The first thing Jason noticed when he pulled into Camp Parker’s parking lot was the absence of the Chief’s car and Princess’ motorcycle.
He frowned as he got out of his car and looked at his bracelet. They weren’t supposed to have left for the train for another hour. He closed the car door, the sound loud in the nearly empty lot.
The security detail let him in and he moved down the halls to the Chief’s office. It was in a corner of the building, with one wall made completely of glass to afford him a spectacular view of the forest and mountains in the distance.
Jason didn’t bother to knock. He opened the door and walked in. He hadn’t expected anyone to be there, but he turned a circle in the center of the room anyway. It was empty. He checked the Chief’s desk. The desk was bare. The Chief’s desk was usually a mess, unless he didn’t plan to return for a while.
There was no note for him.
Jason suddenly felt exhausted. He’d had to rise much earlier than normal that morning to bring the Chief to Camp Parker. The attack on the way by the strangely masked woman had taxed him more than he’d realized.
And there was Lily, the girl at the track that he had rescued from her burning car and then given a ride to work. She had seemed nice enough, but her boss had given him the willies. Something about the blonde had bothered him. He still couldn’t put his finger on it.
Jason plopped down on the couch lengthwise and sighed.
Why had they left early? It made no sense to him.
He covered his eyes with his arm and closed them. He’d been angry when he left. The rest of G-Force had seemed to be content to wait and let the woman who had tried to kill the Chief make another attempt rather than try and catch her. It was unfathomable to him.
But now there was nothing else he could do, so he might as well take a nap, but his mind wouldn’t rest. They knew Galactor or Spectra had made the attempt on the Chief’s life, but not which group. Did it really matter? Someone had grown bold enough to attack Anderson on his own turf in broad daylight.
Would she try again?
Jason’s gut was telling him yes.
He sat up and rubbed his hands across his face before standing.
There was a map of the Super Train’s route on the wall. When the Chief had first told them he was going to be using the train, they had gone over the route, looking for problem locations. They had all agreed the bridge over the Timpini Gorge was the most likely location for an attack.
And someone had left a feather shuriken in the map, smack in the middle of the bridge.
Jason studied the map again. The Chief and the rest of G-Force had left early. The only reason he could come up with was the train’s departure schedule had been moved up. The time change was supposed to throw them off. He had no doubt it was a trap and the trap would be sprung at the Gorge.
The G-2 was fast, but the route from Camp Parker to the Gorge wasn’t a race track. He’d have to deal with civilian traffic. He’d never beat the train there. He looked at his watch and made a quick calculation in his head.
He couldn’t, but he knew who could. He raised his left arm.
“G-2 to Eagle Leader,” he said. Gatchaman had been on patrol over the Pacific and was scheduled to return to Crescent Coral Base in a few hours. At Mach 2, they could get to the Gorge long before the train.
“This is Eagle Leader. Go ahead, G-2,” Ken responded.
“We’ve got a problem,” Jason said and then told them what had happened when he had brought the Chief from the base to Camp Parker.
“A rose? An exploding red rose?” Joe interjected in concern.
“Yes. I remember you saying something about one, so once we were in the water, I converted the car to sub and got us out of there.”
“It was Galactor.” Joe’s deep voice was filled with rage. “Their female assassins are called Devil Stars and they wear masks and all have short blonde hair.”
“White masks with lines on them?” Jason asked, remembering what had covered the woman’s face.
“Then it was definitely one of them,” Jason conceded.
“G-2, try to raise G-1. In the meantime, we’re on our way. Eagle leader out.”
Jason acknowledged and tried to raise Mark. After several attempts, he tried to reach Princess, then Tiny, then Keyop. He wasn’t getting anyone.
He contacted Gatchaman again and informed them of the problem. June reconfirmed.
“There’s definitely some kind of interference,” she said. “I’m trying to locate the source.”
“Hang tight, G-2,” Ken instructed. “If you’re right, we’ll be there in time.”
Jason acknowledged again and sat down in one of the chairs, facing the map on the wall. All he could do was stare at it.
Three agonizing hours later, his bracelet vibrated and chirped. He had spent the time pacing the room, proverbially wearing the carpet out. He swung back and forth between being mad at his teammates for leaving without him and mad at himself for leaving so that they had been forced to go without him.
“G-2, go ahead,” he said, stopping in front of the large window, shaking with concern.
“Mission accomplished,” Ken told him, a smile in his voice. “You were right.”
“Is everyone okay?” Jason asked, the tension in his shoulders easing.
“G-1 has a concussion and needed some stitches, but otherwise, everyone is fine. The Timpini Gorge Bridge is gone. They blew it. A few of them got away, too.”
“Damn.” Jason sighed deeply and pushed his fingers through his hair.
“Your idea to contact Gatchaman was a good one,” the Chief said over the bracelet,” but you should have been back in time to accompany us.”
“If he had, you’d be dead,” he heard Joe saying in the background. Jason winced, imagining the look the Chief was giving his brother.
“I disobeyed orders,” Jason cut in before Joe could say more and anger the Chief. “I accept whatever reprimand you decide on.” He winced again. Had he really just said that? Mark was starting to rub off on him.
“We’ll discuss it later,” Anderson said. “Report to Crescent Base.”“Yes, sir.” Jason lowered his arm and walked over to the map. Even though he knew he was in trouble, he smiled. He pulled the shuriken out of the map, twirled it on his fingertip, then grabbed it and placed it in the hidden sheath in his pants leg. He had a long drive ahead of him.