“Did you see anything?”
The question was rhetorical, and Jason knew it. Clearly, if he had seen anything, he would have told Princess immediately. But he understood that she was just grasping at straws. Having no one else arrive at the Palais des Nations implied that there was no one else left to come. Princess, more than any of them, was having the most difficult time accepting that.
Jason had only met Princess twenty-four hours ago… except that he had actually known her before that moment. He had arrived at the Palais des Nations days ago, not having any idea whom he was looking for, but instinctively understanding that someone would be there to meet him. He had been both surprised and pleased to discover that there were two someones who had arrived at the rendezvous point.
The previous night, Princess and Jason had spoken of everything they could recall about their shared past, dredging up every fragmented memory they could. Jason still didn’t know why Mark couldn’t remember anything, but then, neither did Mark himself understand why his situation was different from theirs.
Jason and Princess had quickly realized that there had been two other members of the G-Force Team. After a few hours of concentration, Princess had finally remembered the name of her younger brother: Keyop. It hadn’t been until this morning that Jason had recalled that the G-Force Pilot had been named Tiny.
“No.” he told Princess curtly. “It’s been almost twenty-four hours. They’re not coming.”
“Do… do you think they’re dead?” she whispered, tears in her eyes. She glanced over at a sleeping Mark, then back to Jason, her expression distraught.
Jason sighed. It was difficult for him too. He had only discovered this other side of himself about three days ago. The realization that there might be others like him had been astounding. And now, to contemplate the worst for two of those others… even a man as fatalistic as he was had trouble dealing with that.
“It’s possible that they simply can’t come.” he pointed out. “Maybe they’re in a Snakehead Penal Complex, like Mark and I were.”
“Can you imagine…? Realizing that you have to be here, in Geneva, and not being able to come…” Princess was clearly horrified by this notion.
“What do you think they will do?” she asked him.
Jason noted Princess’ subtle choice of words. While he didn’t want to distress her further, neither did he want to coddle her with false hope. He thought about his response for a moment.
“There’s no guarantee that they’re alive, Princess.” he told her bluntly, wincing at the pain in her eyes. “But if it were me… I… next year. I’d come back here again. Same date, next year.”
“Yes…” Princess said slowly, nodding her head as she thought through the situation. “That’s what I’d do too.”
“We can’t wait around here any longer.” Jason pointed out. “The more time we remain in Geneva, the more likely we’ll be to get caught. And you and Mark are Number One on the Snakeheads’ Most Wanted list.”
Jason couldn’t believe the amount of manpower the Snakeheads were devoting to finding Mark and Princess. He still didn’t understand how the Spectrans even knew who Mark was. But then, Mark’s memories weren’t returning the way Jason’s and Princess’ were. Jason didn’t understand that either.
What he did understand was that having Mark and Princess back in his life somehow completed him in a way he hadn’t even known was possible. They were his two oldest and dearest friends, even if he couldn’t remember everything about them; yet Mark didn’t remember Jason at all.
Another reality Jason was finding difficult to grasp was that clearly Mark and Princess were more than just ‘friends’ to each other. Jason was fairly certain that they hadn’t been like this ‘before’; not nearly so open and comfortable with each other. Even months ago, when Jason had met them as Luc and Kristin, he had sensed the strong chemistry between them. He guessed that being with each other, alone in this dangerous world, had brought them closer together.
In a way, Jason envied them that. He had spent the past year in a kind of self-imposed isolation, save for the two months he had been in that Snakehead prison, when he had found himself drawn into an unexpected friendship with his cellmate Frederic. And it was lucky for him that he had. Luc and Kristin had been sent to rescue Frederic, and Scott Sheridan had just been along for the ride…
But he wasn’t Scott Sheridan anymore.
He was G-2: the Condor, known to a select few as Jason. Except… most of those select few were likely dead, now. The only ones left were right here, in this room with him.
Mark stirred, and Princess returned to his side, bringing him a cup of strong, hot coffee. Mark smiled, reaching up to stroke her cheek tenderly, and Jason turned away. He felt as if he were intruding on something private, despite the fact that neither Mark nor Princess seemed in the least uncomfortable demonstrating their affections in front of him.
“I don’t think we can stay here much longer.” Jason repeated the opinion he had voiced earlier.
“Neither do I.” Mark agreed. “We need to get ourselves to Riga.”
“Riga?” Jason thought it over, and realized that it made sense. The Federation government was based there now, and they could regroup on Riga.
“I guess, now that we know who we are, that’s the logical place for us to be.” he concluded.
“Not only that,” Princess added, “but we have important research data that the Federation scientists there can use to develop new weapons and attack craft.”
“What’s this about?” Jason asked, surprised.
Briefly, Princess explained how before coming to Geneva, she and Mark had destroyed an underground Federation research laboratory beneath Mont Blanc. They had managed to copy the research data files before setting the self-destruct sequence.
“Oh!” Princess exclaimed, startled. “Now that I think about it, I have something for you, Jason.”
Jason looked on curiously as Princess carefully opened up the left thigh pocket on her cargo pants, putting her hand inside and slowly drawing out something long and white. She paused, then passed the object over to him.
Jason reached out, accepting her gift. He looked down, only to realize that it was not just one object, but a group of them. A cluster of long, white feathers lay in his hand. Each had a shiny, razor-sharp tip.
Reverently, Jason stroked the weapons, feeling their softness and remembering… In an instant, he knew what it felt like to hold them in his fingers, carefully balancing them before preparing for a strike. He knew how they flew, and how to slip them in and out of sight, so that the enemy never knew what was coming. He even recalled chewing on them, letting their poison course through his body, building up an immunity to their otherwise deadly venom…
“My shuriken…” he whispered.
“Oh, these are yours?” Mark asked in surprise, holding out another handful. Jason accepted them gratefully. In a way, it felt as if he were being reunited with a group of old friends.
“Thank you.” he said simply, using the tone of his voice to express the gratitude he was feeling. He let his pleasure in the gift wash over him for a moment.
“Where did you get these?” he asked finally.
“There was a room in the Federation laboratory where they were working on the G-Force weapons… our weapons.” Princess explained. “I took the ones I recognized. I wasn’t entirely certain about taking the shuriken, but I recalled using them occasionally, and so I did. Now I’m glad that we had them for you.”
“So, you have your… yo-yo?” Jason recalled.
“Yes.” Princess smiled happily. “And Mark has his boomerang. But… I had to tell him which one was his.” Her expression had sobered somewhat with this last revelation.
“You didn’t know?” he turned to face his Commander, surprised. Jason was experiencing a strong emotional reaction to being reunited with his shuriken, and couldn’t fathom Mark reacting any differently to his own weapon.
“No.” Mark shook his head sadly. “In fact, I still don’t remember. I can use the boomerang instinctively, but I can’t recall anything before the Snakehead Occupation… including my weapon.” He sighed in frustration, slamming his fist onto his thigh. “I don’t know why you and Princess can remember, and I can’t.” The Eagle’s other hand tightened on the coffee mug, and Jason could see Mark’s knuckles turning white. There was an audible crack.
“Darn it!” Mark spat, as he realized that he had broken the handle off of the mug. He set the cup down on the floor, his face a mask of self-loathing.
“You’ll remember, Mark.” Princess reassured him, rubbing his shoulders. Jason could see Mark’s body beginning to relax from her simple touch. “Perhaps it hasn’t been as long for you. You don’t recall the beginning of the Occupation like we do, either.”
“It will come back to you.” Jason did his best to sound convincing. “As Princess says, maybe you just need a little more time.”
“Maybe.” Mark grimaced, but his tone of voice strongly implied that he didn’t place a great deal of faith in that particular possibility.
“Jason’s right!” Princess rushed to add. “After all, we don’t remember everything, yet. It’s all coming back to us slowly.”
“Yeah.” Jason agreed. “For instance, I don’t have any idea how we ended up separated and without our memories in the first place. Every time I think about it, my head starts to hurt.”
“And I’m still ‘remembering’ things that I’m pretty certain can’t be true.” Princess added. “Things about my life as ‘Kristin’, before the Invasion. At least you don’t have any false memories to sort through.”
Mark nodded, now appearing slightly more convinced by what his teammates were saying.
“So, how do you propose that we get to Riga?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Spacecraft?” Princess replied.
“I kind of figured that.” Jason rolled his eyes. “The real question is, where do we get one and how do we avoid being attacked by the Snakeheads the moment we attempt to leave Earth’s atmosphere?”
“Those are two questions, Jason.” Princess joked.
“All right, Miss Smarty-Swan. If you’re so brilliant, then answer my two questions for me.” Jason retorted.
There was silence for a moment while Princess thought this over.
“Well,” she offered, “we’ve all disguised ourselves as Snakehead soldiers before. Perhaps we should do that again, and use a Spectran spacecraft to escape.”
“That’s an interesting exit strategy.” Mark commented. “But where would we get our hands on a Spectran spacecraft?” The Commander frowned. A light came on in Jason’s head.
“Ramstein.” he blurted.
“What’s that?” Princess asked curiously.
“For the past few months, ever since you two helped release me from Penal Complex 624-Alpha, I’ve been working as an underground mechanic in Brussels.” Jason revealed. “People who didn’t want the Snakeheads to know what they were doing would bring these beat up old vehicles to me, and I would fix them up as best I could. Of course, I often needed new parts, and there were a few guys who were able to get them for me, provided no questions were asked.”
“Sounds like you were doing a lot to undermine the Snakeheads in your own way.” Mark remarked wryly.
“That was the general idea, yes.” Jason smirked. “Once they had stuck me in prison for no good reason, I was really out to get them.”
“I thought last night you told us that the Snakeheads sent you to prison because you were ‘working’ for them and sabotaging their vehicles in your off hours.” Princess observed, a sparkle in her eyes.
“Semantics.” Jason grinned. “Can I finish my story now?”
Both Mark and Princess nodded.
“Well, one day, one of my regular suppliers came in with a giant load of cutting edge parts that were clearly Spectran in origin.” Jason continued. “I didn’t say anything, but my eyes must have been bugging out or something, because he laughed and told me that his team had managed to hijack a shipment of parts headed for Ramstein.”
“So what is Ramstein?” Princess asked again.
“I’m getting to that!” Jason laughed, enjoying her impatience. “I asked him what was in Ramstein, and he told me that it was the major Snakehead Spaceport for Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. Apparently, it’s an old Federation Aerospace Base, and they adapted it for all of their mecha.”
“Then it sounds like that’s the place to go.” Mark agreed. “We should head out today.”
“We’re not going to wait…?” Princess asked in a hushed whisper tinged with regret.
“We have to face up to the fact that they’re not coming.” Jason said firmly.
“I know.” Princess sighed. “I just…”
“None of us wants to accept it.” Mark said kindly, putting his arms around her. “But the longer we drag this out, the harder it will be.”
“You’re right, Mark.” Princess replied, wiping tearfully at her eyes with the back of her hand. “We’ll go today.”
“Now.” Mark clarified. “As soon as we’ve dressed and packed. We’ll put on our Snakehead uniforms and try the train, again.”
“Train?” Jason was aghast. “I’m not leaving Sweetheart behind!”
“Who’s Sweetheart?” Mark asked, confused.
“His car…” Princess replied. “But… you still have Sweetheart? How?”
“It’s not the original.” Jason admitted. “The first Sweetheart was…” his voice drifted off for a moment. What had happened to the first Sweetheart? He closed his eyes and let the memories come to him…