THE MYSTERY OF THE MYSTERONS
Apart perhaps from Thunderbirds, I think it is true to say that Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons remains my favourite Gerry Anderson series. Although there was less depth to the characters than in other Anderson shows it nonetheless manages to be moody and atmospheric, creating an aura of mystery and brooding menace. Much of this centres around the eponymous aliens, with their strange powers and implacable desire to destroy humanity. This article is an attempt to assess what we know about them, with the continuity taken by and large from the TV series.
The Mysterons inhabit a complex of buildings, ultramodern in design by human standards, on the planet Mars. Just what kind of being they are is unclear. In fact it’s never established for certain whether they have a physical form, though what we see of the interior of their complex in the pilot episode suggests not; rather the impression is of sophisticated machinery and glowing multicoloured lights. Most probably, unless it is the machines themselves which are sentient, they are disembodied minds which operate their technology through psychokinesis. Gerry Anderson is on record as saying that it wasn’t so much they didn’t have physical bodies as that he was choosing not to let them be seen, in case intelligent life ever was found on Mars and turned out to be nothing like what he’d envisaged. One benefit of this approach is that your imagination is given free rein; and of course the monster you don’t see is a lot more frightening than the one you do.
In the comic books and annuals it is stated the Mysterons are controlled by computers, which means the real enemy are not the former but the latter. This explanation has never appealed much to me, and altogether I think it more likely that the Mysterons are themselves computers which have evolved a conscious intelligence.
As far as is known the entire Mysteron race seems confined to the complex, unable or unwilling to leave it. Of their origins we have no idea. In the pilot episode the Voice of the Mysterons announces, “The first of the space travellers from the planet Earth have arrived. They too have a curiosity about the universe we live in. We must welcome them.” Since the Mysterons appear to be almost omniscient, able to know and directly influence what is happening on Earth, it’s surprising they haven’t made contact with us before. A possible explanation is that they have only recently begun to develop their amazing powers, or arrived in this part of the galaxy. The latter raises the question of how they would travel across space; if they are essentially mind they could beam themselves through it in the manner of radio signals (to which thought can be likened),and once on a planet use their mental powers to create the technology they need for their purposes. Alternatively they may use physical spacecraft, although the only instance of their doing so turned out to be a dream.
We don’t know how many of them there are, or how they are organised politically, apart from an intriguing mention in the video compilation Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars (dreadful though it is) of a Mysteron Imperial Council. No intelligent being, with or without physical shape, appeared to inhabit the Mysteron complex on the Moon; perhaps the Mysterons simply hadn’t taken up residence yet, or the installation’s functions were operated by remote control from Mars.
Initially the Mysterons appear friendly, wishing to meet the Spectrum mission and make them welcome. However Captain Black’s miscalculation as to their intentions, which leads him to destroy the complex, changes everything and they become committed to the destruction of the human race. They say they will destroy “all life on Earth”, their thinking probably being that since the planet is capable of producing a species like Man whom they see as aggressive and a threat to them, they must make absolutely sure nothing like him ever evolves again in the part of the galaxy where they have settled. It’s not clear quite what they hope to gain by having a base on the Moon; the Mysteronised lunar controller claims it is to be a stepping stone in the conquest of Earth, suggesting they desire to physically occupy the planet – after having wiped out its human population.
Their vendetta seems, and is, totally unreasonable; why victimise an entire species because of an attack by just three men? Moreover, they fail to be won over by Colonel White’s attempts in Dangerous Rendezvous to clear up the misunderstanding by reasoned argument. This seems to sit oddly with their having a certain moral code, one demonstrated by their agent Captain Black’s sparing Symphony Angel’s life when he captures her in Manhunt, saying “The Mysterons also have compassion.” It’s been suggested that Black is simply covering for some surviving human trait; besides which he needed Symphony to act as a decoy while he escaped from Spectrum, which is why he exposed her to the radiation. Yet it’s clear the Mysterons will not harm individual humans if there is no immediate need to do so; Captain Black doesn’t appear to kill the radio operator at TVR ground control in White As Snow, instead tying up and gagging him while he programmes the satellite for re-entry and destruction so it can be Mysteronised. On the other occasion (The Trap) when Symphony Angel is detained by the Mysterons they do not kill or Mysteronise her. Goddard speaks of dealing with Captain Scarlet, who was captured at the same time, later but this is probably an indication that the Mysterons are aware of his unique abilities and want to reclaim him for themselves, or examine him to find out where they slipped up. ”You’re a remarkable man, Captain Scarlet, I know…”
This could all be because the Mysterons are in part, at least, rigidly logical beings, indeed machine-like, who won’t do what there is no reason to. And yet they are in other ways very human. Their using Spectrum to carry out their threat against the World Navy base in Flight to Atlantica, by means of drugged champagne, indicates a mischievous sense of humour, as perhaps does having a plane serve as an assassination weapon on the ground in the second episode – or indeed the whole conduct of the war with Earth as if it is some kind of game (not slaughtering every human who falls into their hands is a way of giving the enemy a chance to win, without which there would be no contest). They demonstrate a black (if you’ll excuse me) sense of humour in using Captain Black as their principal agent in their war with Earth, given that in his previous life Conrad Turner was passionately dedicated to the cause of peace. Chris Drake and Graeme Bassett in their Captain Scarlet book produced for Boxtree in 1993 speculate that the Mysterons have evolved into something more than machine but less than human. It is indeed possible, as I suggested above, that they are machines which have developed a sentient intelligence – or are in the process of developing it. They sometimes seem like mischievous, clever but emotionally backward children who are learning to be an intelligent, moral species but not, as yet, quite succeeding. Occasionally they go too far in their “war of nerves” and risk provoking a response which could end the game for good, in a way disastrous to one or both sides; as in Avalanche where the threat against the outer space defence system nearly causes its commander to launch a missile strike on Mars, which might have forced the Mysterons to retaliate by completely destroying the Earth.
Powers We Can Never Hope To Understand
What is clear is that they are highly advanced beings. Their powers include telekinesis, with which they cause the tyres to burst on a Spectrum Patrol Car (The Mysterons),sabotage the engines of an airliner in flight (Winged Assassin),control aircraft and vehicles whether or not previously retrometabolised (Winged Assassin, Big Ben Strikes Again, Inferno, Flight 104),change the molecular composition of liquids (Flight to Atlantica, The Launching) and of a valve in the hydraulic system of a hovercraft (Traitor),and turn a safety valve on an oil rig (Fire At Rig Fifteen); transmigration of objects and people (Heart Of New York, Model Spy, Inferno, Expo 68); and, judging what they seem to know about Earth’s political set-up, telepathy. The latter is also implied by their agent Godddard’s ability to perfectly imitate Captain Scarlet’s voice in The Trap; strangely, the power doesn’t seem to work quite so well in Inferno where the voices of the SKR4’s deceased crew (whom on this occasion the Mysterons chose not to retrometabolise) sound distorted, causing personnel at the tracking station to wonder if something’s not quite right. Mysteronised humans seem able to get hold of guns and bombs, to which their human originals would not normally have had access, in a remarkably short time (Avalanche, Shadow of Fear, White As Snow). The Mysterons accomplish all these things from Mars, the power probably being transmitted in the manner of a cosmic ray, although it sometimes requires one of their agents – usually, though not always, Captain Black - to act as a conduit. In The Launching Mervyn Brand acts as the channel through which the champagne (do the Mysterons have a fondness for this beverage?) is transformed into a high explosive. Using Captain Black as the relay, they are able to knock out Jason Smith (Fire At Rig Fifteen) and Major Reeves (Renegade Rocket) – and take control of Macy’s truck in Big Ben Strikes Again and the airliner in Winged Assassin. The rays cause nausea followed by unconsciousness. The Mysterons can also knock people out purely physically by their telekinesis (Macy in Big Ben Strikes Again).
They appear able to take this ability further and actually control minds; witness the tanker driver who seems deliberately to crash his vehicle into Major Brooks’ and Colonel Storm’s car in Point 783 (hypnosis seems the only explanation for such behaviour, unless he had a death wish). Here again the power was probably relayed through Captain Black.
It is not apparent what actually kills Dr Breck in Shadow of Fear. He is looking at the planet Mars through his telescope when it glows with a strange hypnotic light. He collapses dead or unconscious, the Mysteron “eyes” move over his body and the replica Breck appears standing over him. The corpse of the original must then disappear somehow, probably transmigrated, at the same time that the reconstruction leaves the observatory, since Captain Blue reports that he has searched the place and found no trace of Breck. Unless he struck his head and was fatally injured when falling, this would appear to be yet another example of the Mysterons’ incredible powers, of which they show whatever side tickles their fancy. It is interesting to note that in both Breck’s case and that of Captain Scarlet in The Mysterons something other than the reconstruction appears to drag the original’s body away after it is killed.
Sometimes it is not clear whether a given event is the work of the Mysterons, or they exploited it for their own ends; it is never established if the train crash in Model Spy was caused by them or was an accident of which they took advantage to retrometabolise those who were killed.
This power of retrometabolism is perhaps the Mysterons’ most remarkable ability. Essentially it involves creating an exact replica of an object or living creature which they can use as an agent, having first destroyed the original. How exactly it’s achieved is a mystery; in an intriguing feature in the 1969 Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds Annual which describes Spectrum’s attempts to imitate the process it is necessary to disintegrate things before duplicating them, but this doesn’t reflect what happens on screen where the original doesn’t have to be molecularly disassembled to be copied.
Retrometabolism includes not only aircraft and vehicles but also the fuel inside them. Dauntingly, along with the teleportation often associated with it it would seem to require the Mysterons to establish, if the copy is to function properly, the location of every single particle making up what is being copied; although they could simply have discovered some process which does, as in photography where you don’t have to know where each individual molecule is to develop a photograph but merely have a sufficient understanding of optics and chemistry.
Where the duplicate is of a car, truck or aircraft the Mysterons can either recreate the human operator or control the vehicle themselves from the Martian complex. They can accomplish the latter without having first disposed of the original; in Flight 104 they take over an airliner after drugging its crew before they would have boarded it (although it shouldn’t be necessary to get them out of the way as the this Mysteron influence would prevent them from interfering in any case).
As noted retrometabolism doesn’t necessarily require the physical destruction of an object (in Expo 68 the truck carrying the nuclear device isn’t too badly damaged by its fall into the gorge) or dead person’s body. It may only require simple replication, provided there is at least a reasonable chance the substitution will pass unnoticed (in the case of people at least, there is obviously a need for the original to be got out of the way).
When initially created, the reconstruction may appear anywhere on Earth, due to the Mysterons’ transmigratory powers, though it usually materialises at the scene of the original’s death. When the crewman of the submarine in White As Snow drowns, having been trapped outside when it submerges, his duplicate reappears on board the craft.
The One That Got Away
Retrometabolism is imperfectly understood by Spectrum’s scientists. It has strange side effects, as seen in the case of Captain Scarlet. While under Mysteron control, Scarlet attempted to kidnap the World President but was shot by Captain Blue and fell to his death, only to come back to life, his injuries rapidly healing. Some unforeseen effect of retrometabolism on Scarlet’s physical make-up, triggered off by this second death, had made him indestructible; and at the same time he regained his human personality. Why this hasn’t happened to other Mysteron agents who have been killed (it seems rather unfair) is just one of many questions that remain unanswered. Perhaps there was something special in Scarlet’s metabolism which was copied along with his other characteristics when he was “Mysteronised”, and which reacted with the process with the results we have seen.
The view of Drake and Bassett, with which I concur, is that when a Mysteron agent dies they are deemed by their masters to have failed in their mission and the “control signal” which activates them is switched off, ending the Mysterons’ power over them (the same applies to vehicles under Mysteron control, and explains why the helicopter in the pilot episode and the airliner in Winged Assassin aren’t retrometabolised a second time after being destroyed/damaged). It was this which allowed Scarlet’s humanity to reassert itself. Interpreting Scarlet’s “defection” as a failure, the Mysterons didn’t restore the control signal, which presumably they could have done – if it was necessary to kill him first they could do this with high voltage electricity (the only thing believed to be permanently fatal to him),but this might actually prevent retrometabolism, since it has a neutralising effect upon their influence. Perhaps this is why they haven’t to our knowledge attempted it (on screen at any rate),something which otherwise might seem a little puzzling. Or perhaps not so puzzling, since they know Scarlet’s usefulness lies mainly in his not needing to be replaced if he’s killed. Otherwise his real asset is his skill as an agent for whoever is employing him, and that can’t always save the day as the Mysteron victories in Winged Assassin, Shadow of Fear and Inferno make clear. Then again, there is Goddard’s implied interest in The Trap in removing him as a possible threat to the Mysterons’ plans.
Is Scarlet’s original body still lying around somewhere, and can he, along with other Mysteronised humans, still die of old age? Another intriguing question is whether the Captain Scarlet we know and love is the original or just a copy of him, memories (and thus sense of personal identity) included.
Well, without wishing to get too deep philosophical issues have always interested me and as I see it mind is indivisible; by definition my experiences can only be my experiences, and experienced by the same consciousness – the same applying to the memories they give rise to - so the mind must be fully integral, and only integral, with itself. This means among other things that it can’t be copied. You could perhaps have an “image” of someone’s memory which could be transmitted into someone else’s brain, but it couldn’t be the memory itself. What’s more likely is that Scarlet’s consciousness and memories were not so much duplicated as transferred to the physical duplicate when it was created (we can’t say how, although interestingly it is implied that a person’s mind remains, at least for a time, within or in the neighbourhood of their body after “death” and can also be transmitted in the manner of a radio impulse or light wave). And yet Major Gravener, whose original obviously retained his own memories and identity, contradicts this. Maybe it is a duplication which takes place, and with Scarlet something different, and unforeseen, happened (which could explain the other anomalies noted in his case). Since full personal identity, for an intelligent life form (which it may be assumed a Mysteron duplicate is),depends on memories which can only be accumulated with experience, and thus implies the life form has already been in existence for some time, how can the duplicate come into the world with its own self-consciousness? Nor can it be a just a copy because then it wouldn’t be the individual it is meant to be impersonating, and this would be sensed by those around it for we know, on an intuitive level, what makes you “you” and I “I”.
I don’t know how you sort out this conundrum, but the question is important because Mysteronised humans are clearly not mindless zombies. For them not to arouse suspicion they must be capable of behaving exactly like normal people, and for this to be possible the brain pattern, memories and personality of the original must be reproduced in the duplicate. My theory is that most of the time a Mysteron agent is unaware they have been Mysteronised, believing themselves to be entirely human (and having no memory of what they did under Mysteron control, as the example of Captain Scarlet after he has returned to normal demonstrates). Otherwise I don’t see how they could avoid detection, particularly when in the company of a wife, child or close friend who by the intuition which develops in such relationships would probably sense they weren’t what they seemed. However, when they are needed by their masters and the moment is right a signal from Mars activates their Mysteron “persona” and causes their human one to be submerged. This implies Spectrum can’t be sure Captain Scarlet is no longer under Mysteron control following his second death, since his behaviour would be indistinguishable from that of other Mysteron agents most of the time, but have decided he can be taken on trust.
Physically too the reconstructions must be indistinguishable from ordinary humans, and generally this is the case. They do however show a positive image when X-rayed, whereas we would show a negative one. Captain Scarlet has retained this characteristic, and for a time at least possessed a “sixth sense” allowing him to detect Mysteron activity, which caused him to become briefly nauseous, whatever form it took. The effect appears to have been temporary, and is seen only in Winged Assassin, Point 783 and Seek And Destroy. It doesn’t enable him to out Colonel Storm in Point 783 (“Where’s your sixth sense, Earthman?”),so even then was beginning to wane a little.
Mysteron agents appear to be luminous in the dark (Captain Black in Fire At Rig Fifteen). They can alter their molecular composition so that they act as human bombs (The Mysterons, Point 783). This tactic is not used after Point 783, probably because Spectrum had got wise to it. If you see smoke coming from someone’s clothes, it’s time to put down the security shutters!
If a Mysteron agent fails to complete their mission but does not die, or has already played their principal role in whatever scheme the Mysterons are planning they are sometimes kept alive, presumably in case they should be needed at another time (note that the Mysteronised electronics expert in Codename Europa, before embarking on his mission, calls his university to say he’s taking a little vacation and “can’t say when I’ll be back.”) Examples are Dr Magnus in Operation Time, whose control signal is evidently not shut off after he is prevented from killing Tiempo, and the truck driver in Expo 68. Both were killed in attempting to evade capture by Spectrum, but there are apparently four other agents, at least, who are still alive, besides Captain Black who does not appear to have been Mysteronised in the usual fashion: Frazer (Lunarville 7),the mechanic in Special Assignment who Spectrum may not know about, and the two fashion models in Model Spy, one of whom was arrested by Spectrum in the course of the story. It’s implied Harris, Major Gravener’s driver in Treble Cross, is drowned when Captain Black forces their car into the lake, but he or his Mysteron reconstruction is later used by Black as a decoy when escaping Spectrum; in the process the truck he is driving crashes but it’s not apparent if he is killed or merely knocked out.
How would a Mysteronised human behave while imprisoned? Their control signal might have been shut off for the time being, leaving them with no awareness of having been taken over and so rendering their confinement – which would be necessary in case they were ever reactivated – difficult for them to accept however carefully the reason for it were explained to them. Do they become like zombies, simply waiting for an opportunity to escape – when the control signal will be restored – perhaps not even eating or sleeping in the meantime? If not, and if the signal is still being transmitted, how do they explain their dedication to Mankind’s destruction, if we regard them as sentient, thinking beings? The thought is awesome, indeed scary.
A person does not have to be actually dead to be duplicated. In Treble Cross the Mysterons retrometabolise Major Gravener, a test pilot who can drop a nuclear bomb on the world capital Futura City, believing he has drowned. In fact the “real” Gravener was not quite dead and recovered later in hospital. It is interesting to try to imagine the scene if he and his double, who died while attempting to carry out the Mysterons’ instructions, had met. By substituting the human Gravener for his reconstruction Spectrum were able to learn how the Mysterons planned to destroy Futura and so thwart them. The Martians were unable to distinguish between the two Graveners and told the real one their plan, which suggest they communicate with their agents by homing onto something in their mental or physical makeup which is common to both the original and the replica, probably the brain pattern.
At the conclusion of the story Colonel White remarks that Spectrum have “found another chink in the Mysterons’ armour”, to which Captain Scarlet replies that he hopes they can widen it. Yet by the end of the series there’s no evidence Spectrum have tried the substitution tactic again. Perhaps this is because of the obvious difficulties it involves; Spectrum would need to know who was going to be Mysteronised, when, and how, and somehow arrange things so that no actual harm came to the intended victim. That Captain Black could sense Spectrum were on to him and make his escape in time suggests the Mysterons did in fact detect the ruse, although not immediately, and therefore that the trick can’t be pulled off again. Nevertheless it should make an interesting story if Spectrum ever do repeat the tactic. The reconstruction would have to be captured and killed, because if the Mysterons detected two identical brain patterns the plan might be thrown. This seems controversial if one views the reconstruction as a living being, and an individual, in its own right.
Can a Mysteronised person be “demysteronised”? Well, it happened to Captain Scarlet so who’s to say it couldn’t to anyone else? If the original’s personality and identity is copied along with all its other characteristics, lying dormant in the replica, then it must be possible to reawaken them. The only way of doing it that comes to mind would be to surround the Mysteron with a high voltage electrical field (being careful not to electrocute it, for reasons which will become apparent below) in order to block the control signal from Mars. High voltage electricity cancels out all Mysteron influence; in Flight 104 the emissions from a hydroelectric power station allow Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue to regain control of the airliner. In Operation Time it is discovered that a Mysteronised person can be killed by it, and so a special gun is developed which fires a lethal electric charge at them (it’s fortunate that White As Snow, where Scarlet is sentenced to death for various acts of insubordination, comes before Spectrum Strikes Back where the device is perfected, as then there would have been some point in standing him before a firing squad!). However, contradicting the Mysteron Captain Indigo’s stated invulnerability to them in the latter story, conventional guns took care of Mysterons before this point. In fact anything that kills ordinary people, such as falling from a great height, as (the Mysteronised) Judy Chapman does in Place of Angels, also kills Mysterons so what the value is to Spectrum of the electron gun is hard to see. The explanation must be that those Mysterons killed by other means are retrometabolised - as part of which they acquire the powers of recovery seen in Captain Scarlet - unless their control signal is shut off (as we saw it isn’t always, suggesting there are other Mysteron agents roaming around, or in prison, besides those mentioned above). Where the Mysteron is electrocuted the electricity cancels the control signal and makes it impossible, initially at any rate, to reanimate the body where desired. This is counted, in the game of chess the Mysterons see themselves as playing with Earth, as a failure.
War Of Nerves
The Mysterons’ powers are not without their limits, meaning that they are capable of making mistakes; the most obvious example being their retrometabolising Major Gravener without realising he’s not actually dead. There are boundaries to their omniscience. They know that Colonel White has gone on a secret submarine voyage to thwart their assassination attempts in White As Snow, the kind of thing which makes nonsense of all Spectrum’s security measures. But in Special Assignment they undoubtedly don’t know that Captain Scarlet is only pretending to have resigned from Spectrum in order to fool them. Nor do they apprehend that Scarlet has taken the place of General Tiempo, their latest target, for the vital operation being carried out on him by their agent Dr Magnus. In Treble Cross they don’t know either that their copy of Major Gravener has been killed, or that Spectrum are attempting to deceive them by substituting the real Gravener for his Mysteron duplicate – they seem to realise it later, though this may simply be a kind of “sixth sense” which it is suggested Captain Black possesses as a result of his Mysteronisation.
The way they operate is sometimes puzzlingly inconsistent. At first they seem intent on killing Andre Verdain and the World President, then they kidnap them instead “we must have the World President alive.” Given that they are able to do some pretty remarkable things using their telekinesis there should be no need for them to use duplicated humans, or Captain Black for that matter, as agents. Yet generally they do, only intervening themselves when it’s necessary to give things a push (opening the safe where the virus samples are kept in Place Of Angels, for example). Since they can dematerialise objects and people, or teleport them from one place to another, at will why don’t they for example dispose of the bodies of Jason Smith, Captain Scarlet and Captain Brown by that means instead of leaving them to be found by the authorities and thus alerting Spectrum? Sometimes they achieve their aims by telekinesis, sometimes by taking over key personnel at whatever installation they have targeted. Since they seem to be telepathic, knowing without having to be told who the world president is, who the heads of particular organisations are, without having to take over the relevant individuals one wonders why they bother to do the latter.
There are inconsistencies both in the way the Mysterons use their powers and in how they react to what they know. In Shadow of Fear they are presumably aware the probe has been placed on Phobos to photograph their Martian installation, because they blow up the observatory on Earth before the images can be transmitted to it, but if so why not just destroy the probe itself? Or maybe they didn’t know about the probe after all and were targeting the observatory as part of the general plan to prevent Earth learning their secrets? It’s often uncertain how much the Mysterons do know and what they don’t. The prosaic explanation for all these anomalies and contradictions is in fact to do with shortcomings in the script – after all the writers were attempting to create a science fiction/adventure series for intelligent children, not to be intellectually consistent - but if we want to believe in the reality of the series (or pretend to),we have to find one that can fit in with the fictional continuity. Which power to use, the telekinesis or the retrometabolism, seems to depend on whim and thus squares with the Mysterons’ whole approach. Or the energy required may fluctuate, and needs to be conserved. There’s not enough of it to maintain any one of the Mysterons’ powers - the telekinesis, teleportation, retrometabolism etcetera – indefinitely, some of it having to be diverted to service the running of the Martian complex, so the Mysterons have to vary their approach a bit. In the case of the rays, if this is the form the power takes on such occasions, which knock out Jason Smith and others Mars would have to be in the correct position relative to Earth to produce the desired result. Either the Mysterons have a series of relay devices in space and/or on celestial bodies, or the fact that this modus operandi isn’t always used suggests they only employ it when the alignment of the planets is right. Relaying the power through Captain Black or another agent would be a further energy-saving measure.
Perhaps where the Mysterons do know what Spectrum is doing, they don’t act on the knowledge but instead give Spectrum a chance to succeed. It’s part of playing a game. The war of nerves they seem to want to wage would not be possible if one side was winning too easily. This may be why they didn’t teleport Captain Black to safety in Manhunt – or perhaps they hadn’t developed that particular ability then. It’s also why they leave dead bodies and wrecked vehicles behind them as clues (though as Drake and Bassett point out, there’s a practical reason for it too in that wounds repairing themselves with unusual speed would be sure to attract attention).
It seems likely that with their enormous powers the Mysterons could destroy the Earth and everyone on it in one blow, or cause enough mayhem to make life there impossible. Instead they play the game. They are so dedicated to it that although they usually lose they keep coming back for another try. Occasionally they attempt something really big like destroying the whole of North America, just so we don’t miss the point. Or change the rules, perplexing those charged with combating them and probably adding to the stress of the job; though they usually strike within twenty-four hours, afterwards selecting a new target if they have failed to destroy the original one, this doesn’t seem to be the case in Special Assignment where the action appears spread out over a few days. Do they know their hostility towards humanity is unreasonable, and are conducting the war of nerves against it as some kind of test, whose purpose we can only guess at? Who knows? For the Mysterons are just that, mysterious.