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Chapter VI

The two agents walked from their car to the rear entrance of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Marcus flashed his badge at the guard moving to intercept them and barely slowed down as the doors swung open.

“It’s this way” Spaceman said, leading them between innumerable shelves of biological specimens. The occasional work bench bore the scattered remains of animals or primitive or not-so-primitive hominids.

“You’re strangely quiet,” Spaceman observed.

“I don’t have anything much to say right at this moment.”

“You’re sore about what happened in the meeting.”

Shield wheeled around. “I just got chewed out by the chief for no good goddamn reason about a problem you did your best to create! Damn right I’m sore.”

An attendant type leaned out from between the next tier of bookshelves and shushed them. Shield almost drew his service pistol right then and there.
“Look, I’m not sure why the chief assigned us to work together, Spaceman,” Shield lowered his voice to a whisper, “but this will be a short engagement. You nearly killed me and you still haven’t apologized.”

Spaceman sighed, withdrew a small snuff box. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. Mistakes were made; I’m not happy about it. But I’m the best person to steer you through to this mission.”

Spaceman dabbed his long pinky in the snuff box and reapplied the powder to each nostril. His pupils began to dilate.

“How do you figure that?”

“Because I’ve been around for a while, Shield, and I know how things work. I’ve got connections, people I know who owe me favors. People in the know.”
Shield gritted his teeth. “I need to know that you’ve got my back. That you won’t pull what you pulled in Vienna again.”

“No, no, no,” said Spaceman, more animated. “That was an aberration. An anomaly. I’m on mission from this moment forward. Completely. Utterly. On mission.”

“That’s…great. Perhaps you can start right now and tell me why we are here?”

“Oh, that’s easy.”

Shield crossed his arms.

“Can’t you guess? I mean it’s really easy.”

“Are you okay?”

“The vials that the AC henchmen were using, Shield, didn’t you see them? Right here on either side of their head. Just poking out?” Spaceman put fingers on either side of his head like antennae and began prancing around. “That’s the key, Shield. That’s the whole key.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

The attendant again leaned out from the bookshelf and hushed them. Shield held up his hands exasperated, as Spaceman continued on, oblivious.
“The vials are filled with some kind of chemical. Some kind of magic brew. It’s what’s got the henchmen so much more on the go, you know? Before they were just sitting there, doing nothing unless their coordinator pressed the right button,” Spaceman did a brief Boris Karloff impression, “But now they’re marching around and following general orders.”

“Yes, AC has improved their technique.”

“Well, that’s a problem. It’s something new. Something we haven’t seen before. It’s some kind of chemical control device? Some kind of liquid mind altering substance.”

“And someone here knows something about it.”

“Oh yes. The most renowned expert in the field of toxicology right here in this museum: Dr. Melvin Duchampski.”

“Swell, so what are we standing around here for?”

Shield was about to turn when Spaceman caught his arm, “Just one thing, I may have at one time made myself known to old Mel, and he may remember me.”
Shield frowned, “Known how?”

“That’s not important, but I, uh, need you to do all of the talking. I’ll be there, but you’ll need to talk, see?”

“What did you do to him?”

“Nothing to him!” Spaceman said waving his arms around. “Nothing at all. You’ve got to understand, this man’s a genius but he’s a little unstable. Prone to thinking things that aren’t necessarily true. He may have a mistaken notion about something that I possibly did or didn’t do a very long time ago.”

“Well, I’m sure it won’t come up, Spaceman, but I’ll take the lead if you want me to.”

Spaceman waved him forward encouragingly as he propped up the collar of his jacket.

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Link to First Chapter

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