Even though he was in the center of the building, Jason could hear the rain pelting it and the rumble of distant thunder. He ground his teeth and stared harder at the racing magazine in his hands. He hated Halloween. Especially this Halloween and the weather seemed to be agreeing with him.
As if the weather wasn’t bad enough, he could hear the music and loud voices coming from the large ballroom in the rear of the main floor of ISO headquarters. The ISO annual Halloween party.
Princess had begged him to attend, but he had declined, as he had every year since moving into the building with the Chief and Mark. He hated Halloween. Didn’t anyone get it?
Jason took a deep breath and tried to put it behind him. The rest of the team liked Halloween. They enjoyed dressing up and roaming the halls of the building begging for candy. This year, they had decided to dress up in a single theme: the Power Rangers. Entertainments’ only legal way to imitate G-Force. Likenesses of G-Force, outside of ISO sanctioned promotional pictures, were strictly forbidden. Instead, they had created the Power Rangers.
“It’s funny,” Keyop had said as Jason rolled his eyes in disgust. “They pretend to be us, so we can pretend to be them!”
The Chief was still working in his office and said he’d go to the party as soon as he was done. Rather than sit in the apartment alone, Jason had decided to use the lounge on the main floor to read his magazine. Just because he didn’t like Halloween didn’t mean he felt like being alone completely. There was enough white noise around to be comforting.
Jason heard the thumps of running feet and glanced up to see Keyop round the corner at a full run, heading for him. The teenager skidded to a stop in front of Jason’s feet, almost stepping on them.
“He’s here!” he said as he pulled off his blue Ranger mask. “Zoltar’s here!”
Jason snorted. “You’re full of it.”
“He’s here! He just waltzed into the party!” Keyop insisted, practically jumping up and down.
“Keyop, it’s just some idiot with bad taste in costumes,” Jason told him and looked back down at his magazine. He was unprepared for Keyop grabbing his arm.
“All of the television shots Zoltar does are from the chest up! There’s no way for anyone but us to know what his belt, pants and boots look like! He’s here!”
Jason eyed the hand grasping his arm and Keyop let go, stepping back.
“I’m serious, Jase. He’s here.” Keyop’s eyes were practically welling up with tears.
“Why didn’t you tell Mark or Princess?” Jason asked, beginning to wonder if the kid was right. He’d never seen him act the way he was before, except during a mission.
“I couldn’t find them. We’ve got to do something.”
Jason sighed deeply and stood up, dropping his magazine on the chair. He didn’t seriously think the Spectran warlord would have the nerve to just waltz right into the ISO Building, but could they take the chance?
“Okay. Show me.”
“Come on.” Keyop led the way back towards the ballroom. Jason followed, scanning everything around them, every person who walked by, whether dressed for business or for the party.
As they rounded the corner towards the entrance to the ballroom, someone dressed like Zoltar came out of the ballroom and turned right. The only thing in that direction was a dead end hall that led to a second set of elevators.
Jason had to keep his jaw from dropping. The belt, pants and boots were right. Keyop was right. It had to be Zoltar!
Jason grabbed the back of Keyop’s costume and pulled him back around the corner. They watched as Zoltar hit the up button and waited. Within seconds, one of the elevators dinged and the door opened. Zoltar stepped in.
“Where’s he going?” Keyop asked as they darted around the corner to stop in front of the triple bank of elevators. Jason looked up and watched the numbers increase as the elevator rose.
“He could be going anywhere. We have to find out where before we can do anything.” Jason raised his bracelet and hit the Bird Scramble. “G-2 to team. Zoltar is in the building. I repeat, Zoltar is in the building. He’s in elevator number five, heading up. Just passed the tenth floor. G-4 and I are pursuing.”
Jason didn’t wait for an answer. His heart racing, he watched the numbers increase and stop at twenty-seven.
“The Chief’s office,” Keyop squeaked.
“Come on!” Jason pulled Keyop towards the stairwell and darted into it. They moment they were in, he transmuted and raised his bracelet again. “He’s on the twenty-seventh floor. Chief, get out of there!”
Jason didn’t wait for Keyop. He bolted up the stairs at full Birdstyle speed, using the railings to swing and fly up as fast as he could. Keyop had transmuted as well and wasn’t far behind him. Once they reached the door to the twenty-seventh floor, having had to dodge several people along the way, Jason cracked the door open and looked out. Sure enough, Zoltar was slinking down the hallway. He stopped in front of the Chief’s office and tried the door. It opened and he slipped inside.
“Where the hell are the others?” Jason whispered as he and Keyop left the stairwell and ran down towards the door. He stopped, his back to the wall, and drew his cable gun. He could hear Keyop pulling out a set of his bolas.
The door was ajar and the room was dark. Jason cautiously touched the door and began to slowly nudge it open. When it was open just enough, he shoved hard and leaped into the room, gun ready.
The lights flipped on and Jason had to shield his eyes as three figures in neon red, pink and green jumped out from behind the furniture.
“Happy Birthday!” the three and the man dressed as Zoltar, sitting at the seat behind the desk, yelled. Jason and Keyop stared in disbelief.
“Are you guys nuts!!” Jason exclaimed, pulling his gun up. His still bugging eyes took in the large cake sitting on the desk in front of Zoltar, decorated with icing roads and matchbox cars - all who mysteriously looked like his Mustang. Several wrapped presents and a bottle of champagne and glasses were beside it.
“Did you really think you were going to get away with not celebrating your twenty-first birthday?” Mark asked as he pulled off the Red Ranger mask, a big smile on his face.
Jason turned to give Keyop a scathing look. The teen held his hands up in defense.
“I didn’t know anything about it!”
“Do you really think we’d tell blabber mouth about this?” Princess asked, also pulling off her Pink Ranger mask.
Jason shook his head and holstered his cable gun and de-transmuted.
“I said I didn’t want to do anything,” he griped morosely and then pointed a savage finger at the Zoltar figure. “I almost shot your ass off!”
The figure laughed and the mask came off to reveal the Chief. “Dressing up like Zoltar was the only way I could think to make you come up here.”
“Then do us all a favor. Don’t do it again. That outfit is dangerous.”
“Agreed.” Anderson laid the mask aside and motioned at the cake. “Why don’t you cut while I pour the bubbly?”
Jason finally gave in and did as requested. An hour later, filled with cake and alcohol, the presents all opened and shared, the Chief excused himself and headed for the elevator. Once in it, he pulled off his second mask and shook out his long, blonde hair. He shoved the Anderson mask into a pocket inside his cape and pulled the Zoltar mask back over his head.
“Maybe next year, I’ll dress up as the Pink Ranger,” he mused as the elevator stopped and he got out, heading for the ballroom. “That G-Force sure knows how to throw a party!”