowly, she turned and put the little toy down on the floor again, moving away behind him. 

Tarquin stood motionless on the floor. The robo-vac, which until then had been stationary, gave another high-pitched whine and started to race around the floor. 

Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap.  Yap, yap, yap. 

The lights flashed off and on and the TV sprang into life again and began to flick through the channels, as the Amber Room door slammed shut. 

“You see,” Destiny said, pointing again at the little dog.  “He makes the robo go into madness and all the machines too.”

Yap, yap, yap. 

The vacuum stopped and the TV fell silent for a moment. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

“This is what happened before,” Destiny said.  “And all things went badly.”

Yap, yap, yap. 

“It can’t be Tarquin; if it was him, why didn’t things start to happen when I opened the box he came in?” Rhapsody cried. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

“We’ll find that out later,” Scarlet said, drawing his gun.  “The Mysterons pick their own time to carry out their threats.  Right now, we have to stop it before every electronic system on Cloudbase burns out.”

Yap, yap, yap.

“No!” Rhapsody pleaded, but the captain was pitiless and he fired two bullets into the toy.  Tarquin leapt into the air from the impact, and one leg snapped off.  The other three rotated back and forth with the sickening grinding of damaged mechanisms. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

Yap, yap.

Yap.

Y…ap

Y…  

As the glow went out of Tarquin’s eyes the robo-vac started humming, the door behind them slammed closed again and the lights flickered on and off.  The launch tube door slid open and the pilots’ seats started to rise into the tubes before slamming back down.   Out at the end of the runway, the Spectrafan juddered to a halt in its descent and began to rise again.  The TV and the radio blared into life.

The Tannoy crackled into life but Lieutenant Green’s voice was barely audible through the static.    “Amber Room… if you… hear me, medic … is on the way… injured techni…, and Captain…arlet and…tain Magenta … to you.   Spec… is red: remain where you are and …as soon as you … the Control Room …” 

It cut out again.

“Well, thank you both very much,” Rhapsody snapped, bending down to collect her shattered toy.  “You’ve destroyed my property and it hasn’t solved the problem!”

“But, I don’t understand,” Destiny said, putting her hand to her forehead in an elegant gesture of confusion.   “The little dog made the machines go wrongly.”

“Actually,” Captain Magenta said thoughtfully, “I have a feeling it isn’t the dog that’s the problem.  I mean, this is a base-wide phenomenon and what do we have that has the run of the base and yet we take next to no notice of them?”  

Destiny wrinkled her brow at him in puzzlement as he drew his gun and blasted the now motionless robo-vac to smithereens. 

The door thudded open and remained so.  The lights flickered and then switched off.  The launch tubes door slid closed. 

Control Room to Amber Room, your systems’ alerts have cleared.  Please identify what’s happened.”

 Captain Scarlet operated his radio cap.  “Scarlet to Control; the problem is the robo-vacs. Somehow they’re affecting the electronics.”

“S.I.G., Captain,” Colonel White responded.  “I’ll order them all to be rounded up and de-activated.”

With her head held high, Rhapsody swept past the three of them, with Tarquin in her arms. 

“I don’t think we’re very popular right now, Destiny,” Scarlet said, as they watched the door slide closed behind the young Englishwoman. 

“Hey, it was a genuine mistake, and an easy one to make,” Magenta said, poking the remains of the shattered robo-vac with his boot.  “We’ll have to investigate all the options for what caused this interference first, of course, but after that I don’t see why Ochre and I can’t repair her toy.”

“I’ll pay any costs you incur,” Scarlet offered, with a grateful smile. 

“Then Rick will certainly do the best job ever…” Magenta chuckled.  “Who knows, you might even end up with a gold-plated dog.”

Captain Scarlet rolled his eyes as Destiny giggled. 

 

 

In fairness to Captain Scarlet, the official report of the incident showed that he had acted with the best of motives in destroying Tarquin.  The situation with Cloudbase’s electronics had been getting serious as all over the base circuits were starting to short out.    However, the problems had dissipated once the robo-vacs had been rounded up and decommissioned.   The Chief Technician reported that there was nothing that wasn’t repairable and that his personnel were working round the clock to get the base back to full operational readiness.

  A detailed investigation by Captain Magenta and Lieutenant Green into the incident showed that the frequency of the integral computer-controlled signal that governed the actions of the individual robot cleaners had been altered to a frequency that disrupted the main electronic systems.    

The vacuums had trundled innocently around Cloudbase as usual until that new frequency signal had been triggered, whereupon they had disrupted all the other systems, sending the base into electronic spasms of slamming doors and malfunctioning equipment. 

There was no evidence as to who, or what, had altered the frequency.   Captain Magenta hypothesised that it was the Mysterons or one of their agents, but they had reckoned without Rhapsody’s Christmas present.  Tarquin’s radio frequency had blocked the Amber Room robo-vac’s and given Magenta the clue he needed to counter the threat.  Freed from this interference the base’s main links had quickly resumed their normal activities. 

“So, Tarquin was a hero?” Rhapsody asked pointedly, at the conference held to debrief everyone about the crushing of this latest threat. 

Magenta smiled.  “Yes, you could say he was on the side of the Angels, at least.”

Colonel White saw Rhapsody’s lips purse with annoyance as she glanced at the unduly penitent-looking Captain Scarlet.   The colonel knew more about their relationship than they liked to imagine and he also knew that he couldn’t afford to have either of them functioning at less than maximum efficiency.  This Mysteron threat was over with, but he expected they’d be up against another, probably even more dangerous, one in less than no time. 

He cleared his throat. 

“Rhapsody Angel, may I, on behalf of Spectrum, apologise for the unnecessary destruction of your property?  I am sure you realise that it was done in the heat of the moment, when we were trying to protect the base from irreparable damage to its functional capabilities.   However, in the light of the mistake, I am happy to assign the task of repairing the… animal, to Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta, with costs being born by Spectrum, naturally.”

Rhapsody blushed and then smiled at her commanding officer.  “Thank you, sir.  I do understand why Tarquin was considered to be a risk and I thank you for your offer of official resources to affect a repair.”

“Excellent.   Please see the Chief Technician for any material you might need, gentlemen; and make a start on the job as soon as possible.”

Ochre and Magenta nodded in acknowledgement, while Captain Scarlet gave the young Englishwoman a friendly smile and was delighted to receive one from her in response. 

White sighed and rustled his papers.  “Now, maybe we can get on to the final item on the agenda; the need for a new contract and service level agreement for base-wide cleaning services.”  

 

 

Yap, yap, yap.

Yap, yap, yap. 

“Shut up, mutt.”

Yap, yap, yap. 

There was a beep and the door to the workroom started to open.  As Rhapsody Angel walked in, Captain Ochre laid down his screwdriver and covered the dog with a rag.   He looked at Rhapsody as she hovered beside his work bench. 

“How’s it going, Rick? I brought you some coffee,” she said, placing the thermal mug on the edge of the workbench.

“I’m getting there,” he replied non-committally.  “Scarlet’s a dead shot and he was aiming to kill.”

“I do know what he did to Tarquin; I was there.”  She reached out and lifted the edge of the cloth. 

Yap, yap, yap.

 “Oh, poor Tarquin; he’s all in pieces.”

“The better to let me put them together again,” he said as positively as he could. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

“Oh, my poor Quin, don’t worry.  Uncle Rick will fix you, won’t you, Rick?”

Ochre gave her a pitying glance and replied, “Uncle Rick will do his damnedest.”

Yap, yap, yap. 

“See?  He knows you will!”  Rhapsody smiled at the sceptical mid-westerner.  “While you’re at it, Rick, can you fix it so he stops barking every time anything moves?” she pleaded. 

“I thought I was supposed to repair him, not remodel him?   Okay, okay:  I can try, Di, but I can’t promise anything.  Mind you, I’ve already had to peel back the coating to get to the electronics, so maybe Pat can do something with the sensors or the sound box before I put it all back…”

“Don’t hurt him, Rick.”

He looked at her with a frown.  “Dianne, it is a toy,” he said.  “It doesn’t feel anything.”

“Oh, I know, but he’s real to me, Rick.  It’s like I have the real Tarquin back… I don’t like seeing him broken.” She reached out and removed the rag. 

Yap, yap, yap, the little dog said feebly, almost as if it was playing for sympathy. 

Rhapsody sighed and stroked his head. 

“Maybe I should just disable the voice box altogether?” Ochre suggested, rolling his eyes. 

Yap, yap, yap. 

“Oh, no; part of his charm is the way he barks when he sees me.  It’s like he’s pleased I’m here.”

“It’s not very charming when he does it 24/7,” Ochre remarked ruefully.  “And he does it to everyone.   Even me, you know?  Even though I’m being mean and cruel while I fix him.”

She chuckled and looked happier than she had done since she entered the room.  “I know you’ll do your best, Rick.”  She bent down and kissed his cheek.   “Tarquin couldn’t be in better hands.”

“Yeah, Pat and I will do our best.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

“For you, Di: anything.”

 

 

“Twelfth Night: a night for lovers,” Scarlet said, as he slipped his arm around Rhapsody’s shoulder.  They’d had a private supper together in her quarters and ambled out to stretch their legs on the Promenade Deck before she had to go back on duty. 

Now they were sitting on the bench overlooking the runway, where Symphony was on duty in Angel One.  Beside her, with a bright-red, leather lead – a gift from the apologetic Captain Scarlet - attached to his jaunty tartan collar, was the good as new Tarquin. 

Captain Magenta had worked wonders on the motion sensors, refining them to react differently to assorted sizes and shapes and adding a variety of vocal sounds to Tarquin’s repertory, so that when Captain Blue had walked in front of the toy, Tarquin had given a passable growl, which had made the tall American jump with surprise and caused unbridled mirth amongst his friends. 

Rhapsody snuggled into Scarlet’s embrace and said, “Twelfth Night isn’t associated with lovers – not to my knowledge, anyway.”

“A-hah, that’s where you’re wrong,” he replied and cleared his throat to sing softly:

What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

 

She laughed.  “That’s cheating and, besides, I’m much older than ‘sweet and twenty’.”

“Don’t be so pedantic.  Have you never heard of poetic license?   Give us a kiss, honey.”

She turned in his embrace and raised her face towards him. 

Scarlet’s dark head came closer to her beautiful face and he closed his eyes ready to kiss her. 

Just as his lips brushed hers he heard:

Grrrrrrrrrrrr…Yap, yap, yap…

The End

 

Author’s notes:

 

I do not own any of the characters in this story – except for the toy dog.  ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’ ™ belongs to Carlton International Media – I think.  I know it doesn’t belong to me and I hope that no one objects to my borrowing the series to play with. 

The characters and the ‘Scarlet Universe’ were devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson in the 1960s and brought to life by their skilled team of programme-makers.  Since then, the series has entertained people for over 40 years – and will do for another 40, I expect! 

I found the drawing of ‘Tarquin’ on the Internet.  The original is the one with the candy cane in its mouth, and that image says © Kim Niles 2007.  It is such a cute drawing that I took the chance of hoping it would be okay to use it. 

My thanks go to Hazel Köhler for her impeccable beta-reading against all the odds, and to Chris Bishop for the never-ending delight of her website. 

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Marion Woods

November 2009. 

 

 

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