As always, the Spectrum men were at the doorway of the canteen on Cloudbase just as the Angels entered. Captains Blue and Ochre regarded the group of white-clad women appreciatively as they walked past. Magenta joined them.
"Mmm, is that a new girl I see there?"
"Why, yes, Magenta, I think it is," grinned Ochre, his eyes fixing on the girl's rear. "It's nice to see Spectrum still picks out the best," he added with a wink.
Blue coughed. "Don't let Scarlet hear you say that."
"Don't let me hear them say what?"
Captain Scarlet had appeared behind them clutching a plastic lunch tray laden with sandwiches.
"We were just discussing the… ah, merits of our female pilots," said Magenta with a wink.
Scarlet followed his gaze. "Sandra?" he called out. He rushed up to the newbie, set down his tray on a table and gave her a hug. Blue chuckled at the expressions on Ochre and Magenta's face.
"I did warn you. Sandra's his niece."
Sandra Ryder had always wanted to join Spectrum, ever since her uncle had. In truth, she really didn't regard Paul as an uncle; there was only ten years between them, after all. She'd been thrilled when she'd been accepted. And now, here she was, on Cloudbase as an Angel! Of course, on duty she was Charity Angel. The phrase still felt weird.
Right now, she was sitting in the Angels' lounge, on the ready in case she got called out. Rhapsody noticed her nervousness.
"Hey, relax! If you're needed you're needed, that's all there is to it."
"I know, it's just-"
"It's just it's your first time and you don't want to make an idiot of yourself, yeah?"
Sandra smiled gratefully. "Yeah."
Rhapsody sat beside her, shaking out her red hair. "I hadn't realised you knew Captain Scarlet, are you related?"
Sandra nodded. "He's my uncle." Seeing Rhapsody's alarmed look, she chuckled. "My mother's about fifteen years older than him, so he was ten when she had me." Rhapsody nodded.
"Do you have any other siblings? Scarlet doesn't really talk about himself or his family, and goodness knows we've all tried."
"That is right," said Destiny as she walked past to the drink machine. "He is friendly, it is true, but he seems reluctant to talk about his past."
Sandra chuckled. "Are you asking me to dish the dirt on Spectrum's top agent?"
Symphony jumped onto the sofa beside her and gave her a cheeky grin. "If you're offering…"
"Well, he was Mr Popular at school. We both went to the same school, ten years apart, obviously, and for the first few weeks all I heard from the teachers was Paul this and Paul that. His name's on one or two trophies, he was a prefect-"
"Everything you'd expect of him, in other words," completed Symphony. "But you must have some stories to tell?"
Sandra considered it. "Well, there was this one time when we went hiking with some friends about five years ago while he was on leave, and we camped close to this beach- this was somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, Caithness, possibly- and there was a graveyard close to the campsite.
"Anyway, we sat round the fire, as you do, toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories, and one friend, who knew a fair bit about the local history, told us this really creepy one about some fisherman who fell overboard at sea and has been sighted since, covered in seaweed.
"While a couple of the guys went to get some driftwood, they found some phosphorescent seaweed, so they waited 'till everyone went to bed, then they crept into Scarlet's tent and started stroking his face with the seaweed." The Angels giggled, and some of them shuddered.
"So what did he do?" asked Symphony in a whisper.
"He jumped up yelling, and had chased them halfway through the graveyard before he'd realised who it was." The Angels fell about laughing. The door opened.
"Charity, Harmony and Rhapsody, Colonel White wants to see you. What?" he added with a raised eyebrow, since the Angels' laughter had increased at the sight of him standing in the doorway. "What's going on?" he demanded as Sandra and the other two Angels hurried out of the door. Sandra gave him what looked rather like an apologetic look as she rushed away, leaving the other three Angels to tell Scarlet what she'd been up to.
"Ladies, the World President is to visit London later this month, and therefore shall require an escort from his current location to the airport, then from there to Heathrow in London, where a helijet will be waiting to cover him to his final destination. I want the three of you to escort him."
"Yes sir," replied the Angels.
"Good," said Colonel White. "You may go. Actually, Charity…"
"Yes sir?" Sandra paused on her way out the door.
"This will be your first assignment. I wish you luck."
Sandra smiled. "Thankyou sir."
Paul Metcalfe thought his ears were on fire, an impression confirmed when he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection on the coffee-pot as Symphony poured him a mug of the stuff by way of a peace offering.
"It was just a bit of fun really," she said sympathetically, all the while clearly not trying to laugh. "It's nice to know you're not completely perfect."
"Thanks," Paul replied dryly, gulping the hot brew. "I didn't realise that was how you saw me, to be honest."
"You're ze top agent," said Destiny. "You 'ave been on many missions, and you never seem to 'ave an 'air out of place."
"That's just because you've never seen me after an explosion," said Paul. He heard the hiss of the doors opening. "Ah, my little niece has been up to mischief," he said to Sandra. She had the grace to blush.
"If you really want, you can get me back later with a story about me."
"But there aren't any good ones about you that don't involve me in a similar situation… I mean…" Paul cursed himself quietly, aware that he'd dug himself a hole; the Angels were wearing identical looks of immense interest.
"So, err… what did the Colonel want to talk about?" he asked quickly, changing the subject.
"We're to escort the President to London," said Rhapsody.
"Wow, Sandra, not bad for your first assignment," congratulated Symphony. "I remember my first one. I had to chase after this guy who's run off with some top-secret paperwork. Exciting, but nothing like this."
"Mine was escorting some nasty weaponry that had been recovered," put in Rhapsody.
"My first mission was to get the Colonel some coffee," muttered Paul. Seeing the puzzled expressions on the girls' faces, he asked them, "Are you lot like one of those alien races that communicate telepathically and move and think as one?" He sighed. "I was down on Earth investigating reports of an assassin planning to kidnap one of the world leaders, and the Colonel told me to get some of his favourite brand while I was down there. Blue found the assassin before I did, so all I really did was get the Colonel coffee." He shrugged. "Not what you'd call taxing."
Rhapsody chuckled and sat down on one of the sofas. "Now, Charity, tell me some more Captain Scarlet stories.
for the record, the story about captain scarlet is based on a true one: when my grandad was a scout, he and his mates found some phosphorescent seaweed, and decided to wave it about in the other tent that night. the occpants apparently made a lot of noise