Toil and Trouble
By (in order of first post)
Lieutenant Indigo, Lieutenant Topaz/Agent Star, Lieutenant Lake, Lieutenant Beige, Captain Aquamarine, Captain Cerise and Captain Sapphire
Editor’s note: Any changes that have been made to this from the original postings on the forum are purely spelling and grammatical errors. No changes to the actual content have been made.
An SPV wound up a mountain road, speeding, as usual. Halfway up the mountain lay their goal, a research station. It seemed harmless enough, but the way that the SPV moved suggested something much more sinister was at hand.
Suddenly, the SPV careered off the road and tumbled down the mountainside, bursting into a ball of flames at the bottom.
Captain Black watched from a copse of trees struggling to survive on the wintry conditions. He observed two tiny figures throwing themselves free of the vehicle before it was destroyed. There is no possible way that they could have survived even the fall to the ground. He trained his binoculars on the pair of agents who were to become the Mysterons' latest recruits and saw a man and a woman. The man was dressed in red and the woman in a very dark purple.
The security guard standing on the roof of the research building watched the SPV crash and the ejection of its passengers before heading in to report. Trying to remember the colour each officer wore, he didn't notice the Spectrum agent until he ran into her.
"Sorry Commander, I didn't see you there," the guard said, apologetically, to the lady officer. "I'm afraid the officers that were coming up to help you won't be able to make it any time soon."
"Pity," the Commander replied, "their help could have been invaluable. Can you tell me what happened?"
The guard described what he saw happen, and added his comments about their chances for survival. But when he told her what the other officers were wearing, the guard felt very lucky that the Commander couldn't kill someone with a look.
"Scarlet and Indigo have lived through situations that most people couldn't, corporal," the yellow garbed officer said icily. "It's very likely that they'll survive this one and head back up here. But the question of the day would be, why did they lose control of the SPV in the first place?"
Outside, another guard was patrolling the grounds when his canine partner heard something. Pulling its handler along, the dog headed for a copse of trees on the station's boundary, intent on getting the intruder it sensed there. Within a metre of the trees, the handler collapsed, killed by the intruder. The dog, confused by its partner's collapse, nosed the dead human , then stiffened at the impact of another bullet shot from the silenced firearm. Soon after hiding the bodies in a nearby ravine, the Mysterons' newest agents continued their counterparts' patrol, their mission clear in their minds.
Scarlet tried to pick himself up. "Ow! Blasted Mysterons!"
His daughter glanced across at him. "You alright, Dad?"
"No, Rose, I think my leg is broken..." he glanced to his side, "what about you?"
Lieutenant Indigo shrugged. "I'll live."
Indigo quickly assessed the situation.
"Okay, you sit tight here and I'll go for help," she told Major Scarlet. He didn’t have much option really.
Indigo set off up the mountainside towards the research centre, where she knew that there were other Spectrum agents waiting. She was careful to hide her damaged hand from her father. It would heal quickly enough, but it impeded her climb up a small cliff type face.
Eventually she reached the road and began the walk to the research centre a few minutes away.
Lieutenant Beige sat in her room, she knew what had happened on the mission, being a communications worker part time with Lieutenant Green, she had conjured up a small radio to listen to Spectrum frequencies, illegal maybe, but half of the time she wondered if the Colonel could give a damn about her extra radio, she had been listening to it once when he came in and he pretended it wasn't there. She would usually laugh when this thought ran through her mind, but today it didn't, all she felt was sheer guilt, she had left the Mysterons at one point, now every time someone was hurt, she felt so guilty. Lieutenant Green walked into her room without knocking,
"The colonel wants to see you Christine." Christine sighed,
"Darn, I was just listening to the radio." Lieutenant Green tried to hide a frown
"You know the Colonel blew his top when he got back to the control room after seeing that?!!"
"He did?!! Why didn't he just tell me." the Lieutenant looked away slightly
"I'm not supposed to tell you, but he thinks you still have Mysteron ways in you." Lieutenant Beige rolled her eyes and looked at the ceiling.
"He would, I showed no sign of being lost from the Mysterons, I saved myself, remember?" Lieutenant Green nodded, he knew only too well that she had been hacking onto some of the most secure sites on the internet for them, including Spectrums own, Colonel White hated it if he went on to post anything up for spectrum agents to see, and a lovely little Trojan horse virus wrapped in little fluffy bunnies and flashing Mysteron rings. Or alternatively she would leave it blaring out loud music like 'God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols. The Colonel hated humour, and that's what Lieutenant Beige always had, even as a Mysteron, a sick sense of humour.
Lieutenant Green reported back with Lieutenant Beige, she grasped the radio in her hand, expecting him to confiscate it or destroy it.
"Lieutenant, you're needed on a mission, you'll be with Captain Cerise and Captain Aquamarine, I have already spoke to them about this, your first part is merely to retrieve Captain Scarlet and Lieutenant Indigo." Lieutenant Beige nodded
"Yes sir!!!" He stared at her, she had been with spectrum for 4 months now, she had shown no sign of betrayal, but he still didn't know where her loyalties would lie.
"Dismissed Lieutenant" She nodded and turned to leave. He remembered something before she left. "Oh and Lieutenant?"
"At least try and look like that darn radio is hidden, I don't want everyone making their own and walking around."
"Ah but they can't sir, Spectrum have a blocking frequency so that-"
"Yes yes I know that Lieutenant, just... don't go making anybody one!!!" She nodded,
"No sir, I won't sir." She got up and left. waiting for Captain Aquamarine and Captain Cerise at an SPJ. you never know... this radio just might come in handy.
After receiving the guard's report, Commander Topaz sent him back to his post and headed to her temporary quarters. Once there, she selected several pieces of her personal equipment, including a compact first aid kit, and her wrist-mounted grappling gun. Being careful to conceal the gauntlet with the device under her left sleeve, Topaz thought about changes in her life since she 'met' Whenda 18 years ago. The Starjumper was out of her life now, having been recalled by the Clan to check some detail about the Grey Lord prophecy, but the talents that Topaz developed in that time remained and, in some cases, became more powerful. The officer was now a true telepath, instead of a receptive empath, and showed signs of a teleportation capability. She also 'remembered' what the Star-Kin did while in her body, even though she still couldn't recall the day they 'met'.
Once ready, Commander Topaz placed one of the ground agents in charge, and headed for the door, only to meet Lieutenant Indigo there.
Topaz stared in shock as the young lieutenant. She'd expected the pair of officers to be dead from the way that SPV had crashed.
"Commander Topaz! Am I glad to see you!"
"What happened, lieutenant?" Topaz asked, regaining her composure in front of the junior officers.
"The Mysterons ran the SPV off the road. We managed to jump free before it landed, but Major Scarlet has broken his leg. Normally I wouldn't bother too much about it, but I know I felt something down there. I'm not so happy about leaving him on his own," Indigo explained, hurriedly.
"Are you all right, lieutenant?" Topaz asked the lieutenant kindly.
Indigo quickly hid her right hand. "Yes, ma'am."
Topaz narrowed her eyes. She knew that Rose was lying, but she'd learned that it usually wasn't a good idea to argue with a Mysteron unless it was really necessary.
Aquamarine leaned against the side of the SPJ waiting for Lieutenant Beige. It was strange that General White was back on Cloudbase and in control again, but she wasn't about to argue.
"What d'you think she'll break this time?"
"Captain!" Cerise grinned. "Behave yourself, girl!"
"Alright, alright." She grinned back.
While most of the other officers had risen in rank, Aquamarine had only become a senior Captain, being still quite young. She joined Spectrum aged 17 and was enlisted as a Captain, though she still wasn't sure why! Maybe her electronics, French and German qualifications, as well as the psychology. Shortly after she had joined, after about 4 months of service, she had been killed by Captain Black and taken on as his personal assistant. She, like Beige had returned to Spectrum of her own accord, but only after serious persuasion from Cerise.
"You still with us?" Cerise asked, waving a hand in front of Aquamarine's face.
"Huh? Oh yeah, sorry, just thinking."
"You'll be alright, the General trusts you. You helped him, remember?"
"Hehe, how can I forget! You helped too though."
"Yeah. Come on, I see Beige. Time to go rescue the Major."
"I fail to see the point of this exercise," Cerise frowned, "we all know only too well that by the time we get there, he'll be fitter than we are!"
"Yeah, but the General did say there was another part to the mission," replied Aquamarine as she followed Cerise into the SPJ.
"Well, would it hurt to tell us what it is? I mean why the secrecy?"
Aquamarine gave a brief nod in Lieutenant Beige's direction and shrugged.
"What? Still?" After all this time General White still clearly had a basic mistrust of Lieutenant Beige's motives and doubted that her return from Mysteronisation was in fact genuine. Cerise shook her head sadly. "Does she know?"
"From my own experience, I'd say, yes, she probably does."
"Well, we'll have to work on that. Ah, Lieutenant," Cerise called cheerfully, "have you got that radio of yours with you?"
"Er...radio, Captain?" asked Beige nervously, knowing full well that her radio was generally frowned upon.
"It's alright!" chuckled Aquamarine, "It's us, we don't mind!"
Beige smiled uncertainly. "Yes, yes I have."
"Good, you never know," Cerise replied with a broad grin.
Sliding into the pilot's chair, Cerise fastened the harness whilst the SPJ rose from its position in the hanger to the runway above.
"Request launch clearance."
"Clearance denied, Captain," came Green's unexpected reply. "Your orders have changed, Major Scarlet has disappeared."
Captain Lake groaned, putting down her second novel of the day. "I'm bored!" she complained to the empty room. She sighed, and wandered to the window of the lounge. "Where is everyone?" she asked herself, "I've never known the base so quiet..."
She smiled with satisfaction, turning to the General. "Yes, Sir?"
"You are one of the strongest Mysteron detectors in Spectrum," White reminded her, slowly, gesturing to her to take a seat.
"Would you be able to help Lieutenant Indigo locate Major Scarlet?"
Lake considered this, carefully. She'd never tried anything like this, before. "I think so, Sir... at least, I don't see why not..."
"Right, then." The General sat beside her, explaining the situation carefully. "Major Scarlet disappeared after a mysterious SPV crash. We can only assume that the Mysterons have him."
Lake gave a low growl. White was a little disturbed by this, but said nothing about it. "Good luck, Captain."
Indigo tapped her fingers impatiently. "Where are they, where are they?" she muttered.
”Calm down, lieutenant," Topaz told her, patiently. "You know that the trip down takes a while."
"I know, I know." Indigo jumped to her feet and started pacing up and down the room the Spectrum officers had been assigned in the research station.
She caught sight of a very strange look on Topaz's face. The commander quickly hid her amusement from the young Mysteron, but it was too late.
"What?" Indigo demanded.
"You remind me of your father when you do that," Topaz explained. "It never got him anywhere either. Stressing yourself out now will not help you later on when we will need your expertise."
"Right, expertise. There are..." Indigo broke off whilst she counted off on her fingers. "...five people who can detect Mysterons. Me stressing now isn't going to affect them."
Topaz's epaulets flashed pink. "Yes, Captain Cerise? Understood. I'll see you in a few minutes then."
Topaz turned to Indigo, who'd sat back down again. "You see? They've touched down and Captain Aquamarine is requisitioning an SPV. They'll be here soon."
Captain Lake burst through the door. "We..." she tried to get her breath back, "we're... here!"
Indigo rolled her eyes. "What happened to you?"
Lake dusted herself off. "Beige was throwing snowballs at me."
Topaz laughed, in spite of herself. "Couldn't you use the difference in rank to control her?"
Lake shook her head. "She likes snow. She won't listen to anyone until she calms down."
When Cerise, Aquamarine, and Beige finally joined the other officers, Commander Topaz briefed them on the situation so far, glossing over the reasons why Major Scarlet and Lt. Indigo were sent to the station, and going into the details of what she and Indigo found when they returned to the crash site. While the others argued about who should be in command with Scarlet missing, Topaz pulled Beige to one side.
"A word of advice, Lieutenant. If you're going to build a few new toys to supplement what you've been issued, at least learn to hide them better."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Commander Topaz," Beige replied.
Topaz rolled her eyes. "Please, don't try to lie to me. General White told me about the radio after he caught you with it, wanting to make sure I didn't build it for you."
"Now why would he think you would do something like that?" Beige said in disbelief.
"Because the general caught me with my own variation 5 years ago. A back-up transmitter disguised as a cell phone. The only other person who knew about it was Captain Green, and he caught as much flack about it as I did, except he didn't get sent down here to act as a liaison to a series of unimportant projects.
"Even taking my distrust of you and your friends into account, White thought there was still a chance that I'd built one for you."
For a split second, Topaz looked away, trying to hide the pain and loss she felt. When she faced Beige again, Topaz wore a strange look of concern and worry.
"Lieutenant, do you, by any chance, know who tried to access a group of specially encrypted documents linked to my file?"
"The General appointed Aquamarine as Field Commander, so that's it, no more arguing the point!" snapped Cerise.
"Yes, but what about Commander Topaz?" asked Captain Lake quietly.
"What about her?"
"She, well, she doesn't like..."
Cerise sighed. "Ex Mysterons, I know." She looked around at the small group, Lake, Aquamarine, Indigo and Beige. "Well, she's outnumbered I'd say. Maybe this is the mission that changes her mind?"
Walking over towards Topaz, Cerise could see the tension between her and Beige. She felt instinctively that this mission would be a bumpy ride.
Topaz looked over at Cerise and frowned as Lieutenant Beige took the opportunity to slip away.
"Aquamarine is our Field Commander, she'll be leading the search party based on your report. But in the meantime, I won't pretend I know why Major Scarlet was on his way here, but I assume it's important and still necessary. Can we do anything?"
Captain Lake went to talk to Lieutenant Beige, while the others were busy. "Are you alright?" she whispered.
"No, Captain, I'm not. I wish I could do something to prove myself to that Topaz, and..."
Lake nodded. "I know. There are too many Spectrum members waiting for us to put a foot wrong. Even my brother hasn't accepted me properly..."
"Tourmaline?" Beige stared at her, "You could’ve fooled me! He's civil enough and everything..."
"Ha! Have you ever heard him call me by my real name?"
"Well no, but... he's not meant to, is he?"
Lake rolled her eyes. "Doesn't it strike you as odd? When has he ever taken rules into account, anyway? If he was THAT prim and proper, he wouldn't keep behaving like a child!"
"I see what you mean, Captain."
"Anyway, Lieutenant, we all have a job to do. Perhaps Cerise is right, and this is our chance to prove our worth..."
Cerise poked Lake in the back. "Ready to roll?"
Lake and Beige nodded in unison. "S.I.G.," Lake gave a strange smile, "some Mysterons are going to pay a heavy price..."
"All right, I think we should get down to the crash site and see if we can find any evidence at all that may aid our search for the Major."
Aquamarine spoke with as much authority as she could muster, but still felt as though she were being put to the test. She spoke quietly to Cerise as they headed towards the site.
"I guess helping out the old man all those years ago has helped me gain his trust."
"You could say that, though I still think it's because you've proven yourself as the Major did, and also, you were already a Spectrum officer, just like Scarlet. You were killed on duty, remember?" Cerise answered.
Aquamarine sighed, nodding. "Don't remind me." She looked round discreetly at the others. "He seems to trust Lake, too, but Beige... I don't know if he'll ever trust her."
"Shame really, she seems to have some good qualities to her, even if she is a bit..."
"To put it mildly!"
Lake noticed the look on Beige's features, and touched her arm. "You alright, Lieutenant?"
"Yeah," she shook her head, "just thinking..."
The Captain nodded, grinning. "Just don't over do it." She became serious again, "Now... we'll have to pay attention to Aquamarine's orders. The main reason the General was never all that keen on either of us was our tendency to lose concentration..."
"YOU lose concentration?"
"Yes, Lieutenant, which means... I'll help you out, if you'll help me."
Beige grinned. "Deal!"
Aquamarine turned to look behind her. "What are they doing?" she asked Cerise.
"I expect Topaz upset Beige, earlier," Cerise shrugged, "you know what Lake's like."
Aquamarine chuckled. "Better tell them to hurry up, though. At the pace they're moving, we'll leave them behind!"
"Is that a problem?" Topaz asked, unpleasantly.
Aquamarine scowled at her. "Another comment like that, Commander, and it'll go in my report."
Topaz glowered back at her.
"Guys!" Cerise decided it was time to intervene, "Spectrum members work together, don't they? Should we treat each other like enemies?"
Aquamarine gave her comrade a glance of gratitude. "Yes, of course you're right..." she glanced behind her. "Lake, Beige, hurry up, will you? At this rate, we'll lose you!"
The two picked up their pace, galloping as fast as possible to catch up. "Sorry!" Lake gasped, slipping on the snow.
Aquamarine grabbed her, before she fell altogether.
Cerise looked around, and realised that the group was one short.
"Where's Indigo?" she asked Topaz, who rolled her eyes at the mention of yet another childish Mysteron.
"She took off before you arrived. You know what she's like."
"I only hope that she's not done anything foolish. The general won't like it. He doesn't like her running off on her own. That's why he teamed her up with Scarlet - they're as bad as each other! Hopefully they'd keep each other in line."
Topaz snorted. "Pairing two Mysterons, it's the most idiotic idea in the world. I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them."
Topaz had said this quite loudly. Her distrust of the Mysterons was not a secret, and her dislike of the current situation on Cloudbase was evidently increased by having all of Spectrum's 'own' Mysterons in a close proximity to her.
Aquamarine and Lake, although offended, knew better than to say anything, but Beige was not as cautious.
"Hey! We're standing right here!"
"Oh, way to go, Christine," Lake hissed at the rebellious lieutenant. "Just make the situation ten times worse, why don't you?"
"Yeah, I will. I wanna tell this woman where she can shove her opinion of us."
"Hey, I may not have shown any signs of being released from the Mysterons powers, but do you know how hard it is to try and prove myself? You cannot even begin to understand how guilty I felt, I'm sure many here felt just as bad, you never had to go through what we did!!! I don't know if anyone here is conscious of what happened while they were under the Mysterons control, but I am!!! I don't know why, but please. Just stop being so prejudiced and just try and forget who we were, but try and treat us for who were are now!!!" Topaz looked at Beige and sighed, she was going a red colour, Lake put her head down, they carried on walking
"Don't want to catch hypothermia in this snow." Captain Aquamarine said, trying to concentrate on the mission.
"You don't CATCH hypothermia, but I know what you mean..." Lake shivered.
Beige shot her a guilty glance. "Uhh... sorry about throwing snow at you."
Lake just chuckled. "My brother would've done the same. Don't worry about it."
Aquamarine sighed, and dropped back a little. "Lake, you're slowing down again. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm just slow."
Commander Topaz shivered slightly, despite the fact she wore her winter uniform. For 8 years, after the shutdown of an underground organization known as the RAMA, she was trying to work through her unreasoning distrust of Spectrum's 'Mysterons', if only to remain in Spectrum, and managed to do so in regards to Major Scarlet. Her difficulties with that problem rose from two factors: one, she was reminded of her sister's death every time she looked in a mirror or put on her locket, and two, because of her unusual talents and unique nature, Topaz often found herself grouped with the people she distrusted, and she usually compounded the problem with a public display like the most recent one. She was actually relieved to be assigned this desolate post, despite the way it came about.
Her epaulets flashed white. "Yes, Control?"
"Commander, there's been another attempt to access the encrypted files, but we were unable to trace the signal before it cut out." It also sounded like Captain Green wanted to know what was in those files that's getting all the attention. Fortunately, the documents weren't actually encrypted but written in an alien language, which couldn't be translated without a specific chip, currently hidden in the amber locket she wore, containing the alphabet and program used. Only three people, besides the author, knew what was in those files, and it was highly unlikely that the other two would authorize the declassification of that information to a Rainbow Clearance Level.
"Do you have any clue to a possible location?"
"We do know that the hacker isn't on Cloudbase, or at your post, but that's pretty much it. Commander, the Colonel and the General also wish to remind you that your continued service in Spectrum is dependent on Captain Aquamarine's report."
"SIG. Topaz out." She hoped the disappointment in her voice wouldn't be picked up by the mike. Of course, Topaz wouldn't put it past Blue, White, and/or Scarlet to set up an elaborate test like this to check her progress, but she also knew they didn't fake the SPV crash.
Captain Cerise caught up with Topaz. "What's wrong, Commander?"
"It's... just having to work with Mysterons, and put my trust in them. How do you do it?" Topaz had no intention of telling the Captain the real reason.
"I was with some of them, when they first joined," Cerise explained, "I saw the things they went through."
Aquamarine caught up with them. "We'll have to slow down a bit. Lake's finding it hard to walk on the snow."
Topaz nodded. "Alright, Captain."
Cerise turned to watch the slow red-clad Captain. "We can't slow down too much, Aquamarine," she said, quietly, "we'll never get anywhere."
"What are you suggesting? Do you intend to leave her here, or carry her?"
Topaz remained quiet, as she didn't want to push her luck. "I'll stay with Lake," she suggested, finally, "I'll keep her going." She slowed her pace, so that Lake caught up with her.
Lake groaned. "Great! Here we go..." she muttered.
"Come on, Captain." Topaz grabbed her arm, gently, to encourage her to speed up. "I've seen Scarlet move faster than you, with a broken leg!"
Lake rolled her eyes. "Thanks."
Beige stood near the middle, she was used to being ignored, she usually wasn't needed until the last minute, she'd try to make excitement on the missions by doing something mischievous, but today it had failed, as it had on most days. She kicked her way through the snow. She hated snow! In fact she hated most things, that had been one of her remaining signs of being a Mysteron, probably the most revealing, and probably why she wasn't trusted. She tripped on the snow and cursed loudly, words that most people would only think if they around officials of a higher rank, she didn't care, she knew that one day she was going to be caught out, she was always doing something stupid, and she knew she'd do something that looked 'Mysteronie' as she would call it. Her mind wandered to these things and she reminded herself how much she hated snow to distract herself.
She hated snow
Cerise cast a glance at Aquamarine who shrugged back. Nobody was enjoying this and there seemed no way to make it better. It didn't help that on reaching the crash site, Aquamarine, Cerise and Beige could find nothing that would help them in their search for Major Scarlet.
"Well, Commander Topaz did say there was nothing," shrugged Aquamarine.
"I know, but we have to start somewhere," sighed Cerise rubbing her arms to keep out the cold. "Perhaps when Captain Lake arrives."
"They're not far behind, I hope they're getting on."
"I'm sure they are. It'll do them both good."
"Did Topaz say what this was all about?" asked Aquamarine with a sigh.
"No." Cerise frowned. "And I overheard her contacting Captain Green about accessing some encrypted files. I'd very much like to know what's going on and I'd like to know what's become of Lieutenant Indigo too."
If Lieutenant Beige had been near enough to hear the conversation, she may have been able to shed some light on the issue of the encrypted files, but as it was, she was now some distance from the two Captains. Something had caught her eye and she had gone to investigate. A cave situated slightly further up from the crash site - the entrance was small but accessible. It was very faint but, in the now approaching dusk the occasional flicker of a bluish light could be seen emanating from within.
The arrival of Commander Topaz and Captain Lake was a welcome relief, it was getting colder as it got darker and they couldn't afford to lose time in their search, hopefully Lake would sense something.
"Where's Lieutenant Beige?" Topaz noticed immediately that the junior officer was missing.
A quick glance around was all that was needed to see where she was headed, but with the light not currently visible, it was not apparent why.
"I'll go see what she's up to," offered Cerise, "see what you can find here."
She glanced up and sighed, the Lieutenant had good head start, in the snow, she would take some catching. "There had better be a good reason for this," grumbled Cerise quietly to herself.
Lake groaned, faintly.
Aquamarine glanced at her. "Found anything?"
"Someone's watching us, in the bushes not far behind me..." Lake whispered, "by the way I feel, I'd say it's a Mysteron." She swallowed hard, turning pale.
Topaz glanced around, carefully. She could see the aura of a Mysteronised body that had hidden behind the bushes. Shrugging, she continued to scan around. "Lake's right. One Mysteron."
Lake shivered violently. "Right, may I suggest we grab him and get some answers, before I freeze..."
Beige climbed the rocky slope up to the cave, and found Lieutenant Indigo sitting on the ledge outside of the entrance to the mouth. She was crouched, huddling up to conserve her body heat, but her eyes were fixed on the interior of the cave. They were glowing bright green and in between the curious blue flashes, Beige could make out a pair of green rings exploring the sides of the cave. She never broke contact with whatever she was looking at, and Beige was certain that Indigo hadn't seen her, but nevertheless she was greeted.
Beige hunkered down beside her friend.
Indigo's concentration never faltered from the cave. "I needed some space to think, or I might have exploded at Topaz. I know what she thinks of me."
"Wish I'd been that sensible," Beige murmured.
Indigo spun around and lost her footing on the slippery ground, landing solidly on her rear.
"You didn't." When Beige nodded forlornly, Indigo blew out her breath, creating a miniature cloud in front of her.
Aquamarine glanced about her, carefully. "You know, the Mysteron COULD be Scarlet..."
Lake shook her head. "His presence has never made me feel sick, before. I sense bad intentions, as well as retrometabolism."
"Danger." Topaz muttered.
Aquamarine frowned. "Well, we can't leave you here like this. Go and join Cerise."
"No. I stay here, and help you."
Topaz rolled her eyes. "Are ALL Mysterons stubborn?"
Cerise arrived at the cave mouth, it came as something of a surprise to her to find Lieutenants Beige and Indigo there already.
"Lieutenant Indigo! We were concerned, why did you go off like that?"
Both junior officers looked up and fixed her with the same tired expression, Cerise frowned. "Okay, I know why, but with the Major missing, it's...oh forget it, so long as you're okay." Cerise shrugged and smiled, she was talking to his daughter, nobody was more concerned than her about the missing Spectrum officer.
It was only then, it caught her eye, the intermittent blue flashes from within the cave.
"What's that?" she asked, peering into the cave.
"That's why I came up here," replied Beige, "I didn't realise Rose was here until I arrived."
"Indigo," whispered her companion nudging her in the ribs.
"Yes, but do you have any idea what it is?"
"I've been checking it out from here," admitted Indigo, "I think it could be Mysteron in origin. Very possibly, we've come too close to something, maybe why we were forced off the road."
"We should check it out, I'll let Captain Aquamarine know."
Cerise contacted Aquamarine.
"Could you come up here, please, Captain?" Cerise asked. We're about 500 metres north of the crash site."
Aquamarine hesitated, considering the current situation on the ground. Lake was bent double, gripping her stomach tightly and Topaz was working out the best way to catch the Mysteron.
"SIR, Captain Cerise," she replied carefully, just in case the Mysteron was close enough to be listening to her. "We have a bit of a situation here. Lieutenant Lake has come over quite ill." Aquamarine prayed silently that Cerise had understood her meaning.
"What's wrong?" Beige asked, her teeth chattering. The sun was setting over the already cold mountain range and the temperature was plummeting faster that a falling lemming.
"I think Aquamarine's trying to tell me that there's a Mysteron agent around the crash site," Cerise explained to the shivering lieutenants. "She was being very cryptic." Cerise noted with interest that the ex-Mysteron agents were very sensitive to changes in the air temperature around them.
"I'm sorry, Captain," Indigo said, jumping to her feet, "but if I sit around waiting for them any longer, I'll freeze to death out here."
Before Cerise could react, the young woman had run into the cave and was soon out of sight.
"Argh! Now what are we going to do?"
Beige shrugged, slowly raising herself off the ground. "Follow her?" she suggested.
Cerise sighed. "I suppose so." She dropped her cap mic. "Cerise to Aquamarine."
The pair of agents waited for Aquamarine to answer. It took a long time, but finally Aquamarine replied. She sounded out of breath.
"Yes, Captain?" Aquamarine gasped.
"Lieutenant Indigo has run into the cave. Beige and I are going to follow her."
"Is that wise, Cerise?"
Cerise smiled as she heard Aquamarine's sensitive microphone picking up the sounds of Lake yelling.
"Probably not, ma'am, but we're going anyway," Cerise said, just as Lake shouted "SODDING DOG!!!"
"Do I have an option?" Aquamarine asked. "Look, Ems, grab it by the scruff."
"I think you have enough to deal with down there."
Cerise heard Lake yell back to Aquamarine, "I can't get close enough! Have you seen those teeth?!"
"Better you than me then," Aquamarine shot back. "At least you'll regrow a hand. I won't.
"All right, but keep in contact with me. And don't do anything stupid, please?"
"I'll be careful, I promise, that goes for you, too, Captain!" Aquamarine answered her partner.
"I will be. I'll stay in touch, promise."
"Alright." Her mic. swung back up to her visor and she looked at Lake who was running from the dog again.
"Stay back a minute, you two," she said, looking at Topaz and Lake very seriously.
She crouched low to the floor and looked straight into the eyes of the animal, and it backed off.
She extended her hand cautiously and slowly and soon the dog moved slowly towards her. She'd calmed it down.
"How did you do that?" Topaz asked.
"I grew up around dogs, one was particularly vicious. If you approach them slowly and without making them think you'd threaten them, they usually calm down."
"Right, will it stay calm?" Lake asked.
"Who knows?" Aquamarine replied, giving the dog a fuss.
Lake shuddered. "Well, I've never touched a vicious dog, but..." she crept nearer, cautiously. The once vicious animal licked her hand. She smiled at Aquamarine.
"I miss having a dog around..." she tried to shake off the memories from her childhood, and concentrate on the mission again. "Where are the others?"
"In a cave they found. Indigo is there, too." Aquamarine informed her.
Lake shivered, rubbing her half frozen arms. "May I suggest we join them? I swear I'll freeze out here. It's as though my retrometabolism can't take the temperature."
Topaz nudged her, roughly. "Quit complaining!"
"Commander!" Aquamarine stared daggers at her.
Somewhere ahead of them they could hear footsteps, they appeared to be moving away from them but the echoes in the cave made it difficult to discern even the exact direction of the noise.
"Have you noticed the light, Captain?" asked Lieutenant Beige with a hint of curiosity in her tone.
"The blue one?"
"No, Captain, just the light. I mean how far are we into the cave now? I can't see the entrance any more. It's more of a tunnel than a cave really."
Cerise realised what she meant; somehow the cave was lit, there was no actual lighting in view but somehow they could see fairly well where they were going. In fact, the further they went in, the lighter it seemed to get.
"You're right. I don't like the look of this." Cerise lowered her cap mic and heard nothing but static. "I've lost contact with the others, Lieutenant, I wonder if it's the rock, hmm." Cerise paused whilst she decided whether to keep going or return to the entrance. That decision would become redundant as ahead of them they heard a thunderous noise. The whole mountainside seemed to vibrate from the shockwave and the two Spectrum officers found themselves thrown to the floor.
"Indigo!" cried Beige. "She's in there!"
Outside, the tremor stopped the remainder of the party in their tracks. The snow beneath their feet shifted and threatened to pull them down back down to the crash site. Steadying themselves on whatever handholds they could find, they waited until everything settled.
"Come on!" muttered Aquamarine impatiently, as she waited for the ground beneath her feet to settle enough to be safe to walk on. Leading the climb she had realised that the source of the tremor had come from within the cave, they needed to get up there fast!
"What's going on, up there?" Lake tried to hide the fear that threatened to overcome her.
"Cerise, Indigo and Beige," Topaz informed her, flatly.
"The snow's settled, we can move on." Aquamarine informed them, quickly. She moved aside, so that Lake could take the lead. She turned back to Topaz. "Any more trouble from you, and the General hears about this."
Once at the top, Lake turned around. She laid out on the snow, to grab Aquamarine's hands. Topaz, in turn, was assisted by the two captains.
"Right, now we get to the cave." Aquamarine started off at a quick march.
Still shivering, Lake started after her, with Topaz at her side. She turned to the Commander. "With all due respect, Commander, why do you stay so close to me, if you don't feel you can trust me?"
"I'm watching your every move, Lake."
As they approached the cave, Topaz noticed that Captain Lake was looking a little pale again. Taking that as a hint, she scanned the area for signs of enemy agents, noting the location of a large animal behind them. She also caught a glimpse of someone hiding near the entrance to the cave. Centring herself, the commander 'reached' out to the mind of the hidden person.
Pain exploded in Topaz's mind, shattering the remainder of her shield, and she doubled over, clutching at the left side of her face. It wasn't like anything she felt before, and the power seemed to emanate from the cave itself. Despite her agony, she caught the image of a man aiming his gun at someone in her area.
"Captain! Watch Out!" Commander Topaz managed to cry out before collapsing, unaware that she also broadcast the mental image to everyone within 50 metres of her.
Lieutenant Beige lifted her head slowly, painfully. The air in the cave was filled with a swirling dust, and the floor littered with debris. She found even this small movement quite painful and tiring.
"Captain?" she whispered hoarsely, her mouth filled with dust. "Captain?" She tried again, louder this time, but still received no reply. Lowering her head again, Beige closed her eyes and waited for the pain to subside.
"What is with this light? I must have come miles into this cave."
Indigo wandered aimlessly through the rock formation, marvelling at the fact that there were no stalactites or stalagmites. She was glad for it at the moment, as the section she was in was quite low - she had hit her head on a low section a couple of times.
Realising that she was getting nowhere with her current search pattern, Indigo stopped and focussed her mind, trying to seek out the location of the Mysterons she was searching for.
Suddenly the ground lurched beneath her and she fell to the cave floor. Landing awkwardly, she realised that she'd probably broken her ankle, having caught it on an uneven spot. Unable to stand, Indigo lay on the ground as the ceiling of the cave started to fall in.
Captain Lake was down in seconds. Glancing about her, through weak eyes, she tried to pinpoint the man that Topaz had brought to her attention. Aquamarine yelled, suddenly, "There he goes!"
Captain Black stood before them. "Hello, Kelly..." he stared at Aquamarine through cold eyes, "you would have been safer with the Mysterons, you know."
The Captain glowed back at him.
Black turned to Captain Lake, as though seeing her for the first time. "And Scarlet Lady? This is a pleasant surprise."
Lake glared at him, a revolted look upon her face. "Don't you DARE call me 'Scarlet Lady' again!"
Black approached her. "You used to like your name."
"I was a Mysteron. What do you expect?" Lake was growing angrier by the moment. She didn't want to be reminded of her time as a Mysteron.
Black crept nearer. "Spectrum think they're so perfect," he lifted the slight Captain by her hair, "but you'll see how wrong you are." he hissed at her.
Lake swallowed hard. Help me... she silently begged her friends around her.
Black's arrival had taken them all by surprise and it had only taken a few seconds for him to terrorize his former Mysteron agents. Commander Topaz however, was disgusted, her eyes narrowed in anger. This is exactly why she felt ex Mysterons couldn't be trusted. Here was Black, their most deadly foe, they were terrified of him and the respect they had once held for him still appeared to linger. Neither of them had drawn their gun on him. Topaz quickly drew her gun and aimed it at Black, then she was on her back lying in the snow. Above her the dog that had followed them snapped and snarled viciously. It took only a few moments for her to realise the dog was Mysteronised and under Black's control. Glancing to her right she saw with frustration her dropped pistol only a few inches out of reach.
As the dog had attacked, Aquamarine had drawn her gun only to be faced with Black using Captain Lake as a shield.
"Let her go, Black!"
"Ah, Captain. We have been here before, but this time you won't shoot me."
"And why not?"
"Because if you do Scarlet will suffer."
"You have the Major?" Aquamarine gasped.
Black smiled as he threw Captain Lake to the ground, nobody was going to fire, he felt sure of it. Laughing at their discomfort and Topaz's anger, Black and the dog faded from view.
Lieutenant Indigo stirred and started to wake, her whole body ached but she knew it was only a matter of time before she would heal completely. She became aware of a figure at their side.
"Rose?" the voice asked. "Are you okay?"
Lake shivered violently as she picked herself out of the snow. "I should've shot that evil-hearted blighter while I had the chance!"
"Why didn't you, then?" Topaz demanded.
"I couldn't feel me gun," Lake lowered her gaze, feeling foolish, "my hands are numb."
Topaz narrowed her eyes at the unfortunate Captain. She doubted that, somehow.
Aquamarine shot an annoyed glance in Topaz's direction, as much as she hated to admit it, it hadn't looked good. She believed Lake's reasons but she still, even after all this time had a nagging doubt about her own. Common sense told her that she had Captain Lake and Major Scarlet to consider, and good officers were hard to find. But her own personal doubts, fuelled by Topaz's deep and plainly expressed mistrust, were rearing their heads again.
"I think we should get in there, if we felt it this bad out here, imagine what it was like inside. They may need our help," she said finally.
"Agreed," Topaz nodded as she wiped the snow from her uniform.
"Anything to get out of this cold," shivered Lake who was getting paler by the minute.
"Are you okay, Captain?" asked Aquamarine with concern.
Lake nodded, although it was more than apparent that she was far from okay.
"Let's get moving, we can't..." Topaz broke off as a figure appeared at the entrance to the cave. Lieutenant Beige staggered out into the advancing twilight, almost bent double with pain and exhaustion. Before she could go much further she sank to her knees as the cold hit her.
"Beige!" Lake stared at her with horror. Suddenly, she forgot her own weakness, and stumbled to the Lieutenant. "Are you alright?"
"Cave-in..." Beige whispered, "can't find Indigo... Cerise gone..." She passed out.
Still shivering violently herself, Lake tried to drag her friend back into the cave, for warmth and shelter.
Before she knew it, Aquamarine was at her side. "You CAN'T shelter in there, it's too dangerous!"
Lake coughed, and grasped at her chest. "It's too cold out here. I'd take my chances in the cave. Besides, we have to find Indigo and Cerise."
"I'm going to call in a rescue party for backup. Topaz, help me to find these two shelter. They're in no fit state to help with the rescue."
"You two are NOT leaving me out!" Lake stared at them with indignation.
"Captain," Aquamarine crouched next to her friend, "you'll be of more help watching over Beige. She mustn't be left alone while she's unconscious."
Lieutenant Indigo opened her eyes slowly, her vision was still fuzzy but she could make out the outline of a woman kneeling next to her.
"Captain?" Indigo queried uncertainly. It was rare to be called by her first name by a senior officer. She tried to sit up.
"That's right, Rose. Take it easy, you've not healed yet." Cerise warned her.
Indigo fell back and sighed, grimacing with pain at even the exertion required of a deep breath. Her vision returned. Staring up she could see that Cerise's face was cut and bruised and the sleeve of her uniform torn below the elbow.
"You found me?"
Cerise frowned. "Not exactly," she replied looking around the small room. "It appears that someone found us."
Beige groaned, opening her eyes. "Where am I?"
"In shelter, next to a roaring fire, on a mountain."
She looked up, into the face of Captain Lake. "How did I get here?"
"Something happened in the cave you were in. An explosion, or something, we felt the shock from miles off."
"You seem distant," Beige noted, frowning, "is something wrong?"
"Aquamarine will need help, in that cave," Lake muttered, without paying the Lieutenant much attention, "yet she left me here. Why?"
Inside the cave, Aquamarine shook her head. "This just doesn't make sense. We've searched the entire cave, and yet we can't find a trace of them."
"There's no second exit, either, Captain." Topaz informed her.
"Then where are they?" Aquamarine asked, searching around again.
Cerise looked up, confused at first, she listened again.
"Can you hear that?"
"I can hear something," nodded Indigo sitting up, now much recovered.
"There's someone there, I can hear talking."
Then there was no doubt, as they clearly heard the question 'Then where are they?'. Captain Aquamarine's frustration apparent as they were unable to find their missing colleagues.
"Captain!" yelled Cerise. "Aquamarine! Can you hear me?"
Aquamarine and Topaz exchanged glances, yes they could hear her, but surely it was impossible? They both looked to where the sound of the cry for help was coming from. Neither could believe it as they both looked down, somehow they were beneath them.
"How are you feeling, Beige?" Lake asked, watching the Lieutenant checking herself over.
"Better. I'd say I've pretty much recovered. Why, Captain?"
Lake stood up, with a determined expression. "In that case, do you feel up to helping in a rescue mission?"
Beige gave an enthusiastic smile. "Ready when you are!"
"Great! Come on then."
The cold, harsh conditions of a blizzard hit them as soon as they left their shelter. The two linked arms to support each other, pressing on at the fastest possible pace. Lake soon felt tired, however, and began to understand Aquamarine's concern. "Quick, Lieutenant, here's the cave." They scrambled in, leaving the might of the storm behind.
"Whew!" Beige gasped, "I'm not looking forward to another trek in that!"
Lake coughed, loudly. "Me neither! Right, let's find the others."
Aquamarine studied the floor, carefully. "I don't get it. How did they get down there?"
"Have you tried asking them?" Topaz asked her.
"From what they told me, they were taken there while they were unconscious."
"But that means that your old friends are probably in control."
"Topaz, I'm warning you..."
"Hiya!" came a hoarse voice, somewhere behind them.
"Who's there?" Topaz demanded.
Aquamarine recognised the voice immediately. "Lake, I told you to stay with Beige."
"I did. Beige has fully recovered, and came with me."
"Great!" Topaz muttered.
Ignoring the Commander, Aquamarine gave Lake a piece of her mind. "I ordered you to stay. Beige is okay, but by the sound of you..."
"You need help, right?" Lake asked her, pointedly.
"Come on, Aquamarina!" Beige joined in, making Lake wince, "we came here 'cos we thought you'd need us."
"Don't call me 'Aquamarina'," Aquamarine growled, looking daggers at Beige.
Lake attempted to get her to calm down. "She didn't mean it." Her teeth chattered. The cave seemed cold, even though she knew that it was regulated at 10 degrees C. Perhaps it was the thought of Captain Black that made her shiver.
"As entertaining as it would be to see you three tear each other apart," Topaz said, "I think that we should concentrate on saving Captain Cerise."
"Hey!" Indigo shouted up, "I'm standing right here!"
The diminutive lieutenant was shaking.
"What is it?" Cerise asked.
"Cold," Indigo replied. Cerise was slightly puzzled by this. She had been thinking that the cave was quite warm compared to the outside.
"Can we keep moving?" Indigo asked, restlessly, jumping on the spot to warm up.
On the level above, Lake and Beige had been thinking the same thing. They were hoping that the movement would help them to keep warm.
Cerise frowned. "You don't normally feel the cold like this," she said removing her tunic and draping it around the Lieutenant's shoulders. "This might help, sorry there're no sleeves."
"No Captain, you'll get cold."
"I'm not though, it's bothering me that you, Beige and Lake are so...have you sensed any Mysterons?"
"No, well vaguely but I can't pin-point them."
"Beige, Lake? Have you sensed any Mysterons?" Cerise yelled up.
"But we know they're here."
"Black and the Major too," added Aquamarine.
"You've seen them?" Cerise was stunned.
"Just Black, he told us he had Major Scarlet."
"Yeah," scoffed Topaz, "seen him, spoke to him, let him go."
"What's your point Cerise?" Aquamarine wanted to leave that topic behind.
"I think they may be jamming the detection sense somehow, but the side effect is coldness. It's not affecting you in the same way because you don't have any other remaining Mysteron traits."
"That's a nice theory, but it doesn't get us anywhere and it doesn't help us find you," replied Topaz.
"We're right below you!"
"I know that, but we can't find a way down to you."
"Wouldn't matter if you could," replied Indigo bluntly.
"And why is that?" snapped Topaz.
"Because this room, or whatever it is, is solid rock and has no door," she replied.
Cerise turned to quickly look around, she hadn't noticed. Such a seemingly small but important detail, how could she have missed it? How did they get in there? Or more importantly, how would they get out?
"Er, I suggest you find a way to get us out of here before the air goes!"
Topaz placed one hand on the wall while
massaging her left temple with the other. The burning headache that she noticed
after her recent use of a psionic probe seemed to be intensifying again. She
tried to steel herself as best she could, but was still unprepared for the
sudden surge that overwhelmed her senses. Screaming, Topaz stumbled backwards,
and tripped over a rock. The impact with the cave floor had temporarily driven
the fiery pain from her head, and when she looked up, she saw two figures
kneeling by her. One was clearly human, despite the fuzzy images Topaz saw, and
the other had a distinctive and easily recognizable aura.
"Rosie," Topaz gasped, holding out her locket, "Protect... from ghost... in me. Take key... White." Then, she passed out, dropping the locket, which landed and snapped open, revealing a picture of the commander with her twin sister when they were 16 years old and a pair of computer chips.
"What's going on up there?" Cerise shouted in alarm.
"I don't know," replied Aquamarine kneeling at the Commander's side. "It's Topaz. She suddenly seemed to be in a lot of pain and she passed out. It was just like before."
"What happened before?"
"Just before Black turned up," muttered Lake looking around nervously.
"Is she okay?" asked Indigo getting to her feet, still shivering.
"Well," replied Aquamarine, "she's going to have quite a headache when she wakes, but I think otherwise she's okay."
"What about what she said and this locket?" Lake asked closing it carefully to keep the contents safe.
"Rosie? Do you think that's her sister?"
"I thought her sister was called Julia," Cerise shouted up, "perhaps another, but it could be a friend."
"Well we've got to get her back to the Research Centre as soon as we can. The Major may have to wait, we've got to get you two out of there, Topaz back to base and Lake and Beige are almost frozen."
"You get me out of here! I'll keep looking on my own if I have to!" shouted Indigo furiously. Now so cold every inch of her ached, Indigo still refused to give up the search for her father.
Cerise sat down, the shouting was starting to tell on the air supply, she felt light headed.
"Aquamarine, if you don't get us out of here soon, there won't be any point trying."
Okay, stop panicking, Aquamarine told herself. As the only person still without a problem of one kind or another, every responsibility fell to her. She had been in command before, but since Topaz was now unconscious, Beige and Lake were feeling the effects of the Mysteron presence strongly and Cerise and Indigo were trapped, she was the only person who could do anything remotely helpful to anyone.
"Can you see anything down there?" she called, crossing her fingers.
Cerise was sat with her head between her knees, trying to conserve oxygen. Indigo looked around, her sharp eyes illuminating any part of the room she could not see clearly.
“No," she called back, "There's nothing. The whole room is enclosed, and it looks man-made too."
Indigo seemed to be suffering less from the lack of breathable air than Cerise was, but even so, it was Cerise that first noticed the problem.
"How what?" Indigo asked, sitting next to the senior officer.
"How can we hear them? And them us?"
Indigo thought hard.
"I don't know," she replied finally.
"Captain Aquamarine?" Indigo called up. "How can you hear us?"
Indigo was distracted by Cerise slumping against her.
"You have to get us out of here, or Captain Cerise won't make it!"
Despite still feeling desperately cold, Lieutenant Indigo removed Cerise's tunic from where she had draped it over her shoulders earlier. Folding it she placed it gently under Cerise's head in an attempt to make her comfortable.
"Think!" she muttered under her breath, cursing her own mind's decision to start to clouding over too. "There must be a vent of some kind for them to hear us, maybe the air's being pumped out somehow." But nothing was apparent from within the room. It seemed hopeless. They would both die. Certainly given more air Indigo would revive, but what use would that be if she remained trapped?
"Can you see anything that looks like a vent or a pump or anything?" Her desperation was beginning to tell in her voice.
Aquamarine looked about frantically, looking for anything that appeared man-made. A smooth area of rock caught her eye approximately three feet from her. Approaching it she studied it with a puzzled expression, wondering what it could be and how it could be connected. Almost out of simple curiosity, Aquamarine raised her hand to it, even a few inches from her hand, in the chill cave it felt warm. She placed her hand firmly on the smooth, flat area of rock. Even, the small pressure she exerted by this simple action moved an entire section of rock beneath her hand. Behind her she could hear a grating noise as a great slab of rock in the floor shifted slightly.
"A trap door!" she gasped, pushing the rock further forward. The slab moved further aside revealing the room below their feet. Lieutenant Indigo knelt at Cerise's side looking gratefully up as cool fresh air flooded the chamber.
"She's still alive," she confirmed with a smile as she saw three anxious faces staring down at her.
Lake closed her eyes in silent prayer, then snapped her eyes open and yelled "Thank goodness for that!" She shuddered, glancing about. "We haff to get em outta there, befurr Black finds us..."
Beige almost laughed. The cold and anxiety that Lake felt was making her accent very strong. "Come on, Captain, work with me."
The two milled about, side by side, trying to find a way to release their friends. Aquamarine shook her head. "What do you think you're doing? Black's not exactly going to leave a rope for us, is he?"
"S'pose not," Beige mumbled, hunting for something similar anyway, just in case. One never could tell where Captain Black was concerned.
Meanwhile, Indigo was trying to revive Captain Cerise by shaking her.
"Huh? What?" Cerise murmured as she came to under Indigo's ceaseless coaxing. "Rose? Where...? Oh yeah."
"Are you alright, Captain?" Indigo asked as Cerise sat up.
"Yeah," she replied blinking a couple of times as she came to fully. "Are you okay?"
Indigo nodded. "Still cold though," she replied handing Cerise's tunic to her.
"Are you sure you don't need it?"
"Yeah," Indigo nodded still shivering, "It's a nice thought, Cerise, but you'll need it too."
"Excuse me!" Aquamarine shouted down, "but have either of you any idea how to get out of there?"
"I would think through this big hole in the ceiling," Cerise smiled mischievously at the younger Captain.
"You know I can close that hole, if somebody doesn't cooperate."
"Okay, okay!" Cerise looked around, there seemed to be nothing suitable. Then she remembered. "Topaz has always got some gadgets on her, does she still have that grappling gun on her?"
Aquamarine quickly checked the wrists of the still unconscious Commander and sighed with relief as she found it. Carefully removing it, she returned to the edge of the chamber and threw it down to Cerise.
"Great! We'll be out of here in no time!"
As Lake and Beige searched the cave, a dark shape crept behind them. Lake put a hand to her stomach. "Beige, can you see anyone... or thing?"
Beige turned round, casting a cautious glance all around. "No. Why?" Turning back, she saw Lake and frowned. "Captain, I think we should get back to the others..." Black leapt out in front of them. "You're not going anywhere, Earthmen!"
"For your information, we're both women, so there, Mars Man!" Lieutenant Beige shouted back, hoping someone would hear.
Lake shot her a quick glance. "PLEASE don't start, Christine..."
Indigo's skin crawled as she caught the grappling hook that Cerise tossed down to her. She knew that it was nothing to do with the cold, and quickly activated the device.
Cerise caught Indigo before she hit her head on the ceiling.
"Whoa there, lieutenant," she said, laughing. "Don't go killing yourself now!"
Indigo paid out a bit of line and her feet touched safely onto the floor. She quickly disengaged the hook and replaced it on Topaz's wrist.
"What happened to her?" Cerise asked, puzzled.
Aquamarine shrugged. "I dunno, she screamed then said something about a ghost."
Indigo checked the commander over. Despite the older woman's dislike for her, she still felt obliged to help where she could.
"Where's her locket?" Indigo asked, suddenly. "She never goes anywhere without it."
"How do you know about the locket?" Cerise asked, narrowing her eyes. She herself had only discovered the item by accident, before the incident with Captain Aquamarine. Topaz kept it well hidden.
"I remember Topaz showing it to me when I was a child, before I became what I am now. I must have been about five or six. She was still a lieutenant then, and serving on Cloudbase."
Indigo then removed Topaz's jacket, revealing the sweat-soaked shirt underneath. The commander moaned faintly when relieved of the coat and awakened. Her eyes, shifting back and forth between the natural hazel and a haunted icy blue-green, opened enough to attempt focusing on the lieutenant.
"Rosie," Topaz whispered, struggling to sit up. "Is that you, Rosie? I can't tell anymore. The red's gone from your aura."
"Commander," Indigo replied. "Please remember, I'm a lieutenant now."
"That's right... You're Lieutenant Indigo. She's making it so hard to remember things like that. The battle's so fierce. Do you have the locket, Indigo?"
"No, I don't. Tell me, who are you talking about?"
"Agent Star she calls herself. She's the ghost, the enemy within me. She wants the key in my locket, and someone's after the lock to go with it. Find the locket and take it to White, he'll know why I sent it."
"Please rest, Commander. You took a nasty knock to the head and we're not sure why it happened."
"It's my fault, I left myself open to them," Topaz explained, grabbing the lieutenant's arm. "Ironically, considering my distrust and hatred, I've carried Star within me since they first called me the Amber Intruder. Whenda left us a warning about her. She'll use me to get what she, no, they want. Don't let her succeed, Ro... Indigo, the secrets are useless without the key. Your... your arms, so cold. Take my parka if you wish."
Then the commander's grip faltered, as she struggled to remain conscious. The stunned lieutenant barely had time to lower Topaz, before the sounds of a heated argument reached the cavern. Hearing Beige's voice amid the shouting, the three officers headed towards the sound. Remembering the commander, one of them turned back, and saw someone entering a secret passage. The officer nearly didn't make it to the passage before the door closed behind her, and had lost the RadioCap on the way. Having no other choice, the officer walked the passage trying to avoid alerting the person she was following.
Stopping, the person touched the wall and spoke, as if she was sending a transmission somewhere.
"Captain Black, this is Agent Star. Spectrum Agents are approaching your location to help their companions. I'd advise you to leave while you still can."
Captain Black was staring into space. Lake gasped, wincing, knowing that he was communicating with someone.
"You okay?" Beige asked, with concern.
Lake nodded. "It's him... using Mysteron powers... very painful..."
Beige turned her head. "Captain Aquamarina just brought the troops in."
Black stared coldly at the band of Spectrum members, and as he did so, he vanished into air.
"Coward!" Beige yelled.
"Sshh!" Aquamarine glared at her, "if they hear you, they'll want you to pay for it."
"So? He IS a coward!"
Lake groaned, tiredly. "PLEASE give it a rest, Beige..."
Lake and Beige were standing, still staring at the spot where Black had disappeared, when they saw Indigo and Cerise appeared. Lake and Beige were absolutely ecstatic to see their companions were alive and well, and greeted them accordingly.
"Now I see why Black fled like the coward he is!" Beige declared heatedly. "He must have sensed you approaching!"
Lake rolled her eyes. "Will you cut it out? Do you really want him to come back here?"
"Where's Aquamarine?" Cerise was looking around, suddenly realizing there was somebody missing from their group. Indigo shook her head, looking down at the locket Topaz had given her.
"I heard her mumbling something about keeping next to the commander," she noted, thoughtfully.
"Right. Maybe we should come back there and see that Topaz be sent to a medical facility," Cerise said, flipping down her cap mic, to make a call to Spectrum, in order to have a helicopter. The others nodded, and all of them moved to where Topaz and Aquamarine was supposed to be.
"That's Topaz' locket?" Beige asked, while walking, looking down at the object that had Indigo's full attention. "I should have realized... Rosie, that's you."
"Yes, and you'd better NOT called me that," Indigo grumbled. "That's what my mum called me. And the commander too, unfortunately."
"What are you going to do with that?" Cerise asked. "Topaz asked you to give it to the General."
"In due time." Indigo put the locket around her neck, and stuck it under her collar. She was still shivering, but there was something she was quite determined to do. "Now I want to find my father."
"That reminds me," Lake suddenly said, becoming gloomy. "Black has him."
"That's what he said to us. He..."
"And you let him GO?" Indigo yelled, in anger, interrupting Lake's explanation. "HOW could you?"
"Easy, now." Cerise could see the distraught over the face of the younger member of their group. It was easy to see that Indigo was beside herself with worry.
They had reached the place where Topaz was still laying unconscious on the ground. But, strangely, no trace of Aquamarine. Cerise let out a sigh of annoyance.
"Now where did she go?"
"Not far, I'm sure," Indigo said, looking around with the others. "Unless she had gone into that hole you and I were..."
"I HOPE not!"
"Here's her cap." Beige had found it at the foot of a wall. The others joined her and looked at it, not sure what it could mean.
"Has something happened to her?" Lake asked. "I'm sure she would not have left Topaz here all alone, if she didn't have a good reason!"
"I'm beginning to have quite enough of these caves," grumbled Beige. Everybody keeps disappearing!"
"My father being the first," Indigo noted, her teeth clattering in her mouth.
"Maybe you should go with Topaz, when that helicopter will arrive," Cerise noted, narrowing her eyes to her.
"No! I won't go away, as long as my father is missing!"
"Rose, you're obviously still feeling cold. It's not normal... Do you have any idea why you're like this?"
"I don't know... Just... a theory, maybe."
"And that would be...?"
"It may be because of my father." Indigo's face became paler than it was at the moment. "I maybe feeling cold, because that's exactly what he is feeling right now!"
Deep inside the bowel of the Earth, inside other caves as cold as the grave, Captain Black was moving smoothly, his steps echoing through the rock corridor he was walking into. He passed next to two men, standing guard over the side of an overture leading toward another cave, a very small and very dark one. He put his lamp upon a stool set in the middle of it.
"Your people are nearby. They'll be coming for you."
Major Scarlet, chained to the wall, keeping himself from shivering from the cold, stared implacably at his arch-enemy.
"Captain Aquamarine is following one of our agents," Black pursued. "She doesn't have a clue, but we want her to follow... and to contact the others, when she'll find these caves."
"You're setting a trap for them," Scarlet noted. "You want to capture them."
"No, that's not what we're aiming to do... By now, you should realise, Scarlet, that we are more subtle than that."
"What do you want with me now, Black? Why did you take me and brought me here?"
"Don't you have a clue? We need your help."
"Fat chance of me helping you out!"
"We don't need your collaboration," Black said with an evil smile.
"What, you'll be trying to Mysteronise me again?"
"That wouldn't be wise. We still don't know exactly how you came out of our control, and we wouldn't dare make the same mistake again, and end up with TWO of you fighting us."
"Too bad. I always wanted to have a twin brother."
"Don't mock me. Or I'll be killing you right now, right here."
Scarlet screwed his eyes to Black. "I wonder what stopping you, actually."
Black didn't produce any answer. He stared a short moment at Scarlet, then began pacing in front of him. "When your friends with found these new caves, looking for you, they won't find you, instead, they will find..." He stopped, and turned around, toward the door. "Would you care to step in, Mister Carter?"
Scarlet heard new steps coming from the darkness. He saw a tall figure enter and coming closer to where he was standing. He narrowed his eyes to the newcomer; he was wearing a colour-coded uniform. A uniform similar in every aspect to his own.
That wasn't the only similarity this man had with him.
He was wearing his face.
As soon as he realised what was happening, Scarlet burst out of laughter.
"Carter?" he repeated, not believing it. "You say this man is... what, some kind of an actor?"
"I'm a stage comedian," the man suddenly said. Even his voice was similar to Scarlet's, with a very obvious frustrated edge to it. Apparently, he didn't like the Spectrum officer's attitude toward him. Scarlet chuckled anew.
"Conrad, you have seen too many B-movies... What do you hope to accomplish by putting this... comedian... in my place? It won't work. What do you aim to do, exactly?"
"Mister Carter will retrieve for us something that we will need, Major... Something that Commander Topaz has in her possession, and wanted to give to you."
"I don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"Oh, you know what I'm talking about, to the contrary."
"It WON'T work, Black," Scarlet said again. "Don't you see the problem, here? Spectrum will see right away that this phoney is not me!"
"I can play you so perfectly that nobody would notice the difference, Major," the man called Carter replied bitterly. "No-one will be the wiser. I know everything about you, every moment of your life. I studied hard, and I learned well."
"Mister Carter's features have been altered through surgeries," Black explained. "We changed his face, and his fingerprints are the same as you. Special contact lenses carry your ocular print. You see, we didn't leave anything to chance."
Scarlet was still looking dubious. Black could see what he was thinking about. He nodded.
"Oh, yes... there’s still something missing in Mister Carter, isn't there?"
"And what would that be?" Carter asked, surprised. "I thought you said I was perfect for the job, now!"
"Nearly perfect, Mister Carter. Nearly. There's just one detail."
"And what would that be?"
"You haven’t died, yet."
Surprised, Carter turned around to face Black; he didn't even have the time to see the gun in the Mysteron agent's hand. There was a single gunshot. Carter fell back, a bullet between his eyes, dying instantly.
Seconds later, two eerie green haloes swept over the dead body; Scarlet heard new footsteps, and coming from the dark, the Mysteronised duplicate of Carter, the comedian, stepped over the dead man. The smile on Black's face had an evil feeling to it.
"NOW you are perfect for the job," he told the new Mysteron agent.
"Good work, Captain Black. But there's been a slight change in our plans. Commander Topaz no longer controls the objects we seek."
Scarlet and Black turned to face the approaching speaker. Her voice had sounded familiar to the both of them, but for entirely different reasons. Frowning, Black voiced his reply to the agent that warned him earlier.
"I thought you were supposed to be showing Aquamarine the way to Carter's room, Agent Star. Besides, how do you know that it's no longer on Topaz's possession?"
Star finally reached the lit area, revealing her outward appearance to the other three for the first time. The first thing they noticed was the cold, icy blue-green eyes that seemed to penetrate the dark recesses of one soul. Except for the marks of regular eyeglass use, the rest of her face seemed normal. Her body was not one belonging to a Mysteron replica, however, as peculiar scars had criss-crossed the skin tissue revealed by her tank top. Those scars, plus the colour-coded boots she wore had tipped Scarlet off to her physical identity.
"What have you done Topaz, you ... you ... Mysteron witch!?!"
"Silence, Traitor," she commanded, using telepathy to compel Scarlet's obedience. Turning to Black, she explained, "The captain ambushed me after I sent you the warning and I had to knock her out. She'll believe that she followed an agent to the 'prison' and saw him place Commander Topaz within. Then she retraced her footsteps to where she was knocked out by the ceiling. I also left the Commander's second transceiver nearby for her to find.
"Her team-mates may question Aquamarine's story, since they also believe that Topaz is still with them, but if anyone tries to move her, they find out that the body is a high-scale hologram. That discovery will lend credence to the captain's story, and prompt a rescue attempt. When they do 'rescue' me and Carter, we can then find out which agents she gave the prototype ... and the code key to."
Scarlet, who had slumped to the wall following Agent Star 's recent mental attack, raised to his feet with great difficulty. He forced his mind to clear itself from the mist it was in, and looked up defiantly at both Black and the other agent, anger and determination fully showing on his fate.
"You... have not... won yet," he rasped between his teeth.
"Impressive," commented Agent Star. "You're resisting my mental block. You were right, Captain Black. His will makes him a difficult one to control." She stared intently at the Spectrum officer. "Aren't you worried about what we would do with you, Earthman?"
Scarlet didn't care to produce an answer. The look of pure hatred and anger he cast upon the Mysteron agent was enough of a respond. Agent Star produced an evil smile. She turned to Black who nodded quietly.
"We will not kill you," the former Spectrum agent declared. "Not right away, Scarlet. You'll stay here, while mister Carter will go about his mission. If you're lucky, you'll still be alive when it's finished and you'll witness the Mysterons' victory."
"And then," Agent Star added with a very cold tone, "You'll be dealt with once and for all..."
Captain Aquamarine lay on the floor of the passageway, growing increasingly cold, soon the cold itself would wake her. Having lost her retro-metabolism, however, the bump on her head would stay painful for quite some time to come. She had returned to the cave intent on taking care of the still unconscious Commander Topaz, it had come as quite a shock to her to see Topaz on her feet and heading away from her towards an outcrop of inconspicuous looking rock. When the passageway had opened she had made a split second decision to follow. The doorway was almost closed when she reached had it, squeezing through, the peak of her cap had been knocked upwards dislodging it from her head. It fell outside the doorway, leaving her no time to retrieve it before the rock sealed itself once more. She had had no choice but to continue. Agent Star had been surprisingly aware of Aquamarine's attempt to overpower her, and she had been the one who suffered in the end. Creating the hologram to satisfy any other curious Spectrum agents before her plan was in place, Star had then used her powers to place a manufactured memory in Aquamarine's mind. The Mysterons were in total control of the situation.
As the others were looking around to check out where Aquamarine could have disappeared to, Beige had come closer to the apparently unconscious Topaz. Looking down at her, she thought she might catch cold, lying there directly on the rock. Beige removed her coat and crouched down, with the full intention of putting it over the commander.
The minute the coat was put on Topaz, she seemed to flicker, as a bad received image on a TV set. Beige jumped to her feet and, her eyes wide, watch as the image of Topaz disappeared from her view, and her coat was now lying flat on the ground.
"Whoa! What was that?!"
Lake, Indigo and Cerise had approached, staring straight at the very spot were "Topaz" had been lying. They had seen the disappearing act. Lake understood instantly what had happened.
"We've been had!" she said between her teeth. "That wasn't Topaz, it was an holographic image of her!"
"To what purpose would THEY had put an hologram there?!" asked a stunned Cerise. By they, she was referring to the Mysterons, of course.
“Who knows, with them?" grumbled Indigo, still concerned by her father's recent disappearance.
"I keep telling you," Beige moved on, "people keep disappearing in these caves!"
"Right," Cerise stood up and began wandering about, looking carefully at the walls.
Lake followed her, quickly, gesturing to the others to do the same. "Wait for us, I don't want to lose anyone else!"
"Me neither!" Beige declared, loud enough for everyone, "I want to stick by you!"
"Look, will the pair of you calm down? I'm not going anywhere!" Cerise shook her head, "I was trying to see if we'd missed something."
"We probably have, but I can't tell," Lake cast a long look about the cave, "I'm sick of being stuck here, I'm sick of being cold, and I'm sick of Mysterons!"
Up until now, Indigo had been quietly thinking. Suddenly, she ran back to the others. "Hey! Where did you find Aquamarine's cap?"
"Over there," Beige replied, pointing to the spot. "Why?"
Indigo rushed over to the indicated area and started searching the wall. Then she turned to the others. "Come on, there's got to be a door here."
They joined Indigo in her search and found a small squarish patch of rock that also felt warm to the touch. Thinking it might be a switch, Beige pressed down on it, but nothing happened. Then, Cerise's epaulets flashed yellow, prompting her to respond as soon as the cap mike was in place.
"Commander, where are you? ... Oh, sorry Aquamarine, I thought you were Topaz."
Through Aquamarine's eyes, Star watched as the revised plan started to come together. Apparently, the hologram had failed sooner than she thought, but the colour officers responded to their situations exactly as she predicted. Upon hearing Aquamarine start describing how to trace the entry sigil, Star broke contact and turned to Captain Black.
"Captain, we are about to have those visitors we've invited. If you so desire, Mr. Carter and I shall finish the required preparations in the other cave."
Black nodded, his mind on other details that could affect the mission. A few seconds later he turned back towards her, responding to the comment she made.
"You would defer to me, Agent Star?"
"You are the ranking Agent, Captain. My existence here is merely an accident."
"Of course. You will keep us informed, Agent Star"
The female agent twitched, as if something didn't agree with her. Then she turned to look at Black, her cold penetrating glare now filtered through a pair of hazel eyes.
"Always, Captain Black. Always."
Indigo's hand started shaking violently, halfway through the pattern Aquamarine had described. Cerise leaned in and traced the pattern herself, opening the concealed entrance.
As the others trooped forwards, Cerise held Indigo back. It wasn't difficult - the young lieutenant looked ready to collapse.
"What is it?" she asked, gently.
"I'm... I'm fine," Indigo replied, unconvincingly. Her skin was paler than usual, and her eyes, which had been brighter than usual in the low lighting, had dulled.
"Oh, come on, Rose, I know you better than that." Cerise looked straight into the half-Mysteron's eyes. Beneath the troubles that had suddenly overwhelmed the young woman, there was an intense determination to rescue her father. Cerise knew that they were very close; they shared something no one else could. The war against the Mysterons was, for them, something very personal. It had altered them in a way no one else would ever really know.
Indigo shrugged. "I dunno." Her words were slurred slightly. " 'S hot in here," she commented, taking Cerise aback.
That was a moment before she stumbled backwards, hitting her head against the door and slumping unconscious to the floor.
"Why do you think they used a hologram of Commander Topaz?" Beige asked Lake.
The captain shrugged her shoulders. "No idea," she replied. "How 'bout you, Cerise?"
When she received no reply, Lake turned. The other captain and Lieutenant Indigo were nowhere to be seen.
"What now?" Beige enquired. "They gone too? What a surprise."
"Christine!" Lake snapped. "They've got to be here somewhere." She ran back along the tunnel they had just come through.
"Lieutenant?" Cerise knelt down at Indigo's side. She frowned things were getting a little too weird around here. Although she looked quite pale, a quick check of the young Lieutenant's forehead revealed that she had a fever. "I just don't understand," she muttered to herself as she tried to make Indigo comfortable.
"There you are!" cried Lake with an irritated tone to her voice. "We're supposed to be..."
Cerise looked up, a look of disbelief on her face.
"Oh!" Lake suddenly saw Lieutenant Indigo's prone form. "Sorry Cerise, I didn't see. What happened?"
"I really don't know, she said she was hot and passed out. Did you find Aquamarine? And where's Beige?"
"Here, Captain!" replied a slightly out of breath Lieutenant Beige after running to catch up.
"We haven't found her yet," Lake shrugged, leaning against the open rock doorway, "I was wondering though about the hologram. Why do you think they bothered?"
Cerise thought for a few moments. "Somebody's taken Topaz after she passed out, but presumably didn't want us to find out about it for some reason. At least until we tried to wake her at any rate. I guess Aquamarine saw someone take her and followed them in." Cerise thought about it for a few moments. "I know that locket's important and I guess that makes the computer chips priceless. I don't know what's on them but my guess is someone's after them and that's why Topaz handed the locket to Indigo. Perhaps she knew it wouldn't be safe. Lieutenant Beige, I need something from your radio."
"I get it, you want chips from Beige's radio don't you!" Lake grinned at Cerise.
"I'm fairly certain that Beige can find something in that radio that we can pass off as these chips," Cerise replied with a chuckle.
"But what about the real chips?"
"You take one, I'll take the other and not a word to anyone about it, it'll only put them in danger too."
Cerise shrugged. "Gotta take the rough with the smooth!"
They had just taken a few steps into the second cave when Star went into a full body shake. Carter, seeing the agent pause, approached her cautiously.
"Are you all right, A ... Commander?"
"No, Major, I'm not all..." Topaz managed to say before the Mysteron agent regained control. Star then directed her attention inward, speaking directly to human personality.
"Stop it, Megan. You'll risk your life as well as mine with these antics."
Carter was surprised by this turn of events when he voiced his next questions, completely out of character.
"What happened, Star? And who's
Star chuckled, "Megan is a sweet little Earthchild determined to avenge her sister, under the name of Amber Nytstar. You know her as Commander Topaz. She very nearly took control of this body away from me while I was distracted. Fortunately, I was able to deal with her, for the moment."
"Right, 'Commander.'" Carter's expression, though seemingly emotionless, did not conceal the fact that he doubted her explanation. Before she could take him up on that, one of the four decoy guards approached the pair.
"'Commander', ' Major', we're waiting for you."
Lake closed her eyes as she tried to think.
She snapped her eyes open, and glared slightly at Cerise. "I'm TRYING to FOCUS, if you don't mind..."
The captain averted her eyes. "Sorry."
"No, I am," Lake sighed with frustration, "that was uncalled for. Had that been Scarlet, I'd be the first to jump down his throat!"
"Yeah, and he'd let you, too! If I didn't know better, I'd say he's scared of you!" Beige chuckled.
"Not funny, Lieutenant!" Lake barked at her.
"Not necessary, Lake!" Cerise countered.
Lake drew a deep breath. "Not the time or place. We're friends, and we work together well. Cerise, I need your brainpower. Beige, we need your co-operation... And I need to keep my head..."
Lake shook her head in frustration. "I thought I felt something there, no I'm sure, I think..."
"What? What did you pick up?" asked Cerise, standing up.
"A new Mysteron, close by."
Cerise snapped her head sharply to look worriedly down the still open corridor. "Lake, is there any chance that could have been Aquamarine?" she asked quietly.
"I..." Lake hesitated, she didn't want to guess, but who else was down there? "I don't know."
Cerise frowned, she didn't want to think about the idea that her field partner may have been taken by them again.
"Captain?" Beige interrupted her thoughts.
"Yes?" she asked distractedly.
"Lieutenant Indigo's waking up."
Cerise looked down to see Beige helping Indigo to sit up. The look of concern in Beige's eyes summed up the mood of all of them. If this was related to whatever was happening to Scarlet then they were sure he was suffering.
"Rose, can you walk?" asked Lake.
Indigo nodded, though still pale and weak, she was determined to carry on.
"Okay," Cerise added. "Let's find Aquamarine, see if she's still ok."
As they walked in, Lake touched Cerise gently on the arm. "I'm sure she's okay you know."
Cerise nodded and forced a smile as they continued down the corridor in silence.
Beige began to go ahead, as the others slowed to assist Indigo.
"Lieutenant Beige, I want you HERE!" Lake ordered, pointing at the floor beside her.
"Whuff!" the Lieutenant remarked, cheekily, as she fell in step beside the party. "I was only checking the coast was clear..."
"There might be a Mysteron near," Lake explained in a whisper, "and if that's the case..."
"Beige, Lake, wait a moment." Cerise stopped, and let Indigo take a rest. "She's in a bad way..."
Lake closed her eyes, tiredly. How are we going to get out of this mess?
Cerise noticed the expression on the Captain's face. "What's wrong?"
"I'm just thinking..."
"Well be quick, 'cos I think someone's coming!" Beige warned.
Indigo's tired mind questioned her health. Why was she not healing as she should? The knock to her head, any kind of sickness should vanish almost instantly. But it seemed to be pretty long term. Her head was pounding and she could barely walk. The black under-shirt of her uniform was plastered to her back, even though she had been shivering minutes before. The locket around her neck felt cold, as if it had been away from her and not readjusted to her body temperature. She raised her hand to her throat, thoughtfully. The action was painful.
"I don't understand, Amber," she murmured. "What do you want me to do?" Her voice was hoarse, and her throat burned, but Indigo knew that she couldn't give in again; she had to find her friends and her father.
The party came to an abrupt halt as they heard footsteps approaching. With nowhere to hide, the four officers pressed themselves against the walls and drew their guns. Lake blew out a sigh of relief when Aquamarine turned the corner.
"There you are!" smiled Aquamarine, "I was beginning to think I'd never find you!"
Cerise looked quickly from Lake to Indigo, one of them would surely sense if she were a Mysteron. Indigo was too ill to assume that her senses would be reliable, besides, any strength she had was being held in reserve to find her father. Cerise looked back to Lake again; there was no reaction, not a flicker of concern. Whoever the new Mysteron was it didn't appear to be Aquamarine.
Aquamarine sensed Cerise's tension and uncertainty.
"What? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Cerise beamed, finally relaxing.
"Hmm," Aquamarine responded, unconvinced. She opened her mouth to comment further on Cerise's apparently strange behaviour when she spotted Indigo. "Rose, you look terrible!"
"Thanks!" the young Lieutenant snapped in return.
"You don't look strong enough to carry on," Aquamarine continued.
"If one more person suggests that I should break off the search for my Dad, I'll..."
"She's worried about you Rose," Cerise interrupted.
"We all are," added Lake, "it doesn't mean that we're stopping the search."
Indigo nodded, it was all she had the strength for.
Cerise looked at Aquamarine and shrugged. "Back the way you came, I guess."
"Oh great! You mean I spent all that time looking for you, and I needn't have bothered?" Aquamarine asked.
"At least we know you're okay." Lake pointed out.
"We WERE beginning to worry." Cerise added.
"We thought the Mysterons had you." Beige piped up.
"Beige," Lake warned.
"NOW I see why you looked so nervous," Aquamarine turned to Cerise, "why not just try a detector on me?"
Cerise looked guilty, she could see the hurt on Aquamarine's face. The truth of the matter was, she had used a detector, of sorts, Lake's and Indigo's reactions. There was no need to test again. It didn't make her feel any better about the situation, Aquamarine was upset, let down by the one person she thought trusted her implicitly.
"I'm sorry, Aquamarine," began Cerise, "Lake detected a new Mysteron, we couldn't be sure, how could we?"
"Huh! You weren't going to tell me though were you? What else are you keeping from me?"
Cerise bit her lip, she had expressly asked Lake and Beige not to tell anyone about the switch with the chips in the locket. If she admitted it now, she would potentially be placing both Aquamarine and Indigo in even more danger.
"Nothing," she replied quietly.
Aquamarine was clearly neither impressed nor convinced.
"Come on," Lake broke the silence, "we have to find Topaz and Scarlet."
Indigo nodded her own agreement to that statement. Every inch of her hurt from some unknown illness, but she knew that she had to stay conscious if she was to find her father.
"All right," Cerise said, thinking. She knew that neither herself or Lake should be near Indigo if Black were to capture her and discover that the chips were fake, as he would automatically assume that whoever had been with her were carrying the originals. That left Beige and Aquamarine, but she was equally unhappy about leaving Aquamarine out of any action, given the current tension concerning Aquamarine's allegiances. Beige would equally grumble about being left out.
"I'll stay back with Rose, just in case," Cerise continued. "The rest of you, go on ahead and find Paul and Amber."
Captain Black stood back and smiled. Scarlet raised his head with considerable effort, opening his eyes, he saw the syringe in Black's hand.
"What do you hope to achieve with that?" asked Scarlet angrily. "I won't tell you anything."
"I've told you already, we don't need anything from you."
"How do you feel, Scarlet?"
Every inch of him ached, his shirt soaked with sweat, held upright only by the chains, Scarlet didn't feel the need to reply. Whatever was in that syringe was making him feel worse than he had ever felt.
"What is that?"
"A virus, something so strong that even you will struggle to recover from. You will need regular doses to keep you low, but rest assured there is no shortage."
"Why? What possible reason...?"
"What? What have you done?" Scarlet asked nervously.
"She feels everything you do. She's ill, very ill. When Mr. Carter is found, she'll be too ill to realise he's not you. He could never hope to fool her, so we have to incapacitate her. By the time we've finished with you, she'll be lucky if she knows who she is, never mind him!"
"Why you evil...!" Scarlet pulled furiously on the chains, suddenly finding new energy.
Black stood back frowning, then smiled as Scarlet's energy waned and the drug took hold once more.
"I'll return later with your next dose. Farewell, Scarlet." Black left the tiny, dark cave, leaving Scarlet alone, desperate with worry for his daughter.
Meanwhile, Lake Beige and Aquamarine were heading down a damp passage, in the hope of finding their lost comrades. Lake stopped, paling. "Mysteron," she rasped through clenched teeth, and the three hid in a darker part of the cave.
To their surprise, Major Scarlet marched past them. "Mysteron, Captain?" Beige asked, cheekily.
"I don't understand..." Lake put a hand to her stomach, leaning against the wall.
"You haven't caught whatever Indigo...?" Aquamarine began.
Lake shook her head, "I don't think so."
"So you think Scarlet's... an enemy?" Beige asked.
Lake shook her head again. "Maybe I should've listened to you earlier, Kez..." she muttered, quietly.
"Never mind that now. Obviously, the Mysterons are trying to confuse us. You'll have to ignore your instinct."
Lake looked away. She didn't like this one little bit.
Beige ran after Scarlet, and Aquamarine and Lake were forced to follow.
Scarlet turned around; seeing the group that came running after him, the first expression to appear on his face was one of surprise. Then, it was replace by an expression of relief, as he let out a deep sigh.
"Finally, some people!" he said. "I was beginning to wonder if I'll ever get out of here!"
Beige was the first to stop in front of him. "You're all right? We've been searching all over those caves for you!"
"What happened?" Cerise asked in turn. "We thought Captain Black had you in his clutches.
Scarlet scoffed derisively. "He had! I escaped. But I've been walking around these... labyrinths for hours, looking for an exit." He showed his bare head. "And I didn't have any means of communication to call for help."
"Well, that's a relief to see you're well," Cerise said with a grin. "Seeing how Indigo was feeling lately..."
Odd, she thought, Where's Rose? She should have been the FIRST to welcome her father... She turned around swiftly and saw that Aquamarine and Lake were supporting an ever-weaker Indigo, leaning against a nearby wall. Aquamarine left her head to address a pleading stance at the group. "Please, people! I don't think she's good at all!"
Everybody rushed to their side; Cerise was absolutely stunned to see how pale Indigo had turned; her face was literally showered with sweat. What's happening to her?
"Dad?" Indigo had just discovered the face of her father, looking at her with apparent concern. She was relieved to finally see him and produced a faint but genuine smile. "You're all right?"
"I am, yes," he answered gently. "The same can't be said for you, obviously. What's the matter, Rose?"
Lake had stepped back to give place for the major to come closer to his daughter. She couldn't shake this feeling that there was a Mysteron nearby and she was very uncomfortable with that. Obviously, it couldn't be Scarlet... His unique condition had made her own private detector react in the past, but in a way different from the other Mysterons. In time she had learned to 'read' his personal signature. Now, there were something sending her instincts awry, and she didn't know why.
She felt the presence behind her, so strong it almost made her sick, and then she knew she was right in thinking something was really wrong. She turned on her heels and gasped, upon seeing who was there, not so very far from all of them. The others raised there end and went cold. There was a Mysteron's presence Lake was feeling, all right, and it wasn't Scarlet at all.
With a complexion so pale, and cold eyes fixed on them, Commander Topaz was standing there, staring. She wore a completely expressionless face, that made Aquamarine shivered with horror. That was an expression and an appearance all of them knew all too well.
It was the same as Captain Black.
"Oh my Lord..." Lake raised her pistol and pointed it straight at Topaz. The second later, it was shot straight out her hand and she grabbed her wrist, crying in pain. Topaz had been quicker than her. Aquamarine and Beige took over from Lake, drawing their weapons too to shoot at the commander. The latter quickly disappeared into a corner, and they heard her steps echoing into the caves, as she was running away from them.
"Let's get her!" Lake yelled motioning to run in pursuit.
"You're not going anywhere!" Aquamarine protested. "You've been hurt!"
"Try and stop me! If you don't come with me, I'm going alone!"
Aquamarine sighed, seeing her friend take off, swiftly followed by Beige. These two were suddenly much too impetuous... She exchanged worried glances with Cerise and Scarlet, who were crouched in front of a still very sick Indigo. Strangely, Scarlet didn't seem to know how to react and what to do exactly. Must be worried sick for his daughter...
"Go, Captain," Cerise then suddenly said. "Go with them and try to get the commander. Alive, if possible."
Alive? Now that won't be something really easy... "What about you?"
"I'm staying here with the Major and Indigo," Cerise said. As much as she would have wanted to follow, she had the distinct feeling she couldn't leave both Scarlet and Indigo all on their own. Not with Indigo so sick. "Now don't discuss, Kelly! Go now!"
"S.I.G., Captain!" Aquamarine broke into a run in the direction taken by both Lake and Beige, in hot pursuit of Topaz. Cerise turned her attention to Scarlet, who was looking in that same direction, apparently very unsure. That was so unlike him, but she figured out he was torn between his duties and his love for his daughter.
"Don't worry, Major," she told him, with a reassuring pat on his forearm. "They're all capable officers, you know that. They don't need you to get Topaz." She looked down at the semi-conscious Indigo. "But your daughter, on the other hand, needs you. I'm calling Cloudbase. We'll have her flown to sickbay without any more delay."
Still keeping silence, Scarlet grimly noted his acknowledgement.
If he still had been a human being, Carter wound had cursed inwardly for the misfortune that had befallen the mission. Agent Star's plan wasn't exactly going according to her. She had thought that the darkness of the cave would have kept the Spectrum agents from discovering his gaunt appearance too quickly. At least, not before it would have been too late for them, and long enough for the Mysterons to recuperate what they wanted. It was without counting of that accursed ex-Mysteron' sixth sense so vivid in Lake... She had felt Topaz' presence way too quickly.
Fortunately, that was exactly for that reason that Carter had been trained, prepared - created as a Mysteron duplicate of Major Scarlet, so he would play his role perfectly. He would then continue the mission and find the chips, wherever they could be, and get them for the Mysterons.
If it meant going to Cloudbase, or anywhere else to succeed, he was ready for it. Only Lieutenant Indigo could probably see through him, but she surely was in no state to be of any threat to him. Black had seen to that, through her own father. So long as nobody suspects a thing, Carter was sure to succeed.
Aquamarine ran in hot pursuit of her comrades. Where are they? They couldn't have gone that far - they didn't have THAT much of a head start! Rounding a bend, she saw Beige and Lake, still running, with Commander Topaz just ahead of them. With an extra burst of speed she caught up with them. "You... could've... waited!"
"Sorry, Captain, but we couldn't just let her disappear!" Lake answered, matter-of-factly.
Beige turned a grin to Aquamarine. "Turning into a real Scarlet, isn't she?"
"Shuttit." Lake snapped.
"The job in hand." Aquamarine reminded the pair, who nodded their agreement. There would be plenty of time to argue later, when the mission was over.
"Too...hot," whispered Indigo. She was barely audible but the motion she made towards the zip on her tunic made it clear. Her hand fell away back to her side after moving the zip barely an inch. "So...hot." She half opened her eyes and pleaded with them for Scarlet and Cerise's help.
Cerise glanced towards Scarlet, he was nowhere near his usual confident self, he didn't seem to know what to do. Cerise smiled sympathetically, this was a side of him she had never seen before.
"Major," she prompted, "I think she wants you to help her to remove her tunic."
The look he gave was as if the words didn't make sense at first. Then he eased the petite Lieutenant away from the wall she was leaning against. Unzipping the dark purple tunic, he slid it back off her arms. Folding it neatly, he placed it behind her head as he gently let her sit back to rest again. As he let go and sat back on his heels, he looked with astonishment at the sweat soaked shirt Indigo was wearing. Beneath it was the very clear outline of something heart shaped. The locket and it was within his grasp! With Indigo so very ill, there was only one unsuspecting Spectrum officer to deal with.
"There, that's better isn't it?" smiled Cerise, checking Indigo's forehead temperature.
"Much better," replied Scarlet.
Cerise didn't see Scarlet's sinister smile; confident of completing his mission so very quickly.
"Lost her," came a dejected voice from behind them.
Scarlet turned, Lake, Beige and Aquamarine stood behind them. He frowned, frustrated to have missed his chance.
"Don't worry," Aquamarine continued, we'll find her, Major. But we must get you and Rose back to Cloudbase straight away."
"Of course," he replied, he seemed much more sure of himself now. "I don't want to leave my daughter's side for a moment."
"So, you know the way out?" asked the Mysteronised double of Scarlet.
"Yeah," replied Cerise looking up at him with surprise. "We're hardly going to come on a rescue mission then get lost are we?"
"Respect for rank, Cerise," Aquamarine reminded sternly.
Cerise got to her feet frowning. "Look, I said I was sorry. I wouldn't be doing my job properly if..."
"I suggest you and Lake get the Major back to Cloudbase," Aquamarine cut in, "Beige and I will continue looking for Commander Topaz."
Lake looked from Aquamarine to Cerise and back again. Aquamarine was angry, there was no doubt about it, Cerise just looked guilty, and worried. Lake knew, however that she was more worried about the fake chips in the locket and her and Cerise now in possession of the originals. What use would it be if both of them accompanied the locket to Cloudbase? But Lake had a very definite feeling that something was amiss here and so far she had not been taken seriously. She felt she needed to confide her fears. Scarlet just didn't feel like Scarlet any more. Yes, she knew he was an ex Mysteron, but his personal signature had somehow changed. She couldn't shake the feeling that however unlikely it was, this man was not Scarlet. Still soon enough everyone would be back on Cloudbase, with or without the Commander, maybe it wouldn't be so bad?
"Cerise," Lake gave her sleeve a tug, "let's go."
Cerise frowned, Aquamarine was Field Commander, she gave the orders, but this didn't feel right.
"For crying out loud, Kelly!" Lake's outburst surprised them all. "If it were the other way round, you'd have wondered the same, wouldn't you?"
Aquamarine shot her an angry glance, then her features softened. "I guess so," she nodded with a smile.
Cerise smiled in return, well that was one thing sorted, but what about these chips?
"Now, go on, you have to get back to Cloudbase," Aquamarine added.
Cerise sighed inwardly, there was no arguing without looking suspicious or seeming to doubt her again. Nodding, she turned to Scarlet who had already picked up the frail Lt Indigo, "Ready, Major?"
"Yes," he replied staring at Indigo, "I'm ready."
As Cerise and Scarlet headed for the way out, Lake stumbled, holding her head.
"Ems?" Cerise turned to help her. Aquamarine and Beige turned, wondering what was going on.
"I... I'm alright. Just go ahead without me. I'll catch you up."
"No, Lieutenant." Cerise shook her head, "I'm not going anywhere without you. You look as though you should see a doctor, too."
Lake groaned inwardly. By all appearances, her acting was going too well. "You have to get Rose out of here. It'll be warmer in the plane."
"Alright, you win. But I'll come back for you."
Lake nodded, tiredly. "Fair enough, Captain."
Aquamarine didn't like this at all. She moved to the Lieutenant's side, quickly. "Are you alright?"
Once she was sure that Cerise and Scarlet were out of earshot, Lake got to her feet and turned to the Captain. "I'm fine, thanks."
"What?" Aquamarine stared at her.
"Please, Captain, don't be angry. I think Captain Scarlet is... fake..."
"Fake? What do you mean?"
"He's... he feels different. My built-in detector says he's not the same person."
Beige paled. "He's a Mysteron?"
"If you're right, then Indigo and Cerise could be in terrible danger."
"Not forgetting the REAL Captain Scarlet."
"Right, I'm calling Cloudbase. Lake, go after Cerise. If you find an opportunity to warn her, don't hesitate!"
"Just go. Now."
Lake nodded and ran.
Indigo squirmed in Scarlet's arms, she appeared as though she was feeling a little better, her eyes a little brighter than they had been of late. Still too weak to walk, or even open her eyes fully, she seemed strangely unhappy in the arms of her father. Cerise could only stare wide eyed as Indigo turned her face towards him and spoke.
"Who are you?" she asked with a puzzled, suspicious tone.
"Oh no, she's getting worse!" murmured Cerise, concerned for the junior officer.
Too close for comfort, thought Scarlet, she's stronger than we thought. But no matter, there would be no need to travel to Cloudbase. the information on those chips would be all they needed to destroy Spectrum. Kill the captain, take the locket it was that easy. Placing Indigo on the floor, Scarlet turned to face the unsuspecting Cerise.
"Your gun please, Captain," Scarlet requested.
"Yes, Major." Cerise replied handing over the weapon. She hadn't been surprised that Scarlet had lost his pistol, Black had probably taken it, or it had been lost in the crash as Indigo had done. As ranking officer, he wanted to be armed, that again was unsurprising.
This is too easy! The fool! She's going to be killed with her own gun and she hasn't a clue!
Lake's eyes opened wide as she saw the gun, Cerise's gun, in Scarlet's hand. Yet strangely, Cerise didn't seem at all concerned. Drawing her own pistol, she raced towards the group.
"Ems! You're okay?" asked Cerise with a broad smile.
"Er, yeah, but..." Lake eyed Scarlet suspiciously, as he holstered the gun.
"Oh! That!" Cerise laughed. "No, that must have looked like he was going to shoot me! I was just giving him my gun."
Lake forced a smile, Cerise, as yet, didn't know how close she actually was to the truth and now he was armed.
Star pulled herself out of the pool of water
that she hid in. Laying out a passive 'web' to detect anyone approaching, she
started to wring out the clothes she was wearing when she dove in. Pausing to
wipe a drop of sweat from her brow, she considered the psychic flare that
shattered the illusion of normalcy that she projected. <The energy surge was
Amber's style,> the Agent thought, <but how did she know that Captain
Lake could detect me?>
Star then stared at the droplet she was about to fling off, the spark of an idea forming in her mind. If they thought Topaz was delirious from a fever, and her telepathy was messing up the others' psychic senses, maybe it would 'explain' part of what really happened. Finishing up what she was doing, Star then sent the variation to the decoys and teleported to where the virus was stored. She injected a small dose, a quarter of what Scarlet was getting, into her system and put on the uniform's grey turtleneck, before teleporting to the back door of the research station.
As the group headed towards the exit, Cerise noticed something peculiar. There was now Mysteron Agents all over, searching for something or someone. Once several of them saw the officers and approached with guns drawn, only to flee when they saw that Major Scarlet was carrying Indigo. After that encounter, Agents then went out of their way to avoid the group, if possible. One of them, trapped between the group and the door leading to the exit, actually opened the door to escape. Cerise would've liked to try to catch him but they had to hurry back to base, for Indigo's sake.
The group reached the cave entrance, and was surprised to find a helijet waiting for them, the pilot leaning against the hatch. They ran over, and while Scarlet placed his daughter on a stretcher, the two captains asked the pilot how he knew to be there, since the cave blocked radio transmissions to the outside world.
The pilot smiled. "Easy," he replied, indicating a second, occupied, stretcher, "she told us about the cave during one of her more lucid moments. Of course, I had to tranque her or listen to her rave about being like Captain Black, on several levels. Girl's got a bad case of delirium from that fever, and her rumoured psychic abilities is not helping matters in the least. Looks like your invalid also caught the same bug, but I'll leave the diagnosing to the doctors."
The other stretcher's occupant was a very sick-looking Commander Topaz, and she felt completely human to Lake's senses.
"Come in, Captain Aquamarine," Lake spoke into her microphone, "Topaz has been found - apparent Mysteron energy..." she paused, glancing at the Commander, "...nil."
"WHAT?" Aquamarine almost screeched the word in her ear.
"Oww! Calm down. Topaz is here, and seems pretty ill. She seems human."
"But Lake, this doesn't make sense..."
"Look, I can't explain, now, but I have a theory..." Lake hissed, not daring to raise her voice, "Just come up with an excuse, and search for Scarlet!"
"An excuse? What do you mean?"
"If we weren't onto 'Scarlet', you'd want to come back with us."
"I get it. You want to give them a reason for my staying here. Tell them that Beige is playing silly games, and delaying me."
"But true enough. Just get on with it, Lake."
"What on Earth is Beige doing?" the Captain raised her voice a little, in surprise.
"I don't know!" Aquamarine replied, exasperated.
"Captain!" Beige cried so loud that even Lake could hear her through Aquamarine’s cap mic.
"What is it Lieutenant?" asked Aquamarine, now intrigued, Beige appeared entirely serious and concerned about something.
"It's...er...well it's my radio, Captain, it's picking up signals."
"It can't be, can it? Not down here?"
"Only if the signals were coming from within the caves themselves, Captain. There's something and definitely someone down here."
"A base!" Aquamarine's brow furrowed in concentration. "Okay, Captain," she said returning to her conversation with Lake, "I think we have our excuse, we'll stay down here and search."
"Okay," Lake turned to see Scarlet settling Indigo into the helicopter and Cerise wandering over to her. "Gotta go, I may now have the only chance I'm going to get to let Cerise know what's happening. Good luck and be careful."
"Thanks, Aquamarine out."
Cerise frowned as she heard Lakes final sentence.
"Who were you talking to?"
"Aquamarine, now listen...."
"What? What's she doing? She's not staying down there is she?"
"Cerise! Will you shut up, I don't have long!"
Cerise raised her eyebrows at the outburst. It was unlike her, there must be something wrong.
"Okay," began Lake again. "In a nutshell, he's not Scarlet, he's a Mysteron."
"You're saying they killed the Major?" Cerise asked, then added: "Again?"
"I don't think so, it's just a theory, but if they did, I'd expect to detect him the same way, only stronger. This guy's completely different."
Cerise paled. "I gave him my gun!"
"He was about to kill me and I was just standing there letting him!" Cerise was as shocked as she was angry.
"Aquamarine and Beige are staying to try to find the real Scarlet, while we go back to Cloudbase." Lake continued her explanation.
"With a Mysteron? You've got to be kidding?!"
"We can't leave him alone with Indigo."
"We can't take a Mysteron to Cloudbase," Cerise insisted.
"We have to take Rose back. Can you explain to him why he can't come back too, without placing the real Major in danger?"
Cerise frowned, of course she couldn't, but she didn't much like the alternative.
"I don't like it any more than you do," Lake continued, "that we're taking a Mysteron back to Cloudbase or that Aquamarine and Beige are in the middle of what seems to be a Mysteron base. Somehow, we've got to work out how to alert Cloudbase."
"Well Ems, do you have a suggestion?" Cerise asked quietly.
"Not at the moment, but we'd better come up with something soon. The longer it takes us to sort this out, the more opportunities Fake Scarlet gets."
'Scarlet' turned from Rose and frowned, suspiciously. What are they talking about, I wonder...? He approached them with what he hoped looked like a genuine smile. "Well ladies, are you ready?"
Lake smiled back at him. "S.I.G., Major."
"Ready when you are, Major Scarlet." Cerise added.
"Splendid. Then why don't we get moving?" he frowned, suddenly, "but wait a minute... what about Aquamarine and Beige?"
"They're onto something, and want to stay a bit longer, Major." Cerise explained.
"Well, I must have searched the whole cave, and I found nothing unusual." Scarlet frowned at the Captains.
"I'm sure you did, Major, but I doubt you found the room, Indigo and I were held in. I suspect they believe there are more such rooms with considerably more Mysteron activity in them," Cerise spoke, thinking fast.
"That's right," agreed Lake. "Besides, it won't hold us up, I know you're worried about Rose, we'll leave now."
"But, they're wasting their time," insisted 'Scarlet'.
Cerise shrugged. "If there's nothing there, then it won't matter if they stay, will it?" she continued, "Just to be certain."
"I guess not," agreed 'Scarlet' reluctantly.
"Why don't you climb aboard, Major," suggested Lake, "while we let Aquamarine know what's happening."
'Scarlet' headed towards the helicopter, unable to prevent Aquamarine and Beige's search of the caves. No matter, he thought, they were most likely to be captured and he was within reach of the locket. Things were still going reasonably as planned.
"Aquamarine, do you have anything to report?"
"Nothing yet, Lake. We're going deeper - may lose radio contact with you, then."
"I don't like that. How can Spectrum contact you if...?"
"Beige can still use her home-made radio."
"Good, alright then. You go ahead with your search, but for goodness sake be careful. If we don't hear anything from you in half an hour..."
"I know the situation, Lake. Just do me a favour and take care - and don't forget to keep a close eye on Rose."
"Certainly will - won't... you know what I mean." Lake grinned.
"Alright then. See you later."
"Right." As she cut communication, Lake shrugged at Cerise. "They have nothing to report, and will be losing Spectrum soon."
"So I gathered, by your reaction." she frowned. "'Scarlet' is coming back. I suppose he wants to get moving."
Black, who had been sitting in a kind of trance in the corner of Scarlet's small cell, looked up, a kind of manic glee in his normally impassive eyes.
"Things are going perfectly, despite Commander Topaz's best efforts," he informed Scarlet. "Within the day, Spectrum will be brought down from the inside, and Earth will be ours for the taking. None of your people suspect a thing, and your daughter herself holds the key we require. Taking it from her should be no great challenge, after this..." He broke off and retrieved the syringe he had used earlier. He refilled it and gave Scarlet another shot of the virus he was using to make the two Metcalfes sick.
Scarlet grimaced as the sharp needle was pushed roughly into his arm. He felt the cold liquid run into his vein. Any moment now he would feel the waves of heat and pain. He'd be delirious and close to unconsciousness, even death, once more. Black withdrew and watched him closely. Despite the cold, stern expression he seemed somehow to have an air of smug satisfaction about him. He watched as Scarlet slumped then turned and left.
Scarlet opened his eyes, something was different. He didn't feel as bad as he had expected, he had the distinct feeling that Black had overlooked one important detail. His retrometabolism was not only fighting the virus as he had expected but perhaps now it had also started to provide immunity from it. Yes, he was still weak, very weak and his whole body hurt like crazy, but it wasn't about how he felt, he knew that Rose would start to feel better too. That single idea was more important than anything. Chained up here, there was nothing he personally could do. He had to pretend to be still desperately ill, it was the only way he could stop Black from hurting Rose.
Cerise kept a close eye on the fake Scarlet as he pretended to fuss over Indigo. She knew that she'd never be able to stop him, since he had her gun, but still, the sight disturbed her on so many levels, she didn't know where to begin.
"What do you suppose he wants?" Lake whispered.
"The locket," Cerise whispered back. "You can see it through her shirt."
Carter looked over to the two female agents, trying to ascertain whether he would have any problems taking the locket from Indigo. Cerise quickly averted her gaze from him and blushed slightly, realising that he had caught her looking. Flattered, he asked them what they had been talking about.
"N...nothing," Cerise stammered. Carter flashed her a dazzling smile.
"Just girl talk," Lake told him. "You wouldn't be interested."
Chuckling to himself, Carter turned back to Indigo, at least trying to appear the doting father. If only she knew, he thought. He knew that there was little chance of taking the locket without Cerise noticing. Unless he could pretend that he was keeping it safe from the Mysterons. That was his safest option.
"Where did that locket come from?" he asked the women.
Cerise and Lake exchanged glances.
"You gave it to her for her fifteenth birthday," Cerise told him. "Remember?"
Thrown, Carter wasn't sure what to say for a moment.
"Oh, yes, of course. Silly me." Now he really was unsure. Were they telling the truth, or were they keeping it from him. He reached out to look at it, but at that moment, Indigo moved, turning onto her side with her hands clutched at her throat.
Lake looked at Cerise. "That blush was well timed," she whispered. "Either that or genuine."
"Ems! What a thought. I was just embarrassed that I had been so obviously staring at him, as if I actually was a lovesick teenager. I'll leave that to the actual teenagers, thank you very much."
Lake shuddered at the thought of who in Spectrum was actually a teenager. "I don't think Rose would be very happy with that implication."
"Probably not," Cerise chuckled, moving over to the fallen agents. Topaz still seemed to be in pain, though from what source no one had been able to ascertain. Indigo seemed to be picking up slightly. Her forehead didn't feel quite as warm as before, and she was no longer sweating. 'Scarlet', however, didn't seem to have been checking this, or overly happy that she was getting better. Cerise assumed that the affliction was caused by the Mysterons, and didn't inform him of her recovering health, instead, shaking her head. Indigo would be able to defend herself against the Mysteronised version of Scarlet soon enough.
Agent Star, careful to use only Topaz's psychic energy, took a peek through Lake's senses and realized that the captain was aware that 'Scarlet' was a fake. The Mysteron knew she couldn't warn Carter without it being felt by Lake, yet she couldn't let the other agent walk straight into a trap unaware. Then Star remembered the other part of her plan, and carefully set up other links within Cerise, Indigo, and the human pilot, getting ready to broadcast Topaz's agony.
Then Carter asked about the locket and Star felt a flash of something before Cerise told her little lie. She examined what she felt, separating three images from the flash; Captain Lake picking up Topaz's locket and placing it on a nearby boulder, Lt. Indigo finding the locket where Lake had left it and placing it around her neck, and Captain Cerise exchanging the two vital chips for fakes, all wrapped up in a wave of worry, concern, and fear. After Cerise checked over the two sick officers, Star let loose with the 'spears' of burning pain she prepared for her enemies.
The first physical sign was Cerise drained of all colour, her eyes wide with shock as the pain seared through her, taking her breath away, she was at first unable to give vent to the agony.
"Cerise? Are you alright?" asked Lake, looking on with concern.
At the same time Indigo curled into a tight ball, in obvious pain. Cerise doubled over, then crumpled to the floor, gasping for breath, crying out with pain and shock.
"Sue!" Lake cried, forgetting herself with the stress of the moment.
She had no time to help her friend, as at that moment the helicopter lurched violently and started to dive. Regaining their feet, Carter and Lake headed towards the cockpit only to see the pilot slumped over the controls.
"Get him out!" shouted Lake, "I'll take over."
Carter pulled the pilot out of the seat with some difficulty. Within moments, Lake was in the chair wrestling with the controls, desperately trying to pull it out of the dive.
With a relieved sigh, she steadied the helicopter and brought it back on course.
"How is he?" she asked, still somewhat shaken.
"He's out cold," replied Carter, without really seeming to care why. "Well, I'd better get back to Rose," he added.
No! thought Lake, whatever had happened to him, it
happened to Cerise and Indigo too. It was very possible that they would
be unconscious too. She couldn't allow this phoney Scarlet to return to
the cabin alone with them. To her knowledge, he'd already tried to kill
Cerise once, now she was probably unconscious. He could kill her,
suffocate her, leaving no mark and blame the mysterious pain for her
death. She had to stop him somehow, but she couldn't leave the controls.
"Scarlet! I need help here," she jerked on the controls making the helicopter buck violently, "the controls have been damaged, it could take more strength than I've got just to stay on course."
"We're nearly there, surely you can manage?" asked Carter turning towards the cabin.
"No! I can't!" she snapped. "What's got into you Major? I know you're worried about Rose but this thing crashing from this height isn't going to help her is it?"
Reluctantly, Carter slid into the seat alongside her. He didn't know the first thing about flying a helicopter, he hoped he wouldn't be called upon to try. Lake had suspected as much, relied on it in fact, the real Scarlet would have seen her lie a mile off. There was nothing wrong with the controls, but she had to keep him with her. Cloudbase was in sight.
"I'm sure you don't need me, Lake," Carter tried again, "I've always said that you're a far better pilot than me."
Lake grinned. "Not bad for a novice, eh?"
Carter's face drained of colour. "Sorry?"
"You taught me all I know, Major, but I've only ever done this in a simulator."
Now 'Scarlet' looked ill. "I was sure Blue took you for a few lessons."
Lake shook her head. "Not in a REAL helicopter." She was enjoying this. The fake Scarlet was really nervous, now.
But, amazingly, he smiled at Lake. "Yes, I think I can understand why you want my support. I'll stand by you - don't worry."
"Thanks, Sir." Lake returned the smile, with gratitude. That'll keep him out of trouble, anyway.
The radio crackled into life, and Green spoke to them. "What is your position, Helicopter A45?"
Lake grabbed the radio. "This is Helicopter A45. WE are approximately..."
"There's not enough time to explain, but the pilot has been taken ill, as have Cerise, Amber and Indigo. I've had to fly this thing, with Major Scarlet's assistance..."
White gestured to Green that he wanted to take the call. "Captain Lake, are you certain that you know what you're doing?"
I hope so... "Yes, Sir. I may have a little problem with landing this chunk of metal, however."
"L-landing?" 'Scarlet' gulped.
"Yes, Major, I HAVE to land."
"Can't Major Scarlet assist you?"
Lake glanced at Carter, who looked less than helpful. "By all appearances, Sir, I'm the only person on this aircraft feeling fine..." What else could she say, with Carter sitting beside her?
"Don't worry, Captain, we'll talk you through it if need be. You'll be fine. I'll advise Doctor Fawn that we have some casualties."
"Thank you Colonel, I'll contact you again as I approach the helipad. You might want to have a fire crew on standby, just in case."
Carter paled visibly, whilst Lake had difficulty hiding her pleasure at watching, what she was now sure was a Mysteron, squirm. But there was something bothering her, the fake Scarlet was after the locket, that she had worked out, and presumably he wanted the chips. But why hadn't he just taken it and killed them all? Was there something else he needed? Something on Cloudbase perhaps? He'd seemed very keen to get there. Topaz had told Indigo to give them to the General, that he'd know what to do. That could only mean that whatever means would be used to read the data stored on them, that source was on Cloudbase. She only hoped she could warn them before 'Scarlet' succeeded.
"Lieutenant Green," began the Colonel thoughtfully, "I want a security team to meet that helicopter. Lake's one of the best pilots we have, if she's inventing a story like that then my guess is that there's something very wrong onboard that helicopter."
Cerise started to stir, every inch of her ached with a deep pain. She had never felt so bad in her life, it was an effort merely to open her eyes. Even the surprise of seeing somebody stood over her didn't give her the extra strength she needed to react as she'd liked to have done.
"Amber?" she whispered. Cerise was barely audible; still dazed, she stared up as Topaz moved in and out of focus.
Topaz crouched down beside Cerise and fumbled with the vest pocket.
"I'm sorry, Sue," the commander whimpered. "Star injected some sort of virus into my system. According to her, it's strong enough to incapacitate Scarlet and because of that, I won't last more than two hours without help. That, combined with her psychic powers puts thing rather out of my control."
Pulling out the chip, Topaz scanned its surface with a practiced eye, looking for some kind of identifying mark. She then breathed a sigh of relief and palmed the chip. Topaz then gave Cerise a look-alike chip, placing it in the vest pocket where the original laid.
"It's not the chip, Agent Star," the yellow officer was heard to whisper, as she wobbled back to her stretcher. "The files, the journals, are safe from your treacherous hands."
<I will know the secrets that your general hides.> The response, though unspoken, was heard by those present and awake. <I will have them, and I will use them to destroy Spectrum. True justice will be served, Amber. For you and your pathetic race.>
Scarlet shuffled uneasily in his seat. "You're doing fine, Captain..." he whispered, as if so much as raising his voice was dangerous.
Lake glanced at him, casually. "I hope you're right, Sir."
"My being a better pilot than you, for a start..."
Carter shuddered. You and me both!
Lake's mind drifted back to her friends in the back of the helicopter. Were they all right? Was Amber back to normal? How were Rose and Cerise?
Carter tapped her shoulder, anxiously. "PLEASE don't lose concentration..."
Lake let the aircraft bounce a little. "Sorry, sir! Oops!"
"Wh... what's happening?" Cerise gasped as the aircraft shuddered beneath her. She crept carefully toward the cockpit
"L..Lake?" Cerise stammered. "What's happening?"
Lake turned, in part relieved to see Cerise
alive, but very much shocked by the condition of her. She was pale,
obviously in pain and looked about set to pass out again. A new concern
settled itself in Lake's mind, Cerise was in no condition to think clearly,
what if she gave her away? Lake had to shut her up fast, there wasn't much
choice, but it still didn't make her feel any better about it. Pretending
that the moment's distraction had affected her piloting, Lake swung the
helicopter into a partial roll. Cerise was thrown from her already
unsteady feet onto the floor of the cockpit. She lay unmoving at Carter's feet.
"Is she okay, Major?" Lake winced.
Carter crouched at her side as Lake looked on.
"She's okay, just unconscious."
Lake turned back to the controls, relieved. She felt bad about having to do that, but felt sure Cerise would forgive her.
Carter stared down at the prone Spectrum captain, suddenly noticing the partly open tunic pocket. He could see out of the corner of it, a computer chip plainly visible.
What was that doing there? he thought. Had they seen though the Mysteron deception? Was that a chip from the locket? It seemed a little coincidental otherwise. Now it started to make sense why Aquamarine and Beige had chosen to stay behind. He glanced suspiciously at Lake as he carefully removed the chip from Cerise's pocket. There were two chips, he knew that, where was the other one? He felt the answer was sitting right next to him. But it was too late, when he looked up, he saw the helicopter already being lowered on its hydraulics into the hangar. They had landed.
"Smooth landing, Captain," he commented dryly. "Almost as if you'd done it before."
Lake turned on him, angrily. "With all due respect, Major, now is not the time for this. Cerise needs medical attention, as do Indigo, Topaz and the pilot."
Scarlet glowered at her. "Not until I get some answers, Captain."
Lake's head swam - either the Mysteron meant no good, or the virus her friends had caught was striking her, too. "What's got into you? You're daughter is very ill, and you want to interrogate me? Aren't you concerned for Rose at all?"
"You're right, of course. My daughter's health comes first," he stabbed a finger at Lake face, "but you'd better watch you're step, Lake."
Lake paled visibly, but shrugged it off. "I hope you're not threatening me, Sir, because I'm sure the Colonel wouldn't approve..."
Carter ignored her. "Help me carry them out, Captain. Cerise first."
Under the surface, Scarlet struggled against his bonds. He was still weak from the virus that his system was rejecting. He stopped when Black returned for his next shot, but as soon as the Mysteron agent had left, Scarlet resumed his task. Remembering an old film he had once seen, Scarlet pushed his left thumb until it cracked. Scarlet bit his lip to prevent a cry of pain from escaping. Hissing in pain, he pulled his hand through the ropes and they fell loose.
He moved onto the ropes binding his feet. Able to use only one hand, it took longer than he would have liked, but the knots relented eventually and released their captive. Jumping to his feet, Scarlet rushed out of the cave he had been prisoner in and headed back towards where his sense of direction told him the mouth of the cave network was.
"Major Scarlet! Am I glad to see you!" Aquamarine and Beige smiled at him.
"Not half as glad as I am to see you, Aqua..." he glanced at Beige, "and even that one!" he grinned, half humorously.
"Think we should've left him here to suffer?" Beige asked, cheekily.
Captain Aquamarine shook her head at the Lieutenant. "Now's not the time - we have to get out of here!"
Major Scarlet nodded. "The sooner the better - I want to put as much distance between me and this cave as possible!"
Meanwhile, Captain Lake was seated in the corridor outside of Sickbay. She hoped her friends would be alright. Feeling a twinge of sickness, she looked up, to see fake Scarlet staring down at her.
He was glaring at her with bitter contempt.
"So what did you hope to achieve? Did you think they'd believe you, over me?"
Carter was referring to the "welcome party" of security waiting for them in the hangar. After a word from Lake, the team had reluctantly arrested Scarlet, initially on the basis of it being a precaution following his having been in enemy hands for so long. Interrogation had proved to them beyond doubt that he was who he said he was and that he was still loyal to Spectrum. Lake wondered if they had really bothered, to her, it was obvious. It became increasingly obvious to her when he seized her left wrist in a vice like grip and hauled her to her feet. Dragging the protesting Captain, Scarlet turned and waved his finger at her.
"No more of that, Lake or you'll regret it!"
"What do you want?"
Pushing her through the door of one of the many storage bays, Scarlet released her as he threw her against the far wall.
"I want the other chip."
"What chip?" Lake asked, trying to ignore the pain in her wrist.
"Don't play games with me, Scarlet Lady," Carter hissed, "you know what I mean. Where is the partner of the chip in Cerise's vest?"
"I really don't know what you mean, Major."
Carter put his face close to Lake's. "Oh, I think you do, and I think it's not too far away, is it?" He started searching the pockets of Lake's vest with his free hand.
Lake, feeling violated, pushed against Carter's chest with her free hand. Her back was against the wall, and she managed to get enough leverage to shove him away far enough to twist herself free and run into Sickbay, where 'Scarlet' could not hurt her. She had to get rid of that chip somehow, before 'Scarlet' found it. Grimly, she realised that she should have left it either in the locket, or on the surface.
She took a few shaky breaths, feeling her mind whirl.
"Captain Lake? Are you alright?"
In all honesty, do I LOOK alright?
Doctor Fawn touched her arm, gently.
"OWW! Get off - that hurts!" Lake pulled away, her pale face staring at him.
"Why? What's wrong?"
Lake shuddered. "Nothing."
Lake calmed herself. Nobody can hurt me in here, relax Lieutenant! "How are our colleagues doing?"
"I don't understand it - Indigo, Cerise and Williamson - that's your pilot - don't have anything wrong."
"They're sick, but I can't find anything wrong. Topaz, on the other hand..."
"What's wrong with Topaz?"
"I've had to move her into quarantine, she has a rare strain of a very potent virus. There is an anti-serum but she'll need it fast. I'm having it flown in, it should be here within the next half hour. There's little I can do for her till then."
"But the others, they're okay?"
"They're showing all the signs of complete mental and physical exhaustion, especially Indigo, but there seems to be no obvious cause," Fawn sighed, it worried him when a diagnosis was just so much guesswork.
"It was very sudden. I don't know about Indigo, but Cerise and Williamson were affected by what seemed to be a sudden terrible pain at the same time."
"But not you or Scarlet?"
"Huh! Scarlet!" Lake muttered under her breath, then her eyes brightened. "Scarlet! You'll know straight away, all you have to do is a DNA check."
"A DNA test? On Scarlet? Why?"
"Please Fawn, just humour me. Do it to prove me wrong if you like."
Fawn pondered this for a moment. "Well, I guess he has been acting a little strange. But it could be that virus. Okay Lake, but keep this to yourself."
"Thanks, Doc!" Lake smiled, relieved.
"I'm sorry, no go."
Aquamarine looked up to Scarlet with a frustrated look. For long minutes, she had been trying to contact Cloudbase, to inform them of the impostor that had been transported there under, posing as the Major. But somehow, neither Aquamarine, nor Beige had been able to reach through.
"Try again," Scarlet ordered for another time. He was concerned. Not only for the danger Cloudbase could be in itself, or for the chips the Mysterons wanted, but also for a very personal reason. He was deadly worried for his daughter, whom Aquamarine had reported sick to him, and who would be defenceless against Carter's shady plans.
"I can’t," Aquamarine answered, her mic flipping back on her cap visor. "It's like there's something jamming the frequencies. I can’t reach them, and I bet they can't reach me."
Beige was keeping watch at the entrance of the small cave the three of them where hiding in. There were Mysterons agents swarming the place. No doubt, they were searching for their missing prisoner, whose absence had now become noticed.
"We'd better find a way to get out of this place," she whispered nervously over her shoulder, addressing the two senior officers. "I don't mean to alarm you two, but if we stay here, we're bound to be discovered soon!"
Scarlet nodded grimly. "Agreed. We must get out of here, alert Cloudbase and find a way to stop Carter to get his hands on those chips."
"You don't look too well, Major."
Upon Aquamarine's concerned remark, Scarlet wiped his feverous brow, grumbling. "A bit under the weather from that virus Black had been given me. But I do feel better than before. My metabolism has been fighting the virus and had found a way to strengthen against it. I'm not totally immune to it, though. I guess I will need a good sleep to be totally on top." He sighed. "But I don't have time to sleep at the moment, that's for certain."
"Why did Black give you that serum, to begin with?" Beige asked, curious. "I really can't see the point to this."
"Oh, that's quite easily explained," Scarlet said bitterly. "It's because of Rose. Black felt certain that SHE, at least, will be able to feel or see that Carter wasn't me..."
"And...?" Aquamarine asked, failing to see the connection.
"There's a link between Rose and me, Captain. We sometimes feel when we're sick, or injured, especially in the most stressful moments. This time certainly qualifies as one. Black knew that. By making me feel so sick with the injection of that virus, he knew Rose would also feel the effects."
"That's why she was so sick," Aquamarine nodded, finally.
"That lowlife Black," Beige grumbled. "I swear if I get my hands on him..."
"We don't have the time for this right now," Scarlet replied. "I want to get back on Cloudbase, and be there for my daughter. I can't bear the thought of her being so defenceless against a man posing as me!"
Aquamarine seemed thoughtful. "Major, I just had a thought: if Rose was so sick because of your condition... Doesn't it mean she must be feeling better, now?"
Scarlet sighed deeply. "Frankly, Kelly... I'd wish I could tell you. It's all I could do to stay on my feet right now."
Aquamarine addressed him a faint but encouraging smile. "Yeah, but you know Rose... She's a strong kid. Like her dad. I would bet anything she'll be able to pull through the effects of that virus, like you did."
"I hope you're right, Captain," a grim-looking Scarlet answered. "And I also hope it won't be too late!"
Indigo opened her eyes and instantly regretted it. The lights aggravated her already pounding head. Shielding her eyes from the light, she heard Dr. Fawn and Lake, talking away from the beds.
"Doctor?" she called out. Her voice was thin and reedy, and her throat hurt.
Fawn heard Indigo, and strode over to the bed where she was lying.
"Scarlet," was all that she could manage before starting in a coughing fit.
Lake and Fawn exchanged glances. Both thought that whatever Indigo would tell them would override any reason for a DNA test to be done. Even in sickness, the link shared by Scarlet and Indigo was strong enough for one to determine the other's identity with complete certainty.
"It's not Dad."
"What did I tell you?" Lake crowed. "Scarlet is an impostor."
"Of course," Fawn realised. "I couldn't find anything that would make her ill in the tests I did," he explained to Lake. "It must be Major Scarlet who's sick. The one here is completely healthy."
Colonel Blue entered the control room,
searching for the general. He spotted the man standing in one of the
observation tubes, looking out over the landing strips.
"It's an interesting view, General," the colonel said, stepping up behind White.
"Yes, Colonel Blue, it is. It's the one thing I didn't realize how much I'd enjoyed, until I actually started missing it," General White commented, as he turned towards his successor. "But I get the feeling that's not the reason why you sought me out."
"No, I came for an explanation. Two days ago, someone made an attempt to access a directory of files most of us didn't know existed, and an hour after the attempt was thwarted, you were on a plane back to Cloudbase. After you arrived and received command for this incident's duration, you contacted Commander Topaz about a key to those files. And when Scarlet and Indigo came back, you sent them to Topaz's post for that key. I may not know how or why, but it didn't take me long to see that all this is somehow connected."
"I suppose you should know the whole story. By the way, how are the returning officers?"
"Commander Topaz is seriously ill, needing a rare anti-serum in order to recover, and is currently in quarantine until it arrives. Captain Cerise, Lt. Indigo, and the pilot, Sgt. Williamson, are mentally and physically exhausted, for no apparent reason. However they are exhibiting some of the same symptoms as Topaz. Captain Lake is perfectly fine and wishes to speak to you as soon as possible. As for Major Scarlet, well..."
"Something the matter?"
"Yea... No... I don't know. I mean the guy looks, sounds, and acts like Scarlet, and appears to have same memories, but it's not Paul looking out through those blue eyes of his, if you catch my drift."
"I understand perfectly, Colonel. You think that he's a replica, of either Scarlet himself, or of someone who's looks and been trained to act like Scarlet."
"General White," Captain Green called out, " someone's trying to access the files again. And no, they do not have the third password yet."
"Right, Captain, you know what to do," White responded. "Colonel Blue, if you'll accompany me down to Sickbay, I'll explain things along the way."
Lake paced about the Sickbay as she waited for further news on her colleagues. Seeing General White and Colonel Blue she sighed, heavily. Wonder what's going on now... I hope it's good, whatever it is.
She shuddered as Carter entered the room behind her. "Would you like to tell me why Rose just asked me what I've done to her father?"
Feeling her face flush, she turned to him. "Well, I don't know, Sir..." she folded her arms, "Perhaps you could tell me."
"You've flipped, Captain!"
Lake glowered at him. "I think not!"
"You think you're so clever, don't you Lake. The helicopter prank, the business with the 'welcome committee'..."
"You think it was a joke?!"
"A very sick joke, from a VERY sick person!"
Lake began to step back, fearfully. She didn't like Carter's tone at all. Cerise, I REALLY wish you were here, right now!
"That will be enough!"
Lake turned around. It wasn't Cerise who was standing behind her, but Lieutenant Indigo herself. Somehow she had dragged herself off of bed to come into the waiting room. She was holding herself against the wall, to keep herself straight and was glaring with anger at Carter. The latter twitched. He walked toward her, his arms held out to her.
"Rose, sweetie, what are you doing there? You should be resting, you can't..."
He had reached her, but she pushed him off, with fury. "Don't you 'honey' me, you Mysteron scum! You're not my father! You're not even CLOSE! You're not even a replicate, as far as I can tell! You're nothing but a vile impostor!"
"Rose, you're sick. You don't know what you're saying..."
"I know more than you may think," Indigo spat angrily. "I'm sick because my father is probably sick himself! And seeing how healthy you look, you are definitely not him!"
"That's all the confirmation we needed." That was General White's voice. He and Colonel Blue were watching in silence what was going on. They nodded to each others and Blue only made a gesture to the opened door. Four guards, who where waiting outside, entered, followed by Doctor Fawn.
"Arrest him," Blue ordered, pointing to Carter.
Lake let out a sigh of relief, seeing the guards moving on to apprehend the false Scarlet.
Colonel Blue then turned to the general and said something in a quiet, concerned tone. White nodded, and when the guards had successfully captured and disarmed Carter, the colonel followed them out of the sickbay and towards an interrogation room. White watched the six leave, then turned to Doctor Fawn.
"Doctor, do you mind if Captain Lake and I borrowed your office?"
"Not at all," Fawn answered, repositioning the small package he carried, "I'm going to tend to my patients first, including the one currently in quarantine. As for you, lieutenant, I suggest you get back into bed and get some rest."
"Just a minute, Doctor," Indigo replied. She then reached into her shirt, pulling out the locket there. "General, Commander Topaz wanted me to give this to you. She said you would know why she sent it."
White stepped forward to receive the locket and spoke to Indigo in a low, almost whispered, voice. Then, with a nod to the doctor, he headed to the office with Lake close behind.
Once the door slid shut behind them, General White turned to look at Captain Lake.
"So tell me, Captain," he asked, his voice deadly serious, "why do I get the feeling that when I open this locket, I'm going to find a pair of chips from somebody's illicit radio?"
Agent Star stretched mentally, testing to see if both the distance and Carter's distraction were enough to keep Captain Lake from sensing the female Mysteron. Satisfied with the results, Star took control once again and rewoven the psionic illusions that she wore to hide her paleness and inhumanity from the Spectrum agents around her before suppressing her unusual energies once more. Then, with Topaz's spirit temporarily overwhelmed by the virus, the Agent started to unite the two psionic matrices by merging the copied portions of her personality with the originals in Amber's. Hopefully, when she's through, Star could maintain and draw off of both matrices without the other girl's interference, allowing her to use more powerful talents or to pass herself off as one of the Earth men.
Star was at the point when the integration would sustain itself when Doctor Fawn walked in with a small vial and a syringe and wearing appropriate protective gear. Remembering the high pain tolerance Topaz has, Star cautiously opened her eyes to view her visitor. Wincing at the brightness of the light, she reached for the sunglasses that were on the nightstand and fumbled, knocking them to the floor. She would have reached down for them, except Fawn beat her to it, picking up the shades and placing them over 'Topaz's' eyes.
"Thank you, sir," the agent said, mimicking Amber's voice and reaction. "I guess I'm no longer used to waking up in such bright lighting."
"Not a problem, Commander," the doctor replied. "The welfare of my patients is always one of my top concerns. Speaking of which, the anti-serum for that virus you caught is here."
He picked up the syringe and vial that he brought in, and drew off a measured amount of the liquid in the vial. Star realized what that indicated and 'happily' pushed up a sleeve for the injection. Fawn frowned slightly as he saw the yellowing bruise from the previous needle, then added a second needle mark to her collection.
"There, now. Hopefully, you'll be out of here in a day, maybe even sooner if your gift for quick recoveries decides to kick in."
"Not to worry Doctor Fawn," Star answered with a cool tone of certainty. "I have a feeling I'll be fine very soon. Just fine."
"This isn't Topaz," Indigo was telling herself, while standing in the doorway of the Commander's room, hidden from her view, narrowing her eyes at her. Oh, sure, that's her body... But the mind controlling it isn't Topaz'. There's somebody else in there. Somebody with a strange origin. A Mysteron, unlike I've ever felt before.
Indigo didn't know HOW she knew that, but she knew. Perhaps it was her own uniqueness that made her feel that. She was unlike anybody else, after all. Neither totally human, nor Mysteron. Her that uniqueness of hers was making her immune to 'Topaz' s attempt to disrupt people's perception. Well, Indigo had been affected by this too, earlier, because of her sickness. But now she was recovering from it. And somehow 'Topaz' couldn't feel that the young woman wasn't affected anymore.
I'll be keeping my eyes on you, Commander Topaz, Amber Nytstar, or whatever you may be calling yourself. I'll be watching you all of the way... I'll learn what you're up to, you can count on me!
"For exactly the reason that you suspect that's what you'll find, General," replied Lake handing over the chip from her pocket. "I take it the chips are important?"
"Yes, Lake, they are, but I don't approve of my officers risking their lives so recklessly. I presume Cerise has the other?"
"Yes, Sir," nodded Lake slightly disheartened by the apparent reprimand. She and Cerise had risked their lives because of those chips, without even being aware of their significance.
White frowned as he saw her eyes lower. "Lake, you did a good job, you kept them safe from Mysteron hands. Yes they're important, but not so I lose good officers over them."
"Yes, Sir," replied Lake slightly brighter.
White indicated towards the door to the office and waited as Lake led the way to Cerise's bed.
Perhaps it was the earlier commotion, but the timing was perfect. As the pair approached Cerise began to open her eyes. Slowly at first, then closing them tightly, the headache she felt from being thrown to the floor of the helicopter didn't seem in any hurry clear. She tried again, opening her eyes she saw White stood next to her.
"General!" she said, trying to get up only to fall back down almost immediately.
"Relax, Cerise. I just want the chip, that's all, oh and your assurance you will curb your recklessness."
Cerise glanced at him, a slightly look of amusement on her face. She didn't think that was likely to happen, and she certainly couldn't promise. Behind White, Lake was removing the chip from Cerise's tunic which lay on the chair beside the bed. Cerise frowned, that wasn't possible, surely?
"General, I don't understand, Topaz...I'm sure she took it. I think."
Lake handed the second chip to White.
"You must be mistaken, Cerise. Now get some rest."
"I'm fine, General really," she replied without trying to get up again. Realising another failure even to sit up would not further her cause much.
"I'll be the judge of that, Cerise," came the deep, firm voice of Doctor Fawn as he returned from Topaz's room.
Cerise frowned in annoyance. She really didn't want to be stuck in Sickbay.
Indigo, following orders (for once), jumped back onto her bed. Realising that 'Topaz' was going to recover from her illness, Indigo had to feign her own. She mustn't realise that I know she's not Amber. If I can fake sickness, she won't realise.
Groaning, Indigo lay back onto her bed, next to Cerise's and closed her eyes.
Lake stared at her ill colleagues, then turned to White and Fawn, her concern was evident in her eyes.
Fawn gestured to her to step outside. Once the two were in the office, he gave the Captain a reassuring smile. "They'll be fine, Lake - they just need plenty of rest."
The Captain nodded. "Right. Good."
"Indigo seems to be recovering quickly, but Cerise has taken a nasty bump, as well as the weakness..."
Lake lowered her eyes, guiltily.
"Am I missing something?"
"Uhh... not exactly..." she gave a nervous laugh, "I gave Sue the knock..."
"I was trying to keep Fake Scarlet busy... so I told him I'm a trainee pilot..."
"So you made it convincing."
She looked up. "What else could I do?"
Fawn shook his head. "I understand, Lake."
"It doesn't make me feel any less guilty, though..."
"Well, why don't you explain things to her?" suggested Fawn. "I doubt she knows what happened anyway, but it may help you to feel better."
Returning to Cerise and Indigo's room, Lake and Fawn were surprised to see the pair of weakened officers arguing as quietly as they could.
"You can't go in there!" insisted Indigo.
"She's got the other chip, I'm certain of it."
"Then your pocket just grew a new one, did it?"
"I don't know! I don't remember how that got there but I do remember her taking it."
Indigo sighed inwardly, she knew that somehow that was not Topaz in the other room but she hesitated to tell Cerise. Topaz's frequently vocal mistrust of the Spectrum Mysteron staff had lead to the point where Indigo now feared that if she did say what she knew, that it would be assumed to be merely lashing out against her.
"You can't go in there," she repeated.
"Why not, I'm not going to catch anything, Fawn's given her the injection already..." Cerise's voice trailed off. "Rose, do you think the virus Topaz has is the same as what they're doing to the Major?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, if it's the same thing, if you get the injection, will that help him feel better?"
"The pair of you, get back in those beds!" Fawn shouted.
"You may be onto something there, Cerise. If I can feel the effects of a virus given to my father, than surely he can feel the effects of a cure given to me. That makes sense.
"Dr. Fawn? Sue's just had a brilliant idea..."
As Indigo explained, Lake took a seat beside Cerise.
"Are you alright, Ems? You look terrible."
The Captain cleared her throat. "I'm sorry about earlier, Sue..."
"What are you talking about?"
"I... Fake Scarlet was trying to get at you and Indigo while you were alone - I had to pilot the helicopter - and... I had to keep him busy."
Cerise smiled at her. "Then why are you sorry? You must have done a good job."
Lake flushed, not quite knowing what to say. "I... I told him I wasn't a very good pilot..."
"You did what?"
"And then..." she lowered her gaze, "Then you came into the cockpit, and I thought you might give my little game away..."
Cerise stared at her. "Well..."
Lake winced. "Sorry, Captain, but I didn't know what to do... so I made you lose balance and fall."
Cerise smiled at her. "You're becoming quite an actress!"
Hardly able to believe it, Lake stared at her partner. "You mean... you're not angry?"
"Of course not. You did what you had to."
"Oh... oh, good."
Cerise suddenly became stern. "But don't think of making a habit of it. And you scared me, down in that cave." Seeing her partner blush, she relented, patting her shoulder. "But it was worth it, if it gets one over on the Mysterons."
"What's odd, Major?" Aquamarine asked, glancing briefly away from the uneven tunnel to look at him.
"I feel almost better. It's almost as if I was never sick in the first place."
"What's odd about that? It's just your retrometabolism kicking in."
"No," Scarlet countered. "It doesn't act that quickly. There's something else."
The three former Mysterons shivered upon exiting the cave system into a blizzard.
"We have to get to the Research Centre," shouted Scarlet.
"But where is it?" Beige asked, unable to see anything further than about two inches from her nose.
"I don't know," Lake grumbled. "Try your radio. Maybe we can get a fix on their position from that."
General White frowned. "Not a word from our members still in the cave..."
Captain Green turned to face him. "Should we send out reinforcements, Sir?"
"I'm beginning to think we should" White shook his head, "I want Lake in here."
Captain Lake entered the Control Room and took a seat before her C/O.
"Lake, Spectrum hasn't received a word from Aquamarine, Beige or Scarlet for quite some time."
Lake paled visibly.
"Now, I know that both Cerise and Indigo are in no fit shape to help, right now. And as for Topaz..."
She nodded, solemnly.
"Therefore, I want you to take a medical helicopter and make the journey with an angel escort. Whatever is going on in that cave could well be highly dangerous, and I don't want to risk all my members."
Lake drew a deep breath, and nodded. "I understand perfectly, General."
White gave her a rare smile, and stood to shake her hand. "Good luck, Captain."
As she left to prepare, Lake prayed she wouldn't need luck.
Captain Green turned a worried face to the General. "Sir?"
"What is it, Green?"
"Do you think it's a good idea to send her in alone?"
"Captain, I've told you about questioning my decisions before."
"I know, Sir, but..."
"What are you trying to say?" White demanded.
"Can I join in the search, General? An extra pair of hands could make all the difference."
Same old Green, White thought, with amusement. He decided to tease him. "Why, Green? Would you like to hold her hand?"
The Captain cleared his throat. "No, Sir, of course not."
"If you say so," White hid a smile, "alright, Green, if you think she'll need help, go along with Lake."
Green shot from his chair. "Thank you, Sir."
"But the Angel flight will be keeping a close eye on you," White added, suppressing a chuckle.
Lake was ensuring that she had all she'd possibly need. "First aid kit... check... blankets..."
She whirled, to find Green standing beside her with a pile of blankets. "Are you sure you'll need all these?"
"That depends on what's happened since we left them," Lake explained, "I just hope they're alright..."
"You and me both!"
Lake frowned, slightly. "Seymour, I don't mean to be rude... but what are you doing here?"
"Colonel White gave me permission to help you. I thought that it might be difficult for you, if you had to carry Major Scarlet, or something."
Lake laughed at the thought of it. "Good point."
"Do we have everything?"
"I think so..." Lake studied her list, thoughtfully, before handing it to Green. "What do you think?"
Green read it through. "I think you packed everything but the kitchen sink!"
"Well, I want to be prepared."
"Yes, but can the helicopter fly with all that on it?"
Lake nodded, "It should do."
"Let's go, then."
She smiled. Our first mission together alone...
"Are you coming, Captain?"
Lake blinked. "Yeah - coming. Sorry."
Beige's radio crackled to life as Scarlet and Aquamarine kept a sharp look out for Mysterons. It was difficult to see with the flurries of snow whirling about them. Someone, however was having less difficulty. Armed with a set of heat detecting binoculars, Captain Black was able to make out three distinct forms outside the mouth of the cave. One was considerably taller than the other two.
"Our copy may have been discovered, Scarlet, but you know there is another working to obtain those chips who is as yet undetected. I cannot allow you to contact or return to Cloudbase."
Raising his gun, Black fired a single shot, smiling as he saw the figure crumple.
The sound of a helicopter distracted him.
"So, a rescue party?" Black mused. "They must not be allowed to find them."
Suddenly, the helijet that Lake was flying fell sharply.
"What was that?" Green asked, concerned.
Lake shook her head, wrestling with the controls. "I don't know," she said, "but I'm not in control anymore." She shuddered, feeling the familiar coldness associated with the Mysterons' control.
"Black," she whispered.
As the helijet lurched again, Lake struggled with the controls in desperation. "Seymour..." she said through gritted teeth, "I want you... to bail out as soon... as you get the opportunity."
"Look, if I can land this thing I will - but I don't want to risk both our lives."
Green looked away. "Good luck, Ems."
"I won't need it. Take care, Seymour."
"S.I.G.," with that, Green was gone.
"Major Scarlet," Aquamarine was trying desperately to get some sort of response.
"Let ME try," Beige told her, "Hey, Paul, move yourself, you great heap of lard!"
Scarlet opened one eye, and looked up at her. "That will be quite enough, Lieutenant."
"Welcome back, Major," Beige smirked at him, cheekily.
Aquamarine knelt beside him. "Are you alright?"
Scarlet nodded. "I'll live."
They looked up, at the sound of the helijet.
"That sounds low," Scarlet commented.
"A rescue party?" Aquamarine asked, thinking aloud.
Beige jumped. "What was that?" she could just about make out a shape coming down not far from them.
"What? What is it?" Aquamarine leapt to her feet.
Green gasped with pain as he hit the snow and rolled to the side, smashing himself against something hard. He pulled himself to his feet, rubbing his sore shoulder. He looked about him, trying to locate the helijet. This is hopeless - I can hardly see my hand in front of me!
Meanwhile, Lake was still wrestling with the controls. Curse you, Mysterons! If I had a missile right now, I'd destroy your whole planet!
The radio of the helijet crackled to life. "Hello, Scarlet Lady."
She shuddered. "If you won't speak to me properly, Black, the radio will go off."
"It IS off," she thought she heard her enemy chuckle, "I suppose you want to land your craft?"
The Captain didn't answer.
"In that case, you won't mind if I were to run it into the ground."
What could she do? Beg him to spare herself and colleagues their only ticket home? That would hardly go down well. "I would like to be allowed to land my craft without interruption, thank you."
No answer. The helijet continued to plummet.
"What do you want from me?"
"That's quite simple, SL... I want you out of the way - for good."
Lake shuddered, but refused to give in. She continued to wrestle with the controls. Lord, help me! She found an electron gun, and stared at it. If this fries the system, my efforts will be useless. On the other hand, fighting the controls will be a fat lot of good - I don't think! She plucked up her courage, and pointed the gun as far from her as possible. Here goes...
Aquamarine found Green standing alone, shivering and looking around - mainly at the sky. "Captain Green! What are you doing here?"
Green continued to stare at the sky. "Captain Lake and I were sent here as a rescue party. The Angels should be here, too, but they were delayed."
"And where is Lake?"
Green shuddered. "In a helijet that is under Mysteron control."
Aquamarine paled. "What?!"
Captain Green continued to look up, straining to see the helicopter, but with the blizzard, he could barely see Captain Aquamarine. He wasn't sure which was the greater shock, the sudden flash of the electric discharge from the electron rifle or the zing of the bullet which flew past his ear.
Diving to the snow, he pulled Aquamarine down too.
"That was close! But what's going on, that flash, I hope E..Lake is alright!"
Aquamarine could hear the concern in his voice, but she knew the likely source of the shooting and helicopter control was Captain Black. He had them pinned down in a blizzard. He could see them but they had no idea where he was. He could be on the move, even closing in on them as they lay shivering in the snow. The helicopter was their only chance. Aquamarine prayed that Lake could land it safely, for all their sakes.
Lake screamed as the helijet swerved suddenly in the air. Suddenly, she realised why - she had retaken control of the craft. "Yahoooo!" She spun around and tried to find her colleagues. Last thing I want to do is land on them... she frowned. "For pity's sake, where are they? Stupid snow - it all looks the same!"
Aquamarine frowned. "That sounds really close, but I can't see the lights on the chopper."
The other agents look around, looking a bit daft.
"It's above us!" Green shouted. "Coming in to land! RUN!!!"
The agents scattered, trying to avoid being squished by the helicopter.
Lake jumped from the helijet, and dusted herself off. "Well, that wasn't half as bad as it could've been," she looked about her, "I wonder where the others are..."
"Lake, you almost hit us!" Scarlet informed her, as he loomed out of the swirling snow.
The Captain could feel herself turning red, "Oh..."
"OH?" the Major snapped, "Lake, I'd like to know WHY you can't be a little more careful!"
Captain Green stood beside her. "It's not her fault, Major - this blizzard makes everything difficult."
Lake cleared her throat, not wanting an argument to go on too long. "Anyway, at least I didn't injure anyone. But where have Aquamarine and Beige gone?"
Beige appeared from nowhere, running at Scarlet with a heap of snow. Scarlet didn't know what hit him, as she leapt up, and shoved the cold substance down his back. "Aarrgh!"
Beige and Lake began to laugh.
"Why you..." the Major lunged at the Lieutenant.
"Major, with all due respect..." Green began.
"This isn't helping."
Scarlet cleared his throat, and tried to dust himself off. "Alright, alright, let's get out of here."
Shivering, Lake looked around her. "I don't think that's a very good idea, right now. This blizzard seems to be getting worse."
"Well then, I suggest we wait it out in the helicopter - I'm not going back to that cave!"
Everyone agreed with that comment, and tried to pile into the helicopter. Climbing into the back, Lake cried out.
"Captain Lake!" Green snatched his gun and ran in hot pursuit.
Scarlet slowly left his seat, grabbed the first object that came to hand, and followed quietly. He could hear voices coming from the back, but it was difficult to say who they belonged to, or what was being said.
Throwing the door open, the Major came face to face with his worst nightmare. Captain Black was seated casually at the rear of the helicopter, his left arm pulled tightly around Captain Lake's neck. In his right hand he held a Mysteron gun. Scarlet froze as he considered his options; there weren't many. The defiant Lake continued to struggle but her protestations became ever weaker as Black tightened his grip. Lake was on the verge of passing out and Scarlet could sense Captain Green's fury at her treatment. Scarlet knew he had to do something quickly before Green did something rash.
"Congratulations Scarlet, you escaped and your double has been discovered, but did you think I'd allow you to leave?"
"Your plans have been thwarted Black, you can't win!"
"No? Well, you may well have discovered your double, but what about Commander Topaz? As yet undetected, and as, to all intents and purposes she still is Commander Topaz, she will remain undetected until our mission is completed."
A brief smile spread on Scarlet's face. Black frowned. "What is it now?"
"Just wondering something here," Scarlet's answered. "What I just heard... Is it the Mysterons' bragging, thinking we won't be able to get free, or my old friend Conrad Turner still trying to fight their control, and passing on information that may be useful to us? In any case... Thank you, Captain Black. We'll put that information to good use once we'll be back on Cloudbase." His features hardened. "Because we will, 'old friend'!"
"As if you didn't know about Topaz yourself, Scarlet!" Black snorted derisively.
"Yes. I knew, of course. But they..." Scarlet pointed to the other Spectrum officers surrounding him, "They didn't know."
"Topaz," grumbled Aquamarine. "Why, that traitor... Wait until we're back, I'll show her a piece of my mind."
"I prefer to show Black!" That was Lake’s voice as she had kept apparently quiet for the last seconds. Suddenly, she brought her heel violently on Black's foot. The heavy boot crushed down on his toes and he let out a yelp, at the same time, letting go of Lake. She dived to safety.
Now it was up to the others to apprehend the renegade Spectrum officer.
Stretched out on the bed, with her eyes closed, Topaz/Star appeared to be in a deep sleep. Actually, the agent had been focused on the battle within her own body, trying to channel as much energy as possible to the immune system. The anti-serum had purged much of the toxins that the virus dumped into her system, allowing her natural defences to concentrate on the disease itself, then added to those defences with antibodies specifically tailored to counter the virus.
Now, with her body in almost perfect health, Agent Star concentrated on locating the chips, and a way off the base. The second part of her list was easier to find than the first, as several people were convinced that they knew the location of one of the chips. General White believed he had both chips, while Carter thought he gotten Cerise's chip, and Cerise was certain that she saw Topaz take the chip back. Then Star's ears began to 'burn', reminding the agent of the danger she was in.
<First things, first,> Star thought, as she searched through her belongings. <Let's see if Megan did hide something from me. Then, I should talk to Cerise and Indigo, to apologize for 'my' behaviour, and to Dr. Fawn about leaving. Once I'm 'allowed' out of Sickbay, I'll see about completing the mission, and getting out of here, via an aircraft of some sort, as I really don't want to teleport back down without more practice.>
She did find a chip hidden under an almost invisible slit inside her RadioCap. Pulling it out, Star saw charcoal on silicon, in the form of a serial number and a shooting star, the mark on the two real chips. Then the voice behind her surprised the agent, forcing her to return the chip to where she found it.
"We need to talk, Topaz. Now."
Topaz swirled around, to find herself face to face with Lieutenant Indigo. Of course, she thought, she would be more alert now. She no longer felt the effect of the virus. Topaz smiled, wondering how much Indigo had just seen. Probably not that much, but seeing the serious feature of the young officer, Topaz could see there was something in Indigo's mind. She decided to play the innocent. If Indigo knew nothing, there was no sense in letting her be suspicious.
"Hey, Rosie... You startled me, what's the matter?"
Indigo shook her head. She realised Topaz probably was suspicious of her. You want to play that game, lady, we can be TWO to play it.
"I wanted to talk to you about what's going on at the moment. About my father's adduction, that impostor... what it is the Mysterons wanted exactly." She narrowed her eyes to Topaz, hoping to see a reaction that would give her away. She could see none. Topaz simply nodded.
"You know as much as myself, I guess."
"Really?" Indigo asked coldly. "What about that impostor?"
"What about him?"
"Didn't you realise it wasn't my father to begin with?"
"And how would I have known that? Rosie, he fooled everybody!"
"Not really." Indigo made a pause, her eyes still fixed on Topaz. One mistake. Just make one mistake, and I'll have you. You're not clean, Topaz, and I'll find out what it is you're hiding.
"You're on edge, Rose, and I know why."
Indigo nearly jumped at Topaz's comments. "And why would that be?" she asked in surprise.
"Why, you're worried about your father," Topaz noted with an innocent smile. "It's so obvious!"
"Yes," Indigo said, nodding slowly. "Yes, that's right. I'm worried about him. And about the others with him. But I'm sure they'll be back here soon. And that they'll help providing answers to what's going on."
Don't bet on it, Topaz thought ominously. Major Scarlet's better not coming back. Or he'll give me away!
I don't know exactly what you're hiding, 'Topaz', but you haven't called me 'Rosie' for a long time. Since my mother died, actually. That's what she called me, and you respected that enough to stop calling me that. I know that you're not you any more.
Concentrating hard, Indigo honed her Mysteron detection senses. Her eyes widened, but wasn't shocked to see an aura around Topaz quite unlike that of anyone she'd ever met before. Most Mysterons had a bright green aura extending about three inches from their body. Topaz's was almost dirty green, like camouflage, and detached from her, as if a part of her was Mysteron, but her body was still the original. Come to think of it, the aura was very similar to that of Captain Black. Topaz was definitely under the control of the Mysterons!
Agent Star's skin tingled, and her mind registered the fact that Indigo suspected her true nature. The young lieutenant's mind was unusually difficult to read, but Star smiled maliciously as she realised that Indigo had made a large mistake in accessing the Mysterons powers in order to confirm her suspicion.
Realising that 'Topaz' suspected something, Indigo turned and fled as fast as her short legs would carry her. However, 'Topaz' reached out with her mind and grabbed hold of the lieutenant. Indigo stopped, unable to move.
<I can't let you inform anyone else as to my existence, Rosie,> Agent Star informed the Spectrum agent.
Indigo, whilst she heard Star's voice in her head, she could also hear Topaz, pushed to the depths of her own mind.
You must be freed, Amber, you must. I just don't know what I can do, she thought, before Star made her black out.
Agent Star approached the fallen Spectrum agent and looked down at her with unmerciful eyes. Now what to do? She could play around with her memories, and rearrange them. She could also reach her mind with her own, and do tremendous damages to it, if she wanted to. Transform Indigo into a living vegetable, perhaps? Now that would be satisfying enough, but Star wasn't even sure if it would work, or how long she would stay like that. Considering her healing ability, neither solution would work long.
No matter. She must not be allowed to speak. Even a little time would do. Agent Star's eyes glowed, as she prepared to inflict pain to Indigo. But something stopped her suddenly, and she winced, herself in pain.
You WON'T hurt her!
Star growled with annoyance, hearing the voice in her head. Amber! How could she be able to reach for her? Has Indigo's interference been enough to waken her consciousness?
I won't let you hurt her! the voice in Star's mind pursued restlessly.
Leave me alone, Amber! I've got work to do!
Footsteps then made themselves heard, and Star raised her head in the direction they were coming from. Somebody was approaching. She wouldn't have time to act now, without being caught in the act.
She quickly disappeared behind a door, just as Doctor Fawn appeared in view, to see Indigo lying on the floor.
"Amber, what happened to the Lieutenant?" the Doctor looked about him, "Amber? Amber, are you in here?"
Star froze in her hiding place. What should she do? Would Fawn search the room for her? That seemed unlikely, but she knew it would be suspicious if the Doctor found her there...
Meanwhile, Black had the Spectrum officers on the ground in a tight situation... and he knew it! The blizzard outside their little aircraft still held them captive, while the Mysteron agent sat among them.
Black chuckled. "Well, Scarlet? You've had plenty of time to think. Do you have a plan?"
Scarlet hated that tone. He clenched his jaw tightly and narrowed his eyes. Not far from him, Green and Lake were tensed like a pair of coiled springs, awaiting the chance to attack.
"Seymour," Lake hissed, "he's paying about 90% of his attention to Scarlet. When I give you the nod, grab the Mysteron gun."
Green stared at her. "What are you gonna do?"
"Don't worry. The worst that'll happen to me is a bullet to the hand - I can survive that."
"Be careful, Ems."
"No worries." Lake waited for Black to mock Scarlet again. Here's my chance! She leapt forward, and grabbed Black's weapon.
Lake knew it would take very little effort for Black to stop her attack, considerably taller and broader than her, he swatted her aside with minimal effort. But it hadn't been her intention to overcome him, her plan was merely to distract him. As she fell to the floor, Black smirked, he still held his gun, she had achieved nothing. But, he thought, why was she rolling away so quickly? The answer soon became apparent as he snapped his head up at a familiar sound. To his right, Green held the Mysteron gun, aimed and ready with his finger already squeezing the trigger.
"Clever....." Black's voice echoed around the helicopter interior as he faded before them; Green only just managing to release the trigger before he blew a whole in the side of the helicopter.
"Well done, Captains! Now, let's contact Cloudbase and warn them."
Fawn had been a long time, Cerise smiled to herself as she dressed in her uniform. She held her head as the room spun again, she felt the bump on her head from her little accident in the helicopter and made a mental note to ask Lake to be a little less inventive next time. It was all right for Lake and her retrometabolism, but, she admitted to herself, she did what she had to do and that was what counted. Besides, the main reason she felt this bad had nothing to do with that little fall. She had to admit that Fawn was probably right, she wasn't fit for duty, not by a long stretch, but he wasn't there to stop her, was he?
"Ah, good, I see Dr Fawn has declared you fit for duty, Cerise."
The voice was General White's. Returning to sickbay with Colonel Blue, having realised that one of the chips was a fake.
"Er..yes, Sir," Cerise lied. Turning too quickly to face him, she tried desperately to focus. Come on Cerise, she urged herself, hold it together!
Agent Star looked behind her to see if there was another exit or something that she could hide behind, and realized that her very hiding place, a washroom, gave her the perfect excuse.
"Just a minute," she shouted once she slipped over to the toilet. Flushing it, Star then headed over to the sink and washed her hands, making no attempt to be quiet about it.
Leaving the washroom, the agent looked towards Dr. Fawn then feigned surprise and worry as if she didn't know the lieutenant was there.
"What happened to Rosie, Doctor?" she asked, as she reached out for the lieutenant's hand, intending to finish what she started. Fawn never noticed the glow returning to 'Topaz's' eyes or her sly little smile, but he did notice when she fell backwards, clutching her head in pain.
"Amber, what's... " Fawn started to say, then he 'saw' the illusions peel away from 'Topaz' revealing her true face. He blanched and the next few words came out in a rushed whisper. "... wrong with you?"
"Stop it, Megan," Agent Star muttered in her real voice, unaware that she said anything out loud. "I won't you or Indigo threaten my survival, or the mission."
<Then you shouldn't have let me learn your tricks, Te Nyat Star,> Amber projected. <Because I WILL use them to protect my allies from you and your agents. Including the ones YOU made me hate.>
"Never Call Me That, Earthgirl!" Star vocalized as she sent a backlash through the body, arching her back in the pain she created.
Fawn couldn't believe what he just witnessed. A Mysteron was fighting another for control of her body, and wasn't able to retain it without drastic measures. The name of the other person, Megan, seemed familiar to him, as had her 'voice'. He crept over to the intercom, never taking his eyes off her, and was reaching for the transmit button when his hand froze, caught in the Agent's paralysing stare.
"Hear my Voice, Edward Wilkie, and Obey my Will," Star whispered over and over, using both voice and mind to hypnotize the doctor. When his eyes glazed over, she then gave him his instructions: "Forget what you just witnessed, it did not happen. I'll tell you what did occur. Indigo was nursing sour grapes about me when you arrived, then just collapsed, like the others did on the helicopter, after she tried to convince you that I was a threat. I was in the washroom at the time, however, and was surprised to find her on the floor when I came out. You fear that she will be delirious when she awakens so you will ask someone to keep a close eye on her. Once the Lieutenant is returned to her own bed and you have finished examining me, you will confess to being exhausted, and head to your quarters where you will fall asleep until morning."
Star paused for a moment to reweave the
illusions around herself again and to try to block Indigo's most
recent memories, the only thing she was allowed to do to the Metcalfe girl.
When she was ready to receive more visitors, Star then tied off the pattern she
set in Fawn's mind with one last order.
"Now awaken, Edward Wilkie, and Obey."
In the helicopter, Major Scarlet suddenly grabbed his head, and grunted loudly as if he was in pain. Aquamarine helped him down on a seat. "What is it? What's going on?"
"Don't tell me he senses another Mysteron's threat!" Green looked around, fearing that Captain Black or another Mysteron agent would suddenly appear to surprise them. But Scarlet shook his head in negation. There were deep worry and fear in his eyes.
"Something happened to Rose," he murmured.
Lake's brow furrowed. "What do you mean, 'something happened to Rose?'"
"I can... feel it. Somebody's doing something with her mind."
"Since when do you experience that kind of... of telepathic link with your daughter?" Aquamarine asked.
"I... don't know if it's a telepathic link, really. It's like... something... or somebody is playing around with collective minds. Setting his own vision of things." He suddenly stopped, as a suspicion grew inside him. And then he realised something. "Not HIS vision. HER vision," he then said dryly. "Topaz."
"Or the... creature who had taken control of her body."
"Rather a powerful Mysteron, if you ask me!" Scarlet growled. "We MUST contact Cloudbase. OR get back there as soon as possible!"
Trapped inside her own mind, Rose felt as if she was swimming through tar, or some equally gloopy substance in order to become conscious. She knew that she had to wake up, but wasn't entirely certain why. All she knew was that her very existence may depend on it.
What's going on? she asked herself. Why am I trapped? What happened? An answer came to her. She wasn't sure how, or the significance of the word. Mysterons. It meant very little to her, except that they were somehow responsible for her current situation.
Rose realised that she could hear voices. Unreal, discoporeated voices. They were plotting something. They were the Mysterons, and she could hear what they were planning. Maybe she should stay, listen. This could be important...
"Cerise," White began, "you still maintain that Lieutenant Topaz took back the other chip?"
"Yes, Sir, I don't know how I came to have the other one. Maybe she put it there to fool that fake Scarlet?"
"Perhaps. Come with me, I want to see if she's awake yet. Colonel Blue, if you'd return to the Control Room and continue the data extraction from the first chip."
"But, Sir the files are encrypted, without the other chip, the data is useless."
"Exactly why I want you with it, Colonel, we don't want it falling into the wrong hands again."
"Of course, Sir," replied Blue as he turned and headed out of sickbay.
"Come on, Cerise," White continued as he headed towards Topaz's room.
"Yes, Sir," Cerise sighed as she followed him.
This was it, Fawn was going to come down on her heavily for being up and dressed. The Colonel would realise she'd lied to him; she was in a lot of trouble. She braced herself and entered the room. To both their surprise, Topaz was awake and sitting up in bed whilst Fawn was making Lieutenant Indigo comfortable in the adjoining bed.
"What happened to Rose?" asked Cerise with concern.
"She just passed out, nothing to worry about, she's just over done it a bit that's all," replied Fawn straightening up and acknowledging General White.
Cerise sighed with relief. Then it dawned on her, Doctor Fawn had said nothing to her about being up, let alone dressed in her uniform. She had to check.
"Thank you for allowing me back on duty, Doctor."
Fawn glanced at her, or rather, through her.
"That's quite alright, Cerise."
Things were far from alright. The Colonel had come for the chip, Rose had passed out, and Fawn was acting strangely. The only common factor was Topaz. Cerise discreetly put her hand to her hip and cursed silently, no gun. She thought back to earlier when Rose had refused to allow her to go into Topaz's room, did she know then that something was wrong? Why hadn't she said anything? Rose had taken the whole responsibility on herself - like father like daughter! Cerise chewed her lower lip nervously. She had to let the General know of her suspicions without raising Topaz's.
Things were far from all right with Agent Star as well. Her progenitors told her that Major Scarlet had escaped Black's clutches and Scarlet's companions now knew that Star was also Topaz; as Star returning to the real world, she had sensed that Rose Metcalfe and Megan were eavesdropping on the Seniors; and now General White had come to visit, presumably for the chip. Her eyes then narrowed, catching Cerise's subtle and nervous movements. Great, another potential threat for the Agent to deal with later.
"What can I do for you, Sir?" 'Topaz' asked, addressing the General.
"You could tell me if you remember taking the encryption chip from Captain Cerise, Commander." White answered. Star nearly blanched, but managed to hide her reaction behind the illusion.
"I'm sorry, Sir, but I don't. Everything's been slightly hazy since my collapse inside the cave. I think I may have even blacked out a couple more times since then. My clearest memory after the incident was when Doctor Fawn arrived with the anti-serum," she explained with a concerned frown on her face. An expression that White soon mirrored.
"Was it the virus that caused the blackouts, Topaz, or was it Agent Star behind them?"
He knows something, Star thought, but what? She tried to scan White's public thoughts without his knowledge, but the accursed man had a mental shield denser than titanium. She was going to have to play this by ear.
"I believe that both were responsible, Sir. Agent Star for the virus, and the virus for the blackouts. Why do you ask?"
"I just wondered if it was your Mysteron counterpart that switched the chips. I didn't realize, however, that she would cause harm to you..."
This time, Star's face went completely and visibly white with fear, whiter than anyone thought possible. Her mind was still working out what to say next when the decision was taken out of her hands. Doctor Fawn chose that moment to chase White and Cerise out, telling them that they could talk to Topaz as much as they wanted to after he finished the check-up on her.
Cerise refused to move. Something was wrong, Topaz was not who she said she was, and the General seemed to be calmly suggesting that she was somehow a Mysteron. Unaware of Topaz's special nature, Cerise was at a loss to know who she could trust. Fawn, she knew, was acting out of character. He had not released her for duty, she wasn't fit for duty, her head hurt like crazy she was having trouble concentrating but she knew she couldn't leave Rose alone with them in that room.
As the General stepped back, at Fawn's request, Cerise snatched his pistol from his holster.
"I'm sorry, Sir, I don't know if I can trust you, but these two, definitely not."
"Captain Cerise! Put that gun down immediately!" White bellowed.
"I can't, Sir." Cerise steadied herself against a desk. "I can't leave Rose on her own with these two, they'll kill her I'm sure. Fawn hasn't signed me back for duty, he's not behaving right and she...she's not Topaz! I don't understand but she looks different....sometimes."
Star glared, perhaps it was Cerise's inability to concentrate that allowed her to see an occasional flicker of Star's true appearance.
"I feared as much," began Fawn, "it's all been a little too much for you hasn't it, Cerise?"
"Please, General, you have to believe me!" Cerise was frantic, she knew she didn't look well, she had pulled a gun on the General, openly admitted that she wasn't fit for duty and was apparently hallucinating. All she could do was pray he believed her.
And it was so surprising that he actually did.
Slowly, General White turned to Doctor Fawn. He was blatantly ignoring Topaz who was glaring both at him and Cerise. And that was what had told him that he should trust Cerise's instincts. Topaz' reactions, her obvious, and uncommon, and apparently unexplainable fear. Definitely, there was something wrong in this room.
And he'll be damned if he himself would allow Rose to stay there and probably leave her in danger.
"So, Doctor, what do you have to say for yourself? Did you or did you not relieve Captain Cerise for duty?"
"General," he answered quietly enough, "as you can see, she's not well enough to..."
"Then WHY did you confirm some minutes ago that she was?" White cut in abruptly.
"I..." There was confusion in Fawn's features. His brow furrowed deeply, as if he was searching for an explanation. White nodded slowly.
"You're not yourself, Doctor," he said softly. "And I just know why."
He turned to Topaz, who was now even whiter than precedently. The General's glare had something accusing, even murderous in it.
"You're back in control, aren't you, Agent Star?" he stated between his teeth. He saw Star taking a step back, looking at him with fiery eyes, almost glowing. He felt something pull in his mind and frowned, knowing what it was. "DON'T try your damned tricks with me, Star! You know I'm impervious to them! You can't harm or control me like your able to do most people!"
"What's going on, here?" Cerise asked faintly. Obviously, the General knew something about Topaz that she didn't but she couldn't imagine what exactly. And now, Fawn was acting as if he was trying to wake up from a very deep dream. He was leaning in Rose's bed, rubbing his forehead, grunting.
Cerise considered the General's words You can't harm or control me like your able to do most people. Suddenly, a lot of things fell into place, she still didn't understand how, but she knew that Topaz or Star as the General was now calling her was responsible for how she now felt. Another wave of weakness swept over her as the room spun again. At least, she mused, it was unlikely that anyone could control her mind right now, she was barely able to keep her concentration herself!
"General," she began quietly, "I think you should take this back." Cerise offered General White his pistol.
"Thank you, Cerise, we can discuss why you're dressed in your uniform later."
"Yes, Sir," Cerise sighed.
Behind them the door slid open.
In the doorway stood Colonel Blue and Major Scarlet.
"I see you already know, Sir," continued Scarlet.
"Welcome home, Major, it's good to see you again," General White smiled with relief at the sight of Scarlet now fully recovered, but was at once concerned for Rose.
He turned back to Agent Star, whose disguise was shattered by her own fear this time.
"I ... I ... I don't understand, Sir," the Agent stammered, trying to maintain control over her voice. Nearly paralysed with fear, Star was unable to comprehend how these humans could operate with such volatile emotions. She took another step away from the approaching General.
"You should, Agent Star," White growled. "This was another one of your schemes wasn't it? Another attempt to get at the files attached to Topaz's record. Only this time you brought the others into it."
"N-now, Edward," Star whispered, almost to herself. White paused in his approach, wondering who she was talking to. The faint hiss from somewhere behind him gave the General the answer he sought. He spun around to find Doctor Fawn lifting Cerise onto the bed the Agent recently vacated. White then felt a feathery touch on his right arm and spun back to face Star, who now held both his and Topaz's pistols in shaking hands. A quiet snick was then heard as Fawn unwillingly loaded his pistol.
"Now that Cerise is out of the way," Star said in an oddly frightened tone, "we can get down to business. And, General, that last statement of yours is not entirely accurate. I did not bring my colleagues into one of my plots, rather it is my progenitors on Mars who included me in one of theirs."
"What have you done to her?" Scarlet asked, his voice tinged with anger.
"Nothing fatal, both of them should recover after I leave," Star replied, looking at Fawn for such confirmation. Taking a chance, Blue activated his RadioCap only to have it shot off his head by Fawn. Another shot, from White's pistol, took out the nearby intercom.
"Naughty, naughty, gentlemen, we really don't need any more uninvited guests. So, please, remove your Caps and pistols, and throw them over here. Major Scarlet, Colonel Blue, I'd also suggest that you step inside before someone really gets hurt, and Scarlet, don't try anything, Megan modified her gun so that it can fire electron bolts when the right magazine is loaded into it."
Star carefully lifted the yellow pistol to show some external modifications and a customized magazine sticking out of the bottom. Then she lowered it, until it was aimed at Scarlet again, and waited for them to comply.
Star's hold over Fawn was at best tenuous. He had already almost shaken her off only for her to re-establish control at the last moment. Such was the effort required to keep Indigo trapped in her own mind. Having discovered the Mysteron plan, Rose was fighting her and Star was drained.
Major Scarlet glanced over to where the two female officers were lying, concerned for both, but in particular for his daughter. He frowned. For some reason, Star had sounded nervous when she had spoken about getting Cerise out of the way. It had hardly seemed worth the trouble, Cerise looked as though she would have passed out anyway. But for some reason, Star still considered her a threat. Indigo, he realised, they had attacked from the first moment because of her link with him. Her link! If Indigo was causing Star enough trouble on her own, it seemed likely that the two combined would be more than a match for her. All they had to do was disrupt Star enough to release Fawn, but it would be dangerous.
Star winced as another jolt of pain echoed through her link with Indigo. She had not counted on the two Earth women teaming up to attack her, and so ended having Cerise tranquillised to prevent them from getting a third ally for however long the Captain held out. She watched as Major Scarlet took a seat beside his daughter and the other two high ranking 'hostages' also found someplace to sit.
Then she had Fawn gather the weapons and Caps while she concentrated on improving the buffers between her, Amber, and Rose. Fawn placed two weapons and five RadioCaps beside the Agent, glaring at her with loathing and anger. Star noted the colours of the five Caps, red, blue, white, pink, and yellow, concealing her happiness at seeing Topaz's cap in the pile. Then she winced again; this time it was Amber's doing that caused it.
"Doctor, is there any way someone can put Indigo to sleep?" Star inquired of Fawn. Scarlet's eyes widened at the question while Fawn shook his head. Then, smiling, Scarlet picked up his daughter's hand, leaned back, closed his eyes, and –
-sat up straight again as the bullet impacted the wall beside his right ear.
"Sorry, Major, but I did warn you," Star responded, while re-aiming White's pistol at its owner. "Your Rosie has enough allies against me as it is, I don't need you adding your two cents worth to the conflict as well. Maybe it would be better if you sat with old team-mate over there."
Star tracked Scarlet as he moved his chair until it was nicely situated between White and Blue. Then she placed White's pistol on a nearby table while she put on the remaining, sun-coloured, pieces of Topaz's uniform, never taking her eyes, or the pistol, off of the officers across from her.
Just as Star placed the RadioCap on her head, she received a call. With a slight twitch, the Agent lowered the Cap's mike.
"Commander, Scarlet is dead, but the infected chip has been removed from the system," said Star's other puppet in a dry tone. "We were, however, too late as copies of the files and the virus were extracted into the base's mainframe."
"I understand. Continue."
" The chip is now at the pick-up point, but I can't figure out how you're going to get there. The hallways are crawling with those crazed security agents."
"Do not worry, Williamson, I will find a way. Go back to the quarters assigned to you, and get some sleep. You sound like you need it."
"S. *yawn* I.G., Commander."
Terminating the call, Star holstered the gun she held, and picked up White's pistol again. Two steps took her to the General's side.
"Up, Sir," Star commanded, gesturing with the gun. At this distance it hard for the General to miss the fact that the Agent was still literally shaking in fear.
"You know you're not going to get away with this, Agent Star," White objected, as he carefully stood up.
"Maybe not, Sir," she replied, " but you won't be the one to take me down. So behave like a properly docile hostage, and I'll try not to hurt you. Resist and we both will feel the consequences.
"Edward Wilkie, keep these two here until I have left Sickbay. Use any means you find necessary to do so. Now, Obey my Will, Edward Wilkie."
White was surprised to see how slight change in Agent Star's voice and cadence, with a small mental nudge, could have such profound effect on the good doctor. Fawn's eyes had glazed over and his movements now looked mechanical, like he was in a trance.
Star pushed the General towards the door, finding it necessary to use a Mysteron power to open it. Once out of the room, she locked the door and smashed the controls, trapping the occupants. Then Star guided White out of Sickbay and towards the hangar, keeping the pistol to the small of his back and concealing it with her own body.
Rose, still unaware of the events surrounding her, felt her father's attempt to reach her. She knew that she needed that mental contact with her father. He'd... he'd taken her hand, but they didn't always need that physical contact. Before, when they'd been ill, they had been separated by hundreds of miles, but still, their connection was strong.
She reached out with her mind, searching for him, the one who could help her. He wasn't close to her anymore, but presumably, Star had moved him to prevent the very thing she knew that he had tried. However, Star herself was not in the vicinity any longer, and Rose was free to act, as much as she could in her current state, at any rate...
Scarlet and Blue eyed Fawn, they had to break her hold over him somehow.
"How's Rose?" asked Blue meaningfully.
"I'll see," replied Scarlet as he headed towards her bedside. Fawn made no move to stop him. Inside, he too was fighting her control but was simply not strong enough. However, Star had only said that he should prevent them trying to leave, and they were not making any obvious move in that direction.
Scarlet took his daughter’s hand and instantly felt a strong surge of energy. Rose was battling against Star and he would join her for that. Together they would succeed!
The first inkling of it that Star would feel was a dull cloudy sensation in her head. Then blinding lights, painful blinding lights. Star struggled to focus on where she was to no avail. Even closing her eyes made no difference, the source of the light was somehow from within. Pushing the General up against the wall, she spoke to him, urging him not to move, but her speech had become slurred and incoherent.
She's stronger than you, Star. Star, could hear Topaz's voice ringing in her ears, soon she would try once more to come forward. Star knew there would be only one way to regain control and that was to release her hold on Indigo. It didn't matter anyway, they were trapped.
Indigo's eyes opened wide, startling Blue who had been watching the pair as they sat in silence. Without a word, Scarlet scooped her up and hugged her close.
"I was worried for you, Dad," Indigo whispered in his ear.
Scarlet laughed softly, "But they didn't fool my Rose for a moment."
"We have to get after her, she has the other chip."
Scarlet looked up to see Blue attending to a somewhat woozy looking Fawn. The break with Indigo had caused Star's control over Fawn to falter too.
"Blue, can we open the door?"
"No, Scarlet, I just tried, it's locked and the manual controls are shot to pieces."
Scarlet frowned and looked to the other bed. "Fawn, can you wake Cerise?"
"I don't know, she's not really fit enough..."
"Can you wake her?" he repeated irritably.
"Because she's spent so much time programming with Magenta over the years. He's certain to have shown her how to hack into the main computer. She can get the door open centrally."
Fawn was already preparing a revival drug and injecting it into the sleeping captain. "This should wake her, but...well, I've never done this before."
"We don't have much choice," advised Blue, grimly.
"And in the meantime?" Fawn asked. He was still feeling a bit fuzzy. Star's hold on his mind had shaken him a lot, that was obvious. But he seemed to remember what had been going on while under her control. "What about the General? Wouldn't Topaz... er... Star hurt him?"
Blue grinned slightly. "Doctor, do you really think we came over here without taking some insurance?"
"Meaning?" Indigo asked.
"Meaning that there are other officers on Cloudbase aware of Topaz' true nature," Scarlet answered. "Colonel Blue and I were to come here to confront her, sure, but... Aquamarine, Beige, Green and Lake were to keep close by in case something was to go wrong."
"Well, it certainly DID go wrong," Fawn noted dryly. "We can't contact them, I'll remind you.
"They must have seen Star going away with the General as hostage."
"So what will they do? Try to stop Star?"
"I hope they'll be careful," Indigo added with concern. At this moment, Cerise groaned and tiredly opened her eyes. There was a collective sigh of relief from the officers surrounding her.
"Wh-what happened?" she grumbled, rubbing her sleepy eyes.
"How are you feeling, Captain?" Blue asked her.
"Well save the explanation for later, I'm sorry. Right now, we need your expertise. We're trapped in this room, and the door's controls have been destroyed. Do you think you can get them to open, accessing the main controls with the computer?"
Wearily, Cerise nodded and with the help of Fawn, came to a sitting position on the bed.
"Okay," Cerise mumbled, her eyes still almost closed. "Get me to the computer, but don't tell Colonel Blue that I know how to do this or he'll kill me."
Fawn smiled at her, trying hard not to laugh. "Sure Cerise, I won't say a thing to him."
It took only a few keystrokes before Cerise had accessed the main computer.
"Maybe we should change the passwords," Scarlet commented at the ease at which she hacked into the system.
Cerise shrugged, it wouldn't matter even if they did, not the way she and Magenta accessed it.
Fawn administered another anti anaesthetic shot as Cerise shook her head to try to remain awake.
"There," Cerise smiled with satisfaction as the door slid open. Turning to stand, now fully awake. "Let's go!"
"Not you, Captain," Scarlet retorted. "You need to rest. I don't want to sound rude, but in the state you're presently in, you'll risk to hinder the operation."
"What?" Cerise protested. "But... but..."
"The major is right, Captain," Blue replied. "You stay here. That's an order."
"Yes, sir," Cerise sighed giving up, although a hint of regret was fairly obvious in her tone.
"And that goes for you too," Blue said to Indigo, seeing as she was preparing herself to leave.
"Colonel, respectfully, I'm quite all right," Indigo protested. "I can go. I..."
"We don't have time to discuss this. For a change, just follow orders, Lieutenant." Blue ignored the pouting expression appearing on Indigo's face, to turn toward Scarlet. "Go, Major. As for myself, I'll find the next working comm. link and alert Green's team. And see if there's any development in the situation."
Indigo groused until the others left, and then turned to Cerise, who was equally unhappy about the situation and said
"Shall we go anyway?"
Cerise looked up and grinned. "Yeah, I'm up for it."
"No you are not!" snapped Fawn from the door way as he re-entered the room.
"Come on, Fawn!" complained Cerise. "You just gave me all that stuff to wake me up."
"And you think you're fighting fit now, yes?"
"Well, no." In truth she suspected that both she and Indigo felt equally bad, but that didn't alter the fact that the General was in trouble. They could rest later. "But..."
"You want us to sit back and rest, while General White is in trouble?" asked Indigo. "He's like a second father to me! I can't..." the catch in her voice melted Fawn's resolution.
"Okay, okay, but be careful," he sighed.
Both Indigo and Cerise grabbed their radio caps.
"We're going to need pistols," Cerise realised. "Fawn?"
"Yours is in the drawer, Indigo, you can take mine."
"Thanks Fawn," Cerise smiled as she checked the number of bullets left in the clip.
"Ready?" asked Indigo.
"Let's go," Indigo added in a determined tone.
"You're good at that, Fawn really went for it."
Indigo merely grinned in reply before the pair headed off down the corridor.
"Well, you know I grew up on Cloudbase. I know exactly how to get around each of them," Indigo explained, flashing Cerise a cheeky grin. "But General White really is like a second father to me. I can't leave him..." She put a hand against the wall to steady herself as a wave of dizziness swept over her. "I can't leave him to the mercy of Star."
Cerise frowned. "Rose, are you okay?" she asked in concern.
Indigo nodded carefully. "Just a bit tired. That battle against Star really took it out of me. I'll be right in a moment."
Amber slammed into the renewed barrier and rebounded without making a dent. The worst parts of Agent Star's new set-up were that Amber had access to all of her senses but was unable to do anything about what she saw and heard, and that the barriers were somehow linked to her strength, mentally speaking. The only good news that she had so far was when she sensed the release of Rose's and Dr. Fawn's spirits from Star's grasp. Saddened, Amber shook her head and watched through eyes that no longer reflected her true emotion.
Star opened her eyes and blinked once or twice, still feeling secure in her position. She focused on General White, letting him see her newfound confidence, and extended her other senses to check for unwanted witnesses or pursuers. Sensing nobody else too close, she pulled White back in front of her, then noticed that they were at the place she told Williamson to hide the second chip. Stretching up, she pushed aside the loose vent cover and snagged the plastic bag containing the chip. The cover fell back into place as the Agent brought her clenched hand down.
"Well, Agent Star, you must be pretty good at running mazes, or was it cat and mouse that you were playing," White commented, while Star fiddled with securing the baggie on her person. "You took more twists and turns than a fox in a fox hunt, and found corridors I didn't even know existed."
"Please, General," Star retorted, "there is no need to be sarcastic. I did what was necessary to slip through the trap Scarlet's team-mates laid for us, and that included using Commander Topaz's extensive knowledge of Cloudbase's passageways, including the maintenance corridors."
She pressed the gun into White's back, cutting off the conversation before he could ask any pointed questions. They headed towards the hangar again, with Star keeping a mental eye out for anyone who might be looking for her. They barely gone five paces beyond one junction before someone that the Agent didn't even sense practically ran them down. Star was sent sprawling to the floor, with the pistol that she held sliding halfway down the corridor, and White was knocked into a wall.
"Sorry about that, Sir," a male voice apologized, "I wasn't watching where I was going. There's been some new developments concerning Major Scarlet's impostor, and nobody could reach you or ..."
His voice petered out as the unknown person finally noticed Star crawling towards the pistol. She froze, with her left hand and White's pistol under her, when she heard the sound of the safety being let off another pistol.
"I wouldn't try anything if I were you, Topaz, or is it Star now? The senior officers had warned us about your true nature, but Colonel Blue also told us that you were to be taken alive if possible."
"Now, Agent Star, if you please, I'll release you of those..." White unceremoniously searched for the chips and, finding them, pocketed them with a grunt of satisfaction, noticing that Star had not made one gesture to stop him. He narrowed her eyes to her. She seemed so unnaturally quiet. "Strange... You're not resisting, and you don't seem to call upon those 'telepathic powers of yours. Is there something wrong with you, Star?"
When she didn't answer, White shook his silver hair, and turned as he heard footsteps coming from behind. Major Scarlet was arriving on the scene, closely followed by Colonel Blue.
"Sir, you're all right?" Scarlet asked stopping in front of his superior officer, his eyes betraying his concern.
"I'm getting too old for this," General White grumbled with a tired tone. "Aside from that... I'm perfectly all right." Seeing Scarlet, a thought occurred to him suddenly, and he turned toward the young Lieutenant who had nearly bowled him over moments before - and who had saved him from Star. "I believe you had something to say about that impostor who was incarcerated in the brig. What is it, Lieutenant?"
"Well, sir... It's rather strange." The lieutenant seemed uncomfortable enough. He looked over the three officers, obviously hesitating. "Some minutes ago, we found him - well, apparently dead. Or rather really dead, I searched myself for a pulse and couldn't find one. But then, well..."
"... He was not," Scarlet continued.
"Not surprising, Scarlet sighed. "He's a Mysteron. Black killed him himself. In front of my eyes."
"What's worse, sir... He's gone."
"He's WHAT?" Blue yelled. "You mean he's roaming free on Cloudbase?"
A suspicious dawned on White and he took the chips from his pocket to examine them. He groaned. "Splendid. One of them is a fake." He looked at Star. "That impostor had got to it before you, my dear Star."
"Give the alert," Blue ordered. "That impostor must be found before he leaves the base!"
Indigo and Cerise, unaware of the events concerning White and Star, prowled through Cloudbase, keeping an eye out for the Mysteron Agent. Indigo was still weak, and Cerise was concerned about her, but since the girl made no complaints, and since she herself shouldn't really be there anyway, Cerise let it slide.
"Thank God that impostor’s been locked away," Cerise whispered to Indigo. "He got away with so much, posing as your dad."
Indigo nodded silently. She felt a pressure building in her brain again, but that didn't prevent her from feeling a Mysteron presence around her, approaching. She knew that it wasn't Star, but other than that, she couldn't make out who it was. It could have easily been her father.
When Indigo didn't reply, Cerise looked at her. Her skin was deathly pale and her eyes unfocussed.
"What's wrong?" Cerise whispered in concern.
"Star," Indigo hissed between her teeth. "She's trying again."
Agent Star, still shocked by the fact that she couldn't sense or affect the lieutenant, had submitted meekly to the search, and had allowed herself to be disarmed as well. It wasn't until he started leading her to the brig that the Agent finally recognized the lieutenant. He was once Topaz's partner on Cloudbase and Amber probably taught him how to 'hide' from her abilities.
"Michaels," Star whispered venomously, "you said that the senior officers had warned you about me. Was Topaz one of them?"
Michaels looked at the Agent with an odd expression on his face, then he nodded.
"Yeah, and that warning seemed ambiguous compared to Major Scarlet's today, but at that time nobody knew who or what you really were. Guess it's all too obvious now.
"By the way, while you're feeling talkative, could you tell me how the impostor got out of the brig, or what your part in this mess is?"
"I got our pilot to release Car..." Star began. When she didn't finish, Michaels turned face the Mysteron Agent. Her face was pure white, her eyes appear to be dilated, and she looked like she was in extreme pain.
"Stop it, Rose," Star whimpered, unaware that Indigo was also affected at that time. "Please, no more. I've already freed you. What more do you want?"
Despite the pain she was in, Star could sense something nearby, approaching. She knew it wasn't one of her former hostages, but besides that, she couldn't tell what it was. It could have easily been Carter, for all she knew.
"Must warn you, too little time" Star heard herself or, rather, Amber croak. The Agent's Earth-borne aspect had chosen to pierce her mental prison this time around instead of battering it down. "Our chip's perfect forgery. Mars-spawned virus in it. Star hid real one. Don't know where, faded out. Can't be trusted anymore, not certain what's her 'n' what's me. Ware arrival."
After hearing those words, Michaels grabbed her wrists then dropped them, surprised at the cold clammy feel of her skin.
"Please, sir, help us," his captive cried, and he was completely unable tell which personality was speaking, if not both.
Indigo, somehow caught up in Topaz's mental confusion, barely even noticed Major Scarlet as he approached the two women.
"What's happened?" Scarlet asked Cerise.
"She said something about Agent Star," Cerise replied. She didn't move, since she was supporting Indigo, but she could have sworn that she saw something light up in Scarlet's eyes. If she didn't know any better, she would have had her suspicions about him, but since the impostor was in the cells, she thought that she must have imagined it.
"I saw Star back that way," Scarlet said, pointing in the direction he had come. "I came to get some help."
Cerise nodded. "Help me take Rose back to Sickbay and I'll come with you," she said.
Scarlet easily lifted his daughter up and carried her back along the corridor.
After leaving Indigo in the care of Dr. Fawn, Scarlet and Cerise set off towards where Scarlet had seen Agent Star.
Scarlet stopped suddenly. "She's here," he said in a strained voice. "I can feel her."
"Where?" Cerise asked in a whisper.
"In there," he replied, indicating to a door a few feet ahead of them. It was a restricted area, requiring a fingerprint to open the door. Scarlet staggered to the door, but hesitated.
Cerise stopped by his side. "What is it?"
Scarlet grabbed her hand and forced her to touch the pad. The door slid open. Scarlet pushed her inside and the door closed behind them.
Scarlet already had his gun out.
"Y'see," he snarled, "my fingerprint just don't match."
Star collapsed against corridor wall, nearly unconscious from pain but clear-headed enough to realize what happened. The majority of her mental links had been cut in an attempt to isolate the source of the pain she felt, and Amber was becoming more than a nuisance, fighting the Agent over every neuron in their body and somehow striking at Star through Indigo, allowing both to believe that the other was responsible.
<Enough of this,> the Agent thought, willingly falling asleep unaided for the seventh time in her stolen lifetime.
The crystalline fortress was small compared to the other structures in the dreamscape, but it never needed to be very large in the first place. It looked like it was just large enough to hold a few people, which is how Star designed it. The Agent approached one of the structure’s walls and stepped through it. Once inside she walked over to the lift, allowing it to carry her up to the room where Amber’s dream self was held. Immediately she dove to the floor, dodging the lightning bolt that the human female conjured up. Leaping over a second bolt and rolling under a third, Star finally got close enough to grab Amber’s wrists.
"Don’t even think about it, Megan," Star whispered. "You will no longer be able to survive my destruction now."
"Why should I care? There’s nothing left for me to live for," the human retorted. "You and your kind have made sure of that."
"Not even Julia?"
"Julia’s dead, Te Nyat Star," Amber said flatly. "She was on the plane that was used to kill the Director General of the UAR."
"No, she missed that flight, thanks to a flat tire," the Agent replied smugly. "However, my Superiors had captured her on the same day, the reason everyone thought she was dead. It was also the reason we could meet face to face after another plane crash resulted in my ‘birth’."
"And you’re telling me this because…?"
"I’m tired of the conflict between us. And I wanted to give you something to think about."
With that, Star released her grip on Amber and left the dreamscape.
Opening her eyes, the Agent saw Michaels crouched beside her, wearing a concerned look on his face.
"Are you feeling alright?" he asked.
In response, Star’s fist shot up, catching the lieutenant on the chin. As he staggered back, she stood up and snapped off a kick that knocked Michaels out and into the opposite wall.
"I am now," she told the unconscious officer as she took his pistol. Then she headed towards the hangar again, keeping her third eye out for any other interruptions.
Cerise stared at the impostor with an expression of nervousness and frustration. She had sensed that something wasn't right and ignored her intuition and now the Mysteron Scarlet was holding her at gunpoint. Glancing nervously to her left and right Cerise frowned as she realised there was no cover and no escape but through the door beyond the Mysteron.
"What do you want?"
"You seem sure I won't kill you?"
"You need me for something or you'd have done it already."
He smiled and nodded. "I need your fingerprints to get me into the armoury. I still have a couple of chips to retrieve, I'm going to need something to convince them to give them to me."
"No way! I'm not going to help you," Cerise snapped.
"My dear, Captain, you don't have a choice. No, very slowly remove your pistol and drop it to the floor, then remove your belt and pass it to me."
"Do as I say!"
"Oh they did coach you well!" muttered Cerise as she did what she was asked.
Making a loop, 'Scarlet' pulled the belt firmly around Cerise's wrists and secured it with the buckle.
"I don't want any trouble out of you, but like I said, I need your fingerprints. Count yourself lucky I'm taking all of you and not just your hand!" he snapped.
"Firstly, the doors won't work with a disembodied hand. We're not stupid! And secondly, don't you think people are going to notice and suspect that something is amiss when they see Major Scarlet walking through Cloudbase with me like this?"
"Well, you see, I don't have much time and if they get in my way, I'll kill them. Now move!"
Scarlet pushed the reluctant Captain into the hallway once more, holding onto her left arm, he shoved his gun into her back.
"Now, the armoury!"
Cerise cursed silently to herself, she couldn't believe her stupidity, firstly at not trusting her instincts and secondly actually forgetting that this man wasn't Scarlet. He wasn't a clone, just a look alike. He had no Spectrum training and, she felt reasonably sure, no unarmed combat training. She considered the situation. Okay forget hands, she thought, but there's nothing wrong with my feet. All I have to do is get him to drop his guard, pull away from his grip and act before he fires. Easier if I felt well, but I'm NOT taking him to the armoury!
Tentatively Cerise tried her plan. Faking a violent sneeze, she pulled forward. It worked, he let go! Grabbing her arm once more, he pushed the gun in her back, urging her forward.
"Please, don't shoot, it was just a sneeze!" she begged. There, maybe that'll make him think I'm too scared to act? I'm a terrible actress!
'Sneezing' once more, Cerise took a step forward, whirled on the spot bringing her left leg up to head height as she did. Kicking with all her might she landed the full weight of her Spectrum service boot squarely in the Mysteron agent's chest. The unexpected blow sent him reeling backwards and heading for the floor. The next well aimed kick sent the gun he held spinning across the corridor. Cerise moved in for a final kick, hoping it would be enough to render the Mysteron agent unconscious, if even briefly. As she approached he seized her ankle and pulled. Already slightly dizzy from the kick, Cerise fell backwards with no way to break her fall. Landing badly, disorientated and in pain, she lashed out with one more kick, not knowing where it landed. All was silent. She had been successful by lucky chance. Partially raising herself, she edged back to find the support of the corridor's wall. Her vision blurred and she felt sick, but she had to raise the alarm. Picking up the dropped pistol with her still bound hands she fired several shots into the fallen enemy. She knew it wouldn't kill him, but could delay his recovery, buying her a little more time. She heard footsteps racing in her direction, alerted by the sound of the shots. Passing out, Cerise slumped against the wall.
Major Scarlet was first to arrive on the scene. He couldn't help giving a slight smile as he worked out what must have happened. He turned to see Lake running as fast as she could behind him.
"Wha'... what 'appened?" Lake asked, leaning against the wall.
"Cerise overpowered my double, by the looks of it." Scarlet replied, pointing at the body on the floor. "I'll restrain him, don't worry. See that Cerise is alright."
Lake nodded. "Gladly." She knelt beside her unconscious colleague wit a worried expression. "Sue? Sue, can you hear me? It's Ems - I'm here to help you."
Cerise shifted slightly, waking slowly. Her head ached, pains stabbed at her and her eyes refused to focus. Seeing only blurred shapes and colours, sounds were incoherent to her; she was vaguely aware that her wrists were still fastened by her belt.
"Sir, I think she's waking!" Lake called excitedly.
"Good," replied Scarlet as he finished securing his Mysteron double. "Does she seem okay?"
"I can't get much sense out of her, Sir," Lake replied glumly.
Scarlet sat back on his heels before standing. "So, back to normal then?" he said with a grin.
"Major!" Lake's voice was heavy with disapproval, her expression equally so, until she saw the mischievous grin and softened at the sight of it.
"Here, let's have a look."
As Scarlet approached he was quite taken aback to see Cerise suddenly struggle to move away from him.
"It's okay, Cerise your safe," he said holding her arms to try to stop her hurting herself.
Cerise squirmed in his grip. From her sudden increase in breathing rate they could both tell that Cerise was anxious over something, but it was Lake who realised the source of the problem.
"Major, it's you, she thinks you are your own double come to finish the job!"
The words were lost to Cerise, still unable to decipher the confusing noises. Still in obvious distress, she continued to fight against him.
"Lake, calm her down," Scarlet stood and moved out of Cerise's eye line, "I'll call for a med team and a security team."
"Sue? Can you hear me?" Lake asked, untying her wrists, distressed by her friend's injuries.
"General?" came the whispered reply as she finally found her voice.
Lake chuckled. "No, Sue, it's Ems. Are you alright?" she put a hand on her forehead.
"Not really," Cerise mumbled, trying to force her eyes to focus properly.
"Help is on the way, don't worry. How bad do you feel, and what can I do for you? I'll help in any way I can." she offered a reassuring smile.
"How bad?" Cerise groaned. "I don't know. I hit my head pretty hard. But, General White...?"
"You did hit your head hard!" Lake sighed. "It's me, Ems, Lake. You remember?"
Cerise gave a half smile. "Of course I remember, I mean is he alright. Topaz went crazy, she took him. He called her something else. He was in trouble, Ems. He..."
Cerise looked up in alarm as Scarlet approached.
"The med team is here," he announced.
Cerise tried to reach for Lake's pistol but was unable to close her fingers on it before Lake moved away.
"It's Major Scarlet, calm down," Lake scolded.
"No!" Cerise was insistent. "I thought so too. He..."
"The man you overpowered is over there, Cerise," Scarlet pointed towards the wall. She looked over, a little uncertain at first and then finally relaxing.
"Looks like you're off to Sickbay now," Lake smiled.
"The General!" Cerise insisted. "Find him!"
"Count on it," nodded Scarlet as the doctor stepped past him, crouching at Cerise's side.
Lake watched the doctor crouch beside Cerise. She frowned, wondering if there was more that she should do.
Scarlet touched her arm, trying to get her attention. "Are you with us, Captain?"
"Hmm?" she turned back to him. Her concern was very evident in her eyes. "Major, should I stay with Cerise - just for a while? She looks pretty rough, and..."
"I don't think so. We need to find General White, and Cerise should be given some quiet - she must rest."
The Captain nodded her agreement, quietly. "I know, Sir - you're right of course." she turned back to Cerise, "You take care of yourself, Sue. I'll check on you later."
Poor Cerise! Scarlet thought with amusement.
Star felt Lake and Scarlet just before one of them would have sensed her approach and paused, figuring out the best way to get past them. Focusing her senses on the area, Star then picked up the presence of Carter, Captain Cerise, and the medical team near the two Rogue Mysterons, and the approach of a Security team. Suppressing the energies that marked her as a loyal Mysteron Agent, Star scurried to the intersection closest to her partner, checked to make sure no one was watching, then moved Carter to a location where he couldn’t be sensed by the red-clad officers. She returned to the spot where she found him and traced, using spilt blood as ink, the words, ‘See you Downstairs, Major. Star.’
Stepping out of sight, the Agent then purposely flared her aura, pouring enough effort into the flare to make it seem like she and the impostor teleported down, and then headed back to where she left Carter after shielding and cloaking herself again.
Lake followed Scarlet at a stumbling pace. "Zirrrr..."
The Major turned back and frowned. "Captain, what's...?" a wave of nausea hit him, and he understood immediately. "Alright, Lake. There’s a Mysteron, and he can't be far away - come on."
Lake picked up her pace as best she could. "Zir, I'm 'oldin' you up..."
"Not at all - in any case, I need you. Try to find him."
Nodding, the Captain took the lead. Scarlet watched her staggering, leaning against a wall as she stopped. "Thiz way..." she pointed to their right.
"Right - I'll go first." Scarlet told her, moving forward as quietly as he could.
Lake motioned for him to stop, and picked up some pieces of rubber. "Sorry... you're too noisy - I could 'ear you coming from a mile off..." she carefully applied the rubber to his boots.
"Where did you...?"
The Captain gave him a shy smile. "I always carries it wiv me - never know when silence might be important. Besides, it also insulates you."
Scarlet patted her shoulder. "I'll bear that in mind..."
Star got back to Carter’s location before Scarlet or Lake got close enough to sense him again and lifted him onto her shoulders, drawing his link to the Superiors through her and allowing her projected ‘human’ bio-signature to cloak him as well. Then she took off for Topaz’s quarters, using the maintenance and emergency passageways to avoid other people and a majority of the security doors. Those doors which she had to go through were usually bamboozled to open and close, using one of several methods that left very little trace in the computer network. As far as avoiding other people were concerned she only had three close calls, two while she was trying to climb up a ladder and the third as she neared her destination.
After she watched the two agents exit the corridor, Star pulled Carter out of their hiding spot and dragged him to the door she wanted. Pulling out her tool kit again, Star then proceeded to bypass the lock and the security seal to open the door, always keeping an ‘eye’ out for unexpected company.
Having gotten the door open, Agent Star quickly replaced the panel and dragged Carter into the room. Laying him down on the floor, she then grabbed her tools and pulled open a hidden panel beside the door, to close it and reset the lock and the seal. Finally, she activated a series of devices, installed without Megan’s knowledge, that would cloud their presence from outside senses before lowering her guard. She sat down at the desk, relieved that her link with the Superiors, and through it, Carter's, was psionic in nature, and considered her next move.
Lake stopped suddenly, making Scarlet bump into her. He looked down at her with an enquiring look. All her senses seemed in alert, but at the same time, she seemed deeply frustrated. His brow furrowed. "What is it? You seemed... I don't know, like you lost something."
"Don't you feel it?" she almost snapped.
He tilted his head to one side, not sure what she was implying. Then it occurred to him. "You mean you lost him?"
"Yeah. Completely. And SO suddenly... It's almost impossible." Lake raised an apologetic look toward her superior officer. "I mean, it was as if we were NEARLY on him, and then, so suddenly... he was GONE."
"When did you loose him, exactly?"
She pointed towards a door, down the corridor. "When we passed right in front of this door. In fact, all was indicating that he was there and then suddenly, nothing more. I tried to track him back again, but... no chance. That's really not normal, you know?"
Scarlet shook his head. "Star and her tricks," he mumbled. "Let's go back to that door, Lieutenant. It's a sure bet that look-alike of mine is behind it. And I might add, with Star, who is trying to conceal him from your - ours - senses. All of our senses, as a matter of fact."
They moved toward the door. They stood in front of it, and Lake moved her finger toward the button that would order the opening. Scarlet stopped her in mid-movement. He shook his head. "I'm SURE they're behind that door," he said. "But I can't be sure if they know we're there and, therefore, be waiting for us."
"What do you suggest?" Lake whispered. She shook herself, remembering that nobody could hear them through the thickness of the door. She looked on as Scarlet lowered his RadioCap and called in the closest security teams around, ordering for every exit of the room beyond that door would be sealed and kept under surveillance. They wait a few seconds before one of the teams reached them - lead by Colonel Blue himself, who was holding a Mysteron gun.
"What are you doing here?" Scarlet asked, glowering at his best friend. "You should keep out of harm's way, Colonel."
"Try to order me away, Major," Blue replied dryly. "And how do I know you're the right Scarlet, to begin with?"
"I'm with him, aren’t I, Colonel?" Lake protest.
"Who else would know that your second name was given to you in honour of your grandfather, Adam Archibald?" Scarlet replied with a sheepish smile.
"Now EVERYBODY," Blue grumbled, handling Scarlet the Mysteron gun. "You promised you would keep the secret until the day you'll die."
"I did. I died last week." Scarlet became serious again and nodded at the door. "They're in there. Carter AND Star. And possibly the missing chip."
"That's why I'm here. Just like the General, Star can't play with my mind the way she can with others. So I'll know right away if something doesn't appear right. I want that chip back, Scarlet. And Star captured."
"And I also want to get rid of that double of mine," Scarlet grumbled. "I'm not comfortable with him running around Cloudbase!" He gestured toward a technician that was standing next to the door. "Burn that lock. We waited enough for the showdown. We're going in!"
In a matter of seconds, the technicians had short-circuited the lock and the door opened suddenly. Scarlet sprang forward, entering the room, the Mysteron gun at the ready, Lake, Blue and the security team following closely behind.
Before them the rooms only two occupants - Carter lay still unconscious, Star at the desk still in the process of considering her options.
Scarlet frowned deeply as he saw his double who had caused them all, especially Rose, so much trouble. With a satisfied grunt he aimed the Mysteron Rifle and fired, killing the Mysteron outright. At the same time Lake and Blue dragged Star to her feet searching her cap and pockets for the missing chip.
"Don't even think of trying your mind games with me, Star! You know they're ineffectual, so don't waste my time."
"Found it!" cried Lake triumphantly.
Blue examined it carefully, the General having advised him on how to spot the original, he smiled and nodded as he handed it to one of the many security guards.
"Get this to the General, straight away,” Blue ordered. "Now then, Star!" he continued as Scarlet levelled the Mysteron rifle at her and Lake, himself and the guards held their service pistols ready to fire. "Let's end this, now!"
"Oh, I agree, let’s end this," Star replied, her fingers twitching slightly. She then leapt at Colonel Blue, using her psionics to try to throw off everyone’s aim. Blue’s shot hit her in the shoulder and except for Scarlet’s nearly hitting her in the back, her trick also worked like expected. Her hand had wrapped around the Colonel’s neck and when he grabbed her wrist to break the hold, he felt the bracer’s two trigger cords pulled tight against her skin.
"Now I want that chip back, or Cloudbase will be looking for a new Colonel," she said, pulling Blue away from the crowd and towards the desk. "And I wouldn’t fire if I were you, Scarlet. No matter who you’d hit, you’ll end up frying Adam here."
"What’s that supposed to mean, Agent Star?" Scarlet growled, hoping to distract her from the guard inching towards the door.
"What one expects it to mean when dealing with a ninja, even a brown belt like the Amber Intruder. Nobody, not even General White, thought that any of her ‘personal’ equipment could be used as weapons or that all of her boots would have been given the rubber sole treatment for silence. Now, the chip, or we see what a grappling hook will do to the Colonel’s brain." Then Star noticed the guard creeping towards the open door. "On second thought, let’s see how well one would work for heart surgery."
Her injured arm bent at the elbow and her wrist snapped down, sending the arrow-like projectile on its way. Despite the target-rich environment or the fact that it was a hip shot, the hook struck the person the Agent targeted, piercing his chest back to front before expanding. Her hand flattened out, pulling that bracer’s second trigger and reeling in the hapless person. She then quickly detached the cable and reclaimed the chip before the body crumpled to the floor.
"Apparently not very well. Shall we call this mission a tie then, eh, Colonel?" Star whispered to Blue, before ‘flinging’ him at Scarlet while lashing out at the rest psychically. Her now free hand curled around Topaz’s portable microchip reader and she started to fade away.
Suddenly her body was opaque again, but as if it was a double image, with the second wearing a grey jumpsuit, a silver bracelet, and Topaz’s boots and service pistol. One of the two faces looked to her right and spoke.
"Megan, what have you done?"
Lt. Topaz’s ghostly image formed on the spot that the Agent was staring at, visible to anyone Star’s psychic abilities could affect. She faced the Agent with a slight grin on her face.
<What you should have expected me to do, Te Nyat Star,> the image ‘said’, <once you told me my sister was captured by the Mysterons. I’ve initiated a sort of prisoner exchange.>
"You do know that the Superiors will kill you for this, Megan," Star replied, "and that Julia may not survive the rescue or the attempt to revive her."
<I’d rather be dead, and she would feel the same way, than spend a lifetime trapped in my mind, watching you manipulate the two of us like puppets. Or live that same life under suspicion, questioned and prodded by psychiatrists, scientists, and the most miserable agents in SI for what you’ve done,> Topaz snapped back.
Besides, you once said that you‘d kill me if I dared to step foot inside the Complex. And maybe, if I’m ‘dead’, you won’t be able to use Julia.>
She then turned to Scarlet. <Paul, tell In… tell Rose I’m sorry. For using her the way I did when Star planned to attack Michaels today and for not waiting around for her to set me free. And tell Pat and Martin I’m glad that things didn’t work out between us, that…>
Then all traces of Topaz’s uniform faded away, leaving behind Julia’s body, still in its cryogenically enforced sleep.
"Call a medic!" Colonel Blue pointed in direction of the woman's body and that of the down Spectrum guard. Then he got to his feet, helped by Scarlet, and the two of them watched as, after Topaz's presence had gone, the form of Agent Start faded away before his eyes. As a last, useless attempt, Lieutenant Laze fire her gun at the disappearing form, but it was too late, as she was already out of reach.
"She's gone!" Scarlet growled furiously. He turned to Blue. "I can't believe it! We had the chip and..."
"She doesn't have the chip." Blue plunged his hand into his pocket and produced a microchip very similar to the one Lake had given him earlier. "This is the real one. I gave the bogus one to Gunter earlier - since Star was looking, I didn't want for her to really know where the real one was. I suspected she would have tried again to get it back. I never expected, though, that she would lash out so savagely against Gunter." He looked down at the down agent, a few feet away from him. One of the other guards had knelt by his side and was checking on him. Surprisingly, Gunter was still alive, if barely.
"I think he's going to make it, sir," the other guard said, looking up to Blue.
The latter shook his head sadly. Then with Scarlet and Lake turned to the other still body in the room, to look down at it with curiosity.
"Who do you think this is?" Lake asked.
"I'm not sure," Scarlet replied. "Probably someone with importance to Topaz. Someone that they used to keep their hold against her?"
"They? The Mysterons?"
"Who else? But it's unlike what they ever did before, you must admit."
"We'll take care of her," Blue said with a nod. "And maybe some day we'll have some answers." He looked at the chip in his hand. "I don't know if the General will appreciate all the trouble such a little thing had brought on Cloudbase," he added grimly. "Not to mention the other one..."
"Tell him to make sure not to lose them again," Scarlet replied with a grin, handing the Mysteron gun to another guard. "If this is all finished, Colonel, I'll ask you to excuse the Lieutenant and I..."
"Where are we going?" Lake asked in surprise.
"To sickbay, of course," Scarlet replied with a new grin. "You, to check on your partner - and me on my daughter. Have you forgotten already how they've been mistreated in all this affair?"
"Of course, not!" Lake protested. "Colonel... could we...?"
"Of course," Blue smiled in turn. "Go and check on them." They were on their way to hurriedly left the room, when the Colonel called Scarlet back suddenly. "Oh, and Scarlet...?" He nodded to the dead Mysteron at his feet. "What should we do with your twin, here?"
Scarlet stared down at his double, then shrugged negligently. "Whatever you want," he replied rather dryly. "And he wasn't my twin, really... Just a bad, out of luck actor, who had the misfortune of accepting a contract from Captain Black."
"Out of luck, you got it right," Lake growled with anger.
"Oh, he couldn't have a better role to end his career," Scarlet replied matter-of-factly.
"Oh very droll, Captain!" Lake said, rolling her eyes.
"You could even say," Scarlet added as they walked out of the room together, "he had died for his art. Literally."