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Chapter XIX

First there were only impressions: the delighted and meaningless chatter of people, the cherry wood panels of the hall, the portraits of old stuffy men. Then, looking down through and beyond Spaceman’s eyes, D and Marcus saw Gunther Thulewaite waiting patiently for the answer to his question. His face was hard and unpleasant even with a superficial smile. This was the face of someone getting ready to put down a rabid dog or squash a cockroach.

The charm D was using to observe Spaceman was dim and obscuring. The gist was clear but details remained murky. The emotions of passing guests became intertwined with the smells of food and drink. The impressions of menace from Thulewaite’s guards had somehow the same flavor as the stuffed canapĂ© that Spaceman was chewing on contentedly.

In a similar way, D’s observations came tinged with Marcus’ own alarm.

“Oh, there was no escape,” said Spaceman/Rasheed, relaxed and lucid. “I imagine there was some instant where Rasheed believed he would attempt to crawl out of the room, but ultimately, the room is where we found him, quite dead. It’s hoped he succumbed to the fumes before the flames.”

Gunther’s lips revealed tobacco-stained teeth and he nodded. “You are telling me things I already know. That’s merely one less thing I’ll have to whip out of you. You still haven’t told me who you really are.”

Still untroubled, Spaceman raised his hand. “Oh, I am Rasheed Suliman. I am the man you invited to your Ranch. Allow me to explain. I am the seventh generation of Rasheed Sulimans. You see in my family, there has always been a Rasheed Suliman, the second son of a second son, raised from birth to appreciate the more refined pleasures of life and to guarantee their ready availability to men of taste. From the moment I was born I have studied Rasheed Suliman, waiting for the moment my family would need me. I know his long history, his habits and his many, many deaths. When you killed your Suliman, I shaved my beard and gave up my childish clothes. I am now Suliman. I will be Suliman until I die and am reborn. I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain reassurance in that.”

Thulewaite laughed. “I’m not sure if I believe you, Rasheed, but I do have to say I like you better than the last man with your name.”

“Excellent,” Spaceman bowed. “Then perhaps you will be so kind as to allow me to do what you brought me here to do.”

“I’ll do better than that, Mr. Suliman,” said Thulewaite. “How would you like to meet some Senators?”

The Zanzibar room retreated and both Marcus and D returned to the limousine. LeHaze lifted her eyebrows.

“He’s in,” she said.

“Can you communicate with him?” Melissa asked.

“Unfortunately, no,” said D, “The mystical byways function on the basis of correspondence, or the proximity of certain symbolic catalysts. Without a mutual associations, there can be no common basis for—“

Shield’s eyebrows came together in consternation. “I know you’re speaking English because I recognize some of the words…”

“Sorry,” she said. “Basically we saw what he’s doing because I have his cigarette. In order for us to talk, he must have something that belonged to me.”

“Hmm. Too bad, then. But we’ll sort that out at some point tonight. The important thing right now is to keep an eye on Spaceman until we get there, can you do that?

D nodded, “I just wonder who’ll be watching us once we’re inside.”

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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 II

Agent Spaceman did not have much difficulty leaving the embassy. He had features and a demeanor easy to forget. Only his habits left their unsavory, distinctive marks.

Apparently there had been some kind of intrusion into the embassy. Every hall, staircase and exit was blocked by yellow-suited mercenaries of the AC’s. There was a time in the dim, distant past where this situation would have demanded his attention, his action. Thankfully, he had moved past such concerns.

Why had he even bothered coming out of his ‘retirement’ in Morocco? His inactive status stipend had been more than generous for his limited needs and the climate had been more favorable to his health. Really, if hadn’t been for that fever dream he would have stayed there the rest of his life. Having secured the object of his curiosity, he intended to return as soon as possible.

Which meant he needed money.

Finally finding a room with a broken lock on its window, Spaceman made his exit. A…

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,…