by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
In the heart of an ancient fortress in the midst of a dense jungle, danger was waiting for one man to arrive. His name, Captain Scarlet.
The silence of the jungle was shattered by the engine of the agile Spectrum Helicopter as it glided over the canopy searching for a suitable place to land. It circled the top of the forgotten fortress twice, then descended to a small patch of ground beside the stagnant waters of the moat.
The hatch swung open and Captains Scarlet and Blue emerged from the icy cool of the air conditioned interior. The oppressive humidity of the jungle enveloped them instantly, causing beads of sweat to trickle down their faces as they made their way towards the structure.
Blue swatted a bothersome mosquito away with the back of his hand, noting how deserted the area appeared to be. Scarlet surmised that the Mysterons probably didn’t want to alert anyone to their presence. It had taken the Spectrum team weeks to track a particularly devious Mysteron agent to the lonely spot. Professor Emily Cameron, the world’s leading authority on ancient weapons, had been due to present a guest lecture at Cloudbase, but had been killed and reconstructed en route.
When discovered, the newly reborn Mysteron Agent managed to evade capture by stowing away on board a Spectrum Jet Liner. Unsure of her target, Spectrum initiated a global search, circulating the professor’s description to all allied law enforcement agencies. It appeared to be by sheer chance that she was spotted by closed circuit video monitors in a small village on the outskirts of the jungle. The nearest field agent, Lieutenant Topaz, was soon on the scene and trailed the professor through the jungle to the fortress, before reporting to Cloudbase to request backup.
Thinking over the events that had led the two Spectrum officers to their present location, Scarlet voiced his concern that the whole thing was most likely a gigantic trap. Blue agreed and the two men proceeded with utmost caution along the creaking drawbridge. As they passed through the huge door, they saw that the great entrance hall was lit with flickering candles on the walls and a high chandelier dangled precariously above.
They advanced into the hall, pulling out high-powered torches to sweep the dark nooks and crannies around them. A loud snap above them made each man dive for cover as the heavy chandelier crashed to the floor, missing them by inches. Neither of them could believe it had fallen by chance and decided that they should split up to search the fortress more quickly. Blue headed for the grand staircase as Scarlet followed a passage to the right.
Creeping up the stairs, Blue was on the alert for any movement. A quiet scratching sound aroused his attention and he swung his torch towards the source. A large rat scurried out of the blinding beam back into the shadows. “I thought I smelled a rat,” Blue commented with a thin smile.
Scarlet found himself at the top of a spiral staircase leading down to what he assumed must be the old dungeon. Cautiously, he proceeded down the stone steps, his footsteps echoing in the confined space. He emerged into a narrow corridor with other passageways leading off at right angles. Scarlet took the passage on the left, shining his torch in front of him as he made his way along, brushing cobwebs out of his way.
A sudden echoing thud from somewhere behind him made Scarlet spin on his feet. He charged back along the passageway heading towards the intersection with the last corridor, but before he could reach it his feet fell from under him and at the same time he was aware of the crumbling of stones as the floor dropped on hidden hinges, sending his flailing body into impenetrable darkness.
Seconds later he hit the solid floor of the chamber with a crash and the breath was forced out of him with a grunt. He heard the trapdoor swing back into position somewhere above him, but couldn’t see or feel it. His torch has been smashed, so there was no help there either. Staggering to his feet he began to feel around for a door or exit. His hand touched something sharp and he pulled it away, winching. With a flash of electrical power, a set of fluorescent lights illuminated the room. Two facts struck Scarlet in the same instant. Firstly, someone had installed a modern generator nearby, which would account for the lights and the dull hum he could just make out through the walls.
The second and far the more disturbing realization was that the walls themselves were lined with rows of steel spikes. Each one was about two feet in length and Scarlet already knew they were razor sharp. Despite the heat, a chill ran down Scarlet’s spine. A torture chamber.
A voice crackled from a concealed speaker somewhere above him. “So good of you to drop in, Captain”, Professor Cameron said, her voice dripping with malice. A whine of machinery started up and the walls of the small room began to move slowly inward, inching towards Scarlet. Cameron continued, “I’m afraid I have to leave you, as I have a pressing engagement. Then again, that makes two of us.”
The speaker went dead. Appropriate, thought Scarlet, as he would soon be joining it…