Tessaract

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A Captain Scarlet story by Marion Woods

 

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

John Lennon

 

  

CHAPTER ONE

 

Cloudbase: December 2085

 

“Angel One, returning from patrol; requesting landing permission.”

“Control Tower to Angel One, you are clear to land.  Anything to report?”

“No, it’s all quiet out there, Lieutenant.”

“S.I.G., I bet you’re looking forward to filling in another negative report…” There was a hint of teasing in the words.

“Always my favourite kind of report, actually,” Angel One said thoughtfully.  “It means that the Mysterons aren’t actually up to mischief, for a start.”

“There is that,” the lieutenant conceded.  Control out.”

The Angel pilot saw the landing deck rising as she approached.   She guided her plane to the right spot with ease, and shut off the engines as the clamps snapped shut, as she had done innumerable times.  Indicator lights winked off on her dashboard, and Cloudbase’s mighty engines whirred into life as the deck slowly descended to horizontal.

She always used the ride down the chute to the Amber Room as the bridge between being on duty and off, feeling some of the tension ebb from her bones and a sense of relaxation take over.  She removed her helmet and ran a hand through her short blonde hair, shaking her head to tease out the helmet-induced flatness. 

I need to wash my hair… she thought.  There was a lot to be said for the mundane things in life.

When the door slid open, she glanced around the Amber Room to acknowledge the welcome of her colleagues and saw her replacement in Angel One slide in to the launch seat and prepare for her four-hour shift.

She headed for the bathroom next to the Amber Room; she sometimes believed that the most important attribute of an Angel Pilot was a strong bladder.  When she emerged, she went and collected her bottle of water from the fridge and glanced at her in-tray for any new post.

She was looking through the unexciting envelopes from catalogue companies and – ironically – double-glazing firms, when the door opened and a young voice said plaintively:

“Mom, can I speak to you - privately?”

 

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“I saw Angel One come in, so I knew you were here.” 

He was apologising really, but she could see he was anxious about something.  He worried too much, this serious-minded son of hers.

“It’s okay, Mike; I just wish you wouldn’t march into the Amber Room and call me ‘mom’.  I hadn’t officially gone off duty, you know?”

“Sorry; I know I shouldn’t have, but well... there’s a problem.”

She ruffled his hair, despite his protest.  At fifteen he thought himself already a man and beyond such childish treatment, but there still lingered the need for a maternal helping hand now and again.

“What’s wrong this time?”

“It’s Gabriel.  He’s gone missing.”

 

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The colonel had just concluded an important conversation with the World President when he glanced up to see the identity of his newly-arrived visitors.  His dour expression hardened.

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asked, his deep voice less than welcoming.

“Gabriel’s gone missing…” the youngster explained.

“What?  Have you looked for him?”  the colonel asked sternly.

“Everywhere I can go.  I don’t think he’s on Cloudbase,” the boy replied.

“Well, he can’t have just strolled off the place, can he?” the colonel remarked with some exasperation.

“It isn’t his fault,” his mother snapped.  “He came to report the fact as soon as he realised he couldn’t find him.   What craft have left recently?”

He glanced at her.  “You think he might have stowed away on board?”

She leant over to his shoulder and punched a few buttons on the console.   Tapping the screen with a long fingernail, she replied, “No, I think he flew himself off…”  She glanced at the lieutenant on Comms duty.  “Serena, where was helijet 004 logged for?”

Lieutenant Green checked her records.  “It’s logged to Ensign Alizarin for a training flight.  He said he had some free time and his pilot’s exam coming up soon.”   She looked up in some concern.   “Wait a minute, the W.A.S. have just logged a revised flight plan with us; Alizarin’s going to Naples, Italy.”

“Damn and blast the boy,” growled the colonel. “We don’t have time for this... the World President is anxious we get our new assignment underway.”

“Then the sooner we get him back the better,” the Angel pilot replied.  “I’ll go – better keep it in the family, Conrad.”

“Make it quick, Eva, please – before he does anything stupid and things go critical.”

“S.I.G..  Come on, Mikey; let’s leave your father to get on with some work.”

 

 

Cloudbase: December 2074

 

Lieutenant Green was looking forward to the end of his shift: he was planning to meet up with a few of the other lieutenants for a little seasonal get-together in the main common room.  He glanced across as the automatic door snapped back and Lieutenant Claret walked in and saluted the colonel, who was still sitting at his control panel, before walking over to the communication station.

“Anything to report?” Claret asked, as he approached. Zarak Khan, the second-in-command for the communications section, was older than the average lieutenant on Cloudbase.  An experienced radio operator, he’d been recruited from the World Army Air Force’s Afghan division and gave the youthful Corps of Lieutenants much-needed gravitas.  Habitually composed, he was considered a ‘safe pair of hands’ by the colonel, and was the first choice officer for the night-shift on board Cloudbase.  Lieutenant Green had, initially, been rather in awe of giving him orders, but Claret’s lack of pretensions made him easy to get along with and he was well-liked.  The fact that he frequently worked nights allowed him to remain slightly aloof from the more boisterous behaviour of some of his colleagues, which suited his wishes.

Green leant back and stretched, looking up at his sober subordinate.  “Nothing of much relevance,” he replied.  “There’s been a severe weather front stationary over the Mediterranean for the best part of the day, an impressive tropical storm in Rio and it has started snowing in Boston.  We’re changing course to avoid the Med, having difficulty maintaining contact with Rio, and holding a watching brief on Boston.”

“Because of the World Science Conference being held there?” Claret asked, as he took the seat Green had just vacated and signed into the system.

“Yes, it starts tonight with a reception jointly hosted by the American President and the World Government’s Minister for Science.  Captains Grey and Ochre have reported that they have the place sewn up tighter than a drum, so there shouldn’t be any problems.” The young Trinidadian sighed and gave a rueful grimace. “But… if I had a dollar for every time we’ve said that and then the situation has gone belly-up almost immediately, I would be rich enough to give up working in this madhouse and retire to my Caribbean island home.”

“You would die of boredom within a very short time,” Claret said calmly.

Green had to look at him to see the sparkle of amusement in those dark eyes and confirm that he was being teased.  He grinned.  “Oh, sure I would – not!  Let me tell you, Zarak, after a day as slow and devoid of excitement as this one’s been, I feel ready to die of boredom anyway.”

When Claret smiled, his strong, white teeth were surprisingly bright against the neat black beard that covered the lower part of his strong-featured face. “Well, speaking as the man who has to survive the night shift with Captain Blue, I think you have had the easier job, Lieutenant.”  He glanced towards the main Control Desk and its occupant.  “Things are livelier with the colonel around than with ‘Captain Cautious’.”

Green chuckled. “There is that,” he agreed, “but would you rather have Captain Cautious or one of the other ‘Shoot-first-ask-questions-afterwards’ Americans? Or even Captain Scarlet?”

“Scarlet’s not that bad,” Claret remarked, after a moment’s thought.

“I’ll take your word on it,” Green said, as he made to leave. “It’s all yours for the night, Claret; look after my baby until I get back, d’you hear?”

“S.I.G., Lieutenant,” Claret replied with mock formality. 

“I’m going to the first of the Christmas get-togethers in the main common room,” Green reminded him, adding as he always did, “just call if you need me.”

Claret raised his head and glanced at his senior officer with a smile.  “I doubt there will be any need, but thanks for letting me know.  Have a good time.”

“Thanks.  I’m really looking forward to relaxing for a while.”  He marched up to the Control Desk and saluted the colonel.  “I’m going off duty now, sir.  Lieutenant Claret has taken over for the night duty.”

“S.I.G., Lieutenant.  I’m expecting Captain Blue to take over here in,” he glanced at the clock, “the next two and a half minutes.”

Green grinned; that was about as near as the colonel came to making a joke.  It seemed that the Christmas spirit was seeping into the old man’s bones after all. “Goodnight then, sir,” he said and received an affable half-smile from the Commander-in-Chief.

“Goodnight.” 

White watched his Head of Communications leave and then glanced at the familiar figure of Lieutenant Claret, already occupied with the steady flow of information from Spectrum’s bases around the world.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that we’re in a constant state of alert, he mused. The Mysterons certainly like to lull us into a sense of false security…

When the door opened again, some five minutes later, Captain Blue strode in, balancing a file on top of a large mug of coffee and carrying a Danish pastry in his mouth. He saluted with his free hand.

White raised one dark eyebrow and shook his head.  “I’d rather wait for you to put the coffee down and avoid the risk of spillage, than be saluted immediately, Captain.”

Blue flushed, put the coffee on the side and removed the pastry. “Sorry, sir.  I was delayed and I hadn’t had my supper.”

White gave a surprisingly understanding nod, and managed to suppress his ironic smile.  He knew where Blue had been delayed – and why – because he’d happened to catch sight of the tall American sitting on the Promenade Deck, with his arm around Symphony Angel’s shoulders, as the CCTV scan had covered the area on its regular security sweep. 

He signed off command and completed the formal handover to his subordinate officer.

“I hope it is a peaceful night,” he said, as he took his leave.

“Me too,” Blue muttered, rolling his eyes at the grinning Lieutenant Claret as the automatic door slid closed, and then taking an enormous bite from his pastry.

 

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Captain Scarlet was woken by the insistent buzz of the communicator beside his bed.  It felt like he’d only just got off to sleep and he wasn’t best pleased at being woken. He clicked on the light, and glared at his clock as if the fact that it was showing 03:43 was a personal affront.

“Scarlet,” he growled, in response to his caller.

“I am sorry to disturb you, Captain, but please would you report to the Control Room?”

As usual, Lieutenant Claret’s deep voice conveyed no sense of urgency, so Scarlet, disinclined to comply, asked, “What’s wrong?” as he sat up and swung his feet to the floor, searching for his slippers. 

“The Acting Commander is asking to see you, Captain,” Claret replied.

“Claret, tell ‘the Acting Commander’ that merely missing my company isn’t reason enough to wake me up.”

“It is an order, Captain Scarlet, sir,” Claret insisted.

“Does he want me in uniform, or will my dressing gown do?” Scarlet asked, obliquely acknowledging that his protest was purely rhetorical.

There was a pause and Blue’s voice cut in. 

“Just come up here as soon as you’re decent, Scarlet.  I think this is something you ought to know about.”

“If this is some daft prank, I’ll break your neck, Svenson…” Scarlet grumbled in an aside.

Blue lowered his voice and said urgently, “No, Paul, this is serious…”

The fact that Blue, an absolute stickler for doing things by the book when he was on duty, had used his Christian name was enough to convince Scarlet that his friend was serious.  

So, when he arrived in the Control Room some ten minutes later; he was dressed in his uniform but unshaven and still looking annoyed.

“I know I don’t need as much sleep as you, Blue, but I do like to get some rest,” he complained, as he wandered over to the main desk, where Blue was staring intently at the huge video screen. He watched for a moment and then asked, “What’s going on?”

“You know where that is?”

Manchester,” Scarlet said, and, as Blue glanced up in frowning surprise, he added by way of explanation, “It’s raining… it always rains in Manchester.”

“Be serious, will’ya?”  his friend snapped.

“I will when you tell me what’s going on.”

“That’s the big Mediterranean storm and it’s been raging all night.”

“Don’t tell me: the Mysterons have threatened to ruin everyone’s Christmas with bad weather?” Scarlet hazarded, still bewildered by the apparent importance his friend ascribed to the storm.

“It has been raining heavily for about 24 hours,” Blue explained.  “And it has been centred right over Mount Etna. There’s been a series of major landslides.”

“Etna?”

Blue nodded.  “Now d’you see why it’s serious?”

Scarlet scratched his head and ran a hand over his unshaven chin.  “Well, I can risk a guess.  The last time I had anything to do with Etna, you and I ended up trapped in a warren of time-shifting tunnels between dimensions.”  He glanced at Blue and saw the concern on his friend’s face was real.  Scarlet’s levity vanished. “You mean it might open the inter-dimensional tunnels again?”

“Not might open them – apparently it has opened some of the tunnels,” Blue said, as he swivelled the chair around to face his friend.  “Lieutenant Argent called through some minutes ago and reported that a young guy has walked into Spectrum: Naples, asking to be brought to Cloudbase, in order to see Major Scarlet.  He said his name was Ensign Alizarin and he presented what he said was a Spectrum ID card – but it wasn’t one of ours.”

Alizarin?  Sounds like the baddy from a third-rate production of an ‘Aladdin’ Christmas panto…”

Blue gave an exasperated shake of his fair head.  “It’s the name of a manufactured organic red dye, derived from the madder plant.”

“Great – a nutter, with an even crazier colour codename …”

“Paul – please, this is serious!”

Scarlet sighed and shook his head pityingly.  “Adam, just because somebody walks into a Spectrum ground base and announces they’re Ensign Ali Baba from the Twilight Zone and they want immediate attention, it does not mean that they are who they claim to be, or that they’ve come from a different dimension specifically to see us - or even to see me. There’re more than enough nutcases out there who imagine they’re part of Spectrum and that they’ve got exclusive information vital to the safety of the planet.  You don’t have to drag me out of bed every time one of them gets taken seriously by a lieutenant who’s still wet behind the ears, do you?”

“No; but this one seems to know a good deal more about Cloudbase than has ever been made public, and he knows a lot about you  - he knows your real name, for a start – and … well, take a look at this.”  Blue clicked the screen’s control switch to change the picture to a scanned image of an ID card. 

It looked vaguely familiar and carried a small head-and-shoulders image of a dark-haired youngster, with bright-blue eyes.  He was wearing a vivid-red tunic that was not entirely unlike the one the three men in the Control Room were wearing.  The ID card looked like a Spectrum one, except that it sported the insignia of a chubby, colour-banded, stylised S, enclosed by two golden semi-circles.

Scarlet frowned and met Blue’s perceptive gaze with a faint blush on his cheeks.  “You do recognise it – I thought you might.  It looks like that sketch you showed me, when we were talking about what’d happened.”

Scarlet took a moment to look in surprise at his friend, but Blue was now staring at the screen and missed the glance. 

That has to have been at least four years ago – and he can’t have seen it for more than a few minutes.  Sometimes the amount of detail this man’s memory holds leaves me speechless…he thought, a wry smile on his lips.  I guess the trick is to never say something you wouldn’t want remembered. 

Aloud, he said: “Okay, I admit that looks like the Spectrum badge I saw when I went through the tunnels to one of the parallel dimensions; but, even if he does come from Cadenza’s world, there’s no guarantee he’s who he says he is, or that he’s coming to see me.  I’m not a major, for a start, and although I know you didn’t get to see as much as me, I can assure you there were numerous dimensions – all slightly different from this one in some way.  This might be someone from a different dimension than Cadenza’s trying to reach yet another dimension.   After we left Lieutenant Garnet in the alternative dimension, the portals here were blocked by an eruption; but we can’t be sure something similar happened elsewhere.  They might’ve been visiting back and forth ever since, and our visitor might simply be lost.”

Blue nodded.  “Yes, I considered that before I called you up here.  In either case – by design or by accident – he’s here, and we need to know why as urgently as we need to prevent the tunnels’ existence becoming common knowledge.  I called you because I thought you might like to come with me, when I go to find out the truth.”

Scarlet snorted with laughter.  “Acting Commanders generally remain on their base,” he reminded his friend, with a jovial grin.  “Besides, if anyone goes it ought to be me.”

Satisfied that he’d succeeded in rousing his friend’s curiosity, Blue replied, “You don’t think I could let you go alone, knowing the kind of trouble you’d get into?”   The merest smile twitched at the corners of his lips.

Touché,” Scarlet replied, recalling the time he’d said as much to his friend when Colonel White had called for volunteers for a mission.  “Right: do we go straight away, or shall we wait long enough to wake the colonel first, Acting Commander?”

 

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In the secure waiting room of Spectrum’s Naples office, the young stranger calling himself Ensign Alizarin sprawled in an armchair and tried to contain his uneasy impatience. 

Lieutenant Argent was clearly dubious about his credentials; it seemed that the young officer hadn’t been involved in the most significant mission to involve his command, that pertaining to the Mysterons’ attempt to use technology known as the ‘Volcanic Pacifier’ to destroy the Earth.   Still, Argent had listened to what he’d had to say with polite, if mistrustful, attention.  Then he’d conducted him to this ‘waiting room’ where, no doubt, he was under constant CCTV surveillance while his fate was decided by unseen and unknown individuals.  It was frustrating in the extreme and made him wonder if he’d made the right decision to come here. 

Suddenly, Alizarin sprang up from the chair and paced around the sparsely furnished room, restless with pent-up energy.  He rested his head against the window and gazed across the rain-lashed bay to where the dark bulk of Mount Vesuvius loomed ominously over the city.  He wondered at the twists of fate and circumstance that had brought him here, where everything seemed the same and yet it was all so very different.

He spun round at the sound of the door lock, hope that he would finally be allowed to go to Cloudbase flaring up inside him.  The sight of a dapper Italian carrying a tray of refreshments dampened that expectation immediately.

“For you,” the Spectrum sergeant said, as he put the tray down.

“Thank you, Sergeant.”

The man was staring at him intently, a frown between his dark eyebrows.  

Alizarin dredged his memory and came up with a name.  “You must be Carlo Ruffolo.”

Si,” the sergeant acknowledged, impressed. “Do you know me, Ensign?”

Alizarin waved a hand, expressing uncertainty.  “I know of you,” he prevaricated.

Ruffolo gave an expressive shrug, and nodded his head towards the exit.  “Lieutenant Argent, he does no believe you, but he has speakened with Cloudbase.  I should not tell to you, but Capitano Blue and Capitano Scarlet are on their ways here.”

Alizarin grinned. “Thank you, Carlo.”  Impulsively, he asked, “Do you believe me?”

Sergeant Ruffolo resumed his intense study of the young man’s face and a smile broke out on his expressive face.  “There was much to believe when Lieutenant Garnet disappear.  Capitano Blue and Capitano Scarlet, make an investigation most thorough.  They will sort this riddle.  If you are not in truth, they will find this out.”

Alizarin gave a wry smile and watched Ruffolo leave, hearing the lock snap shut once more behind him.

 

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 Out in the main office, Lieutenant Argent was bustling about like a proud housewife, urging his staff to spruce the place up.  When he’d reported to his senior officer that two colour-coded captains were about to arrive from Cloudbase, Captain Henna’s suggestion that he ought to come directly from Rome and deal with the matter personally, had stirred Argent’s sense of insecurity enough to make him decide to treat this visit like an inspection, and make damn sure everything was impressively organised and operating effectively. 

When he was satisfied that the place was as ship-shape as it could be, he went back to his office and checked his uniform in the mirror again, practising smart salutes.  It was only when he smiled approval at his reflection that he saw Sergeant Ruffolo standing patiently at the open door, and behind him were the looming figures of the colour-captains. 

Ruffolo’s expression was a model of discretion as he ushered the two VIPs in. 

Captain Blue, who’d worked closely with Ruffolo when the previous head of station had disappeared in suspicious circumstances, exchanged a few words with him, and when he turned back, Argent was shaking hands with Captain Scarlet.  

He reached out his hand to introduce himself. “Nice to be back here,” he said, as he took a seat beside the desk. 

“Things won’t have changed much since then, I expect,” Argent said.

Blue smiled.  “No, Ruffolo is just the same – mind you, he’s the kind of guy that never seems to change.  I expect he still knows all there is to know about what’s going on?”

Argent gave a nervous chuckle of acknowledgment.  “Carlo is a constant source of information,” he said.

“Maybe we should get him in here to brief us then?” Scarlet asked pointedly.

“There’s no need for that, Captain Scarlet,” Argent insisted. “I can assure you I have all the details here.”  He tapped a folder on the desk blotter.

 “You’ve found out who this ‘Ensign Alizarin’ really is?” Scarlet asked, in surprise.

Argent hesitated. “Not exactly, sir.  He refuses to say any more than he’s already said; which is that he’ll only explain everything to you, Captain Scarlet.”

The two captains exchanged glances and then Scarlet stretched forward, reaching for the file.  “Then we’d better see what he is prepared to say and be fully-informed before we meet him.” 

Argent handed the folder over and sat back.  Scarlet gave the slightest sigh of exasperation, his dark eyebrows sliding up in an arch.  “A little privacy, if you’d be so kind, Lieutenant?”

“Of course, forgive me!”  Flustered, Argent sprang to his feet. “Please, gentlemen, call for anything you need.” 

He edged out of the room with a nervous smile on his face. 

As the door closed behind him, Blue observed in amusement, “I think you enjoy intimidating the ground staff…”

Scarlet grinned.  “It’s what they expect.  They’d be disappointed if we weren’t fearsome and awe-inspiring individuals.”

Blue chuckled.  “You’re the one the legends are growing up around; me, I’m just the obligatory sidekick.”

“Oh, sure you are,” Scarlet scoffed.  “Okay, ‘Boy Wonder’, wrap your bat-brain around this report and let’s see what we can make of Ensign Ali Baba.”

“Holy conundrum, Batman!  I will, just as soon as you pass me the documents.”

Scarlet flicked through the folder and grinned. “Brownie points to Lieutenant Argent, there are two copies…”

He handed over a couple of sheets of closely-typed paper.

Blue took them, but before he started reading he said, “I think we’d better abandon our ‘super-heroes-in-panto-mode’ from here on in, Paul.  Alizarin might not appreciate being called ‘Ali Baba’ and we’ll need his co-operation, if we’re going to wrap this up and get back to Cloudbase in time for the ‘not-quite-Christmas’ party the Angels have organised.”

“You know, I’d rather skip the party; but you’re probably right.  Dianne will be livid if I miss it.”

“So she will; and I have my orders,” Blue confessed, nodding.  “I’m under strict instructions from Karen to make sure you go. Apparently Dianne thinks you need cheering up.” He glanced at his field partner and closest friend and asked, “Is she right?  Is something wrong, Paul?”

Scarlet avoided the question and instead he quipped, “You look nothing like I expected a Fairy Godmother to look.  Are you going to turn into a beautiful woman in a sparkly frock, wave a magic wand, and say ‘Scarletella, you shall go to the ball’ any time soon?”

“No; I’m far more likely to say: ‘sorry, Colonel, but it was justifiable homicide; he wouldn’t take me seriously’.”

Scarlet grimaced.  “I think this time of year is too crowded with parties; I mean you wait all year for a reason to party and then two or three come at once.”

“There’s the Fourth of July.”

“I suppose we ought to celebrate getting rid of you Yanks before you became too much of a liability, but it isn’t quite the done thing… old chap.”

 “Okay, if you say so…Limey. But you’re not the only person to have a birthday; it tends to happen at least once a year to almost everybody.  And there’s Halloween.”

 “I don’t like Halloween.  Somehow I always get into trouble then.”

Blue shook his head despairingly; there was no reasoning with Scarlet when he was in this sort of mood. 

“Well, I can’t say your sudden aversion to partying the night away makes any sense to me, Paul.  You didn’t have a birthday party this year, because we were in Singapore, so it isn’t as if you’ve been to a party for a while.  When we got back, Grey did a duty stint for you so you and Dianne could have the entire evening off together.  Didn’t that cheer you up?”

“Well, of course it did.  Sort of.”

Sort of?”

“Is there an echo in here?”

“Please yourself,” Blue said, with a shrug.  “But I warn you now; I’m not risking having my Christmas ruined because I didn’t get you to the party.” 

 “Karen’s perfectly unreasonable at times.”

“Is that supposed to be news to me?  I have to live with it, remember.”

 Scarlet chuckled and then sighed.   “Oh, all right, if you must know: on our evening out, I made the mistake of telling Dianne that every new birthday just rubs in the fact that, whatever it says on my birth certificate, I’m probably going to stay thirty-one for a long time – maybe for ever.”

“Hey,” the American responded, “take it from someone who can see forty looming, thirty-one has its attractions.”

Scarlet rolled his eyes.  “That’s my point!” he said somewhat ambiguously.  Blue grimaced in confusion, but Scarlet didn’t notice and went on, “Don’t worry, Adam, you don’t look a day over thirty-nine….”

“Gee, thanks… I’m not thirty-nine – yet,” Blue muttered.

But Scarlet wasn’t listening; he was recalling the conversation he’d had with his fiancée.  “Dianne said I was being morbid and that I obviously needed cheering up.  This party is supposed to do just that.”

“Well, take the advice of a much older man,” Blue said, “go to the party and look like you’re having the best time imaginable; otherwise you’ll have to explain to all five of the Angels why you’ve got a face like a wet weekend.”

Scarlet gave a ruefully amused smile.  “That’s a fate worse than death, all right – having all five of them on your case at once.  Okay, okay – look, I’m being serious… I have the report open ready to read.”  He looked down.  “Better get started; my spider-sense tells me this is going to be… difficult.”

“Now you’re mixing-up your super-heroes,” Blue remarked, with a sorrowing shake of his head. “If you ask me, that’s a sure sign of encroaching old age, Batman.”

Scarlet chuckled and started reading.

 

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When the two captains entered the waiting room, the young man was standing by the window.  He advanced towards them eagerly, his hand outstretched and a warm smile on his wide mouth.

“Major Scarlet – sorry, Captain Scarlet – thank you for coming.  It’s good to meet you, at last.”  His voice, tinged with relief and excitement, had the timbre of a nervous adolescent, causing both men to revise their immediate impression of his age downwards.  

Alizarin was a gangly youth and he wore his unruly black hair unfashionably long.   Its wayward curl framed an angular face dominated by piercingly blue eyes, and softened the sharp-angled bone structure of a strong jaw line, complete with dimple.  His complexion was blemish-free and there was a downy fuzz on his upper lip that had obviously never encountered a razor.  Although he had a promise of a muscular build in his shoulders and long limbs, he was probably still a few years short of reaching his adult height and Scarlet put him at no more than sixteen.  

He was dressed, not in the tunic of the ID card, but a shirt of a deep-red colour that approximated his colour-code, and dark, well-tailored trousers.   He was becoming unnerved by Scarlet’s intense scrutiny, and as his hand began to be withdrawn, Captain Scarlet extended his and grasped the large, surprisingly strong hand of the youngster. They shook. 

Alizarin dropped Scarlet’s hand and turned to the watchful Captain Blue.  He stared up at the American with apparent fascination.  “I was so pleased to hear that you’d be coming too; I hardly expected it,” he said, and held out his hand again.

Blue took it more readily than Scarlet had and shook hands. As he withdrew his hand, Blue glanced questioningly at Scarlet.

“Nothing,” Scarlet replied to the unspoken question.

Alizarin smiled.  “You want to know if I’m a Mysteron.  I assure you, I’m not.”

“Lieutenant Argent will be reprimanded for failing to test you with a Mysteron detector, nevertheless,” Scarlet replied sourly.

“It wasn’t his fault, really.  I wouldn’t let them; it could’ve got… complicated,” Alizarin confessed.

“In what way?” Blue asked.

His question was ignored, and by way of a reply, Alizarin continued, “So I told them just enough to get them to contact you, Major Scarlet.  I had to see you – and I didn’t know what else I could do to make you see me.”

“I’m not a major,” Scarlet reminded him, adding, “You told them you’d travelled through a ‘portal’ from a different dimension, which certainly got their attention, but you either have a vivid imagination, or a poor opinion of my credulity, if you expect me to believe that.”

“I wasn’t sure how much they’d know about the events around the ‘Volcanic Pacifiers’ mission,” Alizarin explained, “but I knew you’d know all about it. It was the bait to hook the fish.”

“That’s honest enough,” Blue said, and he moved further into the room, where he could get a better look at Alizarin.  The young man smiled at him with the familiar smile of one old friend to another.  Blue frowned.

“Okay,” Scarlet said briskly, “I’ve had enough of this pussy-footing about, Ensign Alizarin – or whatever your name is.  Who are you?”

Alizarin’s blue-eyes sparkled with amusement.  “Don’t you know?  Can’t you guess?”  He spread his arms and announced, “I’m the son of Cadenza Angel – and – and well - you, Captain Scarlet.”

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

The profound silence that greeted Alizarin’s revelation lasted for what felt like an eternity to everyone in the room.  Scarlet stared open-mouthed at the youngster and Blue looked from one man to the other in doubtful bewilderment.   Here was the explanation for the vague resemblance he’d noticed – the answer to the question of just who Alizarin reminded him of – and it wasn’t what he’d expected to hear. 

“That’s quite an assertion, young man,” Scarlet gasped, eventually recovering his wits.

“I didn’t expect you to believe me straight away, but it is true.  You are my biological father.”

“What’s your real name?” Blue asked sharply.

Alizarin turned to him with an easy-going shrug.  “Gabriel John Svenson Turner.  And before you ask: my mother is Eva Joanna Svenson, the eldest daughter of John and Sarah Svenson, of Boston, Massachusetts.  As I’m sure you both know, she’s Spectrum’s senior Angel Pilot – codenamed Cadenza – and she was the member of Spectrum who, under the control of the Mysterons, kidnapped the World President.   She managed to break free of them, just like you, Captain Scarlet.   She also has the ability to retrometabolise.”

“Turner?” prompted Scarlet, the memory of shared confidences firing up in his mind.

Alizarin spread his large hands and went on to explain.  “She married Colonel Conrad Turner – Spectrum’s Commander-in-Chief - when she discovered she was pregnant.  They’d been… close, for some years before they joined Spectrum, and he acknowledged and raised me as his own.”

 “What makes you think you’re not his son?” Scarlet probed.

“Because of who - and what – my mom is, I was subjected to never-ending tests as a child – including DNA.  If Colonel Turner ever hoped I was his son that proved conclusively that I’m not.”

“Now wait a minute,” Scarlet said, “I accept that you might not be Colonel Turner’s son – but that doesn’t make you mine.”

“I think it does.  Are you trying to deny it’s a possibility?” Alizarin asked, his manner becoming brusque.

Scarlet gave a non-committal shrug of one shoulder and merely said, “A gentleman doesn’t reveal the names of ladies he may have been intimate with; even in this day and age, that remains the lady’s prerogative.” 

He turned towards Blue with a conspiratorially smug smile, but was surprised to see the shocked expression on his friend’s face.  Sometimes it is all too apparent that there’s Puritan blood in him, he thought with some amusement.

There was a hint of resentment in Alizarin’s voice as he replied, “Well, my mother exercised that prerogative!  She told us what happened on the other Cloudbase the night before you went back to your own worlds.   So it isn’t worth your breath to deny it, Captain Scarlet.”

Feeling awkward, Scarlet growled, “Oh did she indeed?”

“Yes, she did,” the youngster asserted.

“Even if everything Cadenza said was true, that doesn’t mean I am your father.  I’m from a different dimension – a whole new reality - wouldn’t you say that was pushing the bounds of possibility a little too far?”

Alizarin shook his head.  “In Doctor Fawn’s opinion mom could only get pregnant by a man who’s also retrometabolic – otherwise her body would have rejected the embryos as ‘alien’ – no pun intended.  Colonel Turner certainly isn’t retrometabolic and my parents never had children together.   She says that only leaves one contender for the identity of my father – that’s the Mysteronised Captain Scarlet she met on the mission that took them both to an alternative dimension.  And that was you – wasn’t it?”

When Scarlet didn’t respond, Alizarin held out his arm towards him and rolled back his sleeve. 

“Run your own tests, if you want to,” he said, dramatically.

“Oh, we will,” Blue assured him coldly. “From what we know of those inter-dimensional tunnels, there are numerous other realities, many that Scarlet never encountered.  Your mother could be any Cadenza, from any dimension, and the Scarlet she met, any Scarlet from any where.  You can’t know for sure that it was this Scarlet.”

“Are you suggesting my mother went trawling through the dimensions looking for a different retrometabolic Captain Scarlet to jump into bed with?” the boy snarled. “She left the group she was with and came straight back home.”

“So she says…”Blue commented dryly.

“My mother doesn’t lie!   You may not know, but in these other dimensions it wasn’t always Captain Scarlet who was retrometabolic.    It was mom in my world, for a start.   She never went back into the tunnels after she got home, so that doesn’t leave anyone else but that Paul Metcalfe!” Alizarin pointed dramatically at Scarlet. 

“You can’t know this for sure,” Blue asserted. 

“I told you: she doesn’t lie.  You, of all people, should know that,” Alizarin retorted. He sighed and looked away.  “Sometimes I’ve wished she would.  She has an uncomfortable way of believing honesty is the best, if not the only way.  Remind you of anyone, Adam Svenson?” 

Alizarin turned to look directly at Scarlet.  “I don’t know about you, though; maybe you would’ve lied?”

“No, he would not!  You’re forgetting your manners, young man!” Blue snapped.

Reacting instinctively to the angry tone of Blue’s voice, Alizarin turned back to him, slightly flushed.  “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to be rude.  The truth is, my mom says I generally only open my mouth to stick my foot in it.”

Blue inclined his head slightly and, in a rush Alizarin confided, “It seems even weirder to be talking to you, Captain Blue, than it does to… well, to my father.  I know, in the normal way of things, we’re not related; but you are the mirror image of my mother.  Your parents are the same people as my grandparents.  I guess that’s why it feels as if I know you – because I do feel as if I do.  In fact, the expression on your face right now is the exact same look of disapproval mom’s refined to an art form.

In spite of the situation, Scarlet sniggered.

Blue cast an exasperated glance at his partner. “Before we all get carried away, remember that the mission in question happened less than four years ago.”  He nodded towards Alizarin. “Either that is the most mature three-year old in history, or his story is bullshit.”

Scarlet looked from Blue to Alizarin and cocked an encouraging eyebrow.  “Well? Which is it?”

Alizarin gave a confused shrug and complained, “I expected to arrive here on the same date as I left home, but the only tunnel that was open led me here.  You can’t be more gobsmacked than I was when I realised the date.  I left on December 21st in the year 2085, and now they tell me it’s 2073.  I’m fifteen years old – whereas by rights, I should be toddling about in a romper suit.   My mom is a sprightly fifty-year-old - on her birth certificate, anyway, although she’s hardly changed since she was Mysteronised – whereas you, Captain Blue, you can’t be forty yet.  You met my ‘Aunt’ Paula Metcalfe, didn’t you, Captain Scarlet?”

Scarlet nodded and reminded Blue, “She was Sonata Angel – the ‘me’ in that dimension.”  He added with a vestige of the surprise he’d felt at the time, “She reminded me of my mother.”

Alizarin chuckled.   “My ‘Aunt Paula’ was forty-nine a few days ago – she was complaining about it – but I guess you’ve just had your 37th birthday, Captain Scarlet?  Am I right?”

Scarlet nodded in an abstracted way.  He clearly remembered the shock of seeing a female version of himself, not to mention the masculine versions of the ultra-feminine Angels, yet, at the time, Eva Svenson had been a reassuringly familiar presence in a world gone crazy.  When he and Garnet had met the people in the first alternative dimension they’d encountered, their personalities hadn’t resembled the people he knew much – that Captain Blue was a scheming and manipulative man -   but Cadenza had seemed like an old friend from almost the moment they’d met

 “What else can I say to make you believe me?” Alizarin asked, looking from one bemused face to the other, distinctly disapproving one.

Scarlet scratched an eyebrow thoughtfully and glanced back at the silent Captain Blue.  As the silence lengthened his said, “It’s true that the tunnels skipped about through dimensions and time.  I suppose we must face it that if the storm has only opened a few of the ‘portals’ in this dimension the choices are limited.” 

He turned back to Alizarin. “I suppose you had to take what you could get – and you got here and now – and us.”

The youth nodded. “I’m sure I got the right one, though.”

“Huh. Why are you here?” Blue demanded of him. 

“It’s rather complicated-” Alizarin began, displaying a sudden reluctance to discuss the topic that was quite at odds with his previous openness.

 “Just when I thought everything was becoming clear…” Scarlet muttered ironically.

“I want to stay here.”

What?” Scarlet cried.

“I don’t want to go back.  I want to stay here – with you.”

Scarlet’s strangled laugh was a pure nervous reaction. “No,” he said fiercely.  “That’s out of the question.”

“You can’t make me go back.  I’ll claim political asylum!” Alizarin exclaimed wildly.  

“What from: too much homework?” Blue snapped. 

“You don’t know what it’s like!”

“So tell me,” Blue said, unmoved by the youngster’s vehemence.

Alizarin turned away and gathered his thoughts.  When he spoke there was an earnest tone in his voice that suggested he was telling the truth.  

“You have to realise that I’ve spent my entire life on Cloudbase.  I’ve never been to a normal school or had much to do with non-Spectrum people, because, officially, I don’t exist.   We were kept secret because Spectrum was secret and mom’s condition made us vulnerable – we’d be great hostages to make her do whatever they wanted.  Then, when we were about 9 or 10, everything changed.  There’d been a lot of negative comment about the cost of Spectrum and so they had the idea of publishing a calendar, ostensibly for charity, featuring Spectrum’s agents and machinery.  It was a great success, people wanted to know more about Spectrum, so World President Flores decided that it would be a good re-election ploy to reveal the truth behind Spectrum and the Mysterons.   That’s when it went ballistic: there were models of the machines – the SPVs and SSCs, the jets, even Cloudbase itself.  Then action dolls - captains and Angel Pilots – lunch boxes, stationery – you name it.  The logo became a trademark – the World Government raked the money in, and then they made a TV show-”

 ’Captain Starlight’,” Blue groaned. “Don’t even mention it.”

“They’ve done that here too?  Ours is called ‘Cantabile Seraph’,” Alizarin explained, “and it’s based – supposedly – on mom’s exploits.  Most of it’s rubbish, of course, and they’ve got her in a sickening on-off romance with one of the brain-dead, supposedly hunky captains.  Mom finds it amusing, but my dad hates it – Colonel Black, I mean.  We’re not in it, of course, because we’re not supposed to exist – which suits me fine - I don’t want to go through my life as the real ‘Cantabile’s kid’.”

“Annoying as it may be, it doesn’t justify you staying here,” Blue remarked.

“But I want a proper life, where no one knows who I am.  I want the chance to do all the things I’ve never had the chance to do… I’ve had enough!”

“Nevertheless, you can’t stay here; your parents will be worried about you,” Scarlet said.

“No they won’t: they won’t care.”

“I find that hard to believe.  Besides, you have to go back – you can’t remain in a different dimension-” Scarlet began to reason.

“Lieutenant Garnet did – didn’t she? My mother said she was going to stay in the other dimension.  The world hasn’t ended, and the fabric of space and time hasn’t broken down, has it?”

The two captains glanced at each other and Alizarin exclaimed, “I want to stay here.  With you; you are my father, after all.”

“Look, kid, like I said, you can’t even be sure this Captain Scarlet is your father.  You need to go back home and sort this problem out there.  Running away won’t help,” Blue said dispassionately.

“No,” Alizarin said, his lower lip protruding slightly in determination.

Scarlet suddenly caught a flicker of light on the CCTV camera and put a hand on Blue’s arm to draw him aside.  “We can’t discuss this here and we’d better take the security recordings with us when we go.  Too much has been said already,” he said in a confidential whisper.

Blue nodded.  “Where do you propose we go?”

“Cloudbase.”

“You’re crazy; we can’t take him back there,” Blue hissed in alarm.

“You got a better idea?  Until he can be convinced he has to go back, we need to keep him hidden, Adam.”

Blue sighed and shrugged.  “Okay, but you’d better have got him out of the habit of claiming to be your son before Dianne sees him.”

“Oh crikey…”

“And did you notice how he kept referring to-” Blue began, but before the conversation could continue, Scarlet’s epaulettes started flashing and his cap mic swung down from the peak of his uniform cap.

“Yes, Colonel White?” he responded.

Captain Scarlet, your report is overdue.  What’s happening?”

Scarlet explained that he and Blue believed the young man’s claim was genuine.  He made no mention of Alizarin’s assertion about his parentage, or his wish to remain, but that came as no surprise to the attentive Blue who hadn’t expected him to; he knew Paul Metcalfe was an extremely private man.

Yes, bring him back to Cloudbase,” Colonel White agreed, at Scarlet’s suggestion.  We’ll need to question him further and we must consider the consequences of the re-opening of the tunnels. I’m not sure I like the prospect of inter-dimensional tourists popping in and out of the place.”

“S.I.G., Colonel,” Scarlet acknowledged, as the communication channel closed. He turned to the others.  “We’re going to Cloudbase to continue this discussion, Alizarin; then you’ll only have to tell your story once.”

“S.I.G,” Alizarin replied, making the older men react with surprise. Realising they had forgotten he was steeped in the culture of Spectrum, he grinned at them and added, “I didn’t bring any luggage, I thought it would complicate things if they saw me leaving with fully laden suitcases.”

“Not to worry; I’m sure we can kit you out, if necessary.”  Scarlet opened the door and strode out to organise transport to the airfield where their SPJ was waiting.

Alizarin picked up the leather jacket he’d left on the sofa and glanced at Captain Blue.  He gave a surprisingly shy smile.  “You know, I’ve been dreaming of meeting my real father ever since I was a kid, and yet, when I knew it was about to happen, I was terrified.  I don’t know what I expected; I guess it can’t be easy suddenly being presented with a teenager who claims he’s the son you never knew you had, but I thought he took it very well, don’t you?”

 “To be honest, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet; but, yes, he’s taking it very well - for now.”

“You don’t like me though, do you?” Alizarin asked with obvious disappointment.

“It really has nothing to do with me,” Blue said brusquely, but unusually for him, he couldn’t meet the youngster’s forthright gaze.

Alizarin looked downcast and slouched out of the room, leaving Blue to stare after him, thoughtfully rubbing his chin. 

 

150px-Stereographic_polytope_8cell

 

There was a security detail waiting for them to disembark from the SPJ as they landed on Cloudbase.  Colonel White was taking no chances, and Lieutenant Viridian and his small brigade of guards were armed.   Under the circumstances, the reluctant Alizarin made very little protest about submitting to a Mysteron Detector test. 

He was then escorted to the Conference Room by the armed guards, with Scarlet and Blue walking some distance behind.

Scarlet studied the photographic image Viridian had handed him and glanced at his field partner.  “I don’t think he’s a Mysteron – not a real Mysteron- even though this is a positive image.  I mean, I give a positive image and I’m not a Mysteron.”

“Not anymore,” Blue mumbled, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. 

He’d been very taciturn on the trip back, and although this in itself was nothing that unusual, Scarlet had sensed an uncharacteristic disquiet in his friend.

“Did I ever tell you that I had no ‘sixth sense’ reaction to Cadenza?  In fact, none of the other retrometabolic agents in the other dimensions fired up my sixth sense; and there was nothing at all odd about Caddie – we got on like a house on fire.”

“You did mention it,” Blue replied shortly.

“It seems to me that whatever the truth of his parentage, there’s no denying who his mother is.  It stands to reason that some of her retrometabolism might have rubbed off on Gabriel.”  When Blue didn’t answer, he prompted him, “Don’t you agree, Adam?”

 “Paul, Fawn’s done innumerable tests on you without pinpointing any genetic trait that might suggest retrometabolism is hereditary – hasn’t he?  Why should it be different for Cadenza?”

Scarlet ignored him and carried on, apparently without noticing his friend’s aversion to the topic.  “I wonder why she called him Gabriel.  I mean, it’s not a common name – not all that common, anyway.   I guess it’s biblical and you could say Eva is, as well as Adam, of course…”

“So’s Paul,” Blue said abruptly, as he veered away into a nearby toilet. 

He was exasperated with his friend’s ready acceptance of the young stranger, and Paul’s persistent lack of objectivity was causing him concern.  He didn’t doubt that Captain Scarlet was prepared to take Ensign Alizarin at face value. 

“Oh yeah; you know, that never really occurred to me?   I just accepted that I was named after my grandfather and never gave it another thought…” Scarlet continued, and then realised he was talking to himself.  He stopped walking and sighed, staring in the direction his companion had taken. 

Blue’s not convinced, that’s bloody obvious, he thought, and watched the armed guards turn into the Conference Room with Alizarin.  But I don’t know how else to react to the fact that it all seems plausible to me and I do have a son - and not a bad specimen of one, at that. 

He started to saunter towards the room, expecting Blue to catch him up.   

Eva was so sure she couldn’t get pregnant… I never doubted her.  ‘Typical Paul’, as mum would say.  But, here we are – and if that young man is my son even my mom would have to admit he’s okay.  He gave a wry grin. Shame she can never meet him; she’d be over the moon. 

He paused and glanced behind to see if his partner was coming.  There was no sign of Blue.  He ambled on.

I wonder what Alizarin expects of me.  There’s no way he can stay in this dimension, and I hope he isn’t planning to use his ‘it’s my dad’s home’ theory as an argument for stopping here…  He shuddered at the thought of the explanations that’d entail.   Blue obviously dislikes the boy, added to which he’s given a positive Mysteron reading, which isn’t going to be easy to explain. I just hope the fact that Caddie’s retrometabolic means they might not question it. 

I wonder if all the children I have will be retrometabolic.  I assume this means I am able to have kids – unless, of course, Dianne’s body rejects the alien in me.  The fact that the other Doctor Fawn thinks it was only because both parents were retrometabolic that the baby survived suggests an inbuilt level of incompatibility… I suppose. 

Once more he stopped suddenly and stared with unseeing eyes out of the nearby porthole. 

Always assuming that after Di’s heard about Gabriel she’s even prepared to speak to me. She might be livid that I never told her … but, then I didn’t know! he reasoned, trying to ignore the fact that his fiancée might just dislike the fact that he’d had even so fleeting a relationship with another woman.   Dianne Simms might lack Karen Wainwright’s possessive jealousy, but she’d probably draw the line at him ‘playing away from home’ - whatever the circumstances – especially as it had resulted in something she’d set her heart on having one day – his child. 

   Whatever my friends say, I can’t turn my back on the kid, anymore than I could refuse to help them if they asked – he’s got no one else here, even if it turns out that I’m not his father …surely they’ll realise that?

He followed the others into the meeting, saluted the colonel and nodded hello to Doctor Fawn, who was also present. The Doctor came over to speak to him.  He was positively radiating eagerness.

“Well, from what I hear, it seems we have another renegade Mysteron amongst us,” he said chirpily.  “Viridian says our new friend tested positive, but the colonel tells me you’re not sensing any Mysteron presence?  This is the chance I’ve been waiting for!  With two unrelated subjects to study, it could make pinpointing what retrometabolism is, far easier.”

“Ah, Doc, a quiet word before we start?”

Scarlet led him to one side and confided Alizarin’s claim about his parentage to the somewhat surprised doctor.

Really?” 

The normally imperturbable Fawn actually looked shocked.  He glanced thoughtfully at his companion a few times and then asked, “And, is this a distinct possibility, Paul?”

Not normally the bashful type, Captain Scarlet felt himself blushing. He said, with what started out as an air of nonchalance but rapidly became concerned and earnest,   “Well, you know how it is… we were both a long way from home and neither of us was sure we’d ever get back to where we belonged.” 

He sighed and recalled the uncertainty of his situation in the different dimension. “You see, although I wouldn’t ever admit it to Blue, I missed having him around.  After all, he’s become something of a fixture in the weird and wonderful thing that is my life, Doc, and I’m used to bouncing ideas off him when there’s a problem. And, boy, did I have a problem.”

Fawn nodded thoughtfully; he knew the strength of the bond between the captains and their interdependence. 

 Scarlet continued, “So, there I was, wondering if I was ever going to get back home, and there was no one to talk it through with, except Caddie… Cadenza Angel, I mean. You see, we’d shared an instant rapport when we met, and when I was with her that night, it felt exactly like it does with Adam.” 

Fawn’s eyebrows nearly went into orbit at this remark and realising his unintentional ambiguity Scarlet hastened to clarify things. “That sentence really came out a bit skewed, didn’t it?   What I meant was: I felt at home with her and I was able to talk things over with her, like I do with Adam - that’s all.  We’d had a long chat after the reception on Cloudbase and probably said more to each other than we would’ve if we’d thought we were likely to meet again.  We said goodnight – all very prim and proper - but I couldn’t sleep and I eventually gave up trying and went back out for another walk.  It seems Cadenza was feeling the same and we bumped into each other on the Promenade Deck.  We got talking again, and it was reassuring being in her company – and I think she felt the same – she told me she and Paula Metcalfe were close friends.   Anyway, we went back to her room for coffee and … one thing led to another, as they say. I’m sure I don’t have to draw you a diagram, Doc…”

Fawn gave a pitying glance at this weak attempt at humour and asked, “And the result is that young man?”

“So he says.  He told me that the doctors who looked after Caddie are of the opinion that she only got pregnant because – well, because we’re both retrometabolic and her body recognised a kindred spirit, if you will.  She never had children with her human husband.”

“That certainly makes a difference,” Fawn said thoughtfully.  “I really must run the series of tests I did on you, on the Ensign.  It could open a whole new field of research… as the off-spring of two retrometabolic people how much of that adaptation has been inherited?  I wish I had a sample of Cadenza’s DNA…a comparison would be fascinating…”

It had occurred to Scarlet that the tests could give him the reassurance he craved regarding any children he might have with Dianne.  Fawn knew about his relationship with Rhapsody and that they hoped to get married and start a family – at least, Dianne wanted a family whereas he’d always been far less convinced it was a good idea.

 He waited with uncharacteristic patience for Fawn to deliver his opinion.

Finally, the doctor gave a thoughtful smile and said,   “Of course!  It is more than likely that Captain Blue will share at least mitochondrial DNA with Cadenza, and I could isolate any abnormalities between Blue’s and Alizarin’s.  With such close genetic relationships these tests could be very useful. This is a once-in a lifetime opportunity. Well done, Paul!”

Scarlet rolled his eyes.  “Thanks, Doc.  I’m so glad I’ve helped you plan your potential Nobel Prize winning research programme.  It makes my… indiscretion worth while.”

“Do I detect a hint of sarcasm in that remark?”

“Heaven forbid.”

Fawn smirked.  “I promise not to subject you to many tests, Captain; after all, I have plenty of samples from you.  I shall need to take a full set of samples from Captain Blue and Ensign Alizarin.   Mind you, knowing what to look for from your DNA should speed things up in discovering the differences between Blue’s Mitochondrial DNA and the Ensign’s…if I can isolate that-”

Scarlet put his hands to his face and shook his head.  “Whatever you do, Doc, I’d be grateful if you’d keep this between ourselves?  Blue knows, of course, he was there when Gabriel explained, but I can’t see him blabbing it about.” 

Fawn glanced across to see Captain Blue walk through the door; from the guarded expression on the American’s face and the way he avoided looking at Scarlet and Alizarin, Fawn deduced that all was not smelling of roses in Blue’s world.  He glanced to where the on-duty Angel pilot was chatting with Lieutenant Green, and was slightly relieved to see that it was Harmony.  Of all the Angels she was the least likely to repeat anything… confidential that might come out in their discussion. 

Scarlet was still waiting for a response and as Colonel White called the meeting to order and everyone took their seats, Fawn said,

“Doctor-patient confidentiality is something I consider sacred, Paul.  Your secret’s safe with me.”

“It’s hardly a secret, and I expect it will common knowledge before this is all resolved, but for now, I’d appreciate you keeping it quiet, Edward.”

  Colonel White had made good use of the time it had taken his officers to bring Alizarin to Cloudbase and had re-familiarised himself with the details of the mission that had led Captain Scarlet into the tunnels beneath Mount Etna.  The whole mission had seemed bizarre at the time and he’d suspected that neither Scarlet, nor Blue, had been entirely open and honest in their written reports. Given the arrival of young Alizarin he was now convinced of the fact that something had happened in the other dimensions he’d not been told of.

He invited Alizarin to address the assembled members of Spectrum’s elite personnel, and listened intently as the youngster began to explain why he was here.

“I am sure you know that I have come here from a different dimension, where the world still exists, although things are different in some ways.  My mother is Cadenza Angel, the leader of Spectrum’s Angel squadron on Cloudbase.  Like Captain Scarlet she was killed by the Mysterons and retrometabolised.  She’s taken part in thousands of missions, died hundreds of times, and is the lynch-pin of Spectrum’s defences against the Mysterons.”

“This is known and understood,” White remarked.  He was impressed by the way the youngster conducted himself; he didn’t seem awed by finding himself on Cloudbase, or at having to address the assembled Spectrum grandees. 

“Yes, sir.  She met Captain Scarlet during a Mysteron threat and proved that he was indeed from a different dimension to that we inhabited.  Consequently, I’ve always known things aren’t exactly the same between the dimensions, Colonel.   Some people are the opposite of what we’d expect; that things happened differently or at different times, which results in various permutations of all potential situations.   Despite the differences in the people or variations in the decisions they make, there remains a fundamental synchronicity between my universe and this.”

“I’ve read Captain Scarlet’s report about the Volcanic Pacifiers, and I know what he experienced when he was swept into the tunnels beneath Etna,” White confirmed.  “What I need to know is why you are here now, Ensign.”

Alizarin glanced around the table and saw Scarlet’s pleading expression for him to be a little economical with the truth; what surprised him was that this expression was mirrored on Captain Blue’s face.

“Yes, sir.”   Alizarin continued, “I’m a junior officer on Cloudbase, and…”

“You’re a member of Spectrum?” White asked, betraying a little surprise at this.  “In this organisation we don’t have serving officers on Cloudbase below the rank of lieutenant, nor, I would guess, as young as you.”

 “It’s because of my parents, sir,” he explained.   “Maybe I should have said, my full name’s Gabriel John Svenson Turner and I grew up on Cloudbase, where my father, Colonel Black, is the commander–in-chief.”

There was a murmur of astonishment at this news, even Colonel White’s dark eyebrows rose. 

Oblivious to the reaction to his explanation, Alizarin continued, “I was given a codename when I was just a kid, because they needed a way to ‘lose me’ in the records, I guess.  Especially when, as your detector test showed, it became clear I’d inherited some aspects of retrometabolism.”

“Ermm,” Fawn interjected, raising his hand. “What aspects?”

Alizarin thought for a moment and then replied, “I heal rapidly, I don’t get ill – I’ve never had any of the usual childhood diseases - and yes, Doctor Fawn, they did try to infect us with them.  I have greater strength and stamina than most guys my age... or so they tell me, I haven’t met all that many.    I don’t know if I’m indestructible, like my mother and you, Captain Scarlet; I’ve never been killed and the idea of putting it to the test, just to see if I can recover, isn’t one I like to think about.”

“No,” Scarlet interrupted, shaking his head vehemently.  “You really don’t want to put it to the test.  If it happens in the course of a mission – well, that’s something everyone has to face.  Recovering from it is …” he paused and drew a deep breath. He could see the others looking at him expectantly, and concluded lamely, “…an added bonus.  I suppose.”

“Quite,” White said.  “Now, Ensign, why are you here? I understood that four years ago it was agreed between Cadenza Angel, acting for the authorities in the… additional dimension and Captain Scarlet on our behalf, that the tunnels would not be used.  And that was before they were blocked by an eruption in our dimension.”

“Well, sir,” Alizarin drew breath and plunged into his explanation. “In my world, Spectrum is not a secret organisation anymore.  The World President before the one we have now, revealed all the facts about the Mysterons and Spectrum’s fight against them to the general public.”

There was consternation around the conference table and when the murmuring died down Alizarin went on:

“My father – that is, Colonel Black, had a difficult job to keep the identity of his agents secret.  He could only do it by sacrificing some of them and allowing them to become celebrities.  As more of Cadenza Angel’s missions were reported in the newspapers she became famous for her ability to survive.  It was never explained how she managed that, of course.  There are Angel action dolls and a TV show called ‘Cantabile Seraph: Rainbow Warrior’ – it’s dreadful, but….”  

White raised a hand to his forehead shaking his head, in disbelief.   Alizarin hesitated.

“Go on, Ensign,” the colonel muttered, recovering his poise.

“There was always some cop out in the TV shows about how she survived; that’s all I was going to add.”

“Spectrum’s agents are celebrities?”  Captain Magenta demanded in dismay.  He was currently confined to a wheelchair having broken his leg on a recent mission, but Doctor Fawn had allowed him out of Sick Bay to add his experience to the depleted committee, and – until now – he’d been enjoying the change of scene. “What about those of us who have to remain undercover for our own safety, never mind that of our families?”

“As I said, Colonel Black managed to protect some identities, but only by allowing agents like Sonata Angel to become largely ornamental – well, that’s how Aunt Paula describes it.  She married Major Scarlet – Julian Pontoin - and went to work in the London offices.”  He glanced at Captain Scarlet and grimaced.  “I don’t think Aunt Paula was too happy about it.”

“I bet she wasn’t,” Scarlet muttered. “I wouldn’t be.”

“Be that as it may,” Colonel White said, “What has it to do with why you’ve come here, Ensign?”

“Until recently, Spectrum managed to defeat most Mysteron threats, but there have been some high profile failures in the past months. A dam was destroyed in India, flooding a city and killing thousands; some deep mines in Southern Africa were blown up and hundreds died, then several oil rigs collapsed and, although the WASPS said they thought that was the work of marine terrorists, the press declared it was the work of the Mysterons.   They whipped everyone into a frenzy as they finally realised how dangerous the Mysterons are.   After a huge media campaign for ‘action’, the World Senate voted funds for detectors to be installed in all public buildings – but most of the money didn’t go towards that.”

 “Politics can be a dirty business,” White remarked, “but I fail to see what that has to do with your arrival here.”

“The money went to set up secure camps for anyone suspected of being a Mysteron.  The World Government never explained about retrometabolism, they thought it was a step too far, but they did announce that Mysteron agents – alien doppelgangers, as they call them - can be detected.  The feeling against the Mysterons is running so high that anyone suspected of being a Mysteron, or even guilty of nothing more then setting off one of the detectors, is being sent to these camps – and no one complains about it.”

“Do they face trial?” White asked.

Alizarin shrugged.  “No one’s been tried so far, and no one’s been released from any camp either.  My father says it’s surprising the number of political opponents of the World President and his government that have suddenly been taken over by the Mysterons.”  The young man gave a broad smile that lit up his face; in much the same way as Captain Blue’s boyish grin did to his.   “My dad has a nice line in sarcasm, sir.”

Colonel White gave an acknowledging nod.  

The youngster sobered and concluded, “I want to do my bit to defeat the Mysterons, sir, but my father says it’s too risky; if anyone found out about us we could be incarcerated for the rest of our lives.”

 “I’m sure enough people would know about your parentage for you to be exempt from suspicion,” Magenta said thoughtfully.  

“No one knows that Mom is retrometabolic, and even though we’re not Mysterons we’d be treated as if we are…”

Alizarin turned to Colonel White once more and made a direct impassioned plea. “I can fly planes and I’ve been well educated, sir.   I want a useful life; if I stay there, I’d always be mistrusted and at risk of perpetual imprisonment, if not execution.   My mother told us about the other dimensions when we were youngsters and I thought maybe here, where no one knows who I am, I’d have a chance to a fair hearing.  I want my freedom, sir, and I want to stay and fight where I can be of most use.”

Colonel White nodded and indicated that he could sit down.  There were vacant seats all round the table, yet some instinct sent Alizarin to sit beside Captain Blue. 

Scarlet looked at them, noting with interest the similarities in their features and build: except for the dramatic difference in their colouring, they could’ve been brothers – or father and son… he gave a mental groan. 

That’s not a happy thought, given the strained relationship between Adam and his father…I never asked Caddie how she got on with her father, but it might explain why Adam looks so tense with the boy sitting next to him, he mused.

The next few minutes did nothing to dispel his apprehension that Blue did not like Alizarin.

The colonel said, “Well, everyone’s heard Ensign Alizarin’s eloquent statement and his request.  Do you have any questions or comments, gentlemen?”

 “I don’t think it would be a wise move to let him stay; I’m not in favour, sir.”

Every head looked towards the speaker in surprise - and Scarlet saw the expression of injured surprise at this unexpected betrayal, on Gabriel’s face.

“Captain Blue?”  Colonel White’s mild question invited an explanation.

Keeping his eyes fixed on his commanding officer, Blue began, “As I see it, there are several major problems.  It could set a dangerous precedent and suppose – as is more than likely – someone comes looking for Alizarin, determined to take him home again?  How would we deal with it?  How would we deal with him remaining in this dimension, come to that?  He’s not supposed to be here, we’d have to create an identity for him.   In addition, what right do we have to judge how another society has dealt with the Mysteron threat?  Would we want another dimension muscling in on our affairs if it was the other way round?  And there is always the danger of affecting the timelines…”

Scarlet listened to Blue’s damning words with a growing sense of injustice.  Finally, he interrupted his partner, oblivious of the colonel’s disapproving glance.   

“Look, Blue, the kid’s talking of spending a life under suspicion and mistrust – and who is to say how long a life it might be?   Feeling at odds with everyone else is something I do know about,” Scarlet protested, as Blue shook his head.  Frustrated, he turned to White and continued, “We shouldn’t dismiss his appeal out of hand, Colonel.  Give him a break! He’s…Cadenza’s son, after all. I can – and I will - vouch for her.  She was a good woman; I trusted her.”

Before White could reply, Blue snapped, “A Spectrum Officer must not allow personal feelings to affect his decisions.”

“Oh, that’s rich,” Scarlet retorted, “you quoting those regulations at me!”  He emphasised his words with the jab of an accusing finger at his friend. 

Magenta interposed, “Seems to me Blue does have a point, Scarlet.”  He turned to Alizarin, who’d exclaimed in protest at this. “No offence, Ensign.”

“What’s with you guys?   Feeling threatened by the presence of another man with retrometabolism?” Scarlet demanded.

Gentlemen.”

With that one word, the colonel’s raised voice stopped the heated exchange that followed this outrageous taunt in its tracks.

Once silence had returned, White continued, “It seems to me that we need to ask Ensign Alizarin to give us time to debate this in private – and we will debate it in an orderly manner.”

“S.I.G.,” his officers chorused, although there was still an atmosphere of acrimony in the room.

White turned to Harmony.  “Would you please contact the Amber Room and ask one of the off-duty Angels to take our guest to the party planned for this evening?”

Harmony bowed slightly and led the angry Alizarin out into the corridor.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Ensign Alizarin was obviously frustrated at what he’d heard during the meeting in the Conference Room and Harmony Angel, always anxious to keep the peace, limited her conversation to the party they were heading for.  

“It should be a good one; everyone will go because it will last all through the duty hours.”  She sighed.  “I only hope Captain Scarlet does not miss attending; Rhapsody will be most annoyed if he does.”

For the first time, Alizarin showed some interest.  “Rhapsody?  Is she – are she and Scarlet…?”

“They are very good friends,” Harmony confirmed.  “For many years they have been so.” 

She excused the boy’s interest by remembering his youth but nevertheless she was pleased to see Symphony turn into the corridor from the direction of her quarters.

“Ah, here is Symphony Angel.  She …” Harmony paused and considered the woman coming towards them. 

Symphony had – as usual – gone slightly too far; her dress was just a little too revealing of a cleavage unashamedly enhanced by none-too-subtle corsetry, and she’d resorted to hair extensions and backcombing again.  The result was undoubtedly deliberate and, while it would unquestionably be popular - with the men, at least - Harmony couldn’t help wondering what the effect would be on the man it was almost certainly intended to impress – the sophisticated Captain Blue. 

But then, she thought, I never have quite understood what the attraction is between these two incompatible individuals.      

She glanced up at Alizarin and saw that her friend’s appearance was certainly registering an impact there; he was wide-eyed and open mouthed as he watched her approach. 

Harmony changed what she’d been going to say and continued, “She helped arrange the party and she is off-duty and so will be one of the hostesses for now.  She will look after you, I am sure.”

“Oh, I hope so,” the youngster beside her breathed out. 

Harmony gave a cautious smile and thought, I am sure Symphony is more than capable of dealing with this dazzled teenager, but I hope he does not do anything to reinforce Captain Blue’s reservations about his being here …

Aware that the colonel had not given permission for the truth behind Alizarin’s presence on Cloudbase to be revealed, Harmony hoped the young man would have the sense to be a little circumspect in what he said. 

“Symphony,” she called, and her friend drew closer, “this is Ensign Alizarin.  Colonel White has asked that he be entertained at the party until further notice.”

“Sure thing, Harmony.  Leave it to me,” Symphony said, with a welcoming smile. 

Harmony handed Alizarin over to Symphony with a feeling of some relief.  “I had better get back to the Conference Room.  I hope that I will see you again, Ensign.”  

Alizarin snapped out of his daydream and thanked her as she left.  Then he turned back to the woman who’d stirred feelings he’d never experienced before. 

“Hi,” Symphony said, holding out her hand.  “I’m Symphony Angel; welcome to Cloudbase.”

“Thanks; it’s remarkable, but you’re the first person to actually say that.”

“Oh, surely not; we’re a friendly bunch around here,” she remarked, as they started towards the off-duty lounge closest to the Amber Room, where the party was being held.  “I’ll introduce you to some people at the party and you can see for yourself.”

“That…that’d be nice,” he stammered, his bright-blue eyes taking in her curvaceous figure accentuated by the bold, abstract-patterned dress with obvious appreciation.   She glanced up at him from beneath her long, dark lashes and swallowing hard he continued, “Is it a proper party?”  

She smiled and nodded, so he continued, his voice breaking as he spoke, “Then, if there’s dancing, will you dance with me?”

“Of course I will; we don’t worry about rank at the Christmas party, so you can ask anyone to dance.  It’s a chance for us all to get to know each other informally.”

“I’d sure like to get to know you… informally…”

“Down, boy,” she said, with an admonishing wag of a finger towards him, but her tone and expression showed that she was more amused than annoyed.

“My name’s Gabriel,” he said, blushing furiously.  “And it looks to me as if Heaven’s missing an Angel because you’re here, Symphony.”

Her peal of laughter made him hesitate, but then she gave him a smile, not an unkind or censorious smile, but a friendly - and to him – encouraging one.  It sent his pulse racing. 

“I bet you say that to all the girls…” she responded, in the same light-hearted vein. 

“No, no really; I… I really meant it.” To his utter chagrin his voice chose that moment to turn shrill again. 

She realised he really thought he’d made an original remark and reflected how disarming inexperienced young men could be. Nevertheless she couldn’t allow him a free rein.   Keeping her tone light she replied: 

“Behave yourself, Ensign Alizarin, or my very jealous fiancé might just take you apart, joint by joint.”

“I’d like to see him try,” Alizarin retorted, in a fit of bravado.  

“No; you wouldn’t,” she corrected him.

“He must be quite a guy to have you.”

“He’s the most wonderful man in the world, and I wouldn’t swap him for the world.  Now, if we’ve got that quite clear, I suggest you mingle with the others and get to know some of them, Gabriel.  I’m sure you’ll find plenty of young ladies only too happy to dance with you.”

 “And what if I don’t want to dance with anyone but you?”

“Then you’ll have a problem…because I intend to dance with all my friends.”

She glanced at him and seeing the blatant admiration in his eyes, softened her intended rebuke.  “You’re lucky I’m such an understanding type of gal: the women on Cloudbase are more than capable of wiping that smile from your good-looking face, Gabriel, and, just for the record, so am I.  I don’t know what it’s like where you’re based, Ensign, but here we don’t take too kindly to guys who patronise us.”

“Oh - I didn’t mean to do that - honest.  I know how to behave, Symphony.”  My mom would have something to say about it, if I didn’t, he thought wryly.

She relented towards him; he was handsome and charming, and very young…

“Come and have some fun then.  I hope you know how to dance?  We like a man who can hit the dance floor with conviction.”  She sighed. “They’re few and far between on this base.”

“Dancing is my second favourite pastime…”

If he’d expected her to ask what the first one was, he was disappointed – she’d already worked that out for herself. 

150px-Stereographic_polytope_8cell

 

“I won’t risk the security of this world in order to allow you, or anyone else, to dabble in the affairs of another dimension,” Colonel White said firmly.

“But-”

“Captain Scarlet, you’ve argued most persuasively and I can understand why you feel a kinship with this youngster.  I am sorry: the answer remains no. The boy must return to his own dimension – or another one, if he chooses to keep trying his luck.”   White collected his papers.  “Ask Alizarin to come to the Control Room, will you, Lieutenant Green?  I’ll speak to him myself.”

“Don’t bother – I’ll tell him,” Scarlet growled, with a face like thunder, as he headed for the door

Ignoring Scarlet’s rudeness, White looked at Captain Blue. “You’d better go and keep an eye on him; I don’t want him doing anything rash.”

“With respect, Colonel, maybe someone else could do it?  Scarlet’s not exactly pleased with me at the moment, and the feeling’s mutual.”

“I don’t have anyone else, Captain.  Magenta’s going back to Sick Bay and Grey and Ochre are still in Boston.  Stop behaving like fools and patch up your differences, man.”

As White left, Doctor Fawn got behind Magenta’s wheelchair, slipped off the brake and turned it towards the door.  “What’s eating you, Captain?” he asked Blue.

But Blue shook his head and gathered his file together.  “I’d better see what he’s doing, I suppose.”  He looked in the direction of the Amber Room.  “Some party this will turn out to be.”

“At least you’ll get to go,” Magenta said wistfully.

“Why don’t you take Pat with you?” asked Fawn, thinking that the genial Irish-American might ease the baffling tension that had developed between the two partners.  “As long as he doesn’t try to dance the night away, there’s no reason why he can’t go to the party.”

Blue looked at the hopeful expression on his friend’s face and smiled.  “Sure – why not?  If I’m not around to wheel him back when it’s finished, there’s bound to be someone who will.”

“Right – that’s settled then.  Maybe you could also ask Ensign Alizarin to stop by the Sick Bay before he leaves?  I only need to run a few tests – Oh, and I could do with some samples from you, as well, Captain.  You’re probably the nearest thing we have to his mother’s DNA…”

“Ask him yourself,” Blue said with uncharacteristic abruptness, as he wheeled Magenta at some speed from the room.

Fawn watched them go and said to himself, “There is definitely something eating that young man, but I’m damned if I know what it might be.”

 

 

The party was in full swing when Scarlet arrived; in fact, he could hear the thump of dance music echoing down the corridor as he approached.  He stood in the entrance for a moment looking around the gaudily-decorated, poorly-lit room for Rhapsody or Alizarin.  There was a long trestle-table loaded with buffet food and bottles of soft drinks, fruit juices and bottled water, and draped across it was an improvised white-cloth banner, that said ‘Merry Christmas!’ in large, unevenly spaced, red letters.

He couldn’t see Dianne in the select throng of guests, but he noticed Gabriel on the packed dance floor, enthusiastically jigging around in the company of Lieutenant Wisteria, the base’s Welfare and Morale officer. 

“Paul!  You made it.  Happy belated birthday!” Symphony threw her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his cheek. 

“Thanks, Karen,” he said, his gaze riveted on her astonishing dress – or, more accurately, the areas where the dress wasn’t.  He managed to drag his eyes to her face and ask, “Where’s Di?”

“She went to get some more lemonade from the SpectraMart.  Seems everyone’s thirsty today.  Where’s Blue?”

“I don’t know.  I came away before him,” Scarlet replied dismissively.  “I need to talk to Gabriel.”

“Oh, you’re not going to take him away, are you?  He’s been the life and soul of the party.”

“And here was me assuming that must’ve been you,” he replied.

“Ah, you’re so sweet,” she exclaimed, bestowing another kiss on him. “But, I don’t think Gabriel’s sat down once since the music started.  Every unattached female lieutenant and technician is queuing up for a dance!  He’s having a whale of a time.”

Scarlet gave a rueful smile.  “I don’t think he’ll feel much like dancing when I’ve told him my news.”

She sobered immediately.  “The colonel’s turned him down?  He told me he was hoping to stay here – at least for a while.”

“Yes,” Scarlet growled.  “White has turned him down.  Apparently, we’re all too short-sighted to see the advantages of having another … person around.”

“Oh, poor Gabriel; I guess he’ll have to finish his training at a conventional ground base after all?”

Scarlet knew that beneath the hedonistic persona she chose to adopt, Karen Wainwright was an intelligent and perceptive young woman, with a background in industrial counter-espionage.  There’d been times when her life had depended on her ability to assess people quickly and accurately and she was a shrewd judge of character – just as long as her emotions weren’t colouring her judgment.    He decided to take advantage of that now.

“What do you make of him, Karen?  Do you like him?” he asked, as nonchalantly as he could.

  She gave a momentary pause, considering her answer, and then said, “Yes; yes, I do.  He’s a nice young guy – a bit fresh, maybe, but there’s no real harm in him. Well, nothing he won’t grow out of anyway.”

She studied Scarlet’s face and recognised the signs of discontent, so she suggested, “Look, why not give the boy a chance to unwind and have a good time before you spoil his fun, eh?  I’m sure the colonel didn’t say he had to leave right this minute, did he?  Paul?”

“He wants to see him.”

She wrinkled her nose.  “White will expect you to take a while to locate him; parties are like that.  Besides, you’re the guest of honour – this is doubling as your belated birthday party, remember!  Come on, Paul.  Dance with me!”

The music had changed to a funky dance track, and she tugged his arm.  “Come on – once Di’s back I won’t get a look in!  I want a dance with the birthday boy…”

And so Scarlet found himself dragged onto the crowded floor, and, as Symphony started to wriggle beside him, he noticed that Gabriel’s eyes fixed on her like homing beacons. 

There must be something genetic that fixates Svensons to Wainwrights… well, this Wainwright, anyway, he thought, with a smirk.  Then, banishing the problem of the youngster from his mind, he surrendered to the pulse of the music, joining in the dance, clapping his hands in time to Symphony’s rhythm-driven, syncopated gyrations. 

Then, without quite realising how it happened, Scarlet found himself dancing next to a rather startled Lieutenant Wisteria, as Gabriel stepped between him and the oblivious Symphony.

Wisteria watched with some amusement as the youngster moved in on the Angel pilot, and grinned at Scarlet before leaning forward to holler:

“You can’t make it clearer than that, can you?”  She laughed.  “Happy birthday for the other day, Captain!”

Scarlet shook his head in acknowledgement of the inevitability of Gabriel’s usurpation of his partner, and grinned back at her.   He decided to let the kid have this one fling before he escorted him to Colonel White – Symphony was probably right and he wouldn’t be expected back immediately - and so, he finished out the dance with Wisteria.

As the music slowed to a slow and more intimate song, Symphony, who had finally registered her change of partner, seemed happy enough to give Gabriel her hand and allow him to pull her close. 

The young man looked to be enjoying himself enormously. 

Scarlet and Wisteria made their way to the table in search of liquid refreshment, and they were still there, talking amicably, when the door opened and Rhapsody came in.  She was laughing with Captain Magenta, who was nursing three large bottles of lemonade on his lap as Blue wheeled him along.

“Oh, hi, Paul!  Happy unbirthday!”  the beautiful English Angel Pilot exclaimed, stretching up to give him a kiss on the cheek. 

She was in blithe good spirits and failed to register the frosty atmosphere between Scarlet and Blue, but as she hugged him, Scarlet glanced at Blue over her shoulder.   He realised that his friend must be able to see Gabriel holding Symphony in a clinch as they swayed to the sensual music.  

The American’s expression darkened into a frown.  Following the direction of his partner’s gaze, Scarlet saw Gabriel’s hand was resting on Symphony’s rear-end as she swayed in the dance, and even as they watched, she gently, but firmly, removed his other hand from wherever it had been straying, and held it firmly in hers, away from her body. 

Amused, Scarlet slipped an arm around his fiancée and returned her kiss.  Rhapsody peered out into the room.  “Where’s Karen?” she asked him.  “There are two guys here who are really anxious to see her in her new dress! I’ve been telling them all about it on our way here.”

“I can understand their eagerness,” Scarlet said, adding with spontaneous and uncharacteristic insolence, “It leaves very little to the imagination and, once more, Karen’s exhibitionism triumphs over elegance.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from the newcomers and Lieutenant Wisteria opened her mouth to say something, but Magenta beat her too it.

“Karen always makes kooky look kinda cute,” he said.

“She does indeed.” Rhapsody defended her friend’s unconventional dress sense with a glare at Scarlet and an elbow dig in the ribs. “I wish I had the self confidence – not to mention the superstructure - to wear the things she does – and as well.”

Scarlet rolled his eyes.  “You have far too much taste to ever wear some of the things she does, Di.”

Rhapsody’s astonishment at his comments was obvious: Paul had always been close to Karen.

“Anyway, what are you still doing here? I thought you were supposed to be taking Alizarin to see the colonel,” Magenta cut in quickly, before Blue could respond to these barbed remarks, hoping to defuse the rapidly growing tension. 

“I was,” Scarlet agreed, “but Karen’s still ‘dancing’ with him – as only she knows how to dance, if you get my drift - and she asked me not to take him away because he deserved to enjoy himself, and it was a shame he wasn’t going to be able to stay for longer.”  

He was well aware that his comments would stoke the suspicion he’d seen in Blue’s expression, not to mention outrage his friend, whose premeditated blindness in the face of his fiancée’s sartorial excesses was legendary, but he felt he’d gained some slight revenge for his partner’s betrayal of the youth who – he was now convinced – was his son. 

“I think the colonel wants him to leave sooner rather than later.”

When Blue spoke there was an edge of anger in his voice, but his gaze was still directed out towards the dance floor.  His expression softened and gentle smile tugged at his lips as Symphony saw him and immediately broke off her dance.  She came towards them, smiling.

Gabriel followed her, unwilling to let her leave him.  He realised that Scarlet and the others were almost certainly there to relay the colonel’s decision and from the look on their faces he surmised that it was not favourable. 

He was ready to argue before he reached the group. 

Symphony bent to hug Magenta and then, laughing gaily, gave him a twirl so he could admire the outfit she was wearing – although he never doubted the intended beneficiary of this display was Blue.

“Like it?” she asked.

“It’s great,” Magenta replied loyally, with a glance at Scarlet that dared him to repeat his comments to her face. 

“I was going to keep it for Christmas, but when this party was arranged, I thought it deserved my new dress.  What do you think, Paul?”

“The pattern really suits you,” Wisteria said, chipping in to keep the conversation going.  

Blue and Scarlet were now glaring at each other like boxers psyching each other before a fight, so that even Rhapsody noticed their antagonism and thought she knew what had started it.

“He thinks you look wonderful – he was just saying as much, weren’t you, Paul?” she said forcefully.

As they waited for Scarlet to speak, the sound system suddenly failed.  There was a chorus of groans from the partygoers, although the senior staff tensed, straining to hear the usual tell-tale hiss that preceded any Mysteron threat. 

THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS. WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US, EARTHMEN.   OUR NEXT ACT OF RETALIATION WILL BE A NATIVE CADENCE THAT DESTROYS THE GATHERING OF THE MISPLACED.

“What on earth can that mean?” Lieutenant Wisteria gasped.

“They get more obscure all the time, don’t they?” Rhapsody agreed, although she was looking towards Scarlet and Blue as she spoke.

“We’d better get to the Conference Room,” Scarlet said to Blue, who nodded. 

Spectrum’s Premier Field Officer Team both knew enough to remember their priorities: whatever quarrel they had between them would keep until this threat was over.

“Captains Scarlet, Blue and Magenta, please report to the Conference Room.” Lieutenant Green’s voice had just a touch of weariness in it.

“Let me come with you,” Gabriel pleaded.  “I can help.  I have experience of the Mysterons and their cryptic threats too.”

“I don’t think so,” Blue said sharply.  “This is Spectrum business.”

“I’m a member of Spectrum!”

Not on this base,” Blue snapped.

“He might be of help and we’re short staffed,” reasoned Scarlet.  “Besides, as you so helpfully reminded me, the Old Man wants to see him.  Come on, Alizarin.”

“Captain Scarlet!” his partner protested.  “You’re letting your… partisanship blind you to the dangers.”

“I’m not suggesting he comes with us wherever we end up going,” Scarlet exclaimed.  “Simply that he might help us unravel the threat.  Or are you afraid he might solve it before you do?”

“Of course not!”

“After all, he probably has the same kind of mind you do – so bloody devious it outthinks the Mysterons!”

“Paul!” Rhapsody stepped between them and stared in bewilderment at her fiancé.  “What’s got into you?”

 “I just don’t like it when my friends bail out on me mid-way through a discussion.”

“What discussion?”  Blue raged. “You wouldn’t even listen.  So, I’ll say it again in front of Alizarin – because I’m not afraid to admit to my opinions, Captain -  I’ve never said I agreed with you on this, in fact, I told you plainly, that I didn’t.  I can’t help it if you refuse to accept what you hear as the truth.”

Scarlet looked across at the rigidly impassive face of his closest friend and said coldly, “I guess I’m disappointed at the actions of someone I expected better from.”

“Bullshit, Scarlet,” Magenta interjected.  “Blue’s argument is sound enough.  Besides, the final decision lies with the colonel and we all have to live with it – whether we agree with it, or not.”

“Stop it!” Rhapsody exclaimed, turning to each in turn.  “The Mysterons have issued a threat and the colonel’s waiting.   Paul, push the wheelchair to the lift.” 

She ordered him into action, seeking to keep them apart, as Symphony moved between the red-faced Alizarin and the silently angry Blue. 

“We’re making a spectacle of ourselves here; people are starting to stare.  Let’s go to the Amber Room, Gabriel,” she suggested, placing her hand on his arm.

But Alizarin was too incensed to listen.  “Why do you hate me?” he cried, pointing a finger at Blue. “What have you got against me and my mother?  I thought you’d be the one to understand…”

The older man shrugged and shook his fair head, dismissing the comments. 

Goaded, Gabriel continued, “I thought you’d care – I thought you’d want to help me – but you don’t!  You’re as bad as the other Svensons: money-grabbing, selfish, and so toffee-nosed they don’t consider me as a ‘suitable’ member of their precious family!”

“I don’t know what the Svensons you know are like – but that’s not the people I know!” Blue leapt to the defence of his family with alacrity.  “I owe you nothing – none of us do! Don’t you understand that?  You don’t belong here.”

“Adam?” Symphony looked at her lover in some confusion.  “What’s this about you and his mother?”   A dreadful, fully-formed revelation came to her, and she realised why Alizarin had seemed so familiar: the broad, muscular build, the classical bone-structure of his face…  “Oh my God - you’re a Svenson,” she breathed, staring at the youth.

“Yes,” Gabriel snarled. “And much good it’s ever done me!”

He pushed past her and followed Scarlet’s path to the lift.  Symphony turned Blue for an answer, but he merely patted her arm and shrugged.

“Later, Karen,” was all he said, as he followed the others.

 

Chapter Four

 

Colonel White was less than pleased to see Alizarin enter the room in the wake of Scarlet and Magenta.  Captain Blue, arriving alone, met his commanding officer’s eye and grimaced, implying that he’d done his best to keep the young man away. 

“Gentlemen, you’ll have heard the latest threat,” White said, as Blue took his seat opposite Captain Scarlet and Alizarin.   “Even so, please play it again, Lieutenant. 

The cold, impersonal tones of the Mysterons filled the room, and even the experienced elite captains felt the familiar shiver of apprehension as the sound died away.

“Lieutenant Green, have the researchers come up with anything that makes sense of this?” the colonel asked.

“Not so far, sir.  The obvious gathering is the Science Conference in Boston, but there doesn’t seem a reason to call it misplaced. We all know where it is. However, we have alerted Captains Ochre and Grey to the threat.  Security will be stepped up.”

“Maybe it should have been somewhere else?” Magenta suggested.  “I’d have been happier if it hadn’t been at MIT: maybe I wouldn’t have fallen down the fire escape while checking all the safety exits with Captain Ochre, for a start.”

“Was the conference ever scheduled to be held anywhere else, Lieutenant?” White asked.

Green stabbed at the console keyboard.  After a few seconds he replied, “The meeting was proposed by Professor Morton of Cambridge University.”  He looked up and explained, “Cambridge, England, that is.”

 The colonel nodded thoughtfully.  “But the invites went out from MIT.  Maybe it should have been in England?”

“It’s a possibility,” Magenta said thoughtfully.

“I’ll alert the researchers and get them on to it, sir.  They’ve done preliminary searches under the obvious terms: cadence, misplaced, gatherings… nothing looks even vaguely possible,” Green reported.

“Gathering of the misplaced,” Alizarin said, “that suggests something that will be taking place – people, I mean.  Not something lost, like keys.”

“Not necessarily,” Magenta responded, “someone may be gathering together ‘misplaced’ items and when they’ve gathered them together, they’ll be dangerous.”

“Cadence…” Blue said softly, his mind wrestling with the flimsiest of ideas that were forming. 

“A native cadence,” the colonel confirmed, used to his officer’s methods of teasing sense from the often torturous threats they faced he was prepared to wait while Blue worked through his ideas. 

“Cadenza,” Blue said suddenly. 

“You can’t let this lie, can you?” Scarlet muttered.

“Just listen for once, Scarlet: where are the inter-dimensional tunnels – answer Etna, which is in Italy – right?”

Scarlet nodded with an air of patronising exasperation – he really was angry with his friend.

“Well then, cadenza is the Italian for ‘cadence’ – so there you have your ‘native’ cadence. Native to Italy, native to Etna, native to those goddam tunnels!   It seems most probable to me, Colonel, that the Mysterons’ threat involves Cadenza Angel.”  He glanced at Alizarin who’d gone pale and was staring at him in alarm. “My guess is she’s on her way here to retrieve her missing offspring, and when they meet – that’s when the danger will present itself.”

“It’s plausible,” the colonel mused, “but is it likely?  How would they know about Alizarin and Cadenza?”

“We know they were active in more dimensions than just this one when we investigated the Volcanic Pacifiers,” Blue reminded everyone.  “If they wanted her here, they’d find a way to make her come.”  He stared at Alizarin.  “We know the Ensign gives a positive Mysteron image, we only have his word that he isn’t a Mysteron.”

“And mine,” Scarlet snapped. “I’m not experiencing the nausea a Mysteron creates in me-”

“-Sometimes – creates in you sometimes,” Blue reminded him.

“And you’d like it if I was wrong this time, wouldn’t you?” Scarlet accused, half-rising from his seat to lean aggressively across the table.

“Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue,” Colonel White snapped, “this is neither the time nor the place for any private dispute you may have. Until we have further evidence to explain the Mysterons’ intentions, we’ll presume Captain Blue is right and act accordingly; but I want security at Boston maintained at the highest level too, Lieutenant.  Ensign Alizarin will be confined on Cloudbase and a deputation sent to meet Cadenza Angel – should she arrive at Etna.”

“No!” Alizarin and Scarlet protested in unison.

 “If she’s in danger, I must go to my mother,” Alizarin cried.

“Idiot kid,” Blue growled. “That’s what the Mysterons want.”

The youngster rose to his feet with a show of offended dignity.  He looked at Captain Blue in silence for so long that the normally self-possessed Bostonian started to blush. Then, in a voice that hovered close to breaking, Alizarin said:

“I don’t know what you feel about your family, Captain, but my mother loves hers and is loved in return, by all of us.  If no one here is willing to lift a finger to save her from the Mysterons, I’ll do it myself!”

He turned and raced towards the door ignoring the cries of protest from the other men.  Scarlet stood and glared at his partner.

“Thanks, Blue.  You’ve been a great help,” he snapped, and went after the youngster calling: “Gabriel, wait!”

“Damn,” Blue muttered, slamming his pen down onto his open folder.  “I didn’t mean it like that.” He looked across at the silent Magenta.  “You can see that, can’t you, Pat?”

Magenta shrugged.  “Kids always take offence easily, and you weren’t exactly easy on him, Blue.  I don’t understand what you’ve got against him, myself.”

Blue frowned and bit his lip momentarily.  “Colonel?” he said, by way of asking permission to follow them, but he didn’t wait for an answer, jumping up from his chair and hurrying from the room after his partner.

 

 

Common sense told Blue that Alizarin and Scarlet would head for the hangar decks and the chance of escaping to Etna and a meeting with Cadenza.  He realised his friend was now committed to the young man and with his usual partisanship would devote his considerable talents to the youngster’s cause. 

They’re as hot-headed as each other, he thought, acknowledging to himself that, given their hypothetical relationship, it wasn’t that surprising. 

 Dodging a small group of personnel heading for the canteen, he saw Lieutenant Flaxen come hurrying round a corner carrying a large pile of research files back towards her office.

“Flax!” he shouted, skidding to a halt by grabbing her arm, so that she spun around and dropped her bundle on the floor.  “Have you seen Captain Scarlet heading towards the hangars?”

“Oh, hello, Captain.  Captain Scarlet?  Yes, he was taking someone in the lift to hangar deck three when I came out of the registry…”

“Three?  Yes, it would have to be three, wouldn’t it?” 

The lieutenant shrugged, completely bewildered by his words.

“Thanks, Flax.  Tell the colonel I’ve gone after them, will you?” He darted away, calling over his shoulder, “Sorry about the filing…”

“Sure…” Flaxen acknowledged, as she watched him sprint round the corner to Hangar Three’s dedicated lift.  “I wonder what all that’s about?” she asked rhetorically, grimacing as she surveyed the untidy heap of paperwork scattered across the corridor.  She sighed, bending to pick it all up and steeling herself to report the fact to Colonel White that his senior officers seemed to be playing ‘hide-and-seek’ around the base during a Mysteron threat.

 

As the door slid shut behind Captain Blue, Colonel White sighed and reached for the base-wide PA. 

“This is Colonel White.  Cloudbase is on yellow alert.  All personnel are instructed to report the whereabouts of the visitor known as Ensign Alizarin or Captain Scarlet to the Control Room.”

He glanced at Magenta.  “You don’t know why Blue is suddenly being so… objectionable, do you?  It isn’t often that he reminds me of his father’s caustic manners, but…”

Magenta shook his dark head.  “No, sir, I don’t.  There’s definitely something going on between him and Scarlet though, and it has to do with Alizarin and what happened to Scarlet in the other dimension.   I mean, it’s not unusual for the two of them to bicker, but it’s only ever in a spirit of friendship.  This is different; this is for real, and it’s getting worse, sir.”

Colonel White shook his distinguished head.  “I really need them pulling together on this one.  When all is said and done, Captain, whatever happens could have an effect in two dimensions.”

“If not more than that,” his officer remarked in agreement, causing the colonel to look even more concerned.

 

 

On hearing the colonel’s message, Rhapsody consulted the distinctly distracted Symphony, and urged her friend to come with her to the hangar decks.

“If the colonel’s told Gabriel he can’t stay, my guess is the boy will want to get off here quickly, and that Paul’s following him.  If we go down to the main hangar deck entrance, maybe we can help?  I’m sure the colonel only wants what’s best and Gabriel’s cause won’t be helped by his running away.” 

She glanced at her friend and saw Symphony was chewing her bottom lip in some deep personal dilemma. She’d been very moody ever since she’d gone and changed back into her uniform.

“Karen?  Do you agree?”

“Hmm?  Oh sure; lead on.”

“What’s the matter?” Rhapsody asked, as she jabbed the lift button for the hangar decks.

“Nothing.”

“I’m not even going to point out that I know you’re lying.  You were fine just minutes ago, but something’s bugging you now.  If you don’t want to share, that’s okay by me; but don’t treat me like an idiot.  I get that too much from Paul.”

“Di, how would you feel if you discovered Paul had… well, if… if before he met you…”  She sighed and said simply, “Children.”

Rhapsody double-blinked rapidly and frowned at her companion.  “But he hasn’t,” she said.

“But if he had…”

“I’d be cross that he didn’t tell me about… it… err… them.  I suppose.  But, I know he loves me now, and one day, I most sincerely hope that my children will be his.”

Symphony looked away.

“Why?” Rhapsody asked brightly.  “What’s brought this on?”

Her friend hesitated, drew a deep breath and then spurted out, “Who does Gabriel remind you of?”

Rhapsody blinked several times and replied, with a shrug, “No one, in particular.  Should he?”

“He reminds me of Adam.”

“No – he’s nothing like…” Rhapsody paused.  Whilst almost anything could be said to remind Karen of Adam, now that she mentions it there is a certain… similarity – but that’s just plain daft!  She continued, “Well, no more than anyone might be – you know - a random sort of thing.”

“He claimed he was a Svenson!”

The realisation of her friend’s thinking dawned on her.  “Oh. Karen; you don’t think that Adam’s his-” She couldn’t bring herself to say it.  “That’s ridiculous.  He adores you; he’d have told you if there was anything like that in his past.  Besides, there are other people called Svenson on this planet, you know, he’s got brothers, hasn’t he?  Maybe – if it is the same Svenson family – Gabriel’s something to do with one of them…”

“His brothers are much younger – they’d’ve scarcely been out of diapers when Gabriel was born,” Symphony exaggerated petulantly.

 “Karen, that’s not true!” Rhapsody retorted, as the lift juddered to a halt and the door opened.  “Anyway, I can’t see Adam having secret children scattered around the globe, any more than Paul would have.  And you’re forever telling me that Adam has no secrets from you.”

“Huh – maybe I was being too optimistic?  They’re very good at keeping secrets, Di.”

“That’s as maybe, but he wouldn’t – it just isn’t his style, Karen.”

“But what if he did and Gabriel is his…?”

“Well, worrying about it won’t change it.  We have a job to do; buck up, Karen!  If you think Adam knows more about Gabriel than he’s letting on, you’ll have to tackle him about it – when you have a chance, which isn’t now.”

Symphony nodded miserably, but followed her friend out of the lift, just as Captain Blue burst through the door from the stairway and raced towards them.

“Have you seen Scarlet?” he called.

“No, we’re looking for him too,” Rhapsody replied, sprinting towards him.

“Hangar Three,” Blue gasped.   Changing direction, he set off at run, with both Angels in hot pursuit.

Blue keyed in the code to open the entry lock to the hangar and saw Scarlet and Alizarin logging in to the flight computer for the SPJ sitting waiting out on the launch turntable.

“Paul!” Blue cried, “What’re you doing?”

“I’m taking Gabriel to Etna; what else?  Back off, Blue – this has nothing to do with you.  You’ve made it quite clear you wanted nothing to do with it.”

“Don’t be a fool-” Blue protested.

“I’m warning you – back off,” Scarlet said angrily.

“Didn’t you hear the colonel?” Rhapsody asked, moving between them. “We’ll have to let him know where you are, Paul.”

“Keep out of this, Dianne,” Scarlet said, taking his eye off Blue for a moment to glance at her worried face.

“I don’t care what Colonel White says - I won’t stay here while my mother’s in danger!” Gabriel shouted.  He looked directly at Captain Blue. “And I never want to see you again!”

“Think about the risks, Gabriel-” Blue urged.  “If I’m right…”

“Shut up-” Gabriel sprang forward, aiming a wild punch at Blue.  Startled by his sudden lunge, Rhapsody jerked backwards and his swinging fist caught the side of her head.   She staggered against Captain Blue’s arm, raised to parry the punch, and his elbow caught her a glancing blow on the other side of her head as she collapsed heavily.

Symphony screamed and darted forward to kneel beside her stricken friend.

“You bloody fool!” Scarlet yelled, although it wasn’t clear which of the two he meant, and while Blue was distracted by the impact and its result, he grabbed Gabriel’s arm and roughly hustled him through the door and out into the hangar.  

Cursing under his breath, Blue reached for the intercom and called for emergency medical aid, before turning to Symphony.

“Look after her, Karen,” he said, “help’s on its way. I’d better go and make sure Paul doesn’t beat that boy to a pulp.   I think I’m too late to stop him heading for Etna, so I’m going with him. Tell the colonel, when we’ve gone.”

“Good riddance to you all,” she retorted, and turned back to Rhapsody.

As the launch siren had already started sounding, Blue had to over-ride the automatic electronic security device on the airlock to gain access to the deck.  The warning lights were already flashing and the launch platform slowly rotating towards the direction of take off as he raced across the hangar.  He jumped onto the turntable as it started to rise towards the launch bay’s doors. 

Knowing he would asphyxiate if he was still out in the open when the launch doors opened, Blue rattled the handle of the aircraft door and pounded on the side.  He glanced upwards, dreading the first glimmer of daylight that would indicate they were starting to move apart.  He felt the pressure start to drop and heard the whine of the motors as they strained to break the seal on the launch doors above him.

He was seconds away from jumping down to the deck and taking his chances there when Scarlet’s hand grabbed the neck of his uniform tunic and dragged him inside the plane, throwing him across the gangway, as he slammed the door closed – just in time.

Of all the bloody stupid things!” he raged, as he towered over the breathless American.  “What were you trying to do?  Get yourself killed?  In case you’ve forgotten, Blue-boy, I’m the indestructible one around here - and I’m the one who does the bloody stupid things that regularly get us both into so much trouble!”

“Thanks, Paul. I owe you,” Blue gasped, and twisted onto his hands and knees, fighting to recover his breath and steady his nerve.

“I’m surrounded by idiots; I ought to have left you there…”  Scarlet grumbled.  He’d regained his equilibrium now it was clear that his partner was all right.  “Why did you come?  If you intend to lecture me about doing my duty and try to make me turn back, I’ll strap you into a parachute and push you back out.  If I’m feeling magnanimous I might even give you an oxygen tank…”

He waited for Blue to recover and helped him to his feet. 

“Well?” he asked.

“I’m profoundly grateful - under the circumstances – for your undoubtedly superior strength, but you have to admit I’m the brains in this partnership, and, on present evidence, you and Gabriel are going to need me along.  If you’re determined to help … your son, Paul, then I’m determined to help you help him.” 

They stared at each other for a long moment; Scarlet recognised the stubborn set of Blue’s jaw and thought he saw a glimmer of apologetic embarrassment in his friend’s expression.

 “I wouldn’t use your last crazy stunt as evidence of your superior intellect, if I were you,” he said, and broke into a grin.  “Welcome aboard, Svenson!”

Blue’s responding grin was one of pure relief.

“Who’s flying this plane?” he asked, as he brushed himself down with an assumed nonchalance.

“Gabriel.” 

“You mean he’s still in one piece?  I thought you’d have ripped him apart after what happened to Dianne.”

Scarlet glowered.  “Don’t think I wasn’t tempted.  But it was an accident; he assures me he was aiming at you, which you richly deserved.  Still, I left him in no doubt that if he ever did anything like that again, it’ll be the last thing he ever does.  Is she all right, Adam?”

“I called Fawn and left Karen looking after her; beyond that, I don’t know.  She’s going to be badly bruised at the very least; I’m afraid I caught her with my elbow as she stumbled.”

Scarlet’s face was a picture of misery.  “I couldn’t stay with her – you see that, don’t you?  I had to get Gabriel away before the colonel had time to prevent it.  I don’t think he means any harm, Adam.  Really I don’t.”

“No?  It didn’t look like that to me when his hands were all over Karen.”

“Oh, come on – you’ve got nothing to worry about; he’s just a teenager, I don’t think he presents you with any kind of competition.  Besides, don’t you remember what it was like when you were that age?  You’d want anything that was on offer, even if you didn’t know what to do with it when you got it.”

There wasn’t anything on offer,” Blue growled, still resentful of Scarlet’s unflattering remarks about Symphony. 

“Sure, we knew that, but you have to admit, Karen does overdo it… sometimes? And with all those raging hormones, Gabriel wasn’t likely to think before he groped, was he?”

“Maybe not,” Blue conceded, as he remembered his own early experiments with the opposite sex.  He added, “But setting that aside, he might do unintentional harm.”

“Give it a rest!”

 Okay – I’m not going to labour it here and now; I know it won’t do any good.  If he’s really your son, he’s probably as much of a hot-head as you, so I might as well save my breath to cool my porridge.”  He smirked at Scarlet’s scowling face. “You’ve got better over the years, but you still have your moments, Paul, and this is certainly one of them.”

Scarlet raised a cynical eyebrow and said, “And yet you’re here… how do you account for that, ‘Captain Cautious’?”

Blue shook his head ruefully.  “I must be slipping in my old age.”

 Chuckling, Scarlet said, “Come into the cabin and make your peace with Gabriel.” 

“You sure he’s ready to make peace?  He seemed pretty cut up back there.”

“Well, that’s hardly surprising; you’ve been needling him since we met in Naples – Lord knows why.  Look, you may not be his actual kith and kin, Adam, but I guess you’re the closest thing he has to ‘family’ in our world.  I mean, I’m pretty sure that I’m his father, but he doesn’t know me from… from the next man - but you - well, you and Caddie are essentially mirror-images, so he must’ve expected you’d have a similar rapport to the one he has with her.”

“Stop saying that!”  Blue exclaimed, and drew his hand across his forehead.

“Stop saying what?”

 “I’m not the same person as Cadenza Angel – how could I be?  We have nothing in common – nothing at all! She’s a woman and I’m not – in case you hadn’t noticed?   And yet, you go on and on about it.  Don’t you realise how it makes me feel?” 

Scarlet looked blankly at him and shook his head in response.

Blue looked away and exhaled deeply before saying quietly, “You really don’t, do you?” 

Scarlet shrugged.  “I know you never met her, so I guess it might make it hard to grasp just how bizarre it was to see almost everyone I knew as the opposite sex.  But she was more like you than the other ‘Adam Svensons’ I met.  Besides, I met myself as a woman too - remember? – and that was distinctly weird; yet, fundamentally, Paula Metcalfe was as much me as Eva Svenson was you.  So, no; I don’t see what you’re getting so worked up about.”

 “Then I’ll tell you, Paul.  What you’re actually saying is that you… you actually slept with a woman - a woman you keep insisting was… is me - albeit in some other dimension,” he added hastily.  “That’s… well, it’s what makes me feel… uncomfortable about all this.  That’s all. It just freaks me out -”

There was a long silence and Blue glanced across at his friend, wondering at his reaction.   Seeing that glance, Scarlet said:  “Oh…shit, Adam.   It never occurred to me that you’d feel that way about it.”

Blue gave an apologetic grimace and asked, “How am I supposed to feel?  I mean, we’re friends – good friends, and all, and well… you can’t be ignorant of the backstairs gossip that has us… more than friends – if you follow me?  This… liaison… with Cadenza is creeping me out.”

“Well, no; I never realised.”   Scarlet found the temptation to tease his friend irresistible.  He assumed a coy expression and continued, “I mean… don’t you think it’s kind of flattering? I mean, I would, if it was you that’d slept with a female me…”

Blue’s expression hardened.  For all his liberal outlook, there remained a rock-solid streak of Puritanism in Blue’s character, and he was the one who cared most about the rumours that invariably circulated, given they were so closely associated in the public mind, about the nature of the relationship between them.  They did, indeed, share a close emotional bond; one forged during the innumerable dangerous missions they’d shared, and tempered by the painful injuries and deaths Scarlet experienced. It was a bond the Englishman valued, and knew he’d be infinitely poorer without. 

He’d often reflected that, in many ways, Blue was one of the least judgemental people he knew, but even so, there were well-defined limits to his friend’s broad-minded outlook – at least, when he judged himself.  Scarlet knew there’d been some cataclysmic event in Blue’s life that was responsible for blind spots in his psyche, and although he’d sometimes privately speculated about the nature of it, he’d never asked what had happened, accepting that if Blue wanted to, he’d explain. 

He sighed, wondering why he was always surprised when he ran up against this prudishness.   Usually, he knew better than to fight it; however, the devil was in him now, and he felt the American was behaving badly with respect to Alizarin, so he simpered impishly and said:

 “You ought to know, my dearest Adam, there’s really no need for you to be jealous-”

“It’s not funny; can it, Paul!”  Blue protested angrily. “The whole idea really freaks me out.”  

Scarlet noticed a shadow come into Blue’s pale-blue eyes, presumably at the memory that could, even now, conjure nightmares for his friend. 

“Just can it, okay?” Blue pleaded wearily.

While recognising his friend’s disquiet as genuine, Scarlet still thought the whole situation was amusing, even if the joke was on him.

 “I’m sorry.” He tried to frame his expression to one of suitable contrition, but failed, and by way of an apology for that, he continued, “It’s just that it is funny – no, okay- it isn’t funny!  What I meant was: it’s odd to think that you think that I thought of her as you, and that’s why I fancied her.  I mean: cards-on-the-table-time here, Blue-boy; Eva Svenson is one hell of a sexy woman, and the very last thing we did together was sleep, but at no point in the whole experience did the thought of you even enter my head – I swear. It would’ve put a real dampener on things if it had.”

Blue was looking at him, half-convinced and wholly-wanting to believe.  Scarlet stopped teasing and said soberly, “You’re my closest friend, I trust you with my life and everything pertaining to it, but – and I mean this most sincerely - you do not turn me on, Adam.  Not even a little bit.  Scouts’ honour!” 

He raised his hand in the three-fingered salute of a Boy-Scout and stared directly at his partner, a veritable picture of solemnity.  

Colour mounted in Blue’s tanned cheeks.  “I’m a complete jerk, right?”

Scarlet pursed his lips and gave a brisk nod.  “Pretty much.”

“But you’ll stop going on about Cadenza and me being the same person, won’t you?”

“I’ll stop saying it.  On one condition.”

“What?” Blue asked warily.

Scarlet pounced.  Give us a kiss!”

He dodged the inevitable punch, and roaring with laughter, made his way to the cabin, where Gabriel was making a good job of speeding them away from Cloudbase. 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

Cadenza Angel pressed the throttle and the helijet rose from the tarmac into the cloudy skies above Naples.  Beside her in the cockpit, Ensign Tyrian was adjusting his seat belt and staring ahead at the choppy seas. 

“The forecast is for a bad storm,” he said.

“We’ll be there well before it breaks, and if it makes it impossible to return, we’ll have to sit it out in the security guards’ huts.”

“Colonel Black said we were to be quick about it,” he reminded her.

“Leave your father to me,” she said, adjusting course slightly.  “He knows I won’t waste time anyway.”

Her son smiled.  “I guess so.”  He drew a palm-sized computer from his tunic pocket.  “I’ve had a reply from the Security Area Commander:  it seems not all of the tunnels are accessible, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to discover which one Gabriel took.”

“Hmm.  I just hope he isn’t causing problems – wherever he’s gone.”

“Do you think he got his wish and found the right dimension, so that he’s met up with Captain Scarlet?”

Cadenza gave a slight shrug.  “The tunnels went into several dimensions, from what I can remember.  The Captain Scarlet and the Captain Blue I met, all those years ago, came from different dimensions, and I went back with them to Captain Blue’s dimension. I never visited Captain Scarlet’s.” 

She paused thoughtfully and gave a reminiscent smile.  “I wonder if he’s changed much.”  She glanced at her son, seeing the uncertainty on his face.  “I suppose, because he’s like me, he’ll be much the same.”

“What was he like?” Tyrian asked hurriedly, as if he feared delaying the question would mean he’d never have the courage to ask it.

“Paul Metcalfe?   He was about my height – a little taller, maybe - and he had jet-black hair and very blue eyes.  He also had the same cute little dimple in his chin that you and Gabriel have …”

“Mom!”

She laughed.  “You asked the question, Mike.”

“You must’ve liked him…”

“Oh, I did.  He was charming, and very good company.  I felt I’d known him for ever.” 

She glanced at him, thoughtfully.  Michael was the more serious-minded of the boys, intelligent and measured in his manner.  Unlike Gabriel, he’d never questioned her about his biological father and she felt it had cost him something to do so now. 

So that he didn’t have to ask any more questions she explained, “I was unhappy at the time, Mike.  Your father – the colonel, I mean – and I had separated; he felt it wasn’t right for the commander-in-chief to associate with one of the Angel pilots.  I was dating Captain Blue - as Kevin Wainwright was then - at the time, but it wasn’t what I wanted.  Paul was the right man for me, at the right time.  We both felt that there was a risk we might not get back to our loved ones and we were attracted to each other.  There was affection on both sides, I’m sure of that much, and I considered him a good friend.  As it happens, I’m also grateful to him for giving me my children – in a strange way I feel that fate intended us to be together, even if only for that one night, because there was no other way I could ever have had a family.  That makes both of you very special to me.”

“I guess there was no way he could ever have known about Gabriel and me?”

“No,” she said firmly.  “It was agreed that the tunnels were too dangerous to be used in anything less than a dire emergency.  Then, a few months after all this happened, about the time it was confirmed that I was pregnant, there was a major eruption and the volcano was so dangerous it was cordoned off.  That gave the World Government the perfect excuse they needed to restrict access to the area, and, when it was finally safe for anyone to go back, the security officers found that the tunnels had closed - they had a tendency to open and close with every eruption or quake, but this was more permanent.  So there was no way I could’ve told Paul about you, even if I’d wanted to.”

“Did you want to?”

“By then your father had decided he loved me too much for us to remain apart; and I was happy again.  I wondered how Conrad would take it – my pregnancy – but he was okay with it, even when it was confirmed that he wasn’t your biological father.” 

She turned to her son and smiled reassuringly. 

“Your father has always loved both of you; he was of the opinion that you were my sons and that he loved me, so there was no problem.  I’m sure you couldn’t have asked for a more loving father?”

“No… and I guess it was right to tell us the truth about Captain Scarlet, but-”

But?  There’s a but?”

“I guess I think I owe Dad something for looking after us.”

“Oh, Mikey… he loves you and Gabriel.  You don’t owe him anything.”

“If you say so.”

Conrad says so.  You love your father, don’t you?”  Tyrian nodded slightly.  “Then you’re quits.” 

Cadenza frowned slightly and made a show of adjusting their flight path while her mind was dealing with the fear that her honesty might have been preying on her son’s mind for years - and she’d never realised. 

They flew on in silence for some minutes until Tyrian said:

“I bet there are people who think I’m the luckiest kid alive:  I’ve got the best mom in the whole world, the bravest dad you could imagine and the greatest place to live.  I’m sure thousands of kids envy me living on Cloudbase...”

“But?” she asked again, raising one sculptured eyebrow.

Tyrian looked down at his hands and admitted, “I sometimes agree with Gabriel and wish we could’ve had a normal life:  gone to normal schools like normal kids.”

Cadenza sighed: she’d had this ‘discussion’ with Gabriel many times before but Michael had never mentioned it.  “Quite apart from the fact that you’ve both inherited some aspects of retrometabolism, it wouldn’t have been wise, even if you’d been born as non-retrometabolic individuals.   Your father has a high profile – he has enemies, including the Mysterons and their primary agent…”

“I’m not scared of Steve Zodiac-” her son asserted.

“Good, because I am.  Zodiac is the conduit through which the Mysterons attack us, he’s dangerous and he’s deadly.  Maybe it wasn’t his fault he over-reacted on Mars and started their vendetta against us, but since then, through their manipulation, he has been responsible for more deaths than you can count, Mikey.”  She looked at him, her sincerity clear in her pale-blue eyes.  “Maybe he’s unaware of his actions, I’ve wondered that many times before now; but whether he feels remorse or not, he has no choice but to act against us.  If you ever see him, keep away, Michael, because he will kill you – or Gabriel, me or your father - without hesitation.”

“Be careful, Mom…”

“I always am; I have too much worth living for, darling.”  She reached across and patted his hand.

Tyrian gave a half-hearted smile.  “Do you think Captain Scarlet will be pleased to see us?”

Cadenza sighed.  “Now you’re really asking,” she replied uncertainly.

 

 

Alizarin was reluctant to cede control of the SPJ to Captain Blue, but over the captain’s shoulder he saw Scarlet nodding encouragingly, and besides, the habit of obedience to a certain tone of voice, common, it seemed, to his mother and this familiarly-unfamiliar man, was ingrained, so he moved out of the pilot’s seat and stood behind Scarlet who was in the co-pilot’s seat. 

“Sit down and belt up,” Blue ordered, jerking his head towards the passenger cabin, as he adjusted a few switches and checked the dials.

“But I want to-” the boy began to protest.

Blue glanced up, a deep frown between his brows. 

Alizarin surrendered.  “I’ll just go and sit down, shall I?”  he said, and with a shrug at the smirking Scarlet, left them.

Scarlet chuckled.  “I think you enjoy intimidating the juniors,” he paraphrased innocently.

“Don’t you start, or I’ll try my father’s best disapproving look on you too,” Blue said, closing the conversation by busying himself with the controls. 

Sniggering to himself, Scarlet monitored their rate of descent. 

It was gloomy, and although the storm had died down somewhat, it was still raining in a persistent, heavy drizzle and there was a fierce, unpredictable crosswind.   Nevertheless, Blue brought them down on the small concreted landing strip that served the security zone at the base of the volcano, with scarcely a jolt.

“He’s damn good,” an obviously impressed Alizarin whispered to Scarlet, as they disembarked.

They were waiting for Captain Blue before heading towards the cabin used by the commander of the security squad that regulated access to the volcano.

“You don’t say?” Scarlet suppressed a smile.

“My mom’s the best pilot I’ve had experience of, but he… he’s as good.”

“And you think that’s surprising under the circumstances?”

Alizarin looked slightly abashed. “No, I guess not.”

Scarlet patted the youngster’s shoulder.  “Never mind, it took me some time to get used to it too, when I met your mother.”

“You know what’s really weird?   That there isn’t an alternative ‘me’ in this world.   I mean, if Captain Blue and my mom are the same, surely he’d have kids too – even if they’re only little kids right now.”

Scarlet shrugged.  “Your mother didn’t lose Conrad Turner for ever - even if, at the time I met her, she thought it was all over between them - but Blue lost his fiancée – she died, Gabriel - and I think it’s taken him time to get over it;  time, and a force of nature who just wouldn’t take no for an answer!”

“Still, it’d have been cool to have met the ‘me’ here.”

Scarlet raised a sceptical eyebrow.  “It’s not always the unalloyed pleasure you seem to imagine.  Some of the less-laudable aspects of your character can be more prominent than you’d like.  The Paul Metcalfe I met was a priggish, self-righteous fellow.  I hoped I was nothing like that.”

“So it’s like someone holds a mirror to you, and you see the true picture?”

“Warts and all,” Scarlet confirmed, with a wry smile.

“I can see that might not be as much fun as I’d imagined; but at least, you’d know what you could make of your life.  People are always telling me I have to do this or that, or can’t do what I want to because it might upset things. I know I’m ready to go on missions – and it’s great to be here on one with you - but they just say ‘you’re too young’.”  Gabriel gave a dramatic sigh.  “It’s no fun being a retrometabolic teenager.”

Scarlet grinned.  “No, it’s just being a teenager that’s no fun.   Believe me, Gabriel; retrometabolism doesn’t change that feeling of being fenced in by adults who don’t understand.”

As they approached the airfield offices, he opened the door for Alizarin to enter and said, “Your time will come – I don’t doubt that – and then maybe you’ll wish you could say ‘I’ve had enough of doing this, I want to do something else and be like a normal guy’.”

“Do you ever wish that, Captain?  I sometimes think my mother does.”

“Only when I’m tired and dispirited.  I suspect it’s the same for your mother as well; there are times when you feel as if you couldn’t endure another painful injury or death.” He hesitated and added in a quieter voice, “Or times when the slightly wary look in your friends’ eyes reminds you that you’re different.” 

He glanced at Blue who was approaching them in long, easy strides.  “You see, Gabriel, that’s why I value Blue’s company; all I ever see in his eyes is friendship.”  He gave a judicious pause and added honestly, “And the odd burst of exasperation…of course.”

Alizarin joined in with Scarlet’s chuckle and although Captain Blue frowned inquiringly at his friend as to what was so funny, he got no reply beyond a friendly wink.

 

 

Deep within the dark tunnels that honeycombed the vast bulk of Mount Etna, someone was moving, walking purposefully towards the unpredictable brilliance of a fluctuating river of fire.   The tunnel opened out into a small cavern and over in one corner, a well of molten rock spluttered and spat, creating outrageous shadows on the walls.

From the inky darkness of one of these shadows a man emerged.  He was tall, thin to the point of appearing skeletal and his pallid face was unshaven. 

“They are here,” he said to the newcomer.

“Good.  We have work to do.  The Mysterons’ orders must be carried out.”

The thin man nodded.  “United we can overcome our adversaries, once and for all.  They will not be prepared.”

“No, we will be too strong for them, Captain Black.”

“The Cadenza-being is coming?” Black asked the pale man beside him.

Colonel Steven Kalinski – the man the press had dubbed Steve Zodiac - nodded.  “She seeks to find her child and return with him to her own dimension.”

Something approaching a disdainful smile tugged at the edges of Black’s thin lips.  “Those misbegotten creatures may yet prove the undoing of their unnatural parents.  But such chances do not occur often, Colonel.”

“Then we must not fail, Captain. Our masters demand we succeed, and to that end alone, they have brought us together.”

“The Mysterons’ instructions will be carried out,” Black said, his deep voice laden with menace.

The two men moved together towards a smaller tunnel that led upwards out of the cavern.  

 

 

“Maybe you should wait here for Cadenza to arrive?” Scarlet suggested to his companions, as they prepared to enter the volcanic tunnels.

 “Not if the threat means she’s in danger.  I’m not going to risk anything happening to her while I’m sitting about doing nothing; but you can wait here if you like,” the youngest replied.  He was already by the door, kitted out with the necessary equipment for a descent into the caves.

“Well, we’ve no certainty that she’s even on her way here,” Blue mused aloud, as he adjusted a bright-yellow hard hat to fit.  “But, if Alizarin and I go in and we meet her half way, he can go back with her, which will prevent her fully entering into this dimension,” he said. “Hopefully that’ll be enough to scupper the Mysterons’ threat.  And you don’t even have to meet her, if you don’t want to,” he added, glancing perceptively at his field partner.  

“That’s got nothing to do with it,” Scarlet snapped, fastening his torch battery to the belt of his uniform. “I’ll be delighted to see her again, Blue-boy.  It isn’t me who’s ‘freaked out’ by this… but, if you’re right, then her arrival here could trigger some Mysteron threat.  That is why we’re here, remember.  So, the best way to avoid that is for me and Alizarin to stop her coming into the tunnels, or at least meet her half-way, and get her to go back,” he concluded reasonably. 

“Oh sure, a meeting between the potential catalysts of some cataclysmic event right beneath a volcano… what could possibly go wrong there?” Blue muttered sardonically. “We already know the power of the Mysterons allows them to create trouble in more dimensions than this; we don’t know if they’ve issued a threat in the other world, but they have threatened us with destroying some sort of gathering, through Cadenza-”

“You can’t be sure of that – they could be out to destroy her,” Alizarin interrupted.  He was shuffling from foot to foot in his eagerness to be in action.

“’A native cadence destroys the gathering of the misplaced’ – that’s what they said - and that doesn’t suggest she’s their target, more their weapon,” Blue reasoned.

“We still don’t know who or what this ‘gathering of the misplaced’ is,” Scarlet said thoughtfully.

Blue looked at Alizarin.  “I think it’s Gabriel.  He doesn’t belong here, ergo he’s misplaced.”

“You would say that,” Gabriel snapped.  “I agree that we should send my mom home; but I don’t want to go with her.”

Scarlet shook his head.  “If we meet Cadenza, you go straight back with her, my boy.  I’m not arguing with your mother about it.”

Alizarin frowned.  “Awww,” he complained, in the universal protest of every teenager since time began.

To hide his amusement, Blue tested the lamp on his helmet.  “Come on then.  ‘If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly’.”

“Does your mother do that?” Scarlet asked Gabriel, as they trooped out of the locker room.

“Do what?”

“Have a fund of quotations that she trots out at the slightest opportunity, until you want to throttle him – her?”

The youngster nodded cheerfully.  “I swear she swallows whole volumes for breakfast just to be irritating.”

Scarlet shook his head sorrowfully.  “There’s no help for it then.”

Blue was grinning at them.  “Just because I can remember the darn things…”

 

 

The journey through the tunnels took some time.  Nothing looked familiar to Alizarin or the captains, and a couple of times they came to a dead end.  Scarlet began to wonder if they’d ever find the opening to the alternative universe where Cadenza and her family existed.

Blue continually encouraged Alizarin to try and remember the way he’d come and slowly they began to make progress.  Finally, they came to a sheer wall with a jagged crack half-way along. 

“That’s it,” Gabriel said, relief evident in his voice.  “I came through there.”

“Right, let’s go.  Keep together and remember – we don’t know what sort of welcome we’re going to get.”

“If I know anything about Cadenza,” Blue muttered, “someone’s ears are going to be burning… and if they were a year or two younger, that wouldn’t be all…”

Gabriel’s face was a picture of misery as they slithered into the narrow tunnel. 

Minutes later they emerged into a broader passageway that started to climb towards the surface.  At the mouth of the tunnel, Scarlet held up his hand and they waited while he scanned the area through night-vision binoculars. 

“The coast is clear,” he whispered.  “Where is the landing strip from here, Alizarin?”

The young man pointed and they walked out across the rough ground away from the tunnel entrance, into the radiance of a single floodlight.  

The two shots that rang out came from the blackness beyond the floodlight and caught them unawares.

Blue and Alizarin fell to the ground with no more than a surprised exhalation of breath, as a third shot hit Scarlet.  He stumbled on for three or four more steps until another bullet struck him and he too dropped to the ground. 

The guard in the nearest watchtower sounded the alarm and from the Portacabins around the base rushed men, hastily pulling on uniform jackets and checking their guns.  But before they could spread out to search for the perpetrators, or reach the victims, a woman raced into the circle of light from the direction of the airfield.  Her fair hair glinted in the floodlight.

She hesitated and glanced down at the body of Captain Scarlet, then hurried to kneel beside the other man; his hard hat had rolled away as he fell and revealed a head of fair hair.  Frowning, she turned him and closed her eyes in dismay.  Placing a hand at the side of his neck, she waited just long enough to detect a faint, erratic pulse before she scrambled to the side of the dark-haired youth who had fallen nearby.  She turned him, brushed the tangle of hair from his face and cradled him against her breast, throwing back her head and howling in defiant misery at the grey sky above:

“No!”

The guards surrounded the fallen men and the distraught woman, two of them dragging another dark-haired youngster with them. 

“Get them into the cabin,” the commanding officer ordered.  “I’m going to tell Cloudbase what’s happened.  I’m sure they’ll send someone to interrogate these strangers.”

“No!” Cadenza snapped out fiercely.  “These men are to be taken to Cloudbase immediately.  Radio for a medical helijet – and tell them it is condition red.”

“And who’re you?” the commander asked suspiciously.

“Cadenza Angel.”   She turned to face him and he recognised her.

“Sorry, ma’am.”

She lay the youngster down with great tenderness, and stood.  “Contact Colonel Black immediately and tell him that Captains… Metcalfe and Svenson have been attacked by unknown assailants on their arrival here, and that Ensign Alizarin is with them and... they’re all badly hurt.”

The man looked at the ID card she presented to him for a long moment.  “Cloudbase is on red alert, ma’am, I can’t send anyone there.  We have medical facilities locally-”

“Captain – this young man is the colonel’s son.  Do you imagine he’ll thank you for risking his life?  We need to go to Cloudbase.  Doctor Fawn will take care of everything.”

Still the commanding officer hesitated. 

Cadenza held out her hand.  “Give me my flight helmet, I’ll get you permission.”

He nodded at his subordinate who handed over the helmet.  Cadenza slipped it on and immediately contacted Lieutenant Green.

Is everything okay, Cadenza?” she asked.

“No, I need to speak to the colonel – now.  I don’t care what he’s doing.  I have three men down, and this fool in command here is telling me we can’t come back to Cloudbase.”

There’s been a Mysteron threat.”

“I don’t care if they’ve announced the start of Armageddon!  We’re coming back.”

Putting you through…”

Conrad’s voice held a touch of asperity. “Cadenza, what’s wrong now?”

“Unknown assailants have attacked Alizarin; he was making his way back to us with two officers: Metcalfe and Svenson.  They’re all wounded.  I want the emergency medical helijet here as soon as possible, Conrad.”

Tyrian?”

She glanced at the ashen-faced boy.  “He’s fine – I’m okay.  But it is imperative we get the others to Cloudbase. It’s condition red, Colonel, but Fawn will know what to do,” she stated, obliquely reminding her husband that Scarlet, at least, was retrometabolic and would recover sooner or later.

SIG.”  She heard Black call out, “Lieutenant, launch the medical helijet and set a course to move us towards Etna.  Spectrum is red!”

“Thank you, Conrad,” Cadenza said.

Everything will work out, you’ll see.  Gabriel will be all right.”

“I hope so.  Cadenza out.” 

She glanced at the commander, seeing the epaulettes on his uniform were illuminated by a pale green glow as Lieutenant Green relayed orders.  She looked towards the guards still holding Tyrian and said, “Let him go; he’s with me.”

Tyrian came to her side and stared down at his brother.  “Will he be all right?” he asked.

“If everything that has happened to me and your father during our lifetimes, means anything at all, Mikey; yes he will.”

She turned and issued brisk orders for the wounded men to be given first aid and her jet made ready for immediate take off, as soon as the helijet had collected them.  She pointed to Captain Scarlet.  “This man will have to travel in my plane; there won’t be room in the helijet for the three of them.  Ensign Tyrian can look after him while I fly the plane.”

“What about the assailants?” the commander asked, as she went to kneel between Blue and Alizarin.

Cadenza stared out into the intense darkness. “Find them, kill them and throw the vermin into the volcano,” she replied with barely suppressed anger. “Let’s see the Mysterons resurrect them after that!”

 

Chapter Six

 

Colonel Black was waiting with Doctor Fawn as the helijet landed and the wounded were rushed into Sick Bay.  Fawn gave a nod and disappeared into the intensive care ward following the gurneys Blue and Alizarin lay on, intravenous drips attached to their bodies and a paramedic in attendance. 

Moments later, Cadenza’s plane landed and shortly after that the paramedics who’d met the plane wheeled Captain Scarlet into intensive care too.

Cadenza came to stand beside her husband.  “Any news?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “They were only just ahead of you.  What can you tell me about what happened down there?”

“Very little.  We’d just arrived and were making our way to the command centre when we heard shooting.  By the time we got to the scene, the three of them were down and the guards came out in force.   Captain Blue was alive: I felt a pulse, not much of one, but it was there.  Gabriel,” her voice choked on the name, “was alive too, but he’s badly hurt.”

Her eyes flooded with tears and she clenched a fist to her lips.  She turned to her silent husband and asked, “What if… despite everything – he doesn’t recover?”

Black drew her into his embrace and stroked her hair.  “Eva, he’s your son.  You know Fawn says there’s a damned good chance he’ll have inherited retrometabolism from you and… his father.”

“He’s just a kid, Con!   Just my little boy – why couldn’t they leave him alone?”

“You think this was the work of the Mysterons?”

She shrugged and turned away from him to where Tyrian now stood, silent and shocked.  She wrapped her arms around him and drew him closer to the colonel.  Black put an arm around them both, alarmed at the rigid tension he felt in his son. 

“Are you all right, Michael?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Maybe we should get a nurse to give you a cup of tea?  You’re cold.” Black beckoned over one of the nurses and handed the youngster to her care.

“I’ll stay with him, Colonel,” she said.  “The best thing we can do for him now is get him to relax and then get some rest. Come on, Mikey; I’ll get you a hot drink and you can lie down in the side ward.  As soon as there’s any news, I’ll come and tell you.”

Cadenza watched Tyrian until the door of the side room closed.  “I should go with him,” she said, running a hand through her hair and feeling a profound exhaustion seep into her bones.

“Michael’s in good hands.  You need to think of yourself,” Black reassured her.  “Maybe you need some tea as well?”

She was about to flare up at him, but caught the gentle smile at the corner of his thin lips and realised he was teasing.  She shook her head and sighed, flopping down onto one of the padded seats that lined the reception area.  He sat beside her, his hand on her knee in a silent sympathy.

She knew him so well: knew his stern self-control, his difficulty in showing the emotions he felt, and that the job he was doing - and doing well – made it even harder for him to show any weakness.   She also knew that without him - her rock - life would be even more difficult than her retrometabolism already made it.  She laid her own hand over his and squeezed it gently.

There was no let up in the daily pressures Conrad faced as Commander-in-Chief of Spectrum, and, even though he was in his mid-fifties, with two teenage sons and a wife who, whatever anyone knew to the contrary, was physically in her early thirties, he never expected any special consideration.  Cadenza felt some guilt at the realisation that due to her and the boys, his home life was not exactly tranquil either. 

Now, she sensed that however well he appeared to be dealing with the situation, Conrad was suffering as much as she was.  These boys were his family as much as they were hers; he’d watched them grow from helpless babies to the young men they were now.  He loved them with the deep and proud affection that was so characteristic of him. 

She removed her hand, and looped her arm through his.  “I’m glad you’re here with me, Con.  Whatever happens, we’ll cope together – we’re a family, aren’t we?”

He smiled and nodded.  “I still wish I knew who had done this, and why.  When they catch the perpetrators, I want them thoroughly interrogated. I’m determined to get to the bottom of this.”

Cadenza said nothing, but nodded.

 

 

Doctor Fawn gave a sigh of relief and nodded to her junior doctor.  “Close him up.”

She turned away and peeled off the bloodied latex gloves, while a nurse removed her surgical apron and tied another over her theatre scrubs.  The nurse held out clean gloves with a pair of tongs and Fawn slipped them on. 

“How’s he doing?” she asked the team around the adjacent operating table.

“Vital signs are stable; some slight improvement,” Doctor Tan reported.  “The bullet went in just above the heart, but didn’t hit it.”

“Can we get it out without damaging his heart?”

“If we take care.”

Fawn gave her colleague a sharp glance.  “Do we ever do anything without taking care?” she remarked.  “Let’s do it then.”  She paused.  “How is Captain Scarlet?” she called to the third team, around the final gurney.

Doctor Beige replied, “He’s dead.  We’re monitoring the situation.”

“Fine; let me know when he turns the corner.”

“S.I.G., Doctor.”

As she prepared to perform another life-saving operation, Fawn paused long enough to say to the closest nurse, “Let his parents know what’s happening.”

 

 

It was the longest night of Cadenza’s life. 

She refused to leave Sick Bay, even when the colonel had to return to his post. The duty nurse made up a folding armchair bed in the room where the sedated Ensign Tyrian was sleeping and she lay on that in the half-light of the ward. 

Envying the fact that her son could be lulled to sleep by powerful narcotics, she stared at the ceiling and allowed her mind to roam over the events of the day and beyond, back across the years.  She remembered her overwhelming surprise and delight at discovering she was pregnant, and the excitement of discovering it was twins.  She remembered the guilt when Fawn told her that her lover was not their father, and the big-hearted way Conrad had dismissed her concerns, married her and accepted the boys as his own. 

There had been problems raising them on Cloudbase, but the risks of sending them ground-side had been too great, especially as Spectrum could not spare either of their parents to go with them.

They’d been given their ‘codenames’ as toddlers – Alizarin and Tyrian, manufactured dyes that reflected their unique status – and were always referred to by those names in any official capacity.   They’d had the freedom of the base, growing up used to a world governed by duty rotas, parents who were seemingly always on duty, and a mother who was frequently hospitalised, but never for long.  The experts on Cloudbase had educated them, teaching them a syllabus that no school would recognise, but which had engaged the interest of their intelligent and lively minds.  

They bickered and fought like any brothers, got into trouble and were spoilt by everyone on the base.  ‘Ali’ and ‘Ty’ were Cloudbase’s unofficial mascots and they’d both grown up far too quickly surrounded by the forceful adult personalities of the other Spectrum agents.

It isn’t fair.  I can’t have guarded him for all these years for this to happen now – just as he’s starting to live his own life… there’s no justice – and none in what’s happened to Paul and … Adam, either.  It’s Gabriel’s fault they’re here fighting for their lives.  She closed her eyes and whispered, “Dear God, I’ve never asked for anything – I take whatever gets dished out and I do it willingly to shield the others - but I am asking now: please, don’t take them - any of them.”

With that last coherent plea, she drifted into a light, fitful sleep.

 

 

Fawn came into the room and stood, surprisingly irresolutely for that decisive woman, wondering if she should disturb them.

The problem resolved itself when Michael sat up in bed and looked with fearful eyes at the kindly doctor.  Fawn had stopped long enough to clean up, but her hair was a mess and the black rings under her dark eyes testified to the hard night’s work she’d just finished.

“Doctor Fawn…?” Michael asked softly, unable to voice the rest of the question.

Even those quiet words were enough to wake his mother, and Cadenza sat up, smoothing her hair and looking towards the woman she’d come to know very well over the years. 

“Edie, is it good news?”

Fawn smiled.  “So far, so good.  We got the bullet out of Captain Blue – although we won’t know for certain if it’s caused nerve damage for some time yet.  He’s sedated and being monitored very closely – the less movement the better for now.  Captain Scarlet is in a deep coma, but he’s alive.  So is Gabriel.”

“Thank God,” Cadenza breathed.  “Did he…?  Did he die?”

“No – but it was touch and go.   The bullet was close to his heart, but he’s strong – we know that – and he heals fast.  However, not as fast as you do, Eva, or as fast as Scarlet’s recovering.  So we still can’t be sure what level of retrometabolism he and Mike have inherited; or even if they’ve inherited the same level, if it comes to that.  All I can promise you is we’re doing everything we can to encourage his natural ability to heal.”

“Thank God,” she repeated, and slid from the chair to hold out her hand to the doctor.  “And you – I knew you were the best chance the three of them had.”

She stooped to kiss Fawn’s cheek.

Fawn smothered a yawn.  “I had a lot of help and we were lucky.  I suggest you two go and get washed and brushed up, have something to eat and then, if you want to, you can come and see them all.  I’m not sure how long I can keep Scarlet sedated, but right now he’s unconscious without the need for drugs.  The others I’ll keep sedated for the rest of today, at least.  They’re all hooked into the robot nurses, so you can check up on their progress.   I’ve given you access to the computer, Eva, you just have to login as normal to your computer account.  You don’t have to be here 24:7 – unless you want to be.”

“You look like you need some sleep,” she said with concern.

“I do.  I’m going to use the Room of Sleep – I can’t afford the time to do it properly until I’m sure they’re all on the road to recovery.  I’ll see you later.”

Cadenza waved goodbye and hugged her son in delight.  “We’ll have a family Christmas yet, Mikey! Come on, let’s go and tell your father!”

 

 

News of Alizarin’s condition had swept the base and there was a surge of relief as the news spread as quickly that he was alive.   Despite the unresolved Mysteron threat – ‘We, the Mysterons, will destroy Spectrum’s capacity for resistance’ – the mood on Cloudbase was upbeat. 

Colonel Black made sure that no one was aware of the identities of the two agents injured along with Alizarin; he had no intention of anyone getting wind of Captain Scarlet’s retrometabolism.  The word went out through the unofficial grapevine - so carefully managed by Lieutenant Green – that the men were ground-based agents who’d been escorting the youngster to a rendezvous with his mother. 

For now, Fawn issued regular, bland reports about the ensign, designed to reassure her colleagues the boy was on the way to recovery.  Yet, the three men remained unconscious; Blue was sedated to prevent him moving, but both Scarlet and Alizarin were in comas.  Fawn wasn’t too concerned, she reported that the bullet that had done the most damage to Scarlet had fractured his skull, and as such she hardly anticipated a speedy recovery. 

“I’m going on what I’d expect with you, Eva,” she explained to Cadenza, “but I doubt there’s much difference.  As for Gabriel, he’s better off unconscious for now – he’s going to be in pain when he comes to.  His body is healing, slowly.  His brain activity is increasing, as is Scarlet’s – I have no doubt they’ll be awake fairly soon.  I’m not going to rush it.”

“I wonder if we should try and alert Scarlet’s dimension to what’s happened to him,” Cadenza asked her husband, as the doctor finished her report.  “I assume the Adam Svenson with him is from the same dimension – his, I mean – although it could be the Captain Blue I met… we don’t know if they came straight here or spent time searching for the right dimension, after  all.”

“I’m not having anyone going back to Etna until we’ve apprehended the assailant,” Black said soberly.  “They’ve found nothing and no sign of who it might’ve been, as yet.”

“If it was the Mysterons we know they can transport their agents out of danger – it’s been reported as happening to Zodiac,” Tyrian ventured.  “There might be nothing to find.”

“Hmm,” Cadenza said.  She wasn’t sure if the fact that no one had been found was due to her impulsive order.  “I guess we might have problems finding the right time anyway – if the tunnels have shifted, we could end up reporting that ‘they’re recovering in our Sick Bay’ before they’ve left…”

The colonel nodded.  “Leave well alone, Eva.” He turned to Fawn.  “Keep me informed, Doctor.”

“S.I.G., Colonel.”

Black turned and strode towards the door, saying over his shoulder, “See you later, Ev-”

The automatic door failed to open and he walked straight into it, banging his elbow and losing his balance due to the surprise.

“Con!” Cadenza jumped to her feet and went to help him to his feet.  “Are you okay?”

Rubbing his elbow he grunted a positive response.  “Better get the door circuits checked, Doctor!”

“It was working fine when you got here,” Fawn retorted, and went to key in a code.  The door juddered, sighed and opened a few inches.

Cadenza glanced at Tyrian and they tried not to grin. After a period of such strain, the incident, however minor, was almost hysterically funny.   They had to call the maintenance team to get the door open and Colonel Black was annoyed as he stomped out back to the Control Room.  

Shaking her head, Fawn went back to her regular work and Cadenza and Michael settled down to their vigil.

Cadenza just got involved in the book she was reading when the lights flickered and went out.  It was just for a moment, as the medical generators cut in immediately, but she glanced up, frowning; Cloudbase was always kept in tip-top condition – the lives of over 600 people depended on that. 

Tyrian was still tapping on his laptop and seemed unconcerned by the event, but his mother put her book down and stood, walking slowly over towards Fawn’s office.  She met the doctor as she came out.

She raised an inquisitive eyebrow and Fawn replied,

“It’s not a drill.  We have emergency lighting only. Everywhere.”

Cadenza clicked the intercom and spoke to Lieutenant Green.

“What’s happened?”

Maintenance are working on it now; don’t panic,” the lieutenant replied. She sounded harassed.

“We have a Mysteron threat, doors that were working perfectly suddenly start sticking, the lights go out and you tell me not to panic?  Now I am worried.  What else has happened, Serena?”

There was a pause, and finally Green replied, “Radar’s out.  Navigation say they’re getting no response from the engines when they adjust our course.”

“We’re dead in the water – so to speak?”

“Pretty much.”  She lowered her voice, “The colonel is about to launch all Angels.”

“But you’re not supposed to tell me,” Cadenza surmised.  She shook her head.  “I’m on my way, Lieutenant.  If my squadron’s launching I’m going with them. Cadenza out.”

“What about Gabriel?”

Cadenza hadn’t seen Tyrian come to stand beside her, worried by the tone of the conversation he’d overheard.

“He’ll be fine; the medical generators are on different circuits and they’ve got backups too.”

“You’re going to leave him?”

“Mike, I have more responsibilities than just Gabriel.  There are 600 people on Cloudbase, including your brother.  This base fails, they’ll all die.  Don’t worry about him; Doctor Fawn will watch over him, and you can stay here too.”

His answer surprised her. “No,” he said, “I might be able to help too.  I can at least ask Lieutenant Green if she needs me.”

“Don’t get in the way, Mike,” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder and kissing his serious face. 

Then she was gone, striding from the Sick Bay with a determination to defend their floating home. 

Tyrian paused long enough to look in on the three patients, and then, collecting his laptop, made his way to the Control Room, where Serena Griffiths and his father both seemed pleased to see him.

He stood beside his father in the observation tube and watched three Angel jets streak away into the sky, on the look out for any approaching danger.

 

 

Every engineer and technician on the base had been called back into work to try and correct the fault in the systems.  When the stabilizers went offline the base was effectively at the mercy of the winds, and Cloudbase was drifting, unable to use her own power to correct her flight path. 

In the Control Room, Colonel Black spoke the Director General of the World Aeronautical Society and issued a code red warning to all air traffic.  He contacted the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander Earth Forces and repeated the message.  Then he called the World President and informed him that – as of now – Cloudbase was inoperative and he was evacuating all but a skeleton crew.

Is the base in danger of crashing, Colonel?” President Günter asked in alarm.

“Not immediately, sir.  But we’ve lost the hover combines, and at the moment, we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth.”

 She will crash?”

“Yes sir.  She will.  I can’t tell you when, and I can’t tell you where. We had moved over the Mediterranean for operational reasons, and I don’t need to tell you, there is a huge storm approaching the area.   As yet, we’re far enough away from it, but if – when – it hits us…”

The crash could kill hundreds of thousands of people!”

“We’re doing all we can, and as soon as we have any power we will take every possible evasive action.”

“Keep me informed, Colonel.  I want to know what’s going on every hour.  Is it worth us evacuating the cities?” he asked, helpless in the face of such uncertainty.

“If you feel the panic that might cause would be worth it, sir. However, there’s no knowing where she’ll come down.  If the storm hits, we could drift over Italy, or even Spain or France.”

Gott im Himmel.  I cannot evacuate whole countries, Colonel!”

“Yes, sir, I know.  I’ll notify you immediately we have any definite information.”

“You do that, Colonel.  And in the meantime, find a way to keep that base airborne.”

“S.I.G., Mr President.”

 

 

Doctor Fawn was at her desk when the communication link buzzed. “Yes, what is it?” she asked, distracted by the latest reports she’d received from the duty nurse.

Doctor Fawn, are you ready to move your patients off base?” Lieutenant Green asked.

Fawn gave the question a moment’s thought.  “Those that can go are ready.  The nurses have been preparing them for transport to the Spectrum medical facility in London.  Some can’t be moved – at least, I won’t be responsible for the consequences if we do.”

How many can go?”

“At present we have a dozen people in medical care.  Two of them I would hesitate to move and one most definitely cannot be moved.”

And they are?”

“Ensign Alizarin and Captain Scarlet are the two I would hesitate to move; their unique physiology means we need to keep them here, under surveillance.  Even the medical facilities in London aren’t secure enough, and I can’t guarantee that the secret of their… abilities wouldn’t become common knowledge.   However, if the colonel’s prepared to risk that – for them both, always remembering that Scarlet is… a visitor – then they could be moved with care.  Captain Blue – our other visitor – cannot be moved without the risk of severe neurological damage.”

Green thanked her and closed the channel.  Fawn shook her head at the details on the medical report and went to the intensive care ward where the three ‘special’ patients were still housed. 

“Nurse, is this report right?  Or has the automatic monitoring failed?”

“No, Doctor.  The readings are accurate.”

“Then why haven’t Scarlet and Alizarin regained consciousness?” she asked rhetorically.  “With the level of brain activity they’re showing I’d say they should be up and about, and probably doing something that requires concentration.”

The nurse shrugged.  “They haven’t moved a muscle, except for some rapid eye movement.”

“And Blue is still sedated?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“I know that retrometabolism does some strange things from time to time – but this is unprecedented.  Let me know immediately if anything changes…I’m going to have a word with the colonel.”

 

 

The technical officers were surprised but appreciative when the colonel came to deliver their orders in person. 

“Cloudbase,” he said, “has been declared a hazard, and to prevent the danger of her crashing onto inhabited areas, she will be blown from the skies in a very short time.  All personnel are to leave the base immediately.”

Martin Campbell, the Chief Engineer, listened in confusion.  “But sir-” he began in protest.

Colonel Black turned his dark gaze onto the man and Campbell felt a chill sweep over him.

“My orders must be obeyed,” the colonel said.

“But not five minutes ago you were saying we’d fight to the end to keep her, sir.”

“Five minutes ago is a long time.  I have my orders and now you have yours:  abandon Cloudbase.”

“S.I.G,” Campbell muttered, although as he waved his men to the emergency hatches and the escape pods, his rebellious nature was urging him to defy those orders. 

As the colonel marched away, Campbell turned to his second-in-command.  “Well, what do you make of that, Dave?”

“He’s got a lot on his mind, I guess; but he’s not usually so distant.”

“No; you’re right.”  Campbell looked at his friend.  “Are you going?”

“Not until you do, Marty.”

“Good man.  Come on, we have work to do.  I’m not letting her go down until there really isn’t any choice.”

 

 

Cadenza hurried from the Amber Room to the Colonel’s private conference room.  After his discussion with Doctor Fawn, Black had recalled his wife for an emergency conference.  She opened the door and marched in to see Black, Fawn and Tyrian waiting for her.

“What’s going on?” she asked, going to pour a drink.

At a gesture from the colonel, Doctor Fawn explained the situation they were facing.

“You can’t send Gabriel and Paul to London. It’s too risky,” she agreed, throwing herself onto the sofa and gulping the cool water.  “And I refuse to let you risk any harm to Captain Blue by moving him.”

“It isn’t down to you, Eva; not in the final analysis.”

“Conrad, they came here to bring our son back.  They deserve nothing but our help.”

“I know.  But, if the base crashes… they’ll die anyway.”

“It’s a big if. I guess they’d rather take their chances here than in – what is to them – an alien world.  Besides, Scarlet would be at risk of being incarcerated, at the very least, if they realised he’s retrometabolic, and they might do the same to Blue as a collaborator.  We must keep them here.”

“Can you speak for them all?” Fawn asked her.

“One is my son, and he’s not of an age to make his own decision yet.  The other is the father of my sons and a man who shares the curse of retrometabolism with me:  I think I know what he’d say.  Captain Blue – well, let’s just say I have a singular insight into his mind.”

“I disagree.  I think they should be moved,” Conrad said. “Oh, I know there’s a risk to Captain Blue, but he’d be alive, and Alizarin and Scarlet – well, I’m sure we can hush it up afterwards, especially if you go with them, Fawn. The last transport leaves in ten or fifteen minutes…”

“If you’d already made up your mind, why bring me back?” Cadenza asked angrily.  “If you’re expecting me to rubber stamp your decision, Con, you’ll be disappointed.  I think they should stay on board.”  She glanced at Tyrian.  “But Michael should go.”

“No!” he protested.  “I want to stay with you – and I agree with Mom; Gabe and the officers should stay too.  I don’t believe the base will crash.”

“Michael, we can’t find one single reason why Cloudbase is in this situation.  Every check, every diagnostic, has shown clear, with all systems working.  I want you off here,” the colonel said.

Tyrian moved to stand beside Cadenza.  “I won’t go.  You might be able to send Gabriel away, but you can’t make me.”  He looked down at her.  “Please, Mom, all my life I’ve done what you wanted.   I’ve been told I’m special and that you didn’t want to risk people finding out why, and I’ve believed you.  If that’s true, then my place is here, with my parents and my brother and the man who’s my father.”

“Mikey, Cloudbase is only hanging in the sky because I don’t think gravity’s caught up with it yet,” she said, looking deep into his bright-blue eyes.

“You’re staying,” he stated, not needing to ask them that question.  “How would I survive without you?  How would Gabriel?  We’re a family; whatever happens should happen to us all.”

The final transport is ready to leave, Colonel.”  Lieutenant Green’s voice, coming over the intercom, cut through the tense silence.

Tyrian looked at his father and the pair locked gazes.  It was Conrad who looked away first.  “Will you board, Edith?”

Fawn shook her head.  “I have three patients who need me to stay here with them.”

Colonel Black looked steadily at his old friend, and seeing no doubt in the doctor’s face, he said, “Launch the transport, Lieutenant.”

S.I.G., Colonel.”

 There was a common exhale of the breath that had been held for long moments as the tension evaporated.

“I just hope none of us live to regret this,” Conrad said. 

“Thanks, Con. I appreciate your concern,” Cadenza said, with a rueful grimace.

He embraced her.  “One day you’re going to have to make do without us, my dear,” he said affectionately. 

“I’ve known that for years; but it isn’t going to be today.”

 

 

Fawn went back to her wards and smiled in appreciation to see Doctor Tan was still there and three of the nurses had chosen to remain as well.

“I sent Beige off in the last transport,” Tan said, “but I – we – thought you’d appreciate a helping hand.”

 Fawn thanked them all in a little speech that left at least one of the nurses tearful. 

Angels Three and Four launched and now four of the Angel Interceptors were escorting Cloudbase from a safe distance, but Cadenza went back to the Control Room with the colonel, thinking she’d be more help on the base.  The colonel stood stock still as the door opened, and demanded:

“Lieutenant Green, what are you doing here?”

Serena Griffiths stood up and saluted.  “This is my post, Colonel. You didn’t give me a direct order to leave, sir, and so I assumed you wanted me to stay.  After all, if we stand any chance of saving the base, you’ll need me at the control computers. Sir.”

Standing behind her husband, Cadenza smiled.  She could see Conrad was torn between annoyance and being touched by the younger woman’s declaration. 

“Very well; carry on, Lieutenant,” he managed to say and smiled gratefully at his Executive Officer. 

“S.I.G, Colonel.”

Pausing by the computer station, Cadenza laid a grateful hand on Serena’s shoulder.  “I owe you one,” she murmured. 

“I’ll be sure to claim it next time we get to go on leave.”

Cadenza chuckled.  “Tyrian, see if you can help Lieutenant Green with the computer checks,” she ordered, and moved on to join Conrad. 

Tyrian fetched another chair and placed it close to the console.  Green smiled at him; she knew he’d studied the base’s systems in detail – she’d taught him – and glad to have any help, she gave him a series of checks to run. 

“Perhaps you’d better monitor the weather satellite reports?” Black suggested to his wife.  “We need to give as much notice of any likely crash site as it’s possible to give.  Günter wants to evacuate as many people as he can.  He’s put the emergency services of three countries on red alert, and mobilised the World Army Air Force and the World Navy to be ready to move people out.”

“Sensible precautions, given that we don’t know where we’ll end up,” she responded.

For a brief moment she saw the pain behind his calm expression, the welling up of emotion in his dark eyes and the way he compressed his lips to bite back that feeling.  She went to his side and whispered:

“It isn’t your fault, Conrad.  You’ve done everything you could.  Until we find out what’s wrong, we can’t do any more.”

He nodded and sighed.  “Then let’s find out what’s wrong.  I’ve never lost a ship yet, Eva; I don’t want to start with Cloudbase.”

He punched the console link to Engineering and waited.

“Lieutenant, has communications gone down as well?”

“No, sir.”  Green checked her own console.   “The link’s fine.”

“Maybe they’re all busy?” Cadenza suggested, glancing from her own computer screen.

“There are only two people in Engineering,” Tyrian called out, drawing Green’s attention to the staff readout.  “It’s been evacuated, according to the duty log.”

“He’s right, sir,” Green confirmed.  “There’s only Chief Campbell and Mr Livingstone still on board.”

“I thought the skeleton crew were prepared to stay?” Conrad’s ice-cold calm began to fracture.  Campbell told me he had fifteen volunteers willing to try and sort out the problem.  They have dedicated escape pods on that deck and they were going to stay…”

Tyrian was whispering with Green.  She sprang to her feet and approached the main console with a printout in her hand.

“Colonel, Tyrian’s run a Mysteron sweep.  We have six bodies registering.  Two here, two in Sick Bay, one in Engineering and one in Hangar Bay One.”

Mysterons?  They’re carrying out their threat!” Cadenza cried, jumping up from the console seat and drawing her gun.  “I’m on my way to Engineering…”

“Eva!” Colonel Black roared, but in vain – she was not listening.  He cursed.  “You have control, Lieutenant,” he said, and followed his wife out of the door.

 

 

Chapter Seven

In the Intensive Care Ward the automatic monitors started to fluctuate wildly and alarms went off above Alizarin and Scarlet.  Fawn raced across the ward with two nurses in pursuit, and reached the door just as Doctor Tan arrived from the bathroom.

“I just left them – just for a minute,” he gasped, as Fawn threw open the door and hurried inside.  Nurse Ingram was reaching across to turn off the alarm over Captain Scarlet. 

“What’s happened?” Fawn demanded.

“Nothing, Doctor; well nothing obvious.  The cerebral monitor started to show signs of intense brain activity, first for Scarlet then for Alizarin.  I thought they were about to come out of their comas, but then everything went haywire.” Nurse Ingram looked at the two doctors for an explanation, and moved aside as they approached the beds. 

Fawn lifted Scarlet’s arm and felt for his pulse as Tan did the same for Alizarin.  Ingram went over to check Captain Blue.

“No change, Doctor,” she reported, relief evident in her voice.  “He’s still under the anaesthetic.”

Lieutenant Green’s voice came over the emergency intercom:

“Control Room to Sick Bay, is everything okay?  We have a red alert from the computer systems.”

  “It would seem our patients are fine, Lieutenant,” Fawn said, carefully placing Scarlet’s arm back by his side.  “Has anything happened to upset the automatic monitors?”

“No; I assumed the failure lay with your systems, Doctor.   What we saw was a power surge from Sick Bay and then the environmental filters went off-line.  It’s going to get pretty hot and airless everywhere if I can’t get them back again.”

“Systems A-OK here, Lieutenant,” Tan reassured her.

“S.I.G; I’ll put it down to the mysterious virus that’s besetting all the base systems, then.  Green out.”

Frowning, Fawn looked down at the three men, all of them were unconscious, but it seemed the only peaceful sleeper was Captain Blue.  The rapid movement going on behind the closed eyes of Alizarin and Scarlet showed that both of them were experiencing intense dreams. 

She walked thoughtfully back to her office, went inside and closed the door.  Moments later, Nurse Ingram who was on her way past, heard the rapid clatter of keyboard keys.

 

 

Cadenza slipped into the main engineering hall and waited a moment while her eyes adjusted to the gloom of the emergency lighting.  She concentrated on listening intently for any noise that might indicate there were people about.  On her way down to through the deserted decks, Tyrian had told her about the power surge that had closed down the environmental controls, and she’d seen for herself that the escalators and elevators were all out of commission.  Cloudbase was slowly and irrevocably shutting down and if they couldn’t resolve the problem quickly, it would be too late and the only thing they could do would be to pray the storm didn’t shift them over the heavily populated coastal regions of the Mediterranean.

She tensed as she heard footsteps approaching and slipped silently into the shadow of a large metal cupboard.   The stranger was not taking pains to move quietly, and was approaching at some pace. 

She saw the figure walk past and stepped out, her gun aimed at the back of the man’s head. 

“Stop walking and turn round slowly, or I’ll shoot you,” she threatened. 

The man cursed, and did as he was told. 

Cautiously she lowered her gun.  “Mr Livingstone, I presume?”

“Cadenza?  Jeez, ma’am, you gave me a start.”

“Who’s down here with you?”

“Chief Campbell.  We evacuated the rest of the staff, just as the colonel told us too.”

“Colonel Black told you to evacuate?  But, he was expecting fifteen volunteers to stay and work on the engines.”

“That’s what we thought, ma’am, but he came here in person and told us all to go.  Chief and me, we thought we’d see what we could do; we don’t want to see this little lady go down without a fight.”

“The colonel hasn’t been here, Livingstone.  Why are you lying to me?”

“It was him, I swear.  He came in from the Hangar Deck and told the men to go.  Ask Chief Campbell if you don’t believe me.”

“When was this?”

Livingstone looked at his watch.  “About thirty minutes ago, maybe a bit longer.”

“I was with the colonel then.  He wasn’t down here.”

“Well, someone who looked just like him was.”

There was no mistaking the sincerity of Livingstone’s reply.  Cadenza frowned; she recalled the first time she’d met Scarlet in an alternative dimension and the fact that she’d mistaken the Mysteron agent from his reality for her husband.  It seemed that almost everywhere but here, Conrad had led the Spectrum mission to Mars and he was the man the aliens had taken as their agent in the War of Nerves against the Earth. 

 If Scarlet and Blue could make it through the tunnels, what’s to say that someone – anyone – else couldn’t? 

Suddenly pieces of the puzzle moved into a frightening focus: the assassins at Etna, the readings of two more Mysterons than expected on the base. 

Oh no: Black and… and Zodiac… here?

Aloud she asked, “Where’s Campbell? And where did the colonel go when he left you?”

Campbell’s back there at the Control Panels.  I’m just fetching some coffee; we’ve had a long shift...”

“The colonel?”

“He went back into the Hangar Deck across the way, ma’am.”  Livingstone paused and then asked, “Do you think it was a Mysteron?”

“I don’t think it was the colonel – for sure.  Remember, they can do remarkable things, Mr. Livingstone; making you think you saw Colonel Black and that he gave you such unexpected orders, would hardly make them break into a sweat.”

“Now you mention it, both the Chief and I thought there was something not quite right with the colonel.  He was not his usual chatty self.”

Chatty?”

Livingstone nodded.  “He’s always got a word for the Chief and me when he does his rounds, ma’am.  But we reckoned he’d a lot on his mind, of course.”

“Of course; don’t worry.  You can leave it to me.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Can you and the Chief handle any repairs if we discover what is wrong?” she asked, preparing to leave.

“There’s not much Chief Campbell doesn’t know about these cahelium engines; if we have the time, we can fix it, ma’am.”

“Time may be the difficult part, Mr Livingstone.  Make sure you stay together, whatever happens and whoever tells you to split up.   Make sure you check it with the Control Room before you obey any orders except that of staying here and doing what you can to regain control of the base.  A genuine officer won’t mind you double-checking, and if anyone does, don’t trust them.”

“Sure, ma’am.”

Cadenza gave a satisfied nod and then asked, “Oh, by the way: the colonel, what was he wearing?”

“He had a charcoal sweater, but just a jacket over it.  We thought he must’ve been off duty when this blew up.  He was looking a bit peaky; if you don’t mind me saying, ma’am, you should get him to take a vacation.”

“After this, I think I might insist that we all do…”

 

 

Cadenza tried to call Conrad over the base intercom but that too had stopped working now.  She made her way to the maintenance gantry that overlooked the hangar and slipped through the manual swing door as quietly as she could.  Pressing her back against the wall, she made a conscious effort to slow her breathing and steady her nerves. The Mysterons rarely ventured into Spectrum’s numerous fortresses; although attacks on their installations were not uncommon, they usually took the form of an external force.   But that was not to say they wouldn’t infiltrate any base, given the opportunity.  And Cloudbase’s normally reliable systems and backups were failing, while her son, and the men who had accompanied her lost boy back to her, were fighting for their lives.  

It wasn’t logical to assume that the events were unconnected, but she was puzzled as to how the various strands fitted together.

A muted sound caught her attention and she tensed.  Edging forward, she peered into the dimly lit interior of the hangar and saw three men.  She recognised them immediately: her arch-enemy, Colonel Steven Kalinski; the pale and gaunt-faced man she now knew was Captain Black; and, with his back to her, the upright and unyielding figure of her husband – Conrad Turner.

Steve Zodiac had a gun directed on Conrad, and she frowned as she strained to hear what was being said.

“The Mysterons’ orders will be carried out.” Zodiac spoke in his usual unemotional monotone.

“Even if you manage to destroy this base and however many thousands you kill in the process, you won’t defeat mankind,” Conrad said defiantly.  “There will always be someone to take my place and the place of every Spectrum agent.”

When Captain Black answered, she registered with distaste how his deep voice was as emotionless as Zodiac’s, and quite unlike Conrad’s warm, rich baritone.

“Earthmen are so parochial in their outlook.  The Mysterons are seeking bigger prey than just this puny base.  We know that your defeat in one dimension can send ripples through the others.  The Scarlet-being and the Captain Blue in your Sick Bay are not from this reality; their being here weakens the fabric between dimensions, making it easier for us to influence events in both – in many.   Here, on your Cloudbase, Colonel, you have the greatest concentration of Mysteronised beings ever assembled.  The additional power that gives us will enhance the ripple effects through the other worlds, until every Spectrum in every dimension is weakened, and we will gain the upper hand.  We have told you many times: our retaliation will be slow, but none the less effective…”

 “Are you trying to tell me that you ‘engineered’ this whole incident?  I don’t believe you.  Gabriel may be a hot-head and inclined to act first and think later, but he’s not a Mysteron and never has been.”

Colonel Zodiac gave a dry chuckle.  “He is the child of two Mysteronised individuals; the blood of the Mysterons flows through him as strongly as through your wife and her paramour.”

“Then why has the boy never shown any signs of this?”

 “You have chosen not to believe the evidence of your own tests – chosen to believe he is not a Mysteron.  Earthmen are too sentimental,” Zodiac replied, and then repeated, “Our retaliation will be slow, but none the less effective.”

Captain Black said, “We’re in no hurry, Colonel.  And by sheer serendipity, your son arrived in his father’s dimension many years before he left here.  When we succeed here, we will be able to obliterate the other dimension significantly earlier in their timeline than we expected.  So, the ripple effect will gather momentum until no dimension will be able to withstand it.”

“You have to succeed here, first,” Conrad reminded him.

“And who will stop us?  You’ve evacuated your base, Colonel, and effectively lost control of it.  Don’t think your wife can save you; we know exactly where she is… and what she plans to do.  The Mysterons have powers beyond the feeble comprehension of any Earthman, and we have no weaknesses for you to exploit.  You’ve lost.”

As he finished speaking, Zodiac raised his gaze towards the gantry where Cadenza was hiding and gave a merciless smile.  Beside him, Captain Black also turned his dark, soulless gaze in her direction.  

She tensed: something was clouding her mind, dulling her senses and eroding her sense of individuality.   She had to get out of there – and fast.  Drawing in a deep breath, she backed away, concentrating firmly on making her legs obey her, until she felt the door at her back.  She spun round and pushed through the door, sprinting along the corridor to the nearest flight of stairs.   With every stride she felt the pull of the Mysterons’ minds lessen, and by the time she paused on a small landing, where a corridor branched either towards Sick Bay or the stanchions to the Control Tower,  her senses were as acute as usual and her decisive mind unclouded by any alien influence.

Glancing towards the stanchion and the apparent security of the Control Room, she nevertheless headed for the Sick Bay.  With its own emergency power generators and isolated systems, it was likely that Medical would be the last place to succumb to whatever was draining Cloudbase of its power.

 

 

Dr Fawn was in her office, sipping coffee and frowning at a computer screen when Cadenza arrived.  The Angel walked in and closed the door behind her, helping herself to a mug of hot coffee from Fawn’s personal supply, before she took a seat opposite her and spoke.

“We’re in deep trouble, Edie; and not just us, here on Cloudbase, but the whole world and every dimension, if what I’ve heard is true.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, Eva.  What have you heard?”

She told her what the Mysterons had told Conrad, concluding with a helpless cry:

“They said Gabriel was a Mysteron – has always been one since his birth!”

“And if Gabriel is, then so is Michael,” Fawn reminded her.  “And Michael’s in the Control Room with Serena.”

Cadenza got to her feet, pacing the room in agitation.  “I don’t believe it; I can’t believe it – not of those two boys!  I’ve nursed them, watched them, loved them – I would know if they were Mysterons!  I won’t believe that we’ve all been so wrong, Edie!”

Fawn shook her head helplessly.  “I’ve been doing some thinking about this problem myself, Eva.  Something Lieutenant Green said about viruses in the system started a vague idea in my head.  You know how the robot nurses monitor the body and brain functions of patients-”

“I should do, you’ve had me wired up to them more times than I care to recall.”

“Exactly; well, those robotic circuits are integrated with Cloudbase’s plasma computers.”

Cadenza swallowed the mouthful of coffee she’d just taken.  “Are you trying to say that those robotic nurses are in control of my ship?”

“I’m not an engineer or a computer magician, Eva-”

“Of course not, you only devised the entire medical suite’s computers, Edie.”

“But, I put it to you: what if-”

“I love those two words…” she muttered and as Fawn paused, she apologised and begged her to continue.

“If the Mysterons have gained control of Scarlet and Alizarin they could, through the neural interfaces in the robotic nurses, take control of Cloudbase.   The Seventh Generation computer systems are all integrated, so Scarlet and Alizarin would effectively become part of those computers – cybernetically – their minds could control the base and the Mysterons control their minds.”

 “Bloody big ‘if’, as Conrad might say…” Her husband’s name brought the memory of her last sight of him flooding into her mind and she put the coffee down. “Do you think they intended to kill Conrad?  I shouldn’t’ve left him there.”

Fawn responded with a melancholy sigh.   She’d always felt that she knew Eva Svenson better than any man alive, even better than her husband, because it was to her that she confided her concerns and her doubts.   For all that she loved Conrad Turner, and he undoubtedly loved her, there remained between them the anomaly of his position as her commanding officer, which prevented her revealing her deepest fears to him.  Fawn knew that her commanding officer was a deeply passionate man, but had difficulty expressing his feelings, coupled with an intellectual inability to understand weakness.

She stood and walked to where her closest friend, and most frequent patient, sat with her head buried in her hands.  She patted Cadenza’s shoulder sympathetically. 

“Conrad knows as well as anyone what the price of fighting the Mysterons can be.  He knows the burden you’ve carried and the sacrifices you’ve made, Eva.  Believe me, he’ll understand and, indeed, he’ll have expected you to leave rather than risk either being overpowered by the Mysterons yourself, or some impossible rescue attempt on your own.”

Cadenza looked up at her, her pale-blue eyes revealing no sign of any inner turmoil.  “I know Conrad can take care of himself, Edie,” she said, a slight hint of amusement in her voice.   “I was thinking about the boys, if you must know.”

Blushing slightly, Fawn nodded.  “Perfectly understandable,” she said, shoving her hands deep into her overall pockets. “But you can leave Gabriel to me; no sodding Mysteron’s taking charge of my hospital!”

Cadenza grinned and stood up.  She was taller than the doctor, and had to stoop as she hugged her and planted a kiss on her cheek.  “What would I do without you, Edie?” she teased. 

Fawn pushed her away, but not unkindly: she was very fond of Cadenza Angel.  “What do you want me to do, Eva?” she asked.  

 

 

Lieutenant Green saw the red ‘confidential’ light flashing discreetly on her communication console and glanced at Tyrian, sitting checking network links and reports at the other end of the communications array.  She slipped her earpiece out of the drawer built into the arm of the chair, and whispered:

“Go ahead…”

It’s Cadenza. Where are you and where’s Mike?”

“I’m at the radar console and he’s checking the main network screen…” Green knew that Cadenza was familiar enough with the array to realise they were about as far apart as they could be.

Listen, you won’t have to say much… Zodiac is on board, with Captain Black from Scarlet’s dimension. They have the colonel in Hangar Bay 2.  Engineering’s manned by Campbell and Livingstone – and that’s all.  They’re trying to get the cahelium engines back on line.  I overheard Zodiac telling the colonel that – in effect – the presence of Scarlet, Captain Black, the boys and me is some sort of power enhancer for the Mysterons.  Whatever they do here will have the power to affect other dimensions starting with that of Captain Scarlet.  Fawn believes that through Scarlet and Gabriel, the Mysterons are controlling the ship via the integrated circuits for the robotic nurses… We are going to try and disconnect them.  You must be ready to close down the medical emergency generators if there is any sign of… a problem.”

There was a silence.

Serena?” Cadenza hissed, “Did you hear me?”

“I heard.  Will they be okay?  The patients?”

Fawn thinks so.  Captain Blue is sedated, but breathing unaided, he shouldn’t have any problem.  Scarlet and Alizarin… well, we can’t know if the Mysterons are using them, but… they have retrometabolism.”

“Eva…”

It has to be done. If the Mysterons are controlling the base this way, we have to consider the lives of people on the ground, and our own are of no importance in comparison.  Understand me?”

“Yes,” Green said quietly.  “I just hope you’re right.”

“Listen, there is something else; when the robotic circuits have been severed, you must depressurise Hangar Bay Two – and open the emergency hatches.”

“What about the colonel?” Green gasped in alarm, forgetting to keep her voice down.  Tyrian looked up, frowning, and moved closer.

They may have already killed him, Serena, and if they haven’t… Conrad can look after himself. He’s always said so.”

“They’ll be sucked out of the base.”

“I know.” Cadenza’s voice was as hard as nails.  You have your orders, Lieutenant.”

Green hesitated and then said sadly, “S.I.G..”

 She closed the communication link and glanced at Tyrian; the boy was watching her intently.  She gave him a brief smile, but he did not respond.

“That was my mother,” he said, and Green cursed the fact that the boys both had almost supernaturally sharp hearing.

“It was,” she agreed.

“You’re going to do what she asked?”

“I have no choice; she’s my commanding officer, Tyrian.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Not for us – that is, no more than we’re in danger now.”

“Tell me what she said.”

“You don’t need to know, Mike.”

“If I am going to help you, I do.”

Green looked at him, reluctance evident from her expression. 

“Please, Serena; there’s no need to treat me as if I’m too stupid to understand the need for sacrificing the individual when the safety of millions of people is at stake – and if Cloudbase crashes, it could result in the death of millions of people.”

She looked away and then told him what Cadenza had ordered her to do without being able to meet his gaze.

Tyrian nodded.  “She’s quite right, of course.”

“But it’s your father and your brother!”

“I know; and they’d be the first to say they’re expendable.”

Michael!”

 He regarded her, perplexed that she could even question his assertion.  She saw within the deep-blue of his eyes the same hardness she recognised in both of his parents.  When he replied, she wasn’t surprised at what he said. 

“We’re Spectrum.  We don’t surrender, Lieutenant, any of us – whatever it costs.”

 

Chapter Eight

 

Doctor Fawn, Cadenza Angel and Doctor Tan moved towards the intensive care beds.   Tan went to stand beside Captain Blue’s bed and checked the monitor.

“Still unconscious, vital signs are steady, improving, but still weak,” he reported.

Cadenza read the monitor above her son.  “Brain functions are off the scale, vital signs are normal.”

“Captain Scarlet is the same,” Fawn said doubtfully.  “By rights, with that much registered brain activity, he and Alizarin should be conscious.  Tan, go ahead and disconnect Captain Blue from the robotic nurse monitors.”

Doctor Tan flicked several switches and pulled the electrodes from Blue’s inert body. The lights on the monitor went out and gave a low, single-tone pulse to show it was closing down.   Nothing else happened and, sighing out his tension, he felt for the patient’s pulse. 

“Pulse steady.  Patient is breathing unaided, shallow, but regular.”  He looked up at his superior officers.  “It’s okay; I think he’s going to make it.”

“Good; there’s no need to move him at the moment, but stand by, Tan, we may need to act quickly and get him into an escape pod,” Fawn said.  “Ready, Cadenza?”

She nodded.  “We should act together, and quickly, before the Mysterons get wind of what we’re doing or try to control me as well.”

Fawn agreed.  “On my mark turn off the two red switches on the monitor above the bed, and remove the electrodes from Gabriel.”

“S.I.G..”

“Three, two, one…”

Cadenza reached out to throw the power switch at the same moment Fawn did.  As their hands touched the robot nurses the ward lights went out with a flash and jagged bolts of electricity arced over the beds, giving an impression of bars surrounding the patients.  Cadenza was thrown back across the floor towards where Blue lay before she could operate the switch, while Fawn, who had thrown the power switch over Scarlet’s bed, fell to her knees beside the bed.  The air fizzed with random bursts of electricity, so that the static made the observers’ hair stand up, then, with another surge it earthed itself in the floor. 

As the emergency lighting came on, giving a dull glow that just about made things visible, Doctor Tan rushed to Cadenza’s assistance.   He called for the nurses to come in as well.

Cadenza was out cold and Tan gently moved her away from the gap between the beds, to lie her down on the floor, where she could be better looked after.  Doctor Fawn was shaken and dizzy, but, with a little help she was able to get to her feet.  She looked towards the Angel pilot with concern. 

“Electricity,” she mumbled, “the Achilles’ heel of a retrometabolised individual.”

“She’s alive,” Tan assured him. 

“And Gabriel, Blue and Scarlet?” Fawn asked.

The nurse beside Captain Blue’s bed nodded.  “There’s no change; he’s okay, Doctor.”

Tan looked towards the other beds where the two bodies still lay motionless and silent.  There were no life signs registering on Scarlet’s monitor, but Alizarin’s showed increased readings.  He left Cadenza in the care of a nurse and went to join Fawn beside Scarlet’s bed, unsure that even a retrometabolic human could have survived that voltage of electricity.

The ward was starting to smell of singed fabrics as the medical officers approached Captain Scarlet.   Almost the same moment as Tan leant over to examine him, the captain’s eyes opened. 

Tan gasped; the whole of Scarlet’s eyeballs were a vivid green and glowed in the gloom of the ward.   He backed away as the alien eyes turned to stare at him and Scarlet sat bolt upright in bed.

“Get a Mysteron gun,” Fawn shouted, and the last of the nurses ran from the ward in search of the weapon.

Captain Scarlet remained completely motionless throughout this hiatus, apart from the turbulent green light that sparked across his staring eyes.  Gingerly, Fawn approached the bed again.  When the nurse burst in with a cumbersome Mysteron gun, she held up her hand authoritatively, forbidding further action.  The nurse stopped, pointing the gun at the floor, but waited, ready to fire at the first sign of trouble.

“Captain Scarlet,” Fawn said slowly and carefully.  “Captain Scarlet, can you hear me?  It is Doctor Fawn – Edith Wilkie,” she added, unsure of the identity of the doctor Scarlet was familiar with.

There was no audible response, although Fawn was close enough by now to see the slight frown that appeared between the straight, black brows, and the haziness that clouded the electric-green eyes.

“Captain Scarlet,” she repeated, “you are on Cloudbase, in Sick Bay.  We need your help.”

Again there was no direct response, although the green light in the eyes seemed to dim slightly and flicker.  Fawn looked about, desperately searching for some inspiration that would reach through the Mysteron-induced fog she was sure was clouding the captain’s mind.  Her gaze fell on the motionless body of Captain Blue. 

It’s worth a gamble…” she thought, recalling all she knew about the close relationship that apparently existed between the Metcalfes and the Svensons in every dimension. 

“Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue is here with you; his life is in danger.  We could save him with your help.” 

There was no response to this appeal and Fawn saw the sceptical look on Tan’s face and shrugged.

Then the frown on Scarlet’s face deepened and he blinked in rapid succession for several seconds.  When his eyelids finally stopped fluttering, he shook his head, as if clearing away some confused thoughts, and ripped the electrodes from his skin before turning to acknowledge Fawn’s presence. 

The doctor felt a surge of hope as she saw the deep sapphire-blue eyes, a colour she always associated with the Turner boys, slowly acquire focus and awareness.

Scarlet gave her a bemused smile. “Hi, Doc?  How did I get back to Cloudbase and why’s it so dark in here?”

“Cadenza brought you,” Fawn replied, “Don’t you remember?”

“Cadenza?” Scarlet sounded unsure as he struggled to recall the immediate past.

“You were at Etna,” Fawn prompted, “and someone shot at you-”

Scarlet’s eyes widened in alarm.  “How’s Blue and… and Gabriel?”

“They’re here with you.  They’re alive.”

“Good.”  Scarlet relaxed and looked around him.  Frowning again as he saw Gabriel and Blue in the beds next to him, he demanded, “Are they badly hurt?”

“We’ve removed a bullet from close to Captain Blue’s spine; he’s sedated, but stable.  Alizarin is in a coma – as you were until just a few moments ago.”

Scarlet shook his head.  He could vaguely remember a period of tiring activity, of being bombarded with ideas, orders and commands, of juggling dozens if not hundreds, of functions, which hardly equated with what he imagined was involved with being in a coma. 

 “And you’re Doctor Fawn, right?”  he asked, rather bewildered.  The woman nodded.  “Okay,” he murmured to himself, “everything else is topsy-turvey, so I’ll go along with that.”  He have her a wry smile and asked, “Doc, what’s going on?  I remember we were taking Gabriel back to his mother – did Cadenza bring us back?”

“Well, she brought you back to her home, Captain.  This is her Cloudbase.”

Scarlet wrestled with the information.  “I’m in her dimension?”

“Exactly.” 

“That explains it… Where is she?”

“She was hurt by the electrical fault that seems to have revived you.”  Fawn turned and looked inquisitively at the nurse attending Cadenza.   She nodded and Fawn sighed with relief.  “She’s okay… hopefully she’ll wake up soon.”

Scarlet swung his legs over the side of the bed, realised he was naked and looked across at Fawn with a wry smile.  “My uniform, Doc?  If you want my help, I need to get dressed.”

Grinning, the Mysteron gun-toting nurse went to fetch the unfamiliar scarlet-hued tunic and the rest of his uniform.  She drew a curtain around Scarlet and left him to dress, while Fawn answered the highly pertinent, quick-fire questions she was asked and brought Scarlet up to speed on the present situation.

Throwing back the curtain, Captain Scarlet emerged, adjusting the belt of his uniform and ready for action.

He looked across at Cadenza, supported by the other nurse. 

"Any sign of her recovering?" he asked; knowing that he was in her world gave him a distinct feeling of being at a disadvantage. 

The nurse felt for a pulse.  "The shock didn't kill her, Captain," she replied.  "She's getting stronger."

Doctor Tan attracted Fawn’s attention.  “As Captain Scarlet hasn’t suffered any apparent ill effects, should we detach Alizarin?” he asked.

“No,” Scarlet replied vehemently, much to Tan’s surprise. 

“Why not?” Fawn demanded.

“I don’t pretend to understand what was going on, Doc, but as I understand it, you’re not sure that Alizarin shares the same ability to fully retrometabolise that his mother and I have?”  Fawn nodded.  “Well, all I can say is that I feel like I’ve been kicked by a mule – a very big mule – and if the kid is still alive, I would leave him be.”

“Just that?” Fawn pressed, coming to stand beside the tall man.

Scarlet looked at her, recognising the perceptive intelligence in the woman’s face as something he was familiar with in his own doctor.   He shook his head and replied in a whisper.  “I was busy while I was unconscious; I was in control of something – at least I think I was.  Leave the child be, until we know what exactly was going on.”

Fawn turned to her junior colleague.   “We know Captain Scarlet shares certain characteristics with Cadenza Angel, but we still have no certainty that Alizarin does.  Besides, we can’t risk another power blackout like the one we’ve just had – our generators might not take the strain and Cloudbase doesn’t have enough power to keep the Sick Bay functioning.  Monitor him closely, Tan, but don’t do anything without checking with me first.”

Tan nodded; there was no greater expert on all aspects of retrometabolism than Doctor Fawn. 

Scarlet nodded his agreement at this arrangement and turned back to the attentive doctor.   "Now, you say your colonel is in the Hangar Bay with your Mysteron Agent - Zodiac - and our Mysteron Agent, Captain Black-"

"Yes, and if I understand right, your colonel is not Conrad Turner," Fawn said.   "So, you'd better be careful not to mix up the two Blacks and chase after our colonel."

"Not very likely, Doc; Captain Black always brings on a severe case of nausea - I'm guessing your colonel won't."

"Ah, just as Cadenza's Mysteron sense does with Zodiac?  That's interesting..."

"There’s no guarantee I'd get the same reaction with Zodiac, or that Cadenza would with Captain Black - I vaguely remember she couldn't tell him apart from - her husband - the only other time they met," Scarlet mused.  He looked at the unconscious Angel and sighed.  "Who else is on board that might be able to help me?"

"Lieutenant Green is in the Control Room-"

"Seymour: good!"

"Eh, Serena... Captain," Fawn corrected, a wry smile on her lips, as Scarlet's face fell. "She and Michael are checking the computers and trying to keep Cloudbase afloat."

"Michael?"

Fawn's surprise was obvious.  "Ensign Tyrian - Gabriel's brother - his twin brother, Michael."

"Twins!  Nobody mentioned anything about twins-" Scarlet looked at the unconscious youth and over to Cadenza.  "We certainly hit the jackpot, Doc."

Fawn nodded.  "You did – they’re both good kids.  I suppose you’d say that Gabriel is the natural leader, but in fact, he’s a bit of a rash hot-head sometimes, while Mike is the more reflective, less gregarious of the two, but as sharp as they come, Captain.  I’m not sure his brother doesn’t defer to him more than is realised."

"One like his mum and one like me, eh?"

“Oh, Cadenza’s an intelligent woman; don’t get me wrong,” Fawn said quickly.  Scarlet grinned. "And they’re as physically alike as two peas in a pod,” she continued. “Cadenza can tell them apart, but I think apart from her, everyone, even the colonel, has a problem at times.  I always suspected it was one of the major reasons he gave them codenames when they were nippers.  They were so proud to have real codenames, they insisted on wearing everything colour-coded…"  She gave a smile.  “You’ll like Michael; every one does.”

 “That’s nice to know - but right now, our priority is to make sure the Mysterons don’t bring Cloudbase down.  Can you put me in touch with the Control Room and the men in Engineering?”

Fawn nodded. “While we have our independent power source, we can still contact anywhere on the base.  Green and Tyrian know who you are – but the engineers won’t.  What shall I call you?”

“Is there a Captain Scarlet stationed on Cloudbase?”

Fawn shook her head.  “Not any more.  Our Major Scarlet commands Spectrum: Europe.”

Scarlet hesitated for a moment, and his eyes alighted on the bodies of the other two patients.  “If they ask, tell them,” he said, a slow smile stretching his lips, “tell them I’m Captain Madder.”

Fawn’s dark eyes glinted with amusement as she led Scarlet into her office.  The communication panel was flashing red, and she punched the switch.  “Yes, Lieutenant Green?”

The screen behind her desk flickered into a grainy picture, and Scarlet could see a young black woman, with short-cut, curly, black hair, dark-brown eyes and a broad, round nose above wide, full lips.  Her expression was one of concern as she asked:

“We lost all contact; has there been an incident in Sick Bay?”

“We’ve disconnected the patients from the robot nurses, Lieutenant. It seems to have blown a few fuses, but apart from that, there’s nothing wrong.   Have you followed Cadenza’s orders?”

Green’s gaze veered away.  “No, Doctor.” 

“She isn’t going to be very pleased about that.”

“I know – but… well, I couldn’t risk the colonel’s life by depressurising the Hangar Bay – and anyway,” she continued at a rush before Fawn could comment, “we couldn’t be sure you had disconnected anything, could we, once we lost contact?”

“Hmmm; well, I just hope Cadenza takes that as excuse enough.”

Scarlet grinned to himself to see the lieutenant’s unease, and then stared in amazement as a young man’s face appeared beside her – Gabriel’s face - except that this one was above a deep purple-hued tunic. 

“What happened when you disconnected the robot nurses, Doctor?” he asked.  “Is Alizarin okay?”

“As far as we know he is stable.  Captain Scarlet came to – he’s here with me now…” Fawn stepped aside, allowing Scarlet to move into the narrow angle of the video phone transmitter. 

“Hello,” Scarlet said, feeling somewhat lost for words.

“Captain,” the youth said briskly, although a faint blush flooded into his cheeks.  “What orders, sir?”

With a wry acknowledgement that this ‘son’ of his was indeed an embodiment of pure Svenson pragmatism, Scarlet said, “I’m going to go down into Engineering and see what can be done to eliminate the Mysteron agents and ‘rescue’ Colonel Black.”

“Is that wise?” Tyrian asked, one dark eyebrow rising in surprise.  “Cadenza Angel is of the opinion –”

“I know – but your mother’s still unconscious,” Scarlet interjected, adding, “Trust me; I know what I’m doing… Michael.  I want you and Lieutenant Green to stay in touch and monitor what’s going on.  Do you have visuals on the Hangar Decks?”

“Just about,” Green answered, over Tyrian’s shoulder.  “It’s a bit like watching a webcam through a snowstorm, but I think it’ll do.  We have some sound,” she added.

 “Have you seen or heard Black and Zodiac?”

She shook her head.  “Negative.”

“Keep watching and working on getting the best sound and vision you can; I want to know any move they make.  We’ve got to move quickly to take them by surprise.”

“S.I.G., Captain.”

The connection closed, and Scarlet glanced at Fawn.  “Engineering,” he prompted.

Fawn opened another link.

“Mr Campbell, Mr Livingstone, this is Doctor Fawn – please respond.”

There was a lengthy pause, during which time Cadenza appeared in the doorway, her eyes screwed up against the light and her hand pressed to her forehead.   Scarlet saw her and beckoned her over.

 “You okay, Eva?” he asked gently.

She came to his side, sliding her arm through his and pressing her lips to his cheek.  “Better, thanks – and relieved to see you pulled through okay.”

“Likewise.  I’ve spoken to Green and… Tyrian.”

She gave him the quickest of proud glances and squeezed his arm.  “Michael must’ve been worrying.  Is he okay?” she asked.

Scarlet pursed his lips.  “He questioned the wisdom of my plan to attack…”

She gave a silent chuckle.  “Oh, he’s okay then,” she said, adding, “Actually, it takes a lot to rattle Mikey. He can be just a little cold-blooded, at times, but – despite that, or maybe because of it - you can rely on him totally.”

“Good, we might need to do that; Lieutenant Green didn’t put your orders into effect.  The Hangar Bay is still pressurised.”

Cadenza shook her head slightly.  “I wondered if she’d choose not to obey.  She’s… devoted to Conrad.  A little ‘hero-worship’ can go a long way, I find.”

“Some might call it loyalty,” he remarked.

“If she was a guy, so would I – but she’s a woman, Paul, and I know my own sex.  Besides, Serena lost her parents early – she and her brood of siblings brought themselves up, more or less.  I guess Conrad is as good a father figure as any.”

Thinking of the deep, mutual regard that existed between Seymour Griffiths and his own commanding officer, Scarlet nodded.  “Your colonel sounds like a good man, Eva; would you really have wanted to risk his life?”

 “He wouldn’t thank me for putting him before the safety of many hundred of thousands of innocent civilians, Paul.  Would any Spectrum Agent?  In any dimension?”  He gave a shake of his head.  “Don’t misunderstand me; I’d have paid for it later - part of me will die when I lose Con – but we both know our duty and have devoted our lives, and those of our sons, to doing it.”

“Yeah… I know all about that.”

She squeezed his arm again.  “I’m sure you’ll see your Rhapsody Angel again, Paul; and that Captain Blue will be okay.  We Svensons are tougher than we look.”

“God help humanity then – you all look pretty formidable on occasion…”

Their hasty, whispered conversation was interrupted when Fawn indicated that she’d finally got an answer from Engineering.   Cadenza moved across with Scarlet to speak to Chief Campbell.

“How are you doing with getting the engines back online, Chief?” she asked.

“It’s a slow job; we have one nacelle back under control.  We can steer enough to go round in circles…”

“Even if we manage to get the Mysterons off Cloudbase,” Cadenza said, “that doesn’t mean we’ll regain control of the engines, Paul.”

“No, but I’m working on the premise that the hold the Mysterons have over the… people here, will lessen.  That way we should stand a better chance of regaining control of the ship.”

She frowned slightly as she considered his idea.  Scarlet recognised her thoughtful expression from countless discussions with Blue; he smiled.  I’d almost come to think my memory had exaggerated how familiar she seemed – it’s good to know it didn’t.

She caught his smile and grinned back, as if she sensed his thoughts.  “Okay, I’ll buy it,” she said.  “Keep on working at it, Chief; we’re relying on you.”

Right you are, ma’am.  Tell the colonel we’ll do all we can.”

As the connection closed Fawn looked at them both.  “What do you propose to do?”

“Go to the Hangar Deck and confront the Mysteron Agents,” Scarlet said.  “With luck, they won’t know we’re coming and Colonel Black can lend us a hand to ‘remove’ them.”

“How won’t they know?” Fawn questioned, following them out into the ward.

They started to answer simultaneously, stopped and grinned at each other.  Scarlet said, “Because I remember feeling incredibly busy while I was in the coma; I think that was because I was working for the Mysterons in trying to wrest the control of Cloudbase from Spectrum.  I’m sure the base was being controlled by the Mysterons through the use of my and Alizarin’s subconscious and now they’re doing it just through him.  Therefore, they’ll be working hard to compensate for the loss of power my breakaway has caused.”

Cadenza stopped walking.  “But Gabriel’s still attached to the computers,” she said. 

 “Yes, and he should stay that way; if we’d both been released, the Mysterons’d have nothing to concentrate their efforts on.”

“But he could be in danger-”

“Anyone who has dealings with the Mysterons – willingly or not – is in danger, Eva.  You don’t need me to tell you that.”

“And you would risk his life?” she challenged.   “Your own son.”

Scarlet swallowed – he hadn’t expected emotional blackmail from her – especially after what she’d said about her husband.  He dredged her words up from his memory.  “He wouldn’t thank me for putting him before the safety of many hundred of thousands of innocent civilians.” 

“He’s a child!”

“A child who wants to be a Spectrum Agent.  He told us that he’d come to our dimension to join the fight against the Mysterons and he asked Colonel White to take his request seriously.  I barely know him, but I feel a kinship with him, Eva, believe me.  Even so, I have no more choice that you do against the Mysterons.”

“There’s a world of difference between risking the life of a man who has lived that life fighting the world’s enemies and risking the life of an idealistic boy who can’t begin to understand what he’s risking!”

Scarlet looked at her.  There were unshed tears in her eyes, the same pale-blue shade as his friend who was currently fighting for his life in the hospital bed.  The thought that men were much easier to deal with than women flittered across his mind and was dismissed as an irrelevance by the years of military training and the ruthless determination he’d always had to use any weapon he had, make any sacrifice necessary, to defeat the aliens. 

“This is your world, Eva; but what happens here could have effects across more dimensions than we can even contemplate.  I don’t want the boy harmed, but I’m trying to keep a sense of perspective here…”

She pressed her hand against her lips and bit back her anguish.   “You’re right.”  She took his hand and her eyes met his with the same glint of steely determination he knew from Blue’s.  “We’ve both suffered so much because of the Mysterons – and there will be more to come before this is over, of that we can have no doubt.  Forgive me, Paul.  Sometimes I’m nothing more than a silly woman.”

He hugged her.  “You’re a remarkable woman, Eva Svenson – and you were before even the Mysterons touched your life, or I’m no judge.  Now – if God’s on our side, we’ll pull this off and you’ll have the chance to ground Gabriel for the next decade…”

Chuckling through a film of tears, she hugged him back, and, bidding farewell to Fawn, they started their journey through the empty, echoing corridors of Cloudbase towards the Hangar Decks.

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

Conrad Turner sat amongst the crates of spare parts in the cold, dark Hangar Bay and wondered for the nth time what was happening across his base.  After Cadenza had left, the two Mysterons had lost interest in him and stood for a considerable period in a deep silence, seeming to listen to something that was beyond his hearing. 

Finally Zodiac said, “THE MYSTERONS’ ORDERS WILL BE CARRIED OUT.”  He went into the small control room and Turner could see the flickering of lights on the control panel. 

He glanced up at the man still guarding him and studied him closely.   It was profoundly odd to see ‘another’ Conrad Turner, and chilling to know that this man was serving the same aliens he’d dedicated himself and his family to defeating.   Ever since Eva had returned through the dimensional tunnel and told him what she’d learnt, he’d felt ambivalent towards the fact that in other worlds, it had been other Conrad Turners who’d gone to Mars and were responsible for this War of Nerves.   Even the concentrated loathing he felt for Steven Kalinski had, over the years, been tempered by the thought that he too was capable of such catastrophic misjudgement.   It had, however, done nothing to lessen his determination to defeat the Mysterons and protect his home planet. 

Deciding that he’d nothing to lose, he decided to satisfy his curiosity and see if he could reach out to his alter-ego and, maybe, help his friends by distracting him from carrying out his instructions.  He addressed the stony-faced Captain Black.

“When you were on Mars, what made you think the Mysterons were hostile?  I just can’t equate the decision to blast the Mysteron City to smithereens with the man I know I am, and presumably, the man you were.”

For a long moment there was no response, and then Black turned his red-rimmed eyes onto his prisoner.  “EARTHMEN WERE THE AGGRESSORS, WE ARE PEACEFUL BEINGS.  OUR RETALIATION WILL BE SLOW AND EFFECTIVE.”

“Yes, yes; I’ve heard that innumerable times; usually just before the so-called ‘peaceful’ Mysterons try to wipe our entire species off the face of our own planet.  What I want to know is: what made you miscalculate?  You, Conrad Turner, and not you the mealy-mouthed agent of the Mysterons.  I can imagine Kalinski going ape-shit; I never had a very high opinion of him.   I said at the time that he wasn’t the man to be trusted with the job; but I’m at a loss to explain why you – with what must be our shared history of pacifism - would turn guns on a peaceful city.”

Black frowned, as if he was trying to find the answer from memories long-buried in his mind.  Finally, he replied in a voice that was almost conversational in tone, “We had searched and found nothing.  Then we saw the city.  A mechanical device rose from a structure and turned towards us.  It looked like a gun; Lieutenant Dean said they were going to attack.  I acted to save my crew and myself.”

“You couldn’t have just taken out the ‘gun’?”

“We were at risk.”

“You thought you were at risk – according to the Mysterons, you weren’t.   Conrad, I know in this world, Kalinski was sent to reconnoitre, he had no orders to engage whoever or whatever was making those signals.  The explorer was only armed in case they needed to blast a way through rocks.” 

“EARTHMEN HAVE A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.”

“And the Mysterons don’t?   We only have their word for that, don’t we?  From where I’m sitting they’re violent and ruthless enemies.  They’ve been assiduous in pursuing their revenge – and in so doing have acted out of all proportion-”

“Earthmen obliterated an entire city,” Black snapped.

Conrad was surprised; this was a break from the usual slow, unemotional responses and announcements they were used to from the Mysterons and their agents.   “No, I didn’t obliterate anything,” he said.  You did. You and Kalinski are the only ones responsible for the peril we’re in.  You acted beyond your remit.”

Captain Black turned his head away and retreated into his habitual seemingly impenetrable silence.

Conrad considered what to do next.  There was no chance of distracting the Mysteron at his side if the creature was ignoring him.  He was about to restart the conversation, when Zodiac came out of the control room and Black moved away towards him.  Their conversation was brief and conducted in whispers that even Conrad, trying as hard as he could, stood no chance of overhearing. 

Zodiac came towards him and Conrad felt his hackles rising.  He despised this man with a deep loathing that - he was honest enough to admit to himself, at least - stemmed from the jealousy at not being chosen to lead the Martian Mission.  He'd felt justified in that until Cadenza had told him that the result had been the same everywhere: war with the Mysterons.  The resultant soul-searching had, he hoped, made him a less rigid personality; but he couldn't help the old hatred rearing its head, as Zodiac stood over him.

"Get to your feet, Earthman," the younger man said, in the familiar uninflected voice of the aliens.

"Why?"

Zodiac's foot lashed out and caught Conrad in the ribs.  "Get up."

Winded, he staggered to his feet and was hustled away across the hangar towards the side where the mezzanine overhang provided a blind spot for anyone coming into the bay.

"Are you going to kill me?" he asked.

Zodiac ignored him.  He turned his head slightly, as if listening intently.  Conrad studied the once-handsome face: gaunt and drained of all colour, unshaven and dull, Zodiac was the image of a tormented soul; his blue eyes, red-rimmed and misty in the dim light, stared across at Captain Black.

"They are coming," he hissed.  "The two of them: the Scarlet and Cadenza beings."

Black strode across, nodding curtly.  “The Scarlet being is the greater of the two enhancers... along with the woman, he presents a challenging threat."

"The Mysterons will succeed," Zodiac said confidently.  

Black nodded.  “The child is enough to keep us in control of the base now; Cloudbase is doomed.  The only danger is that the two misplaced will find some way to prevent the maximum devastation when the vessel crashes.  The power plant must be destroyed by Cloudbase, so the relay stations will explode across the landscape.  Earthmen are so reliant on their artificial heat and warmth they will weaken and die by their millions."

Conrad tried to recall where all the major Mediterranean power plants were located and which one used the most extensive network of relay stations.  If I can get that information to Eva she can start the evacuation and rescue services – when Cloudbase crashes, fewer people will die. 

  The Mysteron agents ignored him, moving to take up positions across from each other, looking towards the entrance of the hangar.   He assumed they were communicating in some inaudible way as they moved in concert.  Straining he could just hear the soft footfall of someone on the mezzanine walkway. 

Then Zodiac cried out:  YOU CANNOT PREVENT US DESTROYING CLOUDBASE, EARTHMEN. WE, THE MYSTERONS HAVE CONTROL OF YOUR VESSEL.  CLOUDBASE WILL CRASH, DESTROYING MANY OF YOUR CITIES.

Captain Scarlet’s voice called back: “You haven’t beaten us yet, Zodiac. We’re doing everything we can to prevent that happening.”

Captain Black leant forward and pushed Conrad out from his hiding place, into the open space between the walls and the SPJ parked on the launch turntable. 

As he stumbled forward he heard the unmistakable cocking of gun triggers and the whirring hum of a charging Mysteron gun. 

“Don’t shoot!” he screamed.  “I’m Colonel Black!”

He turned to face the walkway, staring up at his wife and the man who was the father of his sons.  Scarlet was frowning angrily. Cadenza was also frowning, but hers was an expression of concern.

“Conrad?” she asked doubtfully and then demanded, “Where are they?”

“Here; Zodiac and Captain Black, they’re here,” he gabbled. Scarlet was already moving stealthily towards the metal spiral staircase that led down to the hangar floor. Conrad sought to keep the Mysterons’ attention focused on him, allowing the man time to act.   “They intend to crash Cloudbase onto the Mediterranean power plant with the greatest relay network!”

Cadenza nodded and spoke into her helmet mic.  “Did you hear that, Green?  Good, take what evasive action you can and alert all emergency services.”

“YOU CANNOT PREVENT US, EARTHMEN, AND IF YOU COME ANY CLOSER WE WILL KILL THIS MAN.”

“Ignore them!” Conrad shouted.  “That’s an order!”

“We intend to,” Scarlet called back.  “Black, you’ve lost!  Lay down your weapons!”

There was a gunshot, and as Scarlet dodged down below the safety rail and prepared to fire back, Conrad Turner fell forward with a groan, face down on the hangar deck...

 

 

As soon as the comms link closed, Lieutenant Green radioed the news of the Mysterons’ plans through to the World President’s office.  While she was occupied, Tyrian checked the progress Campbell and Livingstone had made with regaining control of the engines.  The port nacelle was under their control, but they still weren’t having much success with the starboard Hover Combine.  

“We’ve restored some functionality to the main engine, but it won’t get us far and it’s certainly not powerful enough to outrun the weather if that storm hits us,” Campbell explained.

“Is there anything we can do up here to help, Chief?” Tyrian asked. 

Keep trying to suppress the computer interference, that’s the best help you can be, Mickey. Every time we think we see a way to get round the override on controlling the engines from here the instruction is over-ridden by the main computers.  Are you sure you’re not doing anything to keep command in the Control Room?”

“Absolutely; almost all of our commands have been disabled.  Lieutenant Green’s trying to restore functionality from here, but the override isn’t easy to disengage.”

Chief Campbell sighed.  “I always had doubts about installing computers with cognitive intuition; it’s fine when they’re on your side, but they’re a bugger to circumvent…”

“You think the computers are preventing us regaining command of the ship?”  Tyrian asked as a new possibility occurred to him. 

“I do.  They’re outsmarting us, Mickey, and I don’t like it.  It shouldn’t be the case – they’re just two-bit boxes of binary bits, but they’re reacting quicker than we’ve ever experienced and making leaps in logic that are beyond what they should be capable of.”

“Beyond their capability, maybe; but beyond the Mysterons’ capabilities?”

“Not if what we know about them is true,” Chief Campbell agreed slowly. 

“Yeah, I wonder?”  Tyrian mused and then snapped back into action.  “Thanks, Chief.  I’ll do what I can.  Control Room out.”

He glanced across at Serena who was now in discussion with the Supreme Commander: Earth Forces about the evacuation of a large area of the Mediterranean coast.  She was obviously going to be busy for some time. 

He punched in a few commands and waited impatiently until the computer displayed the details he wanted.  To his relief it was as he’d suspected, the diagnostic capability of the base’s computers remained functional and the resulting schematic showed that the power flow to Sick Bay had been augmented by power diverted from all over the base, although some had been restored to the port nacelle around about the time, as far as he could tell, that Captain Scarlet had been disconnected from the robotic nurse. 

He drilled down through the computer details making quick calculations on his stand-alone computer.  After a moment he typed in a deliberately innocuous command and watched as the screen changed to reveal the progress of the instruction through the computer network.  A frown developed between his dark brows as he saw the logic synapses falter and stop functioning in response to a counter-command originating from the Sick Bay medical computers. 

“You okay, Mikey?” Serena asked, as she closed her conversation and turned her attention to the console again. 

Hastily, he closed the command down and nodded.  “They’re still working on getting the engines back online,” he replied. 

“Good; I’ll have to leave that side of it to you.  The WP wants me to get every Spectrum agent I can over to help with the evacuation of the population around the power stations.  Let me know as soon as we have any navigational capacity.  I need to move us off our present course, if I can.”

“S.I.G.,” Tyrian replied, and slid his chair further away from Lieutenant Green as she started sending out instructions to the ground-based agents across the region. 

Once he was sure she was engrossed in her task, Tyrian went back to his calculations on his laptop computer, putting in the information he’d gleaned from his experiment with the base’s powerful computers.  He called up the information from Engineering’s computers onto his main screen and kept an eye on the faltering progress of the technicians as they tried to recover command of the engines. 

Cloudbase’s Seventh Generation computers represented a giant leap forward in terms of digital intelligence; they were capable of intuitive reasoning based on all probabilities represented by even incomplete evidence.   They could also multi-task with ease, so it was the work of a moment for Tyrian to isolate enough of the working memory to continue with his experiment under the cover of monitoring Cloudbase. 

Once again he input an instruction – this time it was to reboot navigational functions - and tracked the progress through the plasma cells.  Once more it was closed down by a command originating from Sick Bay.

It wasn’t a fluke, he thought, as he used the diagnostic capability to access the medical computers and check who was logged in.  Doctor Fawn was the default user, and the doctor was updating her medical records – although a permanent security protocol kept Tyrian from seeing what was being written.  Doctor Tan’s workstation was locked, and a glance at the security camera screen showed the younger doctor busy beside Captain Blue’s inert body. 

The only other workstation in operation was Alizarin’s robotic nurse.  Tyrian called up the performance diagnostic for that, and saw that the output was far in excess of any expected data feedback based purely on monitoring the patient.   It took hardly any time at all to confirm his suspicion that the counter-commands were coming from his brother’s bed. 

Glancing at Serena, he saw that she was still busy with the logistics of evacuating the residents closest to the target areas.   He checked on the technicians’ progress and didn’t need to calculate the fact that there was no way they were going to get control of anything of any tactical importance before Cloudbase crashed.

He glanced back at his screen and saw a communication link flashing discreetly on the toolbar.  He opened it.

Mike, its me - Gabe.

Tyrian hesitated a moment before typing his response.

Whr r u?

In Sick Bay.  My mind is part of da comp netwrk.

Cn u gt out?

Y?  U hav no idea how liberating it is.  Da comps r capable of far mor thn we kno.  Da potntial is almost limitles. Watch.

With ponderous grace, Cloudbase suddenly dipped sideways and then levelled itself off again.

“Whoa!” Lieutenant Green exclaimed.  She had grabbed hold of the console in alarm.  “Have they regained navigation, Mikey?”

“No.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know what caused that.”

She smiled at him.  “We must be making progress though.  Tell them to keep up the good work.”

“S.I.G., Serena.”

Once she had safely returned to her work, he typed:

Wht u do dat 4 - u id10t?

So u believe me.

U mst disngage frm da comps.  U r puting Cbase @ risk.

I cn keep Cbase aloft. I cn pilot n ctrl her on my own.  U r  jealos tht I did somfin b4  u – 4 1ce.

Tyrian decided to call ‘Gabe’s’ bluff and find out if this really was his brother.  Gabe – u r bing ctrld by da Mystrons. 

I m not.  I kno wht I m duin.

Thts wat dey wnt u to tink.  Listn – u id10t - u mst fyt thm & free up da comps so we can regan ctrl of Cbase.  Dey wnt us 2 crash in2 powr statns & kill thousnds – prhaps milions – of peple.

I do not choose to free the computers. 

Thn evrythin mum & dad hav wrkd 4 snc b4 we wre born wil b 4 nuffin.  Well hav helpt da Mystrons dstroy da earth.  It wud b betr if thyd dstroyd us at birth. 

It is tim we stud up 4 ourslvs.  Thyve bullied us all our lives – Mike – bt don’t u wory - self preservaton is my prym directiv.

Tyrian closed his eyes as pity engulfed him; he knew his brother as well as he knew himself and both of them hated the Mysterons more than anything.  They blamed the aliens for the constraints imposed on their lives, for the pain and suffering their mother regularly endured and the ceaseless anxiety that beset their father.   For the impulsive and passionate Gabriel, the desire to defeat these adversaries was the driving force that had led him into countless arguments with his parents and numerous attempts to play an active part in the War of Nerves.   He couldn’t imagine any situation where his brother would refuse a chance to thwart the Mysterons.

He drew a deep breath and typed: Ok - so y let us crash thn?

I didnt say we wud crash.  Thre r mor ways 2 acheve our mison than dstroyin Cbase.

Wht mison?  Wht r u goin 2 do?

Cbase is mine.  Ican ctrl her.  Da Mystrons dont ctrl me – Mike - whtevr uv ben told.  Da tim has com 4 Spectrum 2 take da initativ.  I m goin 2 upgrade wepons - any 1 who oposes us will sufr 4 it.

Gabe – u r out of yr hed.  Da WG wont hesit8 2 blow da renegade Cbase out of da skyz. Theyre probly geting redy 2 do it rite now.   Besyds, u cant ctrl Cbase 4evr.  Yr body wil degenr8 ovr tim, or they’ll find a way 2 isol8 or nutralise u. Giv up now. Help me save Cbase & da powr statns.

Thers nuffin u can do 2 stop me - I m far mor powrful thn u - Mike.  If u try - I will dstroy u.

Yeah? Thts wat u alwyz say.  uv yt 2 beat me Gabe.

Tyrian closed the link and ignored the flashing light trying to restore contact. 

In the Sick Bay, Doctor Tan noticed the increasing activity on the display of Alizarin’s monitor, and informed his superior. 

 

 

Her husband’s collapse galvanised Cadenza into action.  She raised the electron gun she’d brought with her and began firing at Zodiac. 

As the beam zapped through the air in a luminescent gleam of yellow light, the two Mysteron agents dodged apart and merged into the gloom at the edge of the hangar.  As one of them began to return fire, Scarlet pushed Cadenza out of the path of a bullet and they both dived onto the floor. 

“Take cover,” he hissed.

Cadenza began to squirm forwards until she could fire beneath the banister that protected the upper walkway.  She sighted the rifle and fired it once more.  There was the pungent smell of singed wood from one of the storage crates. 

“I’ve got him pinned down,” she exclaimed.  “He can’t move from there without presenting me with a clear target.”

Scarlet had wriggled alongside her. “Zodiac, maybe; but what about Captain Black?  Did you see where he went?”

She shook her head, frowning.  “No.”

“Then we have a problem.  I assume your Cloudbase is like ours, in which case there are two exits to the hangar decks – the mezzanine and the lifts.  We’ve closed the mezzanine to them – that only leaves the lifts…”

“Where are you going?” she asked as he started to squirm along the floor towards the exit.

“Give me cover, Eva.  I’m going after Black.”

“Be careful, Paul.”

“You too – you’re the one with the electron gun.”

Scarlet opened the door at the end of the mezzanine cautiously, but the corridor beyond was empty.  He hastened along to the lift lobby, where the two lifts that served Hangar Bay Two were shown to be both on the floor above this.  As he watched, one of them moved up to the next floor – the deck below the runways – the deck that held the medical bay.  It stopped and remained where it was; Scarlet hesitated to press the button to summon the other lift, realising the computers could monitor its use, and started to sprint up the stairs. 

He paused as he approached the final flight leading to deck C, and drew his pistol.  He felt it was unlikely that he’d be able to kill Captain Black outright, but there was always a chance he could wound him – and maybe the fact that they were in an alternative dimension would make the Mysteron more susceptible to bullets from his own dimension.   Scarlet dropped down and crawled up the last few steps, peering underneath the banisters for signs of movement. 

He saw nothing, and following his hunch, moved towards Sick Bay with stealth, his back pressed against the wall.  When he reached the manual swing doors he leant forward and cautiously peered through one of the small, round observation windows. 

Captain Black had his back to the door and the medical staff, Fawn, Tan and the nurses, were facing him, their hands raised in submission. 

Scarlet sank into a crouching position and pushed the door open a fraction, straining to listen.

“THE MYSTERONS’ ORDERS MUST BE CARRIED OUT.  YOU WILL DO AS I SAY, DOCTOR FAWN, OR I WILL KILL EVERY MEMBER OF YOUR STAFF.”

Fawn straightened up to her full 5 foot 8 inches and said:

“It is against the Hippocratic Oath to harm, or permit harm to be done to, any patient.  Neither I nor any of my staff will lift a finger to help you, Captain Black.”

“WHERE IS THE ALIZARIN-BEING?”

Fawn said nothing, and kept staring at Black with a determined expression.  One of the nurses let out a half-stifled sob as Black aimed his gun at her.

Scarlet acted.  He targeted his gun on the centre of Black’s back and pulled the trigger.  The Spectrum agents dodged away, the women screaming in surprise and alarm as several bullets rattled off before Black could fire at the nurse.

The bullets hit their target and Black staggered, then turned and stared at Scarlet, who had sprung to his feet and now had his gun aimed at his enemy’s head. 

“SCARLET,” Black growled, and fired towards the captain. Scarlet felt the bullet tear into his stomach and gasped in pain.  He pulled the trigger of his pistol again and carried on firing even as he slipped to his knees from the trauma of his own wound. 

Black dropped his weapon.  Fawn rushed forward just as the man seemed to shimmer and then suddenly vanish before their eyes. 

Fawn kept on going and knelt down to cradle Scarlet in her arms.

“I nearly had him,” Scarlet whispered, fighting for consciousness.

“You got him all right,” Fawn replied, “but they took him before I could reach him. I don’t know if he’s dead.”

Scarlet coughed up a mouthful of blood.  “I don’t need this right now…” he muttered fretfully.

“I know what to do,” Fawn reassured him.  “Don’t worry, Paul.”

Scarlet managed a weak smile then closed his eyes, letting go of his conscious mind and sinking with some relief into the darkness of another death. 

 

 

Nurse Ingram contacted Lieutenant Green and reported the latest events to her.

“Scarlet’s dead?” Green repeated in alarm.

“Yes, Lieutenant, and Doctor Fawn doesn’t know how long it will be before he revives.  You must let Cadenza know.

Captain Black has left Cloudbase?”

Nurse Ingram sounded doubtful.  He’s disappeared; that’s all we can say for certain, that, and the fact that he was wounded.  We assume he’s been transported off the base, might even have been returned to his own dimension, but we don’t know for sure.”

Green turned to Tyrian, who was listening to the conversation with wide-eyed interest. 

“Mike, do a Mysteron sweep of the base.”

He nodded and set to work at the console.   After a while he was able to report, “There are five Mysterons aboard: two in Hangar Bay Two, two in sick bay and me, of course.”

Green flashed him a smile and contacted Cadenza with the information. 

“Captain Black has disappeared from Cloudbase?  That is good news,” the Angel replied in a breathy whisper.  “Now, if I can just get rid of Zodiac…” She raised her voice and called:

“Zodiac, your Mysteron ally has vanished, your mission has failed.  Your masters have left you alone on Cloudbase.  They have deserted you, Zodiac.  Give yourself up and we’ll help you.”

There was silence – however much Cadenza strained to hear movement.  She closed her eyes, reaching out with her mind, trying to sense the presence of her nemesis. 

Opening her eyes, she ventured to raise her head from the safety of the mezzanine banister and peer into the gloomy deck below.  No shots rang out, nothing moved.  Sighing, she stood and went down the steps, electron rifle at the ready. 

“Green, are you sure the sensors were registering two Mysterons in the hangar deck?”

Yes, Tyrian checked it.”

Cadenza sprang round the side of the crates, her weapon ready to discharge, but there was no one there. 

“Check again, Lieutenant.”

“S.I.G..”

Time stood still until Cadenza heard the familiar voice over her radio one more. 

Two Mysterons in the Hangar Deck,” Green confirmed.  Be careful, Eva.”

With fearful eyes, Cadenza turned to look at the prone body of her husband.  “Oh no, Conrad; not that…please God, not that…”

Warily, she moved towards the body and with the gun pressed to his temple with one hand, reached down to feel for a pulse.  There seem to be the merest flutter in his wrist, but she wasn’t sure if that was just wishful thinking. 

“Doctor Fawn,” she called over her radio, “Please send someone down to Hangar Bay Two, Colonel Black’s been seriously injured.  Bring a Mysteron detector with you.”

Are you all right, Eva?” Fawn sounded worried.

“Yes, I’m fine.  Conrad needs help though.  I don’t know if they… if he was killed, but he’s alive now – just.  We can’t take any risks, Edie.  I have an electron gun, but no detector.”

Tan and Ingram are on their way.” 

“Tell them to be careful.  Zodiac may still be here, although I can’t find him, at the moment.”

Maybe he was transported out of here when the Mysterons took Captain Black?”  the doctor suggested.

“Possibly; but the sensors have two Mysteron signals for the hangar.”

Right now I wouldn’t trust the sensors to recognise which planet we’re on,” Fawn responded dryly. 

Cadenza gave a snort of amusement.  “Perhaps you’re right, Edie.”

Even while she was waiting for the medical help to arrive, Cadenza remained on the alert, standing guard over Turner’s body and watching and listening for signs that she wasn’t alone.  She dared not tend to her husband in case Zodiac used her distraction to attack, and was reluctant to contemplate the possibility that Conrad had been Mysteronised, so keeping occupied was the best way to prevent that.  She heard the door opening with a profound feeling of relief, and smiled as Tan and Ingram wheeled a gurney towards her.

Tan knelt at Conrad’s side and untied his hands. 

“He is alive,” he confirmed, as Ingram helped him lift the body.  He took a photograph of the injured man with a Mysteron detector. Cadenza held her breath for the time it took for the machine to process the data and produce an X-ray of Conrad’s skull. 

“Thank God,” she breathed.  

Tan placed a hand on her arm.  “We’ll look after him, Caddie.  What do you plan to do now?”

“I’ll complete a search of this hangar and lock it down if it is empty.  There’s no one else to do it and if Zodiac’s here we need to know.”

Nurse Ingram looked up securing Conrad to the gurney.  “Why not leave Tyrian to man Control and get Green to help you?” she suggested. 

“Not a bad idea, if Green feels she’s done all she can up there and that Tyrian can cope alone,” Cadenza agreed.  “Let me know when Scarlet’s fit, won’t you?” she called after them as they wheeled the gurney back to the lift bay. 

“Will do,” Tan replied. 

 

 

Cadenza was waiting on the mezzanine and smiled with relief when Lieutenant Green came in through the door.

“Everything okay?” she asked the young Trinidadian.

“Sure; Tyrian can cope very well and he knows he can contact either of us if he has any doubts about something.”  Serena Griffiths glanced away and asked, “Any news about the colonel?”

“Fawn’s operating now to remove the bullets… he’ll be in intensive care after that.”  Cadenza gave a wry grimace.  “You know, it’s at times like this, I wish retrometabolism was transferable, or contagious or universal.”

 Serena smiled back with a rueful expression.  “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

There was a pause as both women considered the colonel’s fate and then, not wishing to dwell on her husband’s plight, Cadenza said briskly, “I can’t see anyone in here, or sense any Mysterons.  Give me cover while I go and make a thorough search.    Maybe Fawn’s right and the sensors aren’t functioning accurately?” 

She went down to the deck and Green leant over the railing, her electron gun primed and ready. 

“There’s nothing wrong with them,” the lieutenant reported in response to the accusation that she’d missed a fault in her system.  “But I guess if the Mysterons are messing with the computer network, they might have faked a reading…”

“So they might,” Cadenza said, cursing herself for not having realised that.  She marched across to the storage crates and peered behind them, positive she wouldn’t find anything – or anyone.  “Let’s get this over with quickly, lock the place down and turn our attention to how we’re going to save the base,” she added.

“S.I.G.,” Green replied. 

 

 

For the fourth time in a matter of days, Doctor Fawn performed a delicate operation to remove bullets lodged in the body of a Spectrum agent.  As with Captain Blue, these bullets were close to the spine of the victim, and as she closed the incisions and handed over to Doctor Tan to finish the post-operative procedures, she wondered if Conrad Turner would make as good a recovery as the younger man. 

Leaving the operating room, she went to check on Blue’s progress, looking down on a face that seemed familiar despite its obvious differences from Eva Svenson’s.   Her patient had a better colour today and his pulse was stronger, the breathing deeper and more regular; she was thankful that the man was strong and fit, and hoped the colonel would be as lucky. 

Her musing was cut short by Captain Scarlet. 

“Is he okay, Doc?”

Startled, Fawn turned to look at the Englishman.  Scarlet had raised himself up on one elbow, and although he looked tired, he was alert and seemingly recovered from his wounds.

“Yes,” Fawn replied, moving across to take Scarlet’s pulse.  “He’s doing very well.  Not as well as you, of course, but he’s on the road to recovery.  How’re you feeling?”

“Famished.”

Fawn grinned, chuckling.  “I think we can manage to find you something to eat and drink.”

“Good,” Scarlet said, shifting so he could lie back on the pillows at the head of his mattress.  “And while I’m doing that, you can bring me up to date with events here.  For instance, how’s the boy?”

“Gabriel?  I still can’t bring him out of the coma, even though the monitors show he should be up and about.  His wound is healing – quicker than Captain Blue’s, but slower than yours; much as I expected.”

Fawn paused to ask a nurse to fetch Scarlet something to eat and the captain looked across the room to where Alizarin lay still, although the robotic nurse monitors above the bed were pulsing with activity.   He swivelled his legs over the edge of the bed and got unsteadily to his feet. 

“Careful, you’re not completely recovered,” Fawn reminded him, going to offer him a supporting arm. 

They made slow progress across to the two beds.   Scarlet paused to look at Blue, before laying a hand on his shoulder.  “Hang in there, buddy,” he murmured. 

Then they went across to where Alizarin lay.  His long, dark lashes lay on his pale cheeks, yet beneath his eyelids they could see the flicker of REM. 

“Is he dreaming?” Scarlet asked.

“Not necessarily,” Fawn explained.  “In REM sleep the brain’s neurons can be as active as when a person’s awake.  Some experts think it due to the brain consolidating memories and neural links – discarding the detritus of the day and strengthening the long-term memories.  Whatever it does do is essential to the well-being of all mammals.   You don’t usually get REM in coma patients.”

“So, he isn’t in a coma?” Scarlet asked, reaching out to brush the curl of dark hair from Gabriel’s forehead. 

“No, he is in a coma, according to the medical textbooks, anyway… either there should be no REM or he should wake up,” Fawn replied.  “I’ve never witnessed something like this, even in Cadenza.”

“Then why?” Scarlet asked.

“Why is it happening?  I don’t know.  He should be awake, but he isn’t and he’s not responding to stimuli.”

Scarlet moved away and leant over the body on the bed. 

“Gabriel,” he said, quite loudly.  “Gabriel, wake up.  Come on, there’s work to be done.  I need your help.”

Fawn gave a dismissive shake of her head.  “I don’t think that’s going to work.”

“Why not?  You say you don’t know what’s wrong with him, so how can you know what the right treatment might be?  Every time I go under, Blue sits and talks to me – whenever he can.  He’s spent days – maybe weeks - since the Car-Vu, keeping me company.  He believes it works, somehow – so do I.  I know that in the immediate seconds before I come to, it is his voice I expect to hear, and that reassures me I’ve made it.”   Scarlet blushed slightly and gave a self-conscious smile.  “Of course, it might be better if it was his mother or brother who was talking to Gabriel.”

“I rather expect mine would be the last voice he’d want to hear,” Cadenza said.  She was standing by the door of the room, having come in unseen.  “If I know Gabe, he’d be expecting a rocket for absconding.”

Scarlet opened his arms to her and she went to hug him.   “Good to see you back on your feet, Paul.”

“Thanks.  What’s happened?”

“You’re not fit enough to start getting involved yet!” Fawn exclaimed.

“Let me be the judge of that,” Scarlet told her.  “Eva will tell you that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and we’re the toughest you’ll ever see, Doc.”

“While I agree with that sentiment,” Cadenza said to Scarlet, “you should listen to your doctor.”  However, she didn’t have much hope of her advice being heeded.

“Huh – that’s rich coming from you!” Fawn cried. “I think retrometabolism comes with selective deafness in your case.”

“I listen; then I make my decision,” Cadenza replied, with a pacifying smile.

“So do I; and I’m telling you I’m fit for what’s needed,” Scarlet insisted. 

“Eat,” Fawn said curtly, as the nurse arrived with a tray of food.  “Then we’ll see how fit you are.”

While Scarlet was eating, Cadenza sat beside her son, holding his hand, and brought them up to date with everything that had been happening.  Green reported on the progress of events in the Control Room, and Fawn updated them on the colonel’s progress.

“I suppose, as the colonel is still unconscious that makes me the senior officer,” Cadenza said reluctantly.  There was a murmur of agreement from the others.    She opened a communication channel to the Control Room and spoke to Tyrian.

“Mikey, we’re in Sick Bay.  Green and I have locked down Hangar Bay Two – there was no one there except the two of us, whatever the sensors said.  Your father’s come through an operation okay, and Doctor Fawn’s looking after him.  What’s the status of our recovery of the base?”

Not as good as your news, ma’am,” he replied formally.  The technicians have kept control of the nacelle, but they haven’t made much headway in regaining anything else.  Their latest report says that they’re encountering unusual resistance from the computers to every over-ride they attempt.  Nothing’s responding.”

“What do the sensors show about Mysterons on board?” Scarlet chipped in.

There was a pause and Tyrian said, “Four, three of them in sick bay.”

“Keep monitoring it, Mike,” said Lieutenant Green.  “If the number changes, let us know immediately.  If Zodiac could get on board without us knowing and leave as easily, there’s no guarantee he won’t try to come back.”

“It seems to me that the options on what’s keeping us from regaining control have lessened considerably...” Scarlet glanced towards Alizarin’s bed.  “All that stands between us and saving Cloudbase is the robot nurse’s interface with the main computers.”

 “Now, wait a minute,” Fawn said.  “The risks to Gabriel if we attempt to disconnect him could be considerable, if what happened the first time’s anything to go by.”

“And the risks of not trying again are even more considerable,” Scarlet replied bluntly.  He looked at Cadenza.  “The decision’s yours, Eva.”

She looked around at each of her friends: Green could not meet her eye and looked down at the floor, but Fawn smiled at her and Scarlet met her gaze with his own unwavering stare.  She remembered with a jolt how blue his eyes were and how that had been reborn in their sons. From there her memory flooded with images of the children, from their first days, through all the normal stages of development.  Their first teeth, first steps, first words, the egocentric tantrums of the ‘terrible twos’, their incessant curiosity….  They had kept pace with each other and yet they’d developed into distinct personalities while remaining the spitting image of each other: Michael’s serious expression, sharp intellect and deliberate manner, against Gabriel’s ready grin, sense of mischief and adventure. 

She shook her head.  “I can’t do it.”

“You’re condemning them both – and many thousands more - to death,” Scarlet said with brutal honesty. 

“I’m his mother!  I can’t risk his life on a chance that we’ll save the base!”

“Who says it’ll kill him?” Scarlet reasoned.  “He’s recovering from the physical wounds, isn’t he, Doc?”

Fawn nodded.  “He’s making a recovery.”

Cadenza shook her head.  “I can’t; I just can’t!”

“If you won’t take the decision, I take it you’re relinquishing your command?  Then that leaves me as the senior officer,” Scarlet said levelly, and ignoring Green’s gasp of protest, “and I can do it.”  He finished the piece of fruit he was eating and wiped his hands on the napkin he’d been given.

“Captain,” Green said, “I don’t want to cause trouble, but –”

“Good,” Scarlet said, looking directly at her, “because otherwise you’d be forcing your superior officer to take a decision that no mother should be asked to make.”

Green flushed and bit her lip.

“Did you want to say something, Lieutenant?” Fawn asked, determined not to let Scarlet brow-beat the young woman. 

Green shook her head.

Scarlet continued to the bed where Alizarin lay.  The monitors above the bed reacted with increased activity and Fawn came to stand beside him, anxious to do what she could to safeguard the young man’s life. 

“Tyrian, do you have visual contact?” Scarlet asked.

Yes, I can see what’s happening.”

“Good lad.  Now, when I throw the switch, you must be ready to cut power across the base.  Tell the technicians to put breathing gear on and hold tight.  Just in case it doesn’t work, you understand?”  He glanced at Fawn.  “Everyone here should do the same, I think, Doctor.”  She nodded.  Scarlet continued, “Close everything down, Tyrian, and give it a minute or two before you switch back on and reboot the main computers.   That should break the link.  If it doesn’t, then everyone will have time to get to the escape pods and you must send out the warning beacon.”

“And what about Gabriel?” Cadenza demanded angrily. “What if he can’t cope with being disconnected?  I seem to recall you found it tough to break free, Captain.”

“This is the best place he could be in when it happens – and it has to happen, Cadenza.  He can’t stay hooked up to the machines indefinitely, and if the Mysterons are using him to prevent us saving Cloudbase, there’s no alternative but to do it sooner rather than later.”

She shook her head, reluctant to accept his reasoning. 

Fawn sent Doctor Tan and the nurses to prepare, and instructed them to watch over Blue and Conrad while the base was rebooted.  “Make sure they don’t move if the base rocks.  The less movement the better for them both right now,” she said, as she adjusted her own breathing gear.

Technicians report they are green for go,” Tyrian’s voice sounded nervous. 

“Stand by, Ensign,” Scarlet ordered, and as soon as the nod came from Fawn, he added, “On my mark… Three, Two…”

“No!” Cadenza screamed and made a dart after him to prevent him.  Green grabbed her and managed to restrain her, while Scarlet, after laying his hand on the youngster’s forehead, reached up with his other hand and threw the switch. 

“One!”

Once again, jagged streams of electricity arced over the bed, the power fluctuated in the wards and then Scarlet was struck by a brilliant white power beam from the monitor. 

He staggered but kept contact with the boy and the monitor. 

“NOW, Tyrian!” he screamed.

In the Control Room Tyrian reacted and cut every power relay.

The whole of the base went dark: the air filters, environmental controls, hover motors and engines slowed and stopped, leaving Cloudbase dead in the air.   In Sick Bay, the emergency power faltered and died.  There was a deathly silence as the vast base shut down and the forces of gravity began to assert themselves. 

The altimeter started to fall. 

Alone at the command console, Tyrian was counting back from thirty, his fingers hovering over the keys. 

“Five, four, three, two, one.” 

He pressed the keys to reboot the system and held his breath.  For what seemed an age, nothing happened. The altimeter whirred round as Cloudbase dropped like a brick.

 “Come on, come on…”  Tyrian crooned.  “I know you can do it.”  He glanced nervously at the altimeter and wondered if he should try to reboot again.  The communications were down and he couldn’t ask advice.  He was about to hit Cancel and try again when:

Beep

 A single light flashed on the command console and triggered a series of switches across the vast computer network.

Tyrian let out his breath and closed his eyes in relief, then started directing the reignition sequences for the hover combines and the engines.   The communications light flashed and the tannoy crackled. 

 “Reboot successful,” he reported, relief obvious in his voice. 

“Well done,” Scarlet responded.  “Power up Sick Bay as soon as you’re ready.”

“S.I.G.,” Tyrian replied. 

“Lieutenant Green’s on her way up to assist you,” Scarlet continued, adding, “Although I’d say you didn’t need any help.”

“I’ve never done a complete reboot and recommission,” Tyrian confessed.  “I’m kinda making it up as I go along…”

“Best way… that’s what I do every time…” Scarlet assured him, chuckling. 

 

 

It was agreed that before it was safe for everyone to return to work, Lieutenant Green should run a comprehensive diagnostic sweep of the entire computer network, purging the caches and temporary files for every workstation.   Therefore, the next few hours after the rebooting was completed were uneasy ones for Cloudbase’s skeleton crew.   Conscious of the strain the engines had been under, the technicians began to check every component and mechanical system.   In Sick Bay, Doctor Fawn made arrangements for every returning crew member to undergo a thorough medical, including checking them with Mysteron detectors.  They were determined to ensure that the Mysterons would not find it easy to infiltrate the weakened base. 

Scarlet ceded command to Cadenza Angel until the senior colour captain, Captain Auburn, returned and freed her to return to Sick Bay where the various members of her family were recovering. 

Conrad Turner was kept under sedation to prevent unnecessary movement, while Tyrian sat beside his brother’s bed and performed the same role Captain Blue had so often done for Captain Scarlet – talking and reading to him while he lay in a deep and seemingly impenetrable coma. 

In contrast, Captain Blue had regained consciousness, but was still confined to his bed as Doctor Fawn had forbidden him to attempt to move.  Captain Scarlet, anxious not to get too involved with the affairs of a dimension that wasn’t his own, remained at his friend’s bedside and kept him company, although he found keeping Blue’s active mind occupied when he was awake but  immobile, was not an easy task.

“Why can’t I at least move around Sick Bay?” Blue asked crossly.  “I’m sure I could manage that much.”

“Mostly because when people start to return, they’ll come here first for their check-up, and the last thing we want them to see is us - two strangers.  Secondly, this dimension’s far more paranoid than ours, Blue-boy, and I’m sure we’d be prime candidates for having caused the problem in the first place.  Added to which, if they try and check me out, I could find myself under arrest as a Mysteron, and then you’d have to find a way to get me out.  Finally, because Fawn says you can’t. That enough reasons for you?”

 Blue sighed.  “Staring at this ceiling’s boring…”

Scarlet grinned.  “Now you know how I feel,” he teased.

Blue raised an eyebrow and remarked with feeling, “And you know how I feel when you’re the one confined to bed and I’m trying to keep you occupied.”

“Touché,” Scarlet admitted affably; he was enjoying this reversal of roles.   “You want to play I-spy?”

“No!  All I can see is the ceiling, pudden-head!”

“Now, now; temper, Adam…”

“Aren’t I suffering enough without having to have you ‘entertain’ me?”

“Some people are never grateful.”

“Don’t I know it…?” Blue sighed again. 

When Cadenza came out of her husband’s room, Scarlet got to his feet and called, “Eva, look who’s awake.  Why don’t you come and say hello?”

Blue turned his head slightly, just enough to watch her approach.

Cadenza hesitated some feet away and looked at the man in the bed.  She smiled nervously.

“Hi there,” she said.

“Hello,” Blue replied evenly.

“Scarlet’s told me a lot about you,” she said, still keeping her distance and radiating a unease that was unusual for her.

“He’s told me some things about you,” Blue said politely, adding, “He’s a terrible gossip.”

She blushed and looked away.   Her eyes met Scarlet’s and her embarrassment increased. 

“I hope it wasn’t all bad?”  she said, attempting to make light of the situation. 

“Not at all,” Blue responded, “he was most complimentary.”

She looked straight at him, uncertain and wary. 

Scarlet smirked to see an almost identical expression on the similar faces.  “I remember how weird it felt when I met Paula Metcalfe,” he volunteered, “not to mention the other Scarlets.”

“Yes, so you said,” Blue replied, although his gaze was still fixed on Cadenza.  “Do me a favour, would you, Paul?”  Scarlet nodded.  “Go away.”

“What?”

Go away; I want to talk to… Cadenza.”

“Oh.”  Scarlet shrugged and tried to laugh this off.  “Sure… if that’s what you want?”

“Yes,” she replied.  “That’s exactly what we want.”

“Right.  Well…okay.  I’ll… erm… I’ll go and get some coffee.  I expect Fawn’s got some on the go.”

“Bye, Paul,” Blue said curtly.

“See you later,” Cadenza said.

 

 

Scarlet strolled across the Sick Bay and knocked on the door of Fawn’s office.  “Can I come in?”

“Of course; is there something wrong?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve just been given the elbow by both of the Svensons.” He turned and looked back.  Cadenza was standing with her back towards him, looking down at Blue and he could hear nothing beyond the faint murmur of their voices. 

He was surprised when Fawn came to stand at his side.  “That’s no surprise,” she said.  “If they are as alike as you say, then they’re both very private people and whatever they have to say to each other they won’t want overheard.”

“Blue got an extraordinary case of angst when he discovered I was Gabriel’s father,” Scarlet confessed.  “It kind of surprised me.”

“I wonder just how closely their pasts mirror each other.  Tell me, is your Blue married?” Fawn said thoughtfully.

“No, but he might as well be; he’s ‘in a relationship’ with one of our Angels.  I expect they will marry, one day.”

“And you and he are…?”

“Good friends,” Scarlet said sharply.  “Yes, I know what gets said and so does he.  It worries him more than it does me.”

“Hmmm,” Fawn said, as if she had suddenly made a discovery. 

“Oh come on!  What’s ‘hmmm’ supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t lie to me; you’ve made some sort of link, haven’t you?”

“No; I’m simply speculating.  If there’s anything to tell, it’s down to him to tell you, if he hasn’t already, and when he’s ready.”

“Don’t tell me: doctor-patient confidentiality…”

“How right you are.  Help yourself to coffee, Paul, they could be some time.”

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

By the time Colonel Black had regained consciousness, Cloudbase was nearly back up to strength, and the news inevitably seeped out that although Conrad Turner had survived the Mysteron bullet, it had caused such an injury as precluded the chance of his ever walking again.   Every Spectrum officer, even the technical and support officers were, theoretically, aware of the risks they faced, and trained to cope with the death or injury of themselves and others; but such things so rarely touched Cloudbase – with the exception of Cadenza Angel - that many of the personnel were shocked and more than a little nervous.   In addition, Colonel Black had been such a towering figure to his crew – reassuring and seemingly immutable – that the news of his condition brought many hardened veterans to the brink of tears when they first heard it.  Nevertheless, decorations were going up around the lounges and canteens as people tried to come to terms with recent events.

Fawn insisted the decorations went up in Sick Bay some days before the rest of the base, as she was a firm believer in positive thinking being part of any cure.   Scarlet had been pleasantly occupied in stringing up shiny garlands and fake mistletoe; although there was a bitter-sweet element to it as he thought about the people he’d left back in his own world. 

He’d had also been busy helping Nurse Ingram and Doctor Tan with Blue’s physiotherapy.  The captain was having difficulty moving his legs, but Fawn was of the opinion it wouldn’t last and so she’d prescribed a regime of physio and exercise for her patient, and Scarlet spent much of his time in the physio pool, helping Blue exercise his leg muscles and limber up.   He had to admit, there were worse ways of spending time than lazing in the warm brine bath and goading Adam into swimming races.  It wasn’t often he won such races against his friend, or Captain Grey, back home, so he relished his victories here. 

Captain Blue was improving daily and their main topic of conversation was how soon he’d be fit enough for them to go home.   He seemed relaxed enough though and had struck up a friendship with Eva that belied their earlier suspicion of each other. 

The captains also spent some time with Tyrian.  When the youngster emerged from keeping the still-comatose Alizarin company, Scarlet and Blue kept him company. 

It’s odd, Scarlet thought, how Blue seems to be much more relaxed about Tyrian than he was about Alizarin.  I mean, they’re twin brothers so they’re both my sons.  He gave the matter considerable thought, without coming to any definite conclusion, but never mentioned it to his friend, for fear of rocking the boat.

 

 

On Christmas morning Captain Auburn came into Sick Bay to see them.  He was a tall, lean man, with thinning brown hair and calm, grey eyes.  He spoke impeccable English, for a Russian.

“I understand from the doctor that you will soon be well enough to leave us, Captain Blue,” he said by way of introduction.

“So I understand, sir,” Blue replied, as polite as ever.  “I am profoundly grateful to the doctor, and to everyone here, for their kindness.”

“It is our pleasure,” Auburn assured him, “but I am sure you will not take it amiss if I say – on behalf of my government – that we do hope we will not see you again?”

Scarlet gave a wry grin.  “Of course, Captain, and we could say the same.  The tunnels are not safe – and I don’t just mean physically.  While they remain in use, Mysteron threats in one dimension have an outside chance of affecting all dimensions.  I’ll sleep safer in my bed if I know they’re off limits.”

“Good,” Auburn said, “we understand each other, Captains.”  He hesitated and then said, “We are grateful that you brought Ensign Alizarin home, and sorry that you had the task of bringing him home at all.   It shall not happen again.”

Scarlet looked down at his hands.  “I’d risk the chance of a repetition just to see the lad fit again, Captain Auburn.”

“As would we all, Captain Scarlet.”

As Auburn walked out of the room Blue turned to his partner and said, “Why do I get the feeling he said that without much enthusiasm?”

“You too, huh?”  Scarlet thought a moment and reminded Blue, “Alizarin told us about the mistrust and paranoia that exists here about the Mysterons-”

“Hey, they scare me too,” Blue interjected.  “Wherever I am.”

“Sure they do; you’ve got sense.  But here, the threat they pose is common knowledge – or at least, more than back home.  Maybe Auburn’s as clever as you and he’s scared?”

“Of that kid?”

“Of anyone with retrometabolism.”  Scarlet turned his gaze on his friend and saw that Blue had caught his meaning.

“Sooner we get home the better,” the American muttered. 

 

 

That afternoon the two friends were in the physio gym, and while Blue was doing leg extensions on a weight machine that was part of the regime Fawn had devised to strengthen his leg muscles, Scarlet was doing one-arm press-ups.   He claimed this was to tone himself up after his recovery from the gunshot wound, but Blue, panting with exertion, could see no sign of so much as a scar in the rippling muscles and firm flesh on display.  However, he was not one to begrudge Scarlet his pride in his physical strength and fitness, so he took the accompanying ‘encouraging’ banter in the spirit of friendship it was intended to reflect.

Scarlet reached the target first and squatted on his haunches grinning at his friend.  “You’re getting lazy, Svenson; you’ll turn into a 14 stone weakling if you’re not careful.”

“Huh, not all of us have the shortcut of retrometabolism to get us back to peak fitness,” Blue gasped in response.   He reached the required number of exercises, exhaled and closed his eyes.  “I ache in places I didn’t know it was even possible to ache,” he moaned and opened one eye.  “I think I hate you.”

Scarlet’s grin broadened and he chuckled.  “I can’t take you back to Karen less of a man than you were when you left…” He paused; there was a commotion in the ward and he saw Nurse Ingram almost running towards the intensive care ward where Alizarin lay.   He got to his feet, drifting over to the window to watch. 

He didn’t hear Blue getting to his feet and was surprised when he realised his partner was beside him, staring in concern in the same direction.

“Something’s happened,” Blue said.

Both men swivelled towards the entrance as the Sick Bay doors slammed open and, as Cadenza ran towards the Intensive Care room, Scarlet threw open the gym door and with Blue leaning on his crutches for support, they joined the flow of people heading that way. 

“Alizarin’s woken up,” one of the nurses informed Scarlet, a happy smile on her face.  “He’s going to be okay!”

“Could you ask for a better Christmas present?” Blue asked, as they quietly left the group of celebrating spectators.

“No, and I wouldn’t.  It’s odd, I can’t help feeling responsible for what happened to him – even though he brought it on himself to an extent - so I’m relived to know he’s going to make it.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.  They’re nice kids.”

Scarlet glanced at him.  “You’re reconciled to their existence, then?”

“I never had anything against them, personally.”

“Oh.  So it was just me you were narked with?”

Blue shrugged.  “Let’s just say, I‘ve come to terms with it all, and leave it at that, shall we?”

“Yes, let’s just say that.”

Scarlet smiled to himself, contented. 

 

 

About an hour later, when Scarlet had excused himself to go and see Alizarin, Tyrian knocked on Blue’s door and came in when invited. 

“Hi there,” Blue said, waving the youngster to a seat. 

Tyrian nodded glumly and sat down, silently staring at his hands.  There was an almost dejected air about him.  Blue frowned as he studied the youngster and, unbidden, the image of his younger brother, Peter, came to mind.  Since they were teenagers Pete had suffered from a bad case of jealousy as far as his older brother was concerned, and he still did.  He’d struggled to emulate the academic achievements Adam casually admitted caused him no difficulty, and resented his brother’s abilities.  Peter had also chosen to obey their father’s wishes and now worked in the family company, whereas Adam had rebelled and left the world of finance behind him; but Peter still perceived his brother as the favoured son.

Blue hazarded a guess at what was eating the youngster.  “I’m sure you’re as relieved as your mother is that Gabriel’s pulled through.”

Michael’s head jerked up and he stared at Blue with some hostility.  “Of course I am – why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because it isn’t always easy being the second son.”

“We’re twins,” Michael said edgily.  “No one knows which of us is the oldest.”

“No?”

The youth flushed and looked away.  “Well, you’re wrong thinking I’m the second son, because I’m the eldest.  It’s only minutes and it doesn’t matter.”

“You’re right; but being the second son isn’t always a matter of birth – it’s a frame of mind, Mike.  Especially when you’re identical twins.”

“We’re not identical.  He’s – he’s always been the popular one – the extrovert – the show off.  Gabe can’t do any wrong – when he gets into trouble it is a sign of his independent spirit and ardent desire to be the best at what he does.  When I get into trouble, my parents are ‘disappointed’ and ‘concerned’ and I’m expected to conform.”  

Blue felt a sympathetic pang of guilt.  “Living up to people’s expectations is never easy.  Some people can do it – people like you – and some can’t.  I couldn’t.  I walked away from everything that was expected of me and, in doing so, made it harder for my brothers to do the same.  Never think that Gabriel doesn’t appreciate that.”

“He doesn’t!  He doesn’t think about anything – or anyone - but himself, and they all applaud him for it.”

“It may seem like it-”

“It is like it!”

“Maybe – but you’re going to have to get over it, Mike.  If you don’t it’ll sour your whole life.”

“What do you know about it?”

“More than you can possibly imagine.”

“He left to find a better life in another dimension – he almost broke Mom’s heart, and now she’s all over him!”

“Hmm; been there and seen that,” Blue remarked quietly, adding, “It’s an old, old story, Mike: ‘My son,' the father said, 'we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’.”

“If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had that thrown at me…” Tyrian grumbled. 

Blue chuckled.  “My brother says he’ll make sure they carve that on my tombstone.”

“But you’re… I mean, you made something of your life.  Gabriel will never settle to anything.”

“Then you’ll have to keep an eye on him, won’t you?”

“No!  Why should I?”

“Because he’s your brother, and you’re the eldest – and when all’s been said and done - you love each other.”

The youth got to his feet and slouched away towards the door.  Blue said nothing but watched him carefully, and before he reached the exit, Tyrian had turned and come back to the bedside.   Sitting down again he closed his eyes and burst into tears, bending his head against the coverlet to hide his tears.  Blue patted his shoulder.  

“Yeah,” he said, “sometimes that’s all you can do.  I’m relieved he’s okay too – you let it out, Mike.”

 

 

 

In Alizarin’s room there was almost a party atmosphere with Cadenza and Scarlet sitting either side of Gabriel’s bed, while their son lay propped up on pillows, and nurses popped in and out to soothe his fevered brow. 

When Doctor Fawn came in to check on her patient, Cadenza slipped out to visit Conrad, while Scarlet made himself scarce and sat outside chatting to Nurse Ingram. 

“How’s the colonel doing?” he asked, glancing towards the other room.

“Remarkably well; he’s very upbeat.  He’s aware of the prognosis now, of course,” Ingram explained sympathetically.  “It’s an awful shame because he’s always been such an active man, but, as he says himself, it isn’t the end of the world.  There are some very efficient hover-chairs in use, and Doctor Fawn’s had several delivered, so he can try them out when he’s ready.  He could still work on Cloudbase, if he wants to, and even fly with adapted controls.”  She gave a sad smile and added, “I think Cadenza’s more upset than he appears to be, at the moment anyway.” 

“She cares about him very much,” Scarlet remarked.

“Oh, yes – very much.  They’re devoted.”

“Seems like we’ll see a happy ending to this whole affair,” he said, with the expression of a man contemplating a job well done.

“Yes, in a few days Captain Blue will be fit to leave, and I guess you’ll be going back… to where you came from,” the nurse said.  Without thinking, she glanced towards Blue’s room with a wistful smile. 

“He’ll be glad to get back to his fiancée,” Scarlet said innocently.

Nurse Ingram immediately reverted to a professional detachment.  “Yes, he’s spoken about her - often.”

Scarlet suppressed a smirk: Blue was surprisingly adept at recognising and diverting unrequited amorous attention and saving himself, and the would-be girlfriend, from the jealous wrath of Symphony Angel. 

Suddenly Nurse Ingram gave a gasp of alarm, her hand covering her mouth as her eyes widened in terror.  Scarlet span round and saw Doctor Fawn emerging from the intensive care room with Alizarin close behind her.  In his hand he held a syringe close to Fawn’s neck; the doctor looked pale, but calm.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” Scarlet snapped and moved towards them.

“Keep away, Earthman,” Alizarin snarled.  “This needle’s full of enough toxins to kill the good doctor in a matter of seconds.”

Earthman?” Scarlet gasped. 

Nurse Ingram gave a stifled scream. 

“Be quiet!” Scarlet and Alizarin ordered her at the same moment, but it was enough to attract attention and Cadenza emerged from her husband’s room in a hurry, just as Tyrian and Blue appeared in the doorway of his room and several nurses appeared from various parts of the Sick Bay.

“Gabriel,” Cadenza exclaimed, “what do you think you’re doing?  Get back into bed and stop acting the fool.  Doctor Fawn’s a busy woman.”

“Give me a gun,” Alizarin demanded.

“No,” his mother retorted, moving closer with determination. “Stop this foolishness!”

“I don’t think he’s joking, Eva,” Scarlet said, reaching out to bar her approach. 

“No, I am not,” Alizarin replied.  “Give me a gun, or the doctor dies.”

“Don’t do it,” Fawn gasped, and squealed with pain as her captor twisted her arm high and hard enough to dislocate her shoulder.    

“Edie!” Cadenza sprang forward, but Scarlet grabbed her and held her back. 

“Count of five,” Alizarin threatened.  “Give me a weapon or the doctor dies.” He started to count down.

“There are no weapons in Sick Bay,” Doctor Tan explained.  “Wait!”

Unnoticed by anyone except Captain Blue, Tyrian had moved to the emergency alarm, and now he pressed it, sending the mournful wail of the siren through the base. 

Sick Bay, what’s wrong?” Lieutenant Green’s voice asked over the Tannoy.

“Hostage situation,” Tyrian replied.

Scanning the security cameras around until she had visual on the situation, Green replied, “Security detail is on its way.”  

“That was a foolish thing to do,” Alizarin said to his brother, pushing Fawn forward as he moved away from the dead end of the intensive care room.

“They’ll have weapons,” Tyrian said levelly, “and that’s what you said you wanted, isn’t it?

“And why would you want to give a Mysteron a weapon?” Nurse Ingram demanded.

“He’s not a Mysteron!” Cadenza cried, struggling with Scarlet to break free. 

“He is now,” Ingram snapped.  “He called us ‘Earthmen’ – he must’ve died after he was shot and be a reincarnation.”

“He’s my son!”

“He was, Caddie; but I don’t think he is any longer.  Can’t you sense anything?  I’m afraid that he’s a Mysteron,” Scarlet said, sadly.  “Gabriel’s no longer with us.”

“Stop talking!” Alizarin roared.  “You-” He gestured towards Nurse Ingram. “Bring the colonel to me.  Now!

“I will not,” Ingram retorted, as the door burst open and Auburn entered with two armed security guards.  “He is not ready to be moved.”

Alizarin drew Fawn closer and started to edge towards Conrad’s door using her as a shield.  There was no way the marksmen could shoot him without hitting the doctor. 

Auburn held up his hand to restrain them.  “Let the doctor go, Ensign Alizarin,” he ordered.

“Keep away from me, Earthman.  I know what I must do.”  Alizarin continued to edge towards the colonel’s room, dragging the pain-wracked Fawn with him.  Scarlet moved away from Cadenza hoping to get on his blind side, but the moment he let go of her arm, she rushed forward towards her son. 

“Gabriel!” she cried, as she lunged forwards.

With a vicious jab, Alizarin drove the needle into Fawn’s neck and pushed the convulsing doctor towards his mother. 

Cadenza made a grab to catch her collapsing friend.   As Tan and the medical staff ran forward to assist their commanding officer, Alizarin stepped inside Colonel Black’s room and slammed the door.

“He’s trapped. He can’t get out,” Auburn said with satisfaction.

“Oh no,” Cadenza moaned, watching as Tan began emergency resuscitation on Doctor Fawn.  The crash cart appeared and the young doctor applied the defibrillators. 

“Clear!”

Fawn’s body jerked as the powerful pulse shot through her.

Come on,” Tan urged his patient and then with despair creeping into his voice, he called, “Clear!” and applied them again.

Cadenza watched the fatal drama unfolding on the floor of the Sick Bay in silence, her hand raised to her lips to stifle her sobs.   Scarlet came to stand besides her, slipping his arm around her shoulders in unspoken comfort.   It was only then he realised that the duty officer pistol she wore in addition to her Angel uniform, was missing from its holster. 

“Caddie,” he whispered urgently, “were you wearing your gun?”

Confused, she looked down at the empty holster and then across to Conrad’s room.  “Gabriel must’ve taken it,” she confirmed.  “Oh my God; he’s in there with Con…”

Scarlet pivoted round and approached Captain Auburn.  “We have reason to believe he’s armed,” he said quietly, and when the officer gave a questioning frown, Scarlet added, “He took Cadenza’s gun.”

Scarlet had no doubt that Auburn’s muttered response to this news was a Russian curse.  The senior officer drew a deep breath and pursed his lips into a tight line before he spoke: 

“This is gone far enough; the efficiency and security of Spectrum and this base are being compromised because of one family and the quite exceptional allowances made for them.  We are not here to baby-sit for these children, Captain; Cloudbase is no place for domestic arguments.  My patience is at an end.  We treat Alizarin as hostile, and any attempt to assist him will be an hostile act also.”

“Alizarin may have been Mysteronised – the rest of the family are no threat to Cloudbase.” Scarlet tried to reason with him, but Auburn had had more than enough. 

He turned to the additional security guards who had just arrived.  “Place Ensign Tyrian, Cadenza Angel, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue under close arrest,” he ordered.  “If they make any moves against us – shoot them.”

Cadenza shrugged off the guards who attempted to restrain her, and turned on Auburn with an impressive display of angry defiance. 

“You’re loving this, aren’t you, Gleb?  You’ve been waiting for an opportunity to usurp Conrad’s authority for years now – don’t think he doesn’t know.  Well, you’re not going to use your expropriated power to destroy my family!”

“It is my primary duty to protect this base,” Auburn replied frostily.  “Your son is a threat to it, Cadenza Angel.   More than that, you failed to deny him a weapon, an offence under our regulations, as you know well.  I am merely taking precautions that he gains no more assistance from anyone with his evil mission.  He is a Mysteron – no more, no less – you would do well to put this creature from your mind.”

Scarlet stepped between them and tried to turn Cadenza away.  For a brief, disconcerting moment he thought he saw a flicker of green light in her pale eyes, as she pushed him away.

“Keep out of this, Paul; it has nothing to do with you!”

“Eva, you’re not helping Gabriel,” he reasoned.  “Come away…”

“He is not a Mysteron, he is just a young boy, frustrated with the way he’s being treated by a world that doesn’t understand him!”

“Cadenza, you are relieved of duty.  Stand down,” Auburn ordered. 

The confrontation was interrupted by Doctor Tan who stood up from the body of Fawn and announced sadly,

“She’s dead.  There was nothing we could do.  I am sorry, sir, Cadenza.”

Auburn crossed himself and then with cold-blooded practicality ordered his men to use their electron rifles on the doctor. 

“No!” Cadenza protested.

“Take her away,” Auburn told his officers, indicating the stricken Angel.   One man stepped forward, his electron pistol fully charged, and reluctantly fired the electrical pulse into Fawn’s corpse. 

The ward was filled with the smell of singed hair and scorched flesh that made Scarlet cringe and everyone else grimace and turn away.  Cadenza went and knelt beside her friend’s smoking corpse and wept, until the sergeant came and laid a hand on her arm.

“Come along with me, if you please, ma’am,” he said. 

She shook his hand off and stood up.  “This is the work of the Mysterons,” she said clearly.  “They want to sow distrust and enmity amongst Spectrum’s personnel.  You have no proof my son is a Mysteron – there can’t be any proof.”

“He killed Doctor Fawn, before witnesses. Mysteron or not, he is a felon,” Auburn replied. 

“Fawn may have threatened him,” Cadenza reasoned, “She might have been the Mysteron agent.”

 “You are not making sense, Cadenza Angel.  Please, go with the security officer and leave this to me.” Auburn was clearly running out of patience. 

She looked around at the assembled people: Tan and the nurses were mourning for their commander, the security men looked upset but equally determined to do their duty, while Auburn was rigid and his air of disapproval was almost tangible.  Scarlet’s expression revealed his sadness and his sympathy for her, and in the open door of his room, Blue stood with his arm around Michael’s shoulders.  The expression on her son’s face was a mirror of Scarlet’s, showing misery and uncertainty, but also a courage she recognised with gratitude.

She raised her eyes from his face and met Blue’s gaze.  Instinctively, she addressed her appeal to him, rather than Scarlet. 

“Look after him, and don’t let them hurt him.”  Blue gave an infinitesimal nod.  “Thank you.”

She turned to walk out with the guard, ignoring Tyrian’s gasp. 

As they passed the door of Conrad’s room it lurched open to reveal Colonel Black sitting in a hoverchair, with Alizarin beside him, a gun held to his father’s temple.   Cadenza stopped. 

“Con!” she exclaimed.  “Are you all right?  Gabriel, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Stand down, Captain Auburn, I am resuming command,” Colonel Black said, although from the agonised expression on his face and his breathless voice it was apparent that he was in considerable pain.  The back wound he’d received was still painful and sitting in the hoverchair can’t have been comfortable.

Cadenza turned to Auburn with a triumphant smirk. 

“With respect, sir,” Auburn said, “I cannot do that.  The man beside you is guilty of murdering Doctor Fawn – even if he is not a Mysteron-” he continued forcefully as Cadenza interjected.  “And I have reason to believe you are acting under duress.”

“I agree with you, Captain Auburn,” Scarlet said.  “Let Ensign Alizarin lay down his weapon and surrender before the colonel resumes command.”

“You are a guest on my base, Captain, and as such I will overlook your insubordination,” Black said.  

“I am first and foremost a Spectrum Agent, sir.  My duty is to thwart the Mysterons – wherever I find them.”

“Nevertheless, you have no authority here, Scarlet,” Black hissed between clenched teeth.  His face was covered in a film of sweat, and he was finding it hard to remain conscious. 

“Neither do I,” Blue interjected, “yet, if I may make an observation: how do we know that the colonel isn’t a Mysteron himself?  They were in the room alone for some time and the real body may still be inside.”

Black managed a grimace of amusement.  “Mysteron reconstructs tend to be 100% fit, Captain Blue.”

“With respect, sir; the Mysterons recreate an exact copy – and you were injured before Alizarin went into your room.”

“Test them all,” the exasperated Auburn ordered.  “Quickly!”

“No!” Cadenza cried.  “I refuse to let that happen.”

“You have no choice, Cadenza,” Auburn said.  “Get a detector.”

“Stop this,” Alizarin said.  “It’s an irrelevance.  Mother, Scarlet, come here – now.”  He cocked the gun against the colonel’s temple and looked at Tyrian.  “You too, Bro.”

Scarlet met Cadenza as she walked towards them, and kept a sharp eye on Alizarin as Cadenza knelt beside the hoverchair and took her husband’s face in her hands, pressing her lips to his.  Conrad stroked her fair hair softly. 

Tyrian was reluctant to join them, hanging back with Captain Blue until Alizarin snapped the order again.  By then, Auburn’s guards had found a Mysteron detector and were fussing about getting ready to use it on each member of the family. 

As Tyrian reached Scarlet’s side, Alizarin spoke, his words sounding deeper than usual and almost echoing in the sudden silence of Sick Bay: “THE MYSTERONS NEED POWER CONDUITS TO BRING ABOUT THEIR CONQUEST OF THE WORLDS.  HERE WE HAVE TWO PEOPLE WHO WERE RETROMETABOLISED IN THE SERVICE OF THE MYSTERONS, AND YET BROKE FREE OF THEIR CREATORS.  THESE TWO BEINGS, OVERCOME WITH THE BESTIAL LUSTS OF HUMAN KIND, CREATED IN THEIR OWN IMAGE TWO OFFSPRING.  THESE TWO ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN EVEN THEIR PROGENITORS.  TOGETHER, THIS ABERRANT FAMILY WILL FOCUS ENOUGH FORCE TO DESTROY CLOUDBASE ON OUR WHIM.”

 “Gabriel…” Cadenza moaned and reached out a hand towards her son. 

Scarlet reacted differently: he was genuinely alarmed at what he’d heard, and pushed Tyrian away with some force.  “Scatter!” he ordered, stooping to drag Cadenza to her feet. 

Tyrian staggered back and Blue came out to help him. 

“SCARLET: ONCE MORE YOU STAND BETWEEN THE MYSTERONS AND THEIR TARGETS.  YOU WILL NOT DO SO AGAIN.”

Alizarin raised the gun and fired.

Blue shouted a warning as Cadenza screamed angrily and struck out with a kick at her son’s arm.  The bullet went high and struck Scarlet between the eyes, shattering his skull and exiting through the back of his head.  He dropped stone dead at Alizarin’s feet just as Alizarin’s other hand swept around and knocked Cadenza to the ground. 

Blue hobbled forward and crouched with difficulty beside his friend, pressing the fragment of skull back against the gaping wound.  He looked up for help from the medical staff, only to see Alizarin pointing the gun straight at him. 

“YOU TOO WILL BECOME A SERVANT OF THE MYSTERONS,” the young man said. 

Blue closed his eyes and heard a gun fire.  He felt nothing, but it seemed like an age before he dared open his eyes.  Alizarin lay on the floor, shot though the head much as he had shot Scarlet.  There was a wisp of smoke coming from Auburn’s gun.

Cadenza was sobbing and crawling across the floor towards Alizarin.  Conrad Turner, helpless and in pain, was calling to her.

In the confusion of the moment – and although to Blue everything seemed to happen in slow-time, it was merely a second or two – Tyrian stepped forward and aimed an electron gun he’d taken from one of the guards at his brother. 

The gun gave the signature whine before it discharged, and Cadenza turned, throwing herself towards Tyrian to stop him firing.  The beam of electric particles went over her head and raked across Alizarin’s body, which convulsed and jerked. 

The aroma of scorched flesh and singed hair spread again, as Cadenza drove her fist into Michael’s stomach and then threw herself across Gabriel’s smouldering body. 

Blue looked across at the shocked medical staff and called, “For pity’s sake, can I get some help here?”

Tan ordered two nurses to get a gurney, and came across to where Scarlet lay in a sticky pool of blood and brains.   Carefully they lifted Scarlet onto the stretcher and the nurse wheeled it towards the emergency room.

Tan helped Blue to his feet and immediately the American turned to Tyrian and drew the youngster to him. 

The boy was crying silently, his pale face grimy with the tracks of his tears.  Blue said nothing, but merely enfolded him in his arms, after gently removing the electron gun from his unresisting hand and passing it to Auburn.  

“He’s dead, isn’t he?” Tyrian whispered.

“Yeah,” Blue replied.  “He’s dead, Mike.”

“I had to do it; you could see that…”

“Yeah; I saw that.”  Blue drew back slightly and looked deep into the troubled sapphire-blue eyes for a long moment before he said, “You dealt with a Mysteron the only way there is to make sure they can’t revive.  I’m afraid Gabriel must’ve died some time before then.  You did the right thing.  The only thing.”

Auburn said, “The captain is right, Ensign; you cannot do anything to kill them, except with an electron gun.  They are always dangerous - even when apparently dead - until that has been done.”  He laid a hand on Blue’s shoulder.  “I am sorry for the death of your friend.  Captain Scarlet was a brave man – a very brave man.”

“Thank you,” Blue muttered, wondering just how they were going to handle this turn of events.

Cadenza had been listening to the conversation and now she got to her feet, her face distorted with sorrow and rage.   She turned on Auburn.

“Then are you going to kill me as well, Gleb?  Are you going to wipe out this nest of Mysterons?  You heard what Gabriel said, didn’t you?  Two retrometabolised people created two more – powerful Mysterons.  Well, if the only good Mysteron is a dead Mysteron, you haven’t finished your work here!”

Auburn looked at her, shocked at what he was hearing.  You are a Mysteron?  And the colonel?” He looked at Conrad, before turning his gaze on the traumatised Tyrian.  And the boy?”

“Yes, I am the retrometabolised incarnation of Eva Svenson – and my treacherous son, Michael, is retrometabolic, as was his brother.”

“The story of the doppelganger who kidnapped the World President?  All lies?” Auburn asked coldly. 

“No, the lie is that Eva Svenson survived and the doppelganger died.  It was the other way around.  It hasn’t been luck that’s kept me alive, Captain, but the power given to me by the Mysterons.  A power my sons inherited.”

“Eva, that is enough,” Conrad managed to deliver the order with some authority. 

“No, Colonel, it is not enough,” Auburn replied.  “I must report this to the World Authorities.  You are relieved of your post, sir, pending investigation of your status.  Until then, you may remain in your room, under guard, but with all the medical care you require.  Earthmen are not barbarians.  However, your wife and son will be in the brig.”

“Fool,” Cadenza snapped wildly.  “My husband isn’t the father of these boys.  He’s human – by any standard you care to apply.  Captain Scarlet is their biological father.”

Auburn looked at Captain Blue for confirmation.  Realising he had very little choice, Blue gave a slight nod. 

“This puts the whole affair in a different league,” Auburn said thoughtfully.   Then he ordered, “Take Cadenza Angel and Ensign Tyrian to the brig.”

“Captain,” Conrad said, “the boy’s been through a good deal, he needs medical care.  He poses no threat.  Please, out of your kindness, let him stay with me?”

Auburn hesitated, and then gave a curt nod before leaving ahead of the security detail that surrounded Cadenza and marched her from Sick Bay, her head held high.  The three men watched her go with differing reactions. 

“Captain Blue, would you be so kind as to bring Michael to my room in a few minutes’ time, after Doctor Tan’s helped me back into my bed?” Conrad asked.  “I’d like to talk to you.”

“S.I.G.,” Blue responded instinctively.  He was having difficulty seeing any way out of this impasse. 

 

 

 

 Michael was very subdued and remained close to Captain Blue when they went into Conrad’s rooms some 30 minutes later.  Conrad had been made comfortable in his bed and given painkillers, but he was alert and remarkably decisive. 

“Captain, thank you for coming.”  He reached out for his son and Michael went slowly to stand beside him, his head hung in shame.  Conrad looked at him for a moment and then laid a hand on his arm.

“Mike,” he said gently, “I know how hard it must’ve been for you to do that; but I am proud of you.  You showed great strength of character back there.  I agree with what Captain Blue said to you; there was no alternative and if I could’ve moved I’d have got a gun and shot that Mysteron imposter myself.”

Slowly, Michael raised his head to look at his father.  “Mom hates me,” he said. 

Conrad sighed.  “She’s distraught, but when she comes to her senses, she’ll feel the same as I do.  That is why I am going to ask you to continue to be strong and obey me now without arguing.”

“Yes sir,” Mike replied, an intrigued expression on his face.

 Conrad looked across to Blue.  “I will need your help, Captain.”

“You have it, sir; if there is anything I can do.”

“There is.  You heard how my wife revealed the parentage and nature of my sons and their parents.  In this dimension – if not in all – anyone suspected of being a Mysteron or in any way connected to them, is incarcerated – for life.  It might not be the right policy, but it is the one we have to work with.   Cadenza’s condition is known to very few people, the boys’ not at all – apart from Fawn and Doctor Tan.   Now I’m not sure I will be able to prevent Eva and Mike from spending the rest of their lives in captivity.  Therefore, I want you to take Michael with you when you leave.”

“I’m not going,” Blue said firmly. 

“Of course you are.”  Black was dismissive.  “You have your own world out there and it needs you, as much as it needs Scarlet.”

“I will not leave without him.”

“I know that; it was ‘you’ plural, Captain.”  There was the merest glimmer of a smile on the older man’s dour face. 

Blue smiled back.  “Then – yes – we’ll take him.”

“And what if I won’t go?” Tyrian demanded.  “You can’t just pack me off like that, Father!”

Conrad took hold of the boy, his hands gripping tightly into the flesh of Mike’s upper arm.

“Michael, listen.  You and Gabriel – and your mother – have meant more to me than anything in my entire life.  I love all of you and I will never stop doing that until the day I die.  But, after what Eva said, I have no guarantee that she will be allowed to stay here; even allowed to live a free life.  Gabriel is dead and where your mother goes, I will go.  If they intern her in some camp, I will go with her.  I don’t want that for you.”

Mike looked down to hide the tears that brimmed in his eyes.  He sniffed.

Turner looked at Blue.  “I trust this man; he is the man your mother would have been, except that his soul hasn’t been corroded by the Mysterons until he sees the world and everyone in it as somehow expendable.  I want you to live a decent life, Mikey; to have the chance to make free choices about what you do and who you do it with.  If I have to order you to go, I will, but I would rather ask you to go and have you understand it is the last thing I can give you – your freedom.”

Mike sobbed aloud and threw his arms around his father.  His emotions had been shredded by the past few hours after days of tension that had wound them to breaking point. 

Blue felt himself choking up with sympathetic emotion and swallowed hard.  He met Conrad’s dark eyes as the older man broke the clinch with his son.

“Go now.  Get your things; take as little as you can bear.  Leave the rest to me.”

“They won’t let me out,” Mike mumbled, “the place is guarded.”

Conrad took his Spectrum watch from off the bedside locker and gently pulled the golden band from his wedding finger.  “Then take these.”

Mike put them in his pocket and with Blue steering him straight, they left the colonel alone.

Black watched them go; pinched the bridge of his nose to control his own tears and then picked up his personal radio.   He had a few calls to make that he didn’t want recorded on the base systems. 

 

 

The door to Blue’s room snapped open and two armed guards marched in, followed by Lieutenant Green.   She stared haughtily at the two men. 

“Adam Svenson, also known as Captain Blue, you are charged with treason against the World Government.  You will be taken from here to a place of confinement until brought before a jury of your peers,” she said, reading from a hand-held computer. 

“I have not committed any act against the Government.  And I do not recognise the authority of your World Government to try me,” Blue retorted. 

“You are known to consort with Mysterons,” she said, her voice positively dripping with disgust.  “That in itself is treason.  Come, walk with me, or you will be shackled and dragged.”

Blue got to his feet as Green turned to Tyrian. 

“Michael Svenson Turner, also known as Ensign Tyrian of Spectrum, you are charged with treason against the World Government.  You will be taken from here to a place of confinement until brought before a jury of your peers.”

Tyrian stood beside Blue and helped him walk out of the room.  In the main part of Sick Bay, Doctor Tan was pushing a gurney, on which lay the body of Captain Scarlet. 

“Follow me,” Green said. 

The short procession made its slow way down to the Medical Hangar Bay, and the two guards put the prisoners aboard, while Doctor Tan strapped Scarlet into a passenger seat.  As he turned to go, he slipped a syringe into Blue’s hand and whispered,

“Give him this when you land; it’ll wake him up.”  He winked at Tyrian.  “Take care of yourself, Mikey.”

Before either could reply, he was gone. 

With the two guards sitting either side of the prisoners, Lieutenant Green piloted the SPJ out onto the runway and took off into the afternoon sun. 

 

 

Blue first started to become suspicious as the plane circled over a large bay and homed in on a familiar-looking mountain, from the summit of which rose clouds of sulphurous steam and leaping fingers of molten rock.

“Etna,” he whispered to Mike. 

Green brought the SPJ to a stop on the small airfield at the security compound that guarded the mouth of the tunnels.  She turned off the engine and turned to smile warily at her passengers.

“Give Scarlet the antidote,” she said, “we don’t have long.  They’ll send someone after us quickly enough when they realise where we’ve gone.”

Blue administered the drug and moments later, Scarlet’s eyelids flickered and opened, squinting against the light.

“I have the mother of all headaches,” he muttered, as Blue handed him a bottle of water. 

“There’s no pleasing some people; at least you still have a head to ache,” Blue replied.  “Come on, on your feet, Paul.”

Scarlet saw Tyrian and gasped.  Before he could say a word, Green said, “Later; you don’t have time.”

Scarlet looked at the guards, who were busy taking off their flak jackets and military insignia. 

“Mr Campbell, Mr Livingstone,” Tyrian exclaimed. 

“We couldn’t refuse your dad when he asked us to get you out of here,” Campbell explained.  “We’ll be off to tighten the security alarms here, Lieutenant.  See you in an hour or so.”

“S.I.G.,” Green replied. 

The two technicians saluted her and left their rifles behind as they made their way towards the guardhouse with a box of tools carried between them. 

“My father did this?” Mike gasped.

Green smiled.  “Yes, he asked me to see you safely here.”  She handed the officers their Spectrum weapons and saluted.  “Good luck, sirs.”

“Thanks, Serena,” Mike said and hugged her. 

“I put some of your stuff together in a kit bag,” she told him, opening a storage cupboard.  “Don’t forget us, Mike.”

He shook his head and turned to leave the plane first, afraid his new-found courage might desert him. 

“Thanks, Serena,” Scarlet said and kissed her cheek.

“Yes, thanks,” Blue said, alarmed as she threw her arms around him and pressed her lips to his. 

“I’m engaged to my Captain Blue,” she explained, blushing slightly.  “It’d seem odd not to kiss you goodbye.”

“Lucky guy,” Blue replied and winked as he followed Scarlet off the plane.

“What would Karen say?” Scarlet asked as he took the kitbag from Mike and put an arm around his shoulder. 

“If you don’t tell her, she’ll never know,” Blue reasoned. 

“Bloody big IF…” Scarlet retorted, and laughed.

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Tyrian was invaluable in helping them through the tunnels.  Although Scarlet and Blue could remember the way, Blue was still weak and Scarlet tired after his recovery.  They went slowly once they were sure they were not being followed, and took frequent rests.  The food and water they’d brought assisted Scarlet’s recovery, so that by the time they reached the slope leading to the entrance in their own dimension, he was able to support Blue and progress was quicker. 

They rested for the last time before the final climb.  Blue gulped the water and leaned back against the rock, his face was pale and he closed his eyes, breathing heavily.  

“You okay?” Scarlet asked, concerned to see the strain on his friend’s face.

“Yeah.”

“We’re nearly there,” Tyrian said, coming to sit beside Blue.  “I’m sure your medical staff will take good care of you and you’ll be right as rain in no time.”

“Fawn’ll do his nut,” Scarlet said gloomily.  “Heaven knows how long we’ve been away from Cloudbase for, and then we roll up looking like something the cat dragged in…”

“He?” Tyrian asked, his dark eyebrows rising in surprise.

Scarlet grinned.  “You’ll have to get used to surprises like that, Mike.  Our Doctor Fawn is an Australian guy – a bloody good doctor, mind you.  Lieutenant Green’s name is Seymour Griffiths and he’s the executive officer for the commander of our Cloudbase – Colonel White.”

“And the Angels are all guys?” Tyrian asked.

Scarlet shook his head.  “Thankfully, no.  They are five young women of exceptional beauty and charm – with the hand-to-hand combat skills to flatten any male who steps out of line.”

“I shall be careful to remain in line then,” Tyrian said earnestly. 

“They won’t hurt you,” Scarlet replied, “they were very fond of Gabriel…” He stopped speaking suddenly and laid a hand on Tyrian’s knee.  “Sorry, Mike.”

“It’s okay,” the youngster said, shifting his position so that Scarlet’s hand slipped away.  “I’m used to it.”

Blue opened his eyes and glanced at Tyrian, who looked away when he saw the captain’s eyes on him. 

“Let’s go, shall we?” the American said.  “Sooner we get out of here the better I will like it.” 

They helped him to his feet and Scarlet shouldered the pack that Tyrian had carried from the start of the trip. 

“Let’s go,” Blue repeated, and started out up the steep climb to the mouth of the tunnel.

As they approached the exit, it grew noticeably colder. 

“With luck we’ll hardly have been missed,” Scarlet mused, as he followed the others up the slope.   “We might even make it back in time for the party…”

Blue staggered out into the light, squinting against the brightness of the low sun.  He drew in a deep breath and coughed.  “Well, it smells like home,” he said ruefully.

“If you mean that it smells like sock washing night on Cloudbase - then I agree,” Scarlet was saying, and as Tyrian grinned at him, a shot rang out.

“Not again!” Scarlet cried, and turned to see Tyrian stagger back, his hand to his chest and surprise on his face.

“Get down!” Scarlet ordered.

 Blue grabbed the boy and, as carefully as he could, helped him to crouch behind an outcrop of rock.  “He’s alive, but he’s losing a lot of blood,” he reported.  “We need to get him to medical help soon, Paul.”

Scarlet had jumped into the lee of a boulder and drawn his pistol.  He was scanning the rocky ground ahead of them, in the general direction he calculated he shot had come from. 

The sun glinted on something away to his left.  He aimed and fired a volley of shots, advancing towards the position until he could dodge behind another boulder. 

“Black,” he shouted.  “Give it up, Black!  You’ve lost.  Together we were able to defeat the Mysterons and the whole show has made us even stronger!”

“YOU ARE WRONG, SCARLET, WE HAVE WON.  ALIZARIN IS DEAD, CADENZA ANGEL WILL BE NEUTRALISED BY HER OWN PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THEIR FEAR OF THE MYSTERONS.  WITHOUT HER THEY ARE POWERLESS AND WE WILL SOON DEFEAT THEM.  YOU HAVE THE LAST OF THE MISBEGOTTEN HYBRIDS WITH YOU.  THAT WILL MAKE YOU VULNERABLE.  WE HAVE WON.”

“You can’t frighten me into handing him over to you,” Scarlet yelled back.  “I’m prepared to fight you in every, and any, way I have to.”

Scarlet heard the thrum of an approaching helicopter in the distance.  He glanced into the grey, leaden sky and saw the lights of three machines.  “Hear that, Black?  That’s reinforcements; my people are not afraid of me. They’ll fight you and the Mysterons to the last man standing.”

“YOU ARE A FOOL, SCARLET. YOU AND THEY WILL ALL DIE.”

There was a blinding flash of green light and Scarlet sensed that his adversary was no longer there.  He called his name several times to make sure and then stepped out into the clear line of fire.  Nothing happened.  The Mysterons had removed their agent to safety once more. 

Scarlet ran back to his companions. 

“How is he?” he asked Blue.

“Unconscious.  I’ve done what I can to stem the blood.  It’s nicked his lung, I think.  We need to get him to Sick Bay as soon as we can.”

“You heard the helicopters?”

Blue nodded.  “Let’s hope they are friendly.  We left Cloudbase rather precipitously, if you recall.”

Scarlet grimaced and looked skywards.  “The colonel’s used to us by now; he won’t kick up that much of a stink,” he said with more confidence than he felt.

 

 

Colonel White waited until the young man who had arrived with his wayward officers was safely installed in Sick Bay and Doctor Fawn was operating to remove the bullet and repair what damage he could, before he called Scarlet and Blue in for debriefing. 

He listened patiently as Scarlet told the story of what had happened in the other dimension and concluded his report with Black’s comments in this.

As his officer’s story came to a close, the colonel shifted in his seat slightly and asked, “Do you believe what Captain Black had to say?”

When Scarlet hesitated, Captain Blue answered.  “Yes sir, I do.  The way things have gone in the other society means they fear what they don’t understand.  It was a mistake to make details of the Mysterons public-”

“-or possibly a cynical, politically-motivated move,” the colonel amended. 

Blue nodded. “As you say, sir, but if it was done for political motives, I believe it has backfired badly. The population is engaged in a witch-hunt; it would appear that people who are perfectly innocent are being persecuted.  There aren’t likely to be significantly more Mysteron agents there than there are here, or so I’d surmise, yet it seems that a large number of people are being denounced as Mysteron agents and imprisoned on an allegation alone.   In addition, the fact that Captain Black has said that Cadenza’s incarceration will give the Mysterons the edge in her dimension, highlights how important to our continuing fight for survival Captain Scarlet is.”

“How important secrecy about the Mysterons is, you mean,” Scarlet corrected.  He was blushing slightly. 

“How important both are,” White agreed.  “I can see why you felt the need to bring the young man with you, Captains, although it leaves us with the same dilemma we had before.  You say he is Alizarin’s twin brother?  Therefore, we must assume he shares the same attributes as that young man did.  We cannot any more sure that he is not a Mysteron than we could be about Alizarin.”

“Yes, sir,” Scarlet said.  He decided to make a clean breast of everything and explained, “But, you see; they’re not only Cadenza’s sons, sir, they’re mine.  It was the fact that they were born to two retrometabolic people what made them important to the Mysterons – or so we believe.”

“Yours?  You mean, the Captain Scarlet in that world?”

“No, sir; I mean me.”

White drew in a deep breath, opened his mouth to say something and shut it again.  Scarlet and Blue exchanged surreptitious glances: it wasn’t often the Old Man was literally speechless. 

Finally the colonel said, “I see.”

“Sir?” Scarlet asked.

“He cannot go back, that much is obvious.  The problem is: what do we do about him in this dimension?”

“He can join Spectrum,” Scarlet said, “and work with us against the Mysterons.”

White shook his head.  “Remember what Captain Black said: you have the last of the misbegotten hybrids with you.  That will make you vulnerable.  I am not prepared to run that risk, especially given what we’ve already agreed about the importance of your contribution to the War of Nerves, Captain Scarlet.”

“I’ve been giving it some thought, sir,” said Blue.  “I could get my family to look after Michael – after all, he is a Svenson.”

“And risk putting them in danger from the Mysterons?” White reminded him.

“If he’s not with Captain Scarlet, is there likely to be much risk?” Blue reasoned.

“How would you explain the sudden appearance of this teenage scion of the Svenson clan?” Scarlet asked rather sullenly.  He was disappointed at the direction things were going, even though he could see the validity of the rationale behind it.

Blue shrugged, a faint redness colouring his face.  “I’ll say I got careless…”

“They’d never believe that!” Scarlet exclaimed. 

Colonel White smothered a chuckle of laughter and said, “Your offer is noted, Captain Blue, and appreciated; but I don’t wish to put your family at greater risk than they are already.  Therefore, I think we need to explore other avenues before we accept it.”

“There are other avenues?” Scarlet asked.

“That’s what we need to explore,” White said sharply.

 

 

 

A few days later, Colonel White called a meeting of his senior officers in the Conference Room.   Doctor Fawn wheeled Captain Magenta up to the meeting, and Captain Ochre, back from policing the Science Conference, went over to talk to his field partner.  Scarlet and Blue arrived together, just before the colonel. 

“Captain Grey is in command of Cloudbase,” the colonel informed them, as he took his seat.  “I want this meeting to be undisturbed.  Now, gentlemen, I have called you here to listen to what Doctor Fawn has to say and to try to find a solution to the problem our young visitor has unwittingly created.  Doctor, over to you.”

“Thank you, Colonel.”  Fawn smiled at the men around the table.  “You all know about the young man, Michael Turner, I have been treating in Sick Bay?   You all know where he came from and why?  Good.”

“How is he today, Doc?”  asked Scarlet.

“He’s fine; making a recovery.  And, in a way, it is that recovery that’s the topic I want to discuss with you all.”

Although rather bemused, everyone made suitably agreeable noises in response to this.

Fawn continued, “You see, it is my professional opinion that Michael Turner does not have the ability to   retrometabolise.”

“What?” Scarlet gasped.  “But he shows positive on a Mysteron detector, just as his brother did.”

“Yes, I agree, he does, and that would suggest that he is – or was – somehow connected to the Mysterons.  But, I have been monitoring him carefully and there’s nothing that makes me believe he is retrometabolic.   And you have to admit, I do know quite a bit about retrometabolism.”

“I don’t quite follow,” Ochre said.  He’d been brought up to date with what had happened to Scarlet and Blue, but - as with all the captains – some things had been kept confidential.

Fawn spelt it out, carefully, “Michael is the son of Cadenza Angel, and we know from Captain Scarlet’s past experience that she is virtually indestructible because of the actions of the Mysterons in her dimension.  She had twin sons, with - we are led to believe – a retrometabolic man.  I have no reason to doubt this is the case.  Yet, it would appear that whilst both children inherited aspects of Mysteronisation from their parents, they did not inherit retrometabolism.”

“But – Alizarin recovered when he was wounded – I saw him,” Scarlet said.

“So it would seem.  Regretfully, I did not get the chance to run any tests on Alizarin while he was here, but Michael has a most impressive constitution, including an immune system that is stronger than most I’ve seen; but that in itself, is not retrometabolism.  The wound and the operation incisions are healing at what is a normal rate – a quick one, but not overly exceptional for a young, healthy male.  I would expect any of the field operatives here to heal as almost as quickly.”

Scarlet frowned as he struggled to make sense of this.  “Then Alizarin…?”

“…Must’ve been killed and retrometabolised by the Mysterons at some point.  It need not necessarily have been in the series of events that you witnessed, Captain.  Think: once they expected Alizarin and his brother to trigger positive responses to Mysteron detectors, they would not think to question it.  The Mysterons could have killed and retrometabolised him as a small child, and no one would be any the wiser,” Fawn explained.  “I seriously doubt that he had retrometabolism if his identical twin brother doesn’t.”

“Then they might have done the same to Michael,” Ochre remarked. 

Fawn nodded slowly.  “Yes, and that’s something we may never know for sure.  However, I can only tell you what I have observed.”

“But they were both watched 24 hours a day; if we’re to believe what they tell us,” Magenta said.  “When would the Mysterons have had the chance?”

Blue spoke into the thoughtful silence. 

“When Alizarin flew down to Etna to use the tunnels he was alone,” he said slowly, as if he was thinking it through even as he spoke.  “Michael didn’t go with him, and he was flying into bad weather.  We know it doesn’t take long for the Mysterons to complete the take-over of their chosen target.  A blip on the radar, a loss of contact, static discharge even, would be put down to interference from the weather.  After all, no threat had been issued to them at that point.”

Colonel White nodded.  “Yes, I can see that happening.  It is as good a theory as any.”

“Why didn’t I sense it then?” Scarlet snapped.  “I never felt Gabriel was a Mysteron.”

“You never sensed anyone in a different dimension was a Mysteron,” Blue reminded him.  “Even though Alizarin was here, he would have become a Mysteron in the other dimension.”

“So, Michael Turner will live a normal lifespan?”  Colonel White looked at Doctor Fawn.  “He’s vulnerable to every risk?”

Fawn nodded.  “I expect he’ll live to a ripe old age and stay fit, by and large; but he is not indestructible and he will, eventually, die; as far as I can tell, anyway.”

“Why would either of them inherit Mysteron characteristics and not retrometabolism which is the most obvious one of all?” Scarlet demanded.  He felt somehow resentful at the fact that his sons had not inherited their parents’ ability to cheat death. 

“Consider,” Fawn explained, “how many Mysteron agents have we seen exhibiting retrometabolism?  There was poor Captain Indigo and possibly one or two others over the years, but it is not a universal trait.  We don’t even know if Captain Black has the ability to retrometabolise, do we?   We know so little about the whole process that it could well be that even the Mysterons don’t know how or why Scarlet inherited the ability.   I feel it is still wise to assume the need to eliminate Mysteron agents with an electron rifle, in case they do possess the ability, but for most of them it isn’t necessary. Retrometabolism is the exception, not the rule.”

“This means Scarlet is even more unique than we thought,” Ochre said, smiling across at the captain.  “How lucky is that?”

“Exactly,” the colonel said.  “No wonder the Mysterons are so anxious to eliminate you from the fight, Captain.”

Scarlet nodded, but he was still frowning. 

“What happens to the guy now?”  Ochre asked.  “Even if we agree he’s not a Mysteron, he still doesn’t exist in this dimension.”

There was a deep silence until Fawn said, “He will need to stay here under observation for some time and I will do every test I can in the meantime to try and ascertain his status.  Personally, I feel the fact that he does not have retrometabolisation ought to be all the proof we need.  The Mysterons gave it to Alizarin – I’m convinced of that – if they’d killed both boys surely they’d have done the same to them both?”

“I think you have a valid point, Doctor,” the colonel said.  “We need to watch the lad carefully while he is with us, but if there is nothing to suggest otherwise, I think we’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Otherwise, we’re no better than the dimension he left – suspicious and despotic.”

“Agreed, sir.” There was a murmur around the table. 

“So, what happens to him next?” Ochre repeated. 

There was silence as they wrestled with the quandary.

Then Captain Magenta said:

“If I may make a suggestion, sir?” 

“Go ahead,” White replied.

“I’ve known men who didn’t officially exist any more; there’s one sitting at this table.”  Everyone glanced at Captain Ochre.  “Couldn’t we manufacture an identity for Michael Turner and set him up somewhere in a new life?”

“Like witness protection?” Ochre said.  “That’s not a bad idea.”

“He’s too young for that,” Scarlet protested.

“Not really,” Blue reasoned.  “I went to Harvard at sixteen, Symphony went to Yale at the same age; Mike’s almost sixteen, he could enrol for the next academic year… When you start college, everyone is from somewhere else, so he’d fit in.”

“Yes,” White said thoughtfully.  “Yes, I do believe that might be a solution, Captain.  I will speak to the Head of the Universal Secret Service and see what can be arranged.”

“At least it means we’ll be able to keep an eye on him,” Scarlet said, brightening up.

“No, we won’t, Captain,” the colonel replied sharply.  “This will only work if no one knows who Michael Turner becomes.  I can’t have anyone,” he looked directly at his two premier field agents, “slipping off to pay visits or providing holiday homes on Nantucket.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Scarlet and Blue replied glumly, in unison.

“Good.  Dismiss for now.  I’ll inform you of what progress I make shortly.”

As they left the room, Scarlet accosted Doctor Fawn. 

“Can we see him?  Before he becomes someone else, I mean?”

“Of course.  He’s asked to see you both, as it happens.  Drop by this afternoon.”

“S.I.G,” Scarlet replied. 

 

 

Michael looked rather small and vulnerable in the hospital bed, wired up to various drips and monitors, such as a robotic nurse, the very same model as those that had caused such trouble in his home world.    Scarlet couldn’t help feeling a little anxious at that, but he took care not to show it and remind the patient of the immediate past.

“Hi, Mike,” he said cheerfully, and placed the bag of grapes he’d brought on the counterpane. 

“Hello, Captain Scarlet; thanks for the grapes.”

Blue came in and stood by the door as Scarlet drew up two chairs.  Michael looked at him and said, “Come in… please.”

Blue took a seat next to his friend, and listened while Scarlet chattered away.  The boy didn’t respond much beyond an occasional nod.  His face was pale and beneath the dull, deep-blue eyes, there were dark smudges of grey.   He did not look at ease, or happy to see them.

As Scarlet came to a stuttering halt with his small talk, Michael said, “Everyone has been very kind.  I like your Doctor Fawn almost as much as I liked our Doctor Fawn.   I will miss her,” he added, showing the first glimmer of emotion since they’d arrived.

“I’m sure everyone will,” Scarlet said awkwardly.  “She was a great lady.”

Michael gave a rueful smile.  “What has Colonel White decided to do with me?”

“What?”

“I know there was a meeting about me this morning.  Doctor Tan told me you’d been called to one when I first asked to see you.  Was anything decided?  What’s going to happen to me?”

“You mustn’t worry,” Scarlet replied.

“I’m not, that is, I’m trying not to.  I just want to know.  If I have to lie here until I’m fit, I might as well get used to what will happen then as much as to what happened to bring me here.”

Scarlet hesitated, unsure what he should say in reply.  Until the colonel had arranged something, he didn’t feel it was wise to say too much. 

Blue saved him from his dilemma. “The colonel’s speaking to the Universal Secret Service about creating a new identity for you in this world.  Then, if you want to, you can enrol in a college and finish your education.  After that, you may do as you please; although I think it is fair to say that returning home might not be an option, unless you are prepared to face the consequences.”

Michael sat and thought for some time, not looking at either man, but rather down at his hands, which lay folded on the coverlet of the bed.  Scarlet was starting to get restless before the youngster asked:  “Do I have any money?”

“Oh yes,” Blue said firmly.  “I guarantee you’ll be financially secure.”

Scarlet glanced at him, frowning, but Blue ignored him.  He was quite prepared to go up against the colonel in order to ensure the kid was amply provided for - if he had to - but he rather expected the colonel would have that covered too.

“Thank you,” Michael said, glancing at them both.  “Will I be able to see you again?”

“Well… I guess that’s an unknown,” Scarlet replied cagily.

“Not unless you want to,” Blue explained.  “We won’t know anything about your new identity; but of course, you will know about us.  Maybe, in time, you will want to join Spectrum, or our paths will cross in some other way, but if it does and it isn’t what you wanted to happen, it will be a pure twist of fate.  We will not seek you out, Michael.  To do so might put you and Spectrum at risk. ”

“Are you trying to frighten him?” Scarlet hissed at Blue.  “It’s no big deal, Mike.  I’m still your father, and, if you want, I don’t see they could prevent us meeting.”

“Yes they could - and they will,” Blue muttered.  “Paul, I know you’re worried and concerned, but I’m sure Michael will appreciate straight answers to his questions.  Am I right?” he asked the young man.

Michael nodded.  “Yes; I prefer to know the truth of things.  Gabriel was the exciting one – he was a fantasist and saw things as he wanted them to be, whereas I… I am the boring one – the pragmatist.  I appreciate your concerns, Captain Scarlet, but if I’m expected to make my own way in this world, then I want to know that from the start.  I rather expected you to understand that.”

“Right,” Scarlet said curtly.  “Here it is then – the bottom line: when you leave here you will be someone else.  Nothing that has happened to you can ever be revealed to any person.”

“I see.  So I don’t have to join Spectrum?”

“No,” Scarlet agreed. 

The smile that twitched at the corner of Michael’s mouth slowly spread into a grin.  “Thank God.”

Scarlet was astonished.  “You don’t want to?” he asked.

“No; I’ve spent all my life in this floating goldfish bowl – where every move I made was scrutinised and controlled.  If I never see Cloudbase again it won’t break my heart.”

“But what will you do?” Scarlet asked.

Michael shrugged and grimaced with the pain.  “Computers, maybe, or business; I have a good head for figures.  Maybe I’ll teach?  Spend my life with the normal kids I never got to meet when I was growing up.  Maybe I’ll be a truck driver, and spend my days driving across the country.   Or a sailor? Get to see the world a bit that way.  I don’t know, but back home there was never any prospect that either of us would get a chance to do anything, except stay with Spectrum.  The fact that I can choose what I want to do is marvellous.”

“Yeah, having the option is nice,” Blue said, smiling.

“I can understand that,” Scarlet said hesitantly.  “But don’t you don’t want to fight the Mysterons… for example?”

“I don’t want to fight anybody.” Mike’s voice took on a hard edge.  “My brother wanted to be a hero, I don’t.  He wanted to be famous, I don’t.  Doctor Fawn tells me I don’t have retrometabolism; whether I ever did is something I can’t figure out.  No one was ever sure anyway.  But here, even if I can never have an x-ray, no one’s going to lock me up for the rest of my life on suspicion that I’m dangerous.”

He could see disappointment on Scarlet’s face and added, “Maybe, in a few years I will feel differently, but now I have enough to come to terms with and I am certain that I don’t want to fight.”

“Sure,” Scarlet said, “You have to do what’s right for you, Mike.”

Fawn came in as Scarlet was speaking.  “That’s enough for today; you’re looking tired, Mike.  You can have visitors again tomorrow, if you like, but now you need to rest.”

“Yeah, we’ll drop by,” Scarlet said, getting to his feet.

“Thank you,” Michael replied.  As Scarlet turned to leave he said, “Captain Blue, before you go, may I have a word, in private?”

“Just a few minutes,” Fawn declared, hustling Scarlet from the room.

Blue came back to the bed.  “What is it, Michael?”

“I’ve disappointed him, haven’t I; because I don’t want to fight?”

“Paul?  No.  It’s just that he comes from a long line of soldiers, to him that’s the option any Metcalfe would consider first.”

The boy nodded thoughtfully.  “It’s what Gabriel wanted to do; I think they must’ve got on really well, don’t you?”  

“Yes, I think they did; but Paul understands that it isn’t the right way for everyone, don’t doubt that.  Take pride in the fact that you can see it is not the way for you.”

“And what about you, are you disappointed in me?”

Blue smiled reassuringly, and for a split second Michael was reminded of his mother.  “No; Paul was spot on, you must do what’s right for you.  I did, and I don’t regret it for a moment.”

“That’s not what you said to me, back home,” Mike reminded him.

“I said I felt guilty that my brothers felt they had no choice because I’d made mine.  I didn’t say I regretted making that choice,” Blue corrected, with another smile.  “Michael, there’s no point in spending years worrying that you made the wrong choice when every day you live confirms that you did the right thing.   Of course, if you find yourself in the wrong life, then you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t change it as best you can.  That’s why I’ll make sure you have the financial stability to change your mind.  I don’t know how much resource the Svenson family had in your world; but here there is enough to go round and to spare.”

“I don’t want to take your money.”

Blue laid a hand on the youngster’s arm.  I haven’t got any for you to take,” he teased.  “But I know a man who has.  Leave it to me.  You won’t be able to sit on your ass doing nothing for life, but you’ll be independent enough to do what you want.  I promise you that much, for your mom’s sake.”

Michael’s eyes filled with tears and he looked away. 

“Now, get some rest, or you’ll see the severe side of Doc Fawn – he’s a real tyrant at times…”

“Get out of here,” Fawn said jovially, realising Blue had seen him come back into the room, “before I ban you forever.”

 

 

“Why can’t we see him?” Symphony asked again.

“He’s not a sideshow,” Scarlet snapped.

“That’s not what Karen meant, Paul,” Rhapsody said, seeing her friend’s temper starting to rise.  “If the boy’s ill, we’d like to visit, that’s all.”

“Fawn’s not letting visitors in.”

“He is, now and again.  The poor guy must be bored stiff, all alone.  We want to cheer him up, that’s all,” Symphony said, with a sulky pout.  “I think it’s just that you don’t want us to.”

“And why on earth would I do that?” Scarlet retorted.

“Because,” Symphony said, “you – or someone close to you – has something to hide!”

 “Karen, you have an extraordinary imagination; you can dream things up out of thin air.”  Scarlet tried to look nonchalant, and failed. 

“That boy isn’t thin air, though,” she said.  “Who is he, Paul? You can tell us.”

“I told you; we brought him back with us from Cadenza’s dimension.  He’d have been incarcerated for life if we hadn’t.  They’re much less tolerant there.   He’s Gabriel’s twin brother. His name is Michael Turner.  Now you know as much as me.”

“That I doubt,” Rhapsody said.  “But, if you don’t want to tell us…” She glanced at Symphony who was looking vexed.  “Then we might have to ask Doctor Fawn… or Blue, perhaps?”

Scarlet was familiar with Symphony’s ability to worm secrets out of her fiancé, eventually.  Although Blue was skilled in counter-interrogation techniques, in the face of her prolonged sulking, his resolve generally crumbled.  “Leave Blue out of it,” he warned, unaware of Symphony’s suspicions about the paternity of Gabriel, and now, Michael. 

“Why, what’s he got to hide?” she demanded. 

“Nothing: nobody’s got anything to hide.” Scarlet frowned at them both.  “Don’t bother the kid, okay?  He’s been shot, he needs to rest!”

“Yes sir, Doctor Scarlet,” Symphony said, rolling her eyes.  “I’d better go; I’m on the next tour of duty.  See you for lunch, Di?”

“Of course… ‘Bye, Karen.” Rhapsody waited until her friend had left and then said, “Well, you certainly handled that with every ounce of your usual tact, Paul.  She’ll probably have a go at Adam as soon as she sees him.  You’d better warn him what to expect.”

“Why will she have a go at him because I didn’t answer her questions to her satisfaction?”

Rhapsody curled her feet up on the couch and rested her head against his shoulder.   “She’s got some daft idea in her head about Gabriel.  She thought… well, she said she thought, which isn’t always the same thing… she thought… that Adam was his father.”  She felt him stiffen in surprise and hurried on to say, “You see, Gabriel told her he was a Svenson-”

“He was: they are!  Cadenza is their mother and she’s a Svenson.  Okay, one from another dimension, but a Svenson, none the less.  Adam’s nothing to do with them – believe me.”

“And you say that Gabriel was killed when you got him back there?  It’s such a shame, he was a nice lad.”

“He was shot by the Mysterons.  Neither of the kids has retrometabolism.  He didn’t make it.  It is a shame; he was… as you said, a nice lad.”

“You and he got on famously, didn’t you…? Paul?  Oh, Paul’s what’s the matter?”

Scarlet had bowed his head and closed his eyes.  Since Gabriel had died he’d refused to mourn; there had been no time and too much to do.  Now, with the comforting arms of the woman he loved around him, he couldn’t prevent his emotions from spilling over.  

She cradled him against her breast and stroked his thick, black hair.  She had no real idea why he was taking the death so badly, except that he had liked the young man.  She knew that beneath the exterior shell of the professional soldier, Paul Metcalfe was a gentle and caring man, and the fact that it had affected him this way was endearing. 

When Paul became still and quiet, Dianne whispered, “I wish I’d known him; he must’ve been a super guy for you to feel so badly about his death.  After all, you hadn’t known him long.   We can all mourn for the lost potential of a life cut so tragically short, but what happened while you were there, Paul?  I know you said you were there for much longer than you were away from here.  Did you spend much time with Gabriel?”

“Dianne, do you love me?” he asked, his face still hidden from her.

“Of course I do; you know that, don’t you?  What’s wrong, Paul?  I want to help if I can.”

“Remember when I was swept away into the tunnels on Etna?”

“Yes; that was a worrying time for us all.”

“How long ago was it?”

“About four years.”

“Time doesn’t seem to pass in the same way.  Walking through the tunnels could take you forward or back in time, as well as into different realities.  It made getting home a bit of a gamble.”

“But you came home.”

He nodded.  “But before I came home, Cadenza and I… well, we …I liked her very much.”  He hesitated.  “Gabriel and Michael are my sons, Dianne.”

He felt her stiffen in surprise and heard her sharp intake of breath.  “Yours?”

He nodded.  “I thought I might never see you again.”

“Your sons?  With Eva Svenson?”

He nodded.  “Seems she couldn’t have kids unless the father was also retrometabolic…”

There was a long silence, during which time Rhapsody struggled with wildly surging emotions.  When she finally spoke, her words surprised him.

“You have to tell Karen.”

“What?  What’s it got to do with Karen?”

“She’ll accuse Adam of being their father if you don’t, of course.  They’ll fall out again – big time.  She’s been fuming about the possibility ever since you both rushed off base with Gabriel.  Does Adam know?”

“Yes, he was there when Gabriel told us.”

“But he won’t speak about it, right?  He won’t break your confidence?”

Paul shrugged.  “Probably not; I mean, it’s not something I’d want broadcast to the world.”

“Then, if you don’t tell Karen, I will.  It isn’t fair on Adam otherwise.”

“Dianne…” he protested in a whine.  “Karen can’t keep a secret to save her life.”

“Don’t be stupid; of course she can.”  She got to her feet and looked down at him.  “When I’ve seen Karen, I’m going to see Michael.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“I will be, if you don’t tell Karen.”

“I love you, Di.”

“I know.”  She bit her lip.  “If you want me to forgive you, I expect I will, in time.  Although I don’t think it’s something I have any reason to ‘forgive’ you for.  I’m not an idiot, Paul; nor, I hope, as unreasonable and possessive as Karen can be.  I’ve always accepted that men will be men when it comes to sex – and if something’s on offer, they won’t refuse it.  The poor bastards are wired that way, they tell me.” 

He started to protest, but she waved an imperious hand to silence him, and continued, “Human nature doesn’t change much over the millennia, so I suppose it’d be unreasonable of me to expect you to be any different.  However, I don’t want to talk about it now.”

“Dianne…”   He couldn’t remember ever seeing her so angry, but she was good at disguising it: her face had set in a blank expression and her voice taken on a clipped tone that suppressed the emotion in it.   She met his gaze with apparent equanimity.  He surrendered.  “I’ll go and find Karen; you go and see Mike, if Fawn’ll let you.  Tell him I sent you; he’ll understand.”

“Fawn knows?”

He nodded.  “Impossible to fool him, he knows more about me than I do.”  She turned to leave.  “See you later?” he prompted hopefully. 

  “It’s a small base when you come to think about it; so there is every possibility that you will.” 

As the door closed behind her, Scarlet cursed himself, long and hard. 

 

 

While everything was sweetness and light between Blue and Symphony – something for which their fellow officers were profoundly grateful – it was noticeable that Rhapsody’s good humour was of the brittle variety that could shatter at any moment, while Scarlet stomped around the Officers’ Lounge like a bear with a sore head.  

Under the circumstances, most people were rather grateful when a Mysteron threat took their minds off their problems and gave everyone something else to worry about for a day or two.

 

 

When Captain Blue walked into the Lounge, he was in a good mood, even though he was sporting an impressive bruise on his left cheek and had his left arm in a sling. 

“Hey, so you finally escaped from Stalag Von Fawn?” Ochre called, waving a hand in welcome.  “Welcome back, buddy.  What news from the medical front?”

Blue didn’t answer immediately; he was struggling to make himself a cup of coffee with one hand until Captain Grey got up and did it for him, carrying it back to the nearest table.

“News is good, Ochre.  Scarlet’s on the mend, getting fractious and eating like the proverbial horse.  Fawn’s holding out for another 48 hours of incarceration, but I think Scarlet will make a break for it before then.”

Melody Angel looked up from her magazine and asked, “Has Rhapsody been to see him?”

Blue hesitated and his answer was cautious even by his standards.  “Not that I’m aware; but then I was sedated myself for a time, while Fawn reset my collar bone.”

“It isn’t like Di to mope about.  What’s upset her?” Ochre asked Blue.

Before he’d had a chance to formulate a reply, the door opened and Symphony bounced in.

“Hi, Adam!  They told me you were out and about again!  My shift finished five minutes ago, so I came straight up to see how you’re doing.”  She leant over the back of the couch and was about to kiss his cheek, but shied away seeing the bruise.  “Ooh, that looks painful.”

“I’ll live, nothing’s broken,” Blue answered, pleased that her boisterous entrance negated his need to reply to Ochre. 

Ochre grinned.  “Yeah, you get two boyfriends for the price of one today, Symph.”

She looked questioningly at him.  “What’re you on about, Oak?”

“You get Black and Blue,” Ochre teased. 

Everyone groaned, but there was laughter in the air. 

Symphony threw a cushion at him, grinning.  “That’d be fine, if I had a boyfriend…”   This time, laughter erupted from everyone, with even Blue chuckling as she came and sat beside him.  “If you’ve nothing better to do, Captain, maybe you’d like to help me celebrate my birthday?  I’m twenty-one – again - today,” she said to him. 

“Happy Birthday, Symphony,” Blue said.  “I’m sure I can find time to help you celebrate.”

“Are they talking in code?” Ochre asked Grey, as he stood and prepared to go on duty. 

“Quite possibly,” his friend agreed.

“Hey, Nolie, how about you and me ‘celebrate’ sometime?” Ochre called. 

“In your dreams, Fraser,” she replied, but not unkindly; they were close friends and banter between them came as naturally as breathing.  She closed her magazine and stood as well.  “If the cop’s on duty now, how about you buying me lunch, Brad?”

“My pleasure.” Grey stood as well and escorted Melody to the door in the wake of Ochre.  He paused as he waited to get through the door.  “Behave, you two,” he called and left, grinning.

“Cheek,” Symphony said, and turned to Blue.  “Are you okay, Sky?”

“I’m fine; but Paul isn’t.  Is Di still mad at him?”

Symphony squirmed.  “I’m not sure.  She likes Mikey – we both do - and yet… I know I would’ve been devastated if you’d been his father, and, for all that Dianne keeps her feelings under wraps, I think she is upset.”

Blue sighed.  “You know, when I discovered Paul was the father of Cadenza’s sons, it made me uncomfortable; especially as he kept saying she was a kind of me, so I do understand what Dianne’s thinking… but, it’s no big deal really.  It’s just one of those things.”

“That’s a man talking!  Of course it is more than ‘just one of those things’. And, if it isn’t – it ought to be!”

“It was a different reality, Karen, a whole different world.”

“And that’s supposed to make his betrayal of her okay, is it?”  She shook her head.  “Whatever you felt about it, you can never understand how a woman feels, Sky; not even if Cadenza was your real twin sister and was standing here with us.  Di has such faith in him.  I know I make a song and dance about things – as you tell me – but I’m not the only woman on this base who has built her hopes of future happiness on one man.  I’m lucky: I have you; Dianne has a man who will always be expected to put her second in his life.  For him to have any kind of relationship with another woman – especially to have kids with her when he’s got cold feet about having a family with Di - is a real kick in the teeth!”

  “I realise that and so does Paul, I’m sure of it.  It wasn’t something he set out to do.  He was as surprised as anyone to discover he had twin sons.”

“And he’d have gone through his life never mentioning that he’d humped Eva Svenson if this hadn’t happened - wouldn’t he?  Well?  Maybe if he’d told her before he had to…?”

  “That was never going to happen.   The truth of it is that he needs Dianne.”

“Yes, but has he told her that?  Some men tend to forget women aren’t mind readers and that we have terrible short term memories when it comes to declarations of affection…”

He sighed.  “Okay, I admit it: I love you… satisfied?”

“Are you sure the romance gene wasn’t bred out of your family?”

He chuckled and kissed her lips gently.  “We sold it to the devil for the ability to make money.”

“You were short-changed then.”

“I thought we were talking about Paul and Dianne?”

“Yes, we were, before you got side-tracked into telling me how much you love me, you mad, passionate fool, you….”  She kissed him back and sighed happily.  “I think it is time for me to have a chat with her-”

“Is that wise?”

She raised an arched eyebrow at him.  “Are you implying I might not be able to help sort this out?  I’m not as dumb as I pretend, you know?”

“I know; if you were as dumb as you pretend, I’d-a-been outa here a long time ago.”

She punched his good arm playfully.  “But you love me really,” she said, winking.

“I adore you, and you know it, so don’t play cute with me, Älskling.  Just go easy with Dianne, huh?  We don’t want to make things worse.”

“O ye, of little faith…  Mind you, I could do with some more inspiration…” He laughed and kissed her again.  “And some of what you sold your romantic gene for…”

 

 

“Happy birthday, Karen.”  Dianne handed her friend a small, ornately wrapped present.  “I meant to give it to you earlier.”

“Thanks, that’s really kind of you!  I’ll open it later, Di.  Are you free right now?  Good, I’m buying.”

“Buying what?”

“Tea, coffee, cake, ice cream, chocolate – whatever you like.”

“You come into some money, all of a sudden?” Rhapsody teased.  Symphony was notorious for always being short of cash. 

“It’s my birthday and guess who didn’t have time to buy me anything?  So, I have cash from Mr Svenson.  As an earnest of better things to come… he says.”

“He spoils you!”

“Yeah; ain’t I a lucky girl? Come on, let’s go before the technicians come on their break and pinch all the cream cakes…”

Rhapsody laughed and followed her friend to the canteen, where Symphony chose a large cream cake and a cappuccino; Rhapsody followed suit and they found an empty table by one of the small windows.   They giggled and toasted each other with their coffees, biting into the gooey cakes with guilty pleasure. 

After a few mouthfuls, Symphony said:

“How’s Paul?”

Rhapsody looked a little embarrassed.  “I thought the daily bulletin said he was okay and recovering.”

“Well, sure it did, but I thought you’d have been to see him.”

Rhapsody shook her head.  “I’ve been too busy.”

“Too busy to visit Paul?  Since when?”

“I’m not speaking to him at the moment,” Rhapsody announced.  She saw the exaggerated surprise on her friend’s face and added, “You ought to know all about not speaking to someone.”

“I only don’t speak to… someone, if he’s done something to upset me,” Symphony said. 

“Well, Paul’s upset me.”

Symphony licked cream off her fingers, stared at the ceiling for a moment with an air of intense thought and then said: “I seem to remember a conversation that went something like this: ’how would you feel if you discovered Paul had children?  I’d be cross that he didn’t tell me about them, but I know he loves me and one day I hope that my children will be his.’”

“Well, I was wrong.  He did tell me and I am cross.”

“Why?”

“He slept with another woman while he was engaged to me! Don’t tell me you’d let Adam off if he did that, because I won’t believe you.”

“I wouldn’t dream of telling you that.  But then I’m not supposed to be the reasonable one.”

“Huh.”

“Di, we’re both sensible women, right?”  Rhapsody rolled her eyes.  “We’re intelligent, right?” An emphatic nod.  “And we know that most men – bless their little cotton socks – are about as capable of eternal fidelity as a fish is of riding a bicycle, right?”

“We could hope they’d evolved into something at least capable of restraint,” Rhapsody muttered. 

“My guess is Cadenza’s an intelligent woman – she’s a sort of Svenson, after all – and, just in case you’ve never met Blue’s sister, that probably means she is tall, blonde, sexy and shaped like… this.” She waved an outline with both hands.  “So, there she is, a long way from home and possibly destined never to see her loved ones again, or able to stay anywhere long enough to find new loves.  She meets a guy: a handsome, charming guy, with the deepest of sapphire-blue eyes – am I right? – and he’s in the same predicament, missing the love of his life.  They hit it off.  He thinks she’s ‘one of the guys’ and she thinks he’s cute – and who wouldn’t?   A little companionship, mutual admiration and comfort turns into something… a bit more physical.  That’s human nature, right?”

Rhapsody glowered. 

“Right?” Symphony insisted.  Reluctantly, her friend nodded. “Right. So, you should be pleased Paul’s human enough not to be capable of restraint.”

Rhapsody snorted with amusement.  “That is about the most illogical piece of logical thought I’ve ever heard.”

“Makes sense though, doesn’t it?”

“In another universe it might.”

They were in another universe,” Symphony reminded her.  “Look, I’m the last person to consider Paul doesn’t deserve to suffer for playing away from home, but I also think he deserves a second chance.   Second chances are a whole lot of fun… believe me.”  She winked.  “Besides, he loves you and you know it because you love him.  Don’t argue with me, Di; you’re walking round like the end of the world is nigh and that’s not like you.   I know what I’d do, if I were you.”

“You are not me and Adam isn’t Paul.  You two play your mind games to suit yourselves, but I thought Paul and I had no secrets from each other.”

“Secrets?  Oh, Adam has his secrets – by the bucketful - and so do I.  Secrets are what keeps a relationship interesting.”

“I don’t happen to think so.”

“Neither did I, once upon a time – well, I thought my secrets were exempt but that Adam ought to reveal all… in more ways than one.  Mind you, I don’t think I would like a… blow-by-blow account of his past ‘amours’…  There is only so much jealousy my system can tolerate.”

“It’s okay for you,” Rhapsody protested.  “You know he wouldn’t look at another woman.  I thought Paul was the same, and now – this.”

Symphony thought for a moment and said, “You two are far too concerned with appearances.  You pussy-foot about making sure no one guesses how much you’d like to be tearing the clothes off each other and wearing out some bed-springs.  Adam wouldn’t look at another woman because he knows that’d be the end of him causing any wear and tear on my bedsprings… for a very long time.”

Rhapsody chuckled.  “Poor guy, you have him right where you want him, don’t you?”

“Not exactly, but I will do very shortly.   I’m off to find him and do a little celebrating… just the two of us.  We haven’t done any celebrating since before Christmas.”  She leant back in the chair and stretched, languorously: a perfect example of a happy and healthy young woman.  “I don’t expect Fawn will let Paul do any celebrating until he’s out of Sick Bay, but you could always drop by and give him a rain check.”

 “You have the broadest vocabulary for innuendo of any woman I’ve ever met.”

 Symphony grinned.  “Why, thanks, Di,” she said.  “Give my love to Paul, when you drop by, won’t you?”

“Oh… go and celebrate!”

 

 

Michael Turner’s recovery was rapid, but it still took a few months before Fawn declared the youth totally fit and capable of leaving his care.  During his stay, the senior personnel, the only people let into any part of the secret about the youngster’s origins, brought him up to date with the history and current affairs in the world he was now to call home.   They found him a quick study, quiet, a little reserved, but with a dry wit when he grew to know them. 

For himself, Michael was still most relaxed in Captain Blue’s company, and, like his brother before him, he grew fond of Symphony Angel who treated him like an indulged younger brother.  Captain Scarlet accepted this with resignation and spent what time he could spare from a schedule that quickly became busy with duties and assignments, getting to know his son. 

Rhapsody’s anger hadn’t lasted long and with Symphony she undertook many of the so-called ‘adaptation’ briefings the colonel arranged for Michael.  No one knew details of the identity being created for him, but they tutored him in British and American culture and ironed out some of the differences between his home world and his new world.  In doing so, they learned about Cadenza’s life and the constraints her Spectrum operated under, which gave them both a better understanding of the alternative reality the captains had experienced and – in Rhapsody’s case especially - a new measure of acceptance. 

It was the week before Easter when the colonel summoned his elite officers to an early morning meeting and announced that Michael would be leaving Cloudbase to spend Easter in his new country of residence and begin the process of melting into the general populace. 

“Who’ll look after him, sir?” Symphony asked. 

“He will be handed over to local social workers by the security service; but that won’t last for long.  His application has been accepted by a respected university and he will have an interview to start there in September.  I don’t foresee any problems.”

He glanced around the table and could see the difficulties certain of his officers were having suppressing their questions, but he did not volunteer any further information. 

“It just remains for me to tell you that Michael Turner will leave Cloudbase at 1100 hours today, so I’d advise any of you that wish to, to make your farewells.”

“So soon?” Scarlet murmured, dismayed. 

“He’s been here since Christmas, Captain.  The USS are ready to set him up in his new identity, he is now well enough to leave us, and Cloudbase is a military facility, not a convalescence home,” White replied.    “There is no reason for him to remain here any longer.”

“Yes, sir,” Scarlet replied unhappily.  He had been expecting this day for some weeks, but it didn’t make the announcement any less of a shock. 

Colonel White was not as unsympathetic as his pronouncements made him sound, but he was only too aware that the ties between Michael and Spectrum had to be severed completely, in order for the scheme to be a success and allow the youngster the freedom and anonymity he craved.  

 “I will just remind you, although I am certain you’re all well aware, that no one is to attempt to discover the new identity of Michael Turner once he leaves Cloudbase.  There’s no point you asking him about it either, he won’t be told the details until he’s left here.  The time between now and his starting college will be used by the USS to help him become familiar with his new life history.  Michael knows he is about to leave and has asked me, on his behalf, to formally thank you all for your kindness and your help over the past, difficult months.  I want that minuted, Lieutenant Green, along with my commendation to all of you who have helped the young man adapt to this dimension.”

“Thank you, sir,” the seven voices around the table chorused.

When the colonel closed the meeting, Scarlet gathered his papers with some deliberation, thinking over what he wanted to do between now and 1100 hours.   Suddenly there hardly seemed enough time. 

He found himself included in the crowd of people heading for the Officers’ Lounge, where Mike spent a lot of his time.  As they expected, he was there as they all walked in and he greeted them with a shy smile. 

Symphony flew to his side. “We’ve heard that you’re to leave us!  That’s so exciting for you!” she cried, hugging him. 

“I’m a little nervous,” he admitted, as Captains Grey, Magenta and Ochre shook his hand and wished him well.

“You’ll do fine,” Ochre reassured him.  “I don’t doubt it.”

After a few more minutes, Magenta managed tactfully to coax Ochre and Grey out of the Lounge and give the quartet most closely involved with Mike time to be with him. 

“It’s hard to know what to say,” Symphony said, voicing everyone’s inner thoughts.  “I mean, we can’t ask you where you’re going and all that, but we’d like to know – well, I would.  I guess I’m just incredibly nosy, though?”

“Not at all,” Blue interjected.  “We’d all like to know, but for this to work we can’t be told.  The colonel’s ordered us not to try to find out; but you need to know that wherever you end up, Michael, and whatever you do, you know where we are and if we can help – we will.  I think I speak for all four of us when I say that?”

“Yes, of course,” Scarlet agreed, and trying to reassure himself as much as Michael, he added,  “But I’m sure Mike won’t need to ask for our help – he’s going to be fine.”

“Of course he is,” Rhapsody said, putting an arm around the youngster’s shoulders.  “He’s a talented chap and I’m sure he’ll succeed at anything he undertakes.”

“I can’t thank you all enough,” Michael said, blushing slightly.  “It’s been… difficult to get used to… to the way things are now, but without all of you, I’d have found it much, much harder.”

“You’ve coped very well,” Rhapsody assured him.  “You’ll fit in without any problem, wherever you go.”

“I’m sure it’ll be hard getting used to not being on Cloudbase, but I’m looking forward to it.  I want to spend some time travelling, if I can, seeing all the places I’ve only ever read or heard about, and just being one of the crowd.”

“Sounds like a fine ambition,” Blue said, smiling.  “I envy you the pleasure of discovering all the wonderful places there are.”

Having hit on a nicely neutral topic of conversation they spent some time discussing their favourite places and before they knew it, Colonel White came into the Lounge with an unknown man dressed in a dark suit. 

Everyone stood up.

“At ease,” the colonel said.  “Michael, this is Major Opal, of Spectrum Intelligence.  He has come to escort you to your rendezvous with the USS operatives who will be responsible for your safety and teaching you all about your new identity.”

“Hello, sir,” Michael said politely.

Opal gave a friendly smile and said, “We’ll have to leave pretty sharply to make the rendezvous; are you ready to go, Michael?”

“Yes sir.  All my gear – such as it is - was taken down to the hangar decks earlier. ”

“Oh,” Symphony whined excitedly and threw her arms around him.  “Take care, Mikey, and all the very best with everything!”

Rhapsody hugged and kissed him too, and the two women stood aside as he turned to the captains. 

Blue stepped forward and shook his hand formally and Scarlet did the same, placing a hand on the youngster’s shoulder. 

“All the best, Mike,” he said.  “I hope the future brings you everything you hope for.”

“Thank you, Captain.”  He hesitated, looked intently at Scarlet and then said, “Thank you for everything… Paul.”

Scarlet smiled and patted his shoulder affectionately.  “Take care of yourself.”

Michael turned to leave; he saw Opal smiling and the colonel opening the door from the Lounge.   He took two steps, hesitated and then suddenly panicked, turning to throw himself into Blue’s startled embrace. 

“It’s okay, Michael,” the American reassured him.  “Everything will be fine.” He hugged the boy, and added astutely, “Your mom would be proud of you.”

Michael looked up at him, doubt in his eyes.  “Would she?  How can you be so sure?”

“Because I am proud of you.  Think about it, Michael: your father wanted you to have this chance, and I have no doubt that he knew – as I do – that Eva would want it to.  She’s lost one son to the Mysterons; I’m sure she’d do anything necessary to save the other.”

“She’ll never know…”

“Don’t be so sure,” Blue replied.  “Stranger things have happened.  Four years ago we never thought we’d see her again.”

Michael thought for a moment.  “I guess you’re right… Adam.”

Blue grinned at this first tentative use of his Christian name.  “Hey - you know I’m right.  Now, off you go; you can’t keep the colonel waiting.  There’s a whole lifetime of new experiences waiting for you… you don’t want to be late.”

Michael gave a shaky smile and turned to walk from the room again.  He clasped Scarlet’s hand as he passed by and received a heartening squeeze in response. 

As the door closed behind the trio, the four friends avoided looking at each other and stood in silence for a while. 

“You think he’ll be all right?” Scarlet asked eventually.

“Damn sure he will,” Blue said firmly.  He looked at Scarlet and saw him blinking rapidly as if to hold back tears.   He knew how much Paul would hate to realise any one had noticed, so he gave a mischievous smile, adding, “If he’s a little bit you and little bit me, Paul – how could he fail to be the best there is… sugar?”  

Scarlet looked at him with such an astonished expression that Blue averted his face to hide his snigger of amusement.  Scarlet watched him until his need to laugh grew too extreme and he started to chuckle too. 

“You know, you’re right,” he said.  “Come on, heartface, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and then we’ll spend a little quality one-to-one time down at the poolside… I just love those new Speedos you got…” 

“For just one cup of coffee?” Blue quavered.  “What kind of a boy do you take me for?”

“One of the best, heartface,” Scarlet replied.

 Watched by the open-mouthed Angels, Blue flicked back his long fringe and they both tossed back their heads, sucked in their cheeks and then, camping it up like troopers, they minced arm-in-arm out of the Officers’ Lounge. 

As the door closed behind them Symphony muttered, “Crazy guys…”

“Stark, staring bonkers,” Rhapsody agreed. 

They looked at each other and giggled. 

“I’m so glad they’re back to normal,” Symphony said.

“Yes; if anything those two ever do can be called normal,” said Rhapsody. “Come on, if we hurry, we’ll be in time for Paul to buy us coffee too.”

“And to spend quality time at the pool… now that’s what I call worth celebrating…”

Laughing, the two young women hurried to the door and raced after the two men. 

 

 

The End

Author’s notes

Wikipedia’s definition of a tesseract:  A tesseract is used to imply the existence of a physical fourth dimension to the inhabitants of the third and as shorthand for something strange or unknown. And that’s why I chose it as my title for this story.  I suppose in a way, it is a follow on from my story ‘Synchronicity’ although I have tried not to make it necessary to have read that story to follow this. 

The idea for creating the possibility for future repercussions (in the form of unexpected offspring) for Scarlet, following his adventures in alternative dimensions, was something that occurred to me while I was writing ‘Sync’, but it did not make the final cut, for various reasons.  Having decided that it might be fun to resurrect it, I hope it seems plausible.  This story began life as a ‘short’ birthday story last year (2008) and rapidly grew into something that I wasn’t going to be able to finish in time.  It missed the 2008 Christmas deadline too, and has almost missed this one!  But, with the encouragement of my Beta-reader, the estimable Hazel Köhler, I managed to get it finished.  As usual, I owe Hazel a big vote of thanks for her help, tolerance and plot advice.   Any mistakes that you find lurking in the text are my fault. 

A further vote of thanks is due to Chris Bishop, the colonel of the Spectrum HQ website.  Chris devotes so much of her time to helping other authors and preparing stories for the site that she is in danger of neglecting her own writing!  While I appreciate all she does, such as the totally brilliant title artwork for this story, I also appreciate her marvellous stories – long may they continue to appear to entertain and delight us all! 

I will just add that while I, personally, do not subscribe to the idea that there is a ‘gay’ relationship between Scarlet and Blue, I am not averse to using the idea or allowing my characters to acknowledge that the possibility exists.   Indeed, it something I have made occasional reference to from as far back as my second Christmas Challenge story in December 2002.   In my writing, the two men have a close - even intense - relationship, built on what they’ve been through together and Scarlet’s reliance on Blue’s emotional support at times.  However, for my characters that stops well short of a physical or sexual relationship.  I know that others will disagree with me and I do not dispute their right to do so.   It is the myriad diversity of the characters in the Anderverse that keeps the fan fiction fresh and interesting. 

The rights to Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons ™ belong to Carlton Media, as far as I know.  They do not belong to me.  The credit for creating the characters from the show belongs to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the production team of the original shows and the writers of the annuals and comic books.   All the other characters in this story are mine.  The story is written with all due acknowledgement and respect to the rights of the creators and owners. 

I hope you enjoyed reading it. 

Marion Woods

January 2010

 

 

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