“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!”
“If I hear that tune once more, I’ll scream…”
“Come on, Paul, it is Christmas…”
“No it isn’t… it is October….”
Captain Blue sighed and looked away from his frowning colleague. “You don’t have to come with me, you know…”
“No, I said I would help you…” Captain Scarlet said with an air of martyrdom.
“Yes, I know,” Blue said, feeling equally long suffering, “very kind of you…”
“Have you got much more to do? You must surely have finished…?”
“Not much more. Just my nieces…”
“Pete’s kids, the two little girls…? My brother’s daughters…? Nieces?”
“I know what nieces are…”
“Look, Paul, you really don’t have to come. Why don’t you take the parcels back to the hotel?”
“We are going shopping. Stop arguing. Where to now?”
“Okay, if you really wanna come along – I need a good toyshop,” Blue said with resignation.
“Let’s head for Regent’s Street then – the best toyshop in London is there. What do you want to buy your nieces?”
“It thought I would get them something typically British,” he replied. “Like a costume toy… in the English national costume.”
“We don’t have a national costume…”
“Well, a kilt or one of those black steeple hats… you know.”
“That is Scottish or Welsh – at least, I assume that’s what you mean from your detailed description. Quite different, Adam.”
Captain Blue sighed. It had seemed like a good idea to get Captain Scarlet to help with his Christmas shopping, especially as his friend was familiar with the jumble of London streets and the bewildering variety of stores. But Paul was in a foul mood – he hated crowds, and quickly lost patience with having to fight his way through to where he wanted to go. The two young men, casually dressed and anonymous in the crowds, had walked the entire length of Oxford Street, from their hotel near Marble Arch and it had taken them all morning, as they went into every one of the famous, department stores that lined London’s main shopping thoroughfare.
To make matters worse, they had just eaten an indifferent and over-priced meal in a restaurant where the service had been slow and the waiters surly. It had even tried his patience, and Scarlet was still annoyed.
They were in London at the conclusion of a mission - a mission that had not gone according to plan. Colonel White had ordered them to remain in the city for forty-eight hours before returning to Cloudbase, to ensure all the loose ends were tidied up. They had no specific duties to perform, so with the unexpected leisure time, Blue had decided to do his Christmas shopping early – for once. He had an organised list of names and gifts, but Scarlet - who had been unwilling to stay behind alone, but did not really want to go along either - was impulse buying and so far he had spent more then Blue to less effect.
They walked through the crowds to the toy store. The place was crammed with every toy imaginable and heaving with people. Paul, out of habit, made his way to the display of laid out train sets, whilst Adam gazed around, in the hope of seeing something suitable for pre-school girls – a subject on which he was woeful ignorant.
He saw a young mother with an excited little girl heading upstairs to a soft toys department and dragged Paul away from the Hornby displays to investigate.
“Crikey, will you look at all this lot,” Scarlet exclaimed, as the escalator tipped them off at the entrance to a veritable zoo of cuddly animals.
Blue grimaced. “I don’t want to buy just another cuddly toy – you can’t move in Pete’s house for cuddly toys. S’gotta be something special…”
Scarlet was rummaging through a display of cats. “This is cute,” he suggested.
Blue grimaced. “No cats… or puppies or ponies… especially not ponies.”
Scarlet chucked the toy back and mooched off around the corner. “Hey, Adam, come over here. Cuddly toys exclusive to Humbley’s… “
Blue strode across and examined the merchandise. “Hey, look - a Henry VIII teddy-bear, how sweet,” he said.
“Not for little girls – he hounded one wife to death and executed 2 more…” Scarlet drew his hand over his throat with a grimace.
“Oh…maybe not then,” Blue said regretfully. “Hey, here’s a British Bobby… complete with truncheon and one of those Beefeater-types in the frocks…”
Scarlet shuddered with exaggerated horror and walked around a central display stand.
“Good grief! Adam, come here…”
“In a minute…”
“No, now! I can guarantee you will want to see this….”
Blue wandered over still weighing up the merits of a Yeoman of the Guard over a police constable. He stopped beside Scarlet and looked questioningly at his friend. Scarlet indicated the display with a dramatic wave of his hand.
“Holy cow,” Blue muttered.
The display had hundreds of golden-furred teddy-bears, all about 6 inches high. Each teddy wore an approximation of a Spectrum Uniform – colour coded tunics with a miniature zipper and the distinctive wide shoulders, matching boots and peaked cap over a black body suit. A tiny multicoloured roundel, with a stylised R in the middle, mimicked the Spectrum logo on the cap and black sleeves of the body suit.
“The Rainbow Bears,” Scarlet read from the display stand. “These teddies are just longing to love and protect their owners and just like the Spectrum Captains they represent, they are loyal and brave. Each lovable little hero has an authentic uniform based on those worn by Spectrum’s colourful officers.” He sniggered. “Fully posable.”
Blue put down the toys he was carrying and picked up a pale-blue uniformed bear. “I wonder if the colonel knows about these?” he muttered. He moved the teddy’s arms up and down, smiling.
Scarlet grinned and fished a red-clad bear from the ranks of toys. “They look kind of stern, don’t they? I wouldn’t argue with one, I can tell you that,” he teased, thrusting the teddy at his friend. “Stop or I shoot,” he growled.
“Nah, you’ll never take me alive, buster.” The blue teddy advanced to meet the challenge.
The teddies scuffled.
“S’cuse me,” a voice said, making both men jump and blush violently. They looked down to see a small girl, about four or five years old, watching them with serious eyes. “Would you pass me a pink teddy bear? I can’t reach.”
“Oh, sure,” Blue said immediately to cover his embarrassment. “A pink one? You mean magenta…”
“No, it’s pink,” she told him confidently. “It says so on the label. I have a white one already – my granny bought it for me for my birthday - and I am going to buy them all with my pocket money, but I want the pink one next.”
Blue handed her a bear dressed in a sickly pink tunic. “Thank you,” she said politely. “Come on Pinkie, let’s find Mummy…”
“Pat will be livid,” Blue mused, reaching for another bear and examining the label stapled through the poor creature’s ear. “Captain Pink,” he read, “she was right…”
Scarlet had started to examine his alter ego. “What’s your bear called?”
“Captain Blue, of course,” Adam smirked.
“This one is Captain Red,” Scarlet hissed. He picked up two more. “These are Captain Orange and Captain Green, and there is a Captain Grey…” He reached for a solitary white bear in a white uniform. “Oh-oh, Captain White…”
An assistant came over. “May I help you, gentlemen?” she asked.
“We’re just looking….” Scarlet replied automatically.
Undeterred she said, “I see you have found a polar bear – I thought they had all gone. It’s quite the favourite… we’ve sold out already and they were only released the other week. They are all popular, but the polar bears are just that little bit cuter, don’t you think? They have a more smiley mouth than the other bears, and that roguish twinkle in their eyes and, of course, they are so smart in their little white uniforms. They have quite stolen the show…”
Blue was grinning like an idiot. Scarlet drew a breath and said, “Are they really like the Spectrum uniforms?”
“As close as we could get… of course they are popular with little boys as well,” she said helpfully, sensing a potential sale, “they use them to play war games with, I suppose. And little girls just adore them…”
“I’ll bet,” Scarlet said uneasily.
Encouraged, she pointed around the other side of the triangular display stand. “You won’t find them anywhere else; they are exclusive to the store. And, here’s another surprise, around there we have the Angel pilot bears…”
She broke off as Captain Blue dissolved into gales of laughter.
Scarlet grinned half-heartedly and said, “Excuse him, he’s an American…”
She watched them as they strolled round to the other side.
“Flaming Nora, look at those,” Scarlet gasped.
Row upon row of teddies in white uniforms – every one had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, with long curling lashes. The assistant explained, “The Angel bears are really special – they have eyes that close…”
“I gotta have one,” Blue said weakly, “for my nieces… these are the biz, all right!”
The assistant picked up a basket. “There are costumes for the Angel bears – so they can dress them up…and what about the captain teddies? Little girls like to pair them off…” Blue nodded speechless with mirth.
“I think he wants the entire kit,” Scarlet translated.
Blue drew himself up to his full height and tried to calm down. “Yes, I want one of every captain bear and that white one – hang on to that, Paul – and seven Angel bears – with two complete sets of outfits….”
“Yes, sir,” the assistant smiled happily. Rich Americans were her favourite customers.
“What do you want all those for?” Scarlet asked as the young woman began filling the basket with Blue’s order.
“You’ll get lynched,” his friend warned him.
Back on Cloudbase Captain Blue examined his purchases in the seclusion of his quarters. He was happy with all the presents he’d bought and he carefully re-wrapped them to stow them in his wardrobe. It wouldn’t do for Symphony to find them lying around. He turned to the last bag – a heavy duty paper carrier-bag bearing the brightly coloured logo of Humbley’s. He upended it on his bed and numerous teddies tumbled out.
He checked the set of outfits for the Angel teddies, grimacing at the sparkly evening gowns and frilly wedding dresses that made up the centrepiece of the collection. He put two of the toys to one side with the other gifts destined for Boston.
Then he looked at the remaining teddies. He lined the Angel pilots up and then the captain bears.
“Red and blue, pink and green, orange, grey, white and …” he hesitated. He hadn’t noticed that teddy before. He picked it up and stared at the unexpected bear. “What are you doing in here?” he asked gently, adjusting the cap on the absurdly pompous toy. He sighed and laid the bear to one side. “I’ll decide what to do with you, later…”
The atmosphere in the Amber Room was jovial. The senior command had collected there at a pre-arranged time to swap Christmas presents. Even Colonel White had agreed to attend – leaving Lieutenant Claret in command in the Control Room, with Lieutenant Flaxen manning the communications desk - but it was easy to see he was itching to get back, and Destiny distributed the presents quickly.
As everyone expressed their delight and thanks to the group for their ‘official’ presents – the more private ones would be exchanged later… in private – Melody reminded the other girls about the mysterious parcels that had appeared on the branches of their Christmas tree.
“They started appearing about a week ago, Colonel, one or two every night… it’s a mystery where they came from and they have printed labels, so there’s no handwriting to give us a clue,” she explained.
“I hope you won’t tell us they have to be incinerated, unopened, Colonel,” Rhapsody chipped in, “because we are dying to know what they are. Surely if they were Mysteronised, we’d have noticed by now. I waved one next to Captain Scarlet in case he could sense the bad vibes, but he just grinned like an idiot.”
“Well,” the colonel said, with a sharp glance at his senior agent, “I’d imagine it is safe enough to open them, in that case.”
“Yay! Hand them out, Destiny.”
Obligingly Destiny Angel reached them from the tree, reading the names on the neatly printed labels.
“Let’s open them together,” Symphony suggested, “so we don’t spoil the surprise for the others…”
When every member of the group had a parcel they began to tear off the wrapping paper.
“Oh, Jeez!” Symphony laughed as she held her teddy aloft. “Look at this – it’s just so cute!”
“Hey, the hair’s wrong on mine…” Rhapsody grinned, flicking her long, copper-red hair back with a practised hand.
“The eyes are the wrong colour,” Destiny smiled. “Yet I love her into pieces… she shall be my lucky mascot.”
“Well, they are on mine too, but she’s still cute…” Symphony commented, nuzzling the bear with her nose.
“You girls should worry, everything’s wrong on mine…” Melody grinned, holding aloft the blonde teddy. “But I don’t care…. Thank you, Santa, whoever you are!”
“Captain Pink…?” Magenta protested reading the label attached to his teddy. “They might at least have got the name right!”
Captain Ochre grinned. “Never mind, Pat…” he said, but his expression changed as he read aloud, “Captain Orange! Hey….that’s not fair.”
Lieutenant Green had opened his and was looking absurdly pleased. Rhapsody reached out and pinched it from his hand, ignoring his protest. “Captain Green…” she read gleefully.
“That maybe your only chance at promotion, Seymour,” Ochre teased, clapping the younger man on the shoulder. “Was it meant to be a subtle hint? How about your teddy-bear, Colonel, is he correct?”
Colonel White was somewhat reluctant to display the polar bear. His worst fears were realised when the Angels cooed in appreciation of the little white bear. “I fear I have been demoted. This is Captain White…” he said with a wry smile.
“Oh sir, that’s too bad…” Rhapsody chimed in. “Some mistakes are to be expected, but that – well….”
“How about yours, Scarlet? Your bear all ship-shape?” Grey asked mildly.
“Well, he’s called Captain Red, but I guess I can live with that,” Scarlet confessed.
“Blue and Grey must be the only ones not wrong…” Melody said with a teasing wink the captains in question.
Destiny was reading the label on her bear. “It says – exclusive to Humbley’s of London – Captain Scarlet, is this your doing?”
“No! I mean, just because it says London…. Don’t make assumptions…”
“Ah, mon cher Capitaine,” Destiny cooed, not believing him for one moment. “You are truly a teddy-bear at heart…” She planted two kisses on Scarlet’s cheeks. The other Angels followed suit, until Scarlet was quite breathless at the tributes paid to him.
Cheerfully leaving his friend to his fate, Captain Blue wandered across to his commanding officer. “Did you know about these, Colonel?” he asked, the blue-uniformed bear lying on the palm of his outstretched hand.
“Well, yes, I did. Sort of, Captain,” Colonel White replied, suddenly aware that every eye was on him. Of course, he knew London well and had been down to Spectrum’s London HQ for a series of meetings recently. Obviously he was a prime suspect too, it seemed. He explained, “The toy companies were clamouring to merchandise some Spectrum toys… other than just those models of our equipment - the ones that have the little manikins in? In fact, there were some unscrupulous companies already making unlicensed toys. The World Government thought it best to allow carefully regulated, licensed goods. I wasn’t keen to let them make the action toys – the 10 inch dolls? – it could have been… awkward… but I couldn’t see a problem with teddy bears. I mean, none of you look like teddy bears…” Colonel White concluded with a slight smile.
“Oh, I don’t know…” Rhapsody mused, fluttering her eyelashes at the men gathered around the sofa.
“It seems as if Spectrum Intelligence took their eyes of the ball, slightly… I must have a word with them… making us all Captains and all of the Angels blonde… mind you, it was something of a rush job… to be in time for Christmas.”
“Well, I don’t mind,” Melody smiled. “I don’t guess Harmony will either. She’ll just say something like ‘Confucius he say – never mind if the idiots have got it wrong again’…”
There was a ripple of laughter.
Scarlet moved closer to Blue, who was watching the others examining their teddies and laughing over the charming little creatures.
“You were right,” he whispered, “they are ‘the biz’… Mind you, I didn’t expect to get given the credit. Why didn’t you say something?”
Blue smiled. “And spoil your fun…? Besides, it was meant to be anonymous… I never thought they’d connect the label to you.”
“Maybe we should see if we can get special orders made up? For Melody, Harmony and Dianne?”
“Leave it to the colonel,” his friend advised. “I expect we shall be seeing multi-racial Angels and captains very soon.”
Symphony came across to join them. “Are you two plotting again?”
“We never plot!” Scarlet protested.
“No, and you never go shopping in London, either, I suppose?” she smiled, linking her arm through Captain Blue’s. She reached up and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, sweetheart… I think she’s wonderful.”
“Me? You heard Destiny…”
“Yes and I saw the parcels you were wrapping for Boston too. You should have used different wrapping paper if you wanted to ensure total anonymity…”
Blue blushed. “Damn - and I thought I was being so clever…”
“Your secret is safe with me, guys.”
Scarlet laughed. “It’ll be the only secret that ever was…” he teased as Symphony punched his arm in feigned anger.
Later that evening, Captain Blue wandered back to his quarters. He was well pleased with the success of his surprise and, having seen the colonel’s white bear sitting on the Control Room console, was confident that everyone liked their gift. He had given Karen her special present before she went on duty, and was looking forward to the deferred demonstration of her gratitude later.
He snapped on the light, placing his own teddy bear down on the desk before he threw his cap down. He over-estimated the gap and it slid across the desk, knocking a box onto the floor. Tutting to himself, Blue went to pick it up. It was only a box in which he kept odds and ends of stationery – nothing very serious, so there wouldn’t be any damage done.
He bent down to pick up the paperclips and rubber bands and noticed a dark shape on the floor in the corner of the desk, hidden by the furniture.
He sat back on his heels and gazed at the small, dark teddy bear with sad eyes. “I had forgotten about you,” he admitted. He had swept the toys aside when Symphony had arrived unexpectedly as he was wrapping them up. This one must have been missed when he picked them up once she had left. “Sorry,” he said, brushing the light film of dust from the Rainbow Bear in its black tunic, boots and cap. He stood the bear on the desk again, alongside the one in the blue uniform.
“Happy Christmas, Conrad… wherever you are,” he murmured.
This story was inspired by the wonderful teddy-bear models you see in the pictures and, by the charming little Captain Blue bear I am lucky enough to own. They are the work of our own (multi-talented) Chris Bishop.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!
About the bears which illustrate this story:
I don’t deserve the credit for the creation of the first ‘Spectrum bears’. Similar bears had been made before by a fan who offered them for sale at past fan conventions. They were slightly different – bigger bears, and smaller ones – and I bought some of them when the maker decided to get rid of what remained of her collection. They provided the real inspiration for me to make my own bears, of different colours. I gave the first ones I made as gifts to friends, before making my own, complete collection (I still have four Angels to finish!). So thanks to Heather J. – I won’t mention her whole name, as I was unable to contact her to tell her about this story. Is she reads this, I salute and thank her. Enjoy the story.
All the bears are as Marion described them in her story – except for the “R” logo she substituted for the Spectrum S, and the Angels’ ‘blue and long-lashed eyes’.
Chris Bishop December 2004
P.S.: I find the white one to be the cutest, too!