By: Colin M. Taylor (author)
Forty thousand feet above the earth’s surface, Cloudbase, Headquarters of the Spectrum Organisation, navigation beacons glowing brightly, hovered effortlessly in the blue-black sky. The full moon shone down onto the the vast expanse of the flight deck and the trio of Angel aircraft clamped to it.
The beauty of the night was lost on the figure gazing pensively through a porthole into the darkness outside. Colonel White was apprehensive as the News programme approached. He’d been warned by his agents to expect trouble. Exactly what the problem might be was not clear, but the intelligence from his agents could usually be relied upon.
As the signature tune surged, he moved back to his desk and ordered Lieutenant Green to relay it to all parts of Cloudbase. “This concerns all of us,” he said, by way of explanation. The lead story concerned the closure of the Trans-Alpine road tunnel, owing to its age and also the fact that insufficient toll money was being taken to cover the ever-increasing costs of the tunnel, everyone seeming to prefer the much faster monorails.
The next item concerned the impending World-Presidential Elections. Although the current incumbent was generally well thought of, the leading challenger, Senator Grayson, was rapidly catching up in the opinion polls. Grayson was a relative newcomer to the Senate, only having been elected to the house three months before. The main thrust of his campaign seemed to be an attack on the fiscal policies of the current Government, accusing them of squandering valuable resources on pie-in-the-sky schemes and
calling for major cuts in the Armed Forces.
The Newsreader then handed over to a Reporter in the main Parliament Building where Senator Grayson was, at that moment delivering a speech to the the entire Parliament. The atmosphere had already been whipped up to a fever pitch when the Senator delivered his final broadside: “In addition to keeping massive Armed forces when the whole world has been at peace for decades, he still persists in squandering millions so that Spectrum can go chasing phantoms. I say ENOUGH! 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 – I stopped reading fairy stories when I was five! I demand that the World President stops this lunacy NOW!”
The House went wild. A chant of “Stop Spectrum Now,” started somewhere on the floor and spread rapidly until the everyone seemed to be chanting in unison. Grayson allowed himself a half smile of pleasure. It was so nice to have an appreciative audience.
“Cut it!” The voice that Lieutenant Green heard was of an old, worried man. The Colonel had known that the Senator was no fan of Spectrum, but hadn’t realised that things were this bad.
At that moment, a light flashed on Lieutenant Green’s console. He pressed a switch and listened for a moment before announcing “Chief of Staff for you, Colonel.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, put him on.” No matter how bad the situation, Colonel White was always polite.
Down in the Amber room, Captain Blue was deep in thought. “Sorry, I was miles away.” he explained as he realised that Captain Scarlet had just said something.
“I said that I thought I could smell burning when I saw you thinking. It looked painful,” said Scarlet with a grin, just avoiding the newspaper that Blue hurled at him.
“I was actually thinking about that news report,” Blue stated.
“Yeah,” retorted Captain Magenta, “that Grayson really has it in for us.”
“I shouldn’t worry too much,” said Captain Grey, “these politicians will rant about anything if they think it’ll get votes. He’ll find another target next week, you’ll see.”
“I’m not so sure,” said Scarlet, “Senator Grayson is a very powerful man. His favourite hobbyhorse is spending cuts and since we haven’t heard a peep from the Mysterons for months, he’s bound to say that we aren’t needed now.”
Indeed, this was true. Since the abortive attack on the Trans-European Monorail, three months before, the Mysterons had been conspicuous by their absence and, indeed, some people were beginning to think that the war of nerves had been called off. Scarlet was not one of them.
“You heard what he said on the News,” replied Blue, “he doesn’t believe in the existence of the Mysterons anyway, so he’s bound to think we’re wasting our time up here.”
Up in the Control Room, Colonel White’s face was grim as he listened to the Chief of Staff.
“Finally,” the General continued, “Cloudbase is to proceed with all speed to Glenn Field, to await landing instructions prior to decommissioning.”
“With all due respect, General -” White began, but it was too late. The General’s face had already disappeared from the screen. “Cease operations indeed!” he growled.
“The General was right though, about there having been no Mysteron attacks sir. Perhaps they HAVE called the war off,” said Green sympathetically.
“No, Lieutenant, I don’t think so,” replied Colonel White grimly, “I feel certain that they would have announced the fact. No, they’re still waiting for their chance and these orders might just be it. Get me the World President!”
The World President was blunt to the point of rudeness. “The orders were quite explicit, Colonel, The Spectrum organisation is to cease all activities immediately and Cloudbase is to proceed to Glenn Field, where it is to be handed over to the World Air Force.”
“Would you mind telling me why, sir?” asked Colonel White with as much patience as he could muster.
“Cost, Colonel,” came the reply from the man on the screen. “Do you have any idea how much it costs to keep an organisation like Spectrum in business?”
“The cost is high,” agreed Colonel White, “but the Mysterons -”
“The Mysterons are no worse than any other terrorist group,” the President interrupted, “I’m sure that the normal security forces are quite capable of dealing with any situation that may arise.”
“The Mysterons are no ordinary terrorist organisation,” snapped Colonel White, “they have powers we cannot begin to comprehend. Surely you don’t deny the attempt on your own life.”
Indeed, after the crew of the Zero-X had mistakenly opened fire on the Martian Complex, the Mysterons had stated that their first act of retaliation, in what had become known as the “War of Nerves”, would be to assassinate the very man who was now, seemingly, denying the existence of any threat.
“If you recall, Colonel,” the President sneered, “of the two men you sent to guard me, one tried to blow me up, and the other one kidnapped me!”
Colonel White winced – the President had hit a raw nerve. The Colonel had sent bodyguards, in the shape of Captains Brown and Scarlet, to escort the World President to the Spectrum Maximum Security Building in New York. On the way, however, something had happened to them. The bodies of the two officers had been found near the burnt-out wreckage of their Saloon Car, but not before Captain Brown had exploded, completely destroying the Maximum Security building and nearly killing the President.
The discovery of Captain Brown’s body had alerted the Colonel that Scarlet, too, had been affected and he ordered the Angels, already flying as escort, to intercept him and the President. Scarlet and the President had ejected from the Passenger Jet in which they had been flying and still holding the President at gunpoint, Scarlet had stolen a car and had driven himself and the President towards London.
The chase had ended in a dramatic shoot-out on the top of the London Car-Vu, with Scarlet falling eight hundred feet to his death and Captain Blue saving the President in the nick of time from the collapsing tower.
What few people outside Spectrum were aware of was that when the body of Captain Scarlet had been returned to Cloudbase for Doctor Fawn to carry out a post-mortem, it was found to have healed completely. Scarlet had returned to life, but had lost the controlling influence of the Mysterons. Thus he had become an invaluable asset to Spectrum in the war against the Mysterons.
“With respect, Sir, the officers in question, were being controlled by the Mysterons,” Colonel White asserted. “They would have been totally unaware of what they were doing.”
“So you say, Colonel, I think it’s about time we faced facts,” the President replied. “All these so-called Mysteron attacks are carried out by human beings, just like you and me. There’s no evidence that aliens are at work. There is evidence, however, that Spectrum is costing a very great deal of money. Money that could be more profitably used elsewhere. You have your orders. I suggest you carry them out.” With that, the President’s face disappeared from the screen.
“Politicians!” snorted Colonel White angrily. “All they ever worry about is money.” He pressed a button in front of him and his desk gently rotated until he was once more facing Lieutenant Green. “Lieutenant Green, assemble everyone in the Conference room in five minutes,” he ordered.
“S. I. G. Sir,” replied Green, reaching for a switch.
Several thousand miles away, in the President’s office in Geneva, a figure slumped forward in his chair. The strain had been intense. When the Colonel’s image had faded from the screen, the figure had seemed to collapse inward like a deflated balloon. With an effort, the figure raised its head and stared at the other occupant of the room “How much longer must this go on?” he whispered.
“Until we have achieved our aim, Mr President,” Senator Grayson smiled. This wretch was so easy to control. It would be child’s play to eliminate Spectrum. That old fool Colonel White would obey orders, no matter how strange they might be, he was sure of that.
“Cease Operations?” Scarlet’s voice was incredulous as Colonel White had broken the news.
“Yes Captain, he was emphatic on that point. Spectrum is to cease all operations with immediate effect,” Colonel White replied.
“But what about the Mysterons, sir, ” asked Captain Blue.
“You all saw for yourselves on the Video. He just doesn’t believe in their existence.”
They all lapsed into a thoughtful silence.
A strange thought entered Scarlet’s head. He dismissed it as being too crazy for words. It forced its way back and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. “Colonel,” he began, but before he could utter another word, he was interrupted by a voice that none of them had wanted to hear again. The voice was clear, as it always was, deep and filled with infinite menace.
“THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS.
WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US EARTHMEN.
WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOUR UNPROVOKED ATTACK ON OUR MARTIAN COMPLEX.
YOU ARE ALREADY POWERLESS
WE WILL BE AVENGED.”
“Well, I suppose that means that we’re back in business,” smiled Captain Magenta.
“We were never out of business, Captain,” snapped Colonel White crossly. “What did they mean? ‘We are already powerless?” asked Captain Blue, “Spectrum is still operational.”
“Officially, we’re not,” retorted Colonel White. He turned to Lieutenant Green. “Get me the World President.”
“S. I. G. sir,” Green tried several times to make contact, but to no avail. “It’s as if they are deliberately ignoring us,” the young Lieutenant stated.
“That does it,” Colonel White thundered, “I’m going to see the President in person and find out what he’s playing at. Captain Blue, since it was you who rescued the World President from the Car-Vu, I’d like you to accompany me.”
“S. I. G., sir,” Blue acknowledged.
“Should I alert the Angels sir?” asked Green.
“No Lieutenant,” White replied, “they may be needed to defend Cloudbase.”
“Surely you should be escorted by at least one Angel?” suggested Scarlet.
“No, Captain, Cloudbase is more important than any one individual. They will remain here in case they’re needed.”
“Well let me come with you then,” he ventured.
“No, you are to remain here in charge. You are to keep a round-the-clock radar watch. Is that understood?”
“S. I. G., sir,” Scarlet replied resignedly. With that, White strode out, closely followed by Captain Blue.
Ten minutes later, the Spectrum Passenger Jet, with Colonel White and Blue aboard, stood on the deck of Cloudbase, awaiting launch clearance.
In the cockpit, Lieutenant Green’s voice could be heard clearly over the radio. “This is Spectrum Control. You are clear to go.”
“S. I. G.” replied Blue, pushing forward the throttles. The Passenger Jet rolled forward and then lifted gracefully into the air, the moonlight glinting on its wings.
“Colonel White and Captain Blue have taken off successfully,” reported Lieutenant Green to Captain Scarlet, now seated at the Colonel’s desk.
“Thank you Lieutenant,” replied Scarlet.
“I’m sure the Colonel will be able to sort things out,” said Green, “but I still think he should have had some kind of escort.”
“I know what you mean,” replied Scarlet, “but he was adamant that the Angels were not to leave Cloudbase.” As he said this, the answer came to him. They could provide an escort, of sorts, without having the Angels leave Cloudbase. “Start Horizontal Jets, Lieutenant,” he ordered, “and lay a course for Geneva.”
“S. I. G. Captain Scarlet,” smiled Green, reaching for a control. His chair moved along its travelator until it reached the correct place on the console. He touched another control. Outside, jets flared into life and the huge bulk of Cloudbase, Angel aircraft still firmly clamped to the flight deck, gently picked up speed. There was no way that it could ever hope to catch the Passenger Jet, but at least if the Colonel needed the Angels, they would be close at hand.
In the Passenger Jet, Colonel White and Captain Blue were discussing the situation. “Why do you think the World President has turned against us, sir,” asked Captain Blue.
“I don’t know for certain,” replied White, “but I have a feeling that there’s more to this than meets the eye.”
“Could he have been taken over by the Mysterons?”
“It’s possible, but I wouldn’t have thought it likely,” replied White after a moments consideration. “They’ve already made one unsuccessful attack on him. One of the few things we know about the Mysterons is that they never repeat an attack. No, Captain, one of the few things we can be sure of is that the one person who hasn’t been taken over is the World President.”
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons © 1967 and 2002 Carlton Communications plc
All original characters and situations © Colin M. Taylor 1991