The Passengers 

A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story

 

By Marion Woods

 

 

O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother!

(Hamlet)

 

 

Chapter One:

 

In which Captain Blue goes to bed and Captain Scarlet wakes up with a headache.

 

        It was a wet and windy autumnal day when the heavy rain-soaked clouds seem to lie on the landscape like a blanket.   The sleek, red Spectrum Saloon Car drove down the tree-lined drive with its headlights on and turned left with a squeal of tyres, throwing up a fountain of mud as it pulled away.

        Captain Blue sniffed dejectedly as it disappeared from view. He was not at all sure this was a good idea but he hadn’t felt fit enough to argue any further.  Besides, once Scarlet believed he had found the solution to a problem he never listened to anyone’s objections anyway, so he might as well have saved his breath. He cast a furtive glance at his companion.

        Mary Metcalfe sighed and squared her shoulders as if facing up to a difficult task. “Well, there he goes,” she said, adding the acid observation that, “his driving doesn’t improve much, does it?”  She looked up at the man beside her.  She was used to being made to feel small and slight beside her husband and son; Adam was not that much bigger than Paul,  yet there was something about the mild mannered American that made him appear to ‘tower’ over people.  Privately, she thought of him as ‘the last of the Vikings’ – a fact that, if she had but known it, would have both amused and flattered the man at her side. Not that he was in any way menacing, she thought; a longship of marauding Adams would’ve more likely asked politely if they could borrow the library books, than have pillaged the monasteries and raped all the women. And you’d be hard pressed to find a more imperturbable person than Adam Svenson.

        Right now, however, she sensed he still had doubts about the wisdom of her son’s arrangements.   She smiled up at his pale face and said brightly, “Let’s get you sorted out, shall we?”

        “I’m all right really, Mrs. Metcalfe,” Blue said thickly.  “I don’t know why I let Paul talk me into this…”

        “I’d say it was because, if you are feeling as bad as you look, you must feel dreadful,” she said with a chastening glance.

        “Gee thanks,” he muttered.  He knew her well enough to know that she was not going to let him get away with anything much.

        “I’ll go and find you some pyjamas and you can go and get some sleep in the guest room.  Then, maybe when the General gets home you’ll feel well enough to join us for dinner.  I’ve made a chicken casserole, so it shouldn’t be too rich for you.”

        “I don’t need to sleep, Mrs. Metcalfe…” he began to protest.

        Mary snapped into maternal mode, “You have a temperature of 102; you should be going straight back to Cloudbase!  Just because you’re staying here instead, you needn’t think you’ll get off any easier! You are going to bed, Adam Svenson, if I have to tuck you in myself.” She turned smartly on her heel and waited for him to lead the way back into the house and across the hall to the heavy oak staircase. She watched him climb the first steps and reminded him, “First door on the right, Adam dear.”

        At the top of the stairs, he pushed open the door and stepped inside with a fatalistic sigh.  The room was comfortably furnished and even in its unmade state the bed looked inviting to his heavy eyes. He heard her step behind him and moved further in to allow her access.  Suddenly he sneezed violently, which started him coughing and aggravated his hot, sore throat.

        Mrs. Metcalfe watched compassionately as he sagged under the onslaught, and said, “Sit down whilst I make the bed.” She laid her hand against his hot forehead and frowned.  “The pills I gave you should start working soon and bring that fever down.”

        She darted off to fetch the bed linen, returning with cool white cotton sheets and a fresh green checked duvet cover and pillow case.  Swiftly she made the bed and went to fetch a pair of Paul’s pyjamas.  She selected an Arsenal shirt and shorts and went back to the room where her guest was already half asleep in his chair. With a concerned smile she began to unzip the pale blue tunic.

        He shot awake and brushed her hands away with rather more force than he intended.  She backed off and ordered crisply, “Bed, young man – now,” before stooping to unzip and pull off the pale blue leather boots. Then, out of respect for his sense of decorum, she left the room again.

        Fighting his tiredness, Blue undressed, pulling on the soccer shirt and shorts and almost falling into the bed.  Mrs. Metcalfe returned to slide a hot water bottle by his feet and then she collected his uniform ‘to remove temptation’.  She glanced at her patient from the doorway; he was already asleep. These boys push themselves too hard, she thought as she closed the door quietly and went back downstairs.

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Scarlet drove back to the motorway and joined the traffic heading for the coast.  He activated the navigation computer and then the radio. It was good to drive – Blue so often did the driving, even when it was ‘on the wrong side of the road’.  Scarlet smiled; he enjoyed provoking Blue quite as much as Blue enjoyed teasing him.  Now he had to make up for lost time and get to Portsmouth for the rendezvous. He wondered if there was time to divert and collect another officer as back-up before he met the frigate – it would have to be a local man, because with Magenta away on his long-deferred leave and Blue ill, Cloudbase would be stretched to cover all essential senior posts.  It wasn’t as if the mission actually needed two of them, although he thought he understood why the Colonel had been reluctant to send him alone.  It wouldn’t matter as long as he got the job done, and asking for a replacement for Blue would only bring his partner’s absence to the Colonel’s attention – which was not a good idea – so it was probably best not to make the request at all.  He’d have to wing it.

        The thought crossed his mind that he ought to let at least Dr. Fawn know that Blue was hors de combat, but if he did that, and the Colonel found out, he would doubtless censure them both, which would be unfair.  When they had left Cloudbase, almost two days ago, Blue had only had a headache.  It had developed quickly into a heavy cold and sore throat and so, despite his friend’s objections, Scarlet had diverted to his parents’ home outside Winchester and left his partner to his mother’s ministrations with the promise that he would collect him on his way back.  A few days of Mum’s brand of TLC will sort him out a treat, Scarlet grinned. 

        He began to sing along with the current pop sensation on the radio, flipped off the speed inhibitor and charged to the outside lane, flooring the accelerator and sailing past the other cars as if they were standing still.

 

        Captain Scarlet turned the radio off as he turned into the gates of Portsmouth’s naval dockyard and showed his Spectrum pass to the guard.

        “I am here to rendezvous with a frigate – the, eh… the Thackeray.  No,” he snapped his fingers, “sorry, my mistake – the Makepeace…as in William Makepeace Thackeray?” The allusion went over the guard’s head, and with a slight shrug he said, “Oh, never mind.”

        At Scarlet’s request the bemused guard gave him instructions to get to the right area of the sprawling docks, but denied any knowledge of the arrival of the Spectrum Maximum Security Vehicle Scarlet expected to meet him.  The man did admit helpfully that he’d only been on duty for half an hour, so the MSV might be somewhere in the compound already.  Then he watched with interest as the Captain drove slowly through the gates.  Scarlet glanced at the dashboard clock.   “Still enough time,” he muttered as he edged the SSC through the narrow gap between a lorry and a jeep which appeared to have been abandoned by its occupants.

            It took him longer than he expected to find the correct jetty, as they all looked pretty similar apart from the numbers emblazoned on their walls in white paint.  On reaching the correct dockside berth he pulled over and climbed out of the SSC.  The area was in an older part of the docks complex – with brick buildings built around a tarmac’d rectangle that stretched out into the harbour in a long, wide jetty.  It was in a relatively quiet area of the docks, as so many of the ships used the newer, container-suitable warehouses, with their automatic unloading gear and the wider access for the transport lorries.

        It was with a sense of some relief he saw that the frigate was still approaching the harbour, delayed, he supposed, by the bad weather. The sun was struggling to get through the grey sky, and bright shafts of light filtered through the gaps between the heavy clouds. Away over the water he could see the rods of rain moving towards the land with the gusting wind.  He was thankful he wasn’t out in that swell. He watched as the ship manoeuvred itself to the jetty and, with a dull thud, tied up alongside. 

        Several ratings lowered a gangplank and two naval officers walked onto the deck, and having seen him, held a quick conference before they descended to the dock.  He met them at the foot of the gangplank and extended his hand with his Spectrum identification in it.

        The officers saluted smartly and the senior man said, “Captain Scarlet, I am Commander Wetherby and this is my second in command, Lieutenant Philips. Pleased to meet you, sir.

        “Likewise, Commander, I hope your trip was uneventful?” Scarlet acknowledged the salute.

        “Yes, sir,” Wetherby confirmed adding, “Although it was a little rough for our passenger.”

        “How is your passenger?”

        “He is safe and well, Captain, if a little green around the gills.” Wetherby glanced around the dock, “I understood we were to be met by two Spectrum officers with a security vehicle.  My instructions were quite specific about handing over my passenger.”

        Scarlet grimaced. “Yes, that was the plan, but unforeseen circumstances have meant I had to come alone. I need to check with our local base as to the whereabouts of the MSV, Commander.  It may have gone to the wrong place; these docks are a real warren for the uninitiated.” He smiled reassuringly. “I am perfectly happy for you to check with your senior officers about handing your passenger over to me and it will suit me as well if you keep him on board until I do track down the MSV.”

        Wetherby nodded, “Gladly Captain.  Would you care to come on board and meet the passenger?  Once you have spoken to your people, of course.”

        “Thank you, Commander.  Just as long as the frigate stays tied up, I’d be happy to go on board.  I can assure you I’d be as green as your passenger if we left the harbour!”

        Wetherby gave a friendly smile, as Scarlet turned away slightly and activated his cap mic.  But before he had time to draw breath, Wetherby struck.  He delivered a karate blow to the Spectrum officer’s neck, which crumpled Scarlet like a collapsed bellows.

        “Sorry, Captain,” Wetherby muttered to the heap at his feet, then, turning to Lieutenant Philips, he said, “Take him over to warehouse six and find somewhere to leave him.  He’s not to be unduly hurt, although you had better bind him, these Spectrum guys have a reputation for turning up like bad pennies – this one in particular.  We’ll need his uniform, but you’d better make sure he doesn’t freeze to death.”  Wetherby surveyed the dark skies. “It doesn’t look as if we’re in for a heat wave, Roddy.”

        Philips nodded and moved to the unconscious form of Captain Scarlet.  He dragged him across the wet dockside into the nearest warehouse and finding a forklift truck he dumped the body on it, covering it with sacking before he drove across the dockyard to a warehouse, some distance from the Makepeace.

        Wetherby glanced around, but there was no-one lingering about in this bad weather, even the ratings had gone back inside the ship. He stared at the SSC, considering what to do with it.  As if he had only a casual interest in the vehicle, he sauntered over to examine it, careful not to touch it in case he set off an alarm.  The machine was not locked and the winking light on the dashboard suggested the electronic ignition was in a standby mode.  Luckily, Captain Scarlet had not been worried enough to disable the vehicle when he’d left it to meet the ship.  Perhaps they could make use of it – especially as the expected MSV hadn’t materialised.

        When Philips came back, carrying the bright red tunic, the black polo necked sweater, red boots and radio cap, he took them from him and gave crisp orders.

        “Let’s just hope the security guard at the main gate doesn’t remember too clearly what the Spectrum agent who arrived this afternoon looked like.”

        “Yes, Commander.”  Philips looked longingly at the sleek red car.  “Can we make use of that ourselves?  Arriving in a Spectrum saloon would add authenticity.”

        “We’re supposed to be arriving in an MSV, wherever the blasted thing has got to.”

        “Scarlet said there had been a change of plan, so perhaps we could say the same and use the car instead.  If the MSV turns up now we could be in trouble.”

        Wetherby pondered for a moment, “You might be right, it certainly made it much easier that we only had to deal with one Spectrum officer.  I wonder what happened to the other one? Let’s see who fits this uniform best and then we’ll try the motor.  Did he have keys?  No, I guessed that light on the dashboard meant a password access to the starter motor and as luck would have it our trusting friend has left it in standby.”  He changed his cap for Scarlet’s and pulled a face.  “What do you think, Rod, would I pass as a Spectrum officer?”

        “If you don’t mind me saying, the cap is a trifle on the small side, Commander, and the Captain’s security pass quite definitely shows a dark haired man.”

        “You just want to drive the fast car,” Wetherby laughed, and took the cap off, shivering in the cold wind.  “Let’s get back on board and discuss events with our passenger.”

 

-o0o-

 

        “Don’t interfere, Mary,” General Sir Charles Metcalfe advised his wife, without much hope of being listened to.  They were sitting in the lounge after dinner.  Captain Blue had not joined them; he’d been asleep when she went to fetch him so she’d left him.

        “I’m not going to interfere,” his wife replied stoutly. “That boy is sick and I’m going to ring his mother and tell her – that’s all.  Good heavens, Charles, if Paul was lying ill somewhere, I hope someone would ring me.”

        “You know from what little Paul has told us, that Adam isn’t all that close to his family,” Charles reasoned.  “He might not want to see his mother.”

        “Nonsense, Charles.  Paul said it’s his father he doesn’t see eye to eye with, he never mentioned his mother.  She seemed a very sensible woman that time we met her at Spectrum’s commissioning ceremony.  Surely if Adam had any problems with her, she wouldn’t have been there either – his father didn’t go, remember?  Besides, every boy wants to see his mother – especially when he’s ill.”

        “Mary, that ‘boy’ is a senior field officer with Spectrum; he’s in his thirties and he hardly qualifies as a ‘boy’ at all.”

        “Don’t split hairs, Charles.  A boy’s a boy all his life.”

        General Metcalfe shook his head in defeat; he could never stop Mary from nurturing any of the waifs and strays she encountered.  He contented himself with muttering rebelliously, “The saying is: ‘a son’s a son all his life’ and if I’m not mistaken it refers specifically to marriages.”

        Ignoring him, she put down the dark blue index book she’d been consulting, and picked up the phone handset with a determined frown.

        “Is that Paul’s address book?” The General was horrified.

        “Where else would I get the Svenson family’s home number?” she asked reasonably.

        “Mary, he’ll be livid,” her husband warned.

        “Don’t see why he should be,” she retorted, “I’m not going to ring all his old girlfriends and he need never know – unless you tell him, Charles.”  She punched in the number and pointed the handset at the video phone on the wall.  The screen flickered into life and was answered by a blond-haired man, a younger version of Captain Blue.  “Good evening,” Mary began, “May I speak to Mrs. Svenson, please?”

        “May I ask who is calling?” The young man’s voice even sounded like Blue’s.

        “I am Mrs. Mary Metcalfe – from Winchester in England.  We met once, several years ago now, at an …official ceremony.”

        “Please hold the line, Mrs. Metcarve; I’ll get her for you.” The face disappeared and they heard him shout, “Mom, phone – Mrs. Metcarve – from England!”

        “Metcarve?” said a woman’s voice in some doubt and then as recognition dawned, she added, “Do you mean Metcaff, as in Adam’s friend Colonel Metcaff?”

        “Could well be.”

        “David, you’re useless.”  When Sarah Svenson appeared on the screen she gave a bright smile as she recognised the dark-haired woman on the other end of the line. “Mrs. Metcalfe, this is an unexpected pleasure.”

        “Hello, Mrs. Svenson, it is nice to talk to you again.  Please forgive the intrusion, but I wondered if you’d heard the news about Adam?”

        “Adam? Is he all right?  I haven’t spoken to him now for … must be nearly three weeks.”

        “He’s in no danger, but he is here with us as he has an awful bout of ‘flu – a temperature, coughing, headaches, sore throat…”

        “Everything Adam gets affects his throat,” Mrs. Svenson confided. “We had his tonsils removed when he was a kid, but he still got sore throats.”

        “That can be the way of it, can’t it?  My nephew always gets chest infections.”

        “You say he’s with you and not …at his base?”

        “He was working locally with my son when he fell ill.  Paul brought him here to recuperate.”

        “That is kind of you, Mrs. Metcalfe.”

        “Oh, call me Mary, please; I feel we should know each other well by now, as our boys are such good friends.”

        Mrs. Svenson smiled a little sadly. “I am hardly ever permitted to meet Adam’s friends since he started his …latest job,” she admitted, “although I have met your son a couple of times.  He even came to dinner once.”

        “Well, I wanted to extend an invitation to you, if you wished, to come across and see him.  We have plenty of room and it would give me great pleasure to have you visit us here,” Mary smiled. “To be honest, I’ve been hoping for a reason to get in touch, I’m just sorry it has to be Adam’s ill-health that provides the excuse.”

        “How very kind of you, I would like that very much…Mary.  I so rarely get Adam to myself these days.  If it’s not inconvenient I could arrive tomorrow-”

        “If you need to check the flight times…” Mary began.

        Sarah smiled and shook her fair head. “No, John can let me have me the private jet for once. I don’t use it very often.”

        Mary had difficulty hiding her surprise; she’d forgotten just how wealthy Paul had said Adam’s family were.  She covered her confusion by giving detailed directions to their house and agreeing meekly that the company helicopter could land in the field at the end of the gardens.

        As she said goodbye and closed the video link, General Metcalfe said, “Now you’ve done it. Don’t ask me to help you explain to him why you think it should be any of your business.”

        His wife glared thoughtfully at him, but gave no response.

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Scarlet became aware of the cold.  His head was aching and his shoulder throbbed in time with his heartbeat. He swallowed and licked his dry lips.  Struggling, he managed to sit up and the sacking which covered his head and upper torso slipped away.  As he waited until his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could hear the incessant drumming of heavy rain on a metal roof far above him. Finally he was able to look around.  Everywhere were crates and boxes covered with tarpaulins and plastic sheeting.  He could hear nothing suggestive of human occupation.  He shook his head to clear his mind and struggled to free his hands, but they were closely bound behind his back.

        “Trust a sailor to know how to tie a good knot,” he muttered.  He squirmed upright against a pile of crates and looked down at his stockinged feet, thankful they had at least left him his trousers.

        First he needed to get his hands free, but it wouldn’t be easy in the gloom to find anything suitably sharp to use as a cutting edge.  He didn’t even know how long he’d been unconscious, although experience told him that his retrometabolism would mean it was less time than normal.  He shivered again and started to walk around his prison.  It was a warehouse, that much was obvious, and it was on land – it was too big for the frigate’s hold and it wasn’t moving.  He found the main doors, which were locked and there was no way of opening them from the inside that he could see – especially when your hands were tied behind your back.  He sat down again and squirmed about in an attempt to bring his hands to the front of his body.  Countless escapers in the movies had made it look easy, and he knew Harmony Angel could do it – she’d demonstrated the fact in a training session once.  He, however, could not – the way his hands were bound was restricting his movement too much.

        He had to get help, there was no other choice.  If the renegade naval officers were Mysterons and had kidnapped their passenger, it was likely to cause an international incident of major proportions.  He stopped and considered for a moment.  He had experienced none of the nausea that he associated with the presence of Mysteron agents, when he was speaking to Wetherby and Philips.  Sometimes the reaction was less violent than others, but there had been nothing at all, even though he had been close enough for Wetherby to strike him.  If they were not Mysterons but had still kidnapped their passenger – on whose orders had it been:  the World Navy, the British Government, European politicians?  The possibilities were almost endless.

        Scarlet sighed and hunched his shoulders against the cold. Why did Blue have to get ‘flu now?   He was going to have fun explaining this to Colonel White.   Why hadn’t he made contact with the local base and had someone meet him here with the MSV?

        Filling his lungs to capacity, he threw back his head and yelled at the top of his voice, “I’M A SPECTRUM AGENT – GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

 

 

Chapter Two:

 

In which Captain Scarlet goes directly to gaol and Captain Blue is driven to distraction

 

        On Cloudbase the atmosphere was tense.  Colonel White was fuming and everyone was coming in for the backlash.  Captain Scarlet could not be contacted and the fact that Captain Blue had also vanished made this serious.

        Lieutenant Green waited impatiently for the reports he needed to come in from the terrestrial bases.  London reported that the two Captains had left on time yesterday in an SSC.  Portsmouth confirmed speaking to Captain Blue but they had not been contacted again, as they’d expected to be, to finalise the rendezvous between the officers and the MSV. Consequently the MSV was still at the base awaiting instructions.  Finally, the frigate Makepeace reported it had arrived at Portsmouth and so far had had no contact with the Spectrum Agents.  Their passenger was still aboard and getting annoyed. So would Spectrum kindly get their act together and sort out the details of the transfer and safety of the VIP.  He handed them over the Colonel White and waited for the explosion.

        White read the reports with mounting concern.  He felt sure that Captain Blue – at the very least – would have reported back at the expected intervals, unless circumstances prevented him from doing so.  Whatever had prevented Scarlet and Blue from completing their mission, it was now too dangerous to follow the original plan.  He had prepared a backup scheme – as he always did whenever possible – and experience told him now was the time to implement it.

        A glance at his international time map showed him it was the very early hours of the morning in England, yet as pressed for time as he was, he opened a secure channel on his desk panel and dialled a mobile phone number.  The call was answered by a bleary-sounding General Metcalfe and after a brusque apology for disturbing him, White requested use of the maximum security facility at the important WAAF base near Winchester, where the General was currently in command. General Metcalfe, although struggling to wake up properly, was happy to oblige and promised to inform his security staff first thing in the morning.  As he broke the connection, the irony of the situation was not lost on Colonel White. 

He glanced towards his young communications officer and said crisply, “Get me Captain Grey and Captain Ochre.”

        “Yes, sir.”  Green spoke into the intercom mic and reported, “They have acknowledged the order, sir, they’re on their way up.”

        “Which of the Angel pilots are on standby?”

        “Melody is in Angel One, and Rhapsody and Symphony are on standby, sir.  Rhapsody did the previous stint in Angel One,” Green volunteered.

        “It would have to be those two, wouldn’t it?” White snapped cryptically. He sighed, “I wonder if I can trust the pair of them to do as I order and not go gallivanting about looking for those two idiots instead?”

        “Sir?”

        “Never you mind, Lieutenant.  Have the standby Angels report here too, and get the off-duty pilots ready to take on extra duties.”

        Green acknowledged the order, and as he turned away, he caught his commander’s murmured aside, “I will have their commissions for this if they don’t have cast-iron excuses.”  The young Lieutenant understood the Colonel better than anyone, and he heard the note of concern in the gruff voice.  He was not about to comment on it, however.

        Grey and Ochre arrived, slightly out of breath, and snapped to attention before the high circular desk.  White looked up with cold eyes and didn’t even set them at ease. “I am afraid I have an emergency mission for you, gentlemen.”

        ”You want us to find Blue and Scarlet?” Ochre interrupted unwisely.

        “I do not!  Wherever they have got to, they will have to take care of themselves. One of you is to go to Spectrum Portsmouth and collect an MSV.  You will proceed to the dockyards and rendezvous with the British frigate Makepeace.  From there you will escort a VIP to the Maximum Security Building at the WAAF base at Winchester. The other one will go to London and collect the British Foreign Secretary and the European Minister for Foreign Affairs and deliver them to the same place.  You will protect the three of them for as long as their conference takes, and then you will take the British and European ministers back to London and the VIP back to the Makepeace.”

        “Yes sir,” the officers acknowledged their orders with some surprise.

        Rhapsody and Symphony Angels entered the Control Room and joined the two men before the desk.

        “Right, Rhapsody, you will go to London with Captain Ochre, and Symphony, you will go to Portsmouth with Captain Grey.”  White looked at his personnel, “And should you encounter Captains Blue and Scarlet on your journeys they are to be treated as hostile and restrained.”

        “Sir?” Rhapsody gasped, looking from one man to another in search of enlightenment.

        “Further instructions will be relayed to you via secure channel B6 once you are under way,” White said. “Dismissed.”

        “But Colonel, why are Blue and Scarlet to be considered hostile?” Rhapsody persisted, standing her ground.

        White looked up and for once his gaze did not soften as he studied the faces of his Angel pilots.  “Whatever they are doing, they should keep me informed.  They’ve really gone too far this time and I will not tolerate such insubordination from anyone.   If they were not hostile when they left here, they will discover just how hostile I can be on their return,” he growled.   “Dismissed, and get a move on!”

        For once it was Symphony who dragged Rhapsody away from confrontation and the pair followed Grey and Ochre out of the room, whispering agitatedly.

 

-o0o-

 

        Scarlet’s voice had become little more than a croak as he kicked with real frustration at the metal doors of the warehouse once more.  He had spent what seemed like hours yelling and kicking and trying to attract attention.  He was cold, hungry and very, very angry – more with himself than anything.  He aimed one more kick at the door and went to sit on a crate to try to think what else he could do.  He had not been there for very long, but was still feeling rather sorry for himself, when he heard faint voices outside. He leapt up and kicked at the door, shouting as loud as he could.  He heard the rattle of keys and backed away.

        “All right chum, let’s be having you.”  A portly, middle-aged Military Policeman stepped inside, switched on the light switch and frowned at the dishevelled man with unfriendly eyes.

        “Thank goodness, I’ve been here hours,” Scarlet said reproachfully. He turned his back, displaying his bound hands.  “Just untie me and I’ll contact my people.”

        “Now, what makes you think we’ll be doing that in a hurry?  Your friends stitched you up good and proper and you might as well accept it now.  You’re under arrest, my lad.”

        “What are you talking about?”

        “We had an anonymous tip-off that one of the gang who have using fake Spectrum security passes to gain money by deception, was tied up in here.  As you seem to be the only person here and you are definitely tied up, I’m guessing it’s you.  So much for honour amongst thieves, eh?”

        “I’m not a thief!  I’m Captain Scarlet of Spectrum.”

        “And I’m Lord Lucan.  Come on, Sunny-Jim, you can tell it to the officers at the barracks station…”

        “Oh for crying out loud…”

-o0o-

 

        The SvenCorp helicopter, with its distinctive yellow and blue livery, landed in the field at the end of the Metcalfes’ garden far earlier than expected, causing some consternation in the house as the General hoped to have left before the arrival of their guest.  Mary dragged her husband out into the garden, and they watched as a tall, slender woman, with short, wavy, light brown hair and bright, grey eyes set in an angular face, descended from the helicopter.  She was dressed in a flawlessly tailored dress and jacket; she held a small clutch bag in her hand, adorned with a selection of jewelled rings.  A well-dressed young man, loaded down with matching suitcases, clambered out after her. Stepping daintily over the tussocks of grass, in unsuitable sling-back shoes, Sarah navigated the uneven ground to the path.

        Momentarily, Mary felt an overwhelming sense of inferiority before such fashionable elegance; she wished she had chosen to wear something other than her comfortable slacks and M&S top.  She became acutely aware that she had postponed her regular hair cut for too long and that she was wearing no make-up.  But the feeling vanished as Sarah Svenson gave her hosts one of the most dazzling smiles either had ever witnessed.  It transformed her rather severe face into one of undoubted beauty.

        Charles Metcalfe opened the gate in the hedge and extended his hand. “Welcome to Winchester, Mrs. Svenson,” he said, basking in the warmth of her smile once more.

        “Sarah, please call me Sarah.”

        Mary Metcalfe stepped forward and embraced the younger woman with a smile, “Welcome to our home, Sarah.  It is a delight to have you here.”

        “Is Adam all right?”

        “Much better than he was.  I think he was exhausted more than anything.  He slept through until this morning but he’s eaten a light breakfast.  He’s had a shower and gone back to bed for the moment, but I’m sure he’ll be bucked up to see you.”

        “Well, that would be an improvement,” she added with a mischievous smile. “Have you told him I’m coming?  Because his usual reaction is an exasperated – Oh Mother!” she laughed gaily.

        The Metcalfes exchanged glances behind Sarah’s back as they ushered her towards the front door.  Halfway across the lawn, she stood and took in the venerable building with its well-tended gardens.  “What a beautiful, picturesque house,” she smiled at her hosts.  “Your son’s description of it as ‘a rambling old pile of bricks’ really doesn’t do it justice.”

        Charles, who was very proud of his family’s home, hissed, “Picturesque? I don’t suppose she could have thought of anything more offensive to say, even if she’d thought about it with both hands, for a fortnight.”

        Mary gave him a sharp glance. “You’re determined to make this visit a disaster, aren’t you?  Don’t be so hard on the woman, Charles; in fact, she was less rude about it than Paul, and she probably doesn’t mean anything by it.   She’s Adam’s mother when all is said and done, and he’s a model of good behaviour.”

        “Yes, and Paul always says he’s the black sheep of his family,” he reminded her with a wry smile.  “Anyway, I have to go to work, so I won’t be here for long.  As I told you,” he reminded her, “you are on your own with this one.”

        “Gee, thanks,” Mary muttered, in unconscious imitation of her invalid guest.

 

-o0o-

 

        In the interview room of the military police station, Scarlet had all but given up trying to make them believe his story.  The investigating officer was droning on with questions about the criminal gang they believed he was part of.  He contented himself with drinking the hot, sweet tea they’d given him and letting the feeling creep back through his aching arms.  At least he had been given a sweatshirt and a pair of battered trainers to wear.  Without his Spectrum uniform, he had no way to contact either Cloudbase or the local base, and without his ID, the police refused to believe he was a Spectrum officer.  They delighted in telling him that the real Captain Scarlet had left the docks hours ago, in his flash car, with Commander Wetherby.

        He recognised that that single fact was more important than trying to convince the morons of the Military Police that he was who he said he was.  Suddenly he put down the mug and interrupted the interrogator. “May I make a phone call – isn’t everybody allowed at least one?”

        “To your solicitor, no doubt?  It won’t do you any good, you were caught red-handed.”

        Scarlet grinned, “No, to my mother as it happens – she does worry so if I’m out all night.”

        “Funny guy,” the officer mocked. “All right, let him ring his Mummy.”

        Scarlet punched in his home number and prayed that someone would be there.  The screen flickered and his Mother’s face came into focus.

        “Hello, Mum,” he said, cheerfully enough.

        “Paul, where are you?”

        “Portsmouth.  There has been a misunderstanding with the local MPs and I must speak to Adam – immediately. How is he, by the way?”

        “Much better, his Mother’s with him.”

        “What!  Mum, what have you been doing?”

        Mary Metcalfe looked as innocent as only she knew how. “I don’t know what you mean, Paul.”

        “Never mind, get me Adam, please.  It really is important.”

        “He’s still not a hundred percent fit,” she warned.

        “I will speak very gently to him, I promise.”

        He waited with growing impatience until Captain Blue came to the viewer.  His face had a better colour than before, but the dark rings under his eyes suggested he was still not as fit as usual.  He was frowning and looked to be in a bad humour.

        “Captain?”

        “Adam, thank goodness you’re better.  I’m being held by the MPs at the dockyard in Portsmouth. They think I’m part of a criminal gang using fake Spectrum ID’s.  I was bushwhacked and someone stole my uniform and the SSC.  They’ve now left the base with my ID. I don’t know where they’ve gone, but I suspect the mission might be in jeopardy.  I need you to come and get me out – preferably with a spare uniform.”

        “Where am I going to get that from?” Blue reasoned, “I’m not a frigging magician, Captain.”

        “Adam – language,” an American woman’s voice rebuked him, off screen.

        Scarlet’s eyebrows rose in amusement as Blue grimaced and hissed, “How do you expect me to get to Portsmouth anyway?”

        “Use my Mum’s car, of course.  Never mind the uniform, but a set of my own clothes would be nice and as soon as humanly possible, Adam.”

        “Maybe I should just contact Cloudbase and get them to send someone along from the local base?” Blue reasoned as his mind began to function sensibly again.

        “I don’t think either of us will be the Colonel’s favourites at the moment,” Scarlet reminded him.  “Besides we have a duty to complete our mission and do you really want to stay at my house being cosseted by your mother and mine?” He grinned. “The Arsenal shirt suits you, by the way.”

        Blue gave a lip-curling grimace and snarled, “Point taken.  I’m on my way, just as soon as I can get your mother to tell me where’s she’s put my uniform.”

        “Just tell her that her blue-eyed boy needs help – it usually works,” his friend advised, most of his good humour restored by the prospect of rescue. He smiled as the screen flickered to indicate the call was to be terminated.  “Soon, Adam, please.  Very soon,” he murmured as the picture faded and the machine shut down.

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Blue watched the screen darken and drew a deep breath.  He was feeling better, but he knew his stamina wasn’t up to much in the way of rushing about.  He turned to face the two women watching him from the armchairs across the room.

        “What did Paul want?” Mary Metcalfe asked.

        “Rescuing,” Blue explained succinctly, and added, “I will need my uniform and the use of your car, if I may, Ma’am. I have to go as soon as possible.  Technically, I am still on duty, I guess, and we’re both going to be in deep sh… trouble if we don’t sort this mess out.”

        ”You’re not fit enough to drive,” his mother said, before Mary Metcalfe could answer.

        “I’m fine, Mom, don’t fuss.”

        “She’s right, you’re not.  If I give you your uniform and allow you to use my car, it will be under the condition that I drive it.”

        Blue could see the determination in Mrs. Metcalfe’s face and knew he could waste hours trying to argue her out of it.  He was familiar enough with Scarlet’s stubbornness to recognise it in his friend’s mother.  He sighed; right now he only had enough energy to deal with one troublesome Metcalfe at a time.

        “Okay,” he said, rather to the women’s surprise. “Now, where is my uniform?”

        About forty minutes later a fully uniformed Captain Blue walked out to the driveway, where Mrs. Metcalfe’s ancient estate car was parked.  He had his radio cap in his hand, not willing to risk the possibility that Lieutenant Green had an open channel monitoring his communications wavelength.  He did not want to speak to anyone on Cloudbase at the moment.  He did a double-take as he saw his mother sitting in the back of the car, and hearing Mrs. Metcalfe locking the front door behind them, he turned to her and asked,

        “Mrs. Metcalfe, why is my mother in the car?”

        The answer came from Sarah.  “You don’t think I would agree to be left behind, did you?”

        “Mom, this isn’t a day trip to the sea-side,” he began to argue, as Mary handed Sarah a travel bag filled with Paul’s clothes through the window.  She got in the driver’s side and started the engine.

        “Let’s just assume we’ve had this discussion and you’ve seen sense, shall we?” Mary smiled. “Come on – get in.”

        Cursing under his breath Blue climbed into the front passenger seat.  With an unnecessarily flamboyant squeal of tyres, the car lurched down the drive. He fretted all the way to the motorway, and as Mary settled down to a steady cruising speed of around 70 mph, he could stand it no longer.

        “Mrs. Metcalfe, we need to get a move on.  Please get into the outside lane and floor the accelerator.  If you’re not happy with that, I’ll drive.”

        “You will not drive,” she retorted, “and what about the speed limit?”

        “Ignore it; you’re on official Spectrum business.”

        “Shouldn’t I have a siren or a blue flashing light?” she asked, obediently increasing speed in preparation for moving to the outside lane.

        “Put your headlights on full and use the horn if necessary.   You don’t need to have a blue flashing light or a siren.”

        “And if the police stop us?”

        Blue sighed and closed his eyes as they swerved past a startled BMW.  “I’ll deal with the traffic police – if they catch us.”

        “I’ve always wanted to do this.”  She smiled in the mirror at Sarah Svenson’s excited face and floored the accelerator.

        Blue just hoped the car would hold together until they reached their destination.

 

-o0o-

 

        The military police had finally given up with Captain Scarlet and left him alone to ponder on his predicament in a holding cell.  He sat on the bed mechanically eating a tasteless mush of yellow goo, which the officer carrying the tray had inaccurately described as chicken curry and rice.  He wondered how long it would be before Blue arrived.

        In the meanwhile he mapped out their course of action. First, Blue would have to get him out of here and then they would have to check if the VIP was still on the frigate.  The naval officers had taken the SSC and his ID, so presumably they had somewhere they wanted to go, and the only logical place was the Maximum Security Building in London where the conference was due to be held.  Their arrival there in an SSC – instead of the expected MSV -- would surely trigger alarm bells, and whoever was wearing his uniform would not be able to gain access to the building as the security checks there were based on retinal scans. 

        So what did they hope to accomplish?  It was a puzzle, and Scarlet missed being able to bounce his ideas off Blue – between them they could usually crack even the most abstruse mysteries.

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Ochre and Rhapsody Angel stopped their MSV on the double yellow lines outside of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and went inside.  They were ushered to a waiting room where, moments later, a flustered official met them.

        “I’m afraid I don’t understand, Captain… Ochre,” the man stammered, glancing at Ochre’s ID card.  “The Foreign Secretary and his ministerial aide left some time ago with Commander Wetherby of the British Naval frigate Makepeace and Captain Scarlet from your own organisation."

        “Captain Scarlet was here?” Rhapsody asked sharply.

        “Yes, miss, they told the Foreign Secretary that the conference venue had been changed and the VIP he was to meet was already at the new location.”

        “Did they say where this new location was?” Ochre demanded with a frown.

        “On board the Commander’s frigate – it is berthed at Portsmouth I believe, and they were returning there.”

        “Thank you sir, you have been most helpful.” Ochre briskly terminated the meeting and led the protesting Rhapsody back to the MSV.  Once there, he contacted Cloudbase and informed the Colonel of the new circumstances, waiting whilst Green confirmed with the EU offices that the same two men had collected the European Foreign minister with the same result.

        “Wonderful,” White growled.  “We have lost two of the men we were supposed to be guarding and it seems that Captain Scarlet is playing a game of double-cross with us.”

        “Sir, you know he would never do that!” Rhapsody cried, in defence of the man she loved.

        “There are circumstances you know nothing about at work here, Rhapsody.  I believed Scarlet when he said he had forgiven and forgotten events in his past, yet I wonder if I was right to trust him.  No one has mentioned seeing Captain Blue in all this, so where is he?  Has Scarlet disposed of a partner who refused to join in with his own scheme?”

        “That’s a preposterous suggestion…sir,” Rhapsody scoffed. “If there is one person Captain Scarlet would never harm it is Captain Blue.”

        “Scarlet is a man of deep and lasting loyalties, I know that.  What happens when two of those loyalties collide is not something I would care to wager on.”

        “I don’t understand,” Rhapsody said.

        “Colonel, is there anything we should know to make it easier to find these men and prevent any… unpleasantness?” Captain Ochre was getting tired of playing cat and mouse with the Colonel.  His instincts as a policeman were telling him that there was something very wrong with what was going on.

        “I am not at liberty to speak of it, Captain.  Suffice it that you know, I am prepared to put a warrant out for Scarlet’s apprehension.”

        “That’s not fair!”

        “Nevertheless, Rhapsody Angel, it is what I feel obliged to do.  Proceed to Portsmouth with all due speed and rendezvous with Grey and Symphony.  Lieutenant Green will give you details en route.”

        “S.I.G., Colonel.”  Ochre turned to look at his companion. Rhapsody’s normally genial face wore a deep frown and her blue eyes were troubled.  She sensed his scrutiny and looked up to meet his brown eyes with a fearlessly direct stare.

        “I don’t believe it for one minute, Captain.  Paul would never hurt Adam or betray Spectrum.”

        “Ordinarily I would agree with you, but the one thing that really does worry me is – where’s Blue?  Whatever mischief Scarlet’s up to, you’d expect Blue either to be with him or making it quite clear, to anyone who’d listen, that he advised against it.  Then he’d pester the Colonel until he was allowed to go and fish Paul out of whatever excrement he’d landed himself in this time.” Ochre looked quizzically at the young woman, “So, Dianne, where’s Blue?”

        “Wherever he is, I’ll lay odds Paul never did anything to hurt him,” she maintained stoutly.

        “I do so hope you’re right, because I wouldn’t give a snowflake in hell’s chance of his walking from this one otherwise.  The Colonel is madder than I’ve ever seen him.  If Scarlet gets court-martialled this time they will wire him into the national electricity grid!”

        “Don’t make a joke of it,” Rhapsody said with a shudder.  “I have a horrible feeling they are both up to their necks in…that excrement you spoke of.”

 

-o0o-

 

        Mary Metcalfe’s old car drew up before the dockyard gates and Captain Blue stepped out to speak to the guard and produce his Spectrum ID for examination.

        “Are you telling me they’re Spectrum Agents as well?”  The man stared at the women in the car.

        “Spectrum is an equal opportunities employer – even we have women on the books.”

        “Don’t I know it,” the guard leered.  “How I envy you guys floating about above the clouds with those sexy women pilots. I bet they ain’t all that angelic either – they look like right little goers.”

        “You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the tabloids,” Blue advised, moving away before he lost his temper.  

        Denied access to the truth about life on Cloudbase, the less reputable tabloid newspapers fed the public’s fascination with Spectrum by reporting salacious fabrications.  It was not an entirely new experience for Blue – his father’s high business profile had often resulted in inaccurate reports and stolen photographs appearing in the sensational press, and for himself he had never cared much either way.   He’d dealt with it by distancing himself from his family until he was no longer instantly recognisable, except by the most dedicated paparazzi.  Only last year his sister had sent him a spurious ‘biographical’ article about ‘the reclusive heir to the Svenson millions’ that had had him living exclusively on tinned foods in a remote mountain cabin somewhere.  But the slurs on the characters of the dedicated young women who flew the Angel Interceptors incensed him – as did all the more lurid tales dreamed up by the sensation-seeking journalists. 

        He waved the car forward and walked towards it. Slamming the passenger door behind him as he settled back into his seat, he muttered, “Sometimes I despair of my own sex.”

        “I  frequently despair of your sex too, so welcome to the club,” his mother said acidly. “I’ve been there, done that and I have a wardrobe full of T-shirts.”

        Blue had the sense not to respond to this jibe, and settled for giving directions to the military police station. Once they had parked across from the entrance he turned to the women.

        “Listen to me and please, for the love of mike – do exactly as I say.  I am going in there and one way or another I am going to get Captain Scarlet out.  Keep the engine running and if we come out in a hurry, drive off as soon as we are in.  Turn right at the end of this street, circle round and go straight back to the entrance the way we came, OK?   If the barrier doesn’t rise as we approach, put your foot down and drive as hard as you can straight through and don’t stop for anything.  Should either Scarlet or I appear to be injured, don’t fuss or flap, just drive to the motorway and head back to Winchester.  Hopefully, none of this will be necessary, and we’ll stroll out and everything will be dandy. You will do as I say, won’t you…please?”

        They were both subdued by his earnest appeal and nodded.  Mary Metcalfe reached out a hand and squeezed his arm.

        “We promise, Adam dear.  You take care, okay? And bring Paul back to me.”

        Blue climbed out of the car, exhaled, straightened his back and flexed his broad shoulders before crossing and entering the police station. At the last moment he placed his radio cap on his head and prayed that Lieutenant Green was off duty.

        “Can I help you… sir?” the desk sergeant, asked eyeing the tall, redoubtable Spectrum officer with some antagonism.

        “You have a man here who claims to be Captain Scarlet.” Blue kept to brisk, curt statements, allowing no argument or discussion.  “We want this man and we intend to use him to get to the others in his gang who have been using the fake ID’s for their criminal activities.”  He slapped his own ID on the desk, leaving it for the Sergeant to inspect at his leisure.  “The paperwork is on its way, Sergeant, but I am only here for a short time and I would appreciate it, very much, if you’d hand him over to me now.  Captain Scarlet is a close friend of mine, and I don’t take kindly to impostors.”

        The Sergeant examined the ID carefully and looked at the unsmiling face of the man before him.  He could see no respite for their recalcitrant prisoner in his harsh expression.  “You’ll have to sign for him, Captain Blue, sir,” he said, pushing the ID back to Blue with a conspiratorial grin.

        “I’ll gladly sign any documentation you may require, Sergeant, to get my hands on this guy.  May I see him?”

        The Sergeant led the way to the cells and flipped up the observation grill. Blue glanced in and saw an unkempt and unshaven Captain Scarlet, stretched on the bed looking bored and miserable, an empty plate on the floor beside him.  Suddenly Blue remembered how long it had been since his meagre breakfast and felt hungry.  It did nothing to improve his mood.

        The Sergeant opened the door and Scarlet sprang to his feet.  Blue strode in before the Sergeant and spoke quickly, hoping Scarlet would have his wits about him enough to play along,

        “There is a slight physical resemblance, Sergeant, but the real Captain Scarlet is taller than me, with brown eyes, and he’s much better looking than this one,” he added for good measure. Stalking over to Scarlet and staring down at him with an arrogance that was quite out of character, he said, “What’s your real name?  We’ll find it out sooner or later, and you really don’t want to make us wait until later.”

        Scarlet gave a debonair shrug and stared right back. He was genuinely surprised when Blue grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.

        “I want your name, Punk,” Blue snarled.

        Scarlet’s mind went a complete blank. “Jimmy…eh, Jimmy Bond.”

        Blue twisted his arm higher. “Try again.”

        “Ow! James – it really is James!  – cut that out, you’re hurting me! … Douglas, James Douglas.”

        “I suggest you run that through your computers, Sergeant, and see if you can match the mug shots to our friend here.  Come on, Mr. Douglas, we’re going for a nice long ride and then a little trip in an airplane.”

        Scarlet struggled and hammed it up as he allowed Blue to hustle him out of the cell. “You can’t let them take me!  I’m a civilian, they can’t question me!”

        The sergeant followed them to the desk and produced a form for Blue to sign.  Blue reached across and with his left hand scribbled a signature.  Then he pushed Scarlet through the door and hissed, “Your Mom’s car is over there to the left.  Don’t look too eager.”

        “How can I?” Scarlet hissed back. “You’re about to break my arm.”

        “Call it payback,” Blue muttered.

        Scarlet glanced across at the car, “What is my mother doing at the wheel – and your mother’s in the back! – why on earth did you bring them along?”

        “If you know of any way I could have stopped them coming with me, I’d be interested to hear it,” Blue snapped back. “I would still be arguing on your driveway if I hadn’t let them come. And you owe me big time – I’ve had to put up with both of them all the way here.”

        “I think I want to go back to the police cell,” Scarlet complained ruefully, as Blue opened the back door and shoved him in next to Sarah.

        “That can always be arranged, so don’t tempt me,” Blue threatened, as he got in next to Mrs. Metcalfe.  “Quickly but without looking too concerned, let’s get out of here.”

        “Exactly how do you drive like that?” Mary asked with interest, as she pulled out and drove to the end of the road.

Scarlet turned to his travelling companion and extended his hand. “Hello Mrs. Svenson, how nice to see you again. You too, Mum.”  Then he asked, as he rubbed his aching shoulder, “What did you sign on that release form?”

        Blue threw his cap into the back seat and ran a hand through his fair hair. “Nothing he will ever be able to read,” he admitted.

        “Where do we go next, Adam?” Mary asked.   As they drove through the security gate Sarah waved cheerfully at the bemused guard through the back window.

        It was Captain Scarlet who answered, “To the nearest lay-by and we’ll change drivers.  I know what we need to do.”

        “Can I take it you did not meet the VIP or transport him to the MSB in London?  Did you even contact Portsmouth about the rendezvous with the MSV?” Blue swivelled around to look at his partner.

        “Was I supposed to do that?  I thought you had already spoken to them.”

        “I told them we were en route and they should wait confirmation of our E.T.A. before they moved it down to the docks,” Blue explained. “I did tell you,” he added in some exasperation.

        “I must’ve misheard.  Anyway there was no MSV to meet me and then the Naval Commander, a guy called Wetherby, decked me and when I came to I was next to naked in a freezing warehouse.”

        “Wonderful, you’ll have ‘flu next,” Mary muttered.

        Scarlet ignored the comment and continued, “The MPs came to get me because someone, I suspect it was Wetherby, told them a member of a criminal gang was trussed up for them in the warehouse.  That’s when I rang you.”

        “How long were you there?” Blue asked.

        “I have no real idea – hours, certainly.”

        “So they could be anywhere by now.  We have to report that SSC as stolen, and if they are running around with your ID, you might be being held responsible for almost anything.”

        “Before we do that, we need to find out if the passenger is still on the frigate, and if the SSC and its bogus drivers are coming here or going somewhere else.”

        Then do we walk on water?” Blue asked, with some asperity.  “You don’t even have your uniform or ID, and probably we are both in it up to our necks with the Colonel by now.”

        “Have you spoken to him?”

        “Not exactly,” Blue admitted.

        “How ‘not exactly’?” Scarlet asked suspiciously; he was well used to Blue’s evasive tactics.

        “Not at all.”

        “For crying out loud, Adam, why ever not?” Scarlet snapped angrily.  He had, as usual, been relying on Blue to keep the Colonel informed and therefore, more or less amenable to their activities.

        Blue shrugged apologetically but before he could reply, Mrs. Metcalfe came to his defence. “Because he was asleep in bed with an attack of the ‘flu – that’s why not.  Then, almost as soon as he could stand upright for five minutes, you rang and demanded we drop everything and rush to your assistance.  He probably expected that if he contacted the Colonel, he’d get recalled and you’d be left to rot in the glasshouse for the foreseeable future.”  She glared at her son in the driving mirror.  “Sometimes, you can be the most unreasonable boy on the planet, Paul.”

        Scarlet squirmed, and muttered something in which the word ‘sorry’ was just audible.  Blue gave him a sympathetic smirk.

        They travelled through the town and out along the Winchester road until they reached a dual carriageway, and at the first lay-by, Mary drove the car in and stopped the engine.  “Before I hand over the keys, I want to know exactly what you should have been doing and what you are going to do now.”

        “I can’t discuss it with anyone, it’s top secret,” Scarlet protested.

        “Not from your mother it isn’t – not any more.”  She looked sternly at him, dangling the keys before his eyes.

        Fighting to hide his amusement, Blue turned to stare out of the window. Let the pair of them sort it out between themselves, he thought.

        “Okay, but you must never tell anyone – not even Dad,” Scarlet warned, and then he glanced at Sarah who’d been sitting quietly during the altercation.

        “Oh, my lips are sealed, I promise,” she said in response to his unspoken concerns.   “I’ve been keeping secrets from my husband since the day I met him.”  Blue’s head turned round in surprise, and she smiled at him. “I was never quite the unworldly ingénue your Father likes to imagine I was.  You’re not the only duplicitous member of the family, Adz.”

        “Well, you certainly had me fooled,” her son said, with grudging admiration.

        Sarah laughed and turned to Scarlet, “If I can fool Adam, don’t you think I’m good enough to be trusted, Mr. Metcalfe?”

        “Okay,” Scarlet conceded, “but it never goes any further than this car.  We were sent to Portsmouth to liaise with the frigate Makepeace, which had picked up the Bereznian politician Andrei Stolojan and we were to take him to London for a meeting with certain British and European ministers. Then we were to bring him back, so the Makepeace could try to get him back to Bereznik, before they missed him.  Speed was crucial, as was security, because there are Bereznian government agents at work in this country and if they got wind of what was going on, there’s no doubt they would try to assassinate Stolojan.”

        “Stolojan – didn’t he used to be the Minister of Finance for the Bereznian government?” Sarah asked suddenly.  “I met him once when he was over in the States.  He tried to get John to agree to some massive investment programme over there. I didn’t like him very much – he kept patting my ass.”  She smiled at the surprise on the faces around her.

        “That’s the guy,” her son confirmed with a hint of umbrage in his voice. “He switched sides about two years ago, when he had a falling out with President Malile.  Now he represents what dissident forces there are in the country – or says he does.  That’s why the Europeans want to speak to him, to assess just how far they can trust him.”

        “I could tell them that without all this cloak and dagger stuff.  The man’s a creep of the first order and I for one wouldn’t get in an elevator alone with him,” Sarah volunteered.

        Blue shifted uneasily and complained, “So I’m supposed to guard a creep who made a pass at my mother?”

        “You think you have problems with him?” Scarlet said.  “Before he got the finance job – and the opportunity to grope your mother – he was Minister for Education, Research and Development.  As such, he was responsible for curtailing the freedom of my father’s old friend Professor Loot, and refusing the family permission to travel to Europe for the medical treatment that would have saved Madame Loot’s life.  Loot and his daughter, Elsa, are still living under virtual house arrest in a compound in Bereznik.”

        “I thought I knew the name,” Mary said.  “Charles spent hours lobbying the Foreign Office to get Bethan Loot out – she was the sister of an old school friend of his and I think he was rather sweet on her himself at one time.  She was a brilliant chemist and she met Dieter Loot when they were both studying at the Sorbonne.   They married and went to live in Bereznik because it was part of Dieter’s contract that if the Government paid for his studies abroad, he would work for them for five years.  He couldn’t renege on it as he had family living in Katania.  They used to come over for visits every so often, although Dieter wasn’t always allowed to travel with them.  Paul and Elsa used to play together when they were little.   When Bethan became ill, the Bereznians said they would allow her to travel to this country for treatment, but not Dieter or Elsa and, naturally, Bethan wouldn’t go without her daughter, at the very least.  We kept in touch after Bethan died, but I haven’t heard from them for many months now.”

        “So that’s why the Colonel was so cagey about telling us who we were to deal with?” Blue said.

        “Yes,” Scarlet agreed, “but I doubt if even he knew Stolojan had wandering hand trouble.”

        “Now we find that at least one perfectly respectable British naval officer has, for some reason, attacked a Spectrum officer on a legitimate mission, stolen a Spectrum Saloon car and the said officer’s ID, and disappeared.”  Blue drew a deep breath.  “All for the man Mom so accurately describes as a creep?  It doesn’t make sense.”

        “What do you know about Wetherby?” Mary Metcalfe asked, adding, “Why was he chosen for the mission to collect Stolojan?”

        Blue gave her an approving glance and looked at his partner, “More to the point, Mrs. Metcalfe, I’m wondering why the Colonel chose us – given that he knew of Captain Scarlet’s… past encounters with Stolojan.”

        Scarlet shrugged.  “Pure logistics: Magenta’s away, Ochre’d only just got back from policing that conference in Tokyo, and Grey’s scheduled to attend the World Navy’s demonstration of those new ski-jet thingies in the next day or so.  You and I were the only ones twiddling our thumbs, old chum.”

        Blue nodded, “I guess so, although I wouldn’t say I was twiddling my thumbs exactly.  I have enough paperwork to keep me busy.” He gave Scarlet a pointed stare and muttered, “Not that that is all that unusual – somehow I always end up with the paperwork.  Did you know that Captain Grey had managed to swing an invitation for two Spectrum observers to attend the demonstration in Barbados and he suggested to the Colonel that I might be a suitable person to accompany him?   Then this mission came up and I got sent here with you, but the chances were I’d be back in time to go with Grey after all.  Now, even if we do get back in time I’ll probably be grounded for the next month or so.  It’s not much to ask, but just occasionally I would like to get the chance to go somewhere nice and warm and try out new ski-jet thingies instead of racing around England in the rain, busting you out of prison.”

        Scarlet stared out of the window with a broad grin on his face as he listened to this complaint.  He knew something had been niggling at Blue ever since they’d been assigned to this mission and he’d put it down to his impending cold.  Good old Adam, he thought, now he’s got that off his chest we can get down to some serious work!  He said, “I’d take it up with the Colonel, if I were you.  He sent you here.  And if you’d gone to Barbados you wouldn’t have got to see your mother, now, would you?  Every cloud has a silver lining, Adam.” Blue gave a derisive snort. “You know what I think?  I think we need to access Spectrum wavebands – if we haven’t collected Stolojan, then I’ll lay odds that the Colonel has sent someone else to do it.  If the guys on the Makepeace are part of a conspiracy, Mysteron or not – then our replacements could be in considerable danger. We need to know what’s going on.”

        “Any thought how?”

        Scarlet frowned.  “Let’s assume that, at the moment, we are not proscribed individuals – although if anyone’s likely to have been censured it’ll be me because I’m sure the Colonel’s uncertainty about sending us on this mission – and the reason he sent both of us was because he distrusted me,” he admitted.

        “Then he was wrong,” Blue retorted.

        Scarlet gave him a grateful smile, “Maybe.  On the other hand, he knew nothing about any prejudices you might have – assuming he was not aware of the gross insult Stolojan offered Mrs. Svenson.”  He bowed graciously towards Sarah. “So the chances are your ID will still be valid.  There’s a Delta petrol station a few miles along from here.  Let’s get an SPV.”

        “We can but try,” Blue agreed.

        “I’ll drive,” Scarlet said, climbing from the car and walking around to the driver’s side.  As he opened the door for his mother to get out, they all saw, approaching on the other side of the road, the impressive bulk of a Spectrum Maximum Security Vehicle. 

They watched it go past and Blue said, “There go the reinforcements.”

        “Then let’s get a move on,” Scarlet said, suddenly galvanised into action.

 

Chapter Three:

 

In which information is exchanged.

 

        Lieutenant Green ambled back to his communications station and relieved Lieutenant Claret.  They exchanged pleasantries and Claret excused himself to a rather preoccupied Colonel White.  Green sat down and logged on to the system, and as his security profile reloaded, he asked, “Are you going to get something to eat, Colonel?”

        “Later, perhaps. Is there any more news on the situation in Portsmouth?”

Green glanced through the relevant files.  “Grey and Symphony have collected an MSV and are heading to the dockyard.  Ochre and Rhapsody have exchanged their MSV for an SPV and are heading there at maximum speed, although the M3 motorway seems pretty congested.”

        “Some things never change,” White grumbled.

        With an anxious frown, Lieutenant Green said, “Colonel, Captain Blue’s communication waveband was activated – about an hour ago.  It’s dead again now, but it was active.  I guess Claret didn’t see the relevance of that,” he added, seeing his Commander’s angry frown.

        “Can you locate where he was when it became active?”

        “Give me a moment, sir.”  Green began tapping away at the keys as Colonel White drummed his fingers on his desk.

        “Western Europe is a negative, Great Britain is a weak positive,” Green murmured as he narrowed the rangefinders down. “Southern England is a strong positive … so if I triangulate with the regional transmitters… got it!” He looked up at the Colonel with the confirmation. “Portsmouth, sir!”

        “So someone – and let’s assume it was Captain Blue – was in Portsmouth an hour ago. Scarlet was in London collecting the foreign ministers and Blue was in Portsmouth.  What are they playing at?”

        Having completed his location trace, the Lieutenant had automatically gone to check the incoming messages in his file.  He looked up.  “The signal came from a branch of the Military Police in the docks, Colonel, and I have a report from Spectrum London that they have just received notification that Captain Blue has collected a prisoner from the exact same location.  The prisoner kept insisting he was Captain Scarlet, but he finally gave the name of James Douglas.  The MPs are asking for the full paperwork to be sent to them and London doesn’t know what to make of it, sir.”

        “Acknowledge the report, and close their files on the subject, Lieutenant.  Then get hold of the MPs in Portsmouth and get the full story.  I’m tired of working in the dark.”

        “S.I.G.,” Green said, and got to work.

 

-o0o-

 

        Blue displayed his ID card, and the garage technician flicked the switch that opened the front of a workshop building to reveal the familiar grey outlines of an SPV. Blue nodded his thanks and strode across to the machine.  He slid his access card through the electronic lock and sighed in relief as it opened the elevator seat.  Once inside the SPV, he gunned the powerful engine and drove out onto the open road.  About a mile along, he saw Mrs. Metcalfe’s car in a narrow lane and slowed down to allow them to precede him until they found a suitable lay-by to stop in.

        Blue opened his elevator door and waited for Scarlet to come across from the car.  He had changed into his own sweatshirt and trainers whilst he’d been waiting and looked more like his usual self as a result.

        “At last – decent transport,” Scarlet enthused, his eyes bright with amusement.

        “Have you explained to the ladies why this is the parting of the ways?” Blue asked, seeing both women walking over to inspect the impressive, eight ton, grey, tank-like machine with its distinctive white ‘shark’s grin’ bumper that had become synonymous with Spectrum in the minds of the general public.

        Scarlet gave a non-committal grin and wandered away around the other side.  Blue sighed, “You haven’t, have you? Honestly, Paul, I never realised before what a coward you can be.”

        “Open the door, Blue.  I haven’t got my security cards.”  Scarlet sounded flustered.

        Laughing, Blue flicked the switch and watched the elevator seat start to descend.

        “Why are you facing the wrong way?” Sarah asked, as she peered past her son into the body of the machine.

        “We drive by monitor – it’s a safety feature,” he explained.

        “It must make it difficult, doing everything backwards.”  Sarah waved at Scarlet as his seat rose back into the body of the machine.  “I can’t wait to have a go!”

        “You can’t,” Blue said.  “There are no places for passengers.”

        ”So what do you expect Sarah and me to do now?” Mary asked.

        “Go back to Winchester and have a late lunch,” her son suggested hopefully. “We’re really grateful for all the help you’ve given us, but now we have to carry on alone.”

        The women exchanged conspiratorial looks and drew closer together.

        “I guess we have no alternative, Mary,” Sarah sighed.  “After all, they are the experts.  It’s been fun though.”

        “Maybe you’re right, Sarah, but I can’t help feeling as if we’re being dismissed.”

        “Ah, well, can’t have everything, I guess.” Sarah Svenson put a hand on her son’s arm and smiled into his suspicious face. She tapped a finger against her cheek. “Kiss,” she ordered.

        With a grimace he obeyed, and to ringing instructions about taking care and getting something to eat, he raised his own seat back into the SPV. 

        “Aah, how sweet,” Scarlet grinned as Blue glared at him.

        “You can drive and I’ll tap into the comms traffic.” Blue’s tone made it clear it was not open to negotiation, so Scarlet started the engine and edged away from the watching women.

        “Did you get the impression that went too easily?” Blue asked as he just stopped himself from answering the waves of farewell.

        “What can they do?” Scarlet asked.  “Mind you, our names’ll be mud for a while.”

        Blue gazed back towards the lay-by and sighed.  Then he concentrated on the communications traffic and attempted to piece together what was happening.

 

        As the SPV drove back towards Portsmouth, Sarah Svenson’s sigh echoed her son’s.  “They don’t have a clue, really.  It’s almost sweet,” she said. “I take it we’re not going back to Winchester.”

        “Do you want to?”  Sarah shook her fair head. Mary smiled, “Come on then.  I’d better get petrol at that garage and then we’ll press on.  There might be something we can do to help.”

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White studied the correlated reports Lieutenant Green had produced in record time.  He now knew that the Captain Scarlet who had  collected the European ministers  in London was almost certainly bogus, the SSC was stolen and that Blue – who’d been God knew where during this hiatus – had rescued his partner from the clutches of what appeared to be the stupidest MPs in the service.

        There was also a garbled traffic police report about a speeding estate car heading towards Portsmouth, with what was thought to be a Spectrum Officer (wearing pale blue) in the passenger seat.  The registration showed the car was owned by a Mrs. Mary Metcalfe, and the phone number the prisoner – James Douglas – had called from the station was the home number of Charles and Mary Metcalfe. The final report confirmed that Captain Blue had taken possession of SPV847, which was last seen heading back to Portsmouth. 

        White spoke to Captain Grey on a secure link.  If Blue – and so, presumably, Scarlet – had an SPV, he was sure they’d be monitoring communications.  He outlined what was known and warned Grey that the SPV was heading his way.

        “Have you made contact with the passenger on the frigate, captain?”

        “No, Colonel.  The frigate has moved out to sea and is not answering when hailed,” Grey explained.  “The authorities here are at a loss to know why the Makepeace is standing off and why they are maintaining a communications blackout.  Symphony Angel checked with the jetty guards, and an SSC was seen returning to the area a few hours ago with five men onboard.  We cannot ascertain where the car is now.”

        “It would appear that the participants of the conference are in the same place – assuming that our VIP was not taken off the frigate earlier.  However this is most unsatisfactory, and I do not want Spectrum to come out of this as appearing ineffectual, Captain.  Heaven knows there are still enough people carping on about our expensive services to make a meal out of an incident like this.”

        We could try to board the vessel, sir,” Grey suggested.  Being this close to the sea – even a rough sea – was making him nostalgic for the feel of a deck beneath his feet.

        “We cannot risk anything that might precipitate violence against the hostages – for so we must consider them.”

        “I don’t suppose anyone’s had a demand from the kidnappers?” Grey mused.

        “Not that we know of.  Lieutenant Green is monitoring all channels.  Keep me informed, Captain.”

        “S.I.G., Colonel.”

        Symphony glanced across at her companion, “So Scarlet and Blue are on their way here, are they?”

        “Only Blue for certain, he collected an SPV, but where there’s one, there is usually the other,” Grey agreed.

        “I knew all that talk of a rift between them was so much… hot air,” she said with a knowing smile.

 

-o0o-

 

        Before they reached the dockyard Scarlet stopped the SPV and turned to his partner.

        “Any news?”

        “I think they are on to us, if nothing else.  There’s been a warning to look out for the SPV and report sightings to Cloudbase direct.  There has been traffic on the secure lines, which I can’t unscramble – not soon enough to be helpful anyway.  But I am now getting a conversation between Symphony and Rhapsody which is useful.”  He looked up and smiled, “Someone’s on our side at least.”

        Scarlet returned the smile.  “Are they here?”

        “Symphony is – with Grey in the dockyard, and Rhapsody is currently battling her way along the M3 motorway with Ochre.  Symphony’s saying that the Colonel knows we have an SPV.  Rhapsody says… the Colonel has said he’s going to put a warrant for your apprehension – what for remains a mystery. Symphony says that reports say the missing SSC came back here with five men inside and… the Makepeace is standing off from the harbour with all the participants of the conference on board.”  He paused, listening to the distant conversation, and continued, “Rhapsody’s saying…”

        “Put her on the speaker, you sadist!”

        Blue laughed and turned up the volume, removing his earpiece as he did so.

        …wonder why the ministers went with them so readily?” Rhapsody’s voice was faint but audible.

        Symphony’s disembodied voice came clearly into the SPV.  “Whatever the reason Colonel White says we must regard the VIPs as hostages and not do anything to precipitate violence against them.  So I guess that rules out Angel strikes.  Grey’s itching to get over there in a little rubber dinghy – but he can go alone if he wants to do that.  I get seasick.”

        Rhapsody’s voice was breaking up, but they could hear her laughing. Blue adjusted the settings and her voice became clearer: “…just a wimp.  Still, I guess you have some excuse being born and raised in the middle of a continent. Paul’s a lousy sailor despite belonging to an island race famed for our nautical traditions.”

        “Di, it’s a howling gale out there, Lord Nelson himself would get seasick! I told Brad that he’s been away from the sea so long he’s forgotten the drawbacks.  I want to stay nice and warm in the dry – we’re camped out in warehouse number four, next to the jetty the Makepeace tied up at.  Be sure you get the right place, number four- got it?”

        “Yeah, warehouse number four– and you’ve got the MSV still.”

        “What’s your E.T.A.?”

        They could hear Rhapsody muttering, and then she came back and said, “Ochre says about twenty minutes if the bleeping Brits would extract their bleeping digits from whichever orifice they have them in,” she reported.

        Bleeping?”

        “Expletives deleted, Symphony.  You never know who’s listening in,” Rhapsody said primly.

        The American Angel laughed, “I thought Ochre was being extremely gentlemanly for him, I presumed your own good manners were rubbing off on him!”

        “Do we know if anyone is listening in?”

        “The Colonel’s using a secure line, so he obviously expects that someone is.”

        “Well, I just hope they make good use of whatever information they can glean, Symphony, and take care of themselves, because Ochre also says he doesn’t give them a snowflake in hell’s chance of walking away from this one.”

        “Oh, I don’t know Rhapsody – they’re bright guys.”

        “Yeah, I guess so. Sometimes I have my doubts though. I’d better go. See you in seventeen minutes!”

        Blue broke the connection.  “God bless all Angels,” he said with affection.

        “What do we do now?” Scarlet asked, equally cheered by hearing the voice of his girlfriend and knowing that, as Blue had said, someone was on their side.

        “We get the SPV through the gate – with or without permission. We ditch it once we’re inside.  Then we find warehouse number 4 and join forces.”

        “And risk getting Grey and Symphony into trouble too? Hardly.”

        “Symphony wouldn’t mind,” Blue asserted, “But you’re right, it wouldn’t be fair.”

        Scarlet started the engine and lined the SPV up with the gates – then he floored the accelerator and crashed through the barrier, turning sharp right and weaving through the traffic with considerable dexterity.

        “I see you’ve been practising,” Blue gasped as he was thrown from side to side.

        They left the SPV in a quiet alleyway and set out on foot to make their way to the jetty, avoiding all areas that looked too busy.  After a few false turns, they arrived at the approach road to jetty four and stood in a doorway to avoid the worst of the ceaseless rain.  They could see enough to assess the situation, and it didn’t take long to realise that they would need transport out to the Makepeace.  Blue suggested the hoverpacks from the SPV, and they began to retrace their steps.

        A security patrol was coming along one street and they slipped into a large modern warehouse to avoid detection.  Walking through the cavernous building from one end to the other, they discovered the SSC, covered in tarpaulins. Scarlet’s uniform was lying crumpled on the back seat. The machine was not locked and with a delighted cry of “Treasure trove,” Scarlet pounced on the tunic.  He swiftly changed back into his Spectrum clothes and put his radio cap on his dark hair.  “It’s not working.  I guess they had to disable it so my replacement could wear it without Cloudbase being able to contact him.  Still, now I feel like a real Spectrum agent.”

        Blue shook his head as he grinned at his partner, “Let’s hope the others realise it is you and not the bogus one.”

        Making their way through the warehouse they came out at the end of a familiar-looking street and noticed Mary Metcalfe’s estate car parked outside of the police station.  Sharing a worried glance, they both broke into a run.  The car was empty, and on one impulse they went up the steps of the station and peered inside. 

        They could see Mary and Sarah, apparently unharmed, sitting side by side on a bench opposite the reception desk, as the Sergeant filled in a report sheet. He looked across at them with every expectation of an easy job.  “Names?”

        Sarah leapt to her feet and went to stand against the counter, smiling nervously.

        “I am Mrs. Sarah Svenson of Boston, Massachusetts, USA and this is my dear friend, Mrs. Mary Metcalfe and I can assure you, Officer that we are most terribly sorry to have crashed through the gate of your little marina.  I guess you’d have to say it was my fault but I just find it so hard to navigate on your cute little roads.  In the States we have straight roads that intersect with such regularity you just cannot get yourself lost for long, but your roads go all wiggly and I’m afraid I’m not that good at reading maps.  I really thought it was the way to the shopping mall.  We were going shopping, you see, Officer.”

        “Is that S-v-e-n-s-o-n?”

        “Yes, Officer, that’s right.  You can spell it with a double S in the middle, but my husband’s family never have.  Makes it so much easier to spell if you spell it like it sounds, don’t you think?  And it’s Sarah with an H – I know some English people leave the H off but that’s not how I do it.”

        “Of Boston, Massachusetts?” the Sergeant pressed her.

        “Uh-huh, that’s M-a-double s-a-c-h-u-s-e- double t-s,” Sarah rattled off with a winning smile.  “It’s Indian – Native American, I mean, it’s an Algonquin word.   I used to know what it meant years ago and I’m sure if you asked any one of my boys – I have three, all grown up now – more or less, although sometimes I wonder about Davy, but hey, as I tell John,  he’s young yet – well,  any one of my boys would be able to explain it to you.  They’re all good boys in their own ways and all of them are very clever.  I used to be quite bright myself, but I guess it’s my age -” she waved a well manicured finger around close to her temple “- my memory’s starting to go. Not that I’m as old as I might be, of course, I mean my eldest is older than your boy – isn’t he, Mary?  But then I was criminally young when I had him – only not really criminal, you understand – it’s just a saying.  John and I got carried away one Thanksgiving…but it didn’t signify ‘cos we were planning to get married anyway – just happened a bit sooner, that’s all.  That’s why we called him Adam – it was my idea – our very own original sin!  John just wanted him called John Junior – sometimes men have no imagination! – but I said…”

        “Mrs. Svenson!” the Sergeant interrupted her monologue, “If you please, let’s just stick to the necessary facts.”

        “Of course, Officer, I am so sorry!   Authority always makes me nervous.  Oh, I’ve remembered, it has something to do with a big hill, I think… Massachusetts.”

        The Sergeant sighed and looked at Mrs. Metcalfe. “You English?” he asked hopefully.

        “Yes.”

        “Name?”

        “Mary Elizabeth, Anne with an e- Metcalfe.  M-e-t…”

        “I can spell that!”

        “It’s got an e on the end as well.” Mary said helpfully.

        “As well as what?”

        “Anne.”

        “Oh Mary, I didn’t realise your middle name was Elizabeth – that’s my middle name too! Now, isn’t that just wunnerful!  Did I need to tell you that, Officer? I want to make quite sure you have all the information you need for that report form.  My husband – that’s John Svenson, of course – well, John always says it’s so important to do the paperwork properly. He says it every time my credit card bills arrive and the store cards –but I’m afraid I just can’t keep track of all of them.  My daughter’s much better organised than I am, but I tell her, wait until you’ve had four kids and see where that leaves you, my girl.”

        “Mrs. Svenson, if you please…” the Sergeant cautioned her, as he rapidly lost patience.

        Sarah looked helpfully at him, and smiled in an annoyingly vague way.

        “I must say, Sarah; you have kept your figure awfully well. I find it hard to believe you are the mother of four – especially when three of them are such strapping boys!  I am perfectly amazed that you can stay so slim,” Mary said, joining in with the virtuoso performance. “I had an awful time after I had my boy; it took me months to get back anything that looked like a waist.  Of course, Charles never noticed – he was too busy being a proud father!  You’d think it was something he’d managed all on his own.”

        “Why, thank you, Mary.  I like to do my best.  Not that all my effort is the slightest bit appreciated by the one person who ought to notice. I so understand what you’re saying, I swear I could have everything pierced and dye my hair purple and John probably wouldn’t notice. All he ever says is ‘very nice, Sal’ – he calls me Sal – which is kinda cute.   But it is so nice to be appreciated; don’t you think so, Officer?”

        “I am not surprised you two took the wrong turning, I’m only surprised you ever stop talking long enough to draw breath! Now can we please get back to this form?  Your address, Mrs. Metcalfe, if you please.”

        Watching from the doorway Scarlet and Blue were struggling to keep straight faces.

        “Shall we perform a rescue?” Scarlet hissed.

        “Of our parents or the sergeant?” Blue choked.

        Setting his cap at a jaunty angle, Scarlet stepped back a few paces, extended his arm and threw open the door for Blue to march through.  He followed close behind, hoping to keep out of the sight of the sergeant as much as possible.

        “O, my word!” Mary gasped with a delighted smile at her son.

        “Hey, I’ve seen some of these guys on the TV news!” Sarah squealed. “You didn’t say you were part of Spectrum, Officer,” she fluttered her eyelashes at the speechless Sergeant. “I’ve never see real ones before – I mean face to face – now there are two of them – a blue one and a red one! How exciting, just wait until I tell John.”

        “Okay, Sergeant, we’ll take over now,” Blue said sharply.  “We have reason to believe that these two women are the masterminds behind the whole bogus ID gang. Captain Scarlet, would you please escort these ladies to our vehicle?”

        The Sergeant looked at Scarlet and back at Blue with growing confusion. “Here,” he muttered, “you said he was taller than you with brown eyes...”

        “He also made some wisecrack about being better looking too, as I recall,” Scarlet muttered.

        “What can I say, Sergeant?  I lied.” Blue shepherded his mother towards the door.

        “Are they really criminal masterminds?” the Sergeant asked, dubiously.

        Both Spectrum officers nodded.  “You’re lucky they didn’t turn nasty.” Scarlet added, following Blue out of the station before his laughter got the better of him.

 

-o0o-

 

        “What in tarnation are you doing here?” Blue asked his mother.  She was chuckling happily as she held out her hand to Mary Metcalfe.

        “Sarah, you were splendid,” Mary acknowledged, “I think the poor man would’ve exploded if you’d kept on chattering like that.”

        Sarah shrugged modestly, “We make a great team, Mary.  He was doomed from the first.”

        “What were you doing in there?” Blue repeated, catching his mother’s arm.

        “Oh, darling, I haven’t said thank you – you were splendid too, Adz – you and Paul.  Bursting in there like such heroes, it made my heart go all girlish to see you!”

        Scarlet looked at his mother, and said, “You’re supposed to be back in Winchester by now.”

        “We came back to Portsmouth to get something to eat, and Sarah wanted to see ‘The Victory’.  We took the wrong turning, just as we told the Sergeant.”

        “I don’t believe a word of it,” he smiled at her and gave her a hug.  “Keys, please, and I’ll drive.”

        “Where’s your SPV?”

        “We parked it.”  Scarlet shepherded everyone into the car and drove away from the police station.  He drove by a roundabout route to where they had left the SPV, and finding it unguarded, they removed the hoverpacks and turned the car around, heading back towards the harbour.  Parked across from the quayside they gazed out on the Makepeace riding at anchor, out of reach of them all.

        “You know, I think we’re going to need a chopper after all,” Scarlet reasoned, “Even the packs won’t carry us that distance in this sort of weather.”

        “I doubt if Spectrum Portsmouth will lend us one.”

        “You need a helicopter?  Use mine,” Sarah said.

        “Pardon?”

        “I used a SvenCorp helicopter to get from the airport to Mary’s house.  I could get it to come here.”

        Scarlet looked at Blue.  “Should we?”

        Blue looked at Sarah.  “Call them – it can land over there.”

        Sarah fished her dainty mobile phone out of the designer handbag beside her on the backseat and dialled a number. “Mr. Calbeck?  It’s Sarah Svenson… Yes, I am very well; thank you and having a wonderful time, so kind of you to enquire. Now I want a helicopter to pick me up. I’m in the Portsmouth dockyards; I’ll get someone to give you directions….. I’m sorry, Mr. Calbeck, what was that you said? ... I beg your pardon, Mr. Calbeck; perhaps you did not catch my name? Very well then, I will assume you were not serious when you said that…  Wait for how long?  No, I want it now.” Sarah’s voice acquired an edge of annoyance as she continued her conversation.  “Mr. Calbeck, please don’t make me call my husband just to ask him to confirm my orders; I would hate to have to do that – especially as he’ll probably be busy in his office right now and he hates to be disturbed with trivial matters.  He made it quite clear that he expected everyone in the British office to do everything they could to make my stay here as pleasant as possible. Well, yes, Mr. Calbeck, I am sure you want to do just that – the thought that you might think otherwise never crossed my mind…  Thank you, I knew we could sort this out.   I will be sure to mention to my husband just how helpful everyone over here has been. Please speak to my tour arranger.”  As she handed the phone to her son, her harsh expression faded back into her habitual unruffled calm. 

        Watching her, Scarlet realised Blue was more like his mother than was obvious at first sight.  Both of them had a streak of almost ruthless determination underlying their apparently limitless patience and good temper. 

 

Chapter Four:

 

In which Angels prove to be a distraction.

 

        As they waited for the helicopter to arrive, Scarlet paced restlessly around the car whilst Blue dozed fitfully in the passenger seat and the women whispered together.   He saw an SPV draw up on the jetty beside the MSV, and went back to the car to avoid being seen. 

        Captain Ochre and Rhapsody Angel got out, and Grey and Symphony came out to meet them.  The young women hugged each other, and the Captains exchanged brief nods before wandering into the warehouse in deep conversation.  The Angels remained by the side of the SPV despite the rain. 

        “We ought to thank them,” Scarlet muttered to a now alert Blue.

        “They’d deny they were doing anything on purpose – if they have any sense.”  Blue’s voice had taken on a mellow quality.

        Both men sat mesmerised by the view of the young women, unaware of the interest their fascination was arousing in their passengers.

        “Who’s that?” Sarah asked quietly, so as not to disturb the mood.

        “Symphony …” Blue murmured with such a sigh that it suggested even saying her name gave him pleasure.

        “And Rhapsody Angel, “Scarlet finished the sentence.

        “Which one is which?” Mary asked.

        “Symphony is the pretty blonde…” Blue replied dreamily.

        “And Rhapsody is the beautiful red-head,” Scarlet added quietly.

        Almost as if she had heard the quiet murmur of her name, Rhapsody turned to look in their direction and raised a hand to give the slightest of waves.  Symphony turned too, and her smile was much broader and she gave a definite wink.

        “They can’t possibly know it’s us,” Scarlet reasoned.

        “They might know about the car…” Blue suggested.

        “I hope we’ll get to meet them,” Mary said.  Both men tensed as if remembering they had an audience.  “I seem to recall meeting a red-headed pilot and a couple of blondes at the commissioning ceremony.”

        The young Angel pilots began to walk nonchalantly in their direction, apparently engaged in heated dispute. The Captains become tenser as they approached.

        “They’ll end up in as much trouble as us,” Scarlet muttered.

        “D’you think they’d care?” his partner asked reasonably, and Scarlet had to admit they probably had other things on their minds than the Colonel’s future wrath.

        As they came within speaking distance, Blue opened his door and stood leaning against it.

        “Hiya, handsome.”  Symphony sprang to his side with an expression of joy on her face. He held out a hand to forestall her, but it had about as much effect as Canute had when he tried to stop the encroaching tide.  She hugged him and kissed his pale cheek.

        “You don’t look very well,” she said, brushing his fringe from his temple.

        “I’ve had ‘flu, and you had better get out of here.”

        “What’s a bout of ‘flu between friends?” she smiled, wilfully misunderstanding his order.

        “Symphony,” he cautioned, but so gently it was apparent he did not really wish her to move away.

        Rhapsody had gone to Scarlet’s side and although she was by nature far less demonstrative than her American friend, it didn’t take an expert to see the similarity in the body language between the couples.

        “What are you going to do?  You know the Colonel is gunning for you, don’t you?” she asked Scarlet.

        “Yeah, we picked up a conversation between two female agents a while ago,” he answered with a smile.

        “We’re waiting for a helicopter,” Blue volunteered across the roof of the car.

        “Santa bringing it for you, is he?” Symphony teased, as she brushed the nap of his suede tunic into one direction. “Grey and Ochre are plotting to hijack a boat and invade Poland – or failing that, Bereznik,” she explained.

        “My mother called the company and a SvenCorp machine is on its way here.”

        “Your mother?” Her pencil thin eyebrows arched higher over her green eyes.

        “Hello.”  Sarah Svenson slid from the back seat and extended her hand, “I’m Adam’s mother, although he’ll only admit it at gunpoint.”

        Symphony laughed, “Yeah – my mother says much the same about me.”  She shook the proffered hand and said, “I believe we have met before, at the commissioning ceremony.”

        “Briefly.  Very briefly,” Sarah agreed with a sly glance at her embarrassed son.

        Mary Metcalfe climbed out and waited to be introduced, but her son looked pointedly in the other direction until Rhapsody rolled her eyes at him and introduced herself.  “Nice to see you again, Mrs. Metcalfe.”

        “What are you going to do with the helicopter when it arrives?” Symphony asked.  Blue and Scarlet glanced towards the Makepeace. “Then you’ll need a pilot,” she continued. “After all – Daddy might stop your allowance until you’ve paid for the thing if you deliberately ditch it in the briny deep.”

        “He’s insured,” Blue said, complacently.

        “I’ll fly it,” she offered.

        “No, I can’t allow you to do that.  If the Colonel is going to throw the book at anyone, he can do it at us, not you.”

        “Strangely enough, I’m not asking your permission.  I will fly it.”

        “Symphony…”

        “Yes, Captain Blue?” she asked sweetly, adding before he could respond, “You may have been a test pilot, but in this weather you need an experienced chopper pilot and I’ve flown more choppers than you’ve had hot dates!” She gave a throaty laugh as he flushed. “That’s settled then.”

        “He’s right, you shouldn’t do it,” Scarlet said, dragging his gaze away from Rhapsody and belatedly supporting his friend’s argument.

        “Yeah, sure – it will be my own fault; I never listen to good advice. Everyone told me not to do it but I’m just a wayward, headstrong creature, who never tells anyone what she’s planning and never wants help from anyone else.  Remind you of anyone we know, Rhapsody?”

        “I could think of a couple of people, given a second or two,” Rhapsody teased, placing her hand on Scarlet’s shoulder to forestall his argumentative response.

        “I think, all in all, I would find it easier to explain all this to your father, if I didn’t have to account for one sunken helicopter,” Sarah commented reasonably and earned herself a brilliant smile of grateful solidarity from Symphony.

 

-o0o-

 

        The Angels decided to wait for the helicopter with them rather than rejoin Grey and Ochre. To get out of the rain they all squashed back into the car, with Symphony electing to sit on Blue’s knee in the front rather than squeeze in the back with Rhapsody, Mary and Sarah.    There was a little desultory conversation, but both Captains had suddenly become tongue-tied and they refused to rise to the bait thrown by either their mothers or their girlfriends.

        It was Blue who first caught the sound of the helicopter’s approach. They watched the gaudy yellow and blue machine land across the quayside from them.  Symphony opened the car door, slid off Blue’s knee and started to sprint towards it, Captain Blue in hot pursuit.  He had overtaken her by the time they reached the chopper and was busy convincing the pilot to alight as she ran up. As the pilot scrambled out, she clambered into his seat and Captain Scarlet, carrying the two hoverpacks from the SPV, dodged round to the passenger side and leapt aboard.

        Attracted by the noise of the engine, Grey and Ochre ran from the warehouse and started towards the helicopter as it began to rise smoothly from the tarmac.   It circled around their heads, giving them ample time to see the occupants, before it headed out across the harbour to where the Makepeace rode at anchor.

        As Ochre began to question the pilot, Grey looked at the three women staring after the helicopter, each with a remarkably similar expression of loving anxiety on their faces.  For the first time Grey began to wonder if there wasn’t something between Rhapsody and Scarlet.  There were few people amongst the senior Cloudbase staff who hadn’t guessed the nature of the relationship between Blue and the demonstrative Symphony, although it would have caused the Captain untold embarrassment if he’d realised that.  It said a lot about the liking people had for the laconic American that not even Ochre teased him about it – well, not unduly.

 

-o0o-

 

        Once clear of the buildings, Symphony steadied the helicopter and began a circuitous approach towards the frigate.  If anyone on the ship was planning to take pot shots at the chopper, she wasn’t going to make it easy for them.   In the back of the cockpit, Blue and Scarlet struggled into the hoverpacks.

        “Can you get close enough for us just to drop on the main deck?” Scarlet shouted over the engine noise. The frigate had a helicopter landing pad at the stern, but to drop them there would leave them too exposed to hostile guards.

        “It’s pretty squally, I wouldn’t want to bring it in that close in case I get blown into the superstructure,” she replied with a frown.  “I’ll get you as close as is safe.”

        “Don’t take any risks,” Blue shouted.  His concern was clear on his face.  “I’d much rather we took the safest route for the machine than you went too close and I lost you.”

        Symphony’s heart jumped at his choice of pronoun and she gave him a quick smile, “Don’t worry; you won’t get rid of me that easily, but I want to make sure you’re safe as well.”

        The chopper swerved to the right and was blown slightly off course by a sudden gust of wind.  Symphony struggled to regain stability.

        “This is close enough,” Scarlet screamed, “We’ll go in from here!”

        She instantly pulled the machine up and away, “No way, Paul!  You may be indestructible but your partner isn’t.  You go together when it’s safe or I turn this bird round, right now, and we all go for a cream tea with Dianne and your mothers.”

        He grinned at her and spread his hands.  “You’re the pilot – so we’ll go on your mark then.”

        She made a new approach run and fortuitously the wind dropped. Nearing the frigate she suddenly lost height and yelled,   “Go! Go! Go! And for the love of God – be careful – both of you!”

        Scarlet went first, clearing the down-thrust of the chopper before he switched on the hoverpack.  Momentarily he thought he’d misjudged it and that he would hit the choppy water, but the jets strained and lifted him clear.  He glanced up to see that once Blue had jumped, Symphony had pulled the chopper up and away, and so his partner had had a much less bumpy descent.  Scarlet hovered where he was until Blue joined him and they moved towards the frigate together. They were below the height of the deck and the crew on board were too occupied watching the antics of the mad female pilot to realise that the danger was much closer and far smaller than they imagined.  

        Sheltering beneath the huge ship’s sides, the two Captains watched Symphony dancing the chopper away from the Makepeace with a skill that amazed them both.

        “O brother, how that woman can fly,” Scarlet muttered with undisguised admiration.

        Blue caught his words.  “She’s just had plenty of practice – unless neither of you realise how many hot dates I’ve had!”

        Scarlet turned and caught the relieved expression on his friend’s face as he watched the helicopter disappearing. “You’re a real dark horse, Svenson,” he laughed.

        “No, I’m a natural blond.”

        Scarlet gave a groan, and by way of retribution, continued, “Tell me, was all that stuff true?”

        “All what stuff true?” Blue asked warily.

        “About why they called you Adam,” Scarlet asked with exaggerated innocence.

        “Oh, you heard all that, did you?  Well, let’s just say my mother has a fertile imagination and that her middle name isn’t Elizabeth.”  Blue was almost squirming with embarrassment.

        “Well okay, if you don’t want to talk about it…” Scarlet said, his tongue firmly in his cheek.  He saw the grimace of exasperation on Blue’s face, and, smiling, he pointed towards the stern of the ship. “Let’s try the back door,” he suggested.

 

-o0o-

 

        The small crowd on the quayside watched as the helicopter ducked and dived around the ship, and suddenly rose and swerved away back towards the jetty.  As it landed, Ochre and Grey ran over and helped Symphony from the cockpit.

        “Where are they?” Ochre demanded.

        “On the Makepeace by now, I hope.” She turned and gazed out at the frigate.

        “What are they planning to do?” Grey asked her.

        Symphony shrugged, “You know, I never asked them.”

        “Talk about the blind leading the blind,” Ochre muttered, and was surprised to see the Angel pilot smirk.

        “Am I in trouble?” she asked them.

        “Not if whatever they are planning comes off, and knowing Scarlet’s luck, it probably will,” Grey said with a shrug.

        “What’s the date?” she asked suddenly.

        “Friday the 13th,” he confirmed.

        “Oh,” she shrugged, “S’good job neither of them is superstitious then.”

 

 

Chapter Five:

 

In which Captain Scarlet proves to be a poor sailor but a good friend.

 

        Blue and Scarlet stowed their hoverpacks behind a convenient lifeboat and moved stealthily along the deck.  Most of the crew appeared to be towards the prow – jeering triumphantly at the retreating helicopter.  Scarlet yanked open a metal door and the pair slipped down the narrow stairs to the deck below.  Blue glanced at his companion and mouthed, ‘where to?’ with an eloquent shrug. 

        Neither of them was familiar with the design of naval vessels, and their search had neither purpose nor method, so trusting to luck, they turned left.  At the end of the corridor they descended a second, shorter flight of stairs.  After a few minutes they reached a dead end and saw, off to the left, a much shorter corridor, the door at the end of which was guarded by a bored looking naval rating, and unusually, the man was armed.  

        They exchanged grins and hung back to confer in whispers.

        “We could jump him,” Scarlet suggested.

        “That’ll warn the people in the room if we do,” Blue objected.  “Do you think he knows anything about what’s going on?”

        “I very much doubt it.”

        “Then we should try bluffing – we strut up and demand access, as if we expect to be expected. We should get a chance to deck him whilst he’s distracted.”

        “What was that about warning the people in the room?” Scarlet grinned.

        “Do you have a better idea?”

        Scarlet shook his head.  Bagsie me for the VIP – You follow like a menial.”

        “Huh,” Blue protested.

        “That way – I take the bullet and you sort out the mess, otherwise you can get shot and I’ll sort it out,” Scarlet explained, spreading his hands wide as he offered his partner the choice.

        “Oh well, when you put it like that.”  Blue pulled a face.  “Off you go, sir.”

        Scarlet straightened up and drew a deep breath.  He strutted along the corridor with Blue stomping along behind.

        “Halt,” stammered the guard. “Who are you?”

        “Colonel Scarlet, Spectrum.  I’m here for the meeting.  Jump to it, man.”

        “I have no orders to admit anyone in here, sir.”

        “The Navy are a bunch of incompetents, just as I said, Major Blue.  Make a note of this so that I can give the World President all the details on my return to Futura.”

        “Yes sir, Colonel.”

        The guard bristled slightly, “It’s not that, sir, I have instructions not to allow anyone in there except for Commander Wetherby.”

        “Well, I hope Wetherby hurries up.  Perhaps I should have waited for him, as you suggested, Major.” Scarlet managed to make it sound as if Blue had committed a serious misdemeanour by being right.

        “Would you like me to chase Commander Wetherby, sir?”

        “If this man is so lacking in initiative as to keep me waiting, I suppose you had better – and be quick about it, man!”

        Blue gave the guard an exasperated grimace and moved forwards as if to salute his superior officer, but the hand raised to his temple came down on the guard’s neck and the man dropped like a stone.

        Scarlet sighed, “How depressingly stupid some people can be. Now I understand why the Colonel is always saying ‘use your initiative’.”

        “’Initiative shouldn’t clash with discipline,’” Blue quoted, poker-faced, looking up from securing the guard with his own handcuffs.

        Scarlet grinned, “Touché.”

        “Ready?” Blue asked as he stood upright.

        “Ready, Major – Open the door.”

        Blue kicked the door of the room open and Scarlet, with Blue’s gun in his hand, ran into the room.  Across from the door sat the three hostages – the British and European Foreign Ministers and the ministerial aide.  The three men struggled to stand up and raised their hands in abject surrender.

        “Don’t shoot!” the Aide whimpered.

        Scarlet lowered the gun as Blue dragged the guard into the room and closed the door.

        “I’m not going to shoot anyone,” Scarlet said. “At least, not until I know exactly what’s been happening here.”

        It took some minutes for the men to accept that the red-uniformed man was not the one who had lured them into captivity, but once the Spectrum officers had convinced them of their bona fides, the information came in fast and furious confidences.

        When Wetherby and his ‘Spectrum’ accomplice had arrived in London, they had explained that activity by Bereznian agents had led to a complex rearrangement of the plans – far too secret to be vouchsafed even to the participants.  The Ministers had complied with their new instructions, fooled into implicitly trusting their abductors because of their confidence in the neutrality of Spectrum.  Once all three of them were in the Spectrum Car they had been driven down to Portsmouth and ferried out to the Makepeace, confidently expecting to meet Andrei Stolojan.

        So far they had been locked in this pokey room and fed and watered at regular intervals, but told nothing and seeing no-one except Wetherby and the guard outside.  Requests to be allowed to contact outside agencies had been denied, and an attempt to leave had resulted in threats to their person and the ministerial aide had been punched on the nose by the guard. One look at the cowed man was enough to confirm this much as true, at least.

        Scarlet looked at Blue with a crooked smile. “Explain this, if you can?”

        Captain Blue drew a deep breath and licked his fingers – he’d spent the time polishing off the leftovers from the hostages’ buffet meal.  “Obviously whatever is going on here depends on these three gentlemen being kept incommunicado.  Either Wetherby’s gone crazy or Stolojan is playing some devious game of double-cross.”

        “You prefer the double-cross.”  It was a statement, not a question.

        “Don’t you?  You know more about Stolojan than I do.”

        Scarlet nodded.  He glanced at the three men before him – they had to get them out of here before they even attempted anything else.  Suddenly it occurred to him that he had no radio and the last time he’d seen Blue’s cap it had been on the backseat of the car – so no help there either.

        As if reading his partner’s mind, Blue fished in his tunic pocket.  Scarlet stared with undisguised amazement as his partner produced a small mobile phone – one which looked remarkably like his mother’s battered old handset. Blue must’ve arranged to borrow it whilst he’d been pacing around the car – assuming his friend was asleep.  He was impressed by the foresight that had provided them with a means of communication.

        Blue keyed in a number and they heard the ringing tone.

        “Hi Mom, it’s me, let me speak to Symphony. Can you hear me, Symphony Angel?”

        “I hear you, what can I do?” Symphony’s voice came back after the slightest of pauses.

        “We have located the three hostages – but not the VIP.  Request transport to remove the hostages as soon as possible.”

        “S.I.G. – please wait, Captain.”

        Moments later, Ochre came through, “At the risk of our jobs and pensions, we are prepared to assist you.  Captain Grey is coming over with a launch and Symphony is about to take off in that bright yellow helicopter.   Do you think you can get the hostages to the left hand side of the boat – what was that, Brad?  Okay, okay, the port side of the boat – and into Grey’s launch – if Symphony creates a distraction?”

        “What kind of distraction?”

        “Can you?”

        “Yes – what kind of distraction?” Blue repeated.

        “E.T.A. for the launch is approximately ten minutes – always supposing it doesn’t sink.”

        “Ochre – what kind of distraction?”

        “S.I.G., Captain.” The connection went dead.

        Blue frowned as he pocketed the phone, “They’ve got Symphony flying as target practice whilst we load these three onto a launch.”

        “Right, if you gentlemen would care to follow me…”

        “Did you hear me, they’ve got Symphony…”

        “Yes, I heard, and I can’t think of a better pilot to be doing it.” Scarlet relented, and said reassuringly, “She’s one of the best, Adam, don’t worry.”

 

-o0o-

 

        By the time they were ready to leave, the guard had revived and on giving his word of honour not to attract attention, he was taken with the hostages through the ship.  It was a tricky job leading the scared officials up to the deck.  Scarlet scouted ahead and Blue brought up the rear, but by the time they had reached the open deck, both Spectrum agents had come to the conclusion that, whatever was going on, this was something of a sideshow.  The security around the men was far too lax for one thing; it was almost as if the kidnappers, knowing that Spectrum’s first reaction would be to rescue the ministers, had created the whole thing as a diversion from the real purpose of the plot.

        They reached the deck before the launch arrived; it was battling its way across from the harbour and Blue, being the better sailor, went to peer over the railings until the launch drew alongside them.  He beckoned to the waiting group of men and signalled to Grey to make ready.  The security guard had shown them where the lifejackets were stowed and all of the men were now equipped with one.  Scarlet had also found a rope ladder, which was too short to reach right down to the launch but it was better than jumping straight from the deck. 

        The three hostages were now so scared that getting them to follow even the simplest orders was difficult, but eventually,  after the guard had shown the way  down the ladder and been secured to the launch’s handrail by Rhapsody, the Spectrum agents coaxed the hostages over the side and Grey collected them safely.  He saluted and turned the launch for the shore.  Rhapsody Angel, now busy tending to the hostages, looked back at the red and blue figures watching over the railings and waved.

        “Now what?” Scarlet asked as he watched the launch disappearing in the driving rain.

        “Now we find Stolojan and ask him what the Hell is going on here,” Blue said.  His gaze turned to the other side of the vessel and the buzz of a helicopter engine. It became apparent that the engine noise was coming closer and suddenly the huge yellow and blue machine rose from beyond the other railings and hovered, perilously close the radar tower.   It lurched to the right and swept over the deck, above the heads of Scarlet and Blue.  The side panel slid open and from the aperture the dark haired figure of Captain Ochre dropped a bulky object – wrapped in life jackets.  If Scarlet hadn’t caught it, it would have probably brained one or other of them. 

        The helicopter turned away from the deck so sharply they were almost blown over by the rotor blades as it banked. Once away from the frigate the machine gave a mischievous wiggle and turned for the dockyard.

        “That woman’s crazy,” Scarlet said, as they watched the helicopter plough on through the rain.

        “What’s in the parcel?”

        Scarlet tore open the lifejackets to reveal a Mysteron detector and Blue’s radio cap.

        “D’you think it’s a hint to call the Colonel?” Scarlet handed Blue his cap.

        Blue rolled his eyes, “Why is it always me?”

        “Come on, Adam, bite the bullet, we don’t have all day.”

        Blue put the cap on and activated the mic. His epaulettes flashed green briefly, but before the Lieutenant was able to respond, the Colonel’s voice cut in.

        “Nice of you to join us, Captain.”

        “Yes sir, sorry sir.”

        “Is Scarlet with you?”

        “Yes sir, but his communications circuit is dead.”

        “We won’t go into details about what you’ve been doing.  I want you to get the crew to bring the frigate into the dock.  Now the hostages are gone, you may find them more amenable.”

        “We can certainly try, sir.  Do you have any information on what’s going on?”

        “Lieutenant Green did some checking and it would appear that Wetherby is a sleeper – he’s a USS agent as well as a commander with the British naval force.  Apparently, the USS believes that Stolojan is a plant – a double-agent still working for the Bereznian Government – and that this is an elaborate scheme to destabilise the European democracies.”

        “No Mysteron involvement?” Blue asked, almost disappointed.

        “None that we are aware of, although of course the Mysterons are not averse to paddling in the murky waters of global conflict.”

        “What do you want us to do with Stolojan?”

        “Nothing; as this is a case for the USS, we can leave him to them.  Get the frigate back to the docks and if you cannot be of further assistance to Commander Wetherby, you can return to base.  I am positively breathless with the anticipation of hearing your reports on this mission, Captain.”

        “S.I.G., Colonel.” Blue looked across at Scarlet. “We’re dead,” he informed his partner with a grimace as the comms link closed.

        “No – surprise me again!  Extra radar duty for the next ten years or cleaning the hangar deck with a toothbrush – which would you prefer?”

        “Death,” said Blue flatly.

        “It’ll happen one day – soon enough, Adam, don’t wish it on yourself.”

        Blue looked up at hearing the wistful note in his friend’s voice.  “Hey, I was joking,” he protested.

        “Ha, bloody, ha.  Now let’s get busy.”

 

-o0o-

 

        No-one attempted to stop them as they made their way through the ship. They eventually found Commander Wetherby on the bridge, staring with binoculars at the launch, which had almost reached the jetty. He was a stocky man with light brown hair, receding at the front. Without his uniform cap he looked older. He turned with a slight smile and acknowledged the two Captains’ presence.

        “I owe you an apology, Captain Scarlet, but it was necessary that we kept Stolojan here.”

        “That hardly excuses kidnapping two Foreign Ministers and one civil servant,” Scarlet said.

        Wetherby shrugged, “I regret any anxiety we caused our guests, but I have to follow my orders, Captain.” It was obvious that he was not at ease with the nature of the mission he’d undertaken.

        “So do we, Commander, and our orders are to convince you to bring the Makepeace into harbour once more,” Blue said firmly.  “We intend to carry out those orders, with or without your co-operation.”

        “Yes, I guessed as much.” Wetherby pushed a button and somewhere away in the ship a buzzer sounded.

        “What were you hoping to achieve?” Scarlet asked.

        “Our agents in Bereznik had reported doubt amongst some of the dissident groups that Stolojan was truly committed to the cause.  Some of the cadres had been discovered and people – people important to the opposition movement – had disappeared.  The evidence pointed to Stolojan, but he was such a high profile dissident that to denounce him might have done as much damage as allowing him to continue.”

        Blue gave a sympathetic nod.  He had spent several years, before he was recruited for Spectrum, working for the Security Department of the WAS, weeding out spies and hostile agents.  He knew the problems well enough.  “You could have had our assistance rather than go over our heads,” he said reasonably.  “Spectrum might be primarily concerned with fighting the Mysterons, but our charter gave us the brief of fighting all international terrorism.”

        “It was not my decision, Captain.  Personally I would have considered it an honour to work alongside either or both of you.  Spectrum’s reputation speaks for itself, gentlemen.”

        “Where is Stolojan now?” Scarlet asked crisply.

        “Philips is with him.  We’ve been interrogating him.”

        “Does he know of your doubts about him?”

        Wetherby gave a smile, “He does now.”

        “Can we be of any further assistance to you, Commander?”

        “No, thank you, Captain Scarlet.  I have contacted my superiors and they will ensure the matter is cleared up with the authorities.  I have a feeling though, that this might be my last ship.” He gave a sad smile, “Maybe I should’ve said no when they recruited me and stayed with the navy, but they can be persuasive people.”

        “We all have to make such decisions when that question is posed,” Blue said, not without some regret in his voice.

        Scarlet knew that although the quiet American was not one to repine over past decisions, he had very personal reasons to regret some of the things that had happened during his spell as a security agent.

        “But surely to join Spectrum must be the pinnacle of a career?” Wetherby said with interest.

        “I wasn’t always in Spectrum,” Blue confided.

        Wetherby nodded, “I’ve always been in the navy – I never wanted to do anything else. Can’t say I fancy a desk job much though.”

        They were interrupted by the appearance of a naval rating who saluted them all and went to the wheel.

        “Take her in, Johnson,” Wetherby said.

        “Aye, aye Sir.”

 

-o0o-

 

        The Makepeace edged towards the harbour, buffeted by the squalls and waves.  Scarlet – who was generally unaffected by everything, thanks to his retrometabolism – began to realise that he was not immune to sea-sickness, and took himself to a seat in the corner and thought longingly of deserts and mountains – or anywhere where the floor stayed still.  Blue, who had done plenty of sailing on his Father’s yacht, remained close to Wetherby watching their progress.

        Consequently it was Scarlet who, desperate to distract himself from the yaw of the ship, was staring towards the horizon and noticed the approach of a small plane.  He squinted into the rain, unsure of exactly what he was seeing. There were no visible markings on the plane, and as it kept coming towards them, his unease grew.  Finally he alerted his partner.

        “Captain Blue, are we expecting an escort?”

        Blue turned his head, and saw with some alarm just how close the plane was.  He activated his cap mic.  Radio S.I.R. – we’re under attack – a plane – heading straight for the Makepeace! Spectrum is Red!”

        Blue pushed Wetherby towards the door, ordering him to get off the bridge. Wetherby stopped just long enough to sound the emergency claxon before obeying the order and disappearing down the stairs.   Blue shoved the petrified rating away from the wheel and after his commander.  Then taking the wheel himself, he began to rotate it, trying to make the ship turn away from the approaching plane. 

        Scarlet, urging the American to give up and follow him, was halfway through the door when he turned to see Blue, his back to the windows, still spinning the wheel in an attempt to deflect the impact.  Angrily, Scarlet darted back and grabbed his partner’s arm, all but dragging him through the open door.  They tripped over each other and tumbled down the stairs to lie winded on the decking.  Scarlet heaved himself upright and pulled the stunned Blue to his feet.

        “Run, you stupid Yank!” he screamed at his friend, pushing him in the back to get him started. They both stumbled towards the next flight of stairs as emergency claxons reverberated throughout the ship.

        The noise of the plane’s engines grew deafening, and moments later the cockpit of the plane gave the windows of the bridge a glancing blow and ploughed into the superstructure.  Scarlet threw himself to the floor and the impact flung Blue clear across the deck as the whole area became a maelstrom of glass, debris and – more alarmingly – flame.

        Scarlet turned over to see the burning nosecone of the plane a few metres away from him.  He wriggled beneath the obstacle, feeling his tunic start to smoulder from the heat.  He brushed the sweat from his eyes and noticed his hand was covered in blood.  Blinking until he could see properly, he looked for Blue, praying his friend had been equally as lucky when the plane struck.  He could see the still figure of Captain Blue, face down near to the bulwark of the deck.  He called, but there was no answer.  Painfully, he crawled over to where Blue was lying – his eyes closed.  He stretched a hand towards his partner and felt the flutter of a pulse in his neck, but he couldn’t rouse him – Blue was out cold.

        “Come on, Blue-boy, we have to get out of here,” he muttered, sliding his hands under his partner and turning him over.  Gripping his shoulders he began to drag Blue away from the licking flames.  It would not be long before the plane exploded and nothing could survive that.  Drawing on every last reserve of stamina Scarlet slid his unconscious partner down the stairs to the main deck and with barely enough strength left to crawl, he pulled the inert Blue, inch by inch, towards the side of the ship.  He had no real idea of what he would do when he reached it – he knew he wouldn’t have the strength to keep his friend afloat, even if he got him off the ship – but it was not in his nature to give up the struggle and he refused to surrender to his aching body. There was a series of explosions from the bridge and he knew the end would not be long.

        Men were emerging from the lower decks and Scarlet sighed with thankfulness as strong arms lifted him up, and unknown, preoccupied faces reassured him that they had Blue as well.  He was lifted into the nearest lifeboat and propped up against the side, so that he could cradle his partner as they descended to the waves with a gut wrenching jolt.  

        As the crowded lifeboat started for the shore, Scarlet looked back to the ship from which heavy clouds of black smoke billowed and swirled in the gusting wind. The fuselage of the plane emerged from the burning bridge at an angle.  The restless waves tossed the Makepeace from side to side and the plane shuddered, slicing further into the stricken frigate.  Moments later, its engines exploded and the whole vessel impacted on itself, turned over and sank below the choppy, grey waves with a hiss of steam and a tidal wave that almost capsized the lifeboat. 

        To the semi-conscious Scarlet it seemed like hours before they reached land, and willing hands lifted him from the bobbing lifeboat.  He was half aware of seeing Grey’s and Ochre’s concerned expressions and then wholly aware of Dianne’s tearful face.  He tried to smile, to reassure her, but she vanished before he could manage a proper smile only to be replaced by his Mother – looking stricken, and yet determined to be ‘frightfully brave’.

        He struggled to raise his hand and she grasped it so tightly he would have complained if he’d had the strength.   He knew there was something he had to ask her, something so important it was causing him anguish – he struggled to remember.  He became aware of a woman sobbing close by and the anguished voice of another keening one word over and over, “Adam, Adam…”

        He felt a sense of relief that he had found the answer to his question and managed to gasp, “Adam?”

        Mary Metcalfe spared a glance at the other stretcher over which Sarah and Symphony were supporting each other in their misery.  She couldn’t tell if the still body of Captain Blue was alive or dead, but she knew it mattered to her son, so she gave him her bravest smile and nodded, “He’s here.”

        Satisfied, Scarlet relaxed his grip on consciousness and closed his eyes.

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White listened to the report from Captain Grey in silence.  He had rarely heard his eldest officer sound so emotional about anything before.  Lieutenant Green was listening in stunned silence as Grey’s well-modulated voice stammered to a halt.

        “Are Scarlet and Blue both seriously hurt?” White asked.

        “Yes, sir.  Scarlet we know will be all right given time, but Blue… he’s unconscious and there’s a lot of blood.  The triage medic says he needs to be seen soon and as Scarlet is unconscious as well, he wants them both to go to the local hospital.”

        “Stall him, Captain!  I’m sending a Spectrum helicopter for them both – on no account are you to allow Scarlet to be taken to a hospital.  Understand, Captain?”

        “I’ll try, Colonel, but Mrs. Metcalfe is here and she…”

        “What?”

        “Yes sir, both Mrs. Metcalfe and Mrs. Svenson are here.”

        “Gordon Bennet! What were those two doing?” Colonel White swallowed his annoyance and regained his composure with an enormous effort of willpower.  “Inform Mrs. Metcalfe and Mrs. Svenson that they may accompany their sons to Cloudbase, but that Spectrum prefers to provide medical assistance to its operatives in its own way. And Captain, if it is at all possible, keep Mrs. Metcalfe from learning too much about her son’s – abilities.”

        “Yes, sir.” Grey stammered.

        “Once the helicopter has collected them I want you to ascertain exactly what happened – where that plane was from and who was responsible for the attack.”  White drew a deep breath, “And Captain, please extend our official condolences to the families of everyone affected by this terrible incident.”

        “Yes sir.”

        White punched the tannoy on his desk and issued crisp orders for emergency medical helicopters to be scrambled from the nearest base to ferry the wounded – and their relatives – to the safety of Cloudbase. Then he contacted Doctor Fawn and warned him and his medical team what to expect in the way of injuries.

        “Whilst it is imperative that we regain the services of Captain Scarlet as soon as possible, Doctor, I want Captain Blue to receive whatever attention he needs.”

        “S.I.G., Colonel,” Fawn reassured him. “Blue’s as tough as they come, he stands a good chance of making a full recovery.”

        “I hope you’re right, Doctor – I really do,” White said as he closed the communications link.  He turned to Lieutenant Green and said, “Move the base towards Portsmouth, I want the travel time reduced to the minimum.”

        “S.I.G.,” Green said and set to with a will.

 

-o0o-

 

        In the confusion on the dockside, the ambulances ferried the sailors to the local hospitals and Grey managed to keep them away from the Spectrum agents by the simple expediency of pointing to the injured elsewhere.  He had more trouble with Mrs. Metcalfe, who was outraged that her son and his friend should have to wait to receive medical attention. Finally Rhapsody, now recovered from her initial shock, took charge of the distraught woman and eased Captain Grey’s lot.

        The Spectrum helicopter arrived and the two stretchers were loaded aboard.  There wasn’t much room for passengers, but Mrs. Metcalfe and Mrs. Svenson refused to be parted from their sons, and room was found to squeeze them in.  Watching the transport take off, Symphony turned to Grey.  “Get into the SvenCorp machine, we’ll follow them up.”

        “Symphony…I can’t…”

        “Please yourself,” she retorted. “You coming, Di?”

        The two Angel pilots set off for the yellow and blue helicopter standing at the far side of the dock.  Grey glanced almost apologetically at Ochre.  “I have further orders…”

        Ochre was torn, but he knew that really he had no place with the injured, so he squared his shoulders and nodded, “Okay Brad, tell me what the Colonel wants us to do now?”

 

Chapter Six:

 

In which Doctor Fawn gets kissed and Captain Blue admits the truth.

 

        Cloudbase was an impressive vision of state of the art engineering, elegant and supremely functional. Few people ever forgot their first sight of the massive base as it hovered, gleaming, against the backdrop of an endlessly blue sky above a carpet of sunlit cloud.  Yet neither Mary Metcalfe nor Sarah Svenson were aware of the grandeur of the sight, as the helicopter touched down and medical teams rushed forward to remove the injured to sick bay. 

        At a loss, the two women moved together through the corridors in the wake of the rushing medics. It was only when they reached sick bay that anyone took any notice of them.  A uniformed nurse came and led them to a comfortable sitting room and returned moments later with hot drinks. She sat with them whilst Fawn made his initial examinations.  They were still waiting for news when Symphony and Rhapsody Angels hurried into the sick bay and came over to join them. Symphony threw her arms around Sarah and they clung together, whilst a somewhat bashful Rhapsody took hold of Mary’s hand and looked anxiously into the older woman’s deep blue eyes, the eyes her only son had inherited.   Mary found herself comforting the beautiful young woman sitting beside her, and in so doing she was somehow obscurely comforted herself.

        In the operating theatre, Doctor Fawn removed his mask and rubbed the end of his nose, as the stretcher with Captain Blue on it was wheeled out to the recovery room. Considering how close they had both been to the impact, Blue and Scarlet were both incredible lucky to be alive. Scarlet would be fit and well within hours, whilst Blue was not as badly injured as initial reports had suggested;  he had concussion, several cracked ribs and lacerations from flying glass – he’d ache for days after this, but he was, by and large, unhurt.  Fawn had had a tricky job removing splinters of shattered glass from the Captain’s back and legs, yet apart from making sitting uncomfortable for the near future, he’d been fortunate in that nothing had penetrated deep enough to damage any internal organs and no permanent damage had been done.

        It was with a feeling of relief that the Doctor made his way to the sitting room where he knew the relatives of his patients were waiting for news.  It wasn’t a situation he was used to – normally it was only the Colonel who had to be kept informed – apart from the occasional Angelic visitor sneaking in for the latest news.

        In the room he found four women, rather than the two he had expected.  Symphony was holding hands with an elegant, self-possessed woman with fair hair and grey eyes, whilst Rhapsody was being comforted by a dark-haired, blue-eyed woman with a matronly air about her.  It wasn’t difficult to work out which patient went with which visitor.

        “Doctor Fawn, what news?” Symphony sprang to her feet as he entered.

        “Calm down, they’re both going to be okay.”

        All four women fell into each other’s arms as the tension magically evaporated at these words. Fawn sat down and poured himself a cup of coffee from the machine the nurse had brought through. 

        “Scarlet will be up and about in … a few hours. He was buffeted about and he’s looking some interesting shades of purple and yellow right now – but he was incredibly lucky really.”

        “And Adam?” Sarah asked holding her breath.

        “Well, Mrs. Svenson, he’s not going to be running around for a while – he’s got cracked ribs and  I’ve spent most of the past hour picking splinters of glass out of him – but he’s lucky he fell on his face so that, apart from his dignity, nothing’s seriously hurt. He’s still unconscious and I expect he’ll have one hell of a headache when he does come to – but again, unless we discover anything once he’s conscious, there’s no physical damage.” Fawn sipped at his coffee.

        “Oh Doctor, thank you!” Sarah leant across and kissed him, causing him to spill most of his drink over the cream coloured carpet.

        Blushing, he assured her he had done very little.

        Mary stood and extended her hand. “Thank you Doctor, I am sure you are underestimating your own part in this.” She bent down and added her own salute to the Doctor’s already pink cheek.

        “Actually, I think Captain Scarlet deserves the kiss, not me.  I heard the reports from the scene and he got Blue to the lifeboats whilst Adam was unconscious.  If he hadn’t done that – we’d almost certainly be burying your son, Mrs. Svenson.”

        Sarah hid her face in her hands and then turned to Mary, holding wide her arms to Scarlet’s mother.  The two women clung together, weeping tears of relief. Fawn looked rather alarmed; he had not meant to frighten them.

        He looked at the two Angels, both of whom were struggling to contain their emotions. He gave them a conspiratorial smile and patted their shoulders as he turned to leave. “I’m not watching and I don’t talk – consider this place as sacred as the confessional,” he murmured as he walked away.  He’d hardly left the room when he heard the sobs of relief from Rhapsody and Symphony, as they, too, clung together.

        One day, he thought with a smile, Scarlet is going to have to follow his friend’s example and admit that he loves that girl just as much as she loves him. Then perhaps she won’t have to sneak in to see him!

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White heard Fawn’s report with almost as much relief as the women in the waiting room.  “When can we expect Captain Scarlet to be fit for duty?”

        “A couple of hours, give or take,” Fawn estimated. “The process of retrometabolism is not a precise one.  Sometimes the simplest injuries can take the longest time to heal – almost as if he’s saving his energies for the big problems,” he explained.

        White nodded, “And Blue?”

        “He’s going to need time to heal; he has a couple of cracked ribs and he was cut about by the flying glass, and some of the cuts are quite deep.  Assuming he wakes up with nothing more serious than a headache, he’ll be able to do perform light duties in a few days or so – standing up, anyway.”

        The two senior commanders on Cloudbase tried to keep straight faces, but the combination of relief and amusement caught up with them and they both smirked.

 

-o0o-

 

        The Angels took Mary and Sarah to the canteen with the best views, and bought them a meal to celebrate the news about Scarlet and Blue.  Free from major anxiety, the two women were eager to see everything they could, and were ready to admire and be impressed.   The conversation over the food was exactly the kind of conversation neither Captain would have welcomed – as the two proud mothers competed with tales of their offspring’s youthful adventures, disasters and triumphs.  Apart from the absence of photographs of them kicking baby heels on fluffy rugs – it was every young man’s worst nightmare.

        Laughing at one of Paul’s youthful indiscretions, Dianne glanced up to see the man himself looking with horrified eyes at the four of them.

        “Paul!  Does Fawn know you’re out?”

        “Darling!” Mary went to hug her son, drawing him to the table. “You’re looking much better than I expected.  The Doctor said you were several interesting shades of purple and yellow.  Which reminded me of the time you had your first mountain bike and I was just telling Dianne about it…”

        “Oh no, you weren’t, were you?  Mother!” he protested, “I can’t have been more than eight years old…”

        Rhapsody covered her mouth with her hand.  “It’s all in the strictest confidence,” she promised.

        “And is not nearly as bad as the time Adam and his brother decided to make a go-cart,” Symphony started laughing again.

        “Yes, well, I think you’ve probably heard enough for now,” Scarlet said, filing the reference to the go-cart away in his memory with the intention of  asking Blue about it at a later date.

        “Are you hungry?  You can’t have eaten for hours and hours,” Mary asked with genuine concern.

        “I’ll have a sandwich – one of the baguette-types please – with tuna mayonnaise and tomato and a bottle of mineral water,” he smiled at Rhapsody. “Thanks.”

        With a tolerant shrug she went to the counter and returned with the order.  Scarlet drank half the water and then tucked into the sandwich with gusto.

        “How long are you off-duty for?” Mary asked, happily contemplating spending time with her son.

        He glanced at his watch and said, “Half an hour.”

        What?  You need time to recuperate,” Mary protested.

        “We’re short-staffed – Magenta’s on leave and Blue’s still in sick bay – oh, and by the way, Mrs. Svenson, he’s conscious again and Doctor Fawn says you can go and see him when you’re ready. He’s feeling pretty sorry for himself – Adam, not Fawn,” he explained with a quick smile as he bit into his sandwich.

        “Don’t guzzle like that, Paul, you’ll get indigestion.”

        “I’m fine, Mum – don’t fuss.”

        Suddenly the tannoy crackled into life and Lieutenant Green’s voice asked Rhapsody, Symphony and Captain Scarlet to report to the control room as soon as possible.

        “What about us?” Mary asked, “Where shall we go?”

        “Sick bay, I guess.  Go and tell Adam what you’ve been talking about – that should really make his day – he hasn’t been having a very good one so far,” Paul said, as he took a final bite from his sandwich and picked up his mineral water.  “Come on girls, you can tell me all about Adam’s past escapades as we go – and you will forget absolutely everything my mother said, with immediate effect.”

        “The chance of that happening is slim to nil,” Symphony teased as they followed him out of the canteen.

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White waited until they had all settled down. “Good to see you up and about, Captain Scarlet,” he said with the slightest of smiles.

        “Thank you sir, it is good to be back.” Scarlet thought it politic to play along with his commander’s genial repartee.

        “I have received a report from Captain Grey concerning the incident in Portsmouth.  Naval engineers have managed to survey the wreckage of the frigate and of the plane – with a remote underwater camera – and although visibility is poor, they believe there was no pilot in the plane when it crashed.”

        “So it was Mysteronised,” Rhapsody said, voicing everyone’s assumption.

        “It is a possibility, Rhapsody, although, of course, remote-controlled planes have been in use for decades.  Grey and Ochre have undertaken a search of the locale to ascertain if there is evidence of a ‘command post’ from where the plane might have been controlled.”

        “On their own?” asked Scarlet.

        “With the help of local agents and the MPs.”

        “They’d be better using trained chimpanzees,” Scarlet muttered half under his breath – his hours in the police cell still rankled.

        “So far the search hasn’t shown anything.” Colonel White ignored his comment, and looked down at the notes he had.  “There have been other developments – several bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of the frigate – many have yet to be identified but amongst those already known are Commander Wetherby and Lieutenant Philips.”

        Scarlet looked up and stared at the Colonel. “Wetherby was with us on the bridge, Blue made him leave.  He had told us that Philips was with Stolojan.   I don’t remember seeing Wetherby anywhere on the decks during the evacuation and he should have had plenty of time to get clear.  He must have gone down to the interrogation room, to help Philips evacuate Stolojan – otherwise there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have got off the ship safely. I suppose, if that is the case, we must assume Stolojan is also dead and the truth of his possible involvement as a double-agent dies with him.  That means the mission was a failure and the likelihood of a peaceful settlement with Bereznik must be minimal now.”

        We have not found Stolojan’s body, but I fear you may be right, Captain.  Yet, it could have been worse, we could have been searching for the bodies of the European and British ministers too,” White reasoned. He straightened in his seat and his voice took on an angry inflection, “I have lodged a formal complaint with the World President concerning the covert actions of the USS and the danger they exposed my officers and – what is far worse – civilians to. I feel most strongly that they deliberately used us as a front to cover their own nefarious ends.  I cannot afford to let that pass without making it clear that I will not allow Spectrum to be used in such a way again.”

            “Well, several hundred years from now you might receive an apology,” Symphony muttered.  “The whole organisation went downhill when you left, sir.”

        The Colonel looked at her with some astonishment; he had forgotten for the moment that Symphony too had worked for the USS.  He cleared his throat and looked at each of the young, attentive faces before him across his desk.

        “Although not all matters in Portsmouth are wrapped up, I need to recall Grey and Ochre.  We are woefully undermanned here, and with the best will in the World, Blue will be on light duties for some time.  Doctor Fawn has agreed that you are already fit for light duties, Captain Scarlet, and therefore, I would like you to take your mother and Mrs. Svenson back to Winchester – preferably in that yellow and blue monstrosity sitting on the helipad – which I am sure Mr. Svenson senior will be delighted to get back – Symphony Angel. After you have done that, Captain, you can complete the paperwork for Spectrum’s Portsmouth base – including the necessary orders to cover the Military Policeman who released you to Captain Blue.  You can return to Cloudbase on the daily transport from London when all that’s dealt with.”

        “Sir?” Scarlet’s question was also a protest – he hated paperwork.

        “Rhapsody and Symphony, you will return to your duty rotas with effect from 18:00 today.  I’m afraid you will need to do additional duties to allow the other Angels their standard down time.”

        “Yes sir,” the girls chorused. That was the very least they had expected.

        “Dismissed – oh and, Captain, I’m sure you’d be happy to undertake to produce the full report of your mission.  After all, it hardly seems fair to expect Blue to do it.  I’m afraid Doctor Fawn has forbidden him to do anything that involves… sitting down for the next few days.”

        The trio trailed out of the control room and shared woeful grimaces.

        “Well,” Rhapsody said, “he wasn’t as mad as I thought he’d be.”

        “Give him time, I bet he’s saving it until Adam’s upright again,” Scarlet warned.  “I can still see us doing several hundred hours of radar duty, or having to go and lecture to spotty cadets somewhere with lousy weather and no night life.”

        Rhapsody smiled, “I bet the training bases all love you and Blue as a double act – but I wonder if the cadets actually learn anything.”

        “What do you mean?  Adam takes it very seriously – they get the whole organisation explained to them…from the ground up...in detail… in words that rarely have less than three syllables.” Scarlet gave an amused shudder. “I’ve heard him lecture several times and it’s just unfortunate that Adam’s lectures are surefire cures for insomnia – because anyone who could stay awake to the end would be the most clued-up person on the base!”

        Rhapsody giggled and glanced at her friend, inviting her to share in the joke, but Symphony bristled slightly at the implied criticism of her boyfriend, even though she knew that it was probably no great exaggeration – Captain Blue could be very pedantic when he chose.

        “Well, I’m going to say goodnight to the invalid and then I’m off to the Room of Sleep – extra Angel One duties are always a bummer,” she said.   As she turned towards sick bay she asked, “Shall I ask your mom and Sarah to meet you somewhere?” 

        He nodded. “Give her another half an hour with the patient – by then even Adam’s patience will be exhausted and he’ll have had enough of maternal concern.  I’ll meet them in hangar three.”

 

-o0o-

 

        Once the Spectrum agents had left the canteen, Mary and Sarah set out for sick bay.  They stopped on the way to admire the views from the Promenade Deck and marvel at the high-tech equipment that held the Angel Inceptors ready for launch.  Spectrum personnel, who’d heard through the grapevine who the civilians were, greeted them with friendly smiles and readily gave directions when they were unsure of their way.  By the time they reached the sick bay they were feeling very much at home.

        Doctor Fawn welcomed them as he stepped from his office, his hands full of medical files. “Of course, you are here to see Captain Blue – he’s in the room second on the left there, Mrs. Svenson.    He’s still a little woozy but nothing that rest won’t cure.  I understand, that whilst we were all worrying what had happened to him, he was with you, Mrs. Metcalfe, because he had … a touch of ‘flu?”

        “Yes indeed. Paul – I mean Captain Scarlet – dropped him off on his way to Portsmouth.  I gave him some ‘flu pills and put him to bed with a water bottle.  He slept for hours, right through until the next day.  He should have stayed in bed for a day or so more, if you ask me, but when Paul called from Portsmouth he insisted on going to the rescue. I suppose what happened has made him worse?  I was amazed he kept going as long as he did – never mind doing what they did do…”

        “You’d be surprised how far these men can go on pure adrenalin,” Fawn explained, “but he is run down.  Been over-doing it a bit, I expect.  I never see them until they’re suffering,” he said with a smile.

        Alarmed, Sarah left them to find her son.

        “Speaking of over-doing it,” Mary said sharply, “I am concerned about Paul.  He said he had only been given half an hour’s break between being allowed to leave here and starting work.  He has gone to see Colonel White but I am sure he cannot be fully recovered from the accident, Doctor.”

        Doctor Fawn gave a wary grimace.I can assure you, Mrs. Metcalfe, I would not allow him to return to duty if I had any qualms about his health, or his ability to do what is required of him.  Thankfully, neither of them was as badly hurt as Captain Grey had feared. Captain Scarlet has made an excellent recovery.”

        Fawn tried to make a reasonable explanation for the fact that, even in the time he was awaiting medical aid, Scarlet’s retrometabolism had kicked in and started the healing process.  The nature of his wounds had been largely superficial – as had Blue’s – even though the cuts and bruises looked pretty impressive.   It was not the kind of injury Fawn expected to slow Scarlet down beyond a few hours and when he had examined him before signing him as fit for duty, there had been hardly a trace of the injuries.

        “I must say I am surprised Doctor – given that Paul is still prone to these fits – that you are quite so cavalier about his general well-being.”

        “Fits?” Fawn frowned.

        “You do not have to dissemble with me, Doctor, although I understood why you were so reticent in front of Sarah.  My husband told me about the Martian virus that infected Paul.”

        “He did?  Well, he shouldn’t have,” Fawn improvised wildly.

        “I know my son, Doctor; he would be the last person to admit he felt dreadful if he thought he was needed by his colleagues.  He has always been so robust that I worry he will ignore warning signs and over-tax his health.”

        “No chance of that, dear lady.  I am employed to ensure that all Spectrum’s personnel are in peak physical condition and I make sure they get the medical treatment and the rest they need – much to their annoyance sometimes.  Even Captain Scarlet has to do what I tell him.”

        Mary Metcalfe regarded the Doctor through narrowed eyes, “Seems to me there is more to this than I’ve been told.  What Charles told me certainly didn’t sound as if it was an improvement to Paul’s well being, but you seem to suggest he has an advantage over the others.”

        Fawn glanced at her and shook his head vehemently. “Scarlet’s no different from the rest of us,” he said.

        “What about these fits?” Mary questioned sharply.

        “We have them under control,” Fawn said, edging his way towards the office, “Truthfully, I assure you, Mrs. Metcalfe, Captain Scarlet is perfectly healthy…”

 

-o0o-

 

        Doctor Fawn was far too busy fending off awkward questions from Mary Metcalfe to worry over much about Sarah Svenson. She was currently sitting beside the bed on which a naked Captain Blue was laying face down, taking his weight on his forearms.  A frame supported the sheet that covered him from the waist down. He was struggling with his aching head and painful ribs; he felt sore, tired, hungry and uncomfortable.  He was also at a loss as to how to reassure his mother, who had gone into maternal overdrive and whose need to cosset him was tiring him out.

        “Are you sure there isn’t anything I can get you?  Another pillow, perhaps?”

        “No thanks, Mom, you’ve already found me three and my back can only bend so far.”

        “Another drink?”

        He shook his head and winced at the pain. “That’ll only create different problems later.”

        “Oh, Babes, I hate to see you like this.  I feel so helpless!”

        “I’m fine. Relax, Mom; it could have been much worse.  And please, don’t call me that.” He closed his eyes and rested his aching head on his arms.

        Sarah reached for his hand, fretting as she held his fingers.  She felt like this every time she saw Adam in hospital, and the dreadful memories she had of him, wired to monitors as he lay in a coma, resurfaced. As a youngster, he’d had a terrible fall down a disused well and even now he bore the scar across his forehead, hidden beneath the long fringe he steadfastly refused to have cut. It was the only instance of personal vanity she’d ever known in him.

Sitting there looking at him, she  had to admit it to herself that of all her children – and she’d always vowed never to have favourites – he was the dearest to her heart – her handsome, intelligent, charming, wayward, intractable, exasperating darling.   Her thoughts wandered to her other children, unconsciously measuring them against her eldest son.

        At four years younger than Adam, Peter was the one most like her in looks. He was the shortest of the boys and the only child with her light brown hair.  He was also the one most like his father in character, but he lacked John’s capacity for intense emotion – whether love or anger.   Indeed, the most obvious trait he shared with John was the regrettable ability to hold a grudge for all eternity.  As youngsters, there had been a deep bond between the brothers, but around the time Adam was hospitalised and Katherine was born, Peter had decided he was being neglected. He had become very competitive and had striven hard to succeed in everything he did, primarily because he felt overshadowed by his brilliant older brother.   He never lost this jealous streak and still resented the attention given to his brother and his sister, although, surprisingly, he seemed to regard David as blameless.

        The rift between the elder boys had widened in adolescence, as Adam had sailed through his academic career without making much apparent effort, whilst Peter had had to work hard to achieve results that still fell short of matching his brother’s.   Yet he was a diligent and conscientious young man, devoted to his rather vacuous young wife and their baby daughter, his in-laws adored him and even John admitted that he would make a ‘good’ financier one day – which was high praise indeed from his father.    

        Katherine, their only daughter, had been spoilt.   She was, her mother acknowledged objectively, beautiful in a rather glacial way – tall and blonde with a perfect figure, the result of many hours spent in exclusive health clubs.  Not without her share of the family’s brains and ambition, she applied herself only when it suited, and had done well at Harvard.  She could be perfectly ruthless when she thought it necessary and she frequently played her brothers off against each other when she could not get her own way.  Not that she had to argue her case very often – for she was John’s favourite and every inch her father’s daughter, with a temper that matched his.  And yet, Sarah thought, whenever Peter was complaining about Adam – a not infrequent occurrence – it was always Kate who came to Adam’s defence, even to the point of incurring her father’s disapproval.

        Sarah gazed reflectively at her eldest son, whose head was still buried in his arms.  There had been a mutual appreciation pact between Adam and his sister almost since the day she was born.  As the relationship between the brothers had worsened, the bond between Adam and Kate had flourished.  She remembered how Kate had idolised him, right from the days when she could first toddle after him and how Adam and his friends had tolerated her presence.  She knew Kate took her boyfriend troubles to Adam, and any persistent young men who refused to take no for an answer would become strangely reluctant to call at the house, after a chat with ‘my brother’.  How did that old song go?  ‘You say you never want to see me again, your brother’s going to kill me and he’s six feet ten…’ or something like that. Most of the eligible young men in Boston knew that you didn’t mess with Kate Svenson – unless invited to, that was…

        About David – her youngest – the best thing you could say was that he was still young.  He was a charmingly feckless dilettante and the others all made allowances for him – no-one ever got cross with Davy.  As good-looking as Adam, although built on a slighter scale, he was as clever as Peter, but lacked Peter’s drive and ambition. He was far less manipulative than Kate and very easy going – a trait he shared with his eldest brother.  He lived only for his own pleasures, citing Adam’s refusal to toe the family line as his justification for doing the same. It was to be hoped he would eventually mature enough to settle down and find a decent job even if what he decided to do was not what John hoped for.  Yet, John seemed much less fretful with David’s aversion to working in finance than he had been about the other three. John had still not forgiven Adam for walking away from what he – with no hint of irony – called his son’s ‘manifest destiny’.

        All in all it could hardly be called the most unified of families, and although she loved all her children, she wished, occasionally, they were someone else’s problems. The time was coming when Peter would want to ease John out of the company and her husband would not go quietly. 

        She frowned at Adam and wondered what he would do if the others turned on John? He had spent more than a decade fighting his father for various reasons – all of them perfectly valid ones, to his mind at least.  Depriving John of his control of the company looked like a perfect revenge. After John, Adam held the most shares in the family company, since his Grandfather’s holdings had gone, by family tradition, to the eldest grandson – and the other three could not oust their father without Adam’s support.  Yet whenever there was an ‘altercation’ about the company between John and Peter, Adam invariably sided with his father.  This gave Peter another grievance against his brother – perhaps the only one that could be justified – he complained that Adam, who wouldn’t work for the company, had a say in its future – a greater say than the son who did work there.   She’d always hoped that this support for John proved Adam realised how much his father loved him, if only by the strength of his anger at what John perceived as his favourite son’s betrayal.  Yet, she feared it was merely Adam’s innate business sense reviewing the options and making objective decisions.

        She snapped back to reality as he stirred and opened his smoky blue eyes to smile at her.

        “Did I tell you that Cicely is pregnant again?” she asked distractedly, feeling as guilty as if he had read her thoughts.

        “No.” He raised an eyebrow. “I guess Pete is hoping for a boy this time?”

        “He says he doesn’t care, but he’s lying.  That way, at least, he’ll be one up on you forever – the first grandson. He was very disappointed when the first one was a girl – he got over it though,” she added in fairness to her son.

        Adam gave her a thoughtful glance; it was a sure sign of how agitated his mother was, when she made such unguarded comments about her family. “Good luck to them both – I hope it is a boy and then maybe you’ll get off my case for a few years.”

        “Adam, I am not on ‘your case’.  Your Father’s the one who always wanted to know there will be … continuity in the family.  You know that.”

        “Yeah, it’s been drummed into me ever since I started shaving.”

        “That’s not true – not very true anyway,” she conceded.  “And you take no notice whatever we say.  Although,” she added with a sly smile, “I have to say I like your Karen.”

        “She’s not my Karen.”

        “Don’t lie to me, I’m your mother.”

        He shut his eyes and looked away, effectively closing the conversation. She squeezed his hand and wondered if she’d gone too far. He always resented what he considered interference from his family in his personal life.  There had been endless arguments when Adam had become engaged to a young woman his father disapproved of.  Suddenly he turned back to her, and pleaded,

        “Please, don’t interfere – just leave it to me.  She means a great deal to me, but whilst we are working here there are… certain rules.  I’m selfish and I’m greedy and I want to keep both the woman I love and the job I enjoy.  She isn’t my Karen – yet … but I have hope, and I promise you, Mom, if she turns me down, it won’t be because I didn’t make an effort.”

        “I won’t breathe a word, Adz.”

        “Yeah, I know you won’t – except to a few of your most trusted friends, who will tell their most trusted friends in strictest confidence, and by the time I come home it will be common knowledge around half of Boston,” he said with heavy irony.

        “Adam John, that is no way to speak to your mother!” The rebuke was tempered with a bright smile.  “But I’ll forgive because I know you and Karen will make a perfect couple – she’s ideal for you, Babes.” She clapped a hand over her mouth in exaggerated guilt at using the forbidden nickname. He gave her a pitying grin and glanced heavenwards.  Sarah concluded,   “Beats me how I know she’ll manage to put up with you though – but I do!”

        “You know because you are the other woman I love,” he charmed.

        “Flattery will get you nowhere,” she warned, laughing.

        “Oh, I don’t know that that’s strictly true.  I have to admit to a certain weakness for being flattered.” They both jumped at the sound of Symphony’s voice from the doorway.  She smiled at them and moved closer. “Hiya, handsome, seeing you like that I’m almost tempted to ignore the doctor’s orders but Fawn said you were off limits.” She bent and kissed his cheek, giving an appreciative glance down the tunnel formed by the sheeting.

        “Then you had better behave yourself or you will have my mother thinking you are a floozy.” He was caught between delight at seeing her and embarrassment for the position he was in – with his mother sitting alongside. He wondered how long she had been standing there and just what she had heard.

        “Too late, I’m afraid she already knows. Besides, I just can’t keep my hands off you, Babes. I guess you could say I’m greedy too.”

        Blue coloured with embarrassment.  “Oh sh...sugar.  I don’t suppose there’s any point in my trying to retract it, is there? I mean, you’ll hold me to it even though when I said it I was light-headed from hunger and suffering from concussion as well.”

        She shook her head and grinned at him. “No point at all, Mr. Svenson, you burnt that bridge down to the ground.”

        “Well, are you going to answer me?” he asked, as his eyes met her sparkling green ones.

        “Yeah – one day I will.”

        “Karen, what kind of answer is that?” he protested.

        “I’m waiting to see this effort you’re going to make before I commit myself,” she teased, enjoying that for once she had him at a disadvantage. “And I expect roses and kisses and presents and a moonlit night with soft music and you on one knee!”

        Adam buried his head on his arms again, laughing with helpless self pity, “I give up, you wouldn’t believe me if I said that was what I had hoped for rather than this,” he shrugged, and glanced around the hospital room, “so, whatever you want is fine by me…”

        “He’s just like his father,” Sarah warned playfully, “so be careful, Karen.  He’ll deny everything until he’s backed into a corner and then he’ll pretend he meant it all along. I always suspected that when he really fell – he’d go down in flames.” she added with a smirk and all three of them laughed.

 

-o0o-

 

Chapter Seven:

 

In which The Mysterons become seafarers and Captain Blue becomes a stowaway.

 

 

        Captain Scarlet piloted the SvenCorp helicopter towards Portsmouth.  In the back he could just hear the voices of his mother and Sarah Svenson chattering happily.  Since Symphony had left Sarah with the Metcalfes in hangar three, the elegant American had been almost fit to burst with excitement and the two women had not stopped whispering together.

        He glanced at the navigation computer – it was substantially different from the Spectrum Navicom and far less efficient.  He corrected his course by a few degrees and dropped down further.  These machines were not designed to operate at such high altitudes as the Spectrum helijets, being primarily mere executive toys for use by businessmen, and he wondered how Symphony had coaxed it up to Cloudbase in the first place.

        He was not looking forward to reaching Portsmouth and sorting out the remaining problems from the mission and writing the reports the Colonel wanted.  He wished Blue would at least do his share.  Surely just having to stand at a computer didn’t mean you couldn’t type on the blasted thing?  He’d mentioned it in passing, but for once his friend hadn’t offered. 

        Scarlet shrugged; it wasn’t that he couldn’t do it, he was perfectly capable of producing copious reports if he had to, and despite Blue’s earlier complaint, he did do his share – well, most of his share.  It was just that he was busier than anyone else. Colonel White would send him on solo missions and partner him with other agents when it suited.  He didn’t mind being busy – he preferred it.  He’d always been an active man, and since his Mysteronisation he had found he needed far less sleep than anyone else. It had been difficult to adjust at first, but now he was used to it and he made the situation work to his advantage. 

        Perhaps, he thought, a little guiltily, that’s why Adam got so run down – he’s been trying to keep up with me too much of late?  Maybe that trip to Barbados would have done him good… Scarlet bit his lip and admitted to himself that Adam had looked pretty ropey – after all he had only just recovered from the ‘flu when he’d been knocked about in the explosion.  He realised he was feeling guilty for expecting his friend to continue working, and sighed – it was hard to remember all the time that not everyone had his powers of recovery.  Besides, Adam prided himself on his physical fitness and strength, and Scarlet knew that of all the Senior Captains it was Blue who came closest to matching his strength and stamina.   It was probably his retrometabolism that gave him the edge over his best friend.  All of which made Adam’s current exhaustion all the more unsettling, it was just that it wasn’t like him not to volunteer.

        On the subject of his retrometabolism, it had been tricky trying to stop his mother questioning how he had walked away from such an accident, apparently unharmed and why his bruises seemed to be fading so quickly.  Doctor Fawn had been less than complimentary about the fact that he had neglected to inform him about the excuse his father had dreamed up, after an incident at home one  Christmas when his mother had actually witnessed his ‘return from the dead’.  With some quick thinking, his father had explained it away as a catatonic fit, resulting from a mysterious virus brought from Mars by Captain Black.  Mary had accepted that but, consequently, she worried even more about his health than she had used to do, which was ironic really.

        He’d initially taken the decision to keep his condition from both of his parents, but his father had discovered it from security documents he’d seen as part of his work.  Officialdom did not know that General Metcalfe and Captain Scarlet were in any way related and nothing had been done to prevent the General getting access to the class A security documents relating to Captain Scarlet.  There had been a serious breakdown in their relationship – which he sometimes thought might have been exacerbated by his father’s resentment at his son’s secrecy.   But at the time, he had been struggling to come to terms with his new status himself and he had not been able to imagine how he would tell his family anything about it.

        He had fully expected to be estranged from his father for the rest of their lives and it had been a minor miracle when the General had accepted that the man created by the Mysterons was still his son.   However, they had both agreed it was not something his mother should be told about.  It sometimes made it difficult to tell his mother any more about his adventures than the news bulletins were allowed to broadcast.   Mary never questioned his reticence, but he felt sure she sensed she was being kept in the dark about something and he sometimes wondered how long his father would be able to keep the secret from her. 

        The radio crackled into life, and he acknowledged the authority of the air traffic controllers and adjusted to their required flight path.  It felt unusual to be piloting the craft alone, even though he had his two passengers in the back.  Almost everywhere they went, they went in pairs.  Normally it was with Blue, but he had worked with Lieutenant Green on occasion, and with the other Captains as well.   He acknowledged the radio again and came about; over on his left he could see the lights of the distant coast.  Not long now.

 

-o0o-

 

        Leading Seaman Martin Goulden stood on the jetty and stared out to the patch of sea where his frigate had sunk.  He’d been on leave, and had returned to Portsmouth on hearing the news on the TV.  He’d lost good friends on that old ship.  He could feel a prickly sensation in his eyes and he sniffed defiantly – grown men don’t cry.  He blinked rapidly and told himself to stop behaving like such a nancy-boy.  Suddenly something caught his attention; he frowned and stared harder at the empty sea.

        There seemed to be a weird green glow coming from beneath the waves, travelling across a patch of sea.  He knew the biologists were always coming up with new phosphorescent microbes, and perhaps these had been washed up from the depths by the bad weather, but they seemed to be almost circular – like two matching rings.  Certainly, he thought, there are many strange and wonderful things on this planet that no-one knows a damn thing about, even now.

        His credulity was stretched to breaking point as he watched the strange lights.  As they faded it seemed the sea began to boil around where they had been.  Slowly, like a leviathan rising from the depths, there appeared the silhouette of a frigate, and moments later there was the hum of a plane’s engines and from behind the shadow of the Makepeace emerged the exact replica of the aircraft that had smashed the ship to pieces. As the astounded sailor watched open-mouthed, the plane headed into the dark night. The ‘Makepeace’, too, circled away from the shore and disappeared into the darkness.

 

-o0o-

        Lieutenant Green switched the main speakers on and broadcast the statement from the Bereznian Government.  Colonel White and Captains Grey, Ochre and Magenta sat around the conference table and listened intently.

        “The Bereznian Government revealed today that hostile Western nations, led by the so-called World Government, have attempted once more to foster civil war amongst the peace-loving people of Bereznik.  Yesterday, a dissident politician met with Western ministers to discuss methods for subjugating our freedom-loving people. Agents of our Government, using specially developed technology, have struck a blow for our liberty by removing the traitor Andrei Stolojan, who was in the pay of the Western agitators. They struck at a naval vessel being used as a base by the conspirators and the vessel was destroyed.

So perish all enemies of the people of Bereznik….”

        Colonel White ordered Green to stop the tape, on which the spokesman was now beginning the usual denigration of the World Government.  He sighed, “Nothing changes, it seems, gentlemen.”

        “Do you believe them, Colonel?” Magenta asked.  He had been recalled from his furlough in Lisbon and was struggling to come to grips with the situation.

        White gave a shrug.  “It is more than likely that they did have a hand in the destruction of the Makepeace.  We were aware that there is a powerful cell of their agents at work in Britain.  The USS is not finding it easy to eradicate them. It is unfortunate that Stolojan was not removed from the frigate as we intended…”

        “THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS; WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US, EARTHMEN.  WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOUR COWARDLY ATTACK ON OUR MARTIAN COMPLEX AND WE WILL BE REVENGED. LIKE ANOTHER VENUS YOUR DESTRUCTION WILL ARISE FROM THE GRAVE OF THE PEACE MAKER.”

        “Oh, wonderful,” Ochre sighed, “more cryptic clues.”

        “What do you suppose that means?” Magenta asked, rubbing his temple in confusion.

        “The grave of the peacemaker…could be anything,” Grey said with a shake of his dark head.

        “And what has Venus got to do with it?” Ochre shrugged. “Could it be something to do with planetary conjunctions? Is there some sort of alignment coming up between Venus and Mars, for instance?  Are any of the planets known as ‘peacemaker’, you know, like Mars is called the bringer of war?  Or is there anywhere in the solar system with a name like peacemaker?  All I can think of is the Sea of Tranquillity on the Moon.”

        “And why another Venus – why not just the planet itself?” Magenta chipped in.

        Colonel White turned to his Lieutenant and said, “Please contact Captain Blue and ask him if he would like to come along and join the research team, if he feels up to it.  Which Angels are on standby?”

        Green consulted a list, “Symphony’s in Angel One, Harmony and Destiny are on standby, sir.”

        “Call them in, Lieutenant and have Angel One put on red alert.”

        “S.I.G.”

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Blue was leaning on a filing cabinet, supporting his weight on his arms, trying to make head or tails of the cricket match Fawn was watching on the TV in sick bay, when the Lieutenant contacted him.  Doctor Fawn tried to advise him against going, more than a little annoyed that the Colonel had even suggested it.  He could, of course, over-ride the ‘request’ but Blue was already bored stiff and would not appreciate the loss of the opportunity to do something other than stand aimlessly around. Besides, Fawn was getting tired of answering the American’s questions about the cricket.

        “Well. Just be careful, I don’t want you pulling my stitching out.”

        “You make me sound like a piece of knitting,” Blue complained.  “I need some decent clothes; I can’t run around Cloudbase in this medical gown.”

        “You can’t run anywhere and if you try I’ll confine you to sick bay indefinitely and slap you in isolation to boot – no visits, even from any one of the Angels! Anything you put on right now will be uncomfortable,” Fawn warned, “but if you must have something, you can have your pyjamas.”

        “Gee, thanks.  I can tell you’ve been practising your bedside manner, haven’t you?  I have to say you still have a long way to go,” Blue teased as he hobbled away to rescue his pyjamas from the nurse who had confiscated them. When he had changed, he wandered past the office on his way out of sick bay and guessed from Fawn‘s exulting whoop that Australia had ‘taken another wicket’.  Give me a decade or two, he thought, and I might even understand what all the fuss is about.

        By the time Blue had ambled up to the conference room – and Fawn was quite right, he couldn’t have run even if he’d wanted to – the two Angel pilots were there already and everyone was busily searching through files and on the internet for clues. Blue had expected he’d be too late to be of use and he greeted the Colonel with a tentative salute. To his credit, Colonel White reacted as if he was used to be saluted by men dressed in monogrammed apple-green silk pyjamas and wearing navy-blue sheepskin slippers. He noticed that the effort of walking from sick bay had brought a sweat to Blue’s face; he was pale and still looked ready to drop from exhaustion.

        “Good to see you up and about, Captain, I appreciate your coming along to help. Lieutenant Green, please play back the Mysteron message for the Captain – I am sure we could all do with a refresher.”

        Green smiled a welcome and hit the playback button so that the cold, precise voice of the Mysterons echoed around the control room once more.

        Ça me donne le frisson,” Destiny confessed.

        “We are searching for the obvious clues: graves, peace, peacemakers, Venus and destruction in any and all combinations.  So far nothing has looked like much of a possibility,” Magenta explained.

        “Trouble is they are all such vague terms, and when you put in Venus, you get everything from a piece on Venus Williams, the turn of the century tennis star, to the Goddess Venus and her attendant cherubs…” Ochre complained.

        Something fired in Blue’s mind and he began to think aloud, “Venus was the Goddess of love…”

        “Yeah, we got that bit,” Ochre said disparagingly.

        Blue shook his head, “What’s the most famous Venus you can think of? And I’m not talking planets.”

        Mais il y a beaucoup de tableaux – et des statues,” Destiny objected, swivelling round on her computer chair to look at Blue.  Quel joli pyjamas,” she smiled.

        “Botticelli’s,” Blue answered his own question.

        “Is that an Italian designer?  He made a nice job of them,” joked Ochre, grinning at Magenta.

        Colonel White shot him a warning glance. “Please explain yourself a little more, Captain,” he said as Blue seemed to believe he had said enough to make his idea obvious.

        “Colonel, one of the most famous paintings in the World is The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. It depicts the legend of the goddess Venus rising, fully grown, from the sea, standing on a shell.”

        “I have seen it.  It’s in the Uffizi,” Harmony agreed.

        “So – like another Venus our destruction will arise – fully grown, in a manner of speaking – from the sea,” Blue had hit his stride, “and that means it has to be something submerged…”

        “In the grave of the peacemaker,” Grey said, beginning to have an inkling where this was going.

        “Exactly,” Blue snapped his fingers, “and what do we know that has sunk recently and had those very words in its name?” He smiled brightly at Captain Ochre, like a teacher encouraging a none-too-bright pupil.

        “Erm..?” Ochre frowned theatrically.

        “The Makepeace, you moron,” cried Blue, grimacing as Ochre grinned triumphantly. “Aw, come on, Rick, stop trying it on,” he complained with a dismissive gesture. “I bet you, the Mysterons are going to raise the Makepeace and turn her to some dastardly purpose. It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain, but I realise that excludes Captain Ochre, of course.”

        “You do spend far too long doing crosswords,” Magenta said. “But I have to say it is as sound an idea as any we’ve come up with, so far.”

        “By a long way, I’d say, Captain, particularly as the failure of the Makepeace mission – if I can call it that – has seen the burial of all our immediate hopes of a rapprochement with the Bereznian Government,” the Colonel said with a nod of approval at his unconventionally dressed officer.

        “Captain Scarlet is in Portsmouth, or at least on his way there,” Lieutenant Green chipped in. “Would you like me to ask him to investigate, Colonel?”

        “Yes, Lieutenant.  Meanwhile, get on to the authorities and ask them to put a guard on the wreck for the immediate future.” Colonel White looked at his officers and said thoughtfully, “I think we’ll wait for Scarlet’s report before you leave, Captains, but the three of you can all keep looking for possible targets of the Mysteronised ship. The Angels can return to standby and update Angel One on the possibilities.”

        “What can I do, Colonel?” asked Blue.

        “Go back to bed,” Colonel White replied sternly.

        As the somewhat dejected Blue turned to start his slow walk back to sick bay, Ochre leant across and tugged at his sleeve.

        “What exactly is a dastardly purpose – I’ve often wondered?” he asked vaguely.

        It was a good job the Colonel did not see the gesture Blue made at the annoying Captain Ochre this time.  Ochre started laughing as Blue, fighting hard to stop a grin splitting his face as well, shuffled out of the room.

 

-o0o-

 

        Scarlet listened to Lieutenant Green with growing concern, “You say Blue thinks it’s a threat to use the Makepeace as a weapon?  Could be, of course, we know the Mysterons don’t only use people when they attack.  Very well, Lieutenant, I will speak to the authorities when I land.  I want to make sure I get my passengers safely on their way, especially if there is to be any… Mysteron activity.”  It would never do if my mum got wind of exactly what the Mysterons are capable of, he thought, with a swift glance at his passengers.

        “Is there anything wrong, Paul?” Mary asked, catching his movement.

        “No, why should there be?  We’re nearing Portsmouth, so I hope you’ve got everything.”

        He concentrated on flying towards the Portsmouth docks and following the flight path he’d been allocated. He was almost ready to make his landing approach run when his cap mic crackled and he heard the urgent voice of Lieutenant Green.

        “Captain Scarlet, we have received a report from the dockyard authorities, saying a sailor witnessed the resurrection of the Makepeace and the plane that attacked it.  He says the ship headed out to sea, but although the plane disappeared from his sight, he could hear the engine for some time.  It may still be in the vicinity as the radar station is reporting an anomaly circling the dockyard approaches. You are advised to take extreme precautions and to move to red alert.”

        “S.I.G., Lieutenant, but I have the safety of my two passengers to consider, and this chopper is not armed.  Request you order Portsmouth air traffic control to let me land immediately.”

        “S.I.G., Captain.  Please stand by.”

        “Paul, what’s happening?” Mary asked again.

        “Nothing, please stay back there and fasten your seat belts.  I’m coming in to land any moment now and I’d like it if you put your life jackets on, I’m not used to this baby and it steers like a cow – so it would just set my mind at rest.”  He tried to keep his tone casual, but he was sure the tension was audible in his voice. 

        He scanned the surrounding sky, wishing the visibility was better.  So far as he could see, there was nothing to see, and so it was a major shock when there was a sudden explosion to the rear of the helicopter and the controls momentarily failed to respond. 

        “Lieutenant Green, Spectrum is Red!  I am under attack and the chopper has been hit.  I have limited control and I must have landing clearance – even without it, I’m going in Lieutenant!”

        He turned to the frightened women in the back, and gave what he hoped was a confident smile. “Sit tight, ladies, tighten your seat belts and make sure the lifejackets are on properly.  I’m taking us in to land right now, and it will be bumpy I’m afraid. “

        “What was that, Paul?”

        “It’s probably just an angry Bereznian taking pot shots. Never mind that for now, they’ll scramble some of our own fighters soon and sort it out. Hold tight, Mum, here we go.”

        Lieutenant Green’s voice came over his cap mic, “You are clear to land, Captain Scarlet.”

        “S.I.G.”

        He turned the chopper and it limped towards the coast, gradually sinking lower in the sky despite his attempts to gain some height. With luck they might just be at ground level when they reached the landing site, but it would be touch and go. He glanced at the fuel gauge which was sinking at a rate of knots – probably leaking fuel through what must be a hole in the machine from that attack, he thought.  Why couldn’t he have been alone, then whatever happened it wouldn’t matter, but with his passengers on board there was no way he could ditch the plane or risk any kind of counter attack.  We’re sitting ducks if it comes back!

        Suddenly he caught sight of the plane coming in for a second attack. He threw his weight against the joy-stick and cursed as the chopper lurched sideways, but not enough to avoid the plane’s attack.  As he struggled to get a response from the crippled machine, the plane adjusted its trajectory and he felt almost certain the next shot would blow them out of the sky.  At the last minute he left the controls and opened the fuel intakes, dumping most of what fuel they had left.  They dropped like a stone and the missile whizzed over the chopper.  Shutting the intakes, he grabbed the controls and tried to pull the chopper up again.  The plane was circling for another attempt.

        There was nothing more he could do.  Sadly, he turned to look at the two women in the passenger seats.  Both were terrified, that much was obvious, but they both managed a brave smile in response to his apologetic shake of his head. “I’m almost out of options, but as long as this thing is airborne, I will keep trying to get us down safely.  Hold on tight,” he shouted.

        The plane was coming in again, aligning its trajectory for the final kill.  He could see that the cockpit was empty, as was customary with a Mysteronised piece of machinery, and he knew the Mysterons would kill everyone of them without remorse. He vowed to himself that he would never stop seeking revenge on them for this – if ever the Colonel did achieve his ambition to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the war of nerves, he’d refuse to abide by it until every last atom of the Mysterons’ presence on Earth was destroyed.

        There was a blinding flash and an explosion.  Scarlet was surprised that the impact was seemingly so slight.  He glanced towards the plane to see it spiralling down through the dark night into the darker water beneath. Looking up into the sky above and beyond the chopper, he saw the streak of brilliant white that was an Angel Interceptor, and punched the air.

        “Angel One to Captain Scarlet,” Symphony’s voice came over on the radio mic, “I hope I didn’t make you jump, Captain.”

        “Symphony, I think I love you,” he shouted back.

        He could hear her laughing, “Goodness, this is all so sudden, Captain, and I feel I ought to tell you that I’m already spoken for.”

        “No, really?  Well thanks anyway, Symphony, I owe you one for this,” he laughed.

        “Well, I couldn’t let those pesky Mysterons attack my future mother-in-law with impunity, now could I?”

        “Your what?” Scarlet gasped, then sudden understanding of Sarah’s air of barely suppressed excitement dawned. “Oh, I get you – well, congratulations, Symphony.”

        “I think you should concentrate your energies on getting that chopper down, Captain,” she advised, as she circled back towards him.

        “S.I.G., Angel One.”

        It was not an easy landing, nor a particularly expert one, but they touched down on the jetty close to Mary’s parked car, and Scarlet cut the engines and hustled the women away from the chopper as quickly as he could. Emergency tenders screamed up and began to spray the machine with foam to prevent fires.  Clouds of the foam floated over the whole area, burying the Metcalfes’ car.

        “Looks like Christmas came early,” Mary said with a wry smile, as she looked in dismay at her car.

        Scarlet hugged her and threw an arm around Sarah for good measure. “You two are some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met.” He squeezed them against him and planted a kiss on his mother’s brow.

        “Did you think you inherited it all from your father?” she teased. “You’re pretty amazing yourself, Captain Scarlet.”

        “I’ll second that,” Sarah agreed, “besides, I have to admit I was scared to death back there.  How can you do this kind of thing for a living?  I always thought Adam was nuts wanting to test fly planes – now I know he’s nuts!”

        “Well, you certainly didn’t show it, you were both splendid.”

        Captain Edward Hutton strode over to the group and saluted Captain Scarlet.  “Well done, sir, you managed to avoid hitting anything.  We almost expected you to plough through the warehouse to be honest; it would have been in keeping with the way things have been happening around here lately.”

        Scarlet grinned, “I had very little control of where I went, Captain, the controls are buggered and it went where it wanted.”

        “Someone up there must like you then, because we have quite a quantity of ammunition in that warehouse and you’d have gone up like badly-made fireworks.”

        Suddenly Sarah Svenson sagged and would have fallen if the men hadn’t scooped her upright.

        “Are you all right, Mrs. Svenson?” Scarlet asked.

        “Ammunition?  Oh my God…”  She began to cry.

        “Shock,” said Mary weakly; she wasn’t feeling that steady on her feet herself. “She needs to sit down and so do I.”

        “Go into the warehouse and sit there,” Hutton suggested. “It will take us a while to dig your car out and perhaps neither of you should drive?” He glanced at Scarlet for support.

        “I will get a Spectrum Auxiliary to drive you home, Mrs. Metcalfe.”

        “Can’t you do it, Captain?” she asked, rather forlornly.

        “Sorry, Ma’am, I have a job to do elsewhere.” His mother nodded, she was used to having her men-folk put their work first but she didn’t have to like it.

        Captain Hutton led them into the warehouse, found the light switch and suitable crates for them to sit on.  Scarlet made sure they were all right and then excused himself to go out after the Captain.

        The two women sat in silence for a time before Sarah said, “You know, if I had had any idea of what I was letting myself in for, when Adam set out to ‘rescue’ Paul from the cops, I would have stayed at home.”

        Mary smiled at her. “I don’t believe you,” she said.

        “I would’ve.  I’m definitely not cut out to be the heroic type.  I will leave that to my son and yours in future.” She reached down and removed her shoes, “Besides, my feet are killing me!”

        “We are at one with that,” Mary agreed and rubbed the back of her calves. “It takes something like this to make me realise just how old I’m getting.”

        Sarah stretched out across the crate and gazed up at the dark ceiling, stifling a yawn. ”If it weren’t for having met Karen, I would’ve wished we’d gone back to Winchester and seen the highlights of the last hours on the newscast.”

        Mary chortled, “These young men have a strange sense of the romantic – I mean, of all the situations to be in when you propose to someone! He should’ve at least waited…” Her voice trailed into silence as she half caught a sound behind her. “Did you hear something?”

        “If it’s a rat I shall scream, good and loud,” Sarah replied, sitting upright and drawing her feet up on to the crate.

        “On the contrary, Mrs. Svenson, you will do no such thing – not if you ever wish to see your husband and children again.” The voice belonged to a dark-haired, heavy-set man with beetling eyebrows over deep-set eyes. He was pointing a sub-machine gun at them from his vantage point on a crate away to their right.

        “Oh my God, “Sarah breathed, “Andrei Stolojan…”

 

-o0o-

 

        Scarlet was deep in conversation with Hutton when he heard the screaming.  Both men turned and sprinted back towards the warehouse. Hutton reached it first and burst through the door.  He was instantly blinded by a powerful torch light coming out from the darkness.  Scarlet cannoned into him and they stumbled in the circle of light.

        “Don’t move, gentlemen, or I am afraid these ladies will get hurt.”

        “Who are you and what do you want?” Hutton stammered.  Scarlet felt sure he already knew the answer.

        “Andrei Stolojan, at your service.  Captain Scarlet, I know of, but I do not know your name, sir.”

        “I am Captain Edward Hutton of the British Section of the World Navy.  I can assure you, Mr. Stolojan, you are in no danger from us or from the two women who were in here.  Please, let them go and come with me, I will ensure your safety and I am sure the World Government will be able to offer you protection.”

        Stolojan gave a bark of laughter. “I don’t believe they will, Captain – or will you tell me different, Captain Scarlet?”

        “Let the women go, Stolojan.  If you want a hostage, take me – a Spectrum Captain is surely much better than two middle-aged women of no importance to anyone much.”

        “Well tried, Captain, but I happen to know that one of these women is the wife of John Svenson, the American financier.  Svenson has a great deal of influence with the American President and President Roberts has influence with President Younger and the World President has influence with Spectrum and he doesn’t trust you much, Captain Scarlet, not after that little kidnapping incident a few years back.  I think I’ll keep what I’ve got.”

        “Let them go!” Scarlet surged forward out of the spotlight, evading Hutton’s despairing grab. There was a burst of machine gun fire and screaming from the women.  Scarlet stopped and turned back to Hutton, the man was slumped against the door, blood trickling from the wounds in his chest.

        “Go away, Captain Scarlet, and get me someone with the authority to negotiate,” Stolojan said sharply, “And be quick about it.  I am running out of patience.”

        Scarlet slid his hands under Hutton’s shoulders and dragged the injured man out as gently as he could.  He called for medical assistance and ordered men to surround the warehouse to prevent Stolojan escaping.  Then he radioed Cloudbase and demanded to speak to Colonel White.

 

-o0o-

 

        “And is Stolojan a Mysteron?” the Colonel asked, as Scarlet’s breathless tale came to a close.

        “I cannot be sure, sir.  I didn’t have a Mysteron detector with me and I was too far away to tell by any other method.”  Unsure of who amongst the surrounding personnel might be listening, Scarlet made only an oblique reference to his sixth sense which brought on a feeling of nausea in the presence of Mysterons.

        “Did Stolojan say who he thought would have the authority to negotiate?”

        “No sir, he mentioned Presidents Roberts and Younger, and Spectrum.”

        “Well, I’m not going to allow either President to get embroiled in this mess, Captain.  It looks as if it might have to be me.” White paused, and with the comms link still open, called for Captain Grey. Then he went back to Scarlet, “Get the message to Stolojan that I am on my way.”

        “S.I.G., Colonel… and thank you,” his subordinate stammered.

        “I have known your father, by reputation, for many years, Captain, and I have a great deal of respect for him and your mother.  What makes you think this has anything to do with you?” White cut the link and Scarlet gave a dry smile into the darkness.  Trust the Old Man to have the last word on the subject, he thought, before turning to walk back to the warehouse.

 

-o0o-

 

        Under orders to take gentle exercise from Doctor Fawn, who had decided to let him take his ennui elsewhere, Blue was standing in the officers’ lounge talking to Grey as the call from the Colonel came through.  He wondered what the emergency was, and out of interest opened the comms link to the Control Room to ask Green if he could be of help.

        His call went unanswered because just then Green was busily taking a plethora of commands from Colonel White prior to his departure.  Amused by Green’s stammered acknowledgement of the endless string of orders, Blue kept listening.  As the Colonel’s voice ground to a halt, to welcome Grey’s arrival, he heard Symphony in Angel One call through her report.  Always pleased to hear her voice, he continued to listen in.

        “Angel One, landing completed A-okay. Mission completed satisfactorily. Captain Scarlet’s helicopter was able to land without further hindrance and there were no casualties.  The Mysteronised plane that attacked the chopper was destroyed and crashed into the sea.”

        Blue tensed – what attack on Scarlet’s helicopter?  He began to feel a cold sweat on his skin as he realised his mother must have been on that chopper.  It didn’t take a genius to realise that not only the Makepeace had been retrometabolised. He listened closely to the comms link.

        “S.I.G., Angel One, hold yourself in readiness for re-launch.  Colonel White is preparing to fly down to Portsmouth – we have a hostage situation.  Andrei Stolojan, believed killed in the Makepeace tragedy, is holding two female hostages…”

        “Who?” Symphony snapped.

        “Civilians,” Green temporised.

        “Would that be Mrs. Svenson and Mrs. Metcalfe, by any chance, Lieutenant?”

        “Affirmative, Angel One.  You are to fly escort for the Colonel’s SPJ which will depart in about five minutes from runway three.”

        “S.I.G.…”

        Blue heard no more – he was making his way as quickly as he could to hangar three.

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White steered his SPJ away from Cloudbase and smiled with satisfaction to see Angel One falling in alongside. The two planes flew in formation, and once the course was laid in, the Colonel could allow his mind to wander as he reviewed the situation.  He had left Captain Grey with instructions to launch the other Angels on a ‘seek and destroy’ mission, if and when it became clear where the Makepeace was heading.  So far even the most sophisticated radar they possessed had not found the vessel, and that worried him.  He was sure the Mysterons, having retrometabolised the ship, would be seeking to do as much damage as they could.  Their threat could mean almost anything, but the likelihood was that it was connected to the political uncertainty between the World Government States and Bereznik.  The potential for global conflict was certainly there, if the balance swung too far in favour of either party.  There were hawkish elements in the World Government who were pressing President Younger to crush the Bereznians before they became powerful enough to attack first.  The alarming phrases – weapons of mass destruction and chemical warheads – so redolent of past conflicts – had been voiced and the tension was mounting.   The Colonel was a realist and he knew that there were politicians – eager for popular support – who would play on the populace’s fears just as readily as there were those who would seek to calm them.  So far Younger was playing it to close to his chest, but if the Mysterons provoked the Bereznians to some kind of attack, even the World President would not be able to withstand the demand for ‘retaliation’.

        With the countries of the World fighting each other, Spectrum would have little chance of keeping the Mysterons at bay.  It was essential they defuse the problem before it grew into something too dangerous for words.  Given that there was nothing he could do at present to influence events, he dismissed it from his busy mind and concentrated on the problem in hand.  He considered Stolojan – Mysteron or not, the man was dangerous.  He glanced down at the Mysteron detector and electron gun on the seat next to him and hoped he would get a chance to use them before harm befell the two hostages. 

        He adjusted his flight path and came about to bank over the channel for an approach run.  He had chosen the SPJ in preference to a helijet for the speed, but he needed to land on a conventional runway and he had ordered an SSC to meet him at the closest suitable landing strip.  The journey time would still be slightly shorter than a ‘copter ride.

        White frowned as he thought he heard something behind him in the plane.  He listened for a moment and hearing another sound, he set the autopilot and went to the rear compartment as quietly as he could.  He threw open the connecting screen and glanced around.  At the far end of the compartment, he caught sight of a pair of navy blue slippers hastily being drawn up, accompanied by an unavoidable sharp intake of breath.

        “Captain Blue, what on earth do you think you are doing?” he snapped.

        The American’s head appeared over the back of the passenger seats; his fair hair was tousled and he was straining to disguise the discomfort he was in.

        “Sitting very uncomfortably,” he muttered.

        “I cannot believe you would be so stupid as to attempt this, Captain.  I’ll have your commission for this,” White snarled.

        He saw the American give a slight roll of his blue eyes before he retorted in a voice tight with anger, “You can have it gift-wrapped if anything happens to my mother.”

        “You cannot stay here, come into the cockpit, man.” White turned back to the pilot’s seat.

        Symphony had seen the Colonel disappear into the body of the SPJ and she kept a watch on the plane until she saw him return and take manual control once more. She did a double-take as, moments later, the compartment screen opened again and Blue limped into the passenger seat. She cursed her inability to speak to him and wondered what the Colonel would do now.

        “Exactly how much help do you imagine you can be?” Colonel White began. “You can hardly walk.”

        “I can still fire a gun and I’ll keep up, don’t you worry about that.”

        “Was it Grey who told you about this?” Blue shook his head firmly. “So who was it?”

        “No-one, I hacked the comms link and heard the news over that.”

        “You hacked the system?  I’d like to know how.” White was frankly disbelieving; Lieutenant Green claimed the system was hacker-proof.

        “So would I; I just called Green and caught the comms traffic.”

        “Hmm, well, you will have to wait with the SPJ at the airfield until all this is over.”

        “No, sir.”

        “What did you say?” White asked incredulously – he was not used to outright defiance from Captain Blue.

        “I said no, sir, and I have never been more serious in my life.”

        White gave a grunt of annoyance and after a heavy silence, said, “I am going to have to review your partnership with Captain Scarlet; I do believe you are catching his bad habits.”

        Blue gave a hastily suppressed smile and nodded, “More than likely, sir.”

        Colonel White looked at the young man beside him and shook his head. “When you two finally get your reports of all this completed, it should be well worth reading.”

        “I will try to ensure I am around to complete your reading enjoyment, sir.”

        This sounded close to insubordination, and White drew himself up to his full height, “I could still decide to have you arrested, Captain, don’t push your luck.”

        The American shrugged.  He had had enough of all this – he was tired and he ached in places he’d forgotten he had.  Now, when all he wanted was to ignore the world for a day or two, he found himself dressed in silk pyjamas and carpet slippers, on a desperate rescue mission to try to save his mother from a homicidal manic.  Right now he felt tempted to tell the Colonel where to stick his commission and the thought of spending the rest of his life moving large amounts of money from place to place for an exorbitant fee – and a much better salary than he’d ever get from Spectrum – was exerting an appeal it had never done before.

        “The least you could do is go and see what’s in with the spare uniforms.  Those pyjamas don’t look very professional – however chic they may be and I expect you must be feeling the cold by now?” White nodded at his companion’s clothing, fighting to keep the amusement from his voice.

        “Sorry, Colonel, but I wasn’t planning to go on an away mission,” Blue snapped.  He obediently wandered back into the main compartment, in the hope of finding something closer to a uniform in the locker of spares.

-o0o-

 

        Scarlet was counting the minutes until White arrived.  Stolojan had demanded various things – food and coffee – which tended to suggest he was not a Mysteron, although it might have been for the women and …. Oh, sod it – he just couldn’t think straight anymore!

        He paced along the jetty and all he could think was ‘what am I going to tell Dad?’  He’d been trained for years to deal with hostage situations, danger, certain death – and he did worse things than this every day – but no-one had ever told him what you do when your mother was the hostage, when, if you did the slightest thing wrong, it could be your mother who suffered.  He went through the relaxation and tension relieving exercises and came out feeling worse than before.  It dawned on him that it was very rarely that any situation he was caught up in actually involved him emotionally.  Even when it was a colleague who was threatened it was different; they were all professional people – men and women – who had made a free and conscious decision to be in the job, knowing what might happen.  His mother had not made that choice, he had just insisted Adam come to Portsmouth and she had driven him because he was not fit to drive himself. 

        It’s all your fault – you’re guilty! Guilty – your fault!  screamed his conscience and he increased his pacing trying to shut out the noise in his mind.

        After what seemed an eternity, the SSC drew up in the circle of the floodlights, and the Colonel got out. He looked around for the vivid red of Scarlet’s uniform amongst the darker hues of the naval personnel.  Scarlet strode back towards the car, noticing as he approached that a tall, broad shouldered auxiliary officer was clumsily getting out of the car from the passenger side.

        “Colonel, thank goodness you are here.  Stolojan is losing patience and he’s getting tetchy,” Scarlet called as he drew up to the Colonel.  He glanced at the auxiliary with a slight frown, somewhat horrified that his mind could register the fact – even in this situation – that the man had not saluted as he should. He glanced again at the silent man, who was staring at the warehouse with intensity that Scarlet thought excessive. 

        His head turned towards Scarlet, who gave an astonished gasp.

        “How are they?” Captain Blue asked.

        “Adam – by all that’s holy!” Scarlet exclaimed, still hardly believing his eyes. “What are you doing here? – I mean, I couldn’t have hoped…you were off sick…Thank God… I mean…”

        Blue permitted himself a slight smile at Scarlet’s unusual incoherence. He extended a hand towards the younger man and said, “What are partners for? Besides, there is no-one in there that means more to you than means more to me.”

        Scarlet understood the sentiment, even if the words made little sense, and he grasped the extended hand with a feeling bordering on relief.

        Stolojan had obviously seen the arrival of the SSC and he began to shout for their attention. Scarlet and Captain Hutton’s replacement, a tall, muscular man called Wentworth, briefed the Colonel quickly, and he went to begin the negotiations, leaving Scarlet and Blue to fret in the background.

        White soon realised that Stolojan was a desperate man – whatever game he had been playing had ended in disaster for him, with his own Government sending in assassins, and, although he may not know it yet, denouncing him on international radio.  He couldn’t see what Stolojan hoped to gain by his current course of action.  As he listened to the man rant and rave, denouncing the perfidy of the Western governments that had tempted him into opposing his own people, he guessed that Stolojan was hoping to win some sort of pardon from President Malile.  Bereznian politics made the Byzantine court look like a play school – the posturings of those involved were so arcane and convoluted by Western standards.

        Gradually Stolojan ran out of steam and started repeating his accusations and demands, but the Colonel waited until he came to a stop before he responded.  “Mr. Stolojan, I am sure we can come to a better understanding, if you would only allow the ladies you are holding against their will to leave.  The World Government is not in the business of fomenting unrest or revolt in any countries of the World and I can assure you…”

        Stolojan began ranting once more, and White sighed with exasperation.  This was going to take a long time.

 

 

Chapter Eight:

 

In which Captain Blue surrenders and Captain Scarlet fights on.

 

        “What’s taking so long?” Scarlet asked for the nth time.

        Blue didn’t bother to answer this time; he was leaning on the bonnet of the SSC, fighting the waves of exhaustion that were washing over his aching body.  He wasn’t prepared to admit to it, however, and nothing and no one would get him to leave until his mother was safe.   He raised his head to see Scarlet staring at him with anxious eyes.

        “You okay, Adam?” his friend asked quietly.

        “I’m tired, that’s all.”

        “How’s your leg – where you thought the stitches had pulled?”

        “Fine, no damage there,” Blue muttered defensively.

        Scarlet guessed he wouldn’t have admitted it even if there had been.  He turned and attracted the attention of one of the naval ratings still waiting around the jetty. “Hey, is there anywhere around here where we can get a cup of coffee?” he called.

        The man nodded, “Over there.” He pointed to an alleyway across from them.

        Scarlet fished some money from his uniform pocket, “Go and get two… no, three coffees – one black and two with milk, no sugar.” The man demurred until he added, “And one for yourself, of course.”

        Blue nodded his thanks and turned to look once more towards the warehouse.  After some considerable time he muttered, “I hope they are all right.”

        “Believe me, they are tougher than they look,” his friend reassured him.  “They came through the attack on the chopper and a pretty scrappy landing without batting an eyelid.” He thought it wiser not to mention Sarah’s dizzy spell. Blue shifted uneasily and continued to stare at the darkened building with concern.  “We’ll get them out okay; Stolojan can’t fight Spectrum for long.”

        “And what do I tell my father if anything goes wrong?” Blue moaned.

        “Exactly the same thing as I’ll have to tell mine!” Scarlet’s reply was tinged with the frustrated anger he was feeling.

        “Paul, I can’t just sit here. I have to do something…” Blue sounded close to breaking point.

        “Look, have your coffee first and we’ll talk to the Colonel again,” Scarlet said.  He would have been amused under any other circumstance at this reversal in their roles – usually Blue was the one advising patience and caution.

        Blue sank back into silent contemplation of the building again, and Scarlet began to pace round in a circle, one eye on his friend and the other looking for the rating who’d gone off with his money. With relief, he saw the man approaching. He took the small plastic tray and handed Adam a polystyrene cup of steaming black liquid. “Cheers,” he said with a grin.

        Blue gulped at the coffee and almost choked. “Ugh, it makes the Lounge coffee taste like ambrosia.”

        “What did you expect?” Scarlet laughed.  He wandered across and gave the Colonel his drink, and came back to where the rating was still standing, sipping at his own cup of sweet tea.

“I guess you must work around here? Do you know all the alleyways and short cuts…? Mr…?”

        “Able Seaman Robinson, Alan Robinson.” He nodded. “Yeah, I work around here.”

        Scarlet nodded an acknowledgment and continued, “Is there any other way into that warehouse?  A less obvious way than the front door?”

        Robinson gave a thoughtful nod, “There’s a fire escape down from the upper level where the admin offices are.  But the door is over at this near end, so anyone by the main entrance would have a clear view of you as you opened the door. You’d make an easy target. I suppose that’s why it was never mentioned.”

“Admin offices, you say.  Do they have windows?” Scarlet persisted.

“Yeah, but the windows are pretty small and barred though.”

        “Ever heard of cutting gear, Mr. Robinson?”

        “Most certainly, but it makes a hell of a lot of noise though, Captain.”

        “But if there’s enough noise elsewhere, who’s likely to hear it?” Scarlet mused. He glanced at Blue to see if the conversation had sparked any interest. Blue returned his gaze with an expressionless face, so he suggested tentatively, “You distract and I’ll cut?”

He watched with some unease as Blue threw his half-empty cup into the harbour and suddenly strode towards the Colonel.  It wasn’t easy to deal with Adam when he was in this sort of mood – largely because he rarely was in this sort of mood and you got out of practice.  He heard Blue calling the Colonel’s name and with a sigh he drained his own coffee, handed Robinson the empty cup,  and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Robinson; I just have to stop America declaring independence all over again…”

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White was almost glad of the distraction.  Listening to Stolojan’s endless ranting was getting to be a chore.  Scarlet had joined Blue before he reached their commander and it was he who explained the embryonic plan, whilst his partner shifted from foot to foot in an attempt to ease his discomfort.   As he listened to Scarlet, White sipped the coffee, which was quite as bad as Blue had said.   The younger man improvised wildly, with no help from his partner and the Colonel almost felt sorry for him by the time he came to a halt.

        “I commend your enthusiasm, Captain, if not your attention to detail.  Where are we going to get cutting equipment from at this time of the night?”

        “It’s a naval dockyard, they’re bound to have some somewhere,” Blue muttered.

        White conceded the point, “And what kind of distraction is going to cover the noise of the equipment as you attempt to breach the warehouse?”

        Scarlet hadn’t had time enough to come up with a solution to that, but Blue said, “We can move the SvenCorp chopper.  Damned thing’s no use anymore except for scrap.  Get moving gear and floodlights and make a big show of dragging the thing away.”

        “A possibility,” White agreed, “if the equipment’s available.”  Blue didn’t bother to repeat his previous assertion, but his glance at the Colonel spoke volumes.  Colonel White stiffened slightly under the icily appraising gaze. “You realise that any attempt to rescue the hostages increases the risk they may be harmed?  If I allow this plan, I want all precautions to be taken and proper standby plans in place as well.  There will be no ‘heroics’, gentlemen, things will be done by the book or they will not be done at all.  You can begin trying to get the necessary equipment together, but don’t start until I say so.”

        Pleased to be doing something at last, both men hurried away to where Robinson was still waiting.  Scarlet recruited his assistance, and introduced him to Captain Wentworth, who listened carefully to their request, and swiftly and efficiently put a series of orders into effect with the aim of fulfilling their needs.

        Time passed far quicker as the two Spectrum officers became involved with the preparations for the rescue attempt and as the sky began to lighten with the coming dawn, Scarlet persuaded his partner to take some rest in the SSC, as Blue was starting to flag again.

        Wentworth reported that two cranes were on their way to the jetty to drag the helicopter away and that the cutting gear had arrived.  Scarlet informed the Colonel, who was beginning to lose patience with Stolojan’s intransigence and his own inability to get through to the man.  White walked away from the warehouse, ignoring Stolojan’s yells for him to return, and ostentatiously began discussions with his officer.

        Suddenly they were interrupted by a woman’s screams of protest and they spun round to see Mary Metcalfe being held by Stolojan, who was pointing a gun at her head.

        “You will attend to me, Colonel White, or this lady – who, according to Captain Scarlet, is of no importance – will suffer the consequences!”

“For God’s sake, man, have you taken leave of your senses?” Colonel White bellowed, starting to approach the warehouse, “Let her go!”

        Mary struggled against the man’s grasp as Stolojan, well aware of the numbers of men ranged against him, pulled her back into the relative safety of the gloomy warehouse.  At one point he lost hold of her and she stumbled forwards in an attempt to get away.  Scarlet sprang towards her with an inarticulate cry, but Stolojan grabbed her and pulled her back, aiming the gun at her temple and growling threats.

        “Keep away Scarlet, I am warning you!” he yelled as Scarlet’s charge came to an abrupt end.

        “No, I am warning you, Stolojan.  If you harm one hair of her head or Mrs. Svenson’s, there will be no place on this planet safe enough to protect you from me.”

“You hear how I am abused even by your own men, Colonel.  Do you say even now that I am safe in Spectrum’s protection?”

        “Once you let the women go, you will be no danger from Captain Scarlet or any of the men here,” White retorted, giving Scarlet a fierce glance and ordering his retreat with a jerk of his silver-haired head.

        “If I am in no danger, Colonel, why are there so many men here?  Send them away, send them all away!” Stolojan screamed, waving the gun about and firing wildly into the crowd.  The naval personnel scattered.

        “He’s not safe to be left with them any longer,” Scarlet argued, as he and the Colonel peered around at the half-open warehouse door, from the safety of the shelter of a naval jeep.

        “You may have a point there,” White muttered.

        Blue, woken by the shooting, came hobbling to join them.

Scarlet explained what had happened and Blue, beside himself with worry, demanded that the Colonel get the women out immediately. Just then Wentworth arrived in a crouching trot to ask if the Colonel still required the helicopter to be moved, as the cranes had arrived. 

        Angrily, Blue demanded to be allowed to infiltrate the warehouse himself, without waiting for the implementation of Scarlet’s plan.  Wentworth, who had only a hazy idea who this inappropriately-dressed American was,  argued with him, pointing out his physical condition left a great deal to be desired.  He then went on to suggest they should launch some kind of attack – which both Spectrum Captains opposed vehemently.

White held up his hand for silence as the men around him continued to argue. “We have to get the hostages freed; Stolojan is becoming too dangerous to be left alone with them. On that we are all agreed.  In the meantime, Captain Wentworth, please pull your men back from the jetty and have them posted on the perimeter, to prevent any attempt by Stolojan to break out of the docks.  If you have any sharp-shooters, I want them armed, but given orders that they may only fire if they are sure of killing their target outright.  An injured man, armed and holding two hostages is not an option I ever want to have to consider.  Then, set up the cranes and start moving the helicopter wreckage.  Scarlet, you and Able Seaman Robinson take the cutting equipment to the windows and make a start on gaining entrance as soon as the noise of the cranes provides enough cover.  I will try to distract Stolojan with further negotiations – although, after this, he’s unlikely to be very receptive…”

        Wentworth and Scarlet acknowledged their orders and disappeared together in the direction of the newly-arrived cranes.   Blue waited for his orders, but the Colonel, already concentrating on how to deal with Stolojan, said nothing, and he unintentionally turned his back on the American. 

Blue’s near-legendary patience, already stretched to the limit by his ill-health and overwhelming concern, finally snapped.  He stripped off the charcoal auxiliary tunic he was wearing over his pyjamas and threw it at the feet of the astonished Colonel.

 “Until you can take my commission you will have to make do with that.  Sir,” he snarled and then turned to walk towards the warehouse, calling loudly for Stolojan.

        “Get back here, man,” the outraged White shouted, once his surprise had dissipated.

        Blue ignored him and, spreading his arms away from his body to prove to the man in the warehouse that he was unarmed, he continued edging forward.

        “Stay where you are, mister,” Stolojan ordered, cocking the pistol he was pointing at Blue. He stared at the strangely-dressed man with hostile suspicion.

        “Don’t shoot Mr. Stolojan, I want to help you,” Blue called nervously. 

        Scarlet, halfway to the fire escape, heard the familiar voice and stared open-mouthed at the spectacle of Blue, in his creased green pyjamas, standing in the powerful searchlights with his arms spread-eagled.  What the Hell was he up to?

        “My name is Adam Svenson – I am the eldest son of John and Sarah Svenson – the woman you have in there is my mother!”

        “So?”

        “Mr. Stolojan, I want you to take me as your hostage and let my mother go – let Mrs. Metcalfe go too – if you want influence with my father, I am as sure a way to that as my mother.”

        “Why should I assume that any pretty blond they find is a Svenson?  I don’t remember you.” Stolojan’s voice showed his unease.

        “I don’t live in Boston, I run things here in England.  My mother was staying with me when she paid a visit to her friend, Mrs. Metcalfe.  These men,” Blue swivelled slightly to include the company watching with baited breaths, “came to fetch me when you took Momma as a hostage.  Please, Mr. Stolojan, I’m no threat to you – please let me see my mother.”

        Scarlet held his breath, it was a convincing performance, right down to the use of the childish ‘momma’ and the nervous tremble in the voice, which he noted betrayed a far more pronounced Bostonian accent than Blue usually displayed.  He glanced across at the Colonel with an approving grin – the old man had come up trumps this time – what a way to get a man on the inside!  The bleak horror of the expression on the Colonel’s face brought home the truth that this was ‘unscripted’. 

        Suddenly Colonel White bellowed, “Svenson, get back here, you fool!”

        Stolojan hesitated, and Blue edged forward slightly, calling, “Momma, you okay? Momma?”

        Once more Colonel White bellowed his demand that the American return to his side.

        Suddenly, Stolojan moved and the next moment, Sarah Svenson was at the door beside him, a gun at her head.  Her hands were covering her face and he forced them down so that she could see her son.

        “Adam!  Oh no, go back, darling, go away!  NO!” Sarah wailed.  Her hands rose to her face again as she began to cry.

        Stolojan beckoned Blue forward with a wave of his gun, and slowly he complied.  On nearing the warehouse, he sprang the last few feet and swept his mother into his arms, holding her against his heart.

        Stolojan pushed them both back into the darkness of the warehouse and slammed the door.

 

-o0o-

 

        “Of all the pig-headed, obstinate, idiotic…” the Colonel fumed.

        Scarlet suppressed his response until the Colonel had run out of adjectives.  Then he said reasonably, “Look, Adam knows our plans, he’s also going to be able to protect the women and maybe even disarm Stolojan – as unfit as he is, he still packs a mean right hook. If we were ever going to get a man on the inside, I would have wanted it to be him.”

        “He is unarmed, has no communication equipment and – whatever you think, Captain, he is not well.”

        Scarlet shrugged. “At least we’re getting somewhere.  Robinson has the cutting gear ready to go and Wentworth says the cranes can start dragging the chopper in about five minutes, so I’m off to try my luck through the windows.  I know I’ll feel I have one more advantage with Blue in there.”

        White muttered “S.I.G., Captain,” and broke the comms link.  He was annoyed with himself and his officers, although he conceded that they were both under additional pressure. To be honest, and he was always honest with himself, he was more annoyed that he hadn’t thought of a ploy to infiltrate Blue into the warehouse and sent him in wired for sound at the very least. 

        It was also something of an eye-opener to see his number one team of officers in action and to realise that even when they were acting independently, they were so attuned to each other’s methods that they could see even the slightest advantage of a situation.

        He looked towards the warehouse, and as the ear splitting screech of metal being dragged across tarmac filled the air, he wondered just what was happening inside.

 

-o0o-

 

        Having slammed the door, Stolojan pushed Blue and Sarah back to the crate where Mary Metcalfe was sitting. She opened her arms to the young man and he hugged her, noticing with a stab of anger that her cheekbone was bruised.  Sarah was hanging on his arm, trying to calm herself and drawing fresh comfort from the physical presence of her son.

        He stood with them both wrapped in his arms and whispered, “They will get us out, Paul and the Colonel are on the case, don’t worry, it will be over soon.”

        “He says he’s asked for transport and we must go with him,” Sarah whispered back. “He says John must get the government to provide him with a force to invade Bereznik. If he can’t convince President Roberts to do it, then John must finance it himself with mercenaries.” She looked up at him. “He’s mad, Adam.”

        He raised his eyebrows in an affirmation of that diagnosis and added, “He’s also desperate because he has nothing left to lose, so we mustn’t do anything to provoke him at the moment.  I am sure the Colonel will re-start negotiations soon – the men are being pulled back as Stolojan asked.” He looked at their worn and tired faces and said with more optimism than he really felt,   “We’ll get out of this okay.”  He even managed a bright smile, which gave them fresh hope.

        “Is Paul all right?” Mary asked.

        “Right as rain last time I saw him and all fired up to get the job done.”

        “Has anyone informed your fathers about what’s happening?  Charles will be worrying – I only left a message saying we were going to Portsmouth to fetch Paul, and his dinner was in the oven on automatic, but not to wait for us to get back as we didn’t know how long we’d be.  And I didn’t feed the dogs…”

        “You know, I don’t know about that.  I haven’t spoken to my father and I’d guess Paul hasn’t either, but whether Spectrum has contacted them officially…” Blue shrugged. “I can imagine that any influence my father has with President Roberts will be exerted in getting the Marines over here to invade Portsmouth rather than Bereznik!”

        Sarah laughed, “Maybe we should ask for a radio to see if the currency markets have gone wild…” She giggled and it cheered Blue’s heart to see them both visibly reviving with the prospect of release and the mere fact that he was with them.

        Stolojan came across to the trio and waved them apart with his pistol.  Reluctantly, Sarah loosened her hold on her son’s arm and the women backed away until they were standing slightly behind their new protector.  Blue reminded himself that he was ‘undercover’ – not too difficult when he remembered what he was wearing. He framed his expression to one of meekness and raised his pale blue eyes to look into Stolojan’s dark face.

        “Are you going to let them both go now, Mr. Stolojan?”

        “No, did you really think I would exchange them for you? Even if you are as you say, Svenson’s oldest son, with the both of you I have even more chances to convince those out there that I am not to be trifled with.  If I do not get my demands met, you and your mother will watch Mrs. Metcalfe die and then each other – slowly.”

        Blue dropped his eyes once more, and in doing so, judged the distance between them. It was just too far for him to be certain he would connect with the man before he fired.  So he raised his eyes and protested, “You agreed, if I came here that you would…”

        “I agreed to nothing, fool! Shut up.  You, sit over there.” He gestured Mrs. Metcalfe to a crate over on his left and then to a box opposite her for Mrs. Svenson.  “You, Junior Svenson, will stand before me, a perfect human shield.” He nudged Blue towards the door and forced him onto his knees, making him to shuffle forwards as he opened it. Framed by the doorway, his pistol pointed at the bowed head of Captain Blue, he shouted across to the Colonel, beginning to recite his list of demands once more. 

In the background Blue could just hear his mother whimpering in alarm. He glanced to where he knew the fire escape was sited and prayed Scarlet was on his way. As he did so, the sound of the cranes beginning their work echoed through the warehouse.  He felt the barrel of Stolojan’s pistol against his neck and swallowed compulsively. 

Hurry up, Paul, for God’s sake…

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Grey tried to assimilate the reports coming in from Spectrum’s contacts around the world.  He began to appreciate just how complex a job the Colonel performed, as he felt his grasp of the overall situation clog up with extraneous detail.  Field officers tended to take for granted that if they radioed for advice, the Colonel would have every fact necessary to evaluate their suggestions at his fingertips.  Now, he could see the other side of the coin and it was not such a cushy number after all.

        Lieutenant Green was sifting the information, much as he did for the Colonel, and only forwarding the reports that seemed to him to be entirely relevant. All other reports were graded and assigned to prioritised files for future reading.  Currently, tracker stations around the Atlantic seaboard were searching for the Makepeace and the only one that seemed to have anything like a plausible identification was the WASP base at Gibraltar, which reported an unidentified frigate passing through the straits into the Mediterranean.   He highlighted this and forwarded it immediately with the station’s request that orders for the base be passed through WASP HQ at Marineville, as soon as possible.  His console reported that Grey had accessed the message, and he was waiting for the expected response when the WAAF came through on an emergency line.  He answered the hail and found himself talking to General Metcalfe, who was asking if Spectrum had any knowledge of the whereabouts of his wife and son – as well as Captain Blue and his mother, whilst they were about it.

        Green acknowledged the General’s request and put it through directly to Grey on the control desk, with a brief rundown of the subject matter.

        “General Metcalfe, can I help you, sir?” Grey asked hesitantly, the Colonel had not expressed any orders regarding informing the families of those involved.

        “As I told your Lieutenant, I am trying to trace my wife who left home yesterday morning to meet our son – Captain Scarlet – in Portsmouth and has not returned.  Captain Blue and his Mother – Sarah Svenson – went with her.  Do you have any information about their whereabouts; I am very concerned, Captain, and having checked with police and hospitals I am at a loss to know where else to try, otherwise I would not intrude on Spectrum’s time.”

        Grey floundered for an answer and eventually spilt the story of the hostage-taking episode to General Metcalfe, trying to reassure him that Spectrum was on the case and everything would be all right.

        Metcalfe listened in silence, said ‘thank you’ curtly and cut the connection. Unable to worry more about it, Grey went back to the problem of the Makepeace, and asked the WASP base at Gibraltar to confirm the identification of the mystery frigate.

        Sighing, Green forwarded the message, and hoped the Colonel would be back soon.

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Scarlet nodded sharply as the cranes began to screech into their job and Robinson started the cutting gear.  It whined into the metal bars and sparks danced around the small fire escape platform.   The first bar snapped out quicker than Scarlet had expected.  He dropped it to the ground and watched as Robinson started on the second bar. 

        Colonel White opened a communication channel and provided Scarlet with a running commentary of events round the corner.

        Stolojan has opened the door again and he’s using Blue as a shield – he has him on his knees with a gun to his head.  Blue does not seem to be harmed.  I am going to speak to him now.”

        There was a pause.

        “Stolojan, there is no need for this… barbarity, I have asked you before to let your hostages go, and there is no need to treat them so harshly.  Mr. Svenson is no greater threat to you than his mother or Mrs. Metcalfe,” White protested.  “As you can see, I have removed the personnel you objected to and there is no-one here now except myself and Captain Wentworth.   Either or both of us would willingly take the place of your hostages – as a token of our good faith.”

        “Why are the cranes making that noise?” Stolojan demanded.

        “The jetty must be cleared – the helicopter wreckage is a hazard.  Now is the optimum time to perform the task, before the base becomes fully active and it causes unnecessary congestion,” Wentworth supplied the answer with just a hint of offended reason in his voice. “What objection can you have to that?  You have asked for transport out of here and without removing the wreckage we cannot bring in any vehicles, much less a plane.”

        The answer seemed to satisfy Stolojan and he began to demand to know why everything was taking so long.

        Colonel White interrupted, “We are moving as fast as we can, Stolojan, there are formalities in every situation and I have to get clearance from the local air traffic controllers as well as the W.A.S. for your flight out of here, especially as you refuse to disclose a destination…”

        “I will be taking my hostages with me, I want a plane to take four passengers and a pilot who will go where I say and do as I wish without question. Bring me a choice of six and I will take the one I want.”

        Blue stirred slightly, and in a hesitant voice said, “Mr. Stolojan, I can pilot a plane, I have a valid license. If you will allow my mother and Mrs. Metcalfe to remain here with the Spectrum people, I will pilot the plane and go wherever you wish.”

        Stolojan gave a harsh laugh, “My, what a treasure you are, young Svenson!  It seems we have no need of your pilots, Colonel – I have one my own with every motivation to do as I wish – especially as I will take the women along – just to ensure his compliance.”

        “Mr. Svenson,” Colonel White said with profound displeasure, “I recommend you keep your bright suggestions to yourself in future.”

        Stolojan laughed, “Never mind, Colonel, perhaps you will find another way to entrap me – but I am sure you will be pleased to hear that I have decided to keep this young man alive for now whilst he has his uses.  I will decide which – if either – of the others I will kill before I leave.  Let that thought focus your minds and make sure the delays do not get to be insupportable.”

 

-o0o-

 

        Scarlet watched as the last bar came free from the window and Robinson turned off the cutting gear.  The window was not large, but he made the attempt to slip through and by dint of removing his wide-shouldered tunic, he just managed it.  Robinson handed the tunic through after him and Scarlet reported to the Colonel that he was in the building.   White did not reply immediately, but as he broke off negotiations with Stolojan, he explained that Blue was still kneeling in the doorway and that Stolojan seemed to have lost every last vestige of what sense he’d had. 

        Scarlet made his way silently across the admin office and through the door, closing it carefully behind him.  The walkway was broad and crowded with crates and boxes, which provided enough cover for him to walk quite quickly towards the stairs.  Halfway down he stopped and peered into the gloom, seeing the patch of light coming from the floodlights outside, where the door was open. 

        Once on the ground floor he made swift and careful progress, dodging from cover to cover amongst the crates and boxes until he was within shooting distance of Stolojan.  His mother was closest to him, watching Stolojan like a hawk.  Mrs. Svenson perched on a crate on the other side of the aisle, was hunched up with her head on her knees. He thought he could hear her crying.  Stolojan had his back to him and was busy taunting the Colonel with his demands.

        Carefully he drew his Spectrum pistol and cocked the trigger, but even that slight noise was enough to alert his mother, and Mary turned to see her son taking aim.

        A split second before he pulled the trigger, Scarlet yelled, “Blue! Dive, dive, dive!”

        To the watching women, events seemed to happen in slow motion.  There was a flash of light as the pistol fired and moments later the accompanying bang echoed around the cavernous warehouse.  Stolojan half-turned and seeing the red-clad figure behind him, he pulled the trigger on his own gun, which was still aimed at the kneeling Captain Blue.  There was a second flash and muffled bang, accompanied by Sarah’s scream, as Blue dived for the ground, rolling out of the line of fire as he did so.   The bullet missed his head and caught his right shoulder.  Stolojan had no time for a second shot as Scarlet’s subsequent volley of shots found their target, and he staggered under the impact.  Blue rolled clear, scrambling for cover behind the open door as Colonel White also opened fire on Stolojan, and Wentworth rushed forward to assist the injured man.  White’s shots hit their target and Stolojan reeled back into the warehouse.  As he staggered towards Scarlet, his shaking hands fought to aim the gun at the motionless Spectrum officer.  Before he could aim properly, Scarlet fired the coup de grace and Stolojan dropped like a lead weight onto the dusty floor, a small pool of blood seeping out around his head and chest. 

        Sarah, still screaming out her fear for her son, threw herself off the crate and headed for the door.  Mary Metcalfe climbed down from her crate and stood staring at her son over the body of her kidnapper.  Scarlet lowered his gun and holstered it before he met his mother’s deep blue eyes.  He almost feared to see the expression there – she had witnessed him kill a man in cold blood – what would she think of him now?  But he need not have feared, her eyes showed nothing but relief and an inordinate amount of pride in him.  He opened his arms to her and she stepped into his embrace.

        When he looked up he could see Sarah, oblivious of her surroundings, fussing over Adam, brushing dust from his pyjamas and the fringe from his eyes, whilst crooning a litany of endearments, in which concern and reproof were equally mixed.  His friend cradled his mother in his good arm, and meekly submitted to her ministrations.

        Colonel White walked over and looked coldly at the body of Andrei Stolojan; he kicked it with his brilliant white boot and nodded brusquely.

        “No Mysteron involvement,” he noted with satisfaction.  Seconds later his epaulettes flashed green and he was receiving an urgent update on the whereabouts of the frigate Makepeace.  He turned away from the warehouse, leaving his officers with their mothers and after a moment Wentworth trailed after him, embarrassed to witness the outpouring of maternal concern and pride that had broken out now the danger was over.

        Colonel White’s discussion with Captain Grey was interrupted by the arrival of a WAAF helicopter which landed on the jetty and disgorged a passenger in the shape of General Sir Charles Metcalfe.  Mary left her son with a brief smile and ran to her husband, diverting him from his intended confrontation with Colonel White. 

        The Colonel glanced at all three Metcalfes and permitted himself a slight smile, as he saw Mary admonishing her husband and commending her son, at the same time as she started to tell the story of the significant contribution made to their safety by the Svensons, mother and son.  General Metcalfe pushed his military cap back from his forehead and looked in speechless confusion from one Spectrum officer to the other, as Scarlet’s face cracked into a huge grin and he clapped his father on the back and started to laugh….

 

-o0o-

 

        Able Seaman Alan Robinson had climbed through the window after the shooting died down and walked along to see what had happened.  He stared down at the body of Andrei Stolojan and noticed two rings of pale green light sliding over him. He gasped in amazement as the next moment Stolojan’s figure appeared from nowhere and stared down at his corpse before he turned and melted back amongst the crates.  Robinson shook his head and thought he must be dreaming, but he had heard the rumour that Leading Seaman Goulden had seen the ghost-ship of the Makepeace rise from the sea earlier, before all this kafuffle happened. He hadn’t believed it, but now he was not so sure.   He started down the stairs and sprinted for the open door,  casting anxious glances back into the warehouse and  croaking out of a dry throat, “Captain Scarlet, Captain Scarlet, you won’t believe what I just saw…”

 

-o0o-

 

        “You’re sure it’s heading towards the Dardanelles?  For the Black Sea coast – with all of its industrial complexes and nuclear power stations?  Then I would say they are not going to take a holiday, Captain.  Launch the Angels with orders to destroy that ship, immediately!  We cannot risk at attack on the installations along that coast!  It would give the Bereznians even more of an excuse than they imagine they already have to attack the World Government.”  

        Colonel White looked across at the crowd by the door, which had gone from a happy, smiling group of people to one of great consternation in a matter of moments.  An Able Seaman was explaining something to Captain Scarlet, who was trying to shut the man up.  White closed his comm link and strode across to see what was happening.

        “It was Stolojan, Captain, I swear.”

        “Nonsense, we all saw Stolojan dead.  You’re frightening the ladies, Robinson.” Scarlet steered the man away from the confused group and Blue joined him as White arrived as well. 

        “Careful what you say, Robinson, and where you say it,” Scarlet pleaded.

        “Stolojan has been Mysteronised,” Blue stated as the Colonel glanced questioningly at them.

        “I’ll go and sort him out,” Scarlet offered, “You said you had an electron gun in your car, Colonel?”

        “I’ll fetch it,” White answered.  “Captain Blue; you need to see a doctor and you’ll be better helping the General keep the lid on things here. I suggest you get the ladies out of here in his helicopter. And try and find something else to wear, will you?” He turned and stalked across the jetty towards where the SSC stood. 

        Scarlet walked with his friend back towards the waiting group.  He met his father’s questioning glance with a cautious twitch of his dark eyebrows and said, “I have to check some things in the warehouse – just to make sure Stolojan didn’t leave anything dangerous behind him.   Adam here has the more difficult task of finding something to improve his sartorial elegance.”

        Blue glanced down at his pyjamas, they were creased, dirty, torn across the knees from crawling along the warehouse floor and stiff with dried blood on the jacket from Stolojan’s bullet – not quite so joli now, he thought with a euphoric grin at his mother.

        “I have an overcoat in the chopper, Captain – you are welcome to use that – it should fit well enough,” General Metcalfe said, taking his son’s lead in playing down the importance of tracking down the Mysteronised Stolojan.

        “Thank you sir,” Blue rubbed his temple and admitted, “I am starting to feel a little chilly…” His words were drowned out by a sudden explosion as a mortar gun fired a shell into the WAAF helicopter which exploded in a fireball.

 

        With one impulse the three men had leapt towards the women, pulling them away from the blast.  Scarlet relinquished his mother to his father’s protection and with the merest glance at Blue, cradling his trembling mother in his arms, he raced for the warehouse. The glance was enough to bring Blue back to his senses and he hustled the group past the burning machine into a minor access road – anywhere had to be better than the open square.

        Reaching the warehouse, Scarlet prowled along the aisle way, listening for any sound that might reveal the Mysteron’s position.   The shell had been launched from the admin offices, possibly the very one he had squeezed into through the dismantled window.   He walked cautiously towards the stairs, hoping the Colonel would arrive soon with the electron gun.   There was no sign of the Mysteronised Stolojan and he couldn’t hear anything.  He prayed that Blue had had the sense to lead the others away from the open spaces; it was a great temptation to turn and run outside and make sure that had happened, but finding the perpetrator was more important still.

        Suddenly above him there came a rumbling, scraping noise and Scarlet’s head turned upwards in time to see a shadowy figure pushing a crate down from the walkway.  In the split second it took for him to realise what he’d seen he sprang back and sprinted way from the impact zone.  Three more followed and one by one the crates hit the concrete floor and shattered, spilling their contents and creating quite a barrier to the stairway.

        At least, he thought thankfully, they weren’t full of ammunition! Obviously Stolojan doesn’t want me up there – if he has weapons and ammunition he can pick off anyone approaching the warehouse.

        He heard an office door slam, and scrambled over the broken boxes and a confusion of engineering parts, broken glass and computer hardware.  At the foot of the stairs he drew out his Spectrum pistol – it wouldn’t kill the Mysteron, but it would hurt him and it would slow him down, so until the Colonel brought up the electron gun it would have to suffice. Aware that he was an easy target he tried to keep the noise to a minimum, but Stolojan obviously expected him to follow and several shots whizzed past him.  Surprise was no longer an element so Scarlet raced up the stairs and flung himself against the wall of the admin offices.

        A door a few offices along was flung open, and after firing several shots towards his pursuer, Stolojan sprinted for the fire escape, pushing boxes and crates  down behind him as he went. He darted through and slammed it shut behind him.

        The Mysteron was getting away. Scarlet stumbled through the debris along to the fire door.  He shoved against it and it flew open.  Looking down the staircase he could see Stolojan below him descending the stairs as fast as he could.  Scarlet began to chase, leaping three steps at a time and jumping to the small landings where the metal staircase turned. 

        Even so, Stolojan was already on the ground and running past the burning wreckage towards the narrow street beyond as Scarlet reached the final turn in the fire escape.  Desperate to close the gap, he jumped, rolling with the impact and struggling to his feet, despite the ominous jolt in his left ankle. Nevertheless by the time he reached the road there was no sign of Stolojan.  He stopped running, and, panting heavily, took in his surroundings, listening all the time for the telltale sounds that would reveal his quarry.

        The morning sun was still too weak to give much illumination through the rain clouds and the street, lined by featureless office buildings and more warehouses, was dark, with every metre lined with potential traps and ambushes. There was a lorry parked to his right.  He sidled up to it, but Stolojan was not there.  With watchful eyes, Scarlet crept along the road, using the walls and crates as cover whenever possible, his mind alert to possible ambush points. The building beyond the lorry had a high square opening about half way up and crates beneath it, but the distance was too great for any man to have used them to climb into the building. 

        At the end of the street an office building bore a large number 3 painted on it in white emulsion.   There was a light in the narrow doorway and about half way up a dim light shone through two half open windows.   He wondered if Stolojan had had time to reach the entrance.  He continued to stare down the street, noting that it turned sharp right at the end and presumably went along to the main through road.  He hoped his quarry had not got that far, otherwise he would have to alert the perimeter guards to fire on sight.

        Suddenly a movement in the lower of the lighted windows attracted his attention and he saw Blue waving his good arm.  Realising he had been spotted, Blue pointed down the left hand side of the building.  For some reason Blue – and presumably his parents and Mrs. Svenson too – had sought refuge in the room and, obviously, Blue had seen where the Mysteron had ducked.  With luck, Stolojan wouldn’t know that. Giving his partner the thumbs up, Scarlet began to walk slowly forwards. He hadn’t gone far when a shot rang out and Blue ducked away from the window as the bullet hit the window frame.  Stolojan knew now where his erstwhile hostages were. Scarlet knew Blue did not have his gun and that his father did not usually carry a weapon, so they would be at the mercy of the Mysteron if he ever managed to reach them.   At all costs Stolojan had to be kept away from that building.

        Scarlet sprinted forwards, firing twice in the direction of the gunshot.  His shots were returned and, desperate to get Stolojan away from the hostages, he fired again and dodged back towards the lorry.   A bullet clipped his right thigh and he stumbled, struggling to get to his feet.  Sensing victory, Stolojan followed, taking pot shots at the flashes of red visible as Scarlet moved away from the building with the vulnerable bystanders in.

        He went towards the lorry, moving as fast as he could and ignoring the insistent pain in his leg, which was dragging a little. Stolojan’s shots bounced on the road behind him, urging him to greater speed.  There was a small alleyway off to the right and he hobbled into it, hoping to find a hiding place to set a trap for his pursuer, or a way through to the main road and the perimeter guards.   Too late he realised it was a dead end and that Stolojan was too close behind him for him to retrace his steps.  When he reached the red brick wall that blocked his passage, a quick inspection of the discarded rubbish and boxes in the alley soon disabused him of the idea of having enough cover to ambush Stolojan.   There was a wooden ladder resting against the wall, but it wasn’t long enough to reach the rooftop.  He turned back, as the clatter of an empty bottle, and the yowling complaint of a stray cat, warned him that Stolojan was already blocking the entrance. 

        Scarlet rested his left hand on the ladder to steady himself and ease the pain in his leg as he strove to regain his breath and his composure.  He’d get one shot – but so would Stolojan.  It was dark enough in the alley and perhaps his tunic would blend enough into the red of the bricks to blur his outline.  Stolojan would be framed against what light there was from the street – Scarlet gave a grim smile – he had the better target, so there was a chance he could finish this here and now. Wounded, Stolojan would be out of action for a time and by then Colonel White would be here with the electron gun.

        Suddenly, he was blinded by the glare of a powerful targeting searchlight.  He had never thought that Stolojan would have a new range-finder weapon!  It flashed several times, as Stolojan searched for his target and homed in on Scarlet’s upright figure.   Then he heard the unmistakable sound of the semi-automatic pistol.  He braced himself as the bullets ripped into his scarlet tunic, which offered only limited protection from the impact. He felt them sear into his chest and staggered, his grip tightening on the ladder as he fought to remain conscious and upright.  The searchlight dipped away slightly and as the smoke cleared he saw Stolojan staring at him with wild eyes.  

He seemed surprised that Scarlet was still standing and, as if mesmerised, he watched as Scarlet raised his right hand and deliberately shot him, for the second time that day, with a bullet between the eyes.

        “And this time, stay dead,” he muttered, grimacing from the pain of the bullet wounds and feeling distinctly light headed.  He wanted to get back to the road, and find Blue and his parents, but at the first step he sank to his knees and lost his fight for consciousness.

 

-o0o-

 

        Colonel White, General Metcalfe and Captain Blue arrived almost simultaneously at the mouth of the alley.  They saw the body of Stolojan, and White turned the electron gun on it, to ensure there would be no further resurrections.  General Metcalfe gave a groan of distaste and turned away as the body sizzled to a burnt crisp under the powerful electrical blast. Few people outside of Spectrum had seen the effect of an electron rifle and his reaction brought back to the Colonel how he’d felt, viewing the body of the Mysteronised Captain Indigo after Scarlet had used the prototype gun on him.

“It may not be pleasant, General, but it is necessary.  This is the only gun that will permanently kill a Mysteronised individual,” the Colonel explained. 

General Metcalfe nodded, “I have heard of the weapon, Colonel. Now I can understand why it is kept exclusively for Spectrum’s use.” He paused, and asked the question White had feared: “Does it mean this would kill Paul as well?”

“We cannot be sure, General.  Captain Scarlet is no longer in the thrall of the Mysterons, so we cannot be sure if the electron ray would similarly affect him.  Naturally, we have never dared to find out.”

        Captain Blue had gone ahead of them, searching amongst the crates for Captain Scarlet.  His sudden gasp of “Paul!” alerted his companions to the fact that he had found his friend.  They hastened down the alley to find Blue kneeling alongside the crumpled form of Captain Scarlet.  He was lying against the dull red of the brick wall, blood seeping from a wound in his thigh and a series of bullet holes across his uniform tunic.

        “Is he dead?” White asked, as Blue reached to feel for a pulse in his neck.

        He shook his head, “Not quite, Colonel.  Don’t think he’s far off it though, there must be a dozen bullets in him.” Blue turned to look up at them, a suspicious glimmer in his eyes.  He blinked rapidly and looked back at his fallen partner.

        General Metcalfe knew enough about his son’s unique abilities to understand that, in Captain Blue’s memorable words, even death was not fatal.  Staring down at the kneeling man who was now cradling his son in his arms, the General’s mind slipped back across time to an occasion, not so very long ago, when he had met Captain Blue.

        The American had asked to see him, after he had learned from a troubled Paul that his father had discovered his secret, and had refused to meet or speak with him.  He had only reluctantly agreed to the meeting, for he suspected Blue of making the request at Captain Scarlet’s behest to try to win him over. 

 

-o0o-

 

        Captain Blue had arrived at the WAAF base one Friday afternoon, out of uniform and looking on edge. He seemed to be expecting a frosty reception and that was exactly what he got from General Metcalfe.   He stressed to the sceptical General that he had come on his own initiative and not in any official capacity. He was, he admitted a little sheepishly, supposed to be attending the Wimbledon tennis finals this weekend – spending the time with his kid brother in the company’s hospitality box on centre court. If the Colonel found out where he was, he was likely to get hauled over the coals.  And if Paul ever found out – well, he wouldn’t give himself any chance at all. Metcalfe, who had a good deal of respect for the younger man, promised not to mention it.  Blue had given him a swift, grateful smile and the tension between them had eased slightly. 

        Relaxing a little, the General had suggested they go to a country pub to talk – away from distractions.   In the verdant Wessex countryside they had sat in the warm sunshine over a ploughman’s lunch and a pint of beer.  At least, the General had a beer; Blue – who couldn’t stand the stuff – had a lager.   For some reason, General Metcalfe could still remember the way the sunlight had refracted through the golden liquid in the straight-sided glass.

        Both drinks and food remained untouched,  as the American had hesitantly begun to speak of the effect the discovery of Paul’s amazing ‘abilities’ had had on everyone at Cloudbase, and of the distrust and fear he had encountered.  He spoke of how Paul had striven to prove his loyalty and his trustworthiness to his colleagues.   And he went on to speak of how he – Captain Blue – had swiftly realised that, whatever had happened to the shell of the man, in soul and in essence he was the same Paul Metcalfe.

        Meeting the General’s eyes for the first time Blue had said, “Given the choice between this Mysteronised Paul and no Paul at all – I will take this Paul.  And I trust him with my life now as implicitly as I always did. But I need you – his father – to understand why I have accepted that Captain Scarlet is the same man, as the Colonel Paul Metcalfe I first met.”  General Metcalfe remembered he had looked away first from those calmly appraising eyes, with the hint of a gentle sadness in them.  He had experienced a burst of feeling in which both shame and anger were strangely mixed – anger that this young man should presume to lecture him on his son and shame that his own behaviour had made it necessary.

        Gaining confidence, Blue told the General that Paul understood why people doubted the veracity of what had happened and that he did not blame any one for their doubts. He had had to come to terms with his new abilities – just as everyone had, and he knew some of his colleagues still had trouble with aspects of the reality of an indestructible man.

The younger man’s expression had become troubled and his words echoed now in the General’s memory, “Sometimes, when I find him, I hope he is dead – because I know he feels every injury, every gunshot wound and when he’s dead, there is at least a respite from the pain and the trauma.  You cannot begin to know how guilty admitting that makes me feel, because we have no way of knowing if the next death won’t be the final one – if something as inexplicable as this remarkable ability won’t disappear, for the same obscure reason as it arrived. I have waited in the Medical rooms on Cloudbase – innumerable times now – through the interminable nights and the endless days of his ‘recoveries’. As if my willing the breath back into his lungs and his heart to start beating again will somehow ensure he does recover.   I do not count myself as a superstitious man, General, but this has become like a superstition for me now. At least, I believe it enough not to risk stopping.”  He gave a mirthless chuckle, “The others call it ‘the death watch’…”

 

-o0o-

 

General Metcalfe could clearly remember the look of sincere pity in those eloquent blue eyes – especially as he had just seen its reprise in the same eyes. He heard his name being spoken gently and snapped back to reality to hear Blue saying, “Don’t worry, sir, he will be all right.”

        “What will you do?” he asked quietly, “my wife, his mother, she mustn’t see – she must never know… the truth about all of this.”

        White activated his cap mic and crisply ordered a medical helijet from Cloudbase to collect the wounded.  Then he stooped to assist Blue shift the body into a more comfortable position.

        “I’m sorry sir, I can’t carry him this time,” Blue murmured to his commander, as he cushioned Scarlet’s dark head against his good shoulder.

        White gave a dry smile, “No son, I know you can’t, but I can.”

        “Sorry Colonel, but rank does have its privileges.” General Metcalfe moved to his son and lifted him tenderly in his strong arms.  Blue picked up the radio cap and struggled to his feet as the Colonel led the way back towards the Spectrum vehicle to wait for the helicopter.

        As they left the alley White turned to his officer and, seeing the exhaustion on the man’s face, he said, not unkindly, “Get Captain Wentworth to have the debris removed and order a clear-up team in from Portsmouth.  You had better collect the ladies and … find them somewhere to wait until the medical helicopter arrives.   You will accompany Captain Scarlet back to Cloudbase and, if he’s willing, I would ask the General to ensure the safe return of the ladies to Winchester.”   Metcalfe nodded his acquiescence to the plan and Colonel White concluded, “And Captain Blue, I’m relying on you to ensure they do not find out what has happened.”

        Blue’s face went from pale to ashen.  “S.I.G., Colonel,” he muttered.  There were times when he felt that Scarlet got the easy way out.

        “Spectrum has an unenviable task,” General Metcalfe said, “Fighting the Mysterons is not for the faint hearted.”

        The Colonel agreed.  “It is a daunting task, General.  Even now our Angel Interceptor jets are returning from the destruction of the Mysteronised frigate.  If the Mysterons follow their usual pattern, now the ship is destroyed, they will abandon this attack against the Earth and, once again, we will be forced to wait until they chose to inform us where, and what, they intend to attack next.  It really is a war of nerves and Spectrum is hard-pressed at times to meet the challenges they throw at us.  But we shall not weaken in our resolve to make sure every attack is met with resistance. Still, I’m afraid it will be a long and dangerous fight.”

        “And leading that fight, is the one man fate has made indestructible; his name – Captain Scarlet,” Blue said, smiling, as he reached across to place the radio cap on his friend’s dark hair.

 

 

The End

 

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