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Chapter LXII

It took only thirty-six hours for a Section Sanitation Team to arrive at Santa Rosa. Leaving the town a smoking ruin was a non-option, especially with half the world on the look out for the Anti-Cerebrists.

It did surprise Shield to see The Chief leading the Sanitation Team. In the year or so he’d been an active field agent, he’d never heard of The Chief traveling more than five miles outside of D.C. The expression on his face suggested travel did not agree with him.

“We would have, of course, preferred if you had taken him alive.”

Shield looked around the remains of the town. Which him was he referring to?

“Sir, Spaceman resisted D with the apparently preternatural assistance of The Master. It was all D could do to put him down.”

“I wasn’t referring to Spaceman, I meant the Master.”

Ah, Shield thought, well that was a bit more awkward. “Actually, sir, he simply died. By the time Agent Two-Eyes and myself had come down from the bluff, he was already in cardiac arrest. Believe me when I say,…
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Chapter LXI

“Frankie, listen to me. You have to pull the trigger.”

Frankie was silent. The rifle rested at his shoulder, just like he had practiced. He had D sighted, the slender cross-hairs pointing to spot just over her right eye. There was a slight Eastern wind which would pull the rifle to the left. He made his calibrations and rested his finger on the trigger. Perhaps a dozen men who could make this shot. He was one of them.

“This is the way it has to be, Frankie,” Marcus said. Was that nerves in his voice, or genuine terror. “If she doesn’t die, then The Master will just go on. We get this one chance and that’s it.”

In the scope, D was going through a strange contortion. Her body shuddered and she threw her head backwards as she rose first to her feet and then straight up into the air, suspended a full foot above the ground. When he had her reacquired, she was looking right at him. This was impossible, but it was plainly and obviously true. The girl knew where they were.

“Why do we need to kill…

Chapter LX

The flammenstod represented a class of magic most sorcerers avoided. The version of reality permitting such pernicious weapons tended to leave marks. She could feel its influence burn through her arm, shooting tendrils of flame deep inside of her chest.

She cast her hands forward, a whisper of energy leaping toward the assembled priests. Some of the priests had studied the arcane, and knew enough to attempt feeble counters, the rest died. The Master was clawing at the sides of the palanquin, desperate to call help to his side.

Never had a choice, thought D.

Spaceman raised no counters, or did so much as flinch. A service revolver appeared in his hand and he fired.

D felt the impact as a kind of hammer stroke against the whole side of her body. She staggered, the pain a cold iron vise around her chest and shoulder. Spaceman approached.

“You won’t stop this,” he told her. His voice was distant, almost lost within the cacophony of spreading flame and screaming priests.

A hiss escaped from he…

Chapter LIX

“Do not worry,” said Necropolis. He was sitting at one of the pews, his legs kicked up on the headrest in front of him. There was a hymn book flopped over one knee and Nikolas was smiling. “What we need to do is not complicated.”

“Are we talking about the ten-hour long ceremony with an entire freight car of exotic compounds and rare animal parts, and enough priests for a baseball game? That ceremony? The Gemini program seems somewhat less complicated.”

“Reasonably complicated, is how I’d describe it.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“The ceremony is window-dressing. I need the priests and their descendants to keep this place sacred and unmolested, and they need something to believe in. We both get something.

“No, Spaceman, what I was referring to was your part in all of this. All you have to do is survive. After that your life will become as complicated or as simple as your will dictates.”

“I don’t buy that either.”

It was late in the day, and the change had begun for Necropolis. His face…

Chapter LVIII

Marcus and D sat in the land-rover on a low rise above the town of Santa Rosa. Every few minutes, Marcus turned away from the town to search the broken and desolate terrain behind them.

“Timing is going to be crucial,” he said.

“He’ll be here.”

Marcus wasn’t so sure. The whole scenario was screwy and depraved. In a situation that clearly called for finesse and stealth, D was adamant for what amounted to a showdown at high noon. After his overture to Spaceman, their path was as clear and direct as the road leading down in Santa Rosa. That fact tasted coppery in his mouth, like a bit lip.

They waited a minute longer and just as Marcus made to turn around again, D spoke.

“He’s wavering,” she said. “Go to him.”

“He’s not going to listen to me.”

“He will absolutely not listen to me.”

After what she asked of him, Marcus tended to agree.

The dust and gravel crunched under foot and his breath streamed out around him in the chilly air. The vegetation around the town was sparse but peculiar. There was …

Chapter LVII

The one formal road leading into and out of Santa Rosa terminated at the white chapel named “Abode of the Undying Affection of the Virgin Mother for her Blessed Child of Holy Sacrament.” On either side of the road, which while unpaved was kept neat and level, one story wooden buildings stood; some were homes, others businesses. Nothing offered much shade. The day was miserably hot; Shield found himself constantly mopping at the back of his neck with a hand towel.

This might be D's mission but he wasn't going to give up Spaceman without a fight. Maybe she was right and he was beyond help. He knew upon setting foot in Peru that he would need to see that with his own eyes.

So, he strode into town alone and unarmed. The first of these was by choice, the other was not. As a condition for him coming here, D had insisted he do nothing to provoke the Master. There would be a time for that, she assured him, but not yet. Shield was not entirely happy to be striding into the hornet’s nest,…

Chapter LVI

In Frankie’s mind, the plan was simple: D lead the way.

He was in a curious frame of mind; fatalistic but oddly satisfied. D had filled them in about her role in all of this. It was as a detailed a mission brief as Frankie had ever been privy too, and among the least illuminating. Before departing to requisition some Peruvian paramilitaries in case the agents botched their surgical strike, LeHaze asked D what sort of resistance they could expect.

“All of the vermin of the earth.”

“Could we be a bit more specific?”

“Scorpions will be a problem.”

Whatever they’d face, she wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Everything Frankie needed fit neatly into a single duffel bag. Shield received a change of clothing and a toiletry bag. D was still doing inventory on the three crates they found waiting for her in a dusty section of the Lima airport. Frankie had surreptitiously looked at one of the invoices and discovered the listing “assorted dried animal parts.” Fair enough. Frankie was accustomed to a…