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Chapter XVIII

The moon fell in crisp blue beams through the windows of the limousine. Bathed in this light, Melissa and Marcus shifted uneasily, never quite able to relax.

“Are we sure this is a good idea,” asked LeHaze, “Do you trust Spaceman?”

Marcus gave a tight smile. “The signal’s sent, we’re going in,” he said, hesitating. “If Spaceman’s blown the mission already, hopefully we’ll have a chance for a conversation with him.”

Marcus pushed against the frame of his glasses, attempting to pinch the horn-rims just close enough to prevent it from sliding down his nose. Disguise had never been his strong suit. Finally he gave up, folding them into his front pocket.

D held out her hand. Raising his eyebrow, Shield realized she wanted his glasses. Seeing no harm, he passed them over.

A suggestion of greenish fire spilled from her fingers as she cupped the frames to her mouth and exhaled sharply. In the poor moonlight, it was difficult to make out what exactly D was doing, but after a time D mumbled a few indistinct phrases and returned the glasses to Marcus. Trying them on, he found the fit now perfect, but the view through the lenses seemed oddly refracted.

“Neat trick,” he said. “How did you do that?”

“I conjured an imp from the infernal realms and had it heat the plastics of the frames. I had to promise it a can of oil in return, so I hope you like it.”

“You made a deal with a demon,” said Shield. “To fix a pair of glasses?”

“Oh please,” said D. “It’s not written anywhere that demons have to be corrupting souls every spare second. Demons are like anyone else, they’re more than willing to make a deal when the situation suits them.”

Melissa inched just a little closer to Shield, “Let’s just keep the deals at the motor oil category, OK? No signing away souls or stuff like that.”

D grew upset. “That’s a load of crap. Even if you did sign away your soul, a demon couldn’t take it unless you found some way of first stealing it from Lord of the Underworld. He made every soul on earth, they belong to Him. No two-bit djinn is going compete against that.”

Marcus rubbed the back of his head. “Somehow, I don’t find that altogether reassuring,” he said.

“Of course there’s nothing preventing a demon from ripping the body of man apart for making such a foolish transaction,” she continued. “They usually do that on general principle.”

Marcus laughed, uncomfortable. “New topic.”

“Is there any way to use D’s powers to check up on Spaceman,” LeHaze asked. “See what we’re walking into?”

D pulled a carton of Camels from Marcus’ jacket pocket.

“These cigarettes, they’re Spaceman’s?”

“Yes, how did you know that?”

By way of answering, D pointed at the small gold letters on the filters: SM.

“Of course he has monogrammed cigarettes,” LeHaze laughed.

On the other side of the limousine, D was laying out a few scraps of papyrus over the seat. One by one she wrapped cigarettes in the scraps before burning them with a lighter.

“Uh, Agent D, I’m not sure that’s a great idea in a confined space,” Marcus said.

“Horus’ charm doesn’t provide more than a peek but it might help us,” she said. Marcus grew alarmed as the glasses on his face began to flare with that same greenish light.

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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 …