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Chapter X

The basement of the Mullihan Building was a byzantine collection of narrow passageways, cramped rooms and crowded storage lockers. The lighting consisted of flickering, harsh fluorescents and the occasional contraband lamp. The corporate culture of Section Starfire was notable in the staid and proper world of Federal bureaucracy. The agency recruited almost solely on the basis of idealistic political fervor. The agency itself had been created as a rear-guard action during the first tumultuous 100 days of the Roosevelt administration. FDR was concerned that his attempt to rescue capitalism from itself would attract leftist resistance. Bringing his worst critics into the political process would go a long way to preventing the failure of the New Deal. The SSF were active throughout the later part of the decade in investigating reactionaries, militant fundamentalists, and Charles Lindbergh. With World War II, their sphere of action became increasingly subsumed by the OSS, the father of the CIA.

Thus the people who worked at the Mullihan did so because of an innate partisanship and a nostalgic loyalty to a government that no longer existed. They worked at Section Starfire because in someway they wanted there to be room for leftist organizations in the Federal Government. These were people who read Marx, the Nation, and the Socialist Worker and yet still mouthed the words to the Anthem at baseball games.

Frankie Goldstein watched these humbled idealists, these patriotic socialists, with barely suppressed rage. He had begun stacking binders around his desk in a rampart, pencils sticking tips up to further discourage stop-bys. His days were occupied filling out transfer requests, walking the ten short steps to the department mailbox before returning to his desk to tap his fingers in increasingly sophisticated rhythms. Currently he was working on a samba.

He blamed Brazil for his predicament. The CIA was punishing him for a clerical error. How was he supposed to know the guy had connections back state-side? He looked like a Communist. He even talked like a Communist, well, at least while he still had a tongue.

A head appeared above his ramparts. Frankie gazed at him, waiting for the pinko to catch the hint. The man appeared unperturbed by his attempts at intimidation, casually putting forth a hand.

“Who you supposed to be?” asked Frankie.

“Your new mission leader, Marcus Delacroix,” he said. Sensing reticence the agent withdrew his hand.

Frankie knew the name. “I’m not an active field agent, Shield.”

Marcus looked genuinely perplexed. “You are Frankie Goldstein…”

“That’s right.”

“And you were a field operative for the CIA.”

Frankie crossed his arms in front of him. “Not anymore.”

A look of frustration crossed Agent Shield’s face. “Look, I don’t have a lot of time. Something has come up and I need an experienced interrogator. I need someone who’s been in a fire fight before. You fit the bill. You’re either interested in joining up and ditching this desk or you’re not the man I was told you are.”

Frankie got up, straightened his shirt and tie. “Look, you don’t know who I am. And I don’t care what it says on my files or what anybody’s said about me. This was somebody’s idea of a joke, putting me in this nut hatch, so here I sit day in and day out. And maybe that’s making me a little crazier every day but you know what? I’m never going to be crazy enough to sign onto one of your Trotsky suicide tours. You can put that in my file...”

Marcus sighed, producing a folder from beneath his arm. “Your file looks pretty full already,” he said, rifling through dozens of transfer request forms. He showed Frankie a few, so he could see how each one was machine-stamped with the same terse pronouncement: Request Denied.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting the results to change. Why not try something different?”

Grabbing his jacket off of a coat rack, Frankie pushed past Agent Shield, growling, “Different gets you killed.”

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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 L

It was immediately apparent they were traveling downwards, not up. Marcus wondered aloud what sort of transportation they were going to find at the bottom of the station.

“A submarine,” Simplex answered matter-of-factually.

“A submarine encased in ice?”

“No,” Hugo said. “Open water.”

“This whole station floats?”

“Of course! That is what it is designed to do. No section of ice, however deep, could be guaranteed to support a structure this massive. What would happen if a freak warming spell intruded into the deep Antarctic? The builders of this place designed it to melt a hole through the ice into the cavern and float there like a rubber duck in a bathtub. This underside is a convenient place to store submarines, no?”

“Very convenient,” D said sunnily.

“Ah, we are coming to the first challenge of our escape from the Delta Omega.”

Ahead of them, the corridor was blocked off by a set of heavy steel doors. Each door had a small round window mounted about eye level. Steam and condensation blocked …

Interlude: Antarctica and Beyond

She saw all and knew more.

The place of knowledge looked exactly like the waking world in its details, its strangeness revealed only by implication. Looking down at her own body she knew she was dead. And yet the possibilities of her life were not entirely spent. She knew this too. Part of her wanted to simply slip back into her body and let the Charm of Utanghk do its work but she wasn’t ready to do that.

D pulled away from her body and the sub. In the ghostly second sight of the place of knowledge she perceived the submarine had already moved some distance from the dying Delta Omega Base. She watched the sub pass beneath the dark vaults of ice and turned her attention to colossal structure shuddering above.
Standing in front of it in the waking world, the station was simply a structure, impressive but also sterile. From within the place of knowledge she gained an appreciation for the effort that had gone into its creation. To see it brought low was an occasion not for celebration but …