Doctor Fawn looked for the umpteenth time at his patient. He was relieved to see that the enormous stress seemed to have eased. The heart rate seemed to have slowed too. When the President had been brought in, it had been pounding fit to burst. He was just about to turn away when patient stirred slightly. That was a good sign. Fawn now knew that the President
was in with a fighting chance.
“Thinking that I was a doctor,” continued Scarlet, “The nurse led me to the World President’s room. The nurse had to leave for a few minutes and whilst she was away, the President regained consciousness long enough for me to speak to him.”
Grayson frowned. There was definitely something wrong. Scarlet actually seemed to be helping his Spectrum cronies.He felt inside his jacket for the reassuring weight that he knew would be there.
“What exactly did the President say?” asked White.
“At first, he was confused,” began Scarlet “In fact he thought that I was someone else and had some sort of attack as a result. When the attack passed, I asked him how long he had been having such attacks. He couldn’t remember. In fact, the most recent event he COULD remember was the Bermuda conference, three months ago.”
“Did you notice anything else?” asked White.
“Yes, sir.” replied Scarlet “I noticed that the President had lost the hard quality from his voice. However, when I asked him why Spectrum had been banned, he went into a trance.”
“Did he say anything more?” White pumped, trying to keep the excitement out of his voice.
“Yes sir. He said: ‘We have humoured these deluded individuals in their castle in the air for far too long. It’s time we stopped their fantasies about Alien Attacks from Mars.”
“What happened then?” asked White.
“The President seemed to withdraw into himself,” replied Scarlet. “It was as if he’d been switched off. Though he did seem to react to one word, but a visitor arrived and I had to leave.”
“I see,” replied White, “Please continue.”
Grayson, worried now, felt inside his jacket once more. The safety catch released with an almost imperceptible click.
“Why don’t you turn on them?” he thought to himself. “They must be destroyed, we must not fail.”
Unaware of the drama in the court-room, Doctor Fawn had worries of his own. His patient was tossing from side to side and murmuring to himself. He put his ear to the President’s mouth, to catch the muttered words.
The words were frightening enough: “…destroyed…must not fail ”, but he felt a chill run down his spine when he realised that instead of the President’s gentle drawl, he was hearing the familiar tones of Senator Charles Grayson.
Scarlet finished his story. He had omitted certain information that he knew that the Colonel already knew.
“Thank you, Captain.” said White. As Scarlet left the witness box, White turned to the Jury. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, ” he addressed them, “It is clear from the evidence presented by the witnesses for the defence that…”
“You don’t expect us to believe your story about Captain Scarlet rising from the dead?” interrupted Kemsley.
“Surely that’s a matter for the jury?” replied Blue.
“But it’s quite preposterous” retorted Kemsley.
“I would remind you that according to classical aerodynamics,” replied White calmly. “It is quite impossible for a bumble bee to fly.”
Scowling, Kemsley subsided. The Colonel’s logic had beaten him. There was a quiet chuckle from the visitor’s gallery as someone enjoyed the Judge’s discomfiture. White turned once more to the jury.
“As I was about to say, it is clear that you have been brought here under false pretences. The events of the last forty-eight hours lead me to conclude that this whole trial was arranged as part of a plan to put the Spectrum organisation out of business, leaving the Mysterons free to wreak havoc on the earth. In the minds of those responsible, there was never any intention that Justice, real justice, was to be carried out. We were to be destroyed, using our own laws as the weapon.”
There was a stir from the gallery. White ignored it and continued: “The first attempt was to destroy Cloudbase, by means of a booby trap that substituted himself for our defence lawyer, Mr Nielsen. In the attempt Captain Scarlet was killed and a Mysteron double was created, a double that testified against his colleagues, using evidence that had been subtly altered to tell a quite different story.”
Grayson stiffened. White was getting uncomfortably close to the truth. Nervously, he felt once more for the gun. White continued: “When the World President ordered Spectrum to cease operations, it was because it was
necessary to the Plan. He was just another tool, to be discarded when no longer required. If you remember, Captain Scarlet told us that he found the President in a disorientated state and so had been confused with someone else. By a strange coincidence, that same person had visited the President soon after, the result being that the President slipped into a coma. It has been said that patients in a coma can still respond to certain stimuli, words or music perhaps. Captain Scarlet found that stimulus. It was the name of the person that the President feared and hated above all others, the person who had been controlling his mind for the past three months.”
The revulsion was plain in White’s voice as he looked around the chamber for the one face he knew would be there. White’s eyes narrowed as he spotted his quarry. “I have you now,” he thought. He returned his attention to the Jury, sitting with rapt attention. “I should point out that no normal man would have been able to accomplish what he did. But then, You are no normal man, are you Senator?”
In a blur of speed Grayson reached for his gun. It was a good try, but not nearly fast enough.
With an ear-splitting whine, the electron beam hit him square in the chest and Senator Charles Grayson, or rather his Mysteron double, fell dead. The clatter of his gun hitting the floor was the only sound to break the shocked silence that had descended on the chamber.
Doctor Fawn was worried, nothing he did seemed to help. For the last five minutes, the President had been deliriously tossing his head from side to side and groaning. Spasms of pain wracked the tortured body. Suddenly, he gave a scream of pain and then slumped back, gasping. Doctor fawn bent to examine his patient and was startled to see his eyes opening. The look of pain had passed, but the President had a puzzled expression on his face. “What’s going on? Where am I?” he asked weakly.
“You’re safe, Mr President.” Fawn reassured him. “You’re in Cloudbase Sickbay.”
The President tried to sit up then fell back onto the bed. “I feel as weak as a kitten,” he said.
“I’m not surprised,” replied Fawn checking the President’s vital signs “You’ve been very ill.” Satisfied that his patient was well enough, Fawn helped him to a sitting position.
“I feel so dizzy” said the President, accepting the glass of water that Fawn offered him. A thought suddenly came to him. “Why am I in Cloudbase? Surely it would have been quicker to take me to the local Hospital?”
“It’s a long story…” began Fawn.
Carefully, Captain Ochre emerged from his hiding place, the ante-room that he’d earlier discovered on the building plans.
“Whew! That was close.” said Blue.
“Good shooting Captain.” White congratulated him, momentarily forgetting Kemsley. That moment was enough.
“Nobody move!” The automatic in the Judge’s hand was small but wicked looking and aimed straight at Destiny Angel. “You! drop the weapon.”
With a shrug of despair, Ochre put the Electron Gun on the floor and kicked it away from him. He didn’t dare risk Destiny’s life.
“Now raise your hands, all of you.” Slowly, the Spectrum officers obeyed Kemsley’s order.
As Doctor Fawn told his story, long hidden memories surfaced. Oblivious now to the outside world, the events of the last three months, until now, just a meaningless blur, became clear. At first, Grayson’s suggestions had seemed harmless enough but after a while, the President had found himself giving orders that became increasingly hostile to all that he had held dear. Soon he’d fallen down the slippery slope until the domination was complete.
He’d known that Grayson’s orders were wrong, but he’d been totally unable to resist. The memory of the death of the Spectrum agent made him feel sick, but there had been nothing he could do to stop himself giving the order. The grip on his mind had tightened until… Nothing. There was no
recollection at all of the last twenty-four hours. He became aware that Fawn had stopped speaking.
“Well I’m very grateful to you all, doctor.” the President said, rather shakily. “In fact, I’d like to thank Colonel White in person.”
Hadn’t he been listening? “Mr President,” repeated Fawn “I’ve just told you that the Colonel, Destiny Angel and Captain Blue are currently standing in the main Halls of Justice, on trial for their lives!”
“Stand together, all of you.” The Spectrum officers had no choice. They moved into the body of the chamber. Idly, Blue glanced around the court-room, searching for inspiration. He started when he realised that apart from Kemsley, Black and his colleagues the chamber was deserted.
“Where is everyone?” he whispered to Destiny.
Black must have heard him “They are no longer necessary, earthman.”
This was the first time that Colonel White and Captain Black had come face-to-face since Black had taken command of the Zero-X. Since it had been the Colonel who had ordered him to take charge of the mission, it was, he supposed, his fault that Black had been reduced to this state. It therefore fell to him to do something to put things right. He addressed his former colleague. “Captain Black. Why not come back to Spectrum and let us try to help you.”
“You’re wasting your time Earthman.” replied Black, his voice dull, lifeless.
White wouldn’t give in that easily. Perhaps a direct personal appeal… “Captain Scarlet was taken over by the Mysterons too but he managed to break free. Please let us try to help. After all, you were only carrying out my orders.” All eyes were on Black. How would he react? For a moment, it seemed that a flicker of recognition appeared in his eyes.
He opened his mouth to speak. “I…” The voice was no longer that of the Mysteron agent. It was that of Conrad Turner, Spectrum agent. But before he could say another word, a brilliant light filled the chamber. An all-too familiar voice addressed them:
“EARTHMEN, WE ARE PEACEFUL BEINGS AND YOU HAVE TRIED TO DESTROY US. BUT YOU CANNOT SUCCEED. YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST THE MYSTERONS AND ARE TO BE EXECUTED IMMEDIATELY.”
“But listen!” pleaded Blue. The appeal went unheeded.
The Mysteron voice continued. “THERE CAN BE NO APPEAL AGAINST THE JUDGEMENT OF THE MYSTERONS. WE SHALL CONTINUE THE WAR-OF-NERVES UNTIL WE HAVE DESTROYED ALL LIFE ON EARTH. WE SHALL BE AVENGED”.
The light faded. All eyes had been on the ceiling, the apparent source of the light. They turned once more to Captain Black. All the life had drained from his eyes. He turned once more to Kemsley. “You know what you must do.”
White sighed. It had been a good try. Everyone turned their attention to Kemsley. From his position in his raised seat, he could shoot all of them. To attempt to rush him would be futile. Scarlet knew that there was one chance. He took it. Kemsley saw the movement and fired.
Scarlet’s leap fell short, the bullet in his chest knocking him to the floor, blood pouring from the wound and staining the expensive carpet. The others made to help him, but Kemsley’s voice stopped them. “The next person to try any false heroics will get the same.”
The Spectrum Officers returned their gaze to the Mysteron sitting above them. Through pain-misted eyes, Scarlet could see his goal in front of him. Consciousness failing fast, he reached for the familiar shape. His fingertips brushed, then grasped. Slowly, ever more painfully, he pulled the object towards him. Knowing he had seconds, he rolled onto his back and squeezed the trigger. He was aware of the whine of the electron gun followed by a muffled thud then silence…
Lieutenant Green received the message from the Television Studio and turned to the World President who was sitting at Colonel White’s desk.
“World Television are standing by sir.” he informed him.
“Thank you Lieutenant” replied the President “I only hope we’re in time.” He turned to the camera: “My fellow citizens of Earth,” he began. “I am speaking to you from Spectrum Headquarters, Cloudbase…”
Captain Blue looked up at White. “He’s dead, Colonel.” he said sadly. As soon as the ray from the electron gun had destroyed the Mysteronised Kemsley, Blue had rushed to help the stricken Scarlet. But it had been too late, Scarlet had given his life to save his colleagues.
“Well at least he managed to destroy the Mysteron…” replied White. A sudden thought occurred to him. He turned to look for Captain Black. The Mysteron Agent had vanished. White turned to Captain Ochre. “Did you see where Captain Black went, Captain?”
“Well I know it sounds crazy sir,” began Ochre, still trying to comprehend what he had just seen. “But Captain Black just seemed to vanish into thin air. I tried to grab him but it was like trying to catch a shadow.”
The Mysterons had no intention of letting their agent be captured by Spectrum and had used their powers to spirit him away.
Blue rose to his feet and looked around the empty Chamber. “What happened to the Jury?” he asked the Colonel.
“I don’t know Captain,” replied White.
“One thing’s for certain.” remarked Ochre, a former member of the World Police Corps, “Without Judge or Jury you can’t have a court case.”
“He’s got a point Colonel.” added Blue “But what about the ban?”
“We’ll deal with that later.” replied White decisively. “Captain Ochre, contact Cloudbase and arrange for them to pick us up.”
“S. I. G. Sir” replied Ochre. At that moment, his epaulettes flashed green and his microphone dropped into position.
“Talk of the devil!” smiled White.
“Go ahead Lieutenant Green.” acknowledged Ochre.
“The World President has recovered consciousness,” announced Green, “and is currently making a World Television broadcast from Cloudbase.”
“What’s he talking about Lieutenant?” asked White into Ochre’s microphone.
“I think it would be better if you heard for yourself, Colonel.” came the faint reply. There was a momentary pause and then the President’s voice could be faintly heard. “…and with immediate effect, all charges against the
Spectrum organisation are to be dropped.”
Some hours later, a conference was called. “Members of Spectrum.” began White, surveying the gathered faces before him “Together, we have confronted the gravest threat yet to Spectrum’s existence. It is still not clear exactly how Senator Grayson was able to exert so much influence over the
President, but Doctor Fawn tells me that the control was released when Grayson was killed. We can only assume that he was being used as a channel by the Mysterons. Doctor Fawn has also confirmed that Captain Scarlet will recover completely within a few days.” He noticed Destiny’s gentle smile “However,” he added sternly, “I shall reprimand Captain Scarlet for disobeying my direct order and risking Cloudbase.” There was, however, a slight twinkle in his eye that told Destiny that, on the other hand, the reprimand just might be forgotten.
White was interrupted by a visitor. “Ah, Mr President!” he smiled.
“I just thought that I’d look in before I left, Colonel,” said the President. ”to pass on my thanks and congratulations to you all.”
There were murmurs of appreciation from the gathered officers. The President paused for a moment, as if deep in thought. “I do have something of a problem, though. Now that Senator Grayson is dead, there is no-one
to stand in the elections. I was wondering if perhaps YOU might consider the job. I assure you that I’d give you all the assistance you might need.”
Colonel White seemed to be at a loss for words: “I, ah, that is…”
“I think the Colonel’s trying to say that he’s rather busy” ventured Blue, coming to his commander’s rescue.
“Er, yes, yes” blustered White, beginning to regain his composure “Thank you, all the same, sir, but I have enough to do keeping the Mysterons at bay.”
“Ah well,” the President smiled, “It was just a thought.”
Ochre excused himself, he had been detailed to fly the President home, and escorted him to the waiting Passenger Jet.
As the footsteps faded away down the corridor, White returned his attention to the conference.
“Captain Grey,” he said picking up a piece of paper from the desk in front of him, “ I think you might find this of interest.”
“What is it sir?” asked Grey curiously.
“The bill for respraying one Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle,” replied White. He showed the total to Grey, who whistled in disbelief
“Normally,” White continued “The costs of such a deliberate defacement of Spectrum equipment would be deducted from your salary.” Then the Colonel smiled. “However, under the circumstances…” With that, he tore the bill neatly in half. His smile faded when he noticed Blue’s thoughtful expression.
“Is something wrong, Captain?”
“I was just thinking of Captain Black, Colonel.” replied Blue. “For a moment, in the courtroom, it seemed as if the his real personality was about to break free from the Mysterons.”
“Yes, Captain.” replied White. “He was a good officer. Perhaps some day we’ll find a way to help him.”
The navigation lights of the giant structure known as Cloudbase blinked into life once more as the golden disc of the setting sun sank gently below the horizon, marking the end of another day.
The next attack might come tomorrow, perhaps in six months, but until the Mysterons called off the War of Nerves, Spectrum would be waiting.