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Chapter I

When the light came back on, the room was empty save for a corpse and two baffled agents of Section Starfire, the premier Anarchist Spy Agency employed by the United States government.

Two trained pairs of eyes quickly scanned the room and found it devoid of anything worth mentioning besides an old battle-scarred table along one wall and a book shelf against the other and, of course, the body of the man Spaceman had just shot. For his part, Marcus Delacroix, Agent Shield, stood across the room from him, blinking in the sudden light, unable to focus. On the table by his right hand was a squat metal object about the same color and shape as a wheel of cheddar cheese. Instantly recognizing this object, Spaceman allowed himself a rare moment of panic.

Pushing past Marcus, Space dashed to the door and tried the handle. Inevitably, it was locked.

“Do you know what this is?” said Marcus, slowly regaining his faculties.

“Yes,” said Spaceman as he darted to the bookshelf and attempted to topple it. Folders fell to the floor, soaking up the dead man’s blood, but the bookshelf remained upright. “It’s a Hungarian Demtak Mine. Radio controlled detonation, obviously armed. We have seconds to live.”

“I’m going to try to encapsulate the mine but I’ll need your help with the door.”

Spaceman ignored him. Section Starfire had assigned the newbie as the mission leader but Spaceman answered to higher imperatives. He searched the corpse and withdrew a sheath of blood smeared documents and a few glass vials. Inspecting the latter, he saw no obvious way of opening them without compromising their potency. Best to wait until he had left the embassy.

Spaceman tried the door again, only this time with more determination and the quick deft touch he had developed on the streets of Casablanca. Few safes could withstand his knowledge of ciphers and tumblers and the old Soviet style blast door proved no exception.

“Wait, Spaceman, you have to help me,” said Agent Shield. “We have to get this mine out of here. If it explodes everyone within four blocks will die!”

Spaceman gave mine and mission leader a quick look. “I am given to understand,” he frowned. “from the mission briefing, that you possess the unexplained power to create frictionless, inertia-less force fields. And that these force bubbles are impervious to any know trauma as long as you concentrate of them.”

“That’s correct—“

“And as you have just said, the device on the table is a Hungarian Demtak Mine, probably the most inhumanely vicious weapon ever devised behind the Iron Curtain.”

“There is no way to defuse it, even the Hungarians lost the blueprints, our only chance is my force field power. If we can get it to the roof…”

“We can what?” Spaceman had a cold, distant look in his eyes. “And then you will wait up there until you lack the will or wits to maintain your power. If you drop the bubble the explosion will still take place and destroy everything around this embassy. I doubt you can run fast enough to save yourself from that eventuality. Take my advice, Agent Shield. This was a fool’s errand and we are fools for spending another second distracted by it. Let’s run, hopefully avoid certain death, and go fence these vials.”

“What are you talking about, ‘fence these vials,’ there are three hundred dignitaries from all over the world in the ballroom right over our heads. Are you saying, it’s OK to let them die?”

Spaceman rolled his eyes. “I’m saying it’s not my business what happens to anyone but me.” And with that Spaceman was out of the room, his steps echoing down the hallway. Marcus, still in the room could hear the sounds of commotion and sporadic gunfire above. His first mission as an agent of record and he had blown the whole thing. He felt his face grow hot and he struggled to master himself. Who would have believed it, Agent Spaceman, a legend in Section Starfire since the late forties: a deserter? He took a deep breath and looked down at the Demtak Mine. There was a soft red light at the top. It began blinking faster.

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