In Mark's war experience, he knew of two things he could count on from the typical Spectran "Green Goon": 1. They typically couldn't hit the broad side of a barn at ten paces to save their lives, and 2. They could run at an Olympic-level pace when trying to escape and save their own hides.
And this Goon had a good pace on him, Mark had to give him that. Considering G-Force had been able to round up all the other Spectra soldiers from the small base immediately, it usually wouldn't have been much of a concern that they'd only one left to apprehend. Unfortunately, this one held the computer code microfilm Galaxy Security wanted back so desperately, which meant this chase would go on as long as necessary.
"I'm on the north side, on the other end of the street." Jason said through the wrist communicator, "He won't be getting away in this direction."
"Mark, I think he's headed towards the Convention Center." Princess said with the sound of the engine of her Galacticycle in the background of the transmission.
As Mark continued unimpeded down the deserted sidewalks, he silently agreed with the assessment. The Zarkadia Capitol Convention Center did seem to be the Goon's general direction. Could that mean Spectra had another base in the immediate area other than the one they'd just shut down? With his luck, there would be a convention of the Spectran Peace Advocacy Group in full swing. Or a human rights group with plenty of cameras on hand to record the arrest.
Mark raised his wrist, "Tiny, tell Galaxy Security to lock down the area near the Convention Center. We might have another nest. Everyone, let's see if we can box him in before he gets to the Convention Center."
As the members sounded off in acknowledgment, Mark caught sight of a flash of green where a street curved to the south. Although catching up, he was still far enough behind that the Goon could easily elude Mark if he used a hidden base entrance. As Mark came up to the wide boulevard with the Convention Center across the street, he saw Princess bring her Galacticycle to a screeching halt near one of the northern entrances. She motioned towards the door, and Mark understood. So much for catching the Goon before he arrived at the Convention Center.
"Team, we have him in the Convention Center. Princess and I are heading in through the main north and mid entryways. Converge from different directions and begin the search. Zark, tell Galaxy Security to seal off the building. Maybe we can flush him out." Mark said into his wrist activator.
Princess had completely disappeared into the building by the time he came up to the main doors. Mark startled a couple holding hands as he ran through a double set of doors. Stopping for a brief moment in the main outer foyer, he looked up and down the well-lit area. No bobbing green head could be seen in any direction. Another set of doors sat ahead of him leading into the main convention hall beyond which he could see a lot of activity, and Mark walked swiftly towards it as he continued to scan his surroundings.
Mark blinked, and looked at a blue uniformed man standing outside the doors. The man glared at Mark, and then demanded, "Where's your Badge?"
Mark sighed and pulled out a Galaxy Security identification card.
The man looked at it and snorted, "Oh, that's a good one, but I've seen better from some of these kids. Do you really think that's going to cut it? Come on Buddy. You want to be in here, you pay the price. And while we're at it, the belt doesn't look right. Do a little more research next time."
The next minute Mark found himself being escorted out the doors and into the outside noon sun.
"Over there's the line to buy badges. Don't let me see you in here again without one." The man said, pointing to a long line that snaked out of one of the doors at the far end of the Convention Center. He then walked back in, and then stood on the other side of the glass watching him.
Mark wasn't sure if he should be angry, confrontational or just laugh. After doing this job for so long, he'd begun to take it for granted that he should be instantly recognized when in uniform. He shook his head at himself as he started walking towards the line.
Then he realized how long the line extended. Not only down the sidewalk, but also around the corner of the building. He didn't have time to walk down to see how long the line snaked, much less take the time to stand in it. So he did something he knew he would feel bad about later: as a group of young men walked out of a set of doors, Mark casually walked by one of them and in a flash had snitched one of the badges hanging from a pocket.
"Heads up, gang. Security here didn't recognize me, and would not accept ID. You may have to 'borrow' someone else's badge to get into the main hall." Mark said quietly into his wristband. He quickly received several acknowledgments, including a "You could have warned me earlier!" from Keyop.
With the new badge hanging from his utility belt, Mark walked back into the foyer and then through a different set of doors into the main convention hall.
By the time Mark's warning came through, Princess had already crossed into the main convention hall in the midst of a large group of people. Ten seconds after the warning she'd 'borrowed' a badge. Continuing her way in, she scanned the colorful crowds for a Spectran uniform.
She usually didn't think too much about her height, but in situations like this she wished for a few extra inches. Even with the heels on her boots, her ability to see for any distance in the thick crowds was severely hampered. People cut her off, moved suddenly in front of her and backpacks swung around and hit her constantly. She tried to ignore the wafts of sour body odor that often accompanied the movements.
"Amazing costume! Mind if I take a pic?" a young female voice squealed.
A bright flash instantly blinded Princess and she blinked rapidly to get rid of the colored spots floating in front of her eyes. The crowd parted as others joined in snapping more pictures.
"Do a pose!"
"How did you make the helmet?"
"Wow, you sure have the figure for the uniform!"
"Uh, I don't ..." Princess started, when she felt a sudden pinch in an area dangerously low. Swiftly she swiveled, and the party behind her suddenly found himself on his knees at her feet with Princess pinching at a pressure point on the offending hand.
"Good lord, let go! That hurts! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" The man yelled out. Something tall knocked into her, and Princess realized that she now had at her feet someone dressed as the Harbinger of Death, complete with a tall fake spray-painted scythe and long black robes. All the while the crowd kept oohing and ahhing, the flashes from the cameras coming fast and furious.
"You're lucky that it only hurt." Princess muttered as she let go and stepped back.
"Hah, she apprehended death himself!" Someone in the crowd crowed.
"This is so going in my blog!"
"Can you use the yo-yo properly?"
"Can you two do that again? I didn't get a good shot."
"Sorry, I need to get going." Princess said as she backed away, a little dazzled by the continuing flashes, "Excuse me."
Too much time in enclosed stuffy places, questionable hygiene habits, combined with a long walk in the hot sun to get into the convention building. The combination equalled a strong affront to the olfactory senses. Jason did his best to ignore the protests from his nose as best he could.
Jason shifted uncomfortably in the hard metal chairs of a video viewing room as two men behind him, both older than Chief Anderson, whispered on and on about the animation currently showing, what would be showing next and 'classic' story-telling themes. As far as he could tell, the animation currently showing looked like yet another effort by toy companies to sell their wares with the story and characters inconsequential.
He shifted again, trying to ignore the asinine conversation occurring behind him. His target sat in the third row from the front of the crowded room, the green mask still firmly in place. Applause erupted around him, and he realized the video had ended. He quickly moved to the only door in and out of the room and waited. There would be no way out except past him.
A girl with bright pink hair winked at him as she passed. Groups of smelly animation fans filtered past him, and then yet another pack of gaudily costumed teenagers. A girl with streaks of purple in her hair and dressed in black lace and leather stopped directly in front of him, and asked with a cocky smile, "Just how good are you in the alternate uses of a feather?"
Jason looked down at her, immediately noticing how far the neckline of her top plunged south, "Sorry, I'm on duty."
"Too bad, we could have lots of fun."
The girl moved on, joining up with a group of other costumed girls, then looked back and winked at him. Jason sighed and looked back into the room to find the man still sitting in the same chair.
The man bent down, and came back up with a green backpack, then turned towards him. With blond hair whisping out from the edges of the mask and a chest that declared that this couldn't be a male.
Jason stalked away from the room out onto the promenade as he muttered under his breath about the weirdos who thought it was fun to dress up as the enemy at events like this. Spotting Tiny not far away, he moved past standing groups of giggling girls and spiky-haired males comparing toys. He caught up with a scowling Tiny just as he turned away from an ATM.
"No luck?" Jason asked.
Tiny groaned, "Oh yeah, trailed 3 goons, all wrong for various reasons. Nearly had a security guard throw me out. Then I saw two dressed up like Princess and one like you. That wasn't so strange, they do that at conventions like this, but I kept getting told some of the details weren't right on my uniform! Then they wanted to argue about it. I tell you, this place is nuts! I followed one goon into the food court."
"Hey, it's been how long since we ate? The torturous smells! Only problem is that they are using some sort of token money, and I can't find a machine to do a money exchange." Tiny motioned to the machine he'd just left, "These things won't recognize our cards. None of them! I thought the Chief said they would work anywhere in the Federation."
"Heads up." Tiny hissed, looking behind Jason.
Jason whirled, and at the flash of a familiar green instantly had his hand on the mans shoulder, spinning him around.
The man looked shocked for a moment, and then started grinning, "Hey, guys, I'm being taken down by the Condor himself!"
The girl who had been walking next to him, wearing a revealing black outfit with a pointed witches hat on her head wrinkled her nose at Jason, "Yeah, but his costume isn't the same colors as in the show."
Jason almost groaned as he swiftly took in the uniform and the cut-out eyes of the mask showing the man's brown eyes clearly.
"I'd stop and take pictures, but we have to get to a panel." The man said, waving at Jason and Tiny as he continued down the promenade.
"Show?" Tiny echoed blankly.
Jason looking over the crowd with narrowed eyes, realizing he didn't recognize any of the costumes worn, or the toys, or the poster images. True, Zarkadia was new to the Federation, but it wasn't this isolated! "Something is going on here."
In other circumstances, Keyop would have loved attending a convention like this. Unfamiliar videos and music played on all sides of him, exotic toys lined the tables and shelves of booths. Zarkadia had a rich animation, fantasy and science fiction industry, but in a convention like this it made hunting down a green goon more than a little difficult.
The green Goon he'd found seemed more interested in rare comic books rather than getting away. Keyop stood at the edge of a booth opposite of the Goons location, waiting for him to make a move. If the Goon would move away from the crowd around him, Keyop could take him down fast without risking harm to anyone around them.
"Hey, the line is moving! Come on, move!" Keyop found a brown haired girl about his same age saying to him. When he looked at her blankly, she put her hands on his shoulder and pushed him forward, "Don't you want the free exclusive? I do!"
"Hey, my big brother has a stuttering problem, too! Don't let anyone ever tease you about it." the girl said with a grin, "That's why I'm here. He loves this character, and it'll be the perfect present for him. I like the show, too, but not nearly as much as he does."
Keyop looked down the line to see a big poster of an unfamiliar muscular man in a black mask and a green and black uniform with a flowing cape. Below it, behind a wide counter, stood a large tall shelf filled with figures packaged in cardboard and clear plastic. He hadn't even known he'd been in a line!
Keyop looked back at the Goon, only to find him now turned facing him. The Goon waved furiously at someone down the aisle, wearing a big grin on his face. Only then did Keyop get a good look at the padding on the front top chest of the Goons uniform. Obviously, green felt had been ironed onto a uniform that sagged at the waist, the belt too wide with the buckle completely wrong. Keyop's shoulders slumped as he realized that he had been following the wrong man all this time.
The girl looked over at where he stared and shrugged, "His uniform isn't as good as yours. Wow, how did you make yours?"
"**Had help.**" Keyop said as the line surged forward.
"You're going to the cos-play in that, right? If you have the right skit, you could be a shoe-in! Oh, we're getting close! Oh man, I hope they have some left. With how expensive the figure is, this is the only way I'll be able to get it!" The girl jumped up and down in excitement.
"Okay, this is the end!" a man said, coming up and putting a baton between Keyop and the girl. "200 is here! Sorry, fans, but the exclusives are now gone, but come over to the other side of the booth and we have the blue and black version for sale!"
As the fans past Keyop grumbled and griped, they slowly drifted away. The girl stayed, "Are you sure you counted right? There's got to be one more!"
"Sorry miss, but this is it."
The boy on the other side of Keyop grabbed his arm as the line surged again, "You're in luck, pal. Talk about coming in under the wire!"
In a few minutes Keyop found himself with a grab bag, the last of the figures from the shelf in it along with a 'mini figure', of which the packaging declared, "Official colors and accessories!" Great, how would he explain this to Mark? He really had been on duty!
Keyop looked up and down the aisles, relieved to not see any of the rest of the team. Then he caught sight of the little brown haired girl, standing across the aisle from the 'buying' side of the booth, counting a small wad of money, and then counting it again, looking near to tears.
Keyop made his way to her as he looked at the mini figure, liking how articulated the joints looked on the small figure. It looked like it would be fun to pose. He stopped in front of the girl who looked up at him in surprise.
"So, did you really get the last one?" she asked.
Keyop nodded and thrust the bag into her hands, "**a gift**for you and your brother**don't mind I keep the mini?**"
"Are you kidding?"
Keyop shook his head and the girl looked down into the bag he had handed her.
"Do you have any idea how much you could sell this for? They only made a few hundred for this show!"
"**where would I store it**" Keyop said with a grin spreading his wings. He then tucked the mini into a side pouch, barely fitting it in.
"I guess you have a point there. Carrying the bag would kinda destroy the effect." the girl gave him a sudden hug, "Thank you so much! You have no idea what this means to me! Oh, if you want to get to the cos-play, you better hurry. They should be starting any minute!"
Keyop looked at the door she pointed at, "**Sorry, looking for goon**"
"Oh, your partner in the cos-play? You know, I saw one head in that direction just a moment ago. Maybe it's your friend?"
Recalling the state of the uniform of the man he had wasted so much time in trailing, he asked, "**Uniform any good?**"
"As authentic looking as yours? It sure looked like it, at least from this distance. There are some running around here that are pathetic. Just follow the signs outside that door."
Keyop grinned, and after sneaking in a hug himself he ran towards the door.
"Do those legs go all the way up?"
Mark blinked and turned around, to find Princess stalking towards him as a man wielding a camera followed her.
"One more picture, sweetheart!"
"This place is nuts." Princess fumed as she came to a sudden stop in front of him, casting a quick scathing glare at the man behind her that any self-preserving Spectran would have instantly feared.
"That's enough." Mark told the man with a look that usually quelled anyone from uppity Federation officials to battle-experienced Spectra soldiers.
"Hey, it's just a few pictures..."
"You've taken enough!" Princess said fiercely, "You are now stalking!"
"I'll say when it's....erk!"
The next second Mark held the man by the front of the shirt, nearly lifting him off his feet, "The Lady said enough."
"All right! The Eagle is defending the Swan!" Someone yelled. A flurry of whistles and camera flashes surrounded them.
Mark kept his attention on the man's face, who's skin had turned a ruddy red, "Do we understand each other?"
"Yeah sure, she belongs to you. No problem."
Mark dropped the man, who immediately scurried into the crowd. With the show over the other people quickly turned to other interests.
"I'm guessing you've had no luck." Mark asked.
"I've been too busy dodging people determined to take my photo. The questions I've been getting have been bizarre..." Princess paused as a man walked by in a blue cape and dark helmet. Seeing the two of them, he gave them a quick salute and grin, the satin wings flipping onto his shoulder. At the sight of his stomach paunch, Princess gave a quick giggle, which she immediately smothered.
Mark gave the man a half salute back and watched him disappear. He said slowly, "That's the worst Condor uniform."
"Hey, the cos-play is about to start if you two are planning on being in it. I saw some green goons head in there." A girl with long pink ponytails and a white and blue outfit with a knotted bow at her breast and a short pleated skirt said as she pointed towards a door with one hand as she handed a huge bag to a friend with the other hand.
"Goons?" Princess asked.
"Where?" Mark demanded at the same time.
"Just follow me, I need to join my group, too. They're going to kill me, I didn't realize the time!" The girl walked swiftly towards the door, the pony tails streaming out behind her.
Mark and Princess followed closely, only to halt at a loud "Hey!". Jason and Tiny hurried towards them, following at Mark's gesture. Fortunately, the bobbing pink ponytails were easy to see, and they quickly caught up as Princess filled in the other two. Mark scanned for a flash of green as they walked.
The girl paused for a moment, "Here we go. Just follow me down the aisle. The cos-players have a little staging room off to the side. Oh, shoot they just introduced the first group! Hurry!"
The girl took off through a door into a medium sized theater and then down a side aisle. Mark froze just on the other side of the door, spotting the backs of several familiar green masks.
"Which one is real?" Jason muttered.
"Yeah, I've seen goons everywhere, too." Mark whispered back as a group of gaudily clad teenagers danced onstage to loud booming music.
"Looks like Keyop might have figured it out." Tiny said pointing.
As the kid in question turned to look to his left, Mark grinned, recognizing Keyops overbite. Then Mark spotted the object of Keyops attention. The mask, compared to the others, looked exactly right. "We might have trouble isolating him in this crowd."
"I'll head to the balcony." Jason said, before darting to the stairs to the right.
"Princess, see if you can get in through the door farther down and come at him from the other direction." Mark said, motioning towards the break in the seats that spanned across the seating area providing another walkway. The goon Keyop kept looking at sat a little too close to that obvious escape route for comfort.
"That leaves you and me, Tiny." Mark said with a grin.
"Let's nail the rat."
Mark slowly moved forward from the back of the room, as the group onstage pretended to fly as part of their act but instead appeared to be acting out a bizarre crane mating dance. Keyop caught sight of Mark, and gave him a subtle thumb up.
At that moment the Goon looked to the right. Eyes went wide at the sight of Keyop. A quick glance back and he saw Mark and Tiny. The Goon flew to his feet and pushed his way into the aisle, heading for the cross-aisle. At Princess's appearance in the aisle, he froze, then spun to head towards the stage.
By this time several in the audience had noticed the activity and nudged their neighbors, surreptitiously pointing and whispering.
Keyop rose from his seat to somersault over another row of seats, landing behind the Goon. Deciding to take his chances with the smallest in the team, the Goon barreled into Keyop, knocking him into the lap of a hefty costumed woman sitting in one of the aisle seats.
By the time Jason dropped down from the balcony to land in front of the Goon, no one in the audience bothered to watch the cos-players on the stage.
At the sight of the Condor scowl, the Goon screamed in a high pitched little-girl fashion that caused a ripple of laughter to break out among the crowd. For the G-Force team, it failed to break their concentration for even a second. The Goon shot backwards as if scalded, to spin around and come face to face with the Eagle, eliciting another horrified squeal.
Mark brought up a fist as he surged forward. The Goon flinched backwards, causing Mark's fist to glance off the man's chin. Still, the momentum of the blow knocked the Goon to the side. Before he could regain his balance, a yo-yo snaked out to hit him directly in the middle of the forehead. As the Goon slowly sank to the floor, Jason and Princess tackled him.
"He's unarmed." Princess reported as the Goon started burbling in begging incoherent sentence fragments.
Tiny moved forward and quickly checked the pockets. With a loud "Aha!" Tiny came up with a small canister, tossing it smartly to Mark.
"Get him out of here, before these people start panicking!" Mark growled out in a low voice as he caught the canister with one hand.
Just then the entire auditorium erupted out in fierce applause. Mark worriedly looked around to see everyone on their feet, but not leaving their seats, all eyes on them.
"Looks like one group wouldn't take no for an answer when we ran out of slots, ladies and gentlemen!" The Emcee announced from the stage. "I think they deserve another round of applause for that display of incredible gymnastics and realism!"
The applause grew louder with a few wolf whistles thrown in for good measure. Camera flashes at them from all directions.
The Goons hands now held behind his back with a pair of handcuffs, Jason pulled him to his feet and began pushing him quickly towards the rear doors with his hand firmly holding the back of his shirt. Considering the still dazed look on the man's face and the red lump that was surely forming on his forehead, Mark doubted he would try to escape yet.
Tiny held open the front entry doors, allowing the others to pass before he himself followed. Moving quickly, they quickly gained the foyer. Seeing several of the conventions security men headed in their direction, Mark ordered, "Move outside. We've got troublemakers headed towards us."
"With so many versions of us running around, how are they to know we're the real thing." Tiny said in their defense.
"Galaxy Security should be outside. They can explain it." Mark blinked at the bright sun as they exited the outer doors, momentarily blinded.
"Where have you been? We had the entire facility locked down, and then lost contact!" a voice yelled out at them.
His eyes adjusting, Mark finally made out the outline and colors of a Galaxy Security uniform, and then recognized the face. "Captain Hamilton. I wondered when you would arrive. Why didn't any of your men come inside to evacuate the civilians?"
"We didn't know this guy was unarmed. If he had been, it could have been a blood-bath in there with the crowded convention." Jason added.
The Captain looked confused, trading a look with the man beside him who then shrugged and shook his head. Captain Hamilton looked back at Mark, "Uh, sir, there's no one here today other than a janitorial crew. We completed that evacuation within minutes."
"What are you talking about? We saw thousands of people in there!" Mark said with an angry gesture towards the convention building.
"Considering how many times I got pinched, trust me, they weren't figments of my imagination." Princess muttered.
Captain Hamilton looked even more confused, "Sir, I'm afraid I don't know what you are talking about."
"No cars!" Keyop suddenly burbled.
Mark looked down at Keyop, who fixedly gazed at a tall parking garage next to the convention center to the south. A quick glance told Mark the truth of Keyop's words. Not one vehicle could be seen in the structure. Mark turned back towards the convention center, only to see no one on the other side of the glass in the foyer, the sidewalks around them bare except the occasional Galaxy Security officer, no one walking in and out of the doors, no vehicles coming and going from the unloading lanes. In fact, no noise at all other than the distant drone of Galaxy Security helicopters.
"No posters in the windows, either." Tiny observed quietly, shifting his weight uncomfortably.
"What the..." Mark started to say, his skin feeling prickly.
Jason shook the Goon sharply with a flick of his wrist, "What did you do?"
The Goon wisely stayed silent, but his demeanor and round eyes, showed him as confused as the rest of them.
"We can take him, sir." Captain Hamilton said, stepping up to Jason. Jason practically threw the Goon at him with distaste.
"**It wasn't ** couldn't have been ** our imaginations ** could it?**" Keyop asked, with his eyes wide.
"All of us seeing and experiencing the same thing?" Tiny said, "No way."
"And yet, this place is deserted. That's as real as what we saw inside." Princess said as she rubbed her arms as if suddenly cold.
Keyop looked down at his belt, and immediately opened one of his pouches. A second later he pulled out a small packaged figure. He looked up at Mark, "**Not completely imagination**"
Mark suddenly felt cold and looked down at his belt. The badge still hung there. Ripping it off, he began moving away from the convention center, suddenly wanting to put distance between them and the building as fast as possible, "Time to call Chief Anderson. Maybe he'll have an idea on what just happened."
Mission File 21337
Mission Date: 7-28-2189
File Date: 8-30-2189
Location: Planet: Zarkadia
Capital City, Zarkadia Capital Convention Center
Associated files contained herein: 42 eyewitness testimonies (including Galaxy Security, G-Force and apprehended Spectran Soldiers), Spectra Base specifications, Zarkadia Civilian Planning Department blueprints and planning specifications, Galaxy Security Mission Reports and Satellite images.
Confirmed: Zarkadia Capital Convention Center unused and unoccupied at time of Event.
Confirmed: Convention Center evacuation consisted of a total of 10 janitorial and maintenance personnel, occurring immediately after G-Force's entry into facility.
Confirmed: All signals and communications ceased from G-Force from 11:30 hours to 15:52 hours.
Confirmed: In the above time-frame, no visual sightings of G-Force or any Spectra Agent were made in and/or around the Convention Center despite multiple searches by Galaxy Security personnel.
Confirmed: The badges and toy testing results have indicated several unusual chemical properties. All compounds have been identified, but several including the unique high-density polyethylene formulas indicate a historical usage that ended between 2020 and 2050.
Confirmed: Name of convention, dates and other markings on badges could not be matched up with any event, past or future, held at the Zarcadia Capital Convention Center.
Conclusion: While before, during and after the Event no unusual emissions, frequencies or sensor findings could be found in the area where apprehension of Spectra Agent 728,932 occurred, it is noteworthy that the accounts of both the Spectra Agent and the entire G-Force team were consistent in experiences and observations made during the 'missing time'. In a further examination of the remains of the nearby Spectra base, no equipment could be identified that could be connected to this Event. No activities in civilian buildings in the nearby area could be connected to this Event. No specific activity by the G-Force team itself could be connected to this Event.
As no explanations for this Event have been put forward, and observations of the area have been 'normal' for the past 336 hours, it is now classified as an "Unknown Event". Further monitoring of the Convention Center is warranted, however use of the facility may continue as no other witnesses and/or similar experiences have been reported before or after.
Note: G-4 request for return of toy declined as of 8-15-2189.