In the 72 hours following Captain Black’s extraordinary claim that he was free of Mysteron control, he was monitored around the clock.
Cloudbase was on the highest possible security alert status and guards remained stationed at all key areas. Nowhere was their presence more obvious than the security centre and brig, where Black remained the sole inmate.
Colonel White had briefed the senior officers in the conference room not long after the shocking revelation. His reading of the situation was that there was every possibility that the Mysterons were laying a fiendish trap and that the utmost caution should be taken before any further courses of action were pursued.
However, he conceded that in the event that Black’s claim proved genuine, Spectrum was in no position to disregard the potential advantage his knowledge of the Mysterons may afford.
Captain Black had been a model prisoner thus far. He had cooperated fully with Dr Fawn and his security escort and made no attempt to resist or escape when he was shown to his cell.
On Colonel White’s suggestion, Captain Scarlet visited Black in an attempt to ascertain what really happened. He arrived at the security cell and, under the watchful eyes of the guards, entered the electronic code that unlocked the outer door and sealed off half the room inside with a reinforced transparent screen. Scarlet entered and the outer door closed behind him.
Black looked up from his bunk. Then he swung his legs over the edge and sat upright. His voice sounded slightly metallic as it was filtered through the speaker into Scarlet’s half of the room, but otherwise normal.
“Captain Scarlet. It’s good to see you – it’s been a long time.”
Scarlet replied politely, but in a neutral tone, one which he hoped would convey none of his suspicions.
“Yes, it has. I wonder if you’d mind answering a few questions?”
“Of course,” Black’s answer was equally polite, and he didn’t seem at all surprised.
“What’s the last thing you remember? Before the Mysterons, I mean.”
“Well, let’s see,” Black replied, “The MEV landed on Mars. Conway, Dean and I had been sweeping the area for any trace of the signals we’d monitored at Spectrum. We were completing our patrol and about to return to Earth when I decided to check out one last ridge.”
“And that’s when you saw the Mysteron complex?” Scarlet prompted.
“Yes,” Black confirmed, “I’d never seen anything like it. We were studying it, getting whatever readings we could. Then I noticed something that looked like a weapon turning towards us. In seconds we were in direct line of sight. I gave the order to fire and we hit the complex with a volley of explosive shots.”
Scarlet was watching him carefully, but Black seemed undeterred and continued, “We must have hit a major power source, or something incredibly volatile, because the whole complex went up in seconds. In the immediate aftermath, I ordered Lieutenant Dean to collect a few samples to bring back to Earth for analysis, but before he could set off we saw a brilliant beam of light strike out from an outcrop and sweep over the debris field. In moments the complex was reconstructed and I heard a voice – the voice of the Mysterons. It seemed to be coming from all around us. It said that one of us would be under their control.”
“What then?” Scarlet asked.
“Then…” Black hesitated for a moment.
“Go on, Black. What happened then?”
“I could feel my mind clouding over, like there was something trying to get inside. I tried to fight it, Scarlet. Tried to keep control, but it was no good. It was like I was still there, somewhere inside, but couldn’t do anything to stop it.”
“Suppose for now that I believe you,” Scarlet said reasonably, “Do you remember anything else?”
“It’s hazy,” Black said, touching a hand to his head, “There are flashes, images, feelings.”
“People and places mostly. London, New York. I remember the Culver Atomic Center – Symphony was there. I… I tried to help her.”
“Tell me about Captain Indigo,” Scarlet said, making a mental note that Black’s gambit with Symphony may have been more than just a Mysteron trick to allow him to escape a closing security net.
“Captain Indigo?” Black frowned, “I know we have a Lieutenant Indigo. Has he been promoted?”
“He had been, yes.”
“He’s dead, Captain Black. You killed him.”
Black’s eyes widened in shock, “I killed him?”
“He wasn’t the only one. Don’t you remember?”
“No! No, I don’t remember!” Black leapt off the bed and paced up to the transparent screen, “Heck, Scarlet, I don’t know what’s going on here! I thought all this security stuff was because I’d been possessed by an unknown alien force, and that this was some kind of extreme quarantine. I didn’t know that I’d become some sort of remote-controlled killer!”
“Are you absolutely sure about that?”
“Yes, of course I am! Apart from the brief flashes and fragments I’ve already told you about, my memory after being in the MEV is a complete blank!”
Scarlet stood up and moved to the door.
“You do believe me, don’t you?” Black asked anxiously.
“We’ll talk again soon,” Scarlet said as the door opened. He stepped outside and sealed it behind him.
Inside the cell, Captain Black sat down on the bunk and tried to make sense of what he’d just heard.
“Trust, but verify, Captain,” Colonel White said from behind his desk in the Cloudbase control room, “And that’s exactly what we need – verification. We were monitoring your interactions with Captain Black. What do you think, Scarlet? Is he telling the truth?”
Scarlet considered the question for a moment, “He could be on the level. His experiences under Mysteron control don’t match my own precisely, but the gaps in the memory are certainly there. And he does appear to be himself again. None of the Mysteron agents that we’ve encountered have reacted with genuine emotions, not like his frustration just now.”
“Yes, the same thought had occurred to me,” The Colonel said, leaning forward and resting his clasped hands on the desk, “Captain Scarlet, I’m going to ask you to take a calculated risk. This is not an order, but a request, and you must consider it carefully before giving me your answer.”
“I understand, Sir.”
“Good, this is what I’d like you to do.”
Half an hour later, Captain Black, dressed in his Spectrum uniform, was escorted to the control room and led inside. The guards remained stationed outside the door and gestured Black to Colonel White’s desk, where Captains Blue, Ochre and Magenta were already seated.
“Sit down, Captain,” the Colonel said, pressing a button to raise another chair from the floor.
“Uh, thank you, Sir,” Captain Black replied, not quite sure what was happening.
Colonel White activated the large oval video screen on the wall, “This, gentlemen, is Site Q. It is the launch complex for a very special space vessel, codenamed Project Javelin. Javelin will be launched tomorrow at noon, with the express purpose of attacking and destroying the Mysteron complex on Mars. We believe that the weapons on board the Javelin will also be powerful enough to finally destroy the Mysterons themselves.”
He turned his chair to face the assembled officers, “Captain Black, I want you to co-pilot the Javelin with Captain Blue.”
“Yes, Captain,” White said, nodding, “I don’t believe you were responsible for your actions while under the control of the Mysterons. Neither does Captain Scarlet. Unfortunately, he is unable to co-pilot the Javelin with you as he is currently en route to another urgent assignment. However, your experience as a former World Space Patrol astronaut and your knowledge of the Mysterons and their complex may give us the advantage we need in order for this mission to succeed.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” Black said gratefully, “I won’t let you down.”
“You’ll leave for Site Q at 0900 hours tomorrow. Captain Magenta and Captain Ochre will attend to security arrangements. You will be escorted to Site Q by the Angels. Right, that’s all. Dismissed.”
The four Spectrum Captains filed out of the room and Black noticed that his security escorts were no longer waiting outside.
Lieutenant Green turned to his commanding officer, “Will it work, Colonel?”
“I hope so, Lieutenant… I hope so.”
TO BE CONTINUED…