Sometimes the bad guys win.

Crossover with (the original 1967 adventures of) 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.'

Virgil lay where he had fallen, sprawled untidily across his bed. A shaft of orange light pierced a gap in the curtain, signalling another day gone already, another day lost. He watched the beam track its way slowly across the room, illuminating the faded blue of the carpet and turning it an ugly brown. He shifted his eyes upwards, studied the ceiling rose. In another life he might have drawn it, spent hours getting the light and shadow just right. But he'd had to give that up, the drawing, because everything kept coming out jagged and black. He closed his eyes and drowsed for a time, poised upon the edge of dream. Virgil dreamed poetry now, in amongst the shades of things that once were.

When he woke he found the burning afternoon sun replaced by the cool buzz of pink neon ghosting through the room. He lay in the flickering dark, listened to the sounds of traffic on the street below, lifted his arm and looked at his wristwatch. A plain silver watch that told only the time. He dragged himself from the bed, undressed and showered, lit a cigarette and stared at himself under the hard fluorescent light. What did he look like now? So difficult to judge in the flat surface of the mirror. He turned his face to the right and then back again. His hair was longer now, unruly, because he wanted to hide himself behind it. He wanted to be the chain-smoking lounge pianist, playing for money in the evenings and letting women comb their fingers through his curling hair. His mouth twisted. He'd had more women in his life as vagrant pianist than he'd ever had as rich playboy.

He drew on the cigarette and watched in the mirror as he exhaled. He tried hard not to think about it, but the past was like sticky tar that kept drawing him down. He'd spent all his life in that past, struggling with the early mornings and regulation haircuts. Forever building and working and thinking. But Virgil had always preferred the nights and cigarettes for breakfast. He wasn't like his brothers, who were born for sunshine and regiment. Astronauts and pilots and aquanauts, they were made for action, for giving and taking orders. Virgil was made for turpentine and places where time didn't matter. And so he finally had the life he always thought he was made for, and he had the women and the cigarettes, but he wanted that other life back. His brothers, the sun, the endless blue sea.

He closed his eyes, there in front of the mirror, and thought about his sunshine brothers, thought about that last sun-bright day on the island. On the back of his eyelids he could see Three lifting heavenwards, a trail of flame piercing the blinding blue sky. Alan and Gordon were on board, sent to collect John so that Gaat might have them all together. But none of them had returned. Gaat had smiled at that, another part of his perfect plan falling into perfect place.

Virgil dropped the cigarette into the sink. Returning to the bedroom he opened a drawer and removed a small box of cash. He counted the bills and returned the box to the drawer. He'd never had an intimate relationship with money before, never had to count it and save it for the things he needed. But he managed, and a few months after it had all fallen apart he saved enough to hire a plane and return to the island. He hadn't known what would happen, how Gaat might react. If this was yet another part of the grand plan and Virgil was sliding right into it, the predictable Virgil peg fitting neatly into the Virgil hole. It was so hard to fight against somebody who was inside your head, somebody who knew exactly what you were thinking and what you were going to do. Virgil wondered, not for the first time, how his father and Kyrano had so badly underestimated Gaat for so long, how badly they had failed to see how near the danger had become.

But despite the fear that had coiled slick in his stomach, a great serpent of quicksilver filling him up and twisting around and around in its struggle to break free, Virgil had gone to the island anyway. And in the end nothing had happened. He'd been allowed to land, escorted to the villa and permitted to spend the day with his father. And at the end of that day he'd been allowed to leave again, unmolested.

So Virgil worked harder, smiled at more women, collected more money and returned to the island whenever he could. His father had changed, an undistinguished beard concealing his expressive mouth. He'd taken to roaming the island in tattered shorts, his hard body weathered and tanned by the relentless tropical sky. His father was a wild thing now, reshaped by the endless torments of his captor. But he still smiled, still embraced his son, still had hope that an end would come to all this, somehow. But Virgil didn't know how, couldn't see his way past the mire and the complexity and the constant need for secrecy and more secrecy. And his father himself, insisting that he could fix this. That if he couldn't Scott would. Scott, his first born, his Superman. He could stop the earth spinning and send them all back to a better time couldn't he, back to before all of this. But Virgil knew things his father didn't know. Scott had gone to fight another war and this island, and the shining glory of International Rescue, was sinking into myth and legend.

Virgil would watch his father's profile as he searched the endless horizon for a sign of something. Anything. Hope, probably, was floating out there somewhere. Jeff would ask if Virgil had seen his brothers, and Virgil would say 'Only Alan, Dad.' Virgil would talk about Alan's racing and his recklessness, the buzz cut, the golden hair all gone. He would say how Alan didn't look like his baby brother any more, he looked harder and more like their father than Virgil had ever thought possible. His father would sigh and ask again if he'd seen Scott. 'Not since that time I told you,' Virgil would say. Then his father would look at him, really look at him. 'Why don't you get a haircut son?' he would ask, and Virgil would look at his father's face. 'Why don't you?' And they'd snort at the ridiculousness of it, that after all those years of trimming and pomading and unholy neatness they'd end up like this, on the beach.

Virgil chose a dark shirt and pants and put them on. He wore his clothes tight now, closer to his skin, because it made him feel safe, made him feel in control. He looked good despite the unruly hair and unshaven face, and women, and occasionally men, told him so. But Virgil dressed for work not play, and kept his colours muted. He was no Cass Carnaby after all, he was just a simple pianist playing in dark bars, dallying with enough waitresses that he was spoiled for hot dinners. But Virgil preferred the hard burn of scotch to food. He found it dulled the memories that forever threatened to overwhelm him.

He remembered his third visit to the island, when Gaat had insisted he stay for dinner. Virgil was permitted to use his old room to dress, since dinner was a formal affair and Virgil must look nice for the occasion. He had stood in his room, naked and dripping from the shower, and breathed the old smells of paint, and of him. He fingered his possessions - the paintbrushes, the aftershave, the television remote control. He looked at the made bed, the open wardrobe. His clothes, too large for him now, had waited patiently all this time, hanging in nice neat rows. He smoothed his old suede vest, the one his brothers hated, selected a white shirt and dark trousers and raked a trembling hand through his hair.

Dinner was in the formal dining room, the one the family had never used. The windows were open to the sea and the setting sun, and Gaat was resplendent in embroidered gold and manicured fingernails as he postured at the head of the table. Jeff appeared in tattered shorts and shirt, jostled along by one of Gaat's men. Virgil wondered what life was like when he wasn't there. Images came to him, all the horrors that his uncontrolled imagination had presented in the months after he was forced to leave his father behind, random nightmares from the jukebox in his head. Jeff met Virgil's eyes over the stark white tablecloth. Had his father always had those scars? Virgil looked away, at the open sea, the orange sky.

The conversation was stilted and driven by Gaat, who was frightening in his magnanimity. Kyrano, bent and aged, silently delivered dish after dish. Traditional Malaysian fare, satay and rendang and nasi lemak. Things Kyrano had cooked years and years ago, when he was new to his American family and their apple pie and ice-cream.

'So,' Gaat had asked, 'how is life back in your country? How are your brothers? Why do they not come to see their father?'

Virgil stared at the table, unwilling to step over the line that had just been drawn. 'My brothers are all well,' he answered finally, not looking at Gaat's face. But the line had been crossed anyway. 'Liar,' said Gaat, and Virgil felt pressure building in his head. 'You never see your brothers at all. They don't seek you out. They don't care about their father. And they don't care about you.'

Virgil had flown home in the dark after that, with a headache that wasn't from the wine.

Around midnight, as Virgil perched on a stool and smiled at a dark-haired woman who was maybe old enough to be his type, an unexpected shadow fell upon him. 'Excuse me,' the shadow said, 'Virgil Tracy?' Virgil blinked in surprise, half drunk already and not quite sure why the earth had suddenly threatened to tilt. 'Could you come with me?' the shadow said, gloved hand on Virgil's shoulder. 'Um,' said Virgil, blinking at the blue uniform. Not Scott. Scott doesn't wear blue anymore.

The officer led him through the night, across the silent and empty street. He was tall, taller than Virgil, straight and narrow with yellow blond hair. 'I'm Captain Blue,' he said, his long boots tapping on the pavement. 'Your brother is in the car.'

Virgil slowed, not sure again, suddenly uncertain. Captain Blue sensed the hesitation and turned, studying Virgil as they stopped beneath a street light. Virgil looked into his face and was startled by bright eyes and an unexpected gentleness. Virgil had to try hard to imagine this man fighting, killing. But there, he could see it, the blood behind the steel blue eyes. Virgil thought back to when Scott had joined Spectrum and had come to him wearing a crisp new uniform and hiding nothing behind his eyes. It was right, Virgil had realised that day, what Scott had done, though Virgil hadn't wanted it. He had wanted Scott to stay with him and fight their battle, not somebody else's. But Scott needed a uniform. And Scott needed a purpose.

A car door opened and closed and Scott was there, all dark green Kevlar and tight black wool. Scott had been broken, Virgil realised with sudden and blinding clarity, and Spectrum had repaired him and painted him the wrong colour, the colour of deep water on a treacherous day. And they had given him a different name, Captain Viridian, as rules and regulations required. So Virgil followed rules and regulations and said it plainly as he looked straight into Scott's eyes. 'Captain Viridian.'

'Virgil,' Scott replied, hard and crisp and as brittle as Virgil's breaking heart, and Captain Blue had the grace to look uncomfortable if Scott didn't. Virgil waited, studying the familiar lines of his brother's face, the square cut of Scott's jaw as it set firmly against him. He wondered what this Scott thought of him, if this viridian Scott loathed his lack of focus and discipline, if he disdained Virgil's uncut hair. And Scott looked back at him, dark eyes sternly roaming Virgil's open face, looking for something maybe, something he had hoped to find and couldn't. And then he spoke, this cool Captain Viridian.

'When are you going to the island next?'

Virgil was too drunk for this, he realised. Or not drunk enough. 'I don't know. I don't have enough money right now.'

Scott nodded. He withdrew a package from his vest and handed it to Virgil. 'I need you to go.' His eyes darted briefly to Captain Blue and then back to Virgil. 'I need you to give Father a message. It's in the envelope.'

Virgil slid his fingers over the crisp bundle, measured the weight of its contents as they stood in silence beneath the hard yellow light, surrounded by the flicker and pulse of moths dying. Virgil felt like he too was dying, his fluttering heart impaled upon Scott's stony gaze. He floundered in the moment, one more piece of him breaking away.

Without another word Scott turned and strode back to the red Spectrum vehicle. 'I've seen John,' Virgil called suddenly to the retreating figure. Scott paused for a moment at that, the muscles of his face tightening before he took his seat in the car.

Virgil stood on the street a long time after they had gone, thinking. Thinking he didn't want to go to the island anymore. He could no longer face Gaat's sly innuendos and the palpable threat that one day Gaat would never let him leave. Last time, when he'd tried to leave, he'd been escorted back to the villa. Once more Gaat waited in the sterile dining room. Once more the steaming dishes were arrayed on the great white table. Gaat poured wine and Virgil drank it all, glass after glass after glass, recklessly taunting his host with his vulnerability.

'Look at me,' Gaat said, seeing the redness in Virgil's cheeks, sensing the fly poised to land upon the web. But Virgil didn't look. He remembered a day when Brains, pale and trembling, had turned from his torturer and whispered 'Don't ever look at his eyes.' And Virgil never forgot, never focussed on the black terror no matter how tempted, or how drunk, he became. So he didn't look at Gaat's eyes, though Gaat asked him again and poured him more wine, and came to sit beside him and whispered so his father couldn't hear.

He'd spent that night on the island, in his old room, alone in his bed with his memories and the palm trees outside the window, calling to him. And the next morning on the runway Gaat had stormed down and bellowed at Virgil as they stood sweating in the blistering sun. 'One day I won't let you leave,' he ranted, frightening with his wrath and his menace. 'You'll stay here, on my island, another toy to amuse. You'll come when I call and do the things that I tell you to do!'

Virgil swallowed the fear, wondering if at last the moment had come. He closed his eyes and softly asked 'Why? Why do this? To your family? To mine? Tell me why.' Gaat paused, the palpable force that was his alone receding back into his body. Virgil felt the pressure in his skull diminish and he opened his eyes again, stared at the warping tarmac.

'Because,' said Gaat, gently, as if explaining something simple to a tiny child. 'A long time ago your father took something from me. And my brother should have been there for me when I needed him. Not there for Jefferson Tracy.' Gaat broke off for a moment, damped down the rising anger and hatred. Commenced patiently again. 'For an endless number of years the two of them have taunted me with everything they had and everything they were and I needed to wound them and take it for myself. I wanted it back, what I had lost, and I wanted to see them as I had once been. Broken and bereft of all hope.'

Heat shimmered off the bitumen and the dank odour of kelp blew in from the sea. Gaat stepped closer, lowered his voice, whispered to Virgil like a lover. 'It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, the breaking, and now I am bored with them.' He studied Virgil, scrutinising the downturned face, inhaling the damp scent of his body. Virgil closed his eyes again, wilting beneath the burning sun and the humiliating onslaught of Gaat's eyes. 'I can't help wondering if the sons aren't made of sterner stuff than the father.' Gaat stepped back and gestured for Virgil to enter the plane. 'One day I will find out.'

Virgil clambered into the aircraft, his shirt wet against his back. Gaat's deep laugh boomed inside his head as the engines roared to life. 'Don't you want it all back? All the things you have lost?'

Never, Virgil thought, never.

Virgil lay on his bed, pulled the package from his pocket and opened it. It was full of cash, clean new bills, neatly bound together. More than enough for what he had been asked to do. He imagined that Scott was paid very well as part of the World Security Forces and he'd take the money, thank you very much. A smaller envelope, unmarked, fell from the bundle, and Virgil held it in his hand for a long time, studying it, smelling it, thinking about what might be in it. He wanted to open it, to know what Scott would write to his father, strangely jealous that Scott had never written to him. That Scott could only spare Virgil a few cold hard sentences before leaving him alone in the dark. He lit a cigarette and put the letter beneath his pillow. Maybe during the night the contents would bleed through the paper and he might have new dreams. Better ones.

Once Jeff had pressed a crumpled piece of paper into Virgil's hands. 'Son, can you take this to your grandmother?'

'Sure Dad,' he'd replied, 'As soon as I get a chance.' But he hadn't gotten a chance for weeks, and he'd had to catch a Greyhound bus and then hitchhike right out to the edge of town. He'd walked the long dusty drive to the house and knocked on the faded door, not seeing the dry fields, the peeling paintwork of the window frames. The door had opened and, surprise, his brother was standing there, a resurrected and sun-bleached Jesus. John smiled and stepped back to let him in, as if Virgil had only stopped by to sell a vacuum cleaner. No display of affection for the long lost disciple.

Virgil hugged his grandmother, gave her the letter, then sat on the same sofa he had sat on as a teenager, back when he had lived in this house. John moved crockery in the kitchen as their grandmother assailed Virgil with the standard questions. 'But why doesn't Jeff call me? Why don't you visit more often? I don't understand what's happened…' Virgil stared at his hands. How could he tell her any of it when even the smallest portion would break her heart.

'Read the note, Grandma.' She obliged, unfolding the grubby page with stiff fingers while he watched. She was getting older every visit, falling helplessly in upon herself right before his eyes. She looked at the note, looked at Virgil. 'But darling,' she said, dropping her hands to show him the empty page. 'There's nothing on it.' Tears welled in her eyes and he scooted forward to snatch the paper from her, to hold her hands tightly in his own. 'That's 'coz there are no words, Grandma, no words. He loves you and he's thinking of you and he wants you to know that.' He looked at John, a ghost caught in the doorway. And he cursed his father in his madness, for sending an empty piece of paper to his mother.

Outside, Virgil asked John where he had been for nearly two whole years, but John didn't answer, just stared at the dry and empty fields as if he'd never seen them before, or never thought he'd see them again. Virgil tried again. 'After you ditched Three, where did you all go?' John's expression glazed as he focussed on the far horizon. Virgil sighed inwardly and gave up. He leant back against the fence and closed his eyes, turned his face to catch the sun.

'It was unbelievable, you know. Them coming to get me.'

Virgil didn't reply. He was replaying that time on the back of his eyelids. John trapped on Five, communication and systems cut for days and days until Gaat decided to bring him home.

'I thought I was going to die up there,' John continued, his voice very quiet. And this time Virgil did open his eyes and look at his brother, the bleached profile burning another hole into his memory. 'Without the systems it was so quiet. So dark. There was only me up there. Just me, breathing, and the oxygen getting low.' He paused for a moment, thinking, maybe, about the darkness and the silence and the black void that had tried to swallow him alive.

'When they finally arrived we argued. We fought. Gordon split my lip, son of a bitch.' John laughed at that, touching the scar with his thumb, remembering the insult. 'I wanted to come home, I wanted to see that bastard's blood on my hands. But they wouldn't have it. I didn't know, they said, I didn't understand, I hadn't been there. They told me all we could do was ditch Three and run away. Can you believe it?' He turned to Virgil, because plainly he still could not. 'They wanted to run away.'

Virgil remembered that moment like he was there, because he'd watched the grainy footage over and over in the days after he'd been taken from the island, after he'd been abandoned by a wet canefield outside Suva and had to walk the long humid miles into town. On a small and stuttering television he'd watched the great rocket settle gently on yellow sand before toppling slowly into the green surf. His brothers had emerged, clambering one by one along pitted orange metal and dropping into the water. Silent and grim and matter of fact, as though they did this every day. They'd waded ashore, discarding their hats and sashes in the waves as they strode into darkness and infamy.

'There isn't much room for fighting on the control deck, you know.' John turned back to the horizon with a wry smile 'Gordon pinned me down while Alan aimed us at Australia. Twisted my arm so far up my back I heard the joints pop.' He leant towards Virgil conspiratorially. 'That kid learnt more in WASP than he ever let on.'

They were quiet for a moment as they listened to the cicadas screaming. Sometimes Virgil wanted to scream like that. Sometimes, when he was asleep, maybe he did.

'I couldn't forgive them.' There was pain and disappointment in John's blue eyes.

Simple as that. They'd let him down and he'd walked away. Virgil rubbed his face, thought about shaving and all the reasons why he wouldn't, then said, 'Did you know that Three is still on that beach? Tourist attraction.'

John laughed.

An insistent knock roused Virgil from his bed. He staggered through the apartment, eyes gummed with sleep, and opened the door. Captain Viridian stood on the landing, Spectrum insignia on his uniform and anger on his face. He strode past Virgil into the sparse apartment, scrutinising the room with every measured step. Then he turned to Virgil and exploded.

'I asked you to go the island. I gave you money. Why are you still here, a week later?'

Virgil wasn't ready for this. He wasn't awake yet, wasn't ready for sensory input, and Scott of all people should know that. He rubbed his eyes wearily and looked around the room for his cigarettes, anything to distract him from Scott and his anger. He shook one from the pack then proffered it to Scott.

'No thank you.' Scott could barely contain his irritation. 'I don't smoke.'

Virgil raised an eyebrow as he bent into the lighter. 'That's new. And here I thought you'd end up sucking cheroots like dear old Dad.'

Scott's eyes sparked for an instant, but the fire was quickly smothered. 'I asked you to give Father a message.'

'And I will.' Virgil's temper was beginning to rouse. 'But I have things to do. A job. I can't just up and go any time I want.'

Scott glared at him. 'You need to go now. I need you to go now. This week. And give him the message.'

'The message. What's in that message, by the way? How much you love him? How much you miss him? How sorry you are that you abandoned him?' Virgil stepped closer. 'I'm the only one who visits him you know. The only one. Me. The rest of you abandoned him...' He broke off in something like pain, something like disgust. Something like hatred. He stared into Scott's cold blue eyes but could find nothing except his own pale face reflected there. 'You abandoned him.' Virgil's voice faltered. 'You abandoned me.'

Silence then as the rift stretched further between them, a great gaping chasm that they could no longer find their way across. Scott reached into his vest and withdrew a bulging notebook. He methodically opened the pages, strewing paper all over the small table. Maps and notes and photographs. Surveillance photographs. Of his brothers.

'I abandoned you? I abandoned none of you!' Scott was angry now, his voice rising as he rifled through the photographs. 'Here. You've seen John? I've seen John too.' He thrust a photo at Virgil's face. 'Cairo. Translating.' He threw the image down, thrust another one forward. 'Alan? Here's Alan at Daytona, Alan at Parola. No surprises there.' Another photo was thrust at Virgil. 'Gordon? Never left Australia, running dive tours. And you!' He rummaged amongst the pile on the table. 'Here's Virgil on Friday nights, on Saturday nights. Here's Virgil so drunk that women fight about who will take him home. Here's Virgil,' he said, 'right in front of me and…' He stopped abruptly, gathered the photos together and placed the bundle back inside his vest. He rubbed his face and sighed, and for the briefest instant the old Scott, Virgil's Scott, was there, in Virgil's living room. 'Jesus Virg, we got as far away from each other as we could get, but I never lost any of you. I knew right where to look.' Their eyes met. 'Because I'm your brother.'

Virgil stared at Scott, letting the implications settle into his consciousness. More than anything he wanted to go to his brother and touch him, embrace the hard reality of him, inhale the familiar scent of him. But instead he let the long crushing months of loneliness and anger and bitterness swell until he could no longer contain it inside himself. Like a volcano that had lain dormant and ignored for far too long, Virgil finally erupted.

'So all this time, all this time, you knew where everybody was and you left us all alone and miserable? Even worse, you've been watching me? Following me around town? You've been in town this past week, waiting for me to charter a plane, making sure I did what you asked, and you never once spoke to me?' Virgil's voice fragmented into shards as his anger collapsed in on itself. 'What are you that you could do that?'

'Whatever else I am, I'm still your brother.' But it was Captain Viridian who said that. Cool Captain Viridian pretending to be his brother, pretending not to hear the splintering anguish in Virgil's voice. 'Do your brother a favour and take our father a message.'

Virgil taxied the plane to the base of the cliff and stepped out onto the runway. He stared at the jagged rock wall towering above him, knowing that behind it and three feet of tempered steel lay his greatest masterpiece, and that in all probability he would never see her again. He lifted his head and looked up at the observation deck, saw Gaat perched there, a black vulture framed against the blue sky, peering down at him. One of Gaat's guards approached and Virgil raised his arms, permitting the search but never taking his eyes off the vulture.

He made his way down to the sea, fighting through the jungle that had overtaken the track and found his father there, on the rocks. 'I saw the plane,' Jeff said as he stood to greet him. 'How are you son?'

'I'm good, good. Still surviving. How are you, Dad?'

'Still surviving.' Jeff's faded blue eyes twinkled.

They talked until the sun set, watched as a great mass of cumulus mushroomed over the sea, piling itself high into the fading sky as it tracked its way towards them. Virgil saw lightning on the purpling horizon and knew he'd be going nowhere tonight. He could feel Gaat crouched somewhere in the oncoming darkness, a great black shadow pressing against his back, waiting for him, setting the trap. Virgil felt the serpent coil in his stomach, flickering and twisting, cold fear made tangible so that he had to swallow hard and tighten his throat against it. He trembled suddenly, once, stopped before his father could see. Turning in the twilight he pushed the crumpled envelope into Jeff's calloused fingers. "Scott sent you a message.'

'What did he say?' asked Jeff, eyes wide as he turned the envelope over and over in his hands, carefully smoothing the creases, too afraid to open it now that it was finally here. Virgil could feel the tremor threaten to overtake him again and he tensed his body against it, looked up at the rushing sky.

'A storm's coming, Dad.'

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