The flight deck of Cloudbase shone in the light of mid-afternoon as the huge carrier floated 40,000 feet above the bustling city of Nice, France.
In the control room, Colonel White was coming to the end of an uneventful duty shift. The Mysterons had been unusually quiet since Spectrum foiled their attack on the President Roberts.
As White read the routine report sitting open on his desk, Lieutenant Green watched him from the corner of his eye and then stole a quick glance at his wristwatch.
It was almost 15:00 hours, which meant the Colonel would be going off duty very soon. Green only hoped there would be enough time for him to carry out his plan before the Colonel returned.
On the stroke of the hour hand, the Colonel closed the report. He stood up, clasped his hands behind his back and paced to the transparent observation tube that overlooked the flight deck. He watched as a Spectrum Passenger Jet landed safely below.
“15:00 hours, Lieutenant,” he remarked, “I’ll be in the gymnasium for an hour and my quarters after that if you have anything to report.”
“Yes, Colonel,” Green responded, “I’ll see you at 19:00 hours.”
“SIG,” the Colonel replied as he exited through the sliding door at the end of the room.
Now Green could finally put his plan into operation! He pressed a communication switch on his control console.
“Captain Blue, this is control. Surprise Is Green. I repeat, Surprise Is Green.”
“Receiving you, Lieutenant – message understood!”
Captain Blue turned from the controls of the Spectrum Passenger Jet and moved to the cargo section. The SPJ was being lowered into the main hangar bay inside Cloudbase. By the time Captain Blue had moved the three large crates into position, the air pressure in the bay outside had been equalised and he opened the hatch.
Captain Scarlet and Destiny Angel were waiting for him.
“Everything here?” Scarlet asked anxiously.
Blue nodded, “Everything but the kitchen sink!”
Destiny lifted the lid off one of the crates and peeked inside, “Will there be enough time to get everything ready?”
“As long as everyone follows the Lieutenant’s plan, we should just about make it,” Blue replied, “Right, let’s get moving.”
The trio each placed a crate on an equipment trolley and then rushed them over towards the service corridors. A short ride in a freight elevator took them to the deck below the control room, where they hurried along the deserted corridor to the briefing room.
“Hold it!” Scarlet cautioned, holding up a hand in warning as he saw a shadow approaching at the next corridor junction.
They held their breath as a figure rounded the corner..
“Hi folks!” Captain Magenta said with a cheerful grin, “Need a hand?”
“You’re right on time, Patrick!” Captain Blue replied, almost laughing at how tense he had been just moments before.
Moving swiftly, the Spectrum team moved the crates into the briefing room and Scarlet locked the door, “There’s a lot to do and we don’t have too much time. The Colonel’s back on duty at 19:00 hours, which means we’ve got to be ready no later than 17:00. You know the Colonel – nothing takes priority over a duty shift. We have less than two hours.”
As the group in the briefing room set to work, Captain Ochre, Captain Grey and Rhapsody Angel had their own special assignment – monitor the Colonel’s whereabouts and report anything unusual.
Their role was to act as a fail-safe in the event that the Colonel deviated from his normal routine. As it transpired, it was fortunate that Lieutenant Green had planned for such a contingency.
At 16:00 hours, the Colonel left the gymnasium, but he didn’t head towards his quarters. Instead, he proceeded towards the upper deck of the command centre.
“Ochre calling Lieutenant Green, the Colonel is on the move – heading your way!”
In the control room, Green made his decision, “Intercept!”
“SIG!” Ochre replied and swiftly followed the Colonel.
As they approached the door to the briefing room, Ochre called out, “Excuse me, Colonel White?”
White turned, his hand inches from the door, “Yes, Captain Ochre?”
“I was wondering if you’d like to play a game of chess in the officers lounge? That is, if I’m not disturbing you?” He indicated the briefing room door.
White smiled slightly, “Not at all. Thank you, Captain.”
Ochre nodded and gestured back towards the way they’d come, “After you, Sir.”
The sound of their footsteps died away and Scarlet, who had been listening on the other side of the door breathed a sigh of relief, “That was a close call. Okay, back to work!”
The minutes ticked by rapidly until the clock showed 16:58. Lieutenant Green pressed the white communication button on his console, “Central Control to Colonel White, please report to the briefing room.”
White looked up from the chess board, concerned by the unexpected interruption, “I’m sorry Captain Ochre, we’ll have to leave it there.”
“No problem, Colonel. I guess you had me on the ropes anyway,” Ochre responded with a smile.
Inside the briefing room, Scarlet could hear footsteps approaching, “Here he comes, everyone!”
The door swung open and Colonel White strode in. He halted in mid-stride as he took in the scene before him.
The briefing room had been transformed with cheerful banners and decorations of all colours, shapes and sizes. A large white sheet covered a rectangular object on the briefing room table.
White stared around the room at the faces of his officers.
Scarlet stepped forward, “Alright Lieutenant Green, the Colonel has arrived!”
At once, Green’s voice came through clearly over the intercom, “My apologies for springing this on you, Colonel White, but the crew and I wanted to wish you many happy returns. We know you don’t usually go in for pomp and ceremony, but as a token of our appreciation for all that you do, we thought it was only right to make this small gesture.”
As the Lieutenant finished speaking, Scarlet and Blue took hold of either end of the white sheet and pulled it aside to reveal a large framed oil painting of Cloudbase at sunset.
“Many happy returns, Sir!” Scarlet said cheerfully, “It was all Lieutenant Green’s idea – he orchestrated the whole thing.”
The Colonel moved to the table and examined the painting. After a moment he turned to the assembled crew and with genuine feeling said, “Thank you, I appreciate the gesture. This very fine gift will have pride of place in my quarters,” he paused and reflected, then added, “You have gone to a great deal of effort and it seems only fitting that I should take this opportunity not only to thank you, but to add that I appreciate the efforts of all those under my command who work tirelessly with the utmost dedication as the war of nerves continues. I feel certain that by continuing to work together, we will emerge stronger and victorious.”