"She's waking up."
Rose's eyes fluttered open and she began slowly focussing on the blurry figures above her. She tried to speak, to ask what had happened, but found that she couldn't.
"Don't try to speak, sweetie. I had to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe. I'll take it out when you've woken up a bit. Do you understand?"
Rose nodded, beginning to recognise the people around her; Doctors Fawn and Azure, Major Scarlet, Colonel Blue and a couple of nurses.
Fawn left as soon as he was happy that Rose was suitably awake.
"How are you feeling, honey?" Scarlet asked. Rose made a few gestures with her hands, and Azure laughed.
"Rose says 'like I've got a tube stuck down my throat'," he explained. "I think you're already awake enough." Azure disconnected the ventilator from the tube.
"Right, take a deep breath, and when I tell you, blow out as hard as you can, okay?" Rose nodded and inhaled.
"Now, blow." As she did so, Azure tugged the tube out and placed it on a tray next to the bed. As one of the nurses whisked it away, he raised his eyebrows in surprise. "That must be a good sign," he muttered to himself.
"What happened?" Rose asked. "I thought I was dead for good. Oh, for goodness sake, I don't need that," she said, batting Azure away as he tried to fit a nasal inhaler. He persisted and succeeded, whilst explaining.
"You were, by rights. I'm still not entirely certain as to the mechanics of retrometabolism, but Dr. Fawn was convinced that you could pull through, so he put you on the ventilator and shocked your heart. I'll get him to explain it better." Azure then left her with Blue and Scarlet.
"How long was I down for?"
"It's Tuesday. Check your watch," Scarlet recommended.
"Sixty-eight hours? That's impossible!"
"You're still not done yet." He gestured to the IV in her arm.
Fawn chose that moment to enter.
"How're you feeling?" he asked.
"Tired of being asked how I'm feeling," she replied, annoyed, and then yawned.
"Get some sleep. You'll need it," Fawn advised, but he was too late; Rose had already dropped off. The doctor made a note of her vitals and the time registered on the Mysteron's watch.
Scarlet breathed a huge sigh of relief. "Thank God she's okay."
Fawn suddenly got a worried expression on his face.
"Well…" Fawn hesitated, not sure how to tell them. "Rose may never be 'okay' as such again. We haven't been able to study the entire effects of electricity on retrometabolism in replicants, and Rose is a hybrid Mysteron, which are entirely unpredictable in all cases studied by biologists of earthbound creatures. We just can't tell in her case. If it had been you, though, you'd be dead. She's very lucky to still be here."
"What are you saying, Fawn?" Blue asked.
"You saw her eyes. I haven't seen them revert to being blue for a long time. I don't know if Rose will ever have the abilities she had before, including retrometabolism."
"But what does that mean?" The three men turned to see General Metcalfe and his wife in the doorway. They had gone to bed a couple of hours ago, but Scarlet suspected that neither had slept at all. His mother certainly hadn't. Her face had been tearstained since the incident, and Scarlet could tell that she'd been crying again recently. Mary rushed towards the bed as quickly as her frail body would carry her. "Will she survive?"
"Oh, yes, certainly General. What I mean is that Rose may be an ordinary human being now, just like the rest of us."
"But other than that she's okay?" Mary asked, relief showing on her face.
"I don't know!" Fawn said, exasperated. "I won't know until she wakes properly." He was upset too, but unable to show it in front of the family. If Fawn allowed emotional involvement, he would not be a good enough doctor to help Rose. He was always frustrated that her nature made her different – he couldn't help her medically most of the time because there were no others to study and compare to. Perhaps electricity didn't affect her in the same way as the replicants.
"I'm sorry, Edward." Fawn looked up, startled. It had been Scarlet who had spoken. "It must be hard on you too."
"Hmm," he replied, distantly, still thinking. "Right," he barked, "my patient needs rest and to be checked by a doctor. What is this, a mothers' meeting?"
"Pardon?" Mary said, objecting. The others left, grumbling. Mary remained, sitting down in the chair next to the bed, and fixing the doctor with a nasty glare. Knowing he would never win, Fawn left her there.
He envied Scarlet sometimes. The Metcalfes must have been such wonderful parents, not like his own father, who had never been there, even before his mother died, what with managing the ER. Fawn barely remembered his mother, as he'd been five when she died. His father had never spoken of it. Fawn had found out, years later from his grandparents, that it had been a car crash. A drunken joyrider had ploughed into the side of his mother's car when she had been driving to pick him up from school.
Fawn slipped out of sickbay into an adjoining small room created to allow the doctors to monitor a patient well enough to make a report to the commanding officer or Intelligence. At the moment, however, it was serving as the hideout of General White, who was seated at the table. He got up as he saw the doctor entering.
"How is she?" he asked.
"Rose? She's asleep, but she woke up about half an hour ago. It's a good sign."
"So," White said, sitting back down, "Will she be ready for Saturday?"
"I couldn't really say," Fawn said, vaguely. "It all depends on how she heals."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"Charles, she still has blue eyes. It's not looking altogether good for her," Fawn admitted. "I won't tell them that, of course, but it's really not. Oh, they've gone, by the way, you can come out now. There's just Mrs. Metcalfe left, and she's probably fallen asleep." Fawn paused. "That reminds me, weren't you supposed to be off on furlough this week?"
"Why would that remind you, doctor?" White inquired, not quite as harshly as he would have liked. He remembered a time when he had not been quite as oblivious to the truth as a certain two couples on Cloudbase would have liked. White strongly suspected that the same was more than likely true of him and his lady friend now.
"Oh, I don't know. You taking furlough is pretty unusual, or it used to be, at any rate. And in Iowa? That's also become quite commonplace these days."
The men drew level with the door to Rose's room. As Fawn had suspected, Mary was fast asleep in the chair.
White sighed. "Truth is, I'm thinking of retiring. My eyesight is going and my hearing hasn't been the same after that incident twenty years ago. This is a young man's game, Edward; and Iowa is such a pretty place."
"Sure it is," Fawn said, winking. "And there's a pretty lady living there too. Unless I missed my mark many, many years ago, her surname is the same as one of our Angel's maiden name."
White's ears turned scarlet. "Yet again, doctor, you have not missed 'your mark'."
"So, retirement, huh? Are you moving in with Mrs. Wainwright?"
"Yes, I'll be a guest at her home for a while, but…"
"You're gonna ask her to marry you."
"Perhaps," White replied with a wry smile, his eyes twinkling. "I should have done it years ago, but I at least wanted to see young Rose's commissioning before handing over to Colonel Blue."
Fawn nodded. "Have you spoken to Blue yet?"
"No. I may speak to him and Symphony at the same time. After all, it would mean my becoming her step-father."
Blue, Scarlet and Metcalfe made their way towards the officers' lounge. It was almost deserted, but in the far corner, two young lieutenants had secreted themselves.
"Amber? Turquoise? What are you still doing here?"
"Colonel!" The two young men jumped to their feet and stood to attention.
"As you were, gentlemen," Blue replied, laughing. The five men sat down in the lounge. "We got kicked out of sickbay."
"So," General Metcalfe said, stretching, "what's bothering you boys?"
They hesitated, unsure as to what to do or say. Scarlet understood.
"It's okay. My father knows as much, if not more about the Mysterons that you do."
"But…" Amber protested.
"I'm not Spectrum?" Metcalfe inquired, amused by the situation. He waited for Amber to nod, then continued. "Well, no, I'm not, but I have been liasing with Spectrum for many years now. And, boys, did you seriously think that I wouldn't notice that my son and granddaughter are Mysterons? Look, Paul, I'm sorry I said that, but…"
"If truth be told, we are," Scarlet finished. "I know. I spent years avoiding the fact and caused myself a lot of grief because of it, but Rose was always happy to accept the fact, even after she started to face them. Now I realise that it's not your genetics that determine who you are, but your mind. It doesn't bother me any more."
"Zere is one thing I do not understand. Vhy did you not vish to kill the Mysterons vhen you had the chance? Vhy vait?" Turquoise inquired.
"Ah, don't you wish Pat was here to field that one?" When the lieutenants appeared confused, Blue explained. "Colonel Magenta. He's the expert on this part. This may be hard for you to believe, but we were trying to save them. There are a few ways in which Mysteron agents can be freed. One, which apparently isn't feasible any more, is for the agent to fall, say, eight hundred feet. That was a mistake the Mysterons have made a couple of times, but we assume that they have learned from their mistakes. Another that we are familiar with is much trickier to explain, in that we can't entirely yet. It's only been performed once, and the agent was able to continue a normal life afterwards. There are absolutely no side effects that we know of yet."
"Why weren't we told about this when we were studying?" Amber asked.
"Well, we never considered the fact that any of you would need to know about it. Also, the end of your training would have been no fun," Scarlet explained.
"The end of training? Metcalfe!" Amber glanced around at his present company, and looked chagrined, realising that he was, indeed, speaking to two 'Metcalfes', neither of which were the one he was referring to. "I mean 'Rose'," he corrected. "She must have something to do with it then!"
"You'll make a good agent, Amber." Blue remarked. "Yes, Rose has rather a lot to do with it. Cadet Metcalfe is the only person on this planet capable of freeing someone from the Mysterons' control."
"Is there anything she can't do?" Amber asked, incredulous. The three older men laughed, and said nothing.
"Lieutenant Turquoise?" Metcalfe asked gently. "Are you all right? You seem awfully quiet."
"Is nothing," the young Russian replied, obviously lying, then added "I just thought that I was ready to face Mysterons, but I am not. I have failed."
"Well, I don't know if it's my place to be saying this, but I think you did exceptionally well, considering the circumstances, young man," Metcalfe told him, encouragingly. "It was a very difficult situation to be faced with on your first day. Family members are always the worst to face up to."
All eyes turned to Scarlet. "Don't worry, Turquoise," he said, his ears a similar colour to his uniform. "Even my Rose had problems. Look at where she is now. She's very lucky she wasn't killed by that pistol."
"Is Rose okay, sir?" Amber inquired.
"Dr. Fawn says he won't know for certain for a while yet, but don't go bothering him."
"No, sir, thank you. If you'll excuse me, sirs, I need some sleep before I go on duty tomorrow morning."
"Of course," Blue said. "Good night."
"I think I must also sleep," Turquoise stated, as Amber left.
Turquoise left, slightly more relaxed than when they had found him.
"So, Scarlet, your Rose has an admirer," Blue noted, stretching out in his seat.
"Paul! I'm surprised you didn't notice," Metcalfe admonished. "I'd say both of them have their eyes on your little girl."
"Gotta admit, she's a pretty kid. Gets it from her mother, obviously." Blue's eyes were twinkling. He always enjoyed teasing Scarlet, and a sideways glance told him that this time he had support.
"I concur," Metcalfe added. The two older men were close to laughter. There was almost nothing of Rhapsody in the girl. A little around the eyes, perhaps, but other than that, she was totally identical to the way her grandmother had looked about fifty years ago.
"Huh. Anyway, Rose is far too young to have a boyfriend."
"Nonsense! You were much younger that Rose when you started bringing girls home."
"Really? General, you have got to visit more often. Tell me more."
"How many times do I have to tell you to call me 'Charles'? Anyway, embarrassing stories of Paul's childhood will have to wait until morning. I'm afraid I must also retire for the night. Good night, boys." With that, Metcalfe left.
"Fifty-three years old and I'm still a 'boy'," Scarlet groused, staring daggers at his father's retreating form.
"I'm fifty-four and was included in that," Blue pointed out. "And I look it too - you still look about thirty."
"Anyhow, I'm gonna have to leave you too, Paul. I think Karen wants to have a 'talk' tonight." Blue ran a finger round his polo neck, as if he was struggling for air.
Scarlet raised an eyebrow. "Sounds serious. Do you have any idea what it's about?"
"No, that's what worries me. Everything's been so good lately. I mean, the last argument we had was over the commissioning ceremony."
"And where did you end up sleeping that night?" Scarlet enquired, pointedly.
"Yes, yes, I know. And thank you, Rose's bed is very comfortable, but you're not helping," Blue fretted. "I just don't know what's wrong."
"Perhaps something is right," Scarlet pointed out.
"And when was the last time you heard of a woman wanting to have a 'talk' about something 'right'?"
Scarlet thought the answer to that should have been obvious, but then realised that Blue had, in his eighteen years of marriage, never been in that situation, and it was getting too late for that now.
"True," he responded at last, not wanting to throw a spanner into the works. "However, Karen hasn't mentioned anything at all to me, and you know how close we are; almost like brother and sister."
"Good point. Ah well, if I don't go, I won't find out, will I?" Blue rose from his seat. "Night, Paul."
"Good night, Adam, and good luck." Scarlet smiled sympathetically at his friend.
"Thanks. I think I'll need it."
Scarlet made sure that Blue was out of sight before heading back towards Sickbay. Once there, he found the two Metcalfe women sleeping peacefully. Scarlet snooped around and found a spare gurney, which he rolled into the small room. He swiped a pillow and blanket from a bed in the main part of the facility, made up the gurney and laid his mother gently on it, tucking her in. Once he was happy with his handiwork, Scarlet sat in the now vacant chair. With Rose sleeping so peacefully and so vulnerable looking, it was easy to fool himself into believing that she was just his little girl again, and not the young woman she'd grown up into.
As he watched her, Rose's eyes slowly opened and she sat up.
"Daddy?" A hint of panic was in her voice.
"Daddy, I'm scared." Rose's clear blue eyes were welling with tears. "I wasn't scared of dying, I never have been, but this is different. It's changed me, hasn't it?"
Scarlet nodded. He guessed at where this was headed. "Yes it has. Your metabolism is quite slow."
"Metabolism," Rose repeated, trying the word out. "I don't think anyone's ever used that term about me before. It's always been about retrometabolism. Now that's gone, what does that make me? I've lost an integral part of myself. You of all people know what electricity does to retrometabolism, and I've had, what, two jolts in the space of an hour?"
"Four," Scarlet whispered.
"Okay, four. What are the odds that I'll fully recover? I know it, and Fawn knows it. That pistol is made to overcome retrometabolic energy. I didn't survive; I was just lucky that I was on Cloudbase. And I failed my training. I'm not fit to be a Spectrum officer."
"Rubbish!" Scarlet exclaimed, shocked. "You never failed at all. You'd already passed before you came here. You never failed at all. It was just purely bad luck that Jessie could do those things to you."
"But I should have been able to cope with it. I… I…"
"It. Wasn't. Your. Fault," Scarlet told the distraught young woman, accentuating every word in the hopes of getting it through to her. "And as to your fitness to be a Spectrum agent, your ability for languages hasn't suddenly disappeared along with your retrometabolism, has it?"
"Je ne pense pas, non." She smiled. "I see your point. I'm still good for communications."
Scarlet returned his daughter's smile, relieved. "Will you sleep now? You need rest."
"No! I've slept for the better part of three days. I want something to eat."
"That's my girl," Scarlet laughed. "Doctor?"
Azure came to the door. "Yes?"
"Can we get something to eat in here?" Rose asked. "I'm starving."
The young doctor looked thoughtful for a second, as if he was assessing her. "Erm… yeah, okay. Toast."
Rose's face fell. "Is that it?" she demanded. "Toast? Not lasagne and chips?"
"Toast," Azure repeated. "Then we'll see."
He did, however, allow the two Metcalfes to go to the mess hall, with Rose sat in a wheelchair. Azure even accompanied them there, as there were no other patients in Sickbay. They sat around a small table munching on hot buttered toast, supplied by the friendly night staff in the kitchens.
After the consumption of large mounds, Azure asked Rose "So, how do you feel now?"
Rose paused, licking the butter from her fingers and thought for a second.
"Better," she said, slowly, "but not as hungry as I feel I ought to be."
"I shouldn't worry about it," Azure reassured her. "I'm sure your voracious appetite will return in time."
"Do you think so? Honestly?" The two men could tell that Rose wanted to believe it, but couldn't quite allow herself to do so, just in case.
Azure drew a deep breath. "I want to say yes, as a gut instinct, and be one hundred percent positive that I'd be right, but as a scientist, I can't be certain of anything."
"Okay. Thank you. I know Dr. Fawn would never have said anything at all, but I tend to trust doctors' 'gut instincts'." Rose attempted to stifle a yawn, but failed to keep it from Azure's attention. She didn't even protest when the doctor started to push her chair back to Sickbay.
Over the next few days, Rose continued to pick up. On Thursday, Turquoise saw Major Scarlet come into the Control Room to report for duty. The older man had a spring in his step and his bright blue eyes twinkled. After a brief, whispered conversation, Blue, who had been in a very curious mood, a combination of happy and utter shock, for the past few days, cheered to just happy.
Deducing the fact that this phenomenon had something to do with Rose, Turquoise took it upon himself to visit the sick cadet after his uneventful duty shift. However, when he arrived in Sickbay, the young Mysteron cadet was nowhere to be seen. Assuming that she'd just gone to the bathroom, Turquoise seated himself in the vacant seat next to her bed.
He didn't think anything of it when the main doors swished open, and was consequently rather shocked to see Rose slowly making her way back to the room, walking on crutches. He could see the telltale metal glinting on her legs to know that she was also wearing braces to strengthen her weak muscles.
"Is no wonder that Colonel Blue and Major Scarlet have been pleased greatly today," he said, astounded.
Rose had been chatting away in French to the nurse accompanying her, but switched easily to Russian when she heard Turquoise.
"Really? I find it quite frustrating. Do you know it's taken me nearly half an hour just to walk back to my quarters?"
"Allez-vous bien maintenant?" the nurse asked, dumping the large pile of assorted items of clothing and reading material she was carrying on the table.
Rose turned as much as she could to face the nurse. "Ah, oui. Merci." She began to hobble towards the bed. Turquoise offered his support, which, to his utter amazement, Rose accepted.
"You can't be feeling right. The Rose I know would never accept help from anyone," he joked.
"There's no harm in allowing men to be courteous," she told him, with a mischievous glint in her blue eyes. "It allows women to keep the upper hand."
Turquoise burst out laughing. "Yeah, right."
Rose merely raised an eyebrow as the young Russian helped her swing her tired legs onto the bed and undid the braces swiftly.
"Thanks. A girl could get used to this sort of treatment."
"I wouldn't," Turquoise replied, gloomily. "I'm only staying until your commissioning."
Rose frowned. "That's very kind of the general, isn't it? Ah, no, of course it isn't. You're covering communications for me."
Turquoise nodded. "I think my English must have improved vastly in the past week."
Rose laughed. "Communications will do that to you."
The room became silent, and Rose plucked up the courage to ask Turquoise something that every other visitor, including Amber, had carefully avoided.
"Rudolph?" When Rose was certain that she had the Russian's undivided attention, she voiced her question. "What happened at the commissioning?"
"Whatever do you mean?"
"Don't tiptoe around it," Rose snapped, perhaps more forcefully than she'd liked. "I want to know what happened to the Mysterons. And I want to know what happened to Robert and Kristian."
Turquoise stared at his hands. "I am sorry. I didn't know that you hadn't been told."
"Was it really that bad?"
"Yes, it was. I expect that you already know what happened to Major Blake." Rose nodded. "Well, I believe that the first Mysteron to die was my mother." Turquoise had to stop as his voice became choked.
Rose looked abashed. "I'm sorry, Rudolph. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
" No, it is all right. I believe there is a term for this exercise. You tell someone about it, and the hurt becomes less. She… She killed Lieutenant Crimson when she escaped and took his mother hostage. Then she was killed.
"After that, the two younger Mysteron clones activated as, what did Captain Orange call them? 'Walking time bombs'? By that time, the doors had been opened, and everyone was starting to leave. Malachite went back for Crimson's mother and got her out on time, but he sealed the doors from the inside to stop his sister from escaping.
"We were sent out to patrol the base for the remaining two Mysteron agents, shortly after Major Scarlet had disappeared. Most of the doors had been destroyed by then, so it was quite easy. Herr Koenig was found pretty soon after that. He had become trapped by a set of doors that had not been torched until we found them, and we kept him dead until he could be eliminated properly."
Rose was amazed. "No wonder nobody wanted to tell me about it. It's awful."
They continued to talk until Rose became sleepy. Scarlet, Blue and the Metcalfes had been and gone again, proving Turquoise's claim that his English had improved when they conversed. When she fell asleep, Turquoise tiptoed out and went to bed himself.
Saturday morning broke over Cloudbase. Several people were up in time to see it. Scarlet and Rose watched it from her Sickbay window. She stood beside her father, supported only by a single crutch now. Scarlet looked down, proud that she was doing so well, but not wanting to spoil the surprise White and Blue had planned for today. And he didn't dare mention Blue and Symphony's additional surprise. Karen wanted to tell the girl herself, and Scarlet wasn't about to rob her of that opportunity.
Elsewhere on Cloudbase, General White, Dr. Fawn, Colonel Blue, Symphony Angel and Charles and Mary Metcalfe were also awake and plotting. The mess hall was looking fantastic – all the tables were to be cleared after the breakfast rush, and the personnel due to use it had been informed of the early start and finish this morning. A stage had been installed overnight, and the sound system was operational.
They were sat eating their own breakfasts before the stampede due in the next half hour. Suddenly, Symphony rushed out, her hand covering her mouth. Blue followed closely.
"That girl's been acting up for the past few days," Metcalfe noted. "Whatever is wrong with her?" His eyes turned to Scarlet, who had just arrived for his own morning meal.
"Err…" Scarlet glanced at Fawn, who was dutifully keeping his mouth shut. He obviously knew, and was enjoying seeing Scarlet try to explain it away without letting the cat out of the bag.
Symphony emerged from the bathrooms several minutes after entering, minus the recently consumed breakfast. Her husband was waiting outside, concerned.
"Are you all right, honey?" Blue enquired, putting his arms around the Angel.
Symphony brushed him off. "I'm fine," she snapped grumpily.
"You're not sleeping right. I heard you get up twice last night."
"I'm sorry, but the term…" Symphony mouthed the term as a lieutenant passed them by, "…is an absolute farce. I get it at night."
"Go and get some sleep," Blue said, gently. "I'll ask Dr. Fawn if there's anything he can do."
"But I'll miss everything," Symphony moaned, not quite sounding convinced that it wasn't the best idea in the world. She sounded tired. Blue knew that it wasn't just last night, but he didn't want to complain at all.
"No," Blue told the Angel leader, soothingly. "I'll call you when you need to get up, and you can go and take Rose her uniform. And tell her; she'll be absolutely thrilled."
"Okay. Thanks, Big Blue." Symphony kissed him on his cheek and left for their quarters. Blue returned to the mess hall, which was still pretty quiet, but a few junior officers had arrived since he had left.
"Sorry about that," Blue said, settling back down to his unfinished meal.
Metcalfe and White exchanges glances, each daring the other to be the one to ask. Finally General White bit the bullet.
"Colonel, is there anything wrong with Symphony?"
"Not as such, sir," Blue replied carefully. Telling them meant that he would be forced to accept the simple truth himself. "She's… I'm… Well, we're…"
"For goodness sake, Adam, just tell them! The suspense is killing me!" Scarlet exclaimed.
"Fat chance of that," Blue retorted playfully. Scarlet smiled back; he'd succeeded in his task of relaxing his friend.
"She's pregnant," Blue revealed.
"That's marvellous! Congratulations," Metcalfe said, grabbing the American's hand and pumping it vigorously.
White slumped back into his seat. He had watched his wife die whilst carrying his child. It had been absolutely torturous for him to see Rhapsody Angel, who looked so much like his deceased spouse, whilst she was with child, reminding him of everything he'd lost. There had always been the possibility, having female fighter pilots, that the situation would arise one day. It was bad enough having to ask them to risk their lives on a daily basis, and send people into situations where there was every possibility that they wouldn't return. But to ask that of a pregnant woman, risking not one, but two lives, especially after what had happened with Elizabeth? White had never wanted to consider it.
Now the woman who was about to become his stepdaughter was about to put him through that turmoil again. And this time he wouldn't even see what would come of it. He couldn't be an 'uncle' to this one as he had been on occasions to young Rose. It almost made him wish that he weren't retiring. However, thoughts of that baby's grandmother raised his spirits. He wouldn't be a stranger to him or her, hopefully.
He hadn't been entirely truthful with Dr. Fawn. White had actually been planning to propose to Amanda this leave. He had postponed until next week, Monday, hopefully. His suitcase was still packed, with the simple diamond ring nestled in a secret compartment.
The voice penetrated his thoughts. "I'm sorry, Colonel, what is it?"
"I was just saying that we should be getting back up to command and sorting everything out before we start," Blue repeated, patiently.
"Yes, of course. Excuse us gentlemen, Mrs. Metcalfe." White rose and gathered his empty dishes onto one of the discarded trays. Blue did similarly, and the two men returned their things to the kitchen staff.
On the way back through the mess hall, Blue stopped to have a quick word in Dr. Fawn's ear. The doctor nodded in agreement with whatever it was.
A few hours later, Symphony Angel awoke to a familiar beeping sound. At first she thought it was the alarm clock and she hit the snooze button. When the irritating noise persisted, Symphony forced herself to wake up properly and see what was causing the racket. Rolling onto her side, she found that the light next to the internal communications unit was flashing alternately white and blue. This was a relatively new signal, showing that the person currently in charge of Cloudbase was hailing her, and that the person was Colonel Blue.
Symphony climbed out of bed, meandered over the control and pushed the button.
"Good morning," Symphony said cheerfully. She felt refreshed after her nap.
"You sound better," Blue said. Symphony could tell that he was smiling.
"I feel better, thank you," Symphony replied, stretching.
As his wife dressed and brushed her hair, Blue explained the plan of action. Symphony would go down to Sickbay just as Rose was being released for duty. Symphony would then take the girl for breakfast in the mess hall, where the others would be waiting for the pair.
"You aren't wearing your dress uniform, are you?"
"No, now stop worrying and let me do my job," Symphony told her husband before signing off. She grabbed the black uniform she'd picked up earlier and headed towards Sickbay.
The visit had, of course, been part of the original plan, but Dr. Fawn used it as an excuse to prescribe some tablets for morning sickness as well as start to ball rolling on Rose's surprise.
Symphony noticed that the doctor seemed to be uncomfortable, and asked him about it.
"You ever tried wearing two uniforms?" he hissed back. "I've got my dress one on under this."
"Alright," she allowed, amused. "Are we on, then?"
Fawn nodded his agreement, and Symphony made her way to Rose's small room. She stuck her head around the door to be greeted by the sight of Rose sitting on the bed, reading an old book, sitting amongst a large amount of clutter from her quarters.
"Morning," Symphony called, startling the young woman, who looked up.
"Morning Karen. Or is it afternoon yet?" Rose replied good-naturedly, but a small tone in her voice made the passing comment sound pointed, which it was.
"Nope, eleven-hundred hours. Why?"
Rose sighed and put a bookmark between her pages. 'Pride and Prejudice', Symphony noted. She recognised the volume as the one that Rose's mother, Dianne, had forced her fellow Angel to read several years beforehand.
"I lose track of time in here," Rose complained. "I'd much rather be keeping myself busy."
"Fine!" Dr. Fawn exclaimed, choosing, as ever, exactly the correct moment to be passing. "I can't take it any longer. I'm releasing you."
"Hooray!" Rose cheered.
"I'll just go and get the release forms," Fawn said, giving Symphony a conspiratorial glance as he turned away.
"So," Rose began as Symphony entered the room, "how's things in the rest of the base?" She looked at her godmother as if seeing her for the first time. "Karen! You look…"
"God-awful?" Symphony interjected.
"No," Rose frowned, confused. "I was going to say 'radiant', actually. What's going on?"
The Angel shifted her feet nervously. "Well… Adam and I are finally going to be parents," she revealed.
"Oh, Karen! That's fantastic!" Rose stood to embrace her friend. Her weak right leg gave slightly, but Rose paid it no heed. "When are you due?"
"End of January," Symphony replied, proudly as she cleared three books from the chair beside the bed and sat down. It was the first time she hadn't felt apprehensive about this baby. She had given up hope of ever becoming pregnant and had focussed on her career, and whatever her mother had been up to the past few years. It had taken General White to reveal that secret to her, a few days ago. She'd been surprised, to say the least. She had suspected that the general and her mother had briefly had a relationship, about twenty or so years ago, around the time that Symphony had married Blue, but Karen had never suspected that they'd been together since then.
"Karen?" Rose had moved behind a screen to change into her uniform.
"Is it true about the general?"
"Is what true, Rose?" Symphony asked nervously.
"Well, I heard through the grapevine that he was retiring."
Symphony sighed in relief. "Yes, it's true, but not for a while yet."
"Wow." Rose didn't say anything else, but emerged from behind the screen, ready to go in her Spectrum blacks, just as Dr. Fawn reappeared with the release papers. It crossed Symphony's mind, and not for the first time, that the doctor was either psychic or waited outside for the perfect moment to enter.
"So", Symphony asked, getting up and pretending to watch Rose sign the papers, but in reality winking at Fawn. "Are you hungry?"
"Have you ever known me not to be?" Rose quizzed in response.
Symphony stopped in her tracks and thought about that. No answer was immediately apparent.
"Exactly. Fancy elevenses? You've got to keep your strength up now that you're eating for two."
"Huh," Fawn interjected. "You can get your stuff out of here first, Rose Metcalfe." He wheeled over a dining cart and started loading it with clothes and books. Rose and Symphony chipped in and the room was soon cleared. The two women wheeled the trolley away towards the crew quarters.
Fawn quickly stripped off his lab coat, fawn vest and black pants to reveal the grey uniform underneath. He swapped his brown boots for black shoes and secreted the discarded uniform in the locked pharmacy, just in case Rose returned with the trolley, and hurried off in the opposite direction towards the mess hall.
"There's one thing I still don't understand."
"What's that, honey?" Symphony asked, pushing the cart through the quiet corridors of Cloudbase. Rose had volunteered to push, but Symphony had been afraid that she might slip.
Rose had a puzzled expression on her young face. "How did the Mysterons get onto Cloudbase in the first place? I thought there had been tests done to prevent that."
"Ah yes, the illustrious Mysteron detectors." Symphony paused so that the anger she'd colourfully expressed to her husband about this matter didn't show. "Well, they only work if the person in charge of security is human."
"Pardon?" Rose asked, incredulously.
"Major Blake, or Jessie, to you and I, was in charge of security for this event. However, the Mysterons took over her about a week before the event. She managed to slip the detection herself, and Mysteronised the others when they were on the way up here."
"Oh, right." Rose was stumped.
"Needless to say that the situation will not be occurring again," Symphony told the cadet. Rose wisely kept her mouth shut, sensing that the subject had been the basis of a recent argument between Symphony and Blue.
The two women reached Rose's quarters, attached to Scarlet's by a connecting door, and began unloading the cart.
Symphony entered the mess hall first and held the door open for her slower colleague. Rose entered, the only sound a metallic 'tap' every other step, then stopped in her tracks as she saw the décor and the sheer volume of silent personnel, waiting. She looked back at the pilot, who smiled.
"Up on the stage, cadet," Symphony told her, gently.
Rose stumbled towards the makeshift stage, where the three highest ranking Spectrum officers on Cloudbase were waiting. This was obviously well planned!
The microphone at the front of the stage crackled into life as General White approached it.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the white-haired officer began. "We all know why we're here, so I won't go into the customary speeches that usually accompany a commissioning." A sigh of relief ran through the audience.
"Also, you are also all aware of who and what Rose Metcalfe is, so I won't go into that either. It would take far too long. This is, nevertheless, a special occasion, and I'd just like to officially welcome Cadet Metcalfe back to duty before she vanishes into Spectrum databases. Now, cadet, would you join me, please?"
Rose, who had previously been standing at the back of the stage, walked towards the general, conscious of the fact that she was still using the crutch. Most of the people in the crowd had only met her after her first death, when she'd been green-eyed and invincible. Now that wasn't the case, and it made Rose feel vulnerable. However, she forced herself to keep her head high, and collect her hard-earned commission.
Colonel Blue came forward, carrying a dark purple/blue vest and matching RadioCap. White removed the cap from the top of the small pile and Blue handed the vest to the young woman.
Rose awkwardly took the garment and Scarlet stepped forward to assist his daughter. He unzipped the vest and helped her to slip it on, supporting her whilst she had to let go of the crutch.
When Rose had done up the vest, which was more of a tunic really, fitted over her hips and ending a good three inches lower than those of the men, General White showed a rare smile as he handed her the cap and uttered five words that would change her life forever:
"Welcome to Spectrum, Lieutenant Indigo."