A Spectrum Story by Marion Woods
No one could ever know me….seems you’re the only one who knows what it's like to be me. Someone to face the day with; make it through all the mess with, someone I'll always laugh with - even at my worst, I'm best with you.
It's like you're always stuck in second gear, when it hasn't been your day, your week, your month - or even your year. Well, I'll be there for you when the rain starts to pour. I'll be there for you - like I've been there before. I'll be there for you - 'cause you're there for me too.
(Willis/ Wilde/ Crane/ Kauffman/ Skloff/ Solem)
Cloudbase, 2068: shortly after the events in ‘The Inquisition’ (1)
The confrontation came even sooner than he’d expected. Colonel White walked in through the open door to his office and closed it purposefully behind him. He looked up from his desk and noted the apoplectic gleam in his friend’s eye and unusually heightened colour in his cheeks.
“Colonel,” he said. “Please sit down. What can I do for you?”
Colonel White dropped a buff coloured file on to the crowded desk. It was edged with a pale blue tape. “You can tell me how you intend to deal with this… this travesty, for a start.”
“Dr. Chaudry’s report? Well, an official notification document has been registered and Captain Blue has been informed of the recommendations based on the findings of the recent tests he underwent.”
“He has ten days to contest the recommendations, should he wish to. If he does not contest the report, then a further set of psychological tests will be carried out and a maximum of up to three weeks is allowed following those results before the final decision is announced. That is not contestable.”
“Who makes that decision?”
“Ultimately I do – if it comes to that – as head of a three man tribunal consisting of eminent physicians.”
“And if this is contested?”
“Then a case can be made to Doctor Chaudry, requesting he review his diagnosis, dependent on a further psych test not confirming the first results, of course, and then the report can be quashed. If Chaudry refuses, he can insist that the case goes to the tribunal. Only under exceptional circumstances is it within my discretion to waive the recommendations.” He knew what was coming.
“But you can waive them? Then do so now, Doctor! Why wait ten days just to go through the motions?”
“Charles, I wish I could. Chaudry is a good man, a fine doctor, and the results of the psychological examination he gave Blue are persuasive. Based on those results, Blue’s stress levels are incredibly high. Not to put too fine a point on it, Colonel, he’s living on his nerves and he could – theoretically – crack at any time. Chaudry has a duty towards Blue’s fellow officers – as much as towards Captain Blue – to prevent one man’s weakness from causing harm to others. He is within his rights to…”
“His rights! What about Spectrum’s rights? Or Blue’s or mine? He has downgraded one of my senior officers from Field to Base Officer. He has suspended my best pilot’s flying permit indefinitely and signed him unfit for the next ten days!” the colonel raged. “Edward, this is ridiculous. Blue is as calm as a millpond – the man has nerves of steel – how could he be stressed?”
“Stress affects people differently and even steel will bend under enough pressure, Charles. Besides, I happen to agree with Chaudry that Captain Blue could do with a break, even if this result is … just a blip. He and Captain Scarlet have been in the fore-front of the war against the Mysterons for months now – and you yourself know what they have had to face. If Blue contests the recommendations, I will give the matter due consideration. Until then, I will not over-ride Chaudry, even if you order me to.” Fawn looked up at his commander in chief and asked, evenly, “Have you looked at him, recently? I mean, really looked at him? He’s dead on his feet, Charles. One glance at the records shows that he’s at the upper limit of acceptable use for the Room of Sleep…he needs a bloody good night’s rest!” He pursed his lips stubbornly and concluded, “All I can do is recommend that Blue contest the decision as soon as possible. In order to expedite matters, he may submit a written statement and I will give it my immediate attention. Other personnel may also submit testimony on his behalf – as witnesses of, or advocates for, his mental state.”
“I’m sorry, Charles. That’s the best I can do.”
It was an outright clash of wills but Colonel White knew he would have to back down. The Head of Medical Services for Spectrum could – in effect – even suspend him on medical grounds, if he chose.
“I request permission to sit alongside the tribunal if one is convened. I assume it would be a closed session normally, but I want to hear what grounds Chaudry imagines he has that are compelling enough to remove one of my best officers from active duty.”
“I’m sure we can accommodate that request, Colonel.” Despite the formality of his words, Fawn gave a friendly smile.
“Thank you, Doctor. Your co-operation is much appreciated,” the colonel replied with heavy irony.
If there is hell upon earth, it is to be found in a melancholy man’s heart.
(Richard Burton 1577-1640)
Captain Scarlet marched into the Control Room and straight up to the colonel’s desk, with a face like thunder. Colonel White looked up without speaking.
“What in the name of all that’s Holy is going on here?” Scarlet demanded. “I expected Captain Blue to be waiting for me in the Officers’ Lounge and, when I get there, I find I’m partnered with Lieutenant Gentian because Blue is ‘off sick’ for ten days. I saw him last night and there was nothing wrong with him! He won’t answer the door to me and I can’t get a straight answer out of him. So, what is going on?”
White pressed a button and a stool rose from the floor and banged into the back of Scarlet’s legs forcing him to sit down. Moments later the Perspex surround came from the ceiling to create a soundproof booth.
“Captain Blue is signed off for the next ten days and I assigned Gentian to work alongside you. He’s an able officer, but he could do with a little more practical experience. I’m trusting you to look after him.”
“Stuff Gentian,” Scarlet grumbled. “What’s wrong with Captain Blue?”
White sighed and frowned at his temperamental officer. “This is confidential information, Captain Scarlet; I expect you to respect that fact.”
Alarmed by his commander’s tone, Scarlet nodded and waited in trepidation for the worst.
“Recently, Captain Blue was given his annual psych tests by a doctor from the World Medical Organisation. As you know, you’re the only member of Spectrum whose tests may be done by a staff doctor; for reasons which are obvious. Doctor Chaudry found that Captain Blue’s stress levels were over the acceptable limits, and he has rescinded his flight license and placed him on Base Officer Level until the matter is resolved.”
“What? I mean, I knew he was wound up about Sy- something yesterday.” He hesitated to say more – Colonel White wasn’t supposed to know about – and could certainly not officially approve of – the relationship between Blue and Symphony Angel. He continued, “But, Adam’s as steady as a rock – and I ought to know. Does this Chaudry know the first thing about what we do?”
“Doctor Chaudry has seen the relevant official service records for the past year,” White said stiffly. Then with an exasperated sigh he let his guard down and, pleased to have a more sympathetic audience than Fawn had proved to be he explained, “Apparently, he’s concerned that Blue’s high stress level may be a factor in an… inability to act effectively in dangerous situations, and that this failure may be resulting in his field partner – you, Captain – suffering a disproportionate number of injuries.”
“What? Blue’s grounded because I get hurt? Where’s the sense in that?”
“Chaudry is concerned that Captain Blue’s supposed ineffectuality might, inadvertently, be responsible for your … injuries.”
“You know that’s so much bull…, sir!” Scarlet said scathingly. “Over the months since the Mysterons started to threaten us, Adam’s been as much in the thick of the fight as I have. He always takes his responsibilities very seriously,” sometimes more seriously than I do, he added to himself, continuing, “and in addition to that – he’s had to bring what was left of me back to Cloudbase enough times to turn any man queasy! Through all of it he’s never batted an eyelid.”
“I know it, you know it, Blue knows it and so does Doctor Fawn. Unfortunately, Chaudry seems to have latched on to the regrettable incidents at Atlantica Base and this last Mysteron ploy, where Blue was drugged and abducted by Mysteron agents in an attempt to gain our cipher codes. You know yourself, Captain, that he was unusually … troubled by that.”
Scarlet glared back at the colonel. He was aware that Blue had been shaken up by recent events rather more than usual. Of course, he’d been edgy before they went to that damned restaurant – that was why they’d gone, come to think of it – but he couldn’t really go into the details about that for the colonel. Adam’s anxiety over Symphony after her plane crashed in the desert on a routine patrol had been obvious to anyone who knew him. Anyway, Blue had calmed down after they’d found her and he’d been allowed to take her home to Iowa for the week’s convalescence Fawn had prescribed, even though he’d had to come back to Cloudbase after 48 hours.
White looked at his frowning compatriot with some forbearance. He knew the value Scarlet put on Blue’s friendship and that it was an integral element of the most effective team of agents he had. “There’s nothing any of us can do to rescind Doctor Chaudry’s official report without revealing the … unusual circumstances, regarding your remarkable abilities, and the reason for your frequent spells in sick bay, Captain.”
Scarlet’s frown deepened. He was seething with the injustice of the situation and the fact that Blue was being punished for his retrometabolism. He continued to glare at the colonel, although he wasn’t really looking at his commanding officer. In his mind’s eye he saw the outwardly unruffled, tolerant figure of his field partner. He knew, better than most, that the seemingly imperturbable American was a far more emotional man than he let on in public. It took some time for Adam to loose his reserve with anyone, but – once he trusted you enough – he was revealed as a fiercely loyal, sympathetic sort of guy. Blue was the ideal foil for his own, somewhat mercurial, temper and a buffer against the idiocy of his wilder ideas.
He would never forgive himself if, somehow, his insistence on taking all the risks, had managed to undermine that rock-like strength of mind and inner confidence. And – what made it far worse – he hadn’t even registered the effect his frequent injuries might be having on his friend.
Finally he spoke: “What can we do about it, Colonel? This can’t be allowed to continue.”
White sighed. “Once the process is initiated, it has to run its course. I know…” he held a hand up to silence Scarlet’s explosive retort. “I’ve spoken with Fawn myself on this very subject. Blue must challenge the decision and submit a written statement to Doctor Fawn, who will review the case in ten days. I hope he’s putting pen to paper right now, I’ve told him to.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Scarlet fidgeted on his stool.
The colonel gave a dry smile and said, “Well, you could submit a written statement too – giving your view of the situation. Being careful to avoid anything that might divulge more than it is safe to do so, of course. Our main problem is that Doctor Fawn can’t act alone on this matter – he’s governed by Spectrum regulations too. If the next set of test results means the case has to go to a review board, the amount of information we can reveal without compromising security is limited.” He glanced at Scarlet and added, “It might be as well to check with Captain Blue before you do submit a statement – you don’t want to barge in and make matters worse.”
Scarlet flushed to the roots of his black hair and gave a grimace. He couldn’t argue with the fact that he was perceived as being more of a hindrance than a help with paperwork. He’d taken particular pains to foster the impression early in his Spectrum career – given that he hated writing the detailed reports the colonel demanded of his operatives – and it was frequently left to Captain Blue to tie up the ends in the final mission reports. His reply skirted the issue. “If he’ll speak to me, I’ll do just that, Colonel. May I have permission to discuss it with him straight away? I ought to be on standby right now…”
White nodded. Scarlet would probably go ahead and try to see Blue anyway; he ought to be grateful he’d even be asked for permission. “I’ll ask Captain Grey to remain on duty until you return. But, don’t overstay your welcome, Captain. Knowing Captain Blue as I do, I’d imagine he’ll be pretty angry with all this himself… he might just hit out at all comers.”
Scarlet grinned. “Make a change – it’s usually him getting it in the neck from me about the medical profession…”
Since he’d woken that morning after another restless night, Captain Blue had experienced the whole gamut of emotions. He’d been idling over a breakfast of coffee and toast, wrestling with the apparently insurmountable problem Symphony Angel had presented him with the other evening, when a respectful medical orderly had hand-delivered the letter from Doctor Fawn, along with the certificate to sign him off duty for ten days. He’d had to read the letter several times and even then it had taken a while to sink in.
Once his astounded mind had assimilated its contents, the hot temper he strove so hard to control had taken over. With one threatening growl of disbelief, he’d quickly finished dressing in his uniform, intending to go to sick-bay to remonstrate with Doctor Fawn. As he’d adjusted his tunic and reached for his cap, he caught sight of himself in his mirror. The angry face that stared back was the image of his father’s.
The sight sobered him and he remained staring at his reflection for some minutes as the fierce emotions ebbed away, leaving him exhausted and confused. He slowly placed his cap back on the chest of drawers, and removed the tunic. He unzipped his blue leather boots and stowed them in the wardrobe, before padding across to the coffee machine and, after pouring a mug full, retreating to the comfort of his armchair and the maelstrom of his thoughts. The potent cocktail of anger and self-pity had brought him too close to exploding for him to risk speaking to anyone. Frighteningly, for a man who prided himself on having control of his emotions, he’d found himself unable to cope with the volatile mix.
Sitting in his armchair, with the privacy code for the apartment door still activated, he debated what to do. He heard Magenta leaving from next door, and then, after what seemed an age, Paul’s knock and calls from the corridor. Of all the people he didn’t want to speak to, Paul was the one he needed to avoid the most – except for Karen, of course.
He sat in silence, physically incapable of giving any response. Occasionally he shivered, although the room was pleasantly warm and the hands that held the coffee cup, bringing it to his blue-tinged lips with mechanical regularity, shook slightly. Sharp-toothed doubts infested his mind; gnawing away at his normally redoubtable self-confidence.
Blue stirred uneasily, slopping cold black coffee over the rim of his mug and onto the pale carpet. Normally the most fastidious of men he barely glanced at it.
Matters between Karen and him were more than usually fraught at the moment. Indeed, when they’d parted after an exceptionally acrimonious meeting the other evening, she’d stated categorically that she’d no desire to ever speak to him again - unless he was prepared to admit he was behaving unreasonably and offer her a fundamental apology. She hadn’t come back either – so he guessed she really was as angry as she’d seemed.
Blue sighed and ran his long fingers through his fringe, pushing it back from his high forehead. His relationship with Karen Wainwright had quickly become immensely important to him – starting from the very first day they’d met.
He truly believed that in the vivacious and mercurial mid-westerner he’d found his ideal soul mate. Yet Karen, driven by who knew what internal demons, demanded constant proof of his love and devotion. His very nature rebelled against this demand that he parade his feelings, even before the woman he adored, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to deal with her insecurity without finding her constant need for reassurance demeaning. He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t accept the simple fact that he loved her as he’d never loved any other woman – even his late fiancée.
Well, for once I refuse to play her stupid mind games – I will not go, cap-in-hand, begging her forgiveness … Damn it! It wasn’t my fault!
Well, yes, his conscience prompted, it was your fault …
But not only my fault….he argued with himself. Anyway, today’s events haven’t brought me any closer to being in the right frame of mind to deal with the situation, or face Karen’s tantrums, or meet her demands.
It was as he wrestled with the seemingly intractable problem that the colonel called on the internal communication system, and he listened in despondent silence as his commanding officer encouraged him to contest the medical board’s decision.
Once the colonel finished speaking and signed off with a worried frown on his face, Blue returned to his armchair vigil and continued sitting in absolute silence, motionless, unaware even that the coffee in the mug he still cradled in his hands, was now stone cold. He heard his orderly try the door and eventually move away along the corridor. Even that self-effacing impersonal presence would have been an unbearable intrusion at that moment.
Maybe I can’t hack it? The thought repeated itself in his mind, like a particularly irritating jingle until even the process of thinking made his head pound. With an almost hysterical sense of irony he forced himself to acknowledge the truth: over the past month or so, the thought that maybe his future did not lie with Spectrum had become increasingly frequent. He had grown up in a family with a strong ethos of duty and loyalty – and he instinctively flinched from the thought of quitting anything with the job half done – but since Conrad had gone to Mars, the life he’d expected to lead had faded and he’d become part of the Earth’s spearhead defence against an ‘alien menace’ with largely unknown and wholly unbelievable powers.
He had seen his partner turn from a decent human being into a cold-blooded, heartless killing machine. Circumstances had forced him to kill his best friend, and on more than one occasion the woman he loved had faced potentially fatal danger. He’d tested himself against Captain Scarlet on every mission they’d undertaken and now, it seemed the judgement was against him. He had not made the grade. Yet, because there seemed to be a possibility that Spectrum no longer wanted him, he desperately wanted to stay. The thought of being eased out of active service in such an unexpected manner – and for such a reason – fired the strong competitive streak that existed in all of the Svenson family and left him with a desperate ambition to prove his worth and ability – even if it was only so he could leave when he wanted to and on his own terms.
Perhaps they’re right and I am – unconsciously – responsible in some way for Scarlet’s injuries? As if I haven’t done enough to Paul anyway. He shivered as the most dreadful thought of them all flashed into his mind. What if - through all these months of working together, Paul has thought it too?
How can I face him – or any of them - knowing people think that of me?
He stood and paced the confines of his room until, with a strength born of destructive frustration he threw the coffee mug into the sink and watched it spray across the walls and surfaces as the china shattered. Contest it – the colonel said, but did he really mean it? Would he welcome the opportunity to remove an officer who has been found… unreliable?
He could feel himself tottering on the edge of a black pit of despair and fatalism. Why fight it? –a small voice needled in the back of his mind. It must be fate pointing the way to what you should do. Take the money and run….
The sharp knock at the door startled him. He stood stock still, straining to hear the departing footsteps, but then the doorbell rang. “Go away,” he growled, surprised at just how hard it was to utter even that short sentence. His throat felt hot and constricted.
Paul, Blue sighed and began mechanically to clear up the mess he’d made.
“Adam? Adam, open the door. I want to talk to you, you stupid Yankee.”
“No, I’m not going, so you might as well open the door and get it over with. I’ll be right here until you do… Adam? Come on, Adam; stop sulking like… like Achilles in his tent!” Blue could almost hear the smile on Scarlet’s face as he found an apt analogy. “I feel like a right ‘nana stood out here, talking to a door…” Paul was beginning to sound a little peevish.
“What do you want, Paul?” Blue asked in defeat.
“I-want-to–talk-to-you,” Scarlet repeated with exaggerated slowness. “I’m skiving off stand-by duty to be here, so move yourself and open the door. Please?”
Scarlet heard the door lock snap back. He keyed in the password and it slid open. A glance around the room found Blue on his knees, mopping at a puddle of coffee by the small, wall-mounted, drinking-water sink.
He walked in and let the door slide closed behind him. He said nothing, but sat on the futon, removing his cap as an indication that he wasn’t going to leave in the near future and waiting until Blue had mopped everything he could, and had to stop and talk to him. He was used to Adam’s diversionary tactics to avoid doing and discussing things he didn’t want to.
“You wanted to talk, so talk,” the American said sharply. He dropped a handful of soggy paper towels into the small waste-bucket and turned to stare balefully at his visitor.
“The colonel’s told me about all this nonsense with the psych-test results,” Scarlet said, a little shocked to see such wretchedness on his partner’s face.
Blue went pale and turned away. “I don’t wanna talk about it right now,” he muttered.
Scarlet hadn’t expected this – he’d expected to see Captain Blue fizzing with righteous anger and contemptuous exasperation, perhaps – but complete dejection? - That wasn’t like Adam at all. There was no need to calm Blue down – he was going to have to kick start him… or so it seemed. His mind raced in a search for an alternative strategy. “Why’re you skulking in here?” he asked, giving a vague wave around the room.
Blue ignored him and Scarlet pressed on, feeling his own irritation mounting at this unexpectedly apathetic response from his friend. “It’s crap, Adam, total crap. Just because some WMO Doctor hasn’t a clue about the truth of the situation - and we can’t tell him - we have to jump through flaming hoops.” There was still no reaction. He continued, “The colonel told me you ought to be writing a statement to prove what nonsense it all is and he said I could write one too – but he told me to check it with you, first.” He gave a wry grin. “For some reason he seems to think I might make things worse rather than better, if I rush in as I usually do.” Neither the expected answering smile nor the assertion that this was not the case was forthcoming.
Right, Scarlet thought ruefully, we’re in for a tough ride here… “Fawn’s in charge of the review board and it’s more or less a done deal, except it has to be gone through. I should look at it as an unexpected furlough and put my feet up, if I were you,” he advised brightly.
“Well, you aren’t me,” Blue snapped.
“True,” Scarlet agreed, thankful that he’d at least elicited a response. He’d rarely seen Adam so tense, apart from when he’d fallen out with Karen. He gave an inward, self-deprecating sigh, he’d forgotten for the moment that Adam had been tetchy before he ever went for that perishing psych test. That bloody woman – she must have wound him up about something – one of these days she’ll go too far….
“What’s wrong?” he asked, expecting to hear that Symphony was indeed playing up again. Once more his question was met with an unresponsive silence. He sighed and said, “I can’t understand what you’re so worked up about. This is just a stupid administrative muddle… one of those things the system throws up every so often. I’m always having to deal with them, as you know. I don’t let them rattle me anymore. ”
“That’s because no one has ever accused you of cowardice – or of deliberately letting your partner face danger alone! I bet something like that would rattle even you – Mister Oh-So-Calm Metcalfe!” The raw hurt of the accusation was obvious in Blue’s voice
Genuinely surprised at his colleague’s reply Scarlet stammered, “Cowardice – you? Oh, come off it, Blue-boy, no one thinks that!”
“Don’t they? Don’t you?”
“No, I do not. The thought’s never even crossed my mind.”
This was far worse than Scarlet had expected. Even when the colonel had been explaining about Chaudry’s report, it’d never occurred to him that anyone would put these supposed lapses down to cowardice. He might’ve guessed that Adam – especially an Adam already made miserable by whatever Karen had been mithering him about - would take the worst possible interpretation as the correct one, though.
Sighing, he tried to find a solution to his friend’s despondency. “Look, Adam, this…stupid report is a storm in a tea-cup and you shouldn’t be letting it get to you. Sit down and write the statement – just put the truth and that’ll be enough to sort the problem. Tell you what, when I write my statement – we can compare them before we hand them in – if you like? But I promise you, it’ll make your toes curl when you read what I have to say.”
“Do you honestly think it will make any difference what you write – or I write or anyone writes? They’re doctors, they stick together… if one says black is white they all agree, for the sake of the look of the thing. I might as well pack my stuff and go back to Boston right now and save everyone the bother.”
“What total bull...”
“And what do you know about it? How often have you had to contest a doctor’s diagnosis?” Blue’s anger lashed out at his friend.
“Every frigging time Fawn won’t let me out of sick bay!” Scarlet retorted, goaded by the unexpected attack. Blue looked away from his friend’s sharp blue eyes with a somewhat dismissive nod of acknowledgement.
There’s no point my being here, if he won’t be reasoned with, Scarlet thought angrily. He stood and walked towards the door. But then he hesitated with his hand hovering over the control switch. You mug, Metcalfe – this is just what he wants – he wants you to go… He glanced over his shoulder at the figure of his friend, standing rigidly in the centre of the room, his face an image of wretchedness. He said, “This isn’t like you, Adam; I don’t remember you ever being so defeatist. It’ll all blow over – believe me.” He could see that his words were having little effect and he was worried. Blue was never exactly overly optimistic about things, he had a fatalistic streak – and a tendency to see the worst side of any situation – a tendency he called realism.
Suddenly Scarlet understood that he had to make his point in a way that would jolt his friend out of his dejection – a way that would shock Adam into fighting this idiotic report. He turned away from the door and faced the unresponsive American. He spoke quietly and with as little emotion as he could manage, hoping to make the impact of what he had to say that much greater. He already knew the gist of what he wanted to say; he’d been close to expressing his thoughts on so many occasions that he’d rehearsed the words until they were familiar to him. There just never seemed to be an opportune moment - before now.
“I’m not stupid - or blind - and you’re not always as good at hiding your exasperation with me as you like to think. I know you get pissed off with me when I arbitrarily move you out of the line of fire, or eject you from moving vehicles without much warning. But there’s a reason for that, Adam, and you ought to know what it is, without my explaining it to you. It really does seem that- whatever fate throws at me – I always come back. It’s not an ability I would’ve volunteered for, neither am I completely at ease with it in myself, as you well know, but whilst I do possess it, I intend to make full use of it and if it allows me to shield my friends, so be it. I can afford to take the risk – you don’t have that luxury, Adam. But, believe me, never once, in all these months, through all the hazards we’ve faced, has the notion that you were any less prepared to face the dangers than I am, ever crossed my mind. Not once.”
He saw a look of disbelief on his friend’s face and continued, “You are just about the bravest man I know.” He saw Adam’s face begin to redden and continued, “One day, the chances are I shan’t be able to save you from the consequences of the job we do. One day the bullet will have your name on it and nothing I do will stop it from hitting its target. I think we both know that, but let’s do what we can to postpone the event, shall we?”
Blue was staring at the carpet, refusing to meet his friend’s eyes. Scarlet drew a deep breath and decided to go for broke – he was on the right track, he sensed, but he needed to make this point as forcefully as he could. “I never thought I would have to spell this out for you, Adam – but you’re obviously not firing on all cylinders right now, so listen up and believe me: you’re a better friend to me than I ever expected to find, and I owe you far more than I‘ve ever had the nerve to thank you for.” He paused and with a genial shrug concluded, “I always wanted a brother, and now, it feels like I have one.”
He slapped his hand on the door control and slowly the door began to slide open. He gave a satisfied smirk; Blue’s face was currently a picture of acute embarrassment.
“And now look what you’ve made me do,” he remarked, as he set his cap at a jaunty angle. “I’ve disconcerted both of us! Well, it serves you right… you wouldn’t believe me. Now, sit down and write that submission, there’s a good chap.”
He left the room. Blue watched the door slide to with an uncomfortable lump in his throat.
When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.
(George Orwell 1903-1950)
When he came off duty, Captain Scarlet retired to his quarters and made himself a cup of tea. He picked up a pen and pad of paper and jotted down a few suitable headings for his submission to the medical board. He wanted it to be comprehensive enough to make his point forcefully and yet pithy enough ensure the doctors read it.
He finished his tea and ate another custard cream biscuit. Knowing his partiality for them Rhapsody had brought him a giant economy size packet back from her latest visit home. He scratched his neck and frowned at the computer screen thoughtfully. Where to start? That was the problem. He began to doodle on the notepad by his side and indulged in a happy daydream about Rhapsody Angel.
Get on with it, Metcalfe, his conscious niggled, you’re just using delaying tactics.
He reviewed the headings for his submission… one was underlined in black ink several times – retrometabolism. How was he going to explain that without actually revealing what it entailed?
If it was any one else but Adam, I wouldn’t be doing this, he sighed and dropped the pen down.
Laboriously he started to type:
Submission to the medical board on behalf of Captain Blue.
“Tch!” he hit delete and started again.
Statement by Captain Scarlet of Spectrum to the Medical Board.
This is my statement in relation on the decision to restrict Captain Blue to Base Officer from Field Officer by Dr Chaudry in the belief that the said Captain was not coping with the demands this job makes on him.
Since I started working alongside Captain Blue, I have found him to be totally reliable and trustworthy.
He hit the delete key again.
I’m trying to argue that he should keep his field officer status not writing a testimonial in support of his application to be a bank clerk, he thought. I’m an intelligent man, articulate and perfectly capable of stating a reasoned argument. So why am I finding this so difficult? Because I just can’t imagine having to work with a new partner if I make a lousy job of it?
I wish I knew what Adam’s writing… he’ll probably manage to talk them into believing he’s about to crack, if I know him. He’ll tell them everything whether they want to know it or not… he won’t lie to save himself – even though he can be totally believable when he’s lying to order… he doesn’t chose to do it.
Get a grip, Metcalfe! You’re an historian – you should be able to prove black is white with only the merest sliver of evidence and extrapolate the whole of human civilisation from the existence of…of a biro! Forget that it’s Adam… be objective. Look at his service record, look at the witness statements… forget about having another cup of tea and half a dozen biscuits…
He relented on the last self-imposed stricture and made himself another drink before he started again.
His mind wandered back to the beginning – back to before he and Blue had become partners – back to what had happened to make him… different. Back to a time of real doubt and dread – a bleak and unhappy time in many ways, but a time from which had emerged the rock-solid support of a life-enhancing friendship, and, he’d always hoped, mutual trust.
He could remember so clearly the uncertainty and fear of those first few days after his Mysteronisation – when they’d known nothing about the extent of his new abilities – and there’d been such suspicion everywhere. What had happened had taken some getting used to – even for him – so why he should’ve expected anyone else to accept without question that a dead man could come back to life and that he could continue to do so, was a mystery in itself. There were a million questions everyone wanted to ask, although no one had had the courage at first to quiz him about it – lucky really - as he wouldn’t’ve had an answer for them anyway.
It hardly seemed possible that all this had changed for the better in a few short months…
Paul Metcalfe always admitted that he was not the most patient of men. He was an intelligent, natural-born soldier and he suffered fools very badly when he had to suffer them at all. People who were incapable of doing what he could do didn’t bother him – but people who refused to try and maximise their potential irritated him. So did people who refused to listen to reason.
He was disgustingly healthy and had rarely suffered more than minor abrasions – even when on dangerous and difficult missions. Metcalfe and his father – the latest in a long line of distinguished five-star generals –put it down to having the family’s renowned ‘charmed hide’. Generations of Metcalfes had served with distinction in the British and now, the World Army. Paul, as the only child of the General and his wife – had chosen the World Army Air Force as a career – he liked flying and the freedom it offered. He’d risen to colonel through the competitive ranks – the youngest in the service – on a fast-track to his own generalship…
Then the World President had got the World Senate’s agreement to create his anti-terrorism organisation. Spectrum: where the elite of all the other services would serve under one commander in a crack regiment with world-wide police powers.
Paul had smiled when he got the invitation to attend a seminar – with a view to joining the organisation.
He’d strolled into Spectrum’s training venue as if he belonged there.
He found the other men who had been asked as potential recruits to be a mixed bunch. The Americans outweighed the other nationalities – but even they ranged from a former criminal to a high-ranking policeman – from a slow-talking southerner to the scion of a wealthy family of Boston Brahmins… Paul watched and judged them all on their individual merits.
None of them were slackers – even where they were not up to his standards – and in rare cases – he admitted he’d met his match. One dark-haired laconic American from the World Aquanaut Security Patrol beat him by a mile in the pool, and the tall blond from Boston had flown the training planes with more skill that Paul had ever witnessed before.
These were his type of people… Captain Scarlet had come home.
Early in the summer of 2067, under the sultry skies of a muggy central London, Paul Metcalfe was amongst the first officers to be commissioned into the new service by the World President, in person. In the ornate salon of a quasi-official government building, he grinned back at the beaming faces of his parents as he moved towards them, through the excited throng of well-wishers who had witnessed him and his companions take Spectrum’s oath of allegiance.
His father accepted his son’s salute and clapped his back, as his mother waited impatiently to enfold her son in her arms.
“Well, well, Captain – and I never thought I’d be proud to see you demoted, Paul,” his father teased in his deep, booming voice.
Paul gave a slight shrug. “It’s the way it’s done, Dad, but a colour-captain outranks everyone except the senior commander. Spectrum’s operational ranks are intentionally somewhat downbeat – but even the majors in charge of terrestrial bases have no authority over the Field Officers – those of us posted to Cloudbase”
“Well, I think it sounds nice,” Mary Metcalfe said, brushing a speck of dust from the smart, new uniform. “Captain Scarlet… it has a romantic ring to it!”
“Mum…” Paul sighed, exchanging wry glances with his grinning father.
“All these lovely coloured uniforms…it makes a change from serried ranks of dull, khaki clones…” she smirked, knowing from long practice how to wind up both husband and son. But today, her son wasn’t biting.
“Spectrum’s uniforms are meant to be easily distinguishable from the normal military styles – we are there to be seen - the first line of defence and action against terrorism…”
“Yes, I read that introductory pamphlet too…” his mother teased. She glanced around the room, seeing similar scenes taking place everywhere. The young, Black-American female pilot – Melody Angel, she recalled, such a lovely name – was being lifted off her feet by her proud father’s hug. Nearby another couple were congratulating their vivacious daughter – their accents proclaiming them to be Americans too, whilst across the room, an elegant couple kissed their beautiful blonde-haired daughter on her cheeks in a far more restrained, continental manner.
Their beautiful… and familiar daughter… Mary nudged her son. “Paul, isn’t that…?”
“Yes, it’s Juliette Pontoin, Mum.” He coloured slightly. He and Juliette had enjoyed a very passionate affair a few years ago, before she’d left the WAAF and gone off to do her own thing. It had been quite a surprise when he’d met the Angel interceptor crews and realised that his former lover was the senior pilot.
“I must say hello,” Mary started forward and was soon deep in conversation with Juliette and her slightly bemused parents. Monsieur and Madame Pontoin had not been completely ‘au fait’ with the extent of their daughter’s involvement with the handsome colonel Anglais who had turned up at their Paris house on several occasions …
General Metcalfe remained at his son’s side. He’d been less fond than his wife of the coquettish French girl who had charmed his only son. He saw the look of outraged alarm Juliette directed at her erstwhile lover as Mary introduced herself to the surprised, yet polite, Pontoins. Seeking to divert his mother from her present, potentially embarrassing, occupation Paul turned to look for Captain Blue.
In the months since they had met at the training camp, he and Adam Svenson had become firm friends and it was to Adam that Paul had confided his alarm at meeting Juliette again.
The blond American had given him a surprisingly roguish look. “I doubt she’ll feel any more comfortable about it than you do.” His face broke into a huge grin… “You gonna tell…?”
The memory of Adam’s reaction made him smile. He spotted his friend easily enough amongst the crowd. He was talking to an elegant and very animated woman – his mother, Paul surmised. Suddenly Blue moved away towards the buffet, leaving Mrs Svenson alone, gazing down into the grey streets below. The traffic was starting to build on the bridge across the deceptively swift-flowing, silt-laden Thames. The buildings caught the afternoon sun and flags on them stirred slightly in the gentle off-river breeze.
Determined to wean his mother away from the Pontoins before she could reveal too much, Paul walked towards Mrs Svenson. She was so wrapped in her thoughts that he had to speak twice to attract her attention.
“Mrs. Svenson? I’m very pleased to meet you. My name is Paul Metcalfe, well, Captain Scarlet now… perhaps Adam has spoken of me?”
She started, and then extended her slim hand towards him with an apologetic smile. “Colonel Metcalfe? Yes, Adam has spoken of you.”
He shook her hand and returned her smile. “I’m so pleased you were able to make the ceremony, I know Adam was concerned that you might not be able to attend.”
“He ought to know me better than that, Colonel Metcalfe…” she replied cryptically, adding, “or should I be calling you captain now? … It’s rather confusing…”
“Then I suggest you call me Paul, for now,” he said, chuckling at her perplexed expression. “My parents are over there, they would be delighted to meet you. They’ve met Adam before. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with him on several training exercises, and we took a weekend’s leave at my home. I’m hopeful we may get the chance to work together, as partners.”
“I’d be delighted to meet your parents, Paul...”
Paul shepherded Mrs Svenson towards his father, made swift introductions and then darted across to interrupt his mother and excuse her to the Pontoins. Noticing Juliette’s sharp glance at him as he led Mary away he hoped he’d been in time.
Mary Metcalfe, herself above average height, was still shorter than the fashionably slim Sarah Svenson, and her dark, naturally wavy hair contrasted with the slick coiffure of the fair-haired younger woman. In fact the smartly dressed, immaculately presented American created a rather severe impression, until you saw her smile and noticed the light in her eyes as she gazed at her son. Mary instantly felt that here was a kindred spirit…
She followed Sarah’s gaze and saw Adam Svenson returning with a tray bearing enough glasses of champagne for every one of them. He’d obviously noticed that Paul had brought his mother across to join their party. She turned back to her son – consciously comparing the two young men.
Paul was only a little shorter and only slightly less broadly built than his friend, but there the similarity stopped. She was sure that no one could look as handsome as her son with his jet-black hair and deep-set, sapphire-blue eyes, beneath straight brows. Indeed his friend was a Scandinavian blond, with pale blue eyes beneath fair brows and lashes. Paul’s nose was straight, shorter than Adam’s and blunter, his jaw squarer and his mouth fuller and shapelier than the American’s wide mouth with its narrow upper lip. The cleft chin Paul had inherited from her family gave his face a rugged masculinity and distracted attention from that sensual mouth.
Mary smiled in maternal pride. No doubt about it – they were both good looking men – but her son was the real Adonis. She glanced at Mrs Svenson, noting without surprise the same confident expression on her face. They smirked in mutual understanding. They were obviously both proud to be the mothers of such handsome boys…
The two captains shared rueful glances; each recognised the combative pride of their respective mother with a sinking dread and neither had any doubt that the next hour or so was destined to be dominated by a litany of their juvenile triumphs and - what was worse – their equally embarrassing disasters…
After this, I think I’ll be able to face any deranged terrorist with equanimity, Paul thought ruefully.
After all the pomp and circumstance of the commissioning ceremony things had taken a while to get back into a normal routine on Cloudbase. For the friends it was only a matter of protocol that stopped them assuming the status of Field Partners. They had little doubt that – now they’d earned their commissions and Spectrum was fully operational – they would be working together, and it seemed that everyone else had the same expectation – with one notable exception.
Colonel White called a meeting in the conference room on the newly commissioned Cloudbase within hours of the World President signing Spectrum’s Charter of Authority. He surveyed the gathering with cool, appraising eyes and made his announcement in a clear, authoritative voice that brooked no dissent.
The meeting broke up with a few raised eyebrows and dubious expressions. Colonel White had finally revealed his initial pairings for his agents and there were a few surprises. No doubt, White had his reasons – not that he was going to explain them– he expected his men to obey him – and they would – with a trust that had grown up over the months of training and learning to get along with the motley crew who had survived the rigorous selection procedure to become the elite corps of Spectrum’s colour captains.
Scarlet automatically moved to Blue’s side without realising it. They’d expected to be partners – but it was not to be. Blue raised an eyebrow and shrugged at his friend.
He isn’t so impressed either, Scarlet thought, but the tall American turned smoothly enough to greet Captain Black – his newly designated partner – with no sign of any disappointment he might be experiencing.
“It seems as if the colonel has given this matter a deal of thought,” Black said gruffly by way of a greeting.
“You reckon?” Scarlet replied sharply.
“Surely,” Black answered the criticism with some acidity. “You have undoubted skills and experience as a field officer, Scarlet – which Captain Brown lacks. This is a pairing designed to bolster his weakest field agent by matching him with his strongest.”
Scarlet’s face registered surprise at that remark. He and Captain Black did not always see eye-to-eye on a good many matters, but he had to admit Black was a fine officer and he was both surprised and flattered to hear his good opinion of him.
“I think you have the right of it, Captain,” Blue said in support of his new partner. “Scarlet’s the best there is…”
Paul shrugged. “It’s just training,” he said modestly. “We’re all surprisingly good – even Patrick has made great strides.”
“Oh, Magenta’s a good man,” Blue agreed, “unorthodox at times and inexperienced, but he’s no one’s fool and we’d be irresponsible to under-estimate him.”
“So why have they partnered you with Black then?” Scarlet questioned.
Blue shrugged and looked at his new partner for illumination. If anyone knew why Colonel White had made a decision, it was his closest colleague amongst the elite corps – Conrad Turner.
Black gave one of his taut smiles. “I suspect he assumes that you’d be the only one prepared to work with me, Blue,” he said with a wry shrug. “After all, I had to push some of you damn hard to bring you up to standard.”
“You were following orders,” Blue said evenly, “and you made a good job of it.” Significantly, neither he nor Scarlet had come in for the often vicious tongue-lashings Black had subjected most of the others to at some point in their training. The antagonism between Paul Metcalfe and Conrad Turner was more personal than that – they just did not like each other – pure and simple. They’re too similar in many ways to feel really comfortable around each other for long… Blue reflected.
“What about Ochre and Magenta – do you think that combination will work?” Scarlet grinned. The former Police Commissioner and the ex-gangster were forever at each other’s throats.
Blue glanced at the pair of them, already glaring at each other across the room. “Yes,” he said to Scarlet’s surprise. “At least, I think they’ll either get along like a house on fire, once they’ve settled down – or,” he added after a heart-beat, “they’ll kill each other…”
Scarlet’s laughter echoed around the room. Captain Brown, making his way across from his place by the colonel, hesitated. Seeing him, Scarlet quelled his amusement and beckoned him over. “Well, Alan, looks like you got the short-straw…”
Brown smiled, revealing crooked teeth. “No, I would say you got the short straw… I hope you’re not too disappointed, Captain?” He glanced cautiously at Blue, who was discussing something with Captain Black. It was no secret they’d expected to be partners.
“Of course not,” Paul assured him. “Spectrum officers have to be able to work and trust each other in equal measures. Maybe Colonel White thought that as Blue and I were already good friends, we were better apart. Either way – we’ll do okay, Alan.”
Brown nodded. “I’m glad I don’t have to partner Captain Black,” he confided. “I dreaded it might be him… he can be so… cutting at times. After all we can’t all be experts in field work.”
Scarlet nodded. Perhaps if anyone could be said to have got the short straw – it’s Adam….
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
(John Donne 1572-1631)
Paul Metcalfe sat in the sickbay bed, confused and sceptical, as Colonel White, Doctor Fawn and Captain Blue stood around a pale and tearful Destiny Angel, who was staring at him as if he was a freak. She clung to Blue’s arm as if her legs threatened to give way although, in truth, he looked almost as close to collapse as she did. The sight of them so close together almost made Paul chuckle. Blue was a clear foot the taller and broad enough to make two of the petite Frenchwoman he was supporting. Their heads of striking blond hair created a false impression of resemblance, although at the moment the pale shades were only serving to emphasise the unnatural pallor of their similarly traumatized faces.
But the impulse died almost immediately, as he heard Destiny confirm to the colonel and Doctor Fawn that she had seen him dead. She asserted – in rapid, emphatic French – that she’d identified the lifeless of body of Paul Metcalfe and that it had definitely been Paul Metcalfe and that she couldn’t believe her eyes that this was Paul Metcalfe and it wasn’t nice to play such tricks…
He frowned at her, opening his mouth to protest that she was the one playing tricks – and besides, it had been some years since they’d been that intimate and she couldn’t have that good a memory - but he was interrupted by Captain Blue, whose impassive tone alerted Scarlet to his friend’s unease at the situation. Blue claimed to have flown his broken body back to Cloudbase. That body – dead and cold, Blue asserted - had been given into the care of Doctor Fawn.
Paul’s protest died on his lips as Doctor Fawn confirmed that the body Blue had delivered had indeed been taken to the morgue where Fawn and his team were intending to perform an autopsy. The Doctor went on to explain that the same body was now sitting up in bed wearing - Scarlet acknowledged with a shudder - medical service issue pyjamas, drinking water like a fish and demanding to be allowed to get up and have something to eat. Fawn’s unusual loquacity pointed to his disquiet, as surely as Blue’s deadpan expression did to his.
Colonel White listened intently to his officers’ statements and by the end he was not been the only person struggling to make sense of the state of affairs, but he was the only one with the authority to quiz them all. He questioned them closely, making them repeat their assertions; all the time searching for a flaw in a situation that was clearly impossible.
Finally, Fawn noticed the strain on his patient’s face and chased the others from the room, returning shortly afterwards to begin an exhaustive series of never ending, invasive, mind-bogglingly boring tests on Captain Scarlet. Despite his patient’s barrage of anxious questions, Fawn refused to speculate before he had what he called ‘the facts’. He merely said that mistakes had been made before, and that as Scarlet was most obviously alive – he would stake his professional reputation on that much, at least – he could not have been dead.
“It just isn’t medically possible,” Fawn insisted.
Yet, gradually it became obvious to the sceptical Doctor, that this living, breathing, hungry, thirsty and increasingly fractious man, was undoubtedly the same cadaver that had been wheeled into the pathology lab, barely more than a few hours ago.
Yet, everything I’ve ever known about humanity and the human body tells me I’m wrong. And if I can’t believe my own work – how can I expect anyone else to? He pinched the bridge of his nose in exhaustion and discarded another set of results as flawed. Maybe I’m going the wrong way about it? he mused. Perhaps I should accept that this man is Paul Metcalfe and try to disprove it…
For the next forty-eight hours he permitted no one to see his patient, although Colonel White was a frequent visitor to the medical bay, which was now designated a high security area and was patrolled by armed guards, a precaution Fawn thought excessive, but which the colonel had insisted on.
“You rightly consider the welfare of your patient is paramount, Doctor, but I have to consider the safety and the welfare of this base and every one on it. Until we know who and – more importantly – what that man is… he’s to be considered dangerous,” White explained, brushing aside all argument.
Finally having exhausted every test he could devise and getting the same answer, Doctor Fawn had to believe his own conclusions. He marched up to the Control Room to see Colonel White.
“Colonel, these are the facts. The body of Captain Scarlet, discovered at the scene of the North American car crash, was brought to Cloudbase by Captain Ochre and then - some hours later - the body of the ‘renegade’ Captain Scarlet was brought from the London Car-Vu to Cloudbase by Captain Blue. Both bodies were placed in the pathology lab for an autopsy to be performed, but before I could start, the second body was displaying visible life signs and within hours of his … death… the ‘renegade’ Captain Scarlet was sitting up in bed – complaining. He insists that he has no memory of any events that occurred after the SSC crash. Subsequently, I’ve tried everything I know to discover a difference between that man and the man we believed to have been killed in the car crash. I can find none. As far as medical science is concerned – that man in the sick bay bed is Paul Charles Metcalfe, Captain Scarlet of Spectrum. As yet, I can’t explain it, but if it takes me forever, I will find out how and why this happened.”
“So, if that man is Scarlet – whose was the body in the car crash? Something must’ve happened to Brown and to Scarlet. This something – about which we can only speculate – must have been the work of the Mysterons. We know from the broadcast we received from Mars, that they have the power of reversing matter. It seems this ‘retrometabolism’ works on humans too. The one thing we are sure of is that the man in sickbay is the man who abducted the World President and, as such, he’s dangerous. I want you to continue with your tests, Doctor. Try to discover why ‘Scarlet’ insists he remembers nothing of the time between the crash and waking up on Cloudbase.”
“S.I.G, Colonel, but I’m not sure what other tests I can do…”
“Invent some, Edward. We have to be sure Scarlet is no longer under Mysteron control. If you can find out how they controlled him – we should be able to verify that he’s no longer a threat.”
Fawn nodded agreement before he informed the colonel of the next item on his agenda. But it was only after a long and hotly contested discussion, that the colonel was reconciled with Fawn’s decision to allow Captain Blue the visit he’d been asking for.
“Who knows, Colonel, the two men were close friends, maybe Blue will spot something, or Scarlet will let something slip, that will give me a clue as to where to start looking for answers,” Fawn said frustration evident in his voice.
“I won’t risk anything happening to Captain Blue,” White replied. “This… man… might be waiting to take a hostage – someone who could fly him off Cloudbase. I agree, Blue can be allowed access to Scarlet – but they will be monitored the whole time. I want the video cameras primed to record every move they make and every word they say.”
Fawn shrugged. “Very well then.”
“Understandably, Scarlet’s concerned about why he’s being isolated and why you’re running so many tests. Perhaps the time has come for some of the recent past to be revealed to him – if he really is unaware of it. I’ll ask Blue to explain what he knows of what happened at the Car-Vu.”
Fawn raised his eyebrows in some surprise. “Why pick on Blue to do that unenviable task?”
“Because he’s the man’s friend, Doctor, and he’ll do it as a friend, not as a commanding officer, or – with respect – a physician.”
“I only hope in so doing Blue doesn’t suffer, Charles.”
White smiled. “Oh, Blue’s made of far sterner stuff than you seem to realise, Edward. Don’t let that patrician air fool you – beneath it lies a strength of mind that’s pure granite.”
Fawn pursed his lips. “Even granite’s been known to crack, Colonel.”
Captain Blue sidled in thorough the door, a mixture of reluctance, bewilderment and caution on his face. Scarlet was not inclined to treat his visitor with anything like courtesy even though, when he looked up into those candid eyes, he could also see a spark of – what looked like – hope. “Come to see the latest freak show?” he asked truculently.
Blue threw his hat down on the end of the bed and lowered himself into the armchair, casually crossing one long leg over his knee and shrugging with a nonchalance that was almost convincing. “Hey, you might cut me some slack, Paul, I don’t get to see a genuine miracle every day.”
Paul flounced back onto his pillows. “Hasn’t Fawn told you? There has to be a perfectly logical scientific explanation for this – he just hasn’t found it yet. But, if he doesn’t find it soon, and let me out of here, Adam, I’ll die of boredom and solve his problem for him!”
Blue gave a smile – a ghost of his usual boyish grin, but a smile, nevertheless. “I’ve been sent to entertain you,” he admitted. “At least, if your idea of telling you what happened at the Car-Vu and how you came to be… dead, constitutes entertainment, I have. Because that is what I’m here to do.”
“Finally, someone’s going to tell me exactly what’s going on around here,” Scarlet said. “I want the truth – everything…”
Mentioning no names, Blue started to relate in his precise way, a series of events that staggered his listener. It was all new to Scarlet and as his mind struggled with what he was hearing he thought: This is… impossible! How could they think I had turned traitor? How could they possibly think I’m capable of such actions…?
As Blue’s tale came to an end Scarlet said accusingly, “How can this be true? I was driving with Brown, we were heading for New York – a tyre burst and we slewed off the road… the car burst into flames. Brown was dead, I’m sure of it. I crawled - I crawled -away from the flames… then I woke up here. There’s no way I could have got back to Cloudbase, kidnapped the World President and done all the things you say I did, under my own steam – even if I had wanted to.”
“Then who was it?” Blue had asked quietly.
“How should I know? I was here – unconscious.”
Blue nodded as if he believed him. “Can you walk?” he asked suddenly.
“Of course, I’m feeling perfectly fit.”
“What about the burns you mentioned?” Blue remarked as he unfolded himself from the armchair and went to the cupboard across the room. He opened it and to Scarlet’s surprise drew out duffle bag, containing underwear, a pair of denim jeans and a sweatshirt which he recognised as his own. “Get dressed, Paul. There’s something – or rather, someone - I think you ought to see.”
Blue wandered away to the other side of the room, and politely turned his back, flicking through the various magazines Scarlet had passed long hours reading, whilst his friend discarded the loathsome pyjamas the medical staff had clothed him in and pulled on his own clothes.
Scarlet kicked the hated nightwear under the bed and announced: “Okay, let’s go.”
Blue turned and smiled briefly at him, before he went to open the door. He stood aside and waited for Scarlet to go through first. Then he led the way along a corridor and away from the recovery wards. At the far end of the deck, isolated from the main wards was the small morgue. Blue opened the door and once more waited for his friend to pass through before him.
“What’s in here?” Scarlet asked warily. He was beginning to feel that there was something very wrong, something Blue was almost afraid to tell him.
The American did not answer immediately. He switched on the over-bright, clinical fluorescent lights and crossed to one of the four compartments. He keyed in a number and drawing a deep breath, pulled at the door handle. The metal facia slid easily on silent runners, pulling out a steel board, on which a body lay, covered by a white sheet.
“This…” Blue said soberly, his voice echoing slightly in the cold, metal room, “…this is who Destiny saw and identified as you.” He reached out a hand towards the sheet and Paul could see it was trembling slightly.
Exasperated, he moved forward quickly, unwilling to prolong this nerve-wracking episode any longer. He yanked the sheet back before Blue’s hand reached it. What he saw seared itself into his brain, as with a harsh cry he staggered back.
Lying on the morgue trolley, his pale face badly burned and rigid in death, was a man – a man who even he could see, was identical to himself.
He backed away from the apparition in nameless terror. Blue quickly moved to cover the face and slide the trolley shut again. He stepped cautiously in the direction of the stricken Englishman, his hand stretched towards him.
“I’m so sorry, Paul, sorry it had to be like this… I didn’t want to do it… but someone had to tell you – to confront you with the evidence…”
“Who is that?” he managed to ask – the words grating against his constricted throat.
“That is the body of Captain Scarlet which was recovered from the scene of the car crash. At the time, you were flying the World President towards the London Maximum Security Building – and it was the belief that you were an impostor that led to the attempts to get you to return to Cloudbase. When you ignored them, and drove towards London – Rhapsody destroyed a road bridge, which forced you to go to the Car-Vu. It was me who followed you there, Paul… me who engaged you in the gun battle I told you about. I shot you. You fell to the ground from the top of the pylon – I saw you fall. I heard you scream – I knew that however close the bullet had come to killing you, you were not dead – not then. Once I had the President safe – if somewhat hysterical - on the ground, I watched them dig you out of the rubble. We knew there was already a body on Cloudbase that belonged to Captain Scarlet – and we wanted to know who you were.”
“I am Paul Metcalfe and you’re lying!”
Blue shook his head, almost sadly. “I kind of wish I was, Paul. But that man, there, that man is the reason why Fawn has been doing so many tests. We have to know if you are the real Paul Metcalfe.”
“And does he have an answer?” He finally raised his fear-ridden eyes to look at his companion. Blue’s expression had softened, there was less strain on his face and within the smoky depths of his eyes was not only hope, but compassion.
“Doctor Fawn can find no evidence to suggest that you are not Paul Metcalfe and – for what it is worth – neither can I. I would say that you are the man I knew… know,” he corrected himself automatically.
“Then what happens now?”
Blue shrugged. “That depends on you, Paul. Colonel White’s said that you’re welcome to resume your duties, should you wish to. Likewise, he will put no obstacle in your way, if you wish to resign and make a new life for yourself.”
“But this is my life, Adam, this is what I’ve sworn to do – why would I want to change it?”
Blue gave a relieved smile. “I knew you’d say that… I just knew it!” He extended his hand. “Welcome back, Captain Scarlet,” he said.
Paul stared for a long moment at the hand, and then tentatively grasped it. Blue shook his hand with his usual firm grip.
“Does everyone know about… him?”
Blue nodded. “They also know about you.” He hesitated and added a warning, “Give them a little time, Paul. It might take a while for them to come to terms with it…”
“And you – how have you come to terms with it?”
“I lost my best friend on the Car-Vu. I’m just pleased to have him back again,” Blue replied. Then he paused slightly, colouring under his tan. “Of course, I’ll quite understand if you don’t feel the same. I mean, I did shoot you…”
Scarlet’s grin was endearingly wonky. “Forget it – if it had been you hijacking the President – I’d have done the same. Mind you,” he added with a gleam of humour in his blue eyes, “I wouldn’t have bodged it - you’d have been dead before you fell…”
Back in his sick room, Blue returned with two coffees and they sat – him on the bed and Blue in the armchair - discussing, weighing and debating how such a thing might have happened.
“We know so very little about the Mysterons, beyond what was transmitted of the Martian Expedition. That they’re full of animosity is obvious – we did destroy their complex, after all,” Blue reasoned for the nth time.
“And they put it straight back together again,” Scarlet reminded him. “They had the perpetrators of the crime there – why try to obliterate an entire world for one man’s mistake?”
“We weren’t there; they must’ve seemed more threatening than we can ever know,” Blue said. “Maybe we seem threatening to them?”
“Stop being so damned reasonable,” Scarlet laughed. “Can’t you just get mad for once?”
Blue shrugged. “Oh, I can get mad, when I see a reason to. Whatever Black’s motive for razing their complex to the ground – we are likely to pay for it now… they said ‘one of you will be under our control’ – perhaps they meant you, Paul? They must’ve been directing your thoughts when you kidnapped the President.”
“I don’t remember, Adam. I wish I could. It’s like a nagging memory on the tip of my tongue…”
“Stop trying so hard then maybe it’ll come back to you,” his friend suggested, finishing his coffee. “Anyway, I have to go. We’re down you, Black and Brown, and the colonel’s dishing out extra duty shifts like there’s no tomorrow. I’d better stroll down to the Room of Sleep and catch forty winks, or I’ll fall asleep on duty and spend the rest of forever in the brig.”
Scarlet gave a weak grin. “I hope I’ll be back on duty soon,” he said as Blue turned to leave. “Will we get new partners, do you think? You’ve lost yours and I’ve lost mine…” he left the sentence unfinished.
Blue shrugged. “Could be… it’ll be down to the colonel, of course, but I wouldn’t object. Goodnight, I’ll try to drop by tomorrow – in-between duty shifts…”
“G’night, Adam, and … thanks.”
“’No sweat, mate’, as the good doctor would say… Sleep well, Paul.”
But Scarlet got no sleep that night. His mind was too busy trying to come to terms with what he’d learned.
It had seemed an age in coming but finally, after enough tests to last a lifetime, Fawn announced to Scarlet that he was fit for duty. Scarlet was delighted, but when he saw the Doctor gazing with perturbation at his most bewildering patient, his euphoria ebbed away.
“What’s up, Doc?” he asked. “Are you finally gearing up to tell me what’s wrong with me?”
Fawn indicated to Paul that he should sit down. Reluctantly he did so. After a brief hesitation, Fawn began to speak – his voice as unemotional as he could make it.
“Well, you’ve been through an experience outside of medical science. For six hours your mind and body were taken over by an unknown force – the Mysterons. You were a robot which they used for their own ends – a robot that was… indestructible – in human terms you were killed several times over…”
“Killed?” Scarlet gasped, “I don’t understand? How could I have been killed – I don’t even have a scar?”
“Right, Captain. Within hours your injuries healed without a trace. You are exactly as you were before the episode: with one exception…”
“And that is?” Scarlet asked aggressively.
Fawn shifted position on the edge of the examination table he was perched on. “My tests have proved conclusively that you’ve retained the ability of retrometabolism. A bullet will make you bleed – you will feel the pain, but in a few hours even a fatal wound will heal completely. Captain Scarlet, you are still virtually indestructible…”
Scarlet had stared at him, his face a picture of incomprehension. “You’re joking, right?”
Fawn shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t joke about something like this…”
“Who knows about this ‘ability of retrometabolism’?”
“The colonel knows, of course, you and me, and the senior officers. At the moment that’s all. This is not something we ought to bandy about indiscriminately.”
“Yeah, right…” Scarlet raised his eyes and stared at the doctor from beneath his scowling brows. “I really am a freak, then, Doc?”
Fawn smiled. “No, Captain, but you are a unique and - I would say - lucky man.”
“That remains to be seen…” Scarlet said ruefully.
Fawn tried to raise the mood. He slipped off the table and moved towards his patient.
“Well, after I’ve done the general check-up to certify you fit for full duty, you can leave sick-bay, Captain, if that is what you want.” Scarlet gave a slight smile; he was still trying to assimilate what he’d heard. Fawn carried on brightly, “Captain Blue’s here to escort us both to the Control Room, for a meeting with Colonel White. It seems there have been certain developments whilst you’ve been incarcerated in sick bay”
It was a minor concession the colonel had agreed to - Captain Blue as an escort, rather than a security guard – but Fawn was hopeful it was the start of a new era of trust between the commander-in-chief and his former first officer. He hoped Scarlet did not realise that his friend was essentially there as a bodyguard…
Fawn led the way into the general ward. He pointed to a bench and as Scarlet sat down the doctor began to run through the routine tests. He shoved a thermometer into Scarlet’s mouth whilst he took his pulse. Gazing abstractedly around the room, Scarlet saw Captain Blue wander across to lean against the door jamb, gulping at a mug of the sickbay coffee which – presumably thanks to the culinary skills of the nurses - was easily the nicest on the base. He raised a hand in mock salute at Scarlet who returned the wave with his free hand.
Fawn jotted down the results and began testing Scarlet’s reflexes. “I’ll leave if you want, Doc, depending on just what else you need to test…” Blue sniggered and Scarlet pulled a face at him.
“Don’t be facetious, Blue, or I’ll give you a full medical as well, whether you need one or not…” Fawn replied absently as he shone a light into Scarlet’s blue eyes. “Hmm, we’ll test your eyesight again in another day or so…but I’m sure your vision has improved…”
“I thought he had 20:20 vision anyway,” Blue remarked.
“Not quite… you have 20:20 vision and so does Captain Ochre, but Scarlet has a slight weakness in his left eye…only it doesn’t seem to be there now.” Fawn mused.
He stood upright and smiled at Scarlet. “Okay, Captain, open wide.”
Obediently Scarlet opened his mouth and Doctor Fawn peered down into his throat. “Everything looks fine: good healthy tonsils.”
“Tonsils? What tonsils? I had them removed when I was eight,” Scarlet protested somewhat inarticulately.
Fawn glanced at his notes, raised his eyebrows and peered back down Scarlet’s throat. “Well, you have tonsils now, Captain Scarlet, I’d bet my medical reputation on it,” he confirmed thoughtfully.
“You mean they’ve grown back?” Scarlet gasped.
Fawn nodded and gave a canny smile. “Good job you’re not Jewish.”
Blue sprayed his mouthful of coffee half-way across the room as he burst out laughing.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to give him a full medical, Doc? It sounds to me like he needs one. That’s a nasty cough you have there, Adam,” Scarlet said sourly, as Blue started choking from the coffee he’d swallowed the wrong way.
Fawn thumped the gasping captain on the back. “Naah,” he drawled, “he’s one of the few people who laugh at my jokes.”
“Oh, dear, don’t tell me he’s feeble-minded as well as asthmatic? Still, I guess having him around comes under ‘care in the community’…” Scarlet commented wryly as he waited for his friend by the door. “Come on, Blue-boy; lead me to the big White Chief.”
Still chuckling, Blue led them briskly through the corridors towards the control room stanchions. Scarlet marched smartly beside his friend, hiding his unease under a military correctness and blank expression. At the door of the Control Room, Blue stood aside.
“I’ll wait here,” he said, adding with some feeling, “good luck, Paul.”
Colonel White offered Fawn a seat and the Doctor sat to one side, watching Scarlet carefully as the man stood to attention before his commanding officer. (2)
White closed a green file he’d been looking at and addressed his officers in stentorian tones: “Well, I’ve read your report, Doctor, and made my decision. Captain Scarlet,” he turned his seat slightly to realign his line of sight. “The tremendous implications of this may not yet be understood and, naturally, further tests will need to be carried out. But in the present threatening situation I’m ready to take a calculated risk. If you agree, I’m ready to have you back on duty, as of now.”
“I’m ready, Colonel.” Scarlet snapped smartly.
“Thank you, Captain,” White said with the merest hint of a smile. “We face a formidable task, but I think you may well be our greatest asset in the fight against the Mysterons.” Scarlet gave a wry grimace and straightened to an even more rigid stance. The colonel continued, “You may not have heard that there has been a Mysteron threat against the Director General of the United Asian Republic, who is currently in London attending a meeting with European Leaders. He is due to return home today, which would obviously present the Mysterons with an opportunity to attack him. I’ve appointed Captain Blue as Field Commander on this occasion and he’s about to go to London to oversee the arrangements for Director-General’s safety. Ochre and Grey have already left. Although he was not expecting you to be fit to accompany him, I know Captain Blue will welcome your company – and your expertise – on this mission. He will bring you up to speed en route…”
Scarlet’s murmured ‘Sir’ was enough to show his consent to the assignment.
“Gentlemen, we have a job to do…” White said, by way of dismissal.
“Yes, sir. I leave for London right away…” Scarlet replied.
“S.I.G.,” White nodded as he watched his officer march away. As the door closed behind him he glanced at Doctor Fawn. “I hope I’ve done the right thing… if Scarlet proves not to be trustworthy…” he left his anxiety unspoken.
Fawn shrugged. “As far as I can tell, Colonel – that is the man we knew and trusted before all this happened. I can see no sign of any remaining connections to the Mysterons.”
White drummed his fingers on the file folder. “And just how would you recognise them if you did see them, Edward? We’re working in complete ignorance here…”
“But you told Scarlet you were prepared to trust him…”
“I am – within reason. Why do you think he’s going with Blue?”
“You’ve always acknowledged that they would make a good team, Charles, and they’re both without partners at the moment,” Fawn commented.
“And Blue is one man I can trust implicitly to follow my orders…”
As the truth began to dawn in Fawn’s mind he frowned. “Is that wise, Colonel? Not to mention fair – on either man?”
“Fairness doesn’t come into this, Doctor – and wisdom…? Well, I can only do what I hope is wise under the circumstances.”
Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less
(Robert E. Lee 1807-1870)
As the SPJ raced across the sky with Captain Blue at the controls, Scarlet sat alongside him, with mixed feelings. It was good to back at work and ‘doing something’ but he knew without being told that he was on probation. Colonel White wouldn’t be so simple as to send him out on a vital mission without making sure he had every base covered. Scarlet glanced at Blue, who was concentrating just a little too hard on flying the plane to be believable. He smiled inwardly.
Adam can fly anything… these planes are a doddle for him… so all this studious attention to the controls means he’s edgy… The amusement died inside him as the thought arose that maybe Blue expected him to attack suddenly and wrest control of the SPJ as part of some devious Mysteron plot. He linked his fingers together and tried to relax back in the seat to belay any such appearance.
“It’s great to have you back on duty, Captain Scarlet,” Blue said suddenly with unwarranted formality and without glancing in his direction.
Our conversations are being monitored…. Scarlet realised as he replied rather too brightly, “It’s great to be back. Do we go straight to the airport?”
Blue gave a slight shake of his head. “No, we land about thirty miles away and drive the rest of the way. I want to check the route the Director General is taking…”
“S.I.G, Captain Blue…”
This time Blue turned and smiled – he’s pleased I’ve realised what’s happening… Adam still trusts me… It was a comforting thought and Scarlet sighed and turned to look out of the porthole. I guess only time will really tell…
They arrived at the control tower at London International airport and enlisted the help of the Airport Controller and his air-traffic control operative seated at a computer screen.
Scarlet stared through the 360° windows. The airport was busy, but less so than he expected. Presumably traffic had been directed away to other airports once Spectrum had announced a security alert and arranged for the Director General to leave the country this way. There were a few planes still circling to land and three or four more taxiing to take off points. They’d want the field cleared of possible Mysteron influence.
Captain Grey was reporting the progress of the Director-General’s motorcade to Blue over his radio cap and he relayed the information to Captain Scarlet. Scarlet nodded and at the edge of his hearing heard the air-traffic controller giving final approach instructions to an incoming plane.
“Delta-tango one-niner: visibility five miles. Cloud cover - three-tenths…”
Captain Scarlet continued to keep a watch on the airport, as Blue co-ordinated the Director-General’s arrival with the cordon of security agents, concealed at strategic points around the compound.
“They’re at the terminal building,” he told Scarlet, adding quietly, “Let’s hope our luck holds.”
A giant airliner had taxied to the terminal and the disembarkation tunnel was slowly extending towards the cabin doors. Scarlet watched with a growing sense of unease. That plane is too close to where the Director General is going to leave from… he shuddered suddenly as goosebumps broke out on his skin. Like someone just walked over my grave, he thought. Turning pale as a wave of nausea swept over him and a cold sweat seeped onto his forehead, he raised a hand to his head, closing his eyes to fight the pain.
Suddenly he was aware of Blue at his side, his face showing concern. “What is it, Captain? Are you sick?”
“I don’t know…my head…” Scarlet gasped. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the nausea passed. When he opened his eyes, Blue was standing close, a consoling hand on his shoulder, his face bent solicitously towards him. “It’s all right. I’m fine…” he asserted.
Blue turned away abruptly as the air-traffic controller announced “A message from the terminal. There’s something wrong with Delta Tango one-niner, they won’t open the doors…” His sense of injured confusion was evident in his voice.
The Airport Controller scanned the plane through his high-powered binoculars and gasped, “It can’t be possible… the whole plane is empty. Everyone has vanished!”
Blue trained his own binoculars on the plane, just as the enormous machine began to move away from its bay, snapping the disembarkation tunnel like a straw as it gathered speed and taxied towards the runways.
“It’s a booby trap…” Blue breathed. Moments later he was snapping out orders, “Tell the Premier’s plane to take off immediately! That plane is a Mysteron booby-trap.” He glanced at the men in the tower who were watching him in astonishment. “I’ve got to stop it…” he explained moving towards the exit.
Determined not to be left behind, Scarlet began to follow, calling out, “I’m coming with you…”
Blue gave a fleeting smile. “S.I.G.,” he said. He started to run down the stairs from the control tower, Scarlet in hot pursuit.
They clambered aboard their SPV and Blue pulled away from the control tower, racing towards the runway DT19 had chosen. Away in the distance they could see the personal jet of the Director General begin to pull away from the VIP terminal.
Blue snapped orders into his radio mic. “Angel leader – Destiny, launch an all out attack…”
“S.I.G,” she replied as the three sleek, white Angel interceptors streaked overhead in an arc to come to bear on the renegade airliner.
Blue glanced at his silent companion and announced, “As soon as we’re in range, I’ll try for the tyres…”
Scarlet nodded agreement and watched anxiously as they crept ever closer to the jetliner. Blue hit the targeting computer and the screen showed the designated target area, a black X centring the cannons for maximum effect. Blue scanned the range finder, murmuring, “We’re in range… firing now!” His fingers jabbed the key buttons to fire the SPV cannons – but nothing happened. He jabbed them again, and again – still no response from the weaponry.
“What’re you waiting for?” Scarlet snapped.
“It’s jammed…” Blue’s voice expressed his frustration as he continued to press the locked buttons.
Scarlet could see that it was obviously not going to work, however much Blue pushed the damn machinery. He glanced at the drive monitor. The jetliner was going to crash into the personal jet, if they didn’t do something. He came to a decision and snarled,
“I’m going to ram the wheels!”
“That’ll be suicide!” Blue cried, turning to look at his new partner, to see if he was serious.
Scarlet caught the surprise in his eyes and replied, “For you – yes. For me?” He reached down for the ejector seat levers and began to slide them back until he felt them engage. “See you later,” he called as the roof above Blue’s driving seat sprang back and his seat was hurled upwards in a flare of smoke. “I hope…” he added. “Continue aerial attack – that’s an order!” he rapped into his cap mic, as the Angel jets circled overhead once more. Missiles that should have vaporised the civilian plane continued to rain down on the jet liner – with no more effect than a pea-shooter.
Whatever the Mysterons do to their chosen ‘weapons’ does indeed make them virtually indestructible, Scarlet thought as, with a silent prayer that he had been included in that process, he urged his SPV forward and felt the nose cone rake into the closest of the large wheels. The vehicle shuddered and bounced off, but he floored the accelerator pedal again and rocking back and forth in his seat as if he could encourage it forward, he willed the machine to slash the tyres. The force of impact was enormous as the SPV’s reinforced nose cone wore away at the outside one of the bank of eight tyres. The interior flooded with the smell of burning rubber – it was a scent that Scarlet almost welcomed.
The outside tyre flew off and sped away across the grass. The plane lurched slightly, but carried on down the runway with barely any loss of speed. As Scarlet forced the SPV forward again, the second tyre burst, showering rubber debris across the ground.
He pulled the vehicle back and swerved out alongside the whole spread of the wheels, throwing the SPV sideways so that it crashed against the remaining tyres.
The landing gear’s supporting arm snapped under the strain but the impact forced the SPV to career away from the runway. Scarlet wrestled with the controls, attempting to circle back and give chase again, but the steering mechanism was damaged and the vehicle veered away and ran head first into a small concrete radar station.
Thrown forward, so that his head hit metal, Captain Scarlet gasped with pain and fought for consciousness. He looked hopefully towards the drive monitor and saw the jetliner topple to its side, flames bursting from its engines.
Thank God, he breathed and closed his eyes. If…only…the…pain…would… stop…. His breathing slowed and he slumped sideward, only held upright by the seat belt.
He was already dead before the Director General’s personal jet, desperately seeking to gain height as it took off, failed to clear the tail fin of the crashed jet liner and burst into flames.
When he woke, his head was throbbing with every shallow breath. He opened one eye a fraction and groaned as the light sent needles of pain through him. I wish I was dead… he thought.
“Welcome back,” said a familiar voice.
Curiosity made Scarlet risk another peek at the world beyond the pain barrier. He could just make out Doctor Fawn’s sympathetic face. He tried to speak – but no words came.
Luckily Fawn was a mind–reader. “You’re on Cloudbase,” he said gently. “Captain Blue arranged for your transfer here.”
A slight frown appeared between the dark brows.
“Yes,” Fawn said. “He’s alright – if unspeakably cross at you for ejecting him out of the SPV like that.” Scarlet’s frown disappeared and a twitch of the lips was enough to show he was smiling. “You, however,” Fawn said slowly and precisely, “were clinically dead on your arrival here – which was some four hours ago. You are not dead now.”
“I wish I was…” Scarlet’s voice breathed unhappily.
“I daren’t give you any painkillers until your vital signs stabilize…” Fawn apologised. He offered the man some water, amazed as Scarlet drank thirstily. When the beaker was empty he made notes on a clipboard.
“Did we win?” Scarlet murmured sleepily.
“It wasn’t an unqualified success…” Fawn hedged, but sighed as he noticed his patient was already asleep once more. “But at least, you’re alive… I got that bit right, at least,” he concluded.
It was Colonel White who told Scarlet that the mission to protect the Asian Director General had been a spectacular failure, and the colonel who watched as the men from Spectrum Intelligence put his officer through the wringer with ceaseless questions and wild accusations as to his motives on the mission.
“Ask Blue - ask Blue if I was trying to kill the man!” Scarlet screamed defiantly. “He saw it all… I don’t know what happened – I did my best – I couldn’t do any more for God’s sake!”
Finally, Colonel White cut across the interrogation calling off the terriers from SI with a disgusted wave of his hand. He assured Captain Scarlet that he was considered blameless, but it didn’t stop Paul wondering if he’d done what he did through some alien prompting buried within him.
Blue was not there either when the colonel announced to the assembly of colour officers, that Captain Scarlet would be allowed to continue on duty – serving as Captain Blue’s field partner – for the time being. Looking around the standby lounge at the wary faces of his colleagues, Scarlet’s memory echoed Captain Black’s words from not so very long ago… “I suspect he assumes that you’d be the only one prepared to work with me, Blue.”
There was a polite murmur and the colonel left. Scarlet smiled warily at his colleagues. Ochre and Magenta sitting on one side of the room and Grey across from them. He’d known and worked with these men for months – but now they were looking at him like he was a total stranger.
The next day, when Scarlet reported for duty as normal, he walked into the Officers’ Lounge with his head held high. Despite his attempt to carry on as if nothing had happened; he couldn’t ignore the aura of uneasy suspicion amongst his colleagues. Silent and flushed, he made himself a coffee and went to stand by the porthole, staring out at the cotton wool clouds that lay below the great bulk of Cloudbase. No one spoke, no one approached him. He’d never felt so isolated or so vulnerable before.
If the rest of my life is going to be like this, I’m not sure I want to live it…. he sighed to himself.
As the days passed he continued to intercept troubled glances cast in his direction and became increasingly aware of the way quiet conversations ceased as he walked into a room.
The tension was building and Captain Blue, the only person Scarlet felt confident of complaining to, realised that it would have to come to a head before it could be dealt with.
Ever since he’d heard the full story of the Mysterons’ first attack on Earth, Captain Scarlet had mourned Captain Brown with a sincere grief. He was having to come to terms with the fact that - somewhere along the lines - fate had decreed that although the Mysterons had murdered two men in that SSC crash, only one of them accompanied the WP to New York as expected. Once within the supposedly secure confines of the Maximum Security Building, that man became a human bomb, causing an explosion that shook the building to its’ foundations.
That knowledge caused him to wake night after night, sweating with a mixture of fear and guilt. The man who had died had been his partner – the man he’d been assigned to look after and protect. True, Colonel White had given Brown the field command for the first time – in the mistaken belief that the mission was routine and the Mysterons posed no real threat – but Scarlet agonised over his colleague’s fate anyway. The mere fact that he’d survived in place of Brown meant that he owed it to Alan to be the best, as much as he owed it to Adam to justify his friend’s continuing belief in him.
During the dark and confused days following the death of the Asian Director-General, Captain Blue continued to stand by him. He formed a barrier between Scarlet and the still occasionally mistrustful or sceptical members of Spectrum and sometimes that barrier was a physical one. He’d sit alongside his moody friend, obstinately ignoring Scarlet’s frequent instructions to ‘eff off and leave me alone’.
Consequently, it was Adam - coming to Paul’s quarters to collect him for lunch, as he’d taken to doing, since Scarlet couldn’t be trusted to eat unless he was supervised - who witnessed the inevitable break-down of the rigid self-control Paul Metcalfe had imposed on himself. It manifested itself in an almost catatonic Paul, curled up on his bed, clutching the formal letter from a Spectrum bureaucrat that requested him – as the next of kin - to make a decision about the disposal of his dead body, still in the Spectrum morgue. It was the final straw that left Paul feeling completely unable to face another day of this hateful life.
Adam prised the letter from his friend’s stiff fingers and read it, cursing under his breath as he did so. He told Paul not to worry, told him not to concern himself with it… promised that he would deal with it.
The sound of that confident and sympathetic voice gradually penetrated into Paul’s consciousness. He sat up slowly and gripped the American’s arm in his powerful hand. Adam’s glance fell and met Paul’s fevered eyes as his friend began to babble, somewhat incoherently. “Don’t go, I must tell you – you have to understand, if no one else does. I think you will… it must’ve been my fault…” Adam laid his free had on the younger man’s shoulder and with a soothing smile sat on the side of the bed to listen to the rambling confession of guilt and fear that Paul just had to communicate.
Paul’s memories of this meeting remained a blur forever afterwards, except that he knew it was Adam who held him until his uncontrollable shaking stopped, Adam who poured the numberless shots of whisky and finally rolled him into the narrow bed, and covered him with the duvet, slipping away when he believed he’d finally fallen asleep…Adam who saved his sanity. Later that evening he was back, with a picnic lunchbox of sandwiches. He brushed aside the embarrassed thanks and apologies with a gruff – My God, what else are friends for? He sat patiently feeding Paul sandwiches until they had all gone.
Paul never found out what happened to the letter – nor to the administrator that sent it – although, eventually, a story reached him though the grapevine of a pitiless Captain Blue raining a torrent of scornful vitriol over the video phone at an abject SI bureaucrat.
A few days after Scarlet had received the letter, an austerely formal Captain Blue – whilst informing him that the arrangements had been finalised for the cremation of his ‘original’ body – offered to accompany his friend to the crematorium, and Scarlet, once more plunged into indecisive uncertainty, accepted the offer gratefully.
They were the only mourners for the ceremony at an anonymous London crematorium and a week or so later, Blue once more accompanied his friend on a journey to the peaceful countryside around his Winchester home, where Paul had decided to scatter the ashes.
It was Adam who drove to a quiet country pub and paid the bill when Paul tried, unsuccessfully, to get blind-drunk afterwards, Adam who flew them back to Cloudbase and Adam who had fended off the other captains’ questions.
And yet, they never spoke about it after that day.
Scarlet threw himself into Spectrum missions with military efficiency, if not enthusiasm.
It was the darkest time he’d ever known, but slowly, he came to feel that – with each minute that did not physically hurt – maybe it wasn’t so bad and, if he just held on for a while, he could survive until the next minute…. which hopefully would not be painful either. Even when there wasn’t any actual physical pain, there was a kind of mental anguish anticipating the next mission and the almost inevitable suffering. He constantly strove to do his duty, gladly going the extra mile to ensure success – risking himself in a desperate bid to return to the easy-going relationships of his erstwhile friends.
Beside him on every occasion was Captain Blue.
After every incident Blue brought Scarlet’s abused body back to Cloudbase, and invariably remained in sick bay waiting to witness the miracle of retrometabolism after his own – generally minor wounds – had been treated by the medical staff. When Scarlet woke from his alien-induced sleep, Blue was usually sitting in the uncomfortable armchair alongside the bed, his legs stretched before him, reading a book or magazine. Sometimes, if Scarlet woke unexpectedly early – he would catch Adam dozing, the book slipped onto his lap.
He was always there though – and that was what counted. Somehow, to Paul’s tortured psyche that came to mean – everything is going to be all right.
When in doubt, tell the truth
(Mark Twain 1835-1910)
Captain Scarlet shook himself out of his retrospection and rubbed the end of his nose thoughtfully before reaching for his tea cup and slurping at the tepid liquid with a grimace of distaste. He chewed on his last biscuit and stared across his room. When you thought about it, he hadn’t known Adam for all that long, but they had shared so much in such a short time, that he felt he knew the man better than some he had known all his life.
But am I still so wrapped up in my own misery and concerns, still trying, so carefully, to rebuild a semblance of my life, that I never stopped to consider what this selfless and bottomless well of support was costing my friend?
How the hell do I express a debt that great in the terms of an official submission to a medical tribunal? I can hardly express it to myself….
Nevertheless, it had to be done. He sat down and put the tea to one side.
Statement by Captain Scarlet of Spectrum to the Medical Board.
My name is Paul Charles Metcalfe, codename Captain Scarlet. I was commissioned into Spectrum in 2067 – amongst the first wave of officers to be commissioned. I’ve worked on Cloudbase as a Field Officer since that date and since March 2068 I’ve worked in partnership with Captain Blue.
I met Adam Svenson for the first time at the high-security training centre used by Spectrum. We were amongst the first groups of people chosen to be operatives in the fledgling organisation and, as such, we were considered to be amongst the best in our respective disciplines. Captain Blue, I discovered over the following weeks, had been a test pilot – and subsequently a security officer – for the World Aeronautical Society. There was certainly no denying he was the best pilot amongst us and I – as an ex-WAAF colonel - found myself impressed by his ability.
Following the official signing of the charter in July 2067 - I was partnered with Captain Brown, another former WAAF officer, but one with little experience of field-officer work. Brown had been involved with the early designs for Cloudbase and his skill in camera and surveillance work had led to his being recruited into Spectrum and given a commission as a colour captain. He was a conscientious officer, who worked tirelessly to improve his field skills and I was entrusted with a mentoring role whilst he found his feet. There was no need for Captain Blue to be mentored – he had proven abilities in the field and was responsible for the creation of the WAS security department from scratch. He was partnered with Captain Black – another member of the team who had been involved in the design and construction of Cloudbase and who had also played an important role in our training.
Right from the early months in Spectrum my abiding impression of Captain Blue was of a superb athlete, (he’s a world record holder for the distance travelled in a single surfing run) – blessed with a quick and lively mind. He is well-read and has a ‘photographic’ memory that never forgets anything – however improbable its future relevance may seem. I know that sometimes he seems rather pedantic, and possibly a little patronising, but he has a genuine enthusiasm for the acquisition and effective utilisation of knowledge and he is frequently occupied in learning new skills.
On a personal level, he is a very even-tempered man, with far more patience than I have. His good-temper, open manners and readiness to listen and assist any colleague, make him popular with the staff on Cloudbase – of all ranks – despite his tendency to be a little ‘autocratic’ when placed in charge of the base.
If there is a downside to his personality, it is his tendency to be too hard on himself and, being the perfectionist he is, he is very critical of his own imagined shortcomings. This tendency rarely extends to his colleagues and he has an enviable knack for engendering team spirit.
He is phlegmatic, precise and cautious when involved in any mission – weighing options and solutions with thoroughness before making any decision that might prove dangerous. I value his input to our discussions, although I may not always accept his advice. Where I make a decision I take full responsibility for the consequences – to myself and to others.
He can also be a little fatalistic – seeing the hole rather than the doughnut – more often than not.
I like the man and we have become firm friends.
In early 2068 Blue’s partner Captain Black led the manned expedition to Mars. The events of the Zero X expedition and the repercussions from those events are well recorded and I do not intend to run through them here. Suffice to say, that on his return to Earth, Captain Black disappeared and after some months we were left with no other viable explanation for his conduct except that he was working for the entities we now know as The Mysterons.
Our first encounter with these alien entities came when they threatened to abduct World President Younger as an act of retaliation for the attack Captain Black had made on their Martian complex. Naturally, Spectrum was scrambled to protect the President and my partner, Captain Brown, and I were ordered to New York as part of the security team.
On our journey towards New York the SSC we were travelling in crashed and we were both thrown from the vehicle. Beyond that I cannot elaborate on events that occurred, for the simple reason that I do not remember them. I have, of course, since been informed of what did occur and I refer the Board to the relevant documents in Spectrum Archive records.
I can only say that I woke in Spectrum Medical Bay under the care of Doctor Fawn. I had no memory of the past since the moment immediately prior to the car crash. It was news to me that I had, in some way, been responsible for an attack on the WP and that Captain Blue – then on patrol duty in Southern England - was sent to intercept me and recover President Younger. This he did successfully and although the President was bruised and shaken, he was still alive, a fact he owed exclusively to Captain Blue. The President has now acknowledged this debt by awarding my colleague the World Government’s highest military medal - the Valour Star – only the second time it had been awarded. There is no man more deserving of that award than Captain Blue – and not just for saving the life of the World President – but for dedicated and exemplary service to Spectrum over many months.
Naturally, Spectrum submitted me to rigorous examinations and some of my colleagues were understandably wary of me and feared that I might once again become a tool of the aliens – now revealed to be implacable and powerful foes. The only man who never expressed any doubt in my rehabilitation – either in word, deed or his attitude towards me - was Captain Blue. He accepted the colonel’s request to become my partner and since then we have worked as a team – our individual skills, temperaments and aptitudes complimenting each other, so that – with few exceptions - the missions we have undertaken have been successful.
Naturally, I’ve striven over the past months to prove to my Spectrum colleagues – and to myself – that I’m free from the taint of alien control. This, in itself, is enough to account for the fact that I have suffered the lion’s share of injuries whilst on duty. Captain Blue understands the drive I have to prove myself as loyal and as whole-heartedly committed to my task as any officer, and he has frequently followed my lead on missions, providing stalwart back-up and assistance whenever necessary. I can assure the tribunal that I have an infinite trust in the fact that I can rely on my partner, and without that mutual trust, I would find my own job much more difficult and dangerous to carry out. As I am frequently the field-commander of our away team, the ultimate responsibility for safety of my team and the success of the mission is mine.
Beyond this one aspect, our working relationship has always been one of total equality – he drives me where we’re going and I drive him crazy…
Scarlet grinned and deleted the last line with reluctance. Better keep it nice and formal, he thought. Of course, there was no way he could go into the real heart of the matter concerning the truth about his Mysteronisation and his subsequent retrometabolism. It was something Doctor Fawn knew and understood – in fact next to Blue - Fawn knew most about the whole tangle of events, emotions and reactions he’d experienced. He would have to rely on Fawn carrying the other doctors with him in the matter of his ability to take physical punishment.
He paused and went to make another cup of tea, musing that he was getting as addicted to the stuff as Adam was to coffee – so much so that he was rarely to be seen – relaxing – without a cup of coffee somewhere to hand. Not that he always drank it…. finding partially drunk cold cups of coffee left lying around the Officers’ Lounge was a sure sign that Blue had been on-duty. With Captain Ochre the clue was sticky pools of model glue on the tables, or waste-bins full of paint encrusted newspaper. Captain Magenta tended to leave newspapers and magazines strewn about – he read almost every one he could lay his hands on and watched the 24-Hour news channels religiously. Captain Grey? Well, he was so damned organised and tidy that you never knew he’d been there at all…
And me, he considered, what signs do I ever leave behind me? Apart from my radio-cap, of course – I’m always losing the damned thing… There were often sightings of one or other of the Angel pilots wandering around Cloudbase looking for him – his cap in their hands, or – just occasionally – on their heads, after he’d visited the Amber Room.
Drinking his tea he wandered back to his computer determined to finish the submission.
I find Captain Blue an excellent partner - our various strengths and weaknesses compliment each other and almost every mission we have undertaken together has been a success, including two missions to the Moon when there was a threat to the lunar colonies.
On these and on many other missions, we have faced situations that could have resulted in the death or serious injury to either or both of us. And, whilst it is true to say that I’ve been the officer who has suffered more injuries, I wish the Board to note that in many of these instances I acted without consulting my partner and took the decision to face the danger alone.
I cannot remember any occasion on which I’ve asked Captain Blue to assist me, or expected or needed help from him, when that help has not been forthcoming. He has always acted with exemplary courage and without fear of the consequences to himself, when the situation requires
Twice in recent months, Blue and I have faced death together in two completely unrelated incidents. The first was the Mysterons’ attack on Base Concorde with a VGR missile. (3) Captain Blue and I – in direct contravention of our orders - remained at the base in an effort to find the codeword which would abort the missile’s attack. We assumed we had been successful but subsequently discovered - rather to our mutual chagrin – that it was a pure fluke that the missile detonated before reaching its target. Throughout that incident Blue remained as calm and efficient as always, although we both knew that had the missile struck, our lives would have been forfeited.
The second incident concerned possible exposure to a deadly experimental virus. (4) I’m sure the Medical Board will have seen the files relevant to our time in quarantine on Cloudbase, following our likely infection by the K14 bacillus. Captain Blue and I waited together for the test to confirm or refute our exposure – or for the symptoms of the bacillus to manifest itself. It was not the most convivial way to spend time – but Blue remained as stoical and phlegmatic as always. Thankfully, neither of us had been exposed to the bio-hazard, but it was many agonising hours before that was confirmed.
However, it should be made clear to the Board that all Spectrum Officers regularly place their lives in jeopardy to complete their missions. Captain Blue would not regard the above situations as out of the ordinary, but in both cases we were lucky to come out alive.
At least, he was, Scarlet thought with a sigh, no doubt I would have pulled through whatever the outcome.
Such are the characteristics of a first-rate officer and partner. I can honestly say that I would find it hard to do my job as well as I do, if I did not have the back-up of my colleague to rely on. And I do rely - and trust - his sound judgement and clear thinking implicitly.
In conclusion I would reiterate that I have total confidence in Captain Blue and I recommend, without hesitation, that he be restored to Field Officer Status immediately.
The peremptory knock on his door warned Scarlet that he was in for a less than restful visitor. Most people used the doorbell, and this knock signified his visitor was someone with ‘an issue’. Sighing, he minimised the document on his computer screen and flicked the door remote control. He was a little surprised when Symphony Angel walked in to his apartment.
“Hello, Symphony,” he began pleasantly.
“Have you seen Adam?” she demanded, hands on her hips in a stance that unconsciously echoed Blue at his most obstinate.
“Yes, I’ve spoken to him…” his reply was as non-committal as he could make it – he was unsure of just what was bugging her.
“And what exactly is going on? I’ve tried to call him several times, but his answer-phone picks up, when I went round there the ‘do not disturb’ light was on and he wouldn’t open the door – even when I yelled that it was only me. I know he was in there - I could hear the tapping of the keyboard. What the hell is going on, Paul?”
“Maybe he’s busy?” Scarlet reasoned, heartened to think that Adam had started his submission to Doctor Fawn.
“Don’t mess with me, Metcalfe. What’s going on?”
“Look, Karen, I’m not sure I can tell you, not if Adam doesn’t want to. It’s not really anything to do with me.”
To his consternation she threw herself into the armchair and looked ready to cry.
“Hey, I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it, when he’s finished what he’s doing.”
“He always does this to me – every frigging time something goes wrong!” There was anger in her voice and he began to wonder if the tears were angry ones.
“Every time he’s got a problem or he’s up to his neck in trouble, he battens down the hatches and cuts me right out of his life.”
“No, I’m sure he doesn’t…”
“How would you know? He’ll talk to you – but he won’t talk to me!” She sprang up and paced the room in pent up fury. “I don’t know why I tolerate him sometimes – he’s such a bastard!”
“Adam?” Scarlet’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Blimey, if he fails your criteria of a good guy – you’re destined to go through life being disappointed,” he murmured sceptically.
“Why won’t he let me help then? All I am to him is a handy tumble when he’s on leave!”
Scarlet managed to change his snort of laughter to a cough. “That’s not true, Karen. You’re not being fair. He’s devoted to you; he probably just doesn’t want to upset you…”
“So there is something wrong!” She pounced on his words.
Scarlet rolled his eyes; he ought to remember that Symphony would never be put off from following her train of thought by platitudes – he’d seen Blue get caught out trying that often enough.
“Come on, Paul – you know you will have to tell me in the end…. Spill the beans…” she insisted.
Symphony listened with mounting indignation as he reluctantly explained about Dr Chaudry’s report and Doctor Fawn’s requirement that Adam submit a refutation of the prognosis it contained. He mentioned that the colonel had asked him to do the same and he gestured vaguely towards his computer, indicating that he was doing just that and would like to get back to it – please, if she had no objection….
As he came to the end of his speech she drew herself upright and took a deep breath. “I see; and Adam is writing this submission now?”
“I should imagine so… you heard typing.”
“Can anyone make a submission to this board?”
“Well, I should check with the colonel before you do… you don’t want to muddy the arguments in Blue’s favour…”
“You think I would do that?” she was scathing. “I know him better than you – although you don’t think so.” She gave an exclamation of profound exasperation, “Huh! Men – you’re all incapable of accepting help – especially from a woman! Sometimes I could knock your heads together… both of you!” She turned on her heel and stalked out of the room.
Scarlet sat staring at the door as it slid closed behind her. As he reviewed their conversation he blanched. Oh blimey, what on Earth is she going to do now? How Adam manages that woman I never will understand…maybe I should warn Dianne?”
Part Two – The Significant Other
I'll sing to him, each spring to
And worship the trousers that cling to him.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I.
When he talks, he is seeking words to get off his chest.
Horizontally speaking, he's at his very best.
Vexed again, perplexed again
Thank God, I can be oversexed again.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered –
Lyrics from ‘Pal Joey’ by Lorenz Hart
When Symphony left Captain Scarlet’s quarters, she had no intention of speaking to the colonel – instead she went to see Doctor Fawn.
Leaving him no room to weasel out of answering her questions, she demanded to know what the results of Captain Blue’s psych-test had shown and then just what needed to be done to prove it was not true. Doctor Fawn was not easily brow-beaten but he was taken aback by her forthright demands and found himself explaining the basic points Doctor Chaudry had raised.
“And do you think he’s right?” she asked putting the doctor on the spot from the start.
Fawn shrugged. “Blue’s results could be interpreted that way…”
“So you do think he’s stressed almost to breaking point?” she pressed him.
Fawn squirmed. He was quite sure he shouldn’t be talking to Symphony about this, but he also knew that she wasn’t the type to give up easily. “He’s under considerable stress, yes,” he agreed reluctantly.
“Because of what’s been happening to Captain Scarlet?”
“I expect that is part of it, but it needn’t necessarily be all of the reason. Chaudry was concerned that… because Blue seems to be taking personal responsibility for the injuries Scarlet suffers, maybe he is - at an entirely unconscious level - acting in a manner that would increase the risk of injury rather than prevent it.”
“Chaudry believes Blue is acting in a cowardly way?” her voice and expression reflected her scorn at this suggestion.
“He has not said so – in so many words…” Fawn temporised.
“But he wants to know why Adam isn’t hospitalised as often as Scarlet, in effect?”
“It’s not that simple, Symphony,” Fawn reasoned.
“Tell me about it…” she sighed.
“No one here imagines that Blue acts out of cowardice…”
“I’m damn sure that’s how Adam’ll see it,” she snapped. She shook her head and Fawn caught the sparkle of unshed tears in her eyes. It wasn’t like Symphony to cry for no reason, although she had been through a lot herself recently and he was aware that she’d been rather more volatile than usual for the past week or so. He waited, convinced she was going to say more.
“Poor Adam… I guess he’s been through the mill lately and I haven’t made it any easier for him. Tcha! I could kick myself!” She turned to look severely at the doctor. “Doc, I want to add my report to the board. I know Captain Scarlet has permission to submit one, and I want to do it too. After all, they’re confidential, aren’t they? Only you will see them?”
“And the other doctors on the panel, of course, if it goes that far...”
“You’re going to tell them about Captain Scarlet?”
“No ….” Fawn sighed. The need for top-secrecy concerning Scarlet’s retrometabolism was the biggest problem he faced in this quagmire of insinuation and supposition.
“Then some information will be kept confidential?” she persisted.
“Some,” Fawn agreed with a grimace. “Why?”
“If I tell you what I know – I don’t want it to go any further…”
Fawn looked at the young woman steadily. She was obviously genuine in her approach to him and he sensed that she would never have offered to reveal anything at all, if she hadn’t believed her information to be pertinent. He knew that Captain Blue still maintained the pretence that the relationship between him and this mercurial young woman was one of purely platonic friendship – although few of his peers believed him - over the past months, he himself had seen enough interaction between the couple to have formed his own conclusions; quite apart from the detailed knowledge he had of their physical health and condition. To ignore Symphony’s testimony which, he also knew, would be based on a profound knowledge of Adam Svenson and his character, would be extremely negligent.
He nodded. “If it will help explain why Blue has failed his psych tests - I’ll keep it confidential.” He wondered what she could possibly know that Chaudry had not discovered.
“Okay… when do you need it by?” she asked as she stood to leave.
“The sooner the better…”
Symphony was on stand-by duty in the Amber Room with Rhapsody, her closest friend amongst the Angels. She felt little hesitation about asking if her companion minded if she went into the small adjoining office to write. Rhapsody gave her a smile and shrugged her agreement. She was pleased to see Symphony fired with the determination to do something constructive; she’d been in a terrible mood for the past week or so.
It’s ‘man trouble’, again, Rhapsody suspected as she watched her friend disappear into the office. Symphony’s relationship with Captain Blue had never been an harmonious one – which was odd because Blue was the most relaxed of all the captains and it took a lot to get him riled. Rhapsody smiled. Of course, the problem is that it takes next to nothing to get Karen fired up… she thought and returned to her book.
I certainly pick my moments… Symphony thought as she faced the blank computer screen. She sighed. The last few days have been traumatic for both of us and I’m still angry with Adam for refusing to speak to me, but I’m going to do my damnedest to help him sort out this mess. It’s madness to suggest he can’t cope. He needs a holiday – he’s had a rough time for the past six or seven months. Whatever happens between us – I owe him this much, at least.
Sometimes she wondered why she cared so much about him when he so often aggravated her beyond measure. His perennial reasonableness and his refusal to argue with her frequently served to make her irritation worse. Yet, there was no denying it; he affected her like no other man she’d ever met – and had done so, right from the very start….
I met him on a Monday and
my heart stood still,
(Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry)
From the moment she first saw him at the Koala Base training camp, standing amongst the group of newly arrived colour captains, Symphony Angel had felt irresistibly attracted to Captain Blue. While the other girls commented excitedly about how handsome all the captains were - comparing the attributes of the men with enthusiasm – she realised with a jolt that she hadn’t noticed what most of them looked like. She’d been staring the whole time at the only blond amongst them.
She was so sure that her awareness of him must be glaringly obvious, that, as a consequence, she tried not to pay him any attention at all when they all met for dinner that evening. Instead she spent her time chatting with Patrick, a lively, black-haired, Irish-American from New York, who, like herself, had been to Yale University.
After dinner the party of officers and Angels moved to the staff room and broke up into smaller groups. Patrick obviously expected her to join him and she tried not to be too unkind when she suggested that she should mingle a little. He was very nice and excellent company, but she didn’t want him to get the wrong idea…
She strolled over to the filter-coffee machine purely as an excuse to leave his side. Then, as she stood fixing her drink, she felt herself begin to blush as the unsuspecting beneficiary of her admiration moved towards her. He was looking over his shoulder, listening to the dark-haired English Captain – the good-looking, young one - and not where he was going. He jogged her arm, sending a splattering of coffee onto his shirt sleeve.
Wracked with embarrassment she stammered out a litany of apology and contrition, until she dared look up into his face and saw amusement in his clear pale-blue eyes.
“It’s just a shirt… its no big deal,” he said genially. “It was my fault anyway; I should look what I’m doing. You’d think I’d have grown used to just how much room I take up by now, wouldn’t you?”
“You’re not scalded, I hope?”
“No, it wasn’t that hot.” He rolled back the sleeve to inspect his tanned forearm. “Look, no harm done.” He smiled at her and continued, “It’s Symphony Angel, isn’t it?” She nodded. “I’m Captain Blue… I didn’t have chance to introduce myself before. You were chatting with Patrick all through dinner… I mean Captain Magenta.” He grimaced. “I’m gonna have to get used to using these codenames pretty quickly.”
Her heart skipped at the thought that he’d noticed what she was doing. “Yes, we discovered that we both went to Yale… it’s odd to find someone else - out here in the Australian outback - who’s been there too.”
“Oh dear – I’d better watch it then… I’m out-numbered. I went to Harvard.” He didn’t seem in the least put out.
“I did wonder. There’s something about your accent that suggests you might’ve… I don’t know anyone else who calls it Haahvahd- for a start. ”
“Ja-wannah he-ah real Bwahstin? Cozit’s freakin awsome,” he drawled with a good-natured smile.
She grinned back at him. “That’s very good… d’you do any more impressions?”
“No, just one of someone who hasn’t spent most of their life in Bwahstin …” He rolled his blue eyes in exaggerated embarrassment.
“So you’re a real Chowdah Head? My dad’s from Massachusetts and I spent a couple of semesters at school in Boston – cramming for Scholarship exams – but I’m from Iowa really.”
“Gidadaheah - don’t tell me you’re ‘a mid-west farmer’s daughter’ – I always wanted to meet one.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, then: I’m only a mid-west farmer’s grand-daughter…”
“Well, I’d be prepared to overlook that slight discrepancy…”
“That’s more than likely.” He extended his hand. “Adam Svenson.”
“Karen Wainwright. I’m very pleased to meet you.”
“Karen? My Grandmother’s name is Karin… you’re not Swedish are you?” he narrowed his eyes and gave her a wary glance.
“No – are you?” she laughed.
“Bits of me are… don’t you think the surname is a bit of a give-away?”
“I never make assumptions, Mr Svenson…”
“Good for you… and a narrow escape for me too - if you did make assumptions you might assume I was just another clumsy oaf…”
“Oh, I doubt anyone meeting you would assume that…”
“You flatter me, Miss Wainwright; just listen to me talking gibberish to you.”
“Well, it’s usual to make small-talk, isn’t it? I mean most people don’t launch into detailed discussions about the theory of relativity on their first encounter.”
“They don’t? Damn, I knew I must’ve been doing something wrong all these years.”
She chuckled at him and her eyes met his. A sudden spark of pure sexual magnetism crackled between them; it travelled into her brain and down her spine like lightning down a conductor. She caught her breath, seeing his pupils dilate as he looked at her, and realised the sensation had been instantaneous and mutual.
She felt herself starting to blush under the scrutiny of his limpid eyes. “It’s getting rather warm in here, isn’t it?” she muttered hoping to account for her reddened cheeks.
“Yeah, it is,” he agreed as equally discomposed as she. “I could sure do with some fresh air. I may just take a walk outside for a few minutes… It looks such a wonderful night.” There was a certain assurance in his voice as he added, “Would you care to accompany me?” It was the sort of suggestion that expects acceptance.
“That sounds like a nice idea.” She put her coffee cup down. “I’ll just get my jacket. I’d advise you to do the same – it can get pretty cold out there of an evening.”
They walked all around the floodlit complex. Both of them felt at ease in the other’s company, and as they walked they chatted about inconsequential trivia in a light-hearted banter that seemed to come naturally to them both, each witticism sparking another, until their unselfconsciously happy laughter brought smiles to the faces of the technicians still working in the machine rooms, who saw them stroll by.
Blue told her about the captains’ initial training sessions, and she told him about the time the Angels had spent as an air-display team. It was soon apparent that they were both fascinated by flying, and although he was the more experienced pilot, he showed genuine admiration for her stories of the women’s exploits.
As they completed their second circuit, the subject turned to astronomy and they were pleased to discover that they both also liked star-gazing and this topic led them away from the lights of the buildings to get a better view of the clear, star-laden heavens.
“It’s almost like being under an alien sky,” Symphony mused coming to a stand still and tilting her head back to stare into the velvet darkness.
“Yes, I know what you mean. Mind you, I like the southern sky – it’s a challenge. I’ve done a little star gazing over the years, here and at home. I’ve spent several vacations here – mostly surfing in Queensland.”
“So, you know these patterns?”
“Most, but I’m no expert,” he said modestly. In fact he had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the night skies, but he saw no need to reveal that at the moment. “For instance, there’s the Southern Cross.” He pointed.
“Where?” She squinted upwards trying to follow the direction of his pointing finger. “I’ve never been able to see it – I mean - I know what it looks like, but I haven’t been able to find it…”
“Did you know it’s the smallest constellation in the heavens? That might explain why you can’t find it…”
“There ought to be a star-map in the base library. We could bring it out one evening and plot them,” she suggested, still searching for the illusive star-pattern.
“I kept meaning to do it before, but it’s not much fun on your own…” She turned to glance at him, catching his eye momentarily. “The Southern Cross?” she prompted, rather breathlessly. They both looked skywards.
He was standing behind her slightly and stooped to rest his arm across her shoulder. “Follow my finger – see it?” He pointed to the constellation again.
“Yeah...” She turned, smiling with delight and drew a sharp breath to find her face so close to his. The smile faded as their eyes met. With one unspoken accord their heads moved closer together and their lips met in a kiss.
As they parted, and Symphony’s eyes modestly cast downwards, Blue straightened and stepped back.
“I’m sorry – that was unforgivable of me.”
“Was it?” She looked surprised and then frowned. “Oh,” she said forlornly, “I guess there’s a Mrs. Svenson somewhere who might object…”
“My mother’s at home in Boston and she gave up trying to make me behave years ago,” he teased.
“I meant a wife… or a partner?” she explained – after all not every couple got married these days.
“No - nothing like that. But surely, you must have…?”
“No, me neither,” she interrupted with a relieved smile. “After all, blondes are meant to be dumb and you’d be surprised how many guys – even in this day and age - find the idea of a blonde with brains intimidating.”
“Would I really?” he asked with open scepticism.
Sensing a fellow sufferer from the prevailing assumption, she continued brightly, “I’ve got seven degrees in the study and employment of mathematics and technology – seven – and yet there are people who still insist on talking to me as if tying my bootlace would tax my brain!”
Blue grunted. “There’s nothing you can do about it – believe me, I’ve tried. I got so fed up with it that I even considered dying my hair once...” He threw back his head and laughed. “Now that would have been a dumb thing to do… I wouldn’t make a very convincing brunette!”
“Blond eyebrows,” he grinned, twitching the offending brows up and down whilst she grinned at him.
“I know what you mean,” she agreed, “but I’ve the added disadvantage of being a woman, don’t forget!”
“It’s not a disadvantage from where I’m standing,” he complimented her and she blushed attractively. “I guess it’s just a cultural stereotype where all blondes are stupid. But nobody who met you could assume you were an inadequate.”
“No, they’d know it for sure!” she winked comically at him.
“I’m sure you’re doing yourself an injustice, Karen.”
“I’m pleased you think so.” She laid a hand on his arm. “Still if no one’s being cheated by a little kiss, is it such a terrible thing?”
“Maybe not,” he agreed with a shrug. “After all, we’re both free to do as we please.”
She nodded and sucked in her lower lip before asking, “Why?”
“Why no wife or partner waiting patiently somewhere? I’d have thought a guy like you – I mean…”
He gave a rueful laugh. “A guy like me – and what’s that exactly? I’d pity the poor woman who decided to take me on.”
“Really? You don’t seem so bad to me.” Conscious that she was maybe being a little too forward, she added, “On a dark night, with the light behind you, you could be thought of as ‘quite presentable’.”
“Gee, thanks…” he grimaced drolly.
“It’s a good job no one said you had to list modesty as one of your personal attributes to be considered for Spectrum,” she chuckled. His grimace dissolved into a broad grin and he flushed slightly. She guessed he was used to being told how good-looking he was – maybe she’d hurt his vanity? She tried to make amends. “I’d guess that despite your protestations, you know a thing or two about women…”
“You could say I’ve had my share of relationships over the years,” he admitted and shook his head. “Why am I telling you this?” He looked down at the young woman with genuine surprise. It was not like him to speak so freely with strangers and yet, somehow this woman did not seem like a stranger…
Symphony shrugged and plumped herself down on a sand dune, drawing her knees up and clasping her arms around them. “I have no idea. Maybe you say this to all the girls… as part of your seduction technique?” She grinned up at him, seeing his surprise and patted the ground, inviting him to join her. “Why do I feel as if I’ve known you for years?” she countered as he dropped down beside her.
“Beats me, but I know what you mean. We must be… compatible - or something.”
Her eyebrows twitched. “I take it back, you were right – you are inept at making romantic small talk.”
“Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?”
“Don’t you know?” she teased, adding in mock concern, “maybe what they always told me about Harvard guys was true…”
“And what was that, exactly?”
She shook her head with a smirk and tapped a finger against her nose. He moved a little closer, under the pretence of getting comfortable and she shifted slightly until she could rest her head against his arm.
“Well, it can’t have been any worse than what Harvard guys used to say about Yale girls,” he mused taunting her.
Her head came up, bristling with defiance. “And that was?” she demanded.
“You know, I honestly can’t remember! I know I didn’t think it sounded very likely at the time.”
Symphony flicked her long hair back defiantly. “I’m sure anything a Harvard girl can do, I can do better – you can bet the farm on it, Harvard!” She aimed a playful punch at his chin.
“I don’t doubt it for a moment,” he assured her with an amused grin.
She blushed, realising how her words might be misinterpreted. “Just ignore me, Adam - I get kinda carried away at times and open my mouth without engaging my brain first.” It was the first time she’d used his name and she gave a secretive smile at the thrill she got saying it.
“Ignore you? No, I don’t think I want to do that, Karen.”
They sat together in companionable silence, each busy with their own thoughts – thoughts that were moving on surprisingly similar wavelengths, if they’d but known it.
Eventually, he shuffled slightly on the sand and raised one eyebrow. “Maybe we had better get back? The others’ll wonder where we’ve got to…”
“Yeah, I guess so.” She leant against him again, making no effort to move. “It’s nice here though… maybe we could stay just a little longer?”
He shifted slightly and put his arm around her shoulders, ostensibly to support her weight, and she snuggled against him with a contented sigh. They sat motionless for some time, both enjoying the frisson of excitement this physical closeness generated. The expectation that this would not be the climax of their intimacy grew, until he gently tilted her chin up towards his face, bent his head and kissed her again. As they parted she shifted her position so that her arms could encircle his neck. He kissed her once more and, this time, the kiss lasted much longer.
Slowly they toppled back onto the sand.
At first the sheer size and weight of him disconcerted her. She wasn’t used to feeling quite so slight and fragile in a man’s embrace. He’s gotta be 6’3 or 6’4 – she thought, and he’s built like a colossus… except no hunk of statuary ever looked this good… long legs, cute ass, flat stomach, broad shoulders and strong arms … there isn’t an ounce of fat on him, but there’s muscle…she appreciated, as her hands explored his body as eagerly as his explored her.
He unzipped her flying jacket and slid his hand inside her blouse, and the touch of his fingers on the exposed skin as they curved around her breast banished any possibility of further coherent thought. Her tongue stroked against his, as he invaded her mouth, warm and tasting of the coffee they’d drunk before they left the glaring brightness of the off-duty lounge. She gasped with a spark of pleasure as his fingers found her nipple, already taut inside her bra, and stroked it in synchronisation with his tongue. Her conscious mind stopped functioning as her body demanded all of her attention.
His head moved away from hers and slipped down to the exposed swell of her breast, kissing the soft skin, with gentle kisses. He took her nipple into his mouth and sucked through the silky fabric.
Her back arched in response and she murmured: “Kiss me, Adam, kiss me….”
The night air was cold against the damp fabric as his head moved to obey her imperious demand. She pressed her lips against his, her hands sliding over his back to that cute ass – pulling him against her. The deep moan that escaped his throat confirmed what she already knew – he was hot for her…
He must’ve sensed her smile as with a low chuckle she slid her hand around to press against his groin. “I don’t normally do this sort of thing…must be the magic of the moonlight…”
Suddenly aware of just where this was leading and that it wouldn’t be long before he couldn’t stop himself, Adam caught her hand. He tempered the critical nature of his action by kissing her palm and fingers. “Lady,” he murmured, “watch what you’re doing.”
“No?” she asked, surprised.
“No,” he confirmed. He let go of her hand and - with more self-discipline than she would ever realise - pushed himself upright again, staring out across the red dunes towards the brightly lit compound as his thwarted libido bombarded his mind with outraged protest.
“You’re not telling me you don’t want to…?”
“There’s no point in my telling you lies, now is there?”
Karen stared up into the black night sky speechless at the turn of events, a mixture of emotions flooding through her. She was surprised at herself – coming on to him like that – but he couldn’t pretend he wasn’t doing it too. Yet… he seemed to be implying that it was her fault they’d found themselves in this situation
Adam turned to her. “Come on, Karen, we should go back, or the others will start gossiping.” There was no doubt from his tone that he found that idea intolerable.
Karen sat up confused and annoyed. “Oh, sure - that would never do,” there was a hard edge of irony in her voice which Adam missed completely. She adjusted her blouse and zipped up her jacket, trying to ignore the cool dampness against her excited flesh. “If you were so worried about what the others might think, why did you start it?”
He dropped his gaze from her face and gave a resigned tilt of his head. “Believe me - there’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now than continuing what we started. But, you can call me old fashioned if you want, because I think these things shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. We’re both old enough and sensible enough to know that we’d regret doing anything imprudent; however good it feels- and I admit it felt good…” He drew a deep breath and to his own surprise admitted, “Besides, I like you too much to treat you like some… casual pick-up.”
She stared at him in astonishment - he sounded as if he was reciting some High School sex-ed lesson, although she had no doubt ‘prudence’ had been the last thing on his mind when he’d first kissed her.
Her reaction obviously disconcerted him as he stood up and stretched out a hand to help her to her feet. Karen ignored him and sprang up unaided far quicker than he anticipated. She slid on the dune and stumbled against him in her haste. His arm clasped her against his body to save them both from falling. He saw a flash of anger in her hazel-green eyes, as she drew herself away from him.
“Karen?” he said, a frown appearing between his brows. She glanced away and his finger caught her chin, tipping her face back to meet his gaze. “If I’ve offended you, I can only apologise. I never meant to…”
She raised her head to avoid his fingers; the very touch of them was burning against her skin. “No, it isn’t you who’ve offended me – I’ve offended myself, Captain… I see now what you must think of me…” she said curtly.
“I think you’re the most attractive woman I’ve met in a long time and one I would like to get to know – intimately,” he placated. “But - believe me - this isn’t the best way to do things. However much we… we’ve hit it off together, we’ve barely met and it is only sensible to stop short of crossing into… dangerous intimacies. You must see that?”
At the end of this patronising pronouncement, which did little to assuage her anger, she stared in silent exasperation at him until, unnerved, he started back towards the camp. She marched after him through the dunes, acutely aware of the patches of red sand on her clothes. Near the perimeter fence he turned and waited for her to catch him up. She intended to walk straight passed him and didn’t slow down, but he caught her hand and lifting it to his lips, kissed her chilled knuckle. With a snort of protest she snatched her hand away.
In the face of her displeasure he said, “I meant it, Karen – I do want to get to know you properly. Can’t we set this misunderstanding aside and begin again? I promise you, I’m not always such a bore – it’s been known for some people to enjoy my company...” He gave a wry smile, discomfited when she did not respond to his gambit.
She looked up into his face and was surprised not to see the mockery she expected in his expression. Instead, she saw what looked like genuine doubt and confusion. Her impression was that he was as taken aback at what had happened between them as she. Her innate sense of fair play began to remind her that she’d been flirting just as outrageously and that – really – he was in the right of it; it would have spelt disaster to have ‘gone too far’…
With an apologetic smile of her own she said, “Yes, we can begin again if you want to. I’d like to get to know you, too.” Then with a flash of her usual combative spirit she added, “Mind you, the next time you talk to me like you were addressing a public meeting, Harvard, – I’m outa here…” She walked past him with her head held high and failed to see the approving smile on his face as he watched her.
Back in the off-duty lounge he caught her up and squeezed her hand briefly before moving across to join Scarlet and Ochre. She turned to see Rhapsody at her side, her blue eyes alive with curiosity.
“Where did you get to?”
“We went for walk... and did a little star-gazing,” Karen replied vaguely. She flushed as Rhapsody’s hand brushed red sand from her slacks.
“Easier to see the sky flat on your back, I guess?”
“Not too far, I hope,” her friend teased with a chuckle. “Remember, nice girls don’t on a first date…” Karen blushed and her eyes flicked away, avoiding her companion’s perceptive glance. Rhapsody lost her amusement immediately. “Karen, are you okay – did he hurt you?”
“No,” Symphony asserted. “In fact he stopped me from making a complete fool of myself…” Her expression grew dreamy and her lips parted in a smile. “Oh but, Dianne, I’ve been a fool for far lesser things before now…”
The schedule at Koala Base had been deliberately devised with plenty of free time between bouts of intensive training, to allow the elite officers to get to know each other before they found themselves isolated on Cloudbase. Spectrum believed it was essential to foster a team spirit and group identity. It was asking its officers to cut themselves off from their old lives to a great extent, and even their families would not be aware of all the facts concerning their new employment. Much of the social interaction and support they’d need to function efficiently would, in future, have to come from within this select band.
Over the ensuing weeks Symphony plotted ways of spending this free time alone with Captain Blue, rather than routinely joining the others at the swimming pool. She found the ideal solution on the air-conditioned games courts. Blue had a strong competitive streak and under his coaching her non-existent racquetball technique was honed until they were able to offer the best mixed doubles team amongst the personnel - Captain Scarlet and Destiny Angel – a competitive match. Even though they were decisively beaten, the look of approval Adam gave her, as they moved to shake hands with the victors, was worth every second of the effort she’d made to learn the game.
When she wasn’t with him, Symphony talked about him to Rhapsody Angel, with whom she had a growing friendship. Rhapsody had a little romance of her own on the bubble and they swapped comments - and advice - about the men in their lives.
But it was her friendship with Blue that was rapidly becoming the most important part of Symphony’s new life. The last time she could remember feeling the bubbly excitement she got even from catching sight of him across the compound, was when she’d had a crush on the captain of her school football team – just like every other girl in the school did, she might add. She was aware that she was acting like a love-struck teenager but there was nothing she could do to prevent it.
Captain Blue’s feelings remained far more of an enigma. That Adam liked her, Karen could not doubt, but - after that memorable first evening - he contented himself with no more than a goodnight kiss. He obviously enjoyed her company, he was attentive, always friendly, and his behaviour was open and warm towards her. But, whereas she’d rapidly come to the conclusion that this was not going to be enough for her for much longer - he never took advantage of her obvious attraction to him.
She started to drop subtle hints that she was ready to move on from this intense yet frustratingly platonic relationship, but maybe they were too subtle, because he seemed to miss them. The thought that he might be deliberately ignoring them was too preposterous for words. She sensed that he was beginning to get edgy and panicked that he was disillusioned with her – the recollection of their unfortunate first ‘close encounter’ forever haunted her memory - although he remained as friendly as ever.
Rhapsody tried to reassure her it was obvious Adam was besotted with her – obvious to anyone with eyes to see it - although, she added to herself thoughtfully, maybe Adam couldn’t see it, of course.
In fact, although it seemed obvious to the two young Angel pilots, it was not as obvious to others outside of the secret. Adam Svenson was adept at keeping his personal life just that – personal – and, as everyone had enough on their minds anyway with all the new experiences and friendships, they paid little attention to the affairs of their colleagues. Captain Blue was generally agreed to be a genial fellow, a formidable athlete and pleasant company – but no one noticed any distinctiveness in his behaviour towards any single individual. Blue was just ‘one of the guys’….
Then one evening as the end of their allotted months at Koala approached and just as Symphony’s spirits were starting to sink again, the pair of them went out on clear evening to watch a lunar eclipse. Midnight found them sitting on a sand dune, their celestial maps, binoculars and thermos flask lying discarded beside them as they watched for shooting stars whilst waiting for the event to begin. She’d been teasing him all evening, pushing at the boundaries of his good temper and when he finally threatened, playfully enough, to spank her unless she stopped it; she fled, shrieking with laughter.
He chased after her, gradually closing the gap between them until she turned in an effort to avoid his reach and slipped on the sand. He threw himself down beside her – still threatening revenge. She looked up at him and her laughter died as that fierce spark flared once more between them.
He frowned at her, confusion flooding his expressive eyes.
“Kiss me,” she breathed. “Please…”
His lips were warm on hers, gentle at first then growing more intense. Her arms went around his neck, clasping him to her. She felt his tongue tracing the outline of her lips and smiled.
“God, how I want you…” The words were out before she knew it.
He raised his head and gazed at her until she began to grow uneasy.
“Do you?” There was surprise in his voice.
“Can you doubt it?”
“If you’re going to say you don’t want me, I don’t want to hear it,” she warned him.
“Not want you…?” there was no amusement in his laugh. “I can’t think straight with wanting you. When I should be studying technical manuals, I sit at my desk and all I see is you. But you’ve heard the regulations – we’ve had them drummed into us, after all – they don’t encourage ‘relationships’ between Spectrum personnel.”
“I don’t see how they can expect to stop them – people have a right to a personal life – even Spectrum operatives,” she reasoned while she brushed his fringe back from his eyes and caught sight of the faded, narrow scar that ran along his hairline from forehead to temple. The legacy of a test-flight accident? she wondered.
“But, Karen, we could go out of here and walk straight into a bullet. There’s no guaranteed future for either of us.”
“Yes, we could - and if I was little Miss Iowa and you were Mr Boston, living normal lives, we could still get run over at an intersection or crash on the freeway. It’s a risk every couple takes, Adam. If everyone was as cautious as you, no one would ever do anything.” She smiled. “It seems to me that, if we can’t have a future, then let’s at least have a past worth remembering.”
He caught at her wandering hand and kissed it. “I don’t want you to feel that you have to do anything. We can just be friends; nothing’s changed.”
“Yes, it has, Adam. It’s too late to be just friends.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt…and I don’t have much success at...’relationships’,” he admitted.
“Time you had some practise then,” she teased, smiling up at his concerned face. “Anyone’d think you didn’t want to… the way you’re going on.”
“You know that isn’t true; but, Karen, are you sure?”
“Certain sure.” She answered his doubts with a kiss.
After the merest hesitation he responded to her, his hand loosening hold of hers and travelling up her arm and shoulder before coming to rest against her breast. She felt his fingers follow the zip up to the neckline of the unisex training overalls they were both wearing, and fumble with the fastening. The zip sounded extraordinarily loud as he drew it down towards her waist. His hand slid under the T-shirt she wore beneath and she shivered at the touch of his fingers on her flesh.
They were far enough away from the lights of the base and its well-trodden paths to feel safe from interruption and she willingly helped him slide her arms out of her sleeves, absurdly pleased she’d chosen to wear some of her nicest underwear. He removed his own clothes with less care and they lay together on the rapidly cooling sand. Time became unimportant – place an irrelevance - as their eyes, hands and lips appreciated the flawlessness of each other. The only thing in the universe that had any reality to the lovers on the sand was the sensual pleasure of their ever-increasing intimacy; so focused was each on the other that the world might have ended without their being aware of it.
Some time later, lying contentedly in the warmth and security of Adam’s arms, her heartbeat matching his as it slowed to a less frenzied rhythm, Karen felt more alive than she’d ever done before. It was perfectly obvious that despite his earlier comments, he was experienced in the art of love and she was no novice herself. There had been other men in her life; she just couldn’t recall any of them at the moment.
She chuckled to herself. I must be mad to imagine I could lie in Adam’s arms and think of other men. Why would I ever need to think of any one else when this man is mine? He wants me as much as I want him! He’s mine; her mind repeated the phrase to the rhythm of his heartbeat.
She stirred as his hand stroked her hair. “Are you cold?” he asked. She shook her head. “Are you okay?”
Smiling, she tilted her head to look at him. “Never better…”
He smiled fondly at her. She hugged him, her arm across his muscular chest. Raising herself up, she looked down into his drowsy face. “You can’t go to sleep here,” she teased.
“No, I know. We should go back.” He made no effort to move.
“I’m going to need a shower… this red sand gets everywhere. Maybe you could soap my back for me?” she invited.
To her surprise he frowned. “That might not be a very good idea… supposing someone saw us?”
She shrugged. “So what if they did?”
“The regulations do state we should not get too involved with each other; we shouldn’t flaunt the fact that we’ve broken them,” he reminded her.
“We agreed to damn the regulations,” she reminded him, “so it’s a bit late to quote them now, Captain Harvard.” The slightest suspicion flickered across her mind as he shifted uneasily. “Besides, how can a regulation stop two people from falling in love?”
She heard his sharp intake of breath. “Love?” he said as if the concept was an alien one.
“Yes… you know – that emotional thing people share. L- O- V- E … verb – meaning… well, we can always work it out again if you’ve forgotten already…”
His expression changed to one of surprising bleakness. He gave a slight gasp of uncertain laughter. “Sure, these things need working out.”
She sensed the emergence of an emotional barrier closing his mind off to her; as if he was hiding something. She was tired of playing games and decided to lay all her cards on the table. If she confronted him with the truth, he’d have to accept it. “You must know I love you, Adam…” she said, praying he would prove her unexpected fears were unfounded. She wanted to be held and made to feel as if she was all that mattered in his life.
Instead he sat up shivering. “I’m cold; let’s get back before we catch our deaths…”
“Adam?” her voice, heavy with a sense of impending betrayal, turned that one word into a plea for reassurance. Overhead, as if in a cosmic sympathy for her quandary, the dark shadow of the sun began to eat into the pearlescent disk of the full moon.
He glanced up at the sky and shivered again. “Come on, Karen. We ought to go. Where’re your boots?”
In blind obedience she dressed herself and followed him back to the camp – too anxious to even confront him. She accepted his emotionless kiss goodnight and parted from him without speaking.
Alone in her quarters she lay on her bed, watching the light show on the blank ceiling as the moonlight faded and the eclipse moved through its ancient and eternal course. She’d thought better of him – she’d believed his avowal – and now she felt betrayed. Reliving every word, every gesture and every glance they’d shared she desperately sought to understand him. He had said he loved her – she felt sure, but her treacherous memory couldn’t recall the exact occasion.
How can he be so callous? I refuse to believe that everything we’ve shared together has been a falsehood and that our relationship was founded on nothing but lust; I couldn’t be that wrong, could I?
Slowly the utter darkness was pierced by shards of brittle, silvery light as the moon was slowly revealed once more. Karen saw the dawn light begin to creep across the comfortless room before she slept.
Rhapsody had to pound on her door to wake her and she reprimanded her friend for having spent all night watching the eclipse. “You’ll find it hard to keep up with the exercises today, and I bet Captain Black won’t accept star-gazing as valid reason, either,” the bubbly red-head warned her as she laid a bowl of cereal and a mug of coffee before the unusually silent American.
Across the canteen Karen saw Adam; he was eating his usual breakfast of toast and orange juice and smiling attentively at something Captain Ochre was saying. He never once glanced in her direction, and when Ochre came over to wish them both a cheerful ‘good morning’, Blue remained at his table and as soon as Captain Scarlet appeared at the canteen door, he moved to intercept his friend and hustle that somewhat surprised young man out of the canteen without his breakfast.
Feeling wretched, Karen tuned back in to what Ochre was telling Rhapsody.
“Black told us about fifteen minutes ago… we’re all to gather in the lecture theatre in … about five minutes. So, eat up, Angels… our colonel awaits!”
“Why’s he here, Rick, did Black say?” Rhapsody asked excitedly.
Ochre shook his dark head but his eyes sparkled with anticipation. “Blue reckons it must be our call to Cloudbase… and he’s usually pretty good at guessing. Imagine, girls – we’re finally going to see this floating miracle!” He strode energetically out of the canteen and Rhapsody turned to Symphony.
“Looks like the colonel may have saved your hide from Captain Black’s withering scorn, after all,” she said with a perceptive glance at her friend. “Make sure you don’t doze off during the colonel’s presentation though. I’d bring that coffee along with you, if it was me.” Karen gave a bleak nod of her head. She hadn’t eaten anything so far and barely touched her drink. Rhapsody gave a disapproving grimace and added half to herself, “I’m going to give Captain Blue a piece of my mind later – keeping you up all hours – he should know better! Come on, Karen, we don’t want to be late…”
Colonel White watched the officers assemble in the lecture room with a sense of pride. Every one of them had proved to be an excellent choice – their expertise in various and varied subjects should provide Spectrum with the necessary range of broad and effective skills. Some of them had surprised him – proving able in more areas than he’d expected. Captain Black’s reports spoke of a well-balanced and largely harmonious group of men and women. As he waited for them to settle down he considered just how much of a gamble it had been to create the spearhead of the World Government’s attack against the forces of terrorism from operatives with such diverse backgrounds. But it had been decided they needed as broad a band of skilled operatives as they could achieve to combat the many disparate groups intent on using violence to attain their aims. Some members of Spectrum’s planning committee had expressed reservations about mixing military and civilian experts, but it was working – and far better than he’d had a right to expect - and that was largely due to the calibre of the personnel selected. Conrad and he had done a good job.
Once his audience had settled down, Colonel White began his lecture. This was not the usual type of technical lecture, but dealt exclusively with personal matters. Spectrum’s regulations covered a wide range of topics from the nomination of a next-of-kin to be informed in the event of any mishap, to the practical arrangements for the payment of salaries, postal addresses and contact with the outside world in general. Then he moved on to the regulations governing conduct on Cloudbase: shift patterns, responsibilities, working arrangements… and personal relationships.
It had been made clear from the outset to all operatives, that successful candidates would have to be prepared to sever all past personal relationships, as much for the protection of the civilians involved as for the staff. The terrorist organisations Spectrum was intended to combat would not hesitate to use any weapon – any person – in their fight against them. Few of the personnel were currently in long-term, stable relationships, and of those that had been, none had children.
Moving on to relationships between staff officers, the colonel emphasised the need to always put the success of their mission before their concern for other Spectrum personnel. Every member of the elite Cloudbase staff was reminded that their personal safety was their own concern and that none of their colleagues should be expected to risk the success of the mission in an attempt to save the life of an individual officer. They had all signed up to this constraint when they’d accepted a contract.
Colonel White stared sternly at the personnel gathered before him. He could read the uncertainty that his words engendered in several faces. He was aware of the friendships that were already in the process of developing – and of the protective feelings of the male officers for the attractive, young women who constituted the Angel Squadron. It was his responsibility to reinforce the vital need for them to obey the regulations. He was well aware of how harsh it sounded, and he sympathised, but too much was at stake to allow them to be emotionally blackmailed by amoral terrorists into aborting a mission in the vain attempt to save a live of a friend or colleague.
In an attempt to redress the balance, he concentrated on the need for complete trust between all officers – they would have to rely on each other for their very survival at times, and it was essential this trust be universal and profound.
Symphony stared bleakly ahead throughout the lecture. She knew Blue was disciplined and unyielding in his intention to do his duty in this new organisation. Consequently he was unlikely to deliberately break any strictures the regulations imposed on him. Surreptitiously she glanced at him.
He was sitting beside Captain Scarlet, who’d become as much a friend to him as Rhapsody had to her. His right leg was crossed over his left knee in a casual enough attitude but she could see that beneath the façade he was tense. Although his gaze did not waver from the man on the dais, his lips were pressed together and his jaw clenched as he listened to the colonel’s measured tones. Yet, his expression was carefully neutral. No one would know from looking at him what had happened last night. Captain Scarlet, sitting upright on the seat next to Blue, looked more alert but on closer inspection his overall attitude was far more relaxed; but then, he had no guilty secrets to protect.
Karen couldn’t get the thought out of her head that until she’d mentioned ‘love’ Adam had been willing enough to ignore the vague prohibitions of the regulations. She also knew that now, after the colonel’s unequivocal lecture, if he wanted to cut her out of his life, he’d have the perfect excuse. Yet, despite the emptiness inside, she was unwilling to believe it had merely been lust she’d seen in his eyes, felt in his kisses and experienced in his arms. She blinked rapidly and looked down at the tiled floor, sighing as if her heart would break.
The colonel’s lecture concluded with the news that everyone would be moving to Cloudbase within the next few days In addition to that, there would be an official commissioning ceremony – prior to the formal signing of Spectrum’s operational charter by the World President – to which members of their families could be invited.
Then they would start work.
The privilege I claim for my own sex…is that of loving longest, when… hope is gone.
(Jane Austen 1775-1817)
The early days on Cloudbase were a nightmare for Symphony.
Everyone was busy finding their feet - and their way around - on the enormous hovering base. A new formality entered into their lives, with regimented days and tight security. Their few off-duty hours were spent eating or sleeping – so punishing were the schedules, when worked 24:7, that no one had the energy to do more, it seemed. The head of Medical Services, a serious Australian codenamed Doctor Fawn, gave each member of staff a medical and then supervised their initial visits of the revolutionary ‘Room of Sleep’ – that enabled the punishing duty schedules to be adhered to by condensing the benefits of eight hours ‘sleep’ into thirty minutes. Fawn could hardly disguise his aversion to the whole procedure even as he explained how the system of hypnotic diffused lighting and weightless gimbal-slung couches worked, and he sternly reminded them that there were strict limits on its use and he meant to enforce them.
Whereas the Room of Sleep was like a dormitory, with identical raised couches around the walls, every officer had their own quarters. These consisted of a living area with a tiny built-in kitchenette for making tea and coffee, a microwave for ‘take-away’ meals from the canteens and a small fridge. The single beds were screened off in an area with built-in storage cupboards and a compact toilet and shower room. The accommodation provided for the lesser ranks was less generous and bathrooms were held in common: one for every four or five rooms.
There were off-duty lounges and standby-lounges, canteens and recreational facilities, but very few places except your quarters where you could have any privacy. With the exception of the Control Room and the Promenade Deck, most of the base was enclosed, and Symphony found herself missing the wide-open spaces of her home town and even the harsh beauty of the Australian outback. The carefully controlled, filtered atmosphere of the base made her long for the feel of a breeze - or even rain - on her face.
Already there were incidents that required their intervention; projects and missions were initiated and partnerships arranged as the Colonel thought fit. Captain Blue was partnered with the experienced Captain Black, whilst his best friend Captain Scarlet was given the less experienced Captain Brown as his partner.
The off-duty Angels would generally gravitate towards the Officers’ Lounge, where those captains not involved on a mission whiled away their ‘free time’. A field assignment took priority over the standard ‘housekeeping’ duties they’d been allotted – and each officer had a handful of lieutenants as administrative staff to assist them. It was confidently expected that as Spectrum’s involvement in global anti-terrorist activities grew, the captains would be spending more time off the base than on, and their responsibility for the administrative side of their duties would become almost nominal.
As part of their training schedule in Koala, Symphony had been assigned to give Captain Magenta advanced flying lessons. Patrick Donaghue could pilot a plane all right, but he had no experience of the high-tech machines Spectrum used. Consequently, they had spent quite some time together and now, on the occasions she ventured into the Lounge, she had cause to be grateful to him. Pat was always happy to talk to her and seemed not to mind when her attention wandered away to the quiet blond, who was usually to be found sitting in the corner, his head buried in some alarmingly dull-looking book. She sometimes wished she could return the affection she saw in his dark eyes and, more than once, she had been tempted to tell him all her woes – but her pride wouldn’t let her, and Patrick never presumed to ask.
When Captain Blue did join in the conversation, he never singled her out. At times, she even thought he seemed to be afraid of being alone with, or even close to, her. Her feelings towards him changed, almost by the day. She tried to hate him, but found she couldn’t. She tried to despise him and that didn’t work either. She could only feel a profound sense of loss and bewilderment.
There’s no way I could have misread him – no way – she told herself a hundred times a day – so what’s wrong with him?
Her only occupation away from duty was surfing the Internet, selecting and buying clothes, music, books – anything that caught her fancy and could be shipped to her through the post-box number at Futura. She sent every payment through to her credit cards and threw the statements into her desk without a second glance.
She was already depressed in the face of Blue’s continued air of indifference, when her world was sent reeling by the news from home that her maternal grandfather had died suddenly of a heart attack.
Karen Wainwright had grown up on the Hoffman family ranch, living with her grandparents while her parents worked in the nearby city. Her father, Sam Wainwright had come to Iowa from Massachusetts to work for a major manufacturer of aircraft technology, based in Cedar Rapids – where he’d met the beautiful, vivacious Amanda Hoffman, working in the administrative offices. Sam had lost no time in asking her out and after a whirlwind romance, they’d married on a warm autumnal day. They continued to work, living in a small apartment in the city. Karen’s arrival a year or so after the wedding had necessitated few changes, as when Amanda Wainwright’s maternity leave ended, the baby was cared for by her maternal grandparents, and her busy parents had rushed back to the ranch every Friday night to spend the weekends with their daughter. The regime had worked well, and Karen had never felt anything except cherished by both couples.
When the work on the ranch got too much for his father-in-law to manage alone, Sam Wainwright had employed a farm manager. He was reluctant to take over the running of the ranch himself, and the family needed the additional income from their jobs in the city, as the ranch never made a great deal of profit.
It was around the time that Karen went to stay with relatives in Boston to study for her scholarship exams that Sam first suggested selling the ranch. The family had always been proud of her quick intelligence and it was to pay for the additional costs of giving his young teenage daughter the best education he could that he made the proposal. The idea was not popular with any of the family and, bowing to the pressure, he conceded defeat and, with a heavy heart, looked for another method of financing the education Karen deserved. He concluded that he would have to dismiss the farm manger and consequently he resigned from his research and development post to manage the ranch himself, under his father-in-law’s guidance.
Amanda continued to work in the city, spending as much of her free time as she could visiting her daughter. Everyone was pleased when Karen secured herself a place at the prestigious Yale University and Amanda resigned her job to stay with her until she was confident of remaining alone at Yale; where she blossomed into an attractive, intelligent and popular young woman.
Her grandfather’s death was a great shock to Karen and immediately after speaking to her father she went to see the colonel. A sympathetic Colonel White readily granted permission for her to attend the funeral. She packed and left Cloudbase within hours of the news and without seeing anyone, except Rhapsody.
She returned to Cloudbase after a five-day absence, dry-eyed and pale, to throw herself into her work, listlessly accepting additional shifts and always willing to change with her colleagues, however many shifts she’d already done. Off-duty she continued to buy whatever she wanted, often not even opening the parcels that arrived with increasing regularity.
After a few months of this frenzied shopping activity, Symphony was jolted rudely back to reality by the realisation that the minimum payments demanded by her creditors now exceeded her entire disposable income. Dismayed, she totalled up the amounts she owed and as the final amount of the debt sank into her numbed brain, she began to realise that she’d put her very job in jeopardy; Colonel White took a dim view of excessive debts. She couldn’t turn to her parents for help, she knew the ranch had been going through a lean time for some years and that her father had an ambitious investment plan to turn their fortunes around – consequently, her mother was back working in the city and all their spare cash was committed to the business.
Realising that she’d gone too far, and unable to find a way out of the mire, she was sitting in the canteen, alone as usual, toying with an unappetizing plate of pasta when the music on the p.a. started to play a familiar, jaunty tune.
“Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain,
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain –“
Tears welled up in her eyes and a scalding ache formed in her throat. That was the song her grandfather had always sung to her… through good and bad times. He’d called her ‘Sunny’. Tears spilled unheeded down her cheeks and she heard, as if from a distance, someone sobbing uncontrollably.
She was startled when Captain Blue appeared at her side and surprised to realise she was the person crying. He crouched beside her chair, a hand on her arm, an expression of concern in his eyes. Wordlessly he offered her a clean, white linen handkerchief which, when she shook it out, was large enough to be mistaken as a small flag of truce. He sat on a chair and drew it close to her.
“Karen, are you all right?” he murmured.
“It’s that tune… it’s just the stupid, stupid tune…” she sobbed again, burying her face in the handkerchief. She was aware that he’d moved away and, to her intense relief, the music stopped suddenly and after a few moments of silence it was replaced by an instrumental. Almost immediately Blue was back at her side.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I’m sorry about your hankie.”
“Keep it – I have dozens. You really need some rest – you’re exhausted. You should go to your quarters.”
“No – I…I don’t want to be alone.”
“You won’t be alone. I’ll be there.”
She looked at him in bewilderment, surprised by his sudden change in attitude.
That look stabbed at his conscience; rarely in his life had he felt such a heel. Hesitantly he said, “I’ve lost my grandfather too; he was very dear to me. I do understand what you’re going through – believe me.”
“No, I don’t expect you do, but thanks.”
“Let me take you back to your quarters? Come on, Karen, no one should feel alone at a time like this.”
“There’s no need, Captain, I can find my own way….”
“Please… let me help. I may not deserve your trust but I’m still your friend. Let me help.”
Overwhelmed by physical and mental exhaustion she didn’t have the strength to argue and nodded. He helped her to her feet and followed her out of the canteen, down through the corridors to her apartment. Once inside he shifted a jumble of clothes from the chair and sat her down. He fished two ceramic mugs out from the small cupboard and filled them from the coffee machine, offering her one before he sat across the room from her on the unadorned desk chair, resting his arms on the crowded desktop.
“Now, I want you to tell me what’s the matter, Karen. I don’t think this is just about your grandfather, is it?”
“Yes, it is – what else could it be?” she asked defensively.
Blue gave a slight tilt of his head but didn’t press her. “Tell me about him,” he suggested. “What was he like?”
She was silent for a long time, sipping at the coffee and steeling herself against this unexpected source of comfort. She just wanted to bawl her eyes out, but she feared that he would see her grief as blackmail to gain his attention.
He said nothing, simply waiting.
Slowly she began to speak, hesitantly explaining the story of the song, of her grandfather’s nickname for her, of the way he’d surrounded her with a blanket of love and security. She spoke of the long summer days when they’d ridden around the ranch, the winter evenings they’d spent sheltered from the weather in the comfortable house, playing games and making plans. How her grandfather represented the happy days of her childhood. Finally her tears flowed again, providing the blessed catharsis of grief.
Wary of upsetting her further he did not go to her, although his own heart was aching with every one of her sobs he doubted the wisdom of hugging her – she wasn’t pleased with him – he knew that. Instead, when she calmed down and sat quietly, avoiding his compassionate gaze and feeling embarrassed by what she’d told him; Blue began to speak of his grandfather. Stefan Svenson had been closer to him than his father in many ways. An erudite, amiable man, with wide-ranging interests and a seemingly endless patience for his troubled grandson, he was the only man with the time to listen and try to understand what the young Adam had wanted from life.
Whereas John Svenson was governed by his unerring business mind, a capability to make money and a ruthless determination to advance his family’s fortune, Stefan had run the family’s company almost as an incidental part of his life. Whilst he admired his son’s dedication and business acumen and was careful never to openly criticise his son before his grandchildren, Stefan regretted John’s relegation of his family to a subordinate role in his life and - as one of the few men able to stand up to his son’s domineering manner – he’d left him in no doubt about his views. Eventually Adam had become aware of this, and instinctively turned to his grandfather for support in the frequent arguments he’d had with his father over the direction his own life was taking. Reluctant to see his grandson follow the restrictive path his father wanted for him, Stefan had given Adam his unstinting support – and consequently the relationship between the older Svensons had deteriorated.
“It seems a reasonable deduction,” Blue concluded, “that the fact that I’m more like my grandfather has contributed to my dad’s inability to get along with me – and me with him.”
She smiled sympathetically at him; she couldn’t imagine what living in such a splintered family would be like – the Wainwrights were very close. She could also guess what it had cost him to reveal even so much about his past. As her tears dried and her emotional turmoil calmed – largely due to sheer exhaustion – he moved closer.
“Is there anything I can do? I could ask the colonel to give you a longer break at home…”
“No! No, I don’t want to be there right now. I’ve too much to sort out here… I need to work as many hours as I can… I have to keep working.”
“Whatever for? You ought to rest…”
“I can’t. I need the money… I’ve got myself in serious trouble…” She bit her lip.
“How on earth have you done that? There’s not much to spend money on here on the base.”
She didn’t want to tell him but he persevered and under pressure she handed him a credit card statement. It felt good to share her problem and, whatever else he was, Adam was level-headed; there was always a chance he’d think of a solution that had escaped her.
He read it through and glanced at her. “You spent all of this? I mean no one put things on your card without your knowledge?”
She shook her head, shame-faced.
He sighed, realising her current misery had probably led to this bout of ‘comfort shopping’. It was a condition not unknown with his mother and sister. He felt acutely responsible for having added – however minutely – to her unhappiness.
“Well, I can help with this at least. Let me keep this for a while and I’ll have the amount they’re demanding in immediate payment transferred at once.” He looked directly at her. “Is this all there is? If there are any more outstanding bills you’d better show me.”
Symphony opened a drawer and handed him a sheaf of paper. Speechless with embarrassment she curled up on her chair, nursing the coffee cup and not looking at her visitor. He spent some minutes flicking through them, mentally totting up the total. Finally he spoke reflectively.
“Maybe it would be wisest to consolidate all the debts in one loan account? It would be cheaper than store and credit cards. I’ll get hold of someone at SvenCorp and they’ll deal with it …”
“They won’t do that…” she protested dejectedly. She had thought of that solution herself but her investigations into the possibilities had not been very hopeful – not that she had included SvenCorp in her list of possible lenders - she didn’t even think they did personal loans…
“Why ever not?”
“They don’t just give you a credit account, for a start; you have to fill in forms and provide references and all that…and I don’t have any security to borrow against, so the interest rates are astronomical.”
“Karen, its one of the few perks of being the Chairman’s son: 24-hour personal banking… and the ability to cut corners. I’m all the security you’ll need; they’ll do whatever I tell them to.” There was a singular arrogance in his tone.
“You mean… you own it? – you own SvenCorp?”
“No, my father does; I thought you knew…?”
She shook her head. “It never occurred to me…”
He was dismissive. “It comes in useful sometimes. Don’t worry about this – okay? – I’ll sort it out. In the meantime, I suggest you get some sleep. When are you due back on duty?”
“Oh, that’s out of the question; you can’t be expected to go on duty that soon. I’ll speak to Destiny, she’s Angel Leader this month. There must be someone who can fill in for you. It’s time to call in those favours you’re owed.”
She felt as if things were slipping from her control; but in a way she kind of liked it. It was so easy to do as he suggested. His manner was kind, yet authoritative, and, obviously he was not expecting an argument, although normally she would’ve given him one.
“Adam, why are you doing this?” she asked him, as he stood, collecting the paperwork in preparation for leaving her.
“Because you’re my friend, of course, and I care… about my friends.”
And with that she had to be satisfied.
The next day when she woke and checked her e-mails, Karen discovered that the demand for an immediate minimum payment had been met – with some excess. She was off the hook, for now.
Vowing that she would pay him back every dime, she sent Adam a personal e-message of thanks and as she stood under the hot shower, she wondered if friendship was all that had motivated him. She rather hoped not. With luck, she’d have the chance to talk to him today and build on the foundations of this tentative reconciliation.
To her dismay she discovered that Captain Blue had already left Cloudbase with Captain Black. They were working on a project to ensure the safety of Space City – the latest launch facility for the XL fleet of space rockets- currently under construction in the pacific region. It had recently been announced that Black was to lead a Zero-X expedition to Mars to investigate strange signals picked up by Cloudbase’s powerful communication system and so the security mission had been brought forward to ensure it was completed before Spectrum’s space expert left.
By the time Blue returned she had received notification that her debts had been consolidated in one account at SvenCorp – at what seemed a very favourable rate of interest. How he’d found time to arrange it when he was busy on his away mission, remained a mystery. She went to thank him for arranging it, but the easiness between them had faded once more and they were back to a wary civility.
But at least we’re talking, she consoled herself.
The heart has its reasons which the mind knows nothing of
(Blaise Pascal 1623-1662)
Christmas Eve found the Angels holding their first Christmas party. Symphony was dismayed to realise that Blue would be absent for much of the proceedings as he was covering the Control Room in the colonel’s absence. Her specially planned visit, with snacks and mistletoe, resulted in another spat between them and it was only much later, as the party drew to a close that the pair were reconciled. (5) Blue admitted that his feelings were no different than they had been at Koala Base and that he’d meant everything he’d said to her. To halt her persistent questioning, he also agreed to explain to her why he’d acted the way he had towards her.
If he hoped she would forget that promise, he was mistaken and on the evening of her birthday – January 6th – she planned to get to the bottom of the matter once and for all, after he’d taken her for dinner.
Symphony dressed with elaborate care and styled her hair into a sophisticated arrangement high on her head, with artful curls framing her face. She chose a pale silvery-green dress, one of the ones she’d bought over the Internet – she hadn’t worn it yet. In fact, she thought ruefully, I haven’t worn any of the dresses I bought as yet.
She twirled before the mirror and pouted uneasily. Too dressy? No, she wanted this to be a special evening after all. She clipped in a pair of gold earrings, shook her head and removed them, rummaging through the untidy jewel box until she found a pair which suited the colour of the dress better.
A plain choker? No, better leave her neck uncluttered, a necklace might spoil the effect of the deep V-shaped neckline.
She turned her attention to her hands. Too bad she’d broken that fingernail this morning… still, just a plain ring and her watch. Keep it simple…
She was ready in plenty of time, for once. She knew Blue would be punctual – he always was - even though she knew he expected to be kept waiting whilst she completed her toilette. But tonight he’d be pleased and surprised that she was ready and waiting for him. She sat on the edge of the narrow bed and smiled in anticipation of a wonderful evening.
This is the first date we’ve had for some time. Well, really it’s the first date ever. You couldn’t call those star-gazing strolls together around Koala Base ‘dates’… although, - she felt herself blushing – there were occasions when stars were the last thing on my mind.
She threw herself back on her bed and hugged herself at the wonderful memories of the carefree days at Koala – with luck this was the start of their return.
The doorbell rang and she opened the door with a breathless smile to see Adam standing there. He too had dressed with care – they were both off-duty and he’d chosen to wear a well-tailored suit.
“Goodness, you’re not ready are you?” he teased. “I was so sure you’d be late that I booked the table for half an hour after I was due here.”
“I am ready; in fact I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Well, that teaches me, I guess. I suppose I’d better give you your birthday present now – before we leave.”
He smiled at her excited face and handed her a slender rectangular box. She opened it and gasped with pleasure to see a silver St Christopher’s medallion lying in the tissue paper inside.
“Its nothing very special, I’m afraid. I haven’t had chance to go shopping properly. If I’d known you were going to wear such a pretty dress, I’d have chosen a more … feminine necklace.”
“No, I love it, really I do! Thank you so very much… I’ve never had a St Christopher, surprisingly enough. Please, Adam, please put it on for me.” She turned her back presenting him with the nape of her neck. She felt his hands slide the necklace around and fasten the clasp before they laid the chain gently against her skin. She looked down at the heavy medallion where it nestled against the curve of her breast. Her heart thumped in delight as she felt the lightest of kisses on her shoulder.
“Happy birthday, älskling,” he whispered.
“What does that mean – elskling? ‘You dumb broad’, by any chance?”
He smiled. “Would I dare call you that? No, it means… well, it’s a friendly sort of word.”
“It means…a good friend in a nice way … sort of.”
“What does it mean, Adam?” she persisted.
He cursed his momentary lapse of concentration; it was alarming just what the proximity of this woman did to his equilibrium. “Well, the nearest translation would be … darling, I guess… but I just meant it in a friendly way… It’s what my grandfather used to call my grandmother.” He felt himself blushing.
“Ah, that’s sweet…you can call me that, if you want to,” she said quietly and then reached out to put her arms around his neck and kiss him. “I shall have to dream up a nickname for you now, won’t I?”
“I thought you already had one? At least one that’s repeatable – I’m sure you’ve called me a great many things that aren’t…”
“Harvard isn’t a romantic nickname,” she protested. “It’s just my name for you when you go all pompous on me…”
“Well, anyway I’d rather you didn’t. Scarlet’s started using one which makes me cringe.”
“Why, what is it?”
He gave a mournful sigh, but Symphony continued to watch him expectantly. “Blue-boy…” he admitted reluctantly with a roll of his eyes.
“Well, it might be worse… it might be ‘Boy Blue’,” she giggled.
“Don’t encourage him, for Pete’s sake.”
“Now, Paul might have a good idea there. Let me think… blue…light blue…baby blue,” she giggled again at his horrified gasp, “sky blue… I like that one… I think I shall call you Sky!”
He shook his head. “What’s wrong with my name that everyone wants to change it? One of the reasons my parents chose ‘Adam’ in the first place was because it doesn’t have a diminutive. Since then, I’ve been called all manner of things…”
“Nicknames are friendly…” she explained gaily. He looked unconvinced. “But okay… if you don’t like Sky… I’ll have to think of something else…”
He grimaced. “No, that one’ll do – Heaven knows what else you might come up with. Just don’t use it in public…” he pleaded.
She gave a bright laugh. “Don’t worry, Sky, it’ll be our little secret,” she promised.
They had a wonderful meal – the kitchen had really pulled out all the stops. The only thing that spoiled it was the fact that people kept wandering over to wish her happy birthday. By the time they reached dessert she was aching to get Adam alone. So, after a second helping of the ‘death by chocolate’ dessert he’d ordered especially for her, she declined anything else and suggested they stroll back to her quarters for a coffee there.
“Are you sure you can stroll anywhere after all that?” he asked grinning at her affronted expression.
Back in her quarters, she busied herself preparing the coffee and handed him a mug. “Black, no sugar,” she recited, enjoying his delighted smile at the fact that she remembered how he drank it. She perched on her bed, leaving him the armchair.
They sipped their coffee in a nervous silence as an unexpected tension developed between them. Sure that he would be on the defensive, as they were in her quarters, she’d made certain there was a distance between them even though she wanted nothing better than to curl up beside him. But even so she could sense his growing awkwardness as he speculated about what she had planned for the rest of the evening.
In fact, Karen was trying to summon the nerve to open the conversation. She’d convinced herself that the past could not be left to lie between them, casting its baleful shadows over their future and she intended to clear up any misunderstanding between them – here and now.
She knew he wouldn’t thank her for dragging the topic up. Over the months on Cloudbase, she’d come to realise that he was an intensely private man. Due to his father’s high business profile, the whole Svenson family were seen as fair game by the paparazzi and from his earliest age Adam had been taught to shy away from public displays of emotion - of any kind - for fear they might find their way into the unscrupulous popular press. Consequently he had a wariness of emotional ‘scenes’ and assiduously sought to avoid them – at all costs. Karen felt a pang of guilt as she realised how devastated Adam’d be if he knew how extensively their relationship had been scrutinized by her and Rhapsody ever since the early days at Koala Base.
Rhapsody liked the quiet Bostonian, with his dry humour and courteous manners, so she was sympathetic to Karen’s misery when the promising relationship petered out. On the days when their work rotas coincided Karen sat with her friend in the Amber Room exchanging confidences and when Adam had been willing to talk to her again, it had seemed only natural to turn to her closest friend for advice.
Rhapsody had encouraged her to use this opportunity to clear the air between them. ‘You need to seize the moment, Karen; don’t let him put you off’ she’d urged and now was the time to follow that advice.
Because she’d always felt so much at home in his company, Karen’s current nervousness was a rarity. She plunged into the unknown.
“You promised to tell me why you’ve been so nice to me one minute and so unkind the next and now seems like a good time,” she began clumsily.
“Karen…” he protested putting his cup down.
“No - I won’t be talked out of this, Adam, so don’t even try. I know you won’t want to talk about it – but I do. I need to. I need to understand what happened between us. And why it happened. I’m very grateful for all you’ve done for me – I’ll pay you back that money…”
“You will not; it was a gift!”
She refused to be distracted from her main purpose and left that argument for later. “At the party you told me you meant all the things you said at Koala Base – and I believed you - just as I did when you said them the first time. But I’m wondering if I misunderstood what you really said? I thought you said that you liked me, that you cared about me and – frankly – that you desired me. Am I right, is that what you said?”
“You know I did.”
He sounded annoyed but she pressed on; she might never get another opportunity like this and she knew couldn’t be happy with a man who would never speak of his feelings.
“And you meant it – you really meant it? You weren’t just saying it… so I would have sex with you?”
“Of course, I wasn’t – what do you take me for?” Now he was angry.
“I’m not sure I know anymore; I thought I did, once. So, this might be a good moment to get your image straight; you’re not bad, Mr. Svenson, but you’re no Romeo, so don’t flatter yourself.”
He turned away, apparently exasperated.
“What happened between us– not just on that night, but on all the nights we spent together - mattered to me, even if it didn’t matter to you.”
He cut across her to say vehemently, “Of course it mattered; I’ve said so, until I’m blue in the face…”
“Then why did you push me out of your life immediately afterwards? You couldn’t wait to get rid of me!”
“That’s not true. I warned you – I know I did – that I’m no good at relationships and there mightn’t be a future in it. You said it was okay; I thought you understood all that meant. We’re not in a position to… flaunt any kind of relationship…”
“Flaunt it? You won’t even acknowledge to me that we have ‘any kind of relationship!”
He was genuinely confused by her need for constant reassurance. He knew himself emotionally attached to her and such was his confidence in the genuineness of his feelings – and hers - that he saw no need to be constantly parading them – even between themselves.
He drew a deep breath and said with a strained reasonableness, “I thought we understood each other – you keep telling me do – and yet you can’t seem to grasp this…”
Karen wasn’t really listening to his protests and she allowed all the anger and frustration of the past months to pour out in her words.
“You started backing away even before the colonel’s lecture. Don’t bother to deny it! As soon as I told you I loved you, you started treating me like I was a leper or something! You took something that felt… so right, and discarded it without a second thought and I would like to know what makes you think you have the right to treat me like that. Huh? What is it, Adam? The machismo? You like to feel that you have power over women? Or do you just get some kind of kick out of hurting me?”
His eyebrows rose in surprised denial.
“I’ve never meant to hurt you. I tried to tell you not to get emotionally involved with me. I can’t see that it’s my fault if you chose to ignore me. God knows, it’s a pity I don’t listen to my own good advice,” he added more to himself.
“How could I not get ‘emotionally involved’? It may come as a shock to you, Mister Svenson, but I don’t have sex with someone on a whim! I thought we shared a bond; I trusted and respected you and I thought you felt the same towards me. If you can’t return my love, you should have the common decency to tell me … then I’d have a chance to come to terms with it; but I can’t take this on-off uncertainty, Adam, and I won’t any longer. You baffle me, you really do. Just when I think things are becoming meaningful between us, you act like you don’t know who I am! Even I could work out why that might’ve been the case if you’d simply wanted a one-night-stand; but no, that would be too simple – and God forbid that Adam Svenson should ever do the obvious! You want us to be friends…”
The ghost of a smile crossed his face and she was infuriated at his apparent amusement.
“I’m so glad you’re finding this funny, Adam. I suppose I’m making a complete idiot of myself – just like I swore I wouldn’t - but I can’t take any more.” Her voice trailed away and when she spoke again the vehemence had left her, to be replaced by a bewilderment that was even more painful to hear. She drew herself into a defensive huddle, her arms around her knees, as if every word was opening old and painful wounds.
“Just when I’d almost convinced myself that I really do hate you - you go and do such a wonderful thing. That day in the canteen, when you came to me and listened to me talk about my Grandfather and let me bore you to death with silly anecdotes, you listened like it really mattered what I had to say. That meant a lot to me; far more than the money. I began to hope again – hope that I hadn’t misread the feeling between us, hope that you did care about me after all. So what do you go and do? You fade out of my life once more.”
She imperiously waved away his inarticulate gasp of protest and continued, “Okay, I know work means we don’t get much chance to be together – but even when we could’ve spent time, you avoided me - until Christmas Eve when you couldn’t get away! You seem to expect me to come at your beck and call and not mind if you drop me for months at a time.” She stared at his unhappy face and confronted him with her final and most potent grievance. “How do you think it makes me feel when you treat me as if I’m something you can buy?” Her voice cracked with unhappiness and she turned away, determined he wouldn’t see her cry.
Adam sat in shocked silence; his view of himself as an honourable and decent human being had just been shattered by her accusations. The realisation dawned on him that she would have every justification in throwing him out – his defence unheard. He looked across at her; her forehead was resting on her knees and he thought from the occasional quiet sniffs, that she was crying. He wished he could do the same. His knew his feelings for her ran very deep – and yet he had been so insensitive that he stood to lose her forever if he couldn’t earn her forgiveness.
With a profound sigh, he said, “I’m sorry if you see the money in that light – it was never meant to be anything other than gift from me to someone I … care about – very deeply.” She raised her head to look at him, struggling to keep her emotions in check. He spread his hands in an acknowledgment of defeat and continued, “What’s been happening between us doesn’t really have much to do with what the colonel said. It’s me. I’m the problem.”
He leant forward to rest his elbows on his knees, effectively shielding his face from her scrutiny. “I told you – I’m no good at relationships. Every one I’ve ever had – every one that I really cared about, at least – has been an unmitigated disaster. When that happens often enough, you start to assume it’ll never work out right.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about…”
“Look: I fell in love with a woman when the WAS posted me to England. When I was promoted to head the new Security Department, I didn’t want to lose her and so I asked her to marry me. She was anxious about uprooting herself from her family and friends and the life she’d known. After all, the nature of my new post meant I’d be travelling a great deal and she wasn’t going to see that much of me, once things got moving. She’d have been pretty much thrown back on her own resources because she knew my parents had grave reservations about our relationship, partly because she was older than me – not by much – but mostly because she was a divorcée. She thought that… I might’ve asked her to marry me just to disoblige them… and she took some convincing that I’m really not that superficial.”
“Anyway, to cut the story short, she did eventually agree, and we moved to upstate New York. I was owed a few favours by the Board, and I got them to give her a job at a local WAS base – she was a meteorologist. We’d only been there a few months; my job was beginning to show dividends in terms of uncovering the bottom layer of the spy-ring that infested the WAS and we’d just set the date for the wedding - as a matter of fact - when she was killed by a car bomb. It was intended for me, of course.” There was a long pause before he continued, “I guess, after that, I pretty much stopped believing that I could ever love anyone again. You see, I did love her… very much…”
Karen’s ready sympathy was making her forgive him every fault she’d accused him of as she listened. She felt guilty that she could ever have doubted him and hoped he’d forgive her. She was trying to think of some way of expressing her contrition when he started to speak again. He was struggling to keep an even tone and it took some moments for the import of his words to sink in.
“As a cure for my misery, I devoted myself to my work. For weeks, months even, I thought of nothing except getting even with the men who had ruined my life – and ended hers. Every so often, when it all got too much for me, I’d go off on a blinder – get toofed and get laid – it wasn’t important where it was and the women themselves weren’t important. When they seemed keen enough – I didn’t like to disappoint them – but I probably did.” He gave a disparaging smile. “I wasn’t a very nice person to know, Karen; you wouldn’t have liked me.”
“Are you trying to tell me that I’m just another one of the women you ‘didn’t want to disappoint’?” she asked coldly as her sympathy for him evaporated.
“No! I never thought of you like that. The very first time we went walking I told you I didn’t see you as a casual pick-up, but I expect that as I was being honest with you, you’ll have forgotten that in favour of your litany of my supposed transgressions.” He sighed in exasperation. “See, I knew this wasn’t a good idea - I knew you wouldn’t understand! But you’ve asked for the reason and I can’t do less than tell you the truth, as I see it. You owe me the courtesy of hearing me out,” he snapped as she moved away from him.
With some unwillingness she returned to her seat, her face set in a mask of disapproval.
“Thank you.” Adam drew a deep breath and continued. “I thought I was ‘taking it like a man’ – and all that other crap they trot out. I’d learned the hardest way there is, that our lives are too short for us to play silly games with important relationships. I promised myself I would never again put myself in a situation where someone’s … absence – for whatever reason – could hurt me like her death had done. I was vain enough to think that my pain gave me the right to ...” he sighed in frustration at his own inarticulate explanation. “I was vain – and selfish enough – to think I had the right to use people – women – when it suited me, and that having known such a ‘perfect’ relationship, no one could expect me to settle for second best.”
He didn’t need to look at her to sense her hostility and anger at his words, but a ruthless need for honesty between them drove him on.
“The reality was that I was dead inside. Slowly my ability to care about anything or anyone – myself included- was fossilising. I worked like a Trojan, totally devoted to my job and the single-minded extraction of revenge for what I’d suffered. When I discovered the men behind the attacks and the spy rings – they turned out to be the very men I had been so proud to work with in England. You might’ve heard of Warren Allen and the network he ran – the Nebula? Well, Warren was my deputy in England and - I thought – my friend. He was married to a friend of … hers - from way back - and yet he was the lynch-pin of the whole rotten edifice. I’ve sometimes wondered if the WAS board sent me there when they did, because they already had suspicions about Warren and had ear-marked me as a potential spy-catcher. No matter. I put him away for so many life-sentences he’ll never walk down the street as a free man again! Then, and only then, did I feel some relief from the guilt I carried.”
There was a pause before he continued. “Once I’d dealt with that, I thought I could cope; that I was over it and in some obscure way, ‘cured’. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course; with nothing much to occupy me I was in danger of going off the rails. Spectrum was a godsend… in more ways than one… because then I met you.” He looked at her and gave her a smile of such piercing sweetness that, in spite of her determination not to relent, her treacherous body responded to him. She forced herself to stay where she was, stifling the desire to steal to his side.
“Your grandfather was right to call you ‘Sunny’ – it’s as if all the colour came back into my world when I met you. You blew my mind, älskling.” He grinned, suddenly mischievous – “And you said I couldn’t do romantic small-talk…” he teased.
She couldn’t stop herself returning his grin. With a sigh that relieved some of his tension, Blue continued:
“I was so jealous that you spent the entire dinner that first evening, talking to Pat; I was obnoxious to him for ages, poor guy. I didn’t expect you to feel the same way; it came as a complete surprise that you seemed to like me as much as I did you. When you said you wanted me, I couldn’t believe my luck. But then…Oh, I don’t know… you seemed to expect so much from me… and I wasn’t sure I was capable of giving that much anymore, however much I might want to. If you want the truth: I was frightened – pure and simple - scared witless by the man I’d become – a man who doubted his own ability to be in love. So when the colonel lectured us all on keeping our distance, I found it a convenient hiding place. I told myself you’d put it down to obedience to the regulations. You might despise me for it, but that was okay - because no one except me would get hurt and I could take it. And that way no one’d ever learn what a coward I am…”
He gave a dry laugh and shook his head. “I’ve watched you; I could see how hurt and confused you were by what I was doing. When I saw how you had grown to doubt that even my friendship was genuine – it knocked the wind out of me and I had to admit to myself that I loved you and question why I was hurting you so much. I couldn’t kid myself any longer that you didn’t feel the same way about me as I did about you… but I did continue to kid myself that you’re better off without me. I couldn’t bear the thought that, if I let you get close to me, you’d see me for what I am and be disappointed. I consider myself an intelligent man, Karen – but this doesn’t sound even remotely sane, does it?”
He glanced at her and looked away again. “I don’t know if I can be the kind of lover you’d want me to be. I’m not spontaneous and I’m not nearly as gregarious as you. I love you, Karen, but I don’t know that I can… make a song and dance about it – even for you. I’m afraid you’ll get tired of me pretty quickly.” The silence dragged on. “I think I’d just better go, don’t you? I’m sorry…God only knows how sorry…”
He’d put his jacket back on in preparation to take his leave, before Karen started to speak quietly.
“Do I get a say in all this? Listen to me, Adam: dear, sweet, silly Adam; don’t you know that it’s okay to need to reach out to someone sometimes? No one can mourn forever, however genuine their feelings were for the person they loved. And no one thinks any less of a person who finds love in a new relationship. No one has to be perfect for someone else to love them - God knows, if that were the case most of the human race would spend their lives unloved! How could you believe I’d be disappointed in you? So, what if you don’t like to dance all that much and you invariably ruin a good joke by fluffing the punch line? There are worse sins - and you’ve admitted to quite a few of them tonight.”
She smiled at him and reached out her arms towards him. He took her hands, an embarrassed smile on his lips.
“There are compensations…” she reassured him. “You’re generous – and I’m not talking about the money. Generally speaking, you’re considerate; in fact, you’re a very compassionate man, Adam. Let’s face it; you’re as likely to tire of me as quickly as I am of you. I’m moody, I get incredibly jealous, and I can frequently be a little unreasonable! I won’t give you an easy life, so if that’s what you want, you should consider remaining faithful to your former lady-love. After all, she’ll never have a bad-hair-day, or interrupt you when you’re watching the big game on TV, or weep all over you for no apparently good reason once a month - but I’m likely to. There’s not a woman alive I’d hesitate to take on to get what I want – and I want you - but I can’t compete with an ideal, and there’s no point you putting me a pedestal, the way you have her, because I’d climb straight off it. I doubt you’ll ever find a living, breathing woman who’ll match your memories, Adam. I can’t tell you which of us you should choose, but, I will say this – if you grow to love me as much as you love her – I’ll consider myself a very lucky woman.”
She could see he looked close to tears and was surprised to realise her own cheeks were wet. “Have you got another of those tablecloths you call a hankie?” she asked wiping away a tear with her finger.
Smiling genially he handed her another of his handkerchiefs. “I know there’s a lot of truth in what you’ve said. She has become an ideal – and in fairness to her, I think she’d say the same as you – ‘let me down off this pedestal’ – she was above all a very down-to-earth woman. On mature reflection, I think I’d prefer a little excitement in my life. The sort of excitement that comes from the company of someone who can discuss the game she’s just interrupted; someone whose hair looks wonderful, whatever sort of day she’s having, and who finds some small comfort from using my shoulder as a pillow to sob into once a month. Someone I love more than I can tell her – and more than I’ve ever loved anyone.”
Despite the confident assurance of his words, she saw uncertainty in his eyes, and held her breath at what he might say next – hardly daring to hope.
He raised his eyes from the study of the carpet he’d been undertaking for the past few, long, silent minutes. “I’m almost too ashamed of myself to ask you to give me another second chance, but I promise you, Karen, I’ll do everything I can to make this up to you.”
She tempered her elation and asked, “Despite the colonel’s prohibitions?”
He drew in a deep breath, tilted his head in acknowledgment of the point she’d made and said, “We’re supposed to keep things on a professional level; so, on Cloudbase, we’ll do just that. You’re Symphony Angel and I’m Captain Blue – and that’s it. When we leave the base – it all changes – you’re Karen and I’m Adam, and there’s no regulation on this planet that says two consenting adults can’t do what they like, where they like …. Discreetly,” he added and she laughed at him and raised her brows in mocking alarm. “What do you say, Karen, shall we give it another try?”
She folded his handkerchief back into a neat oblong and stuffed it back into the breast pocket of his jacket. “Oh, I think we owe it ourselves, don’t you? Because, you see, you’re missing one very important factor in the equation, Harvard… however much I think you’re just a big, dumb Swede, I still think you’re the sexiest thing I ever clapped eyes on… so, shut up and kiss me….”
“Yes, ma’am….” He gently took her into his arms, brushing a long strand of unruly hair away from her face with a gentle hand before he pressed his lips to hers. After a few moments she relaxed in his embrace and he felt her lips part beneath his.
With heart-warming tenderness he ensured that all her sadness and doubts were eased away by a demonstration of his sincere love for her.
Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.
(Phyllis Diller 1917-1974)
Sitting curled up on her bed in her favourite silk pyjamas, Symphony hugged her pillow, staring blankly across her room at the wall. She’d struggled long and hard to draft a submission to the medical board, but had rejected every one she’d started, so far. The long, uneventful hours in Angel One hadn’t helped, as she’d spent them brooding on the situation she was in.
Adam’s going to hate me whatever I do, she thought despondently. If I tell Fawn what I know and he finds out – nothing will ever bridge the gulf between us. But if I don’t; the chances are Adam’ll leave Cloudbase, maybe even leave Spectrum altogether – and I’ll never see him again! Especially as I told him I didn’t want to see him again. But surely he won’t believe that? Will he?
Why can’t I wait before I rush into action? I handled it badly – as usual. I’ve never seen him so… angry? - Maybe. Confused and upset? – Yes, he was that and surprised – certainly. But I never once imagined he’d feel like this. Of course, if he actually talked to me about things I’d stand some chance of predicting his reactions occasionally. I’m not a mind reader, so how am I supposed to second-guess something like that…? Of course, now I do know, it puts a different slant on things… not that that helps much now. I just expected Adam to take it all in his stride… as I expect him to absorb everything I throw at him, if it comes to that. And it was all for nothing…
Even after last Christmas, when we patched things up – nothing’s gone smoothly for us. Conrad went to Mars and was killed, Paul was killed – and poor Alan too – and then Adam had to shoot the Mysteronised Paul… and all the worry that’s led to. Then Conrad turns up as a Mysteron, after all. And it’s so easy to see that Paul is not one of them – at least, it is for me, after Conrad held me prisoner at Culver. There’s something creepy about a Mysteron – and Paul’s just the same Paul he ever was… But Adam knows that and he’s never actually been that close to a real Mysteron, for that long.
Everything that could go wrong has done, and I’ve hardly been much help to him… I just make it worse. Poor Adam, I’m surprised he still loves me as much as he does, or says he does…
She flicked a strand of hair back from her eyes and as she caught sight of herself in the dresser mirror, one particular incident in their relationship surfaced in her mind. She threw herself down on the bed, recalling a certain day not so long ago, when she had, once again, occasioned a crisis in their relationship. She remembered how she had vowed to herself that it would never happen again – after all she had a reminder of her own unreasonableness every time she looked in a mirror….
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and locked in her quarters, Symphony Angel stopped brushing her hair and regarded her reflection with horror. What on earth possessed me to do this?
She slammed the hairbrush down on the dresser and dropped her head into her hands. It’s his fault, she thought with a surge of self-pity. He got me so wound up I had to do something to relieve my exasperation. He’s so damned reasonable about everything and so…so calm - it isn’t fair! He forced me to make a dramatic gesture – to make him acknowledge the strength of my feelings at least - if not the validity of my arguments.
She raised her head and looked in the mirror again vainly hoping she hadn’t really done it after all. With a groan she shook her head at the brutally honest reflection and banged her hand down on the dresser as if the pain would be sufficient penance for time to wind back and allow her a second chance.
She pushed her shoulders back and drew a deep breath. There was no way she could hide this disaster… no way at all. Why should I care what anyone thinks anyway? she thought defiantly, it’s none of their business.
The alarm clock beeped mournfully, warning her of the five minutes she had before her duty started. Damn! There isn’t time to make a better job of it now. She swore out loud, relishing every word. What if he doesn’t like women swearing? Why should I bite my tongue just so’s not to upset him? I really let rip today…she gave an almost hysterical giggle at the memory. He goaded me into it with the ever-increasing disapproval in those – oh-so-superior - blue eyes of his, so it was his own fault!
She dragged the brush though her hair one more time and, squaring her shoulders, collected her helmet and pulled it onto her head, pushing her hair inside it as much as possible.
“Here goes, girl,” she said to her uncaring reflection and stomped out of her quarters closing the door behind her with a satisfying thump on the control pad.
Melody Angel slid from the pilot’s seat of Angel One and called cheerfully, “Hiya, Rhapsody!” Harmony was already on her way to replace her.
“Hello, Melody. Look, d’you mind if I scoot off? I’m due on the promenade deck for the Colonel’s tea party and I want a quick wash and brush up first. Symphony’s on her way… I mean she’s bound to be here soon.”
Melody grinned, revealing bright white teeth. “S’okay honey, you go ahead. I bet ya’ Symphony will be here any moment now, out of breath and unable to understand how she managed to arrive late!”
Rhapsody nodded. “You’re right; she’ll never understand how she manages to be late so often! But I’ll let you into a secret – she was lunching with Captain Blue…”
Melody gave an exaggerated groan. “Gee, thanks for the warning - I sure hope he managed to keep her sweet …this time.”
The girls’ amused smiles faded as the door whooshed open and Symphony entered the room, looking like thunder.
“Hiya,” Melody said with a wave and a bright smile.
“You’re not due in Angel One, Symphony,” Rhapsody said noticing the helmet. “Harmony’s already gone up.”
Symphony nodded but said nothing. Melody and Rhapsody exchanged long-suffering glances as their companion threw herself onto the sofa without removing her flight helmet.
“Have a nice lunch?” Rhapsody asked, almost fearful of the reply.
“No,” Symphony said bluntly.
“Why, what happened?” Rhapsody sat down again beside her. Symphony looked away. “Can you hear me under that helmet? What happened?” she repeated.
“We had a … disagreement.”
“Again?” Melody sighed. “How do you two manage it?”
Symphony exploded. “Don’t worry, Melody, it won’t happen again! I’ve finally learnt my lesson and I’d rather have lunch with Captain Black and the entire race of Mysterons – than that sanctimonious, cold-blooded, hulking, great…Neanderthal again!”
“Ouch, this one must’ve been a humdinger,” Melody murmured, fighting the urge to snigger.
“Oh, come on, Karen,” Rhapsody soothed. “You shouldn’t let Adam wind you up like this. You know he’s not the demonstrative kind; but remember ‘still waters run deep’.”
“Still waters? Hah! There are glaciers with more feelings than him!”
Melody caught Rhapsody’s eye. “You’d better fly, Angel, or you’ll be late for the colonel’s shindig.”
Rhapsody caught the unspoken suggestion that Symphony was best left alone when she was in this mood and it was probably the only thing to do. She stood and walked to the back of the sofa, resting a hand lightly on her friend’s shoulder. “Never mind about it, it’s not worth getting het-up over. Men are all bastards anyway. You just relax a bit – you’re in Angel One next and it’s a long stint. Take that helmet off and have a coffee.” She reached down and pulled at the helmet despite Symphony’s despairing grab.
“My God, Symphony!” Melody gasped.
“Karen, what’s happened to your hair? Your beautiful hair…” Rhapsody surveyed the jagged remains of what had been such a lustrous head of long hair.
Symphony turned distraught eyes on her friend. “I cut it. He made me so angry. I wanted to make him suffer…” Despite her resolve tears threatened to spill down her cheek.
“By cutting your hair?” Melody looked confused. “Oh, I get it now – it’s the old ‘cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face’ ploy. I bet he’ll be really sorry,” she added dryly.
“It was a little drastic,” Rhapsody agreed quickly, seeing anger flare in Symphony’s eyes. “Has Adam seen it?”
She nodded. “He was there.”
Rhapsody sat down beside her friend and took her hand. “What happened? It really must’ve been ‘a humdinger’ of a row, as Melody said.”
Symphony hesitated, but the need to confide in someone was too strong and she began, “You remember last week, when Scarlet and Blue were caught in the explosion at the Himalayan Observatory?” (6)
“Yeah; I was there,” said Melody with considerable feeling.
Spectrum’s attempt to get detailed pictures of the Mysteron city by deploying a spy-satellite on the Martian moon, Phobos, had been reaching its climax. But they’d been unaware that one of the astronomers had been Mysteronised and he’d blown the observatory to smithereens seconds before the first pictures were due. In the immediate confusion of the devastation no one was sure if Scarlet and Blue had been hurt in the blast.
Circling in the Spectrum helijet with Captain Grey, Melody had been the first to see the bright colour-coded uniforms of their colleagues against the snow. She remembered Grey’s deep sigh of relief and his muttered comment, “I wish Blue’d remember he isn’t indestructible and be more careful.”
Symphony continued, “Well, I needed to reassure myself he was okay – you understand? So, I set out for the hangar bay and met them on their way to the Control Room. I was so pleased to see him unhurt that … well you don’t need to know exactly, but according to Adam, I ‘made a spectacle of myself’. There was nobody there but Scarlet and he’s not gonna say anything, so …I can’t see that it mattered if I got… a little emotional.” She glanced at Rhapsody. “After all, we know Scarlet’s going to recover whatever mess he gets himself into; whereas Blue’d probably get himself killed just trying to keep up.” She met Rhapsody’s critical glance and looked away. The English Angel was very fond of her compatriot and did not take kindly to such comments. Realising she was in danger of losing her friend’s sympathy, Symphony continued her complaint, “Besides, Adam said I was being ‘hysterical’. He was really sarcastic about it.”
Melody thought it more likely that the intensely private Captain Blue was just embarrassed by his girlfriend’s behaviour and she said so, earning herself a glare from Symphony.
“Huh, well this meal was supposed to be his way of saying ‘sorry’ for being so obnoxious. I really was prepared to forgive him - if he was genuinely sorry - and I wanted to look my best, so I spent ages doing my hair – I braided green ribbon through a single plait – it looked pretty good, if I say so myself. Adam – I mean Captain Blue - had said how nice he thought it looked when I’d done it like that before.”
Melody snorted. She had little time for the mind games Symphony apparently enjoyed playing with her boyfriend, but which often seemed to her more like emotional blackmail.
“You’re not helping here, Melody!” Symphony snapped.
“I think maybe you should try listening to yourself sometimes, Symphony. Blue’s a nice guy – he doesn’t deserve to be treated like this.”
“Don’t let’s argue, girls. Come on, Karen, what happened next?” Rhapsody sent a silent plea to Melody to curb her tongue.
“After the meal, we went to his quarters for coffee, but then he began to lecture me!” Symphony’s voice slid into a reasonable imitation of Blue’s distinctive tones. “You shouldn’t worry so much; I can take care of myself. If I know you’re worrying it makes my job more difficult….” She slapped her hands together in pure vexation and reverted to her usual accent. “He said I shouldn’t make ‘such a show’ of my emotions, because if the colonel found out about us we’d both be in trouble – and it’s only in his dreams there’s an ‘us’ to be found out about, I’ll have you know! He said we should ‘keep it all very low key’ - as if I was shouting it across the tannoy system! Anyway, he can talk – he was impossible when I crashed that stupid SPV (7). He insisted on carrying me back to the Culver station and sat right next to me until the helijet arrived. Not content with that, he wouldn’t let me answer the colonel’s questions for myself when we went to the de-briefing. Even Scarlet was pulling faces at him! When I mentioned that, he brushed it aside and told me I ought to ‘occupy yourself doing your hair or something agreeable, rather than ‘fretting’ over me’. The colossal egotism of the man left me speechless! He’s treating me as if I’m a silly little girl!”
“Sounds about right,” Melody muttered.
Symphony sprang up from the sofa and faced her tormentor. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she snapped, towering over the slighter girl.
Never one to back down from a challenge Melody ignored Rhapsody’s outstretched hand and replied, “Well, I mean, what’s he supposed to do? You throw yourself at him in a spin about his safety, just like one of those mawkish heroines from Rhapsody’s novels. And when he treats you like that - because he believes that’s how you wanna be treated - you go for his jugular and yell blue-murder at him! Poor guy’s probably in near-terminal confusion.” Melody drew a deep breath and continued in the face of Symphony’s incensed glare, “Look, Symphony, this thing you two have is just about the worst-kept secret on Cloudbase, and you can bet it isn’t because Blue goes about behaving like a drama queen all the time; or hacking his hair off when he can’t have his own way.”
Rhapsody moved like lightning and stood between the others. “Okay, enough already!” she turned to Melody with a pleading expression. “Come on, Nollie, you can see Karen’s upset, don’t make it worse.”
“Oh, it’s okay, Rhapsody, I’ve always known what Melody thinks of me,” Symphony hissed. “Perhaps she’s just jealous?”
Melody gave a loud guffaw of laughter. “Not on your life – I don’t like blonds!” The two stared at each other with almost tangible hostility.
“Mon Dieu, what is happening here?” Destiny was watching from the doorway. She was alarmed to see two of the Angels apparently about to come to blows and then she noticed Symphony’s hair. “What has happen to your hair?”
Thankful for the diversion, Rhapsody beckoned Destiny over and gave her a quick résumé.
“And you chopped off your hair because Captain Blue said you should do hairdressing rather than worry for him?” Destiny asked Symphony in some confusion.
“There were some scissors on his dresser and I hacked a chunk off the plait before I knew what I was doing,” Symphony explained. “I threw it at him. I made some stupid remark about if he cared so much about my hair he could keep it.” She collapsed onto the sofa and began to sob. “I’m a complete idiot, I know that, but he made me lose my temper and I wasn’t thinking straight. Oh God, how am I ever gonna make this up with him?”
Melody spread her hands in exasperation and gave Destiny a wry smile over Symphony’s bent head as Rhapsody put her arms around her friend’s shoulders and made vague soothing noises.
Just then the tannoy bleeped and Lieutenant Green’s voice caused them all to stiffen in expectation, but the Lieutenant was merely asking Rhapsody to report to the Promenade Deck.
“Oh heavens, I forgot about the tea party.” Rhapsody jumped to her feet. “How do I look?”
“Fine, the colonel won’t mind a few creases in your uniform, will he?” Melody reasoned as she shooed the red-head out of the room. “Now, what do we do about our other problem?” she asked Destiny.
“Well, I am not as good as you with scissors, Symphony, but if you tell me what to do, we will tidy up this confusion, tout de suite.”
Symphony had the grace to look ashamed. “His scissors weren’t really sharp enough to make a clean cut and the plait was rather thick – that’s why it’s such a mess. I was too angry at what I’d done to tidy it up properly when I got back to my quarters,” she confessed.
“Give me the pass code and I’ll fetch your proper scissors,” Melody offered, anxious to make her peace with her fellow American. “And you don’t want to listen to me, Karen; you know I always stick my nose in where it ain’t wanted. I’m sorry.”
“So am I, Magnolia, I guess I deserved some of that. I’ve kinda been playing him up lately. It’s just that I worry about him – and the others - when they go on missions. I mean, we face danger too, but somehow that never seems so bad – but when it’s someone you… care about…”
“Vraiment,” Destiny said. “C’est toujours plus difficile.”
Melody noted the pass code and skipped out of the Amber room. Symphony watched her go and gave a wry smile at Destiny. “I guess I’m a laughing stock if even Nollie can get tetchy with me.”
“Do not attend to her. Nobody laughs at you – they would not dare!” Destiny teased. “Also I do not think the secret is so much known. We know and Scarlet knows also - but he would not speak of it - Blue would be offended if he did so. An’ if the colonel knew you would know immédiatement.”
“Oh boy and how.” Symphony gave a shaky smile. “Mind you, that’s one less thing to worry about. There isn’t anything left for him to find out about.” She began to cry again.
“Tch,” Destiny reproved her. “Blue is not the man to give up easily, n’est pas?”
“You didn’t hear what I said to him or the awful things I called him!”
“Tiens, I expect he knows many worse names,” Destiny mused, as she handed Symphony a tissue box from the table.
Between them the three Angels repaired the damage to Symphony’s hair in a surprisingly short time.
“You know, it kinda suits you,” Melody said surveying their handiwork with pride, it had been necessary to cut the hair short to level it off and Symphony had ended up with a neat jaw-line bob.
“Oui, you are lucky you can wear your hair short,” Destiny agreed as she swept the floor. “I would never attempt it for myself.”
Symphony frowned at her reflection. “But I’m always gonna know why it’s short,” she moaned. “I mean, every time I use a mirror I’ll be reminded what a fool I am…”
The other two shrugged; that was beyond their help.
The doorbell of the Amber Room chimed. It was rarely used by the senior staff, so they were surprised when it opened to reveal Captain Blue standing in the corridor, his cap tucked under his arm with military correctness.
“Permission to enter?” he asked formally.
“Mais oui,” Destiny said. Symphony said nothing and Melody just stared at their visitor as he walked towards them, a huge grin on her face. Destiny nudged her, saying: “Melody, please will you help me wiz what we spoke of just?” She jerked her head towards the small office off the main room, her agitation reflected in her deteriorating accent.
Catching her drift Melody said, “Excuse us won’t you, Captain? We have something very urgent to do…somewhere else.” She gave him an exaggerated wink.
Blue watched them scuttle from the room with a stony face. As the door closed behind them he turned to Symphony who was staring miserably at his reflection in the mirror.
“Hello,” she whispered.
“Hi,” he replied dryly.
There was an excruciating silence. Symphony stood up and turned to face him and then both started speaking at once:
“I should apologise…”
“I’m sorry, Adam…”
“After you,” Blue said politely.
“I’m sorry, Adam. I was a complete bitch. I didn’t mean half the things I said.” She couldn’t look at him and fixed her gaze on the wall behind his left shoulder.
“Only half of them?”
She glanced at him in surprise; embarrassed by his forthright stare she blushed and looked away again. “Well, maybe slightly more than half.” She noticed he hadn’t disputed her description of herself. “Melody told me I was being unfair to you and said I was ‘a drama queen’,” she confessed.
“I’ve always been very fond of the theatre.” His tone wasn’t quite so disapproving this time. She glanced at him and gave a tentative smile as hope began to grow in her. “I guess I didn’t help matters,” he said gently. “I wasn’t very sympathetic, I realise that now; I should’ve tried to show more consideration. I guess it’s just the ‘big-brother’ in me… I’m so used to ordering people about…”
She shook her head. “No, it was me – as usual. I’m really, really sorry.”
He took a couple of steps towards her, but then stopped, unsure of what her reaction might be. “By the way, I like your hair,” he said gently.
“Oh don’t! I know I‘m a lunatic; I don’t know what came over me.” Her cheeks began to redden and she couldn’t look at him.
“No, it looks really nice. I wouldn’t say so if I didn’t mean it.”
She raised her hand and self-consciously brushed the curl behind her ear, still unable to face him. He moved swiftly to her side and caught her hand, holding it gently in his. She looked up into his face and the expression in his eyes took her breath away.
“I do love you, you know,” he said softly, colouring slightly under her gaze.
“Why?” She grimaced. “I make your life hell.”
“I do ask myself that, now and again. It might be that I enjoy a challenge, but I rather think the answer is – because I do.”
“I thought you always knew the answers to everything…”
“Don’t start…” he warned playfully.
She laughed. “Anyway, I’m glad.”
“Why?” he whispered, his lips against her newly cropped hair.
“Just… because I am.”
He bent his head and kissed her. Slowly her arms rose to encircle his neck as she settled into the comfort of his strong embrace…
But if you love him, you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him, be proud of him
'Cause after all he's just a man.
Curled up on her bed, Symphony squirmed at the recollection of the fool she’d made of herself. Adam could always make her feel so guilty – and he was usually right - because it was often her own fault. Still, she meant what she’d said to Paul. What kind of relationship could they have, if he persisted in excluding her from every crisis in his life?
Tears pricked at her eyes again and she sniffed defiantly; crying wasn’t going to help her now. She thumped the pillow and threw herself back down onto the bed with a stifled groan. She wanted to go to him; wanted to reassure him and be reassured in return. After all, I couldn’t have known that this bombshell from Doctor Fawn was going to coincide with a major crisis in our relationship, she thought defensively.
She glanced at the clock – it was almost midnight already – he wouldn’t come now.
I have to accept that if he doesn’t come – it’s because he doesn’t need me. However much he claims to love me - he doesn’t need me - and that ultimately all our relationship is really about is … sex, and, however wonderful that may be, it’s just sex and nothing more. It means I’m no more to him than a… than a… she couldn’t even bring herself to think it.
I’ve lost him this time; I’m sure I have. Yet what can I do about it? I can’t go to him - that much is certain; he told me to ‘butt-out’ in no uncertain terms when I tried to talk to him earlier - but, I need to know that he still loves me. Only sometimes its like drawing teeth getting him to admit it – it seems its only when we’ve had some enormous bust-up that he can bring himself to say it! I swear he almost enjoys winding me up – even when he knows what’ll happen - and I never learn, do I? I fall for it time and again… But I need him so – it’s almost like I’m addicted to him! And I think that’s what he wants: he wants to be needed. Maybe that’s why he misses –what’s-her-name – she must’ve been totally dependent on him when they were in the States. Well, he’ll have to accept I don’t do dependent…
Huh! Who am I kidding? Look at me – I’m a wreck just because he won’t see me… Karen Wainwright, you are a total fraud; you act all tough but you’ve about as much backbone as a wet lettuce when it comes to the crunch…
A noise attracted her attention – a soft, persistent knocking on the door. Reluctantly she stood and spent a few minutes at the dresser, tidying herself up, before activating the lock. She was half-expecting to see Dianne or Chan at the door asking if she was okay. It was neither; it was Adam… a dishevelled, unshaven Adam reeking of alcohol and barely able to stand without holding the wall for support.
“What the hell? Where did you get liquor from?” she cried, moving aside to let him enter the room.
He shook his head – he wasn’t going to answer that. She steered him to the armchair and knelt beside him. “What’s wrong, Adam?”
“You musta heard? They wanna sen’ me down to some God-forsaken posting’ – ‘cause they think I’m a coward an’ if I’m there I can’t put anyone in danger…”
She grimaced at the realisation that her warning to Fawn had come true – only Adam had decided to do something about it – he’d got toofed. She replied with as much authority as she could manage. “That’s bullshit! Nobody thinks you’re a coward and no one is going to send you anywhere.”
“Don’ they?” He waved an accusing finger at her. “Don’ you?”
“No, nor does Paul - or the colonel – nobody thinks for one minute that you’re not up to the job, Adam.”
“Then why do they want me to write it all down? Why are they making me think about those things?”
“What things?” He turned away from her. She reached out and took his face in her hands, gently bringing it round until she could meet his eyes. “What things, Adam?”
“They wanna know ‘bout … things that happened to me.”
“I guess they just need to know you’re not so stressed out you can’t cope. We’re all under a tremendous strain – all of us. You have to trust Doctor Fawn – he won’t let you down… he understands what Chaudry doesn’t. What happened to Paul and why he gets… hurt so much.”
“Truss…trust…?” he slurred. “No, I can’t trust anyone – not anyone – d’you hear me? I can’t trust; I’m not allowed to.”
“Of course you are! You trust me, don’t you? And Paul and Colonel White – all of us on Cloudbase - you must.”
“No. Can’t trust anyone,” he insisted with drunken sagacity. “That’s what my dad taught me – Trust Nobody – you might call it our family motto.” He giggled at the thought and hiccoughed. “I don’t even trust my family – they’re out to screw everyone! I didn’t listen to him, you know, and I shoulda listened. My dad is a very wise man – a total bastard, right enough, but a wise bastard - I shoulda listened. I trusted people in the WAS – trusted my life to ‘em every day. Technicians, air-crews, flyers... all of ‘em - and they were traitors –selling’ their friends - taking money for secrets! Money – huh! – I’ll tell you what I told Warren Arren - it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! It warps people – warps their minds, twists ‘em ‘til you can’t trust ‘em anymore! Even people I thought I knew were honest; men like Warren and his friends … and I thought they were my friends too - but they all turned out to be passin’ on secrets to anyone who would pay enough for ‘em. I found that out – me! No one knew about it ‘till I found out. And so what did they do – these so-called friends of mine? They tried to kill me – that’s what they tried to do! - and when they couldn’t do that right - they killed Soraya! Sweet, gentle S’raya who wouldn’t have hurt them; she never hurt anyone.” He began to shout, “You don’t un’erstand, Karen - it was my fault she died… I shoulda let her go to work like she wanted to, but I kep’ …kept her in bed with me instead…so she was late – an’ ‘cause I hadn’t parked my car properly the night before… she took my car – and because I was too careless to put it away safely they’d fixed it… and she died – because of me! It shoulda been me – not her – it shoulda been me in that car, Karen!”
“Ssssh, someone will hear you,” she urged.
“Let them hear me! I wanna be heard!” He struggled to his feet.
Anxious he would get into trouble, for getting drunk more than anything else; she tried to calm him down. “Sure, you do; so sit down and tell me about it… I want to hear what you have to say, Adam.” She’d never seen him so agitated before. Adam always strove to keep a tight rein on his emotions; although it had to be said, he was not always successful. She realised very few people were privileged to see the man beneath the reserved veneer he maintained in public. Somehow - she instinctively felt – the fact that the man in the drunken rage was the prim and proper Captain Blue would make the misdemeanour seem far worse to a casual observer.
Refusing to be pacified, he clambered past her, causing her to fall over. He looked at her sprawled on the carpet and, suddenly maudlin, he said quietly, “Poor Karen, you should’ve kep’ away from me – I’m bad news –look what happened to S’raya – if I’d never made her come to the States, she’d be alive today…”
“Adam, that’s errant nonsense. What happened to Soraya wasn’t your fault. You mustn’t blame yourself for everything!”
“But I do, Karen… there’s so much I blame myself for. You don’ know the half of it. But…I won’t do it any more – I will put a stop to it… I’m doin’ somethin’ wrong –Spectr’m shouldn’a asked me to do their dirty work – It’s wrong. I won’t do it anymore…”
“Do what? You aren’t making much sense.”
“Spyin’ on my friend – that’s what! My friend who trusts me. He doesn’t know he shouldn’t do that… no one should trust me… I don’t even trust me.”
“What’re you talking about? The WAS traitors? Adam, that was all over and done with years ago, darling. You did what you had to - and let’s face it – Warren Allen had it coming to him. He’d been passing secrets to Bereznik for years and although it was never officially proven, it was probably him that orchestrated those attacks on you – like the one that killed Soraya. You’ve nothing to blame yourself with…”
“You know ‘bout Wallen Arren?” He frowned, momentarily distracted from his harangue. “Warren Arren...” he repeated – but it still didn’t sound right. He shook his head and tried to focus on her face.
Karen was trying hard not to smile but seeing that she had his attention once more, she started to answer his question. “You’ve told me about him, remember? And besides, the case was a required study at the USS training school. No names, of course…” She gave a silent chuckle. “I never dreamt I’d meet the man responsible for taking down the ‘Nebula’ spy-ring.” Let alone be in love with him, she added to herself.
He gave a derisive snort. “Once a turncoat, always a turncoat –that’s me. An’ it makes it okay for ‘em to get me to spy on another of my friends. I can’t argue ‘gainst it – ‘cause I’ve done it before, haven’t I? Mebbe that’s all they think of me as – a man who’ll betray his friends.”
Karen found it difficult to believe what she realised he was saying. “You’re talking about Scarlet, aren’t you?”
“Who else? And don’ pretend you don’ know – everyone knows – everyone ‘cept Paul and he trusts me. He does, K’ren, and he shouldn’t! I don’t deserve his trust. He called me his friend; said I was like a brother ….” He slumped onto the end of her bed, hiding his head in his hands. “Oh God, how long can they ‘xpect me to go on wi’ it and still be able to live wi’ myself?”
Karen frowned. “Right, let’s sort this jumble out. You’re spying on Paul - who for and why?”
“For Spectr’m – for the colonel, of course!” He stood up again and prowled across the room. “An’ I have to do it ‘cause they think he might still be a…mizzeron… a Myst-eron,” he corrected himself with a great effort. “They tol’ me - his friend – to do it - the man nobody should trust …”
Determined to stop him going off on that tack again, she asked quickly, “When did this happen? When did they tell you?”
“’fore we went to pr’tect th’ Asian Director-General – an’ a right mess we made of that…”
“And after? On subsequent missions?”
“Always the same questions … what did he do…? Why did he do it…? Couldn’t you stop him…? Did you even try?” He passed a hand over his pinched face and then swayed unsteadily for a moment before he went deathly pale.
He hiccoughed several times and clapped a hand over his mouth.
“Oh no!” Karen ordered sharply. “If you’re gonna throw up – you move your ass into the bathroom… Now!” She knelt up and pushed him towards the door. He staggered into the small en-suite, the door swinging closed behind him.
Whilst he was ‘otherwise occupied’ she made fresh coffee and was waiting for him when the door opened. He emerged, still looking very pale and extremely sheepish.
“Better now?” she asked knowingly.
He made no comment, flopped onto the end of the bed and wordlessly accepted the coffee she handed him.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a long silence.
“What for?” she glanced apprehensively towards the bathroom – fearing the worst.
He caught the glance and shook his head. “I cleaned it up,” he said ruefully.
She was honest enough to show her relief, “Thank goodness.” Her severe expression faded as she looked at him. Pale and shamefaced, he appeared extremely vulnerable - for once - and consequently, eminently huggable. “Where did you get enough booze to make you that ill?” she asked him, but in a kind enough manner so that he looked up and gave a wry smile.
“I took Paul’s whisky,” he admitted with a blush.
Her eyebrows rose. “Boy, are you in deep trouble.” It wasn’t as if Adam had much of a head for alcohol at the best of times – especially not hard liquor. She wondered how much he’d drunk. It wouldn’t take much to get him intoxicated, but either way, Paul wasn’t going to be pleased. Although, on second thoughts, it’s unlikely Paul’s going to object if his friend needed it that badly, she reflected.
“Yeah, so deep in trouble I need the courage that comes from a bottle,” he agreed, his voice full of disgust and self-loathing.
“Hey, sometimes we all need a corner to run and hide in,” she soothed.
“Well,” he looked up and gave a wry smile, “you’re my corner, älskling, and I’ve come to hide.” His head dropped again and missed the sudden triumphant blaze of joy that shone in her hazel-green eyes.
She reached out to place her hand on his knee, saying tenderly, “That’s as it should be; you know I’m always here, whenever you need me.”
There was a deep silence as if he was trying to assimilate the idea that she might actually mean it. Softly, as if he was trying to explain something to himself as much as to her, he said, “You’re just about the only thing that stands between me and the pain that comes from living in this treacherous world; where a man’s life is a commodity and loyalty is something no one prizes…”
She shook her head. “That isn’t true and if you were yourself you’d be the first to argue against it. Spectrum does value loyalty and the lives of all its operatives are important. We all care about what happens to each other – all of us. I’m right, aren’t I, Adam?”
His arms were resting on his thighs as he sat on the bed, and his head dropped between his shoulders so that his voice was muffled, but she heard him say, “You told me that you never wanted to see me again until I was ready to apologise… Well, I’m ready, älskling; I want to apologise to you. I can’t believe I was so awful to you the other evening…but you took me by surprise… I’d no idea… I mean – I never expected or thought …”
“No, let me finish, please… if I don’t say it now, you’ll never hear it. Once I’m fully sober, I won’t have the courage to say what I have to- and I have a lot I need to tell someone, Karen…”
“Okay,” she agreed nervously, wondering what on Earth he could have to say that was so painful.
“You must’ve realised how … unsettled I was after the Mysterons abducted me from that restaurant? Well, I’ve been weighing things up a lot lately: Spectrum, my place in it, all kinds of stuff. I’ve tried to carry on as if nothing happened, but somehow – and don’t ask me to explain it, because I can’t, that experience really stirred up a lot of things that’d been best left hidden - and somehow, the conviction grew in me that … I’m not cut out to do this job. I can’t take this anymore.”
He ignored her almost fearful gasp of surprise.
“Look at how things have gone. We thought we were going to fight human terrorists; and that would have been bad enough, but we found ourselves fighting aliens - aliens with powers we don’t understand and can never hope to emulate. On my first mission against them I had to shoot a man I believed had turned traitor to his species – and joined the alien aggressors - the same man who’d become my best friend. Oh, it was my duty to protect the World President and there was no way that Mysteron bastard was going to get away from me. I saw my shot hit him; I saw the agony on his face … I knew he wasn’t dead when he fell and my only feeling was one of satisfaction. I remember thinking -That’s for Alan and all the other poor sods you blew up in New York! After I took the President back to the ground and away from the debris of the tower, I didn’t want to wait to see them dig the body out. Why should I care what happened to the remains of a traitor? But the colonel had other ideas. He ordered the Angels to escort a Presidential jet to London but he said to me, ‘bring the body back…we need to investigate it’. So I had to wait while they dug him out and then fly the dead body back to Cloudbase. “
“I dropped the body off in the morgue and saw two other bodies had come in… I wondered who they were. I’m not even sure how I got through it all, because by then a reaction had set in. I needed to mourn my fallen friends and after I left him in the morgue, I went on to the Promenade Deck and just sat there… I don’t know that I was thinking or feeling anything.”
He sipped his coffee and continued his story, although Karen doubted if he even realised she was still there, he was so wrapped up in the memories. “The colonel called me to the Control Room. He brought the sound-proof surround down and he told me – that they had found the dead bodies of Scarlet and Brown at the site of a car-crash. He told me that the body I‘d bought back was a replicant – some Mysteron-generated doppelganger – not human at all. You know what my reaction was? Relief… Paul had not been a traitor; he had died before the attempts were made on the President’s life and the man who’d abducted the President was not Paul Metcalfe. That was some comfort to me – I felt I had … I wasn’t responsible for his death – for my friend’s death. I went to my quarters and I started to write to his parents…” he gave a wry chuckle, “I probably have the draft letter somewhere to this day.”
She gave a comforting smile, but fearful of interrupting, she said nothing.
“Then I had an urgent recall from the colonel and I was told to meet him in sick-bay. I went along without the slightest idea of just what was about to hit me. Doctor Fawn told us that Scarlet had revived and he was okay, fit, healthy and - according to Doctor Fawn – virtually indestructible. This man had no memory of anything that happened after the car crash. Everything was blank from then until he woke up. He believed himself to be Paul Metcalfe. It was like the whole emotional thing hit me at once. Suddenly I’m face-to-face with the prospect of meeting a living, breathing man – a man I’d killed in cold blood.”
He glanced up at her and gave a wry shake of his head. “I wonder sometimes if I’m over-emotional, or if the colonel is just insensitive? He presented Scarlet with the evidence of his death; making Destiny and I confirm that we had seen his dead body. And then, sometime later, he finally agreed to let me see this ‘new’ Paul but only on condition I explain what had happened to him – and confront Paul with his dead body.”
Karen placed a compassionate hand on his thigh. “You never told me this…”
He drew a deep breath. “I went to see him and I spoke to him. I watched him; I tried to believe it wasn’t Paul. But, it felt like Paul: he reacted like Paul, thought, sounded, moved like Paul! SI kept asking me if I was sure it was him. Pestering me, hoping to trip me up, I guess. All I could say was - it is Paul… Then, when that interrogation had finally stopped, the colonel said to me: I want you to work with him; get him to trust you; pump him and learn what you can - but never trust him, Captain. I couldn’t believe it; I’d never imagined Colonel White could be so devious.”
“Are you forgetting he was head of the USS, before he ever commanded Spectrum? Charles Gray’s one of the best there is…”
She might not have spoken, for Adam did not respond. Instead he continued with his monologue. “So, we go out on a mission together. Paul’s just as he always is – a little less chatty, maybe – probably nervous – but then, so am I.”
There was a long silence. Karen watched his face, hardly daring to move in case she broke this fragile bridge of trust – there’s that word again – between them. Blue took a gulp of his now cold coffee and grimaced, placing the cup on the carpet with exaggerated care.
“When we were in that SPV chasing the Delta airplane… the cannon jammed and it wouldn’t fire. I had the wreck of that frigging machine stripped down to the wheel-nuts and they couldn’t find a reason why it jammed. But it did jam- I tried it a dozen times. Scarlet said – I’m going to ram the wheels – and when I protested he ejected me from the SPV. I could’ve killed him for that! He drove the SPV into the jet’s wheels and crashed into a radar station. It so nearly worked, Karen – so very nearly… if the VIP jet had only managed to gain a little more altitude… or DT19 had crashed a few metres away from where it did – we’d have done it… well, Paul would’ve done it. Instead, he died in vain – because he was dead, Karen. For the second time, I stood and looked at the mangled remains of my good friend. Neither of us knew for sure he would revive again… Fawn was really only speculating as to just why it had happened that first time. We had no guarantees it would happen again.”
“Back on Cloudbase I had the colonel and the Head of Spectrum Intelligence interrogating me as if I was some kind of terrorist. I was grilled for hours – could Scarlet have been working to get the man killed after all? I told them ‘there was no way - he died in that crash…. I saw his body.’ I knew he was one of us – I told them – but why should they trust me anymore than I trusted them?”
“Then, the colonel says to me: ’Carry on, Captain; watch him, Blue. He has a long way to go to prove himself’. Do I say what I should have? – Go hang! - No, I salute, and off I go once more. And that’s how it’s been ever since, through all the missions, through all the hazards, I have been expected to watch him – and if he ever showed signs of ‘going to the bad’ – I was supposed to kill him.”
“How do you think I felt every time he laid down his life for Spectrum? Because, every time he got himself blown up or shot, I faced a barrage of questions from Spectrum Intelligence. Most of you don’t see what he goes through. You might see him in sick-bay, bandaged and sleeping but you don’t see the agony on his face or the sweat of exertion when he’s hurt and he won’t give up. I know – I do know – that there are some smart-asses around here who think ‘ah, he’s indestructible – how brave can he really be?’ Well, I’ve seen him, Karen, and they haven’t - risking everything time and time again. We can’t know if electricity will kill him as it kills the other Mysteron agents, or just how he’d recover from being too close to an explosion; but Paul walks into it with his eyes open, and in the full knowledge that every cut, every bruise is going to hurt him as much as it would me or any other man! I couldn’t do it – even knowing I’d survive – I couldn’t do it.”
He sighed and drew a hand across his pale face before he continued.
“At the same time as I was watching him for SI, I was striving to prove myself worthy of his friendship. A friendship I increasingly value.” He gave a weak chuckle. “It has led me to do some dumb things… I stayed behind on that frigging island with the VGR heading straight for us… and I can tell you now… I’ve never been so shit-scared in my life!” (8)
He paused, shaking his head at the memory and she took the chance to say forcefully, “But don’t you see, Adam, that what you’ve just told me is the definition of bravery? To stay at your post, to support your friend – even at the risk of your own life – that takes true courage. Ask anyone – ask Paul – they’d tell you the same thing: you have nothing to reproach yourself with.”
He glanced at her concerned face and said, “Maybe -then again - maybe not. I’m not brave, Karen, it’s just that sometimes I don’t get out of the way quick enough. And that can leave me in some pretty awful places, let me tell you. I’m sure I’ve spent time in purgatory: it’s the isolation ward on Cloudbase, when you’re lying there waiting to hear if you’ve been infected with a deadly, incurable virus… lying next to man who’s indestructible and knowing that – even if you’ve both been contaminated - he’ll survive and you won’t. We lay there, on adjacent beds, for over an hour… and we never spoke. Not once. What was there to say? When the colonel came to tell us we were clear, it was all I could do to stand up without my knees giving way… “ (9)
“But you went with Paul to the Boulder Dam… you didn’t let him down, even then,” she reasoned.
“Do you think I could let him go on alone? Paul can’t do everything; he needs someone around to…” He shook his head and gave an ironic snort of laughter. “Who am I kidding? He doesn’t need anything – I probably just get in his way. Anyway, what I do know is that… all this was taking its toll. I was tired of it. I even made up my mind to quit - after the fiasco at Atlantica (10). I was sure we’d both get a dishonourable discharge from the service, anyway.” She opened her mouth to argue with that, but he silenced her with a slight shake of his head and said, “Oh, I know we were officially exonerated of blame, but it doesn’t change the truth; Ochre and I destroyed millions of dollars worth of defence equipment. I’m only thankful more people weren’t hurt. The fact remains that there are bound to be those who’ll say the enquiry was a white-wash because it was Spectrum Officers who piloted that plane, and Spectrum already suffers enough from the jealous carping of the established military. If ‘Atlantica’ ever become public knowledge… there’s no telling the damage it could do to Spectrum’s international standing. That’s why I offered the colonel my resignation.”
“The fact that he didn’t accept it should have told you he genuinely believed you were not to blame,” she remarked. It was news to her that Adam had gone so far as to offer to resign; she knew from Paul that he had advised his partner to forget it, but obviously Captain Blue had not taken that good advice.
He smiled doubtfully and shrugged. “Huh, he may have declined it simply because he needed the staff. Almost immediately, we were sent to investigate the strange case of Major Gravener. (11) If it hadn’t been for that incident - who knows? - Colonel White may have accepted it. There simply wasn’t the opportunity.”
She raised an eyebrow in wry protest of his reasoning. The past few months had seen intense Mysteron activity with Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue at the forefront of every mission, but she doubted that Colonel White would have been swayed from following what he thought was the correct course, simply due to pressure of work.
“When your plane went missing,” (12) he continued hesitantly, as if reluctant to remind her of the incident, “all I could think was: I’d lost you just as I’d lost Soraya, and how much I loved you. I blamed myself for not having quit sooner and taken you away with me. I hustled Paul into that SPJ faster then ever. I pushed the engines to the limit – I was so desperate to reach you. When we found you, Paul and I, it was all I could do not to make a complete fool of myself. I was surprised the colonel allowed me to take you back to Iowa, but - on reflection - it must’ve been pretty obvious to him by then that I was crazy about you. He’s not a bad old devil, really. Those few days we had in Iowa were like a balm on my mind; I’d never actually realised how wound-up I was until then. I never wanted to leave. Your Mom is such a honey… I can’t tell you how much I like her, älskling. Driving away that evening was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I was happy because you were safe; things were settling down and I thought – I didn’t have to rush … I could take my time and talk things over with you when we were alone. I felt… renewed and reinvigorated, which - considering what we’d been doing - was somewhat surprising… ” He glanced up and gave her such a loving smile it made it hard to catch her breath.
“A couple of days after I got back to Cloudbase, Paul suggested we go for a meal at The Markham Arms, which is this pub-restaurant he wanted to check out – with a view to taking Dianne there, on their next leave. (13) The colonel wasn’t against the idea and so we flew down in an SPJ, switched to civvies and drove out to the place. It was a good meal and a there was a fine pianist playing, just loud enough to make it restful. Paul was excellent company and we had a great time. I almost told him everything; I should’ve. Then – the coffee arrived and moments after I’d started it, I felt woozy. I don’t know what happened, but when I woke I was – apparently - on Cloudbase and back to answering questions. The sort of things they were asking were unusual, but do you know what finally made me realise it was all a fraud? They didn’t know I’d been shadowing Paul; and I knew that SI knew.”
“It was obvious to me that I had to get away but it was a convincing mock-up, like a film set, and I really thought I was on the base. Desperation led me to jump through the observation windows – if I’d’ve been thinking straight, I’d’ve known that if it really was Cloudbase there’s no way I could have broken the glass. It took me a few seconds to realise that, as I fell into what looked like empty sky, but it was still a relief when I landed on this huge projection-type screen. I managed to scramble down from it and stagger from the warehouse, but I had no real plan of what to do next and I’d dislocated my shoulder in the fall. It was an enormous relief when I saw Paul and the SPV. Once I was clear he blasted the place to smithereens.”
“After that there was no way we’d ever know if the guys involved in that elaborate charade were Mysterons or terrestrial terrorists; but they definitely had insider knowledge of Cloudbase. SI was back on the case with a vengeance when I was debriefed. They kept harping on about why Scarlet had destroyed the evidence without attempting to discover who was behind it all. I didn’t know - to be honest, at that point I didn’t care, either. All my doubts about being in Spectrum resurfaced and I was still wrestling with them when you came to see me and told me your news - and what you’d decided to do about it. I felt… as if everyone and everything was conspiring to make my life as difficult as it could possibly be, and I’m afraid I took it out on you – which was unforgivable of me. Oh, believe me, I know, I’m a jerk and I’m not proud of myself.” Karen gave him a sympathetic smile and encouraged he continued.
“I’ve thought about it constantly since, and it seems to me that I’d be an even bigger fool than I think I am, to let you go. I have so much to lose. It’s taken far too long for me to admit to myself that I’m not made of stone, but I never thought, never expected, never hoped, I could feel like this again. I know for sure that what I feel for you is the most important thing in my life, right now. Whatever you want of me, I’ll do; if you tell me to go away - I’ll go. But, I hope it won’t come to that because… I need you, älskling, and I love you, Karen; even though you never seem to believe it, and, no matter how hard I try, I can’t find the words to convince you. All that I am - all that I have – is yours. I will never leave you – unless you choose to send me away. Beyond that, I can’t say any more…”
He drew a shaky breath and continued, “So: I want us to get married and I want us to have this baby… even if it means we both have to leave Cloudbase – maybe even quit Spectrum. I can take care of the both of you, Karen, and I want to…. if you’ll let me. But I do agree with what you said: the decision has to be yours and, whatever you decide to do will have my full support. I’ve said my piece; you already know why I feel like I do about this. I won’t mention it again; I swear to you…”
“Oh, Adam, honey…” she knelt closer to him and pressed her hand against his rough cheek, he turned his face to her touch and his lips grazed her palm. She leant forward and kissed him, laying her cheek against his, whispering, “Oh, darling… you don’t know what hearing you say that means to me. I wish I could say it will be all right and it will happen and we’ll live happily ever after – like storybook lovers do. But, sweetheart,” she moved away from him, still on her knees before him and hung her head as she felt her own sadness welling up, “it was a false alarm after all….”
He made no response and the profound silence dragged on. Karen almost wondered if he had understood what she’d said; as she glanced up he asked bleakly, “You’re not pregnant?”
She shook her head. “I came to tell you earlier, but you wouldn’t let me in… I could hardly shout it through the door.” She sighed and sat back on her knees. “I so needed you to hold me…”
“There’s no baby?”
She shook her head and suddenly her shoulders started to shake and she began to cry. His knelt beside her, putting his arms around her and held her close until her misery had exhausted itself. He wished he could deal with his own turbulent feelings quite so easily. He lifted her face and wiped the last lingering teardrop from her cheek with his thumb.
She tilted her head and said, “I’m sorry I put you through all of this un-necessarily. I really thought... you know how I rush into these things. I never stop to think it through, do I? Hmm? Never check my facts. Then I make it worse – for everyone. I didn’t even know what I wanted, Adam. I thought I did…” She took his hand and kissed the knuckle, pressing it against her cheek. “But after I left you the other night, I sat in Angel One brooding about it. I was so angry – angry that you hadn’t reacted as I’d expected you to - that I didn’t really think about what you were saying until I’d calmed down and you know, the more I thought about it, the less sure I became that I was right. This was our baby I was talking about. It made me feel… special… to think that whatever might happen to either of us – there would be this individual – with all its unlimited potential – that owed its existence to both of us. Who was I to say it wasn’t the right time for it to have happened? I guess some things are just more important than timing…?” She stroked his cheek. “I felt… bereft when I realised it wasn’t going to happen after all and I hadn’t expected to. Since I’d thought I was pregnant, my over-riding emotion had been irritation!” She looked apologetically at him, and saw his eyebrow twitch slightly, in unsurprised confirmation of that fact. How well he knows me, she thought, her affection for him making her smile. She continued in a far more positive tone, “One day, I’m sure, there will be a right time and in the meantime, I have you – so I’m not going to complain. I love you, Adam – drunk or sober – and you’re just going to have to live with it…”
He reached for her and she slipped into his embrace, their lips touching in a gentle kiss of reconciliation.
When they parted, he said to her, “I promise you, we’ll be together as much as we can. I’m going to contest Chaudry’s assessment and get it quashed. Then I’ll speak to the colonel and try to make him see that I can’t continue to watch Paul like this. It might not be easy and I may not be successful, but I’m not going to let them ship me off Cloudbase without a fight.”
“Fight all you like, Adam; it won’t do you any good if you get cashiered for petty theft and drunkenness, will it?” she reprimanded him wryly.
“Oh don’t… my head hurts enough already. I’ll worry about it in the morning,” he said ruefully.
She gave a shaky laugh. “Then you’d better go back to your room. I’m on duty at 0600 and you can’t stay here. Besides, you have a submission to do for Dr. Fawn.”
“It was trying to write it that brought home to me what I’ve done to Paul… somehow pinching his whisky doesn’t seem the worst of it.”
“You’ve done your duty - as you always do. Just as you did when you shot him, just as you do every time you’re sent with him on another mission. If I were you, I’d tell him what you’ve had to do for SI. He’s unlikely to hold it against you, especially if you come clean before he finds out from anywhere else.”
“You think so?”
She gave a confident nod. “I know so. And so do you, if you think straight. You know Paul, as well as I know you… You and he… well, you can’t have one without the other. Mind you, Captain Harvard – there are some activities we will be doing on our own...”
He laughed and hugged her again, allowing his lips to nuzzle her neck. She strained in his arms, shaking her head.
“Uh-uh… Off you go to your own chaste bed, Captain… before we both risk getting cashiered!”
It was on her early shift, in the dawn twilight of the Amber Room office that Symphony logged on to her computer to type the final draft of her submission. She stared thoughtfully at the screen for so long that her screensaver came on. It consisted of a series of personal photographs, including several of Captain Blue from their stay at Koala base, but her favourite was one he’d given her at her request. His sister had taken it on his last trip home before he joined Spectrum and Karen couldn’t help but smile when it appeared on her screen.
It showed him nonchalantly leaning forwards across the handlebars of a powerful motorbike, his tanned arms crossed, to support himself. He was wearing a grey T-shirt and dark blue denims and his hair was longer than he had it now – in deference to Spectrum’s dress code – but his heavy fringe still flopped across his forehead. Staring straight into the camera, a half smile on his lips, one eyebrow slightly raised – he was, quite obviously, humouring his sister’s demands that he have his picture taken – but the overall impression was of a man unafraid of scrutiny and confident in himself.
That is the real Adam Svenson, she thought, not a man so wracked with uncertainty and guilt that he tries to drown himself in a bottle of whisky. All I have to do is remind Fawn of that fact… and explain just why Adam’s not been himself lately. Can’t be that hard to do…
She started to type.
Part Three: Judgment Day
Consider what you think justice requires and decide accordingly. But never give your reasons;
for your judgement will probably be right, but your reasons will certainly be wrong.
Earl of Mansfield (1705-1793)
Beware the fury of a patient man
(John Dryden 1631-1700)
Captain Blue finally parted from Symphony after spending some time enjoying the tender rewards of their reconciliation. With the hour her duty shift started coming ever closer, she’d decided to go to the Room of Sleep and get her rest there, and had packed him off to his own room before she changed back into her uniform.
Like Karen, he had mixed feelings about the fact that they were not about to become parents. She was right; it was a far from ideal time for it to have happened, and he was grateful that fate had seen fit to resolve the problem without either of them having to take action, but part of him mourned for the ‘might have been’ and he was aware that a whole new potential future had come and gone in a matter of days. He consoled himself with the thought that Karen had come round to his way of thinking and that one day – when the time was right – they would have a family.
In addition, the fact that he had finally managed to share with her the true extent of his remorse and guilt over the death of Soraya, had – he felt – given them a secure start on a new level of understanding; and Karen had been tenderness itself, even as she chastised him for bottling up his feelings for so long – and for keeping secrets from her.
He sat down at his computer, opened a new document file and stared at the blank screen for some time. Then, with a sudden renewed sense of confidence, he called up the rambling and somewhat incoherent document he’d worked on before and deleted it unread. It was time to start again.
He wasn’t the most accurate typist in the world, nor the fastest, and the words came slowly at first, with many deletions and much cutting and pasting. Gradually, as his thumping headache diminished, he got into the swing of it and words flowed through his fingers, with gratifying speed and reasonable accuracy.
This is the voluntary statement of Captain Blue of Spectrum (Adam John Svenson) to the Medical Tribunal.
I have been notified that Doctor Chaudry, who performed my annual psych tests recently, has some concerns following on from the results. I find this surprising as he did not raise any of them with me at the time, nor did he enquire if there were any circumstances which might have contributed towards the readings he obtained. This is, I understand, a contravention of the standard procedure. He should have raised his concerns there and then and have given me a chance to respond, rather than drag us all through this intrusive review procedure.
The certificate of notification I received informed me that I could submit a voluntary statement, as part of the review. I wish to do so and I understand that this exercise will be used as part of the review, which you are obliged to undertake, given that the psych tests revealed: ‘unacceptably high levels of stress’ and ‘potential underlying problems, with possible unacceptable consequences for field operatives’ safety ’. I also understand that I am currently downgraded to Base Officer from Field Officer Status, on the sole authority of Doctor Chaudry.
I wish to make a formal protest at this re-grading and I absolutely dispute his conclusion that I am in need of ‘professional advice’ on how to handle the stress levels in my job.
When this review is concluded I sincerely hope all record of this arbitrary decision will be erased from my permanent record with immediate effect.
As I understand the report, Dr Chaudry’s primary concern is that I am not coping with the high stress factors of my current posting sufficiently well, especially when on field missions. In substantiation of this claim, he cites the possibility that my hypothetical failures may be a factor in the high incidence of injuries suffered by my field partner - Captain Scarlet - whilst on active duty.
I refute this.
Concerning the matter of my ability to cope with stress, I can only say the following:
It is something I have been doing for most of my life.
I am sure that Spectrum has no difficulty gaining access to any relevant papers, and I would be surprised if the incident that had the greatest impact on my life to date is not known to the members of the board – and Doctor Chaudry. Since my childhood I have lived with the consequences of being abducted from my parents’ home in Boston as a nine year old. At the trial of the man accused of the crime, I gave evidence by video-link, and was collectively praised for my ‘mature behaviour’ and ‘clear evidence’
I suppose it was this ‘mature behaviour’ that convinced the Child Psychologists I was sent to for counselling, that I was as well adjusted as I was ever going to be, and I was soon able to stop attending their sessions, put the whole experience behind me and move on.
One effect of the trial, combined with the high public profile of my family, was a period of intense media attention. Consequently once the furore had died down my parents remained reluctant to allow my brothers, sister and I the freedom I - at least - had become used to. My younger brother and I were already being privately educated but my parents decided to move us to an exclusive and very secure school, where the children of important politicians and other eminent people were corralled together in what amounted to a luxurious prison. We boarded there in term-time and had tutors at home in every holiday except the long summer ones. It wasn’t so bad, in hindsight, and I got a first-rate education – so much so, that at sixteen I was enrolled at Harvard University.
The family spent most of our summers cruising on my grandfather’s motor yacht. Initially, we spent the time in the Caribbean – but latterly, we went further afield; often flying down to meet the yacht off the Australian Great Barrier Reef. Occasionally, we visited relatives living on the West Coast of America, but wherever we went, we invariably travelled under assumed names. A flick through the records of local surfing competitions for the relevant years, on either continent, will reveal that ‘John Ellis’ was a regular competitor and fairly consistent winner. If you manage to find a news clip of any of those events it won’t take too much detective skill to recognise who John Ellis is, although if I mention that my mother’s maiden name is Ellis – that should remove any lingering doubts you might have.
The one thing that these places had in common was that they were places my parents were convinced we were safe from press - and criminal - attention.
At home, our companions were drawn from a small select group of family friends and relatives. It became a very sheltered upbringing in many ways – although it was not claustrophobic; we did travel and we could do much of what we wanted, but always under strict supervision. My father was not prepared to risk another incident such as had happened to me. I can’t blame him for that but, as I grew older, I wanted more freedom than I was allowed and frequently got into trouble by slipping away from the bodyguards my father employed. I found it difficult enough to socialise with my friends or chat up a girl, without knowing I was being watched and listened to by some massive great gorilla in a suit and tie; so evading them was my only option. I got very good at it.
It was this desire for independence that fuelled my already intense love of flying. In a single-man cockpit with the whole sky open to me, I could shake off that feeling of always being watched. I spent every moment I could flying planes of all kinds, and I wanted nothing more than to do that for the rest of my life, but my father’s regret at what had happened to me did not extend to his actually permitting me to decide what I wanted to do once my education was concluded.
He saw my deliverance from my abductor as a kind of divine confirmation that here was another Svenson destined to make it big in the world of finance. Don’t ask me why. I only have memories of the times I told him of all the things I wanted to be instead: a deep sea diver for a while, a secret agent, an astronaut – the usual boyish stuff. My father brushed it all aside as childish nonsense and continued with his own training programme: evenings spent analysing annual accounts, business plans and stock forecasts. It seemed less bother to do as he wanted, but I had no intention of doing it forever.
Finally, the time came when I had to make him understand.
I graduated from Harvard at 20 years of age with a cluster of degrees that were a compromise between what I wanted and what my father expected. My ambition to be a pilot had never really left me, but the military life did not appeal – it seemed far too restrictive to a young man who had spent his life under such a rigid regime. Instead I opted for the World Aeronautical Society, where the chances to fly all kinds of planes – even proto-type military ones on occasion - might arise.
As you may know, the tests the WAS submit their potential flyers to are rigorous and the slightest failure can result in rejection. After I passed all of their tests with flying colours, I became not just a regulation pilot, but a test pilot. This is a job which requires meticulous planning, scrupulous attention to detail, and superb good luck. It is also generally accepted that the job incorporates a high degree of stress.
If I say it myself, I am a good pilot – one of the best – and I thrived on the excitement of the job.
My guess is that most people have a ‘golden age’ in their lives to look back to. As they age, these ‘good old days ‘ may vary and change according to what the future holds for them; but my good old days were these early years in the WAS. Someone was paying me decent money to do a job I enjoyed, and would have done for nothing, if truth were told. I was truly independent for the first time in my life; living so far away from Boston that people didn’t know, or care, whose son I was, and I had a chance to make a mark in a profession in which my father’s name had no influence.
I knew I was lucky to get promoted to Assistant District Commander as quickly as I did and the base I was to go to – the Western European Test Base (no. 3) in Lincolnshire, England – was considered amongst the best on offer. It had the reputation for retaining some of the best pilots in the service -first and foremost amongst these was the Senior Flying Officer, Warren Allen – a pilot whose reputation far outstripped his rank. I relished the fact that I’d get the chance to fly with Allen, but, in my ‘twenty-something’ arrogance, I never stopped to ask why Allen had not progressed up the command structure, nor why a young and relatively unknown pilot would be promoted over the man currently acknowledged as the World’s finest.
When I discovered where I was going to be posted the distance seemed like another point in favour of accepting. My relationship with my father had deteriorated rapidly now I was through my WAS training and looking to make a career in the service. My father refused to accept that I wouldn’t change my mind; right up until I signed the service contract and, even then he made his objections well known, to the point where he refused to wish me good luck when I left for England.
I didn’t know a soul when I arrived in England. It was the first time I’d ever been so far away without the option of returning home if I wanted to. Solo vacations had always been optional – this was not. So, on my arrival I lodged with the Base Commander, Ian Burley, and his family until I found my way about the place and met my new colleagues. Warren Allen was one of these. He was genuinely friendly and I quickly warmed to him – no doubt helped by the lingering strains of youthful hero-worship and a certain naivety. It seemed a good omen for a successful future partnership and I had high hopes of doing creditable work at the base. Allen was one of the men who helped me move into my apartment in one of the service accommodation blocks, once my gear arrived from Boston. It was a blustery spring day when the off- sea wind chilled us to the bone and I can remember Allen explaining to me: “It comes straight off the Steppes, or down from the Arctic,” as if the cold wind was a special local feature designed to sort the men from the boys. I’d always liked living on the coast – I enjoyed visiting my grandparents’ place on Nantucket, whatever the weather - and something deep in my psyche responded to this austere environment – it was like a homecoming. I loved the place.
All that summer I worked hard to gain the respect of my peers; acutely aware that the majority of the personnel on the base had expected, and wanted, another man to fill the post. So while they were perfectly cordial towards me, they were less than welcoming overall. I began slowly to establish myself amongst the crews who acknowledged that I am a damn good pilot - despite being a bloody Yank. Given this acceptance by the other flyers, the support staff eased up on me, largely due to Allen’s approval and his apparent lack of resentment at being overlooked again. I started to be invited out on their regular ‘pub crawls’ and ‘curry nights’ and - always accepting that I was going to be the butt of practical jokes and teasing for some time to come - I found myself starting to fit in. But I had little doubt that, whatever his rank, Warren Allen commanded the base in all but name.
It was while I was at ‘WET-Base 3’ that I met the woman who became my fiancée. Soraya Carmichael was a meteorologist, a few years older than me and divorced. I loved her very much. We lived together in a large, detached Victorian house in the countryside near the base. With Soraya at my side I became even more integrated into the fabric of life there, for Soraya was very popular, and had a busy social life. We held dinner-parties and ‘elegant soirees’ in the winters, and barbecues and picnics in the somewhat damp summers. I have rarely been as genuinely happy as I was then.
As part of the World Government’s air safety strategy, the WAS had been given the brief of expanding its role from the registration of all new civilian craft to cover all aircraft, including military ones. Before that could happen, a security audit by the Universal Secret Service was undertaken, on behalf of the Supreme Commander: Earth Forces, which highlighted several existing breaches in confidentiality, which would necessarily preclude the WAS from assessing new military planes. Industrial espionage was nothing new, and there were established protocols and measures that were periodically undertaken to prevent it, but due to a change in management and role, the organisation had not implemented these for some time. This time it became apparent that the recipients of much sensitive information were Bereznian companies and the even their authorities, so there was nothing for it but to create a counter-intelligent unit, devoted to breaking the spy-ring and removing any agents that had infiltrated the organisation.
This is what I was approached to undertake. I was given ‘carte-blanche’ to recruit the staff and direct the department, with the goal of eradicating all the leaks from the WAS. It was going to mean a move back to The States, so Soraya and I got engaged when I was promoted once more and officially assigned to head up a newly-created security division.
We moved to upstate New York, where she got a job at the local WAS base and I began the spadework for selecting the necessary personnel and ascertaining the extent of the problem I was up against. It didn’t take me long to realise that the extent of the problem was greater then had been realised by the WAS management. The culture of selling confidential information was fairly deeply ingrained in most commands, and endemic in some.
Obviously my new role attracted some attention – I knew that there were very few people I could trust and I was careful to keep much of what I was doing secret, although, naturally I told Soraya when I was going to be away.
The time the brakes on my car failed I thought it a fluke, although I knew the machine was in tip-top condition. I should have been warned. The crash landing I had when I flew across to Paris to liaise with the European Commissioner was another warning I failed to heed. The third attempt to permanently remove me from the scene was much less subtle.
An explosive device was wired into the engine of my car and when Soraya used it instead of her own, she was killed in the blast triggered by turning the ignition. There was nothing I could do; what little remained of her and the car was cleared away by forensic teams.
Her body was shipped back to England at her parents’ request. I was not invited to the funeral.
I turned my attention to tracking down the perpetrators of this murderous outrage. Inexorably over the following months, with the assistance of my growing, hand-picked team of agents, I closed the net on the spy-ring known as ‘The Nebula’. At first I refused to believe what was becoming increasingly obvious: the centre of the operation was the WET Base 3 – and there was no one there with the opportunity to co-ordinate the espionage except Warren Allen.
When I had finally assembled all the proof I needed, I confronted him with the facts. He didn’t even try to deny them. All he said was ‘It’s a damn shame Soraya died when it should have been you – she was always happy to chat with Fiona (his wife and Soraya’s best friend in England) and tell her where you’d be at any given time. Once that source of information dried up it was harder to get to you – or we wouldn’t have stopped trying. I always said you were a lucky bastard, Svenson.’
With Allen out the way – the Nebula spy-ring collapsed. The rest of the job was merely paperwork and there was little enough to keep me occupied. The Security department I’d set up was able to run itself without needing my constant attention and I admit, I was restless. It was during this period that I was approached to join Spectrum. I was more than happy to accept their offer.
As with all the potential recruits, I was assessed – physically and psychologically – during my training and passed those tests with a Field Officer ranking of A1. When I went home and announced that I was leaving the WAS, I had to endure another round of condemnation for not joining the family firm, until finally, I moved out of the family home and spent my last few days in Boston with my Uncle Mike and his family.
I invited both of my parents to the commissioning ceremony in London, in a vain hope that my father might become reconciled to my decision, but only my mother actually came and she did that in the face of severe opposition from my father. He sent me a letter in response to my invitation – a letter that effectively ‘disowned’ me. I didn’t keep it; indeed, I only read it once – and once was enough – but I can still quote you every word he said:
I am returning the invitation you forwarded for the commissioning ceremony in London to be held next month. I am very much surprised you sent it, after I had made my position clear to you when this career change was first broached.
How you could expect me to condone this decision of yours, to move yourself even further out of our milieu by adopting a ‘security codename’ under which to pursue this new career, remains a mystery. Through all the years of our differences, I had taken some consolation from the fact that you acted in a manner that brought credit on your family. I cannot say I have ever approved of, or understood, your choice of profession, but I took some pride in your professional achievements. But now, it seems, that for some reason you prefer to turn your back on the very name you bear and in so doing, I want you to understand that you are turning your back on your family as well. Svensons have served their country and the business world for generations without ever feeling the need to hide. I find your argument that this concealment of your true identity is necessary to protect the rest of us specious and – quite frankly- insulting.
There is no use in pretending any longer that I am anything but profoundly disappointed in you, Adam. You are aware that I have long considered your refusal to join your brother and me in the family firm as unpardonable. It is nothing but an intractable refusal to accept your responsibilities, and a dereliction of the commitment you owe the family who raised, educated and – however much you may scoff at the fact - loved you.
I only wish I could feel that my own efforts with you had been anything but wasted. I gave you every advantage, provided you with all the opportunities available. I watched you grow from a very promising young boy to a wilful and ungrateful young man, in whom a sense of duty is sadly lacking
You are old enough not to need my permission to do as you want – but I will say this, although I doubt if it will mean anything to you - this decision has neither my approval nor my blessing. If you persist in this action, you should know that I will consider it as a final severing of all my obligations towards you.
However, I trust that I may rely on you to continue to co-operate in the concerns of the company, when called upon to do so, however distasteful you may find this responsibility. Should you wish to relieve yourself of any further commitment to the company, I can assure you that your shares can easily be reabsorbed within the family at a mutually agreed price. If this is your considered course of action, you will find the company lawyers entirely competent at carrying out the transaction, without further need for discussion between ourselves.
I am sorry, Adam, that you have brought things between us to such a parlous state by your continued intransigence and I profoundly regret this latest decision of yours. I had always had such high hopes for you, believing that you could have made something of your life, if only you had made the slightest effort to fulfil your moral obligations towards your family.
Your mother tells me that she has also received an invitation and that she intends to attend the ceremony. I will endeavour to convince her otherwise, as I feel any recognition of this event may permit you to hope that we will ‘come round’ to the idea. Believe me, this is not the case.
While I would never forbid you from visiting the family home – your mother, I am sure, would be pleased to see you – you must realise that I am not prepared to reconsider my position on this matter. I hope you have the courtesy to respect my decision and that you will also refrain from dragging your mother into this. I do not intend to have another of those pointless arguments you so like to indulge in, when you perceive yourself as the victim of some imagined injustice.
I do not expect you to answer this letter. If you do, rest assured I will not read it. As far as I am concerned, the matter is irrevocably closed between us.
J S Svenson
That’s the curse of having a ‘photographic’ memory. One day, maybe, I’ll ask him if I remember it right – he’s sure to have a copy somewhere.
I have not seen or spoken to my father since I received that letter, in fact - since my mother came to the commissioning ceremony - I have not seen any of my family.
You may deduce from that just how important to me the relationships I have with my colleagues and friends within Spectrum are. Every one of the colour captains has had to distance themselves from their former lives – some to an even greater extent than me – it has led to us becoming a very tight-knit community.
Of my working relationships, the most important is with Captain Scarlet, who is both my partner and, I am proud to say, my friend. The experiences we have shared in the war of nerves against the Mysterons, have forged a friendship that has withstood that menace. Having spoken to Captain Scarlet since this suspension was made public, he assures me that he is as confident as I am myself that there has been a mistake and that he too intends to petition for this ban to be lifted. At no time – he assures me – has he had less than total confidence in my ability to perform my duties.
Captain Scarlet and I have been partners since March 2068, after Spectrum’s first encounter with the entities known as the Mysterons. We both lost our original partners in the incidents following the return of the Zero X expedition from Mars, and culminating in the rescue of the World President from the London Car-Vu.
Since then we have worked together on many varied missions, both on Earth and on the Moon bases. These missions have involved high levels of risk. Many missions remain highly classified and of them I may not speak openly. I refer the board to the mission reports held in the secure Spectrum Archives for further detailed accounts.
From the mission statements it is easily apparent that there have been regrettable occasions where Captain Scarlet has suffered injury – sometimes of a serious nature. However, while I am conscious of the fact that Captain Scarlet’s injuries have been more frequent than my own, I do not see what would have been gained by my acting in a manner that would have ended with my own injury – simply to even some hypothetical score line between us. I consider myself fortunate in the extreme that, where I have suffered injury it had not been of a serious nature and that is entirely due to Captain Scarlet.
Captain Scarlet’s background experience is with the military; mine is with the civilian World Aeronautical Society and as the military expert in our partnership, Scarlet is normally the Field Commander – a right I have never disputed and do not dispute now. Captain Scarlet invariably leads from the front; he is a brave and dedicated officer and would never ask anyone under his authority to perform a task he would not undertake himself. Ruthless in his pursuit of malefactors; exemplary in his willingness to risk his own life to ensure a successful outcome to any mission he undertakes, Scarlet is, without doubt, Spectrum’s principal field officer. It goes without my saying that he is also a gentleman, but he would not tolerate continued substandard performances from any of his colleagues. He has never requested a change of field partner. His style of leadership does, however, mean that consequently he bears the brunt of any opposition or hazards we engage.
No one regrets this more than I, and I am always ready to perform whatever is asked of me in pursuit of a successful conclusion to an assignment.
I am certain that Captain Scarlet has never had cause to criticize my actions on any mission, because I am equally certain that I would be the first person he would raise the issue with. Although we may have disagreements over the best course of action to initiate, I have always provided Captain Scarlet with such backup he required to the best of my ability. At no time on active service has there been an instance when Captain Scarlet has had to reproach me for – or make a formal complaint about - any of my actions. As an established field operations team, we have become adept at working in concert. We are the most experienced team of agents currently in Spectrum.
All Spectrum personnel, especially those of us in the colour-ranks, are highly trained to cope with anything a mission may throw at us. We have all come to know each other very well and between the five colour-captains there is a profound trust and camaraderie. Captain Scarlet and I have generally been partnered on missions, but we would have no qualms about working with any of our colleagues – should the need arise. On one such mission I was partnered with Captain Ochre.
In his recommendations Doctor Chaudry refers directly to the events at the Atlantica base. He may not be aware that the subsequent investigation highlighted the fact that the non-alcoholic champagne the senior officers drank before we were sent on that mission, had been tampered with and contained a powerful narcotic, which repressed an individual’s usual inhibitions. Captain Ochre and I were both exonerated from any direct responsibility and Colonel White refused to accept my offer of resignation at the time.
As my commanding officer, Colonel White has also spoken to me urging me to contest this decision. The unequivocal support of my colleagues has reassured me that I still have a worthwhile role within Spectrum and that, while I can be of such service to the organisation, it is my duty and my privilege to continue to serve.
I repeat my declaration that I intend to contest Dr Chaudry’s findings to the limit of Spectrum’s regulations, and should all else fail, I will appeal directly to the World President, asking him to intercede on my behalf.
I have received several commendations over the months and, only recently, I was informed that I am to be awarded the ‘Valour Star’ – the highest medal for gallantry in the gift of the World Government - for my part in rescuing him from the Mysterons’ attempted abduction. The President will present the medal himself in January at a ceremony to be held in Futura. While I maintain that I was merely doing my duty towards the man who holds the office I took a personal oath of loyalty to, I am, of course, acutely conscious of the high honour the World President is doing me.
Yet, I am also conscious that if any man in Spectrum deserves to receive that honour, that man is Captain Scarlet who, since the war of nerves started, has proved his loyalty to Spectrum innumerable times. I consider that Doctor Chaudry’s report not only does me an injustice, but fails to recognise that Captain Scarlet’s injuries have been garnered in the line of duty and in the course of a career that has been unparalleled in its achievements and successes. Without Captain Scarlet’s brave and selfless actions, Spectrum would have failed to prevent the destructive atrocities of the Mysterons on many occasions. I have been proud to serve beside such a man and – as long as he and my commanding officer, deem my service of value to them and the World Government – I will not accept that any outsider has the depth of knowledge needed to understand the functioning of Spectrum, and its operatives, sufficiently well to be able to arbitrarily restrict a Field Officer to administrative duties. The fact that this whole procedure has had to be instituted to review the decision of one man – is preposterous.
I would be the first to accept that a chain of command is only as strong as its weakest link – but Doctor Chaudry is alone in his opinion that I am that weakest link. Every member of Spectrum – from the most insignificant ensign to the colonel himself – is prepared to lay down their life in the defence of our World. That we have agreed to do this – willingly and with every skill we possess – is something that tends to be forgotten in the wealth of bureaucracy and essential secrecy that surrounds so much our lives.
For myself, I feel that my past record must surely count for more than a blip on a chart that says I’m too stressed-out to satisfy some theoretical guidelines.
I would ask that, in future, when these annual psych-tests are performed, there be more consultation with the officer concerned and perhaps, a second test performed after a few days, before any sweeping and arbitrary limits are imposed on the extent of the duties to be performed by the said officer.
I turn now to the fact that my test was deemed to have revealed underlying tensions. I cannot deny that this was the fact; yet I say again, a little more discussion and investigation on the part of Doctor Chaudry would have assisted him in making a diagnosis more in keeping with the situation he was examining, than taking isolated incidents from incomplete service records and weaving it into a hypothesis that is both insulting and preposterous.
Therefore, in addition to the official missions I have undertaken recently; I feel that I am obliged to bring two dilemmas - of a more personal nature - to your attention. Both of these came to a head immediately prior to my psych test; facts which may well have resulted in unusually raised levels of stress. I am currently considering how best to deal with them.
One of them concerns my close relationship with a female Spectrum operative which, you will realise, places us both in contravention of stated Personnel Regulations. It is not something either of us intended to happen, but my misguided attempt to distance myself from her merely resulted in both of us being miserable. There are some things no regulations can legislate for, and the vagaries of the human heart is one of them. You will therefore excuse me if I do not go into the details, except to say that the dilemma has since resolved itself and I am no longer concerned that this relationship – which has become quite as important to me as any I have experienced in my life – is in any way likely to affect my ability to perform my duty satisfactorily. In fact, the depth of the affection, between the young lady and myself, is a source of great comfort and strength to me, in the face of the many dangers I am constantly called on to confront.
Neither the young lady, nor myself, would consciously allow our feelings to colour our actions when on a mission, but – as I am sure you are aware – the best intentions of anyone can be overturned when faced with danger to a valued or much- loved companion. I would not hesitate to risk myself if it meant saving her – but then I feel that most Spectrum personnel would say as much for any member of our community. We face dangers together, we rely on and support each other, and this has created an organisation that is the match of any threat to the stability and ultimate safety of the World.
The second dilemma is currently unresolved and may well have repercussions on the nature of the partnership between Captain Scarlet and me. But I am not able to discuss that in this document and I will, once this review has finished, be seeking an urgent appointment with Colonel White to review the situation. I can only ask you to accept my assurance that this does not constitute in any way a confirmation of – or acceptance on my part of – Doctor Chaudry’s assessment of my psychological wellbeing.
I will be happy to make myself available to the board for further questioning, should it be necessary – always within the limits of maintaining the confidentiality of my colleagues within Spectrum and the security of the organisation.
Adam John Svenson – Captain Blue
Blue re-read it through, chewing his bottom lip and making a few amendments before he printed it off.
It’s better than the first draft, he thought as he read his printed copy and signed the final sheet. I have no intention of presenting any more of my private life than is absolutely necessary for scrutiny by a bunch of psychiatrists. If that makes me crazy and a threat to everyone around me – so be it.
He put it into a confidential folder and addressed it to Doctor Fawn.
I wonder what Paul’s written?
A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.
(Oliver Wendell Holmes 1809-1894)
Doctor Fawn closed Captain Blue’s folder.
He was well used to Blue’s style from his accounts of the circumstances leading up to the many incidents of Scarlet’s injury or death which, if taken at face value, would have left the reader with the impression that the good captain’s actions had had nothing to do with how he came to be injured; whereas anyone who knew Captain Scarlet knew that his impetuosity was often – albeit indirectly - the cause of his downfall. Both he and the colonel had become adept at reading between the lines of what Scarlet’s partner – frequently the only eye-witness to the events in question - had to say.
Fawn smiled to himself. Indestructibility has given Scarlet the confidence to play his hunches and he does so with gusto.
Applying the fact that Captain Blue was capable of reducing the most exciting train of events to a series of dull proceedings – if he deemed it the best thing to do - to the document he’d just read; it was a surprisingly revealing and emotional manuscript. Obviously Chaudry had not done as good a job as he’d have expected from him; Blue was hiding something – he admitted as much – but Chaudry had not realised that; a fact which, perhaps said more for Adam Svenson’s skill at keeping his private life private, than it did for Chaudry’s methods. Perhaps, Fawn mused, Chaudry was forced to take ‘isolated incidents from incomplete service records’ because he couldn’t get anything else from his subject?
Thoughtfully he turned the third submission and began to read:
Personal Statement by Symphony Angel to Doctor Fawn: Head of the Spectrum Medical Services.
TOTALLY PRIVATE AND ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENTIAL
This is the confidential deposition of Symphony Angel to the medical board convened to examine the recommendations made by Doctor Chaudry on the operational status of Captain Blue.
It was stated in the conversation I had with the Head of Spectrum’s Medical Services that the information I am going to divulge would be kept confidential – and I invoke that promise. It is only because I believe the recommendations made by Doctor Chaudry are unnecessary that I am prepared to reveal what I know – and I’m sure you will understand why I demand confidentiality once you’ve read this.
I have known Captain Blue since he first came to Koala Base in Australia, where the Angel Flight was undergoing pre-service training, as part of his in-service training. We quickly became close friends, and have been lovers for several months now. This is in contravention of Spectrum’s personnel regulations and yet, it is something that has become so much a part of both our lives, that neither of us would find it easy to terminate our relationship. Indeed, I feel sure that to do so would be to the detriment of us both.
I’m aware that it was in the face of considerable opposition from his family that Adam Svenson signed up to Spectrum. Since then, he has not seen his family and – as far as I know – hardly even spoken to any of them. Therefore the relationships he has formed within the organisation have become very important to him. Not just the relationship we have – but his friendships with the men he works with. Loyalty to his friends - and his largely undeserving family - is very much a part of Adam’s make-up – when he’s your friend you have a friend for life.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that Captain Blue was the partner of Captain Black, when Black was chosen to lead the Zero X mission to Mars. It was that mission which first introduced us all to the Mysterons – and the strange power they posses to take control of a human being - mind and body. The mission could hardly be called a success and Captain Black went missing after the Zero X craft returned to Earth from Mars.
The events which followed Black’s disappearance and led to Captain Scarlet’s attempt to kidnap the World President – had a profound effect on Captain Blue. It fell to him – as the nearest officer available - to stop the Mysteronised Scarlet’s treachery and he did so. What you may not know, Doctor, is that he did it in a spirit of revenge for the deaths of Captain Brown and the people at the New York Maximum Security building. Captain Blue did not know at that time that the dead body of Captain Scarlet was already on its way back to Cloudbase. He was under the impression that the man he was going to have to stop was his close friend, Paul Metcalfe.
I don’t think he has any doubt that his actions at the Car-Vu were the right ones. Adam has a very definite view of what is right and wrong – and it was his duty to save the President before considering the effect on himself or his colleagues. But when the Mysteronised Captain Scarlet survived – and survived without any recollection of his time under the control of the Mysterons – it became an article of faith with Adam to believe in his total rehabilitation – and to rejoice in it.
Since Captain Scarlet’s return to duty with Spectrum, Captain Blue has been his partner as well as his closest friend. He believes that Scarlet is free of all alien control and that – even given his remarkable abilities – he’s the same man he was when they first met. It took me a while to discover, but I eventually did find out that when the colonel granted Blue’s request and assigned him as Captain Scarlet’s partner, it was with the underlying brief of keeping Scarlet under constant surveillance. Just in case the Mysterons gain control of him again.
One thing I know, without any shadow of a doubt, is that Adam is fundamentally a decent man – he will use subterfuge when he has to and he can be utterly ruthless when the need arises - but he’s Paul Metcalfe’s friend and he likes and trusts him. So, under the circumstances he finds the conflict of his own feelings and the duty laid on him by his commanding officers to report back on Captain Scarlet’s actions and motivations, after every mission they undertake, extremely stressful.
Perhaps you could convince the colonel, Doctor, that, if Scarlet needs to be watched – something I’m sure is no longer necessary, but if he does need watching - maybe it could be done by someone other than the man who considers him as a friend? Incidentally, of all the men Spectrum employs, surely Scarlet must have proved his loyalty and his dedication to protecting the human race from this alien threat, innumerable times. I am sure the Senior Command would take careful note of any representations made by the Senior Medical Officer with regard to this matter and its effects on the two men so personally involved.
What I’m even more sure of is that having to deceive his friend comes hard to Captain Blue – especially when that friend constantly lays down his own life and suffers from horrific injuries time after time to protect him. I am sure Captain Scarlet would argue that he doesn’t take any action for that reason – but that is how Adam sees it. The burden of being his constant warden would be bad enough if he disliked the man – imagine what having to do that to your best friend is like. Working alongside Paul Metcalfe – the man- is no problem for Captain Blue, but working alongside Captain Scarlet – the phenomenon – is less simple for Adam Svenson.
The decision taken by Doctor Chaudry to downgrade Captain Blue from Field to Base Officer is, as I understand, due to high stress levels. The premise is that this stress was probably due to his working with Captain Scarlet and might be resulting in an inability to act under pressure. In my non-medical opinion I would say you can dismiss that reason as a non-starter.
There are some things that are predestined - you just can’t have one without the other - like death and taxes, night and day, Scarlet and Blue. It takes a metaphorical crowbar to separate them at times; you wouldn’t believe the lengths you have to go to.
I know you’re aware of the unique situation that Captain Scarlet finds himself in – and I’m sure you’ve witnessed often enough the loyalty and camaraderie between these two – very different – men. Paul Metcalfe is my friend too, I admire and like him and Adam Svenson is the man I love. I can only hope that is enough to make my observations valid enough to weigh in your final decision.
I feel you also ought to be aware of just what effect Doctor Chaudry’s recommendations have had on Captain Blue. Simply sitting down to write his rejection of the findings has raked up a great deal of personal distress from his past – including the discovery that many of his former work colleagues and friends were responsible for a network of saboteurs and spies, whose crimes almost certainly included several attempts on Adam’s life that resulted in the tragic death of his fiancée. He had already been considering leaving Spectrum for some time, and went so far as to tender his resignation after what happened at Atlantica base. Colonel White refused to accept it, of course. Doctor Chaudry’s report – which he sees as a slur on his service to Spectrum - has almost managed, single-handedly, to tip the balance towards him resigning his commission once more, coupled with his continuing belief that he is not acting in an honourable manner towards Captain Scarlet.
I believe that he is now less likely to do that, especially given the resolution of the final problem that had been increasing his stress levels. This issue was for a time, a devastating one on a personal level – but it has, in its own time – sorted itself out.
Doctor Fawn - what I am about to tell you is the most confidential of matters – I have to trust that you will keep your promise to me and that whatever you may be obliged to reveal to ensure that Captain Blue is restored to his rightful status in Spectrum – you will keep this information private.
Not that long ago I was flying a routine patrol when my Interceptor jet developed a fault and I crashed into a desert and had to be rescued.
Once I was back on Cloudbase I spent a few days in Sick Bay and after a debriefing in the Officers’ Lounge, - in which, incidentally, I rather think I managed to embarrass just about everyone – you recommended that I be given a week’s leave to go home and convalesce.
Captain Blue flew me down to Des Moines that evening and drove me home. He had a 48-hour leave and so of course he stayed over – where else was he going to go? My mother likes Adam and she’s very broad-minded, so you can work the rest out. We only got out of our bed on the afternoon he left to return to Cloudbase.
That rest of the week was a wonderful one of absolute bone-idleness. Mom and I went shopping, we went to the movies, we ate Chinese take-outs and it was perfect – or it would have been if Adam hadn’t had to leave me, of course.
You will be gratified to learn that I made my way back to Cloudbase after that week off feeling quite buoyed up and at peace with the world.
This euphoria lasted a couple of weeks or so.
This is where you ought to be feeling guilty, Doctor Fawn – you patched me up and dosed me with vitamins and an anti-biotic – but what did we both forget all the time I was in sick-bay? Remember those little yellow pills you prescribed for me some months ago…? I remembered to pack them when I went home, but a fortnight or so after I got back to base, it began to look as if that was too little, too late. At first I didn’t want to believe what this meant and I tried to ignore it, but as the days passed with no sign of a resolution to the dilemma, I decided that I ought to talk to Adam.
I have to say that I had no intention of having a baby and I wanted him to come with me to see you and explain our case. I didn’t feel that this was the right time to be having a child – or that it was even a remotely good idea – and I was confident that he would feel the same way.
He did not.
Imagine my surprise; I’d expected him to be in favour of a termination – no other response had even occurred to me. He was surprised – taken aback and annoyed, I suspect, that we’d been careless enough to create the problem in the first place – but his reaction was that we should get married and have the baby.
Rather bewildered at having to argue my case, I said that I wasn’t ready for a child; I had a career and a job I enjoyed. I was doing a valuable job, as well, and I did not want to leave the Angels. I could not – I said – reconcile our life-style with the responsibility of caring for a baby.
He dismissed that argument out of hand and he was – for him - extremely unreasonable. His attitude took me by surprise and we had the mother of all arguments.
I said: as we had not intended this to happen and it wasn’t my fault - it does take two, after all - he had no right to insist that I give up my freedom and settle down as a wife and mother. He wouldn’t have to stop working, of course, and that wasn’t fair.
He said I never mentioned there was any need for additional caution and that we should face up to the consequences of our actions and not resort to ‘damage limitation’.
It was true of course; I hadn’t said anything about taking additional precautions – although I wouldn’t admit it to him. Besides, it had never actually occurred to me. Eventually I said I wasn’t going to have the baby anyway, whatever he said about it, because I didn’t want to bring a child into the world if it wasn’t going to be loved and wanted by both of its parents.
How was I supposed to know that I couldn’t have said a worse thing if I’d been really trying? He never talks much about his family and what little I knew then had been pieced together from the odd remark, but my statement opened a flood-gate.
I don’t know how much you know about the Svensons, Doc, or about Adam’s home-life? I don’t think it was a conventional or even a particularly happy childhood. Apparently, his parents ‘got married in a hurry’, as the coy phrase has it, because his mother was expecting him. I hadn’t known that – how could I? – but it made me begin to realise why he was acting in such an unexpected way about my news. If his mother had made the decision I had – he would never have been born – and, inadvertently, I must’ve also opened old wounds.
He told me that he doesn’t get along with Peter, his younger brother, who frequently makes a great play of the fact that Adam was a ‘mistake’. When Peter was a teenager, he had openly taunted Adam – saying their mother should’ve ‘got rid of him’ and that it was him who’d ruined all their lives. Adam is very close to his mother – and he spoke with a great deal of anger about people who’d called her a gold-digger for ‘inveigling’ his father into marriage by deliberately getting pregnant - so he wasn’t prepared to take that from his brother – as you can imagine. He lost his temper and the pair of them had a real knock-down fight.
From what I know of him, Peter’s no match for Adam and it must have been a very one-sided fight, but it still took John Svenson himself to separate them. It was then, for the first - and I believe, the only time - that John Svenson called Adam a bastard - ‘an infuriating goddam bastard’, to be precise.
After that, quite understandably, the relationship between Adam and his brother was one of mutual animosity; but I’d say that the biggest losers in that fight were Adam and his father, as that one outburst caused lasting damage to their relationship. Adam became convinced his father was still rueful about his eldest son’s somewhat rapid arrival. He truly believes that whatever he does and whatever he achieves in his life, he will never reconcile his father to the very fact of his existence. I don’t think it’s a secret that John Svenson has never approved of Adam’s choice of profession and as Peter works in the family company he’s ideally situated to capitalise on Adam’s misfortunes and, I suspect he keeps their father fired up against his brother.
I’m not sure that Adam has the right of it – maybe he feels the imagined stigma more than either of his parents – especially if his brother, realising that fact, continually rubs it in. But the rift between father and son does go back many years and it’s affected the lives of everyone in that family in some obscure way or other.
However, be that as it may, I’m sure you’ll agree my announcement that I was pregnant and determined not to go through with it must have been a real kick in the solar plexus for Adam. Here was history repeating itself, only this time, the mother-to-be didn’t want to be a mother. As a result of this ‘discussion’ we were not even on speaking terms the day after our meeting – the day that Captain Blue had his annual psych test.
If you’re still searching for a reason why his stress levels would be off the chart – I suggest you look no further. I don’t mean to suggest that this incident alone is enough to have sent Adam’s readings into the danger zone but he’s been under a lot of pressure for the past year or so really and I’m sure this won’t have helped. It would be just one more problem heaped on him and the combination of long-term stress and one huge jolt of high-level stress sent Captain Blue over the limits.
Thankfully in some ways, the shock that caused our ‘estrangement’ has proved illusory and we are now reconciled once more, with a whole new understanding about each other and the strength of our relationship. No doubt - given the nature of our relationship – it won’t be the last time we fall out nor, I sincerely hope, the last time we make-up again…
While the first problem is beyond my scope to resolve, perhaps it is not beyond yours, Doctor Fawn? If you were to speak to the colonel – explain just what this responsibility for dogging Captain Scarlet’s footsteps is doing to Captain Blue, then maybe he can put in a word with Spectrum Intelligence and get them to behave like civilised people and stop this nonsensical cloak and dagger surveillance. If they won’t do it for Captain Blue – surely they will do it for Captain Scarlet? He has given everything he has in the service of Spectrum – time and again – and he deserves better of them.
Other than that, what else could we do to bring the captain’s stress levels down? Well, Adam needs a break; he hasn’t had any leave since before the Martian Expedition left. He needs some time just to gather himself. He’s a strong man – and a very obdurate one – he won’t give up until he feels his job is completed. Yet, if Spectrum provokes in him the same feeling of perfidy he’s witnessed elsewhere in his life – I believe he will go.
And if he goes – I’ll go with him – if he asks me to.
Karen Amanda Wainwright.
He closed the folder and laid it down on his desk. He pinched the bridge of his nose and stretched in his chair. Then after a few minutes contemplation he walked out of his office and got himself a cup of coffee. He nodded at the night staff nurse and chatted politely for a few minutes, before wandering back into his office and pushing the door closed.
He sat back in his chair and rummaged in his desk drawer for a biscuit. He chewed thoughtfully as he mulled over his options. This was going to have to be handled carefully on the official level – and tactfully on the personal level –or the two people most intimately involved were likely to get into even more trouble. Besides, there was the fact that if Blue left Spectrum – for whatever reason - Captain Scarlet would resent it, for there was no way he’d be convinced that it wasn’t mere bureaucratic pedantry that had forced his partner out. Given the intensity and ferocity of the Mysteron attacks, Spectrum would be severely hampered by the loss of one of its most experienced operatives – two if Symphony went as well...
He drained the coffee cup. This called for a little unorthodox doctoring…
He cleared his desk, locked the papers in his safe, and announced to his night staff that he was going to bed.
Out of sick bay, he made his way through the quiet corridors to Colonel White’s quarters. The colonel was a man of habit and at this time he would be off-duty – well, as much as he ever allows himself to be off-duty, Fawn mused. Normally, I’d have waited until tomorrow to speak to him, but the more unofficial this is, the better. I just hope I haven’t under-estimated my man…
He rang the door bell and waited quietly until the door slid open. Colonel White was dressed in grey flannels and an open-necked white shirt – just about as casual as he ever gets, Fawn thought.
“Doctor? Is something wrong?”
“I need to talk to you, Charles – off the record. May I come in?”
“Of course.” Colonel White stood aside to admit his guest. Fawn walked into the room, looking around with interest. He had never been inside the colonel’s quarters before. He had obviously interrupted something, for there was a computer humming quietly on a desk, with the screen full of text.
“I am sorry to intrude on your leisure time, I’m well aware that you don’t get much time to relax,” he said.
“Please, don’t concern yourself,” White replied, moving to minimise the screen of his PC. “I’m sure that you have a perfectly good explanation for coming here. Please, Edward, make yourself comfortable. May I offer you a drink?”
“Thank you, Charles, but I had a coffee before I came – but don’t let me stop you having one if you want to…”
Colonel White picked up a mug from the desk and sat opposite his guest, waiting for the reason for this unexpected visit to be revealed. The Doctor seemed rather uneasy, so he felt sure this was something to do with Captain Blue’s case – what else would bring the chief medical officer to his quarters ‘ off the record’? He frowned slightly, maybe the submissions his colleagues had made had revealed something serious. He sent up a quick prayer that this wasn’t the case.
Doctor Fawn saw the frown appear between the colonel’s dark brows and he decided that he couldn’t delay any longer in revealing the reason for his visit.
“It’s about Captain Blue,” he began. The colonel’s frown deepened.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t be,” the colonel said. “Tell me the worst, Edward, what’s happened now?”
“I’ve finished my review of the submissions presented by Captain Blue and two other individuals. I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you which two individuals presented statements?” The colonel gave a brief shake of his head. Fawn smiled briefly and continued. “I’m afraid that the report by Doctor Chaudry was almost certainly accurate - Captain Blue is currently labouring under an excessive level of stress.”
Colonel White’s blue eyes clouded with disappointment but he said nothing.
Fawn continued, “However, there are mitigating circumstances, which I propose to take into consideration. I’m not at liberty to divulge all of these, Colonel, as they fall within the confines of doctor-patient confidentiality.”
“But you expect these mitigating circumstances to work in favour of the captain, Edward?” There was just the slightest inflection of hope in White’s voice.
Fawn nodded. “However, the ultimate factor in deciding the captain’s fate will be you, Charles, and your reaction to the recommendations I’m going to make. If you’re prepared to abide by what is my professional opinion, I believe we can resolve the matter to everyone’s satisfaction?”
“If your recommendations are within the compass of my authority and do not jeopardise the security of Cloudbase or the efficient operation of Spectrum – then I will implement them, Doctor. You have my word on it.”
“Very well then. Firstly: Captain Blue needs an immediate holiday - an all expenses paid holiday -as part of his convalescence. This is not an optional holiday – nothing must prevent him taking it – nothing. If he goes on this break alone, he’s likely to brood, so I would recommend that he be accompanied by one of the Angels – to ensure that he relaxes sufficiently to make the holiday worthwhile. After some consideration, I would recommend Symphony Angel as his companion; the two of them share a good many interests.” The colonel’s eyebrows twitched. “The duration of this holiday should be for at least a fortnight and be somewhere warm.”
“Very well, Doctor. I’m sure I can arrange that. No doubt Symphony will agree to accompany her colleague, if I make it quite clear that she’s there to make sure he doesn’t … brood.”
“Oh, and while we’re at it, Colonel, Captain Scarlet needs a holiday too. He can go anywhere he likes and alone – as long as it isn’t where Captain Blue has gone. Only for a week, though – or he’ll get bored.”
White’s lips twitched in a slight smile. “Would you like me to announce a base-wide long-weekend away while I’m about it?”
“Might be an idea,” Fawn smiled and returned to the more serious matter. This next recommendation was where he had doubt the colonel would agree, but it was, in his mind, essential to the resolution of the underlying problems Blue was facing.
“Secondly: Captain Blue should be relieved of the duty of shadowing and reporting back on the actions of Captain Scarlet. This is placing an intolerable strain on their relationship, Colonel, so if you want them to function as a team for much longer– it has to stop. If Spectrum Intelligence still wants Scarlet shadowed, let them do it themselves – although quite frankly - I think it’d be a waste of their manpower.”
Glancing at the colonel’s face Fawn could see little reaction to his demand. White caught his glance and looked back with a slight frown.
“You’re right, Doctor, there is little need for it to continue any further. I, personally, no longer have doubts about Scarlet’s loyalty. I should have dealt with it before now – but the World President insisted that we monitor Scarlet… and that goes no further than this room, Edward! Understandably, Younger is still a little nervous of what Scarlet might do – at some future point - in the unlikely event of the Mysterons regaining control of him. It may take a little time to put into effect, but I will sort it out.”
Fawn gave a satisfied nod and came to the next obstacle to his plan. “Thirdly – once the surveillance is officially over - Captain Blue must be allowed to confess to Captain Scarlet what’s been going on and - if there’s a confrontation between the two men – senior command personnel should be prepared to admit it was a silly idea in the first place and they are sorry. This admission must be made – if necessary – to both men. At the same time.”
“By ‘senior command personnel’ you mean me, I suppose?”
“Not necessarily,” Fawn said archly, “you could always get the Head of Spectrum Intelligence to do it for you…” The colonel gave a snort of amusement at that. “If this’d been handled with less insensitivity, Colonel, I doubt that Captain Blue would be contemplating resigning his commission, for a start…”
“He’s doing what?” Colonel White sat up in alarm. “Are you telling me it has gone as far as that, Doctor?”
Fawn nodded. “He hates the assignment and he feels it reflects negatively on himself. He’s been an undercover agent before, I understand, and was responsible for breaking a key spy-ring for the WAS? The man who headed that was a friend of his – and Blue sees parallels with Scarlet, and he doesn’t like it.”
“He was given the job because I trust him implicitly,” White said ruefully. He ran a hand over his features and a sudden tiredness suffused his face. “Why can’t they come and talk to me about these problems? Am I such an ogre that some of the World’s bravest men are scared of me?”
Fawn smiled. “They admire and respect you – they don’t want to let you down. Everyone knows how much of your personal credibility is at stake with reference to Spectrum’s success; they want to ensure that success. It’s called loyalty, Charles – and you inspire it in your officers…”
“Then I count myself fortunate indeed. When we recruited them – Conrad and I - they were just so many names, all of them were well-respected men in their own fields, men who had the potential to make Spectrum work, but they were not individuals. Over the past years and months I’ve grown to respect them all - for their individuality as much as their prowess and their dedication to Spectrum’s cause. We’ve all had to face a far greater menace than we ever could’ve anticipated – and some of us have paid the ultimate price for doing our duty – I do not forget that, Edward. Every day I think of those brave men who have already laid down their lives in our fight against the Mysterons, and wonder if any of the remaining men will be called on to pay the same price…”
“If they are called to do it, Charles, they will – all of them – of that I have no doubt. They would march into Hell for you and Spectrum’s fight.”
“I wonder if one of them isn’t already living in that Hell…”
Doctor Fawn shook his dark head and drew a deep breath. “I think you might say – if you pushed the metaphor – that Scarlet did find himself in a living Hell – but the loyalty, support and friendship of his comrades-in-arms, has drawn him back into the land of the living…” He grinned. “My, we are getting philosophical, aren’t we? Maybe I should do your psych-test soon, Charles – perhaps you could do with a holiday as well?”
Colonel White gave a snort of protest. “I’m fine and you know it. Now – was there anything else about Captain Blue?” He counted on his fingers. “A fortnight’s holiday with his… lady friend, being relieved of his security assignment, and the right to confess his duplicity to Captain Scarlet, wasn’t it?”
Fawn nodded. “Although, in reality the best cure would be an apology from the Head of SI – but I expect that’s beyond hoping for?”
“I expect so. There are only so many miracles I can manage in a year,” White replied. His sardonic tone betrayed the dislike he felt for the notoriously obstreperous man in charge of Spectrum Intelligence. As one of its functions was to act as an internal police force, the colonel had no say over who was appointed to head the agency which was only nominally under his control. He paused, deep in thought and then asked, “Is this ‘apology’ really essential, Edward?”
“Absolutely. Adam Svenson has an unfortunate tendency to believe in his own culpability – even for things that he has no control over, on occasion. I would imagine this goes way back into his childhood. If you let him confess his ‘misdemeanour’ to his friend -and receive the forgiveness he will undoubtedly get –you’ll solve the problem.”
“You’re sure he would be ‘forgiven’?”
Fawn thought for a moment. “If I wasn’t sure – there’s no way I would recommend it as a course of action. Scarlet is as loyal to his friends as Blue is to his. What is more, Scarlet has a far more ingrained acceptance of ‘following orders’ as a justification for … less than totally… principled… actions. He might not approve, but he understands. Blue is not a military man – he sees things differently. Scarlet will forgive him. Take my word for it.”
“And you know all of this due to information that has been submitted but, as it is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, you can’t tell me, hmm?”
“Got it in one, Charles.” Fawn had no intention of revealing all that he had learnt.
“And how will my implementing these suggestions solve the problem of Blue’s grounding by Doctor Chaudry?”
Fawn relaxed slightly, he was on surer ground now.
“I undertake to placate Doctor Chaudry and smooth the matter over with the World Medical Organisation. They might get a little stroppy at having one of their senior men’s diagnosis questioned and over-turned, but I’m sure I can sort that out. I’ve a few friends on the senior board who owe me a few favours. Once that’s sorted – it’ll take a few days, no more - I will rescind Captain Blue’s flying permit ban - with immediate effect. That will enable him to pilot the plane taking him on holiday. He’ll get even more stressed if someone else flies it.”
The Colonel chuckled. Captain Blue – a first-rate pilot – was a notoriously bad passenger, even with a pilot whose skill he openly admitted and admired. He nodded.
Fawn continued, “Upon his return from his holiday, I’ll restore Captain Blue to Field Officer Status, by withdrawing the original report from his service record and replacing it with a psych test I‘ll carry out myself.”
“Given the confidential information you’ve received and a fortnight’s holiday you’ll be able to weight the results, I suppose?”
“Taking into account some of the confidential information and after a fortnight’s holiday – Blue should be so ‘chilled out’ you could keep ice cubes in him…”
“I believe one of Scarlet’s favourite descriptions is ‘so laid back as to be virtually horizontal’,” the colonel said, managing to keep a perfectly straight face.
“No argument with that here…”
“Maybe, even if the pair of them don’t come to blows over Blue’s ‘confession’ – I should speak to them? I’ve a feeling I ought to attempt to convince them that they are both fully trusted by Spectrum?”
“A good idea, Colonel,” Fawn agreed, adding, “that’s something you wouldn’t have had to do, if this had been handled with a little more common sense and less bureaucratic officiousness.”
“Point taken, Doctor.”
Fawn realised from the tone of the colonel’s last remark that he had gone far enough. He congratulated himself on having achieved his aims without revealing too many of the personal secrets he’d been made privy to by the open and honest submissions of the three officers. He sighed contentedly.
“Well, I will leave you in peace, Charles, and go to my own quarters for some rest.” He stood and gave an informal salute of farewell.
White started from his reverie, looking up at his departing colleague. “Goodnight, Edward. I’ll look forward to seeing your written report – so that I can begin to implement your recommendations.”
“My written report?”
“Yes, of course, I need documentary proof of your medical recommendations. Don’t rush it – I’m busy until at least lunchtime.”
Fawn sighed and muttered, “S.I.G, Colonel.” as he punched the door switch.
White watched him go and as the door slid closed his stern face relaxed and broke out into a wide smile.
Doctor Fawn sat in his quarters, and contemplated the blank screen before him. He sipped his coffee and pursed his lips. He sighed and drummed his fingers on the desk.
What exactly do we have here?
For various reasons – some even he’s not too sure make much sense - Blue has been contemplating leaving Spectrum, and is hopeful of taking Symphony with him. And, we now know, that if he goes, so will she.
Scarlet has been leaning pretty heavily on Blue for support – which is understandable, he has a lot to contend with – but that has only made Blue feel guiltier than ever because SI have been questioning him after every mission. Now, Blue already feels that by accepting his post as a security chief, he unwittingly threatened one former colleague which cost his fiancée her life… so when Symphony gets kidnapped by Captain Black and then shot down over a desert it has the effect of reinforcing her lover’s all to easily sparked sense of guilt.
Meanwhile – while all of this has been going on – Karen and Adam have been leading each other a merry dance through a maze of emotional upheaval, culminating in her announcement that she was pregnant and an almighty argument, the very night before he took the psych test!
So, when Chaudry questions whether Blue is unconsciously responsible for Scarlet’s many injuries … Blue takes it personally.
Actually, I think I would have taken it personally too, under the circumstances.
His hand stole towards the biscuit barrel and he bit into another biscuit.
How to write all that in a matter befitting an official Spectrum Medical report? It shouldn’t be beyond me… It’s just a case of … obscuring a few facts, and omitting most of the rest…
He sighed and started typing… it was going to be a long night.
If I am pressed to say why I loved him, I feel it can only be explained by replying: ‘Because it was him; because it was me.
(Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592)
He had been putting it off for too long now. He’d found countless excuses to avoid doing it – but his conscience was needling him to get it sorted. He wandered through the corridors of Cloudbase nodding at passing staff and chatting for a few moments with colleagues. Every step took him closer to his destination and – how ever silly it was – he was nervous.
He stopped before the familiar door and pressed the bell.
“Come in,” the occupant’s distant voice called, “it’s not on the lock…”
Captain Blue pressed the button and the door slid open just as Captain Scarlet emerged from his bathroom.
“Oh hi, Adam, I thought it was Dianne… we’re going to see the base movie, after we’ve eaten – apparently, as its one of her favourites I have to sit through it… again.”
“What is it?” Blue asked thankfully accepting another delay.
“Gone with the Wind…. If you’ve nothing better to do you’re welcome to join us.”
“Nice of you to offer, but I’m sure you’d be happier if I declined.”
“Well,” Scarlet grinned, “I did rather rely on it… but if you want to…”
“No - thanks. Paul, I need to talk to you – about something important. But if you’re in a hurry maybe now isn’t a good time?”
Scarlet glanced at his wall clock. “Hey, it’s earlier than I thought. I’ve another forty minutes, easy… Dianne is bound to be late … what can I do for you, Adam?”
Scarlet indicated a seat, but the American shook his head. He was definitely ill-at-ease and Scarlet could guess why. Repressing a smile he sat down and waited for his friend to begin.
“Paul, I have to apologise…”
“I know.” Blue stopped and looked quizzically at his friend. Scarlet smiled. “You’re here to confess to pinching my whisky,” he explained, with a sardonic smile.
“Well, yes, I am – as well. I mean I did take it. I’m sorry. I will replace it, Paul.”
“No sweat, Blue-boy. I doubt it did you any good, but you’re welcome to it.”
“Actually, in a roundabout way, it did do me good,” Blue mumbled cryptically.
He paced the room, lost in thought. Scarlet waited rather impatiently and then said, “Well, if that is it?”
“No, no it isn’t. I am sorry, Paul, but this isn’t easy for me.”
Scarlet waited again. “Is it about the medical board?” he prompted. “I told it was a done deal – Fawn wound things up like a train, didn’t he? ‘We are here, because we have to be – thank you for coming. I find there is no case to answer – goodbye!’ You can see where he gets his bedside manner from, can’t you?” He threw back his head and roared with laughter. As he calmed down he could see Blue’s strained smile. “Hey, you’re not still harping on about that stupid theory of yours? No one imagines you can’t cope, Blue-boy – I should think that’s perfectly clear by now. If you still want to see what I wrote, you only have to ask. I said you could, before I wrote it and I’ve nothing to hide. I haven’t printed it out yet – but if you give me a minute…”
“No, it isn’t that either – exactly.”
“Adam, much as I enjoy your company, I’m supposed to be getting ready…”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“You’ve said that already,” Scarlet reminded him. “Look – why don’t you start at the beginning of what you need to say, go on to the end and then stop,” he suggested.
Blue’s restless pacing ceased and he drew himself up to his considerable height, drawing a deep breath. Looking with unseeing eyes at Scarlet’s red tunic on the back of the door, he said:
“Paul, ever since you recovered from the incident at the Car-Vu, I’ve been acting as … a spy… for Spectrum. Reporting back on your movements and your actions – especially on missions….” He drew a breath.
Blue spun round and stared at his friend. “You know? Who told you?”
“Nobody had to tell me.” Scarlet sighed and stood up, running his fingers through his short, black hair. “I expected it. If I was the colonel, I wouldn’t have trusted me either, to be honest. I was watching for trails and observers – but I never saw any. Now, I know all of our staff are good, but I also know that I’m better. If I didn’t see them it was because, they were either not there to be seen, or so obvious I was missing them. Who was the one person whose constant presence I took for granted? You. Once I had come to that conclusion it was obvious.”
Blue was speechless. After several minutes he said slowly, “But, if you knew, why did you continue to agree to work with me?”
“Because I trust you. If they wanted someone to report back on me, I couldn’t have asked for a better spokesman than you. I knew you would judge me fairly, and do everything you could, to put whatever I did in a good light – because you trusted me. Like I said the other day, Adam, I owe you for more than I can ever begin to thank you for. I really thought, after the debacle with the Asian Director-General, that they would, at the least, remove me from active duty. It could be argued that my ramming the jet where and how I did, was the cause of the D-G’s plane crash. That they never did accuse me of it could only be because you convinced them I was acting in good faith.”
“But I was abusing your trust – all the times we worked together…”
“No, you were doing your duty, and I wouldn’t expect any different of you.” Scarlet smiled. “Besides, it meant you always wrote the mission reports… both of them – the ones I saw and the ones the colonel got.”
Blue flushed. “You should know: I went to see the colonel, after I’d spoken to Doctor Fawn and been told to go on this vacation , and I told him – the colonel, I mean - what I should have said months ago – that I’m prepared to resign rather than continued to perform that particular duty,” Blue said stiffly. “I was rather surprised when he merely said he was about to bring it all to a conclusion anyway and that SI had been told to back off… so, maybe I’ve convinced them of what they should have known all along – that you are no longer a Mysteron, pose no threat and are the best agent in Spectrum. “ Blue glanced at Scarlet, whose benign expression was encouraging, and added, with some diffidence, “Even though I’m going to remain in Spectrum, I’ll understand if you want to be assigned another partner…”
“Over my all-too-frequently dead body,” Scarlet snapped. “I sweated blood over that submission – I wouldn’t have done that if I wanted another partner – now would I? If I have any clout with anyone, things will get back to normal as soon as you get back from your fortnight’s leave. We have work to do, Captain Blue, and I can’t be wasting my time breaking in a new partner…”
Blue’s smile spread slowly to his eyes and he reached to accept the outstretched hand of his friend.
“Paul, I… that is…”
“Yeah, I know,” Scarlet smiled, “but that’s what friends are for, Adam.” He clapped Blue’s broad shoulder with his free hand. “Now, charming though your company is – I think I’d prefer to spend my off duty hours with a leggy red-head…”
“I’m out of here…” Blue agreed. He walked to the door with a whole new spring in his step. “I’ve some packing to finish, anyway,” he smiled.
Scarlet called after him, “Hey – have a nice time on your holiday. Did you decide where you were going in the end?”
Blue‘s smile broadened to a grin. “Hawaii,” he confided. “Karen’s never been before…”
A week later, a personalised digital postcard arrived in the mailboxes of both the Amber Room and the Officers’ Lounge.
The message, jointly written by the senders said:
Sun, sand, surf: Hawaii is better than Paradise. What more could anyone want?
Well, there’s the sex and the shopping, of course!!! (Honestly, I do worry about this man sometimes…)
Girls - this place is wonderful! We both agree that we may never come back to work…
Love K & A
Well over a year or so ago now - on the late-lamented Spectrum HQ Forum Mk 1 – there was a comment made, by JamieB, that it would be nice to read a fan-fic that looked at what happened in the TV series from the first-person points of view of Captains Scarlet and Blue.
I quite agreed. I even started to write it for my own amusement. It was my ‘comfort story’ – when I got stuck on anything else, I wrote some more of this until the writer’s block took itself off somewhere else in high dudgeon.
When I decided it might be made suitable for general viewing I had to alter it enormously. This is what it has morphed into. There has been as much again weeded out and many changes in the way it is constructed and presented. There was a ‘back-story’ concerning Captain Blue’s adventures in the WAS which, whilst I enjoyed writing it, really did not need to be included. Instead, I tried to read between the lines concerning Captain Scarlet’s ‘Mysteronisation’ and describe how the incidents surrounding that momentous event impacted on him and his friend.
It seemed to me that a story written about a close friendship between two members of the same sex is liable to get labelled ‘slash’ – however unfairly - so I introduced Symphony as a third point of view to balance the equation. Her arrival in the story necessitated another major re-write as I became involved in examining the developing relationship between her and Captain Blue. I have tried to remain consistent with what I have written about them in the past, but the nature of their relationship as I have written it is simply my personal view; there is nothing anywhere in the Captain Scarlet canon - or even possibly in the fanon – to support my imaginings. Aspects of previous stories I’d written seemed to fit into the overall scenario and in some cases ideas were ‘resurrected’ and reworked from deleted scenes from those original stories.
I’ve always wanted to give an explanation as to why Symphony’s hair suddenly went from long and bouffant to short and neat – I wrote that part of the story several years ago – so that’s why the incident is included here. If you think it unlikely she would have gone to such lengths in a fit of pique – I refer you to the story of Sarah, First Duchess of Marlborough (1660 -1744) who had her portrait painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, looking suitably contrite and dishevelled after she had cut off her long hair in a fit of the ‘spleen’. She is shown holding the severed tresses in her hands. (The portrait is currently in the possession of Earl Spencer at Althorp, Northamptonshire, as far as I have been able to ascertain. It is reproduced in ‘Marlborough’ by Correlli Barnett, Eyre Methuen Limited, London, 1974.)
The characters from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™ belong to the business conglomerate Carlton International. They were initially the creations of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson – to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for the many years of enjoyment their work has given me.
The additional members of the Svenson family were the creation of Chris Bishop, and the General and Mrs Metcalfe are by Mary J Rudy. I have built on their initial inspiration to suit my stories, and I acknowledge my debt to them for allowing me to do so. Amanda Wainwright was another of Chris’s creations – but her husband, Sam is my own invention, as are Blue’s and Symphony’s grandparents.
Captain Brown was a character from the first episode of the TV series, about whom nothing was known. I have chosen to use the name given in the Captain Scarlet comics published in the 1990s- and the general background given for him, so far as it provides an inexperienced field officer.
The marvellous composite pictures of Captain Blue and Symphony disporting themselves in Hawaii were created by Caroline Smith. Some of you might recognise the picture of Symphony as that used in the SIG calendar for 2005, but the one of Captain Blue is previously unseen – except by a select few!
I cannot find out anything much about the WAS – World Aeronautical Society – so I have made it up… if anyone knows different, I’d be happy to hear from them!
My thanks go to Chris Bishop for her usual patience and support in the face of my unrelenting pessimism that the story would ever (a) be finished and (b) be good enough to be posted on her wonderful website. Thanks are also due to Hazel Köhler and Caroline Smith for their kindness in beta-reading my prose and frequent encouragement of the ‘don’t be so stupid’ variety! And finally, my grateful thanks to JamieB – for agreeing to let me use her idea.
Any errors in the text are mine.
I’ve had great fun with the story over the months… I only hope you have enjoyed reading it. Thank you.
References in this story are to the following:
1. ‘The Inquisition’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
2. Events and dialogue taken from ‘Winged Assassin’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
3. ‘Renegade Rocket’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons ™
4. ‘Place of the Angels’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons ™
5. The Gift of Oneself by Marion Woods. Posted 3 December 2002
6. ‘Shadow of Fear’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
7. ‘Manhunt’ TV episode of ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
8. ‘Renegade Rocket’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
9. ‘Place of the Angels’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
10. ‘Flight to Atlantica’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
11. ‘Triple Cross’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
12. ‘Flight to Atlantica’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™
13. ‘The Inquisition’ TV episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™