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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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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 b…

Chapter LIX

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“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.

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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.

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