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Chapter XXIV

After this cynical observation, Shield felt the residual enjoyment of the party drain away. Fatigue – for the party, for these people – settled into his bones. Time to call it a night.

“Tomorrow will be the tough part,” he murmured in the room he shared with Agent LeHaze. “We have the information, now we have to find some way of acting on it.”

She cast skeptical eyes towards him. “Or,” she paused. “Or, we could turn this over to the regular law enforcement agencies. The FBI, the Texas Rangers, hell, the Fish and Wildlife Department would work…”

“Fish and Wildlife, are you kidding me?” Shield gave up pulling off his left shoes and flopped back on the bed. “That agency is hopelessly compromised with Eisenhower appointees. Asking them to close down the Thulewaite Ranch is like asking Richard Nixon to run the Justice Department.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” said LeHaze, brightly.

“That’s not a wish,” he growled back and then exhaled sharply. Shield had a sudden sense of the enormous weight of events transpiring around him. His country was well in to the second half of the final century of the millennium, enmeshed in a war with seemingly no end. There were so many conspiracies and cabals running around that it was difficult to say who even had their finger on that infamous button. The further men like James Angelton and Hoover bored into the underbelly of America looking for Communists the more what they dredged up became the nation’s new topsoil. The reviled was becoming the norm, the values of freedom and personal liberty pressed down deep into the filth. Maybe only outlaws had the perspective for moral judgements.

Why was he on a mission against the AC’s? He knew in his heart that they were dangerous, that it was imperative to stop them, but the same could be said of a dozen other similarly improbable acronyms. This was life in the realm of the grey and ambiguous. Part of him wanted to be done with it, wanted it to be someone else’s problem.

“This is our burden,” he said simply. “And if we don’t do it, then no one else will bother.”

“It ever occur to you that maybe you shouldn’t bother?”

“If this is another attempt to denigrate the Section then you can stop right there.”

“I’m not denigrating anything; I want you to listen for a moment,” LeHaze eased herself onto the bed, watching him over her shoulder. “In all the time I’ve known you, you’ve always been a straight arrow.”

“I believe in freedom and progress.”

She lay near the foot of the bed, legs curled up “I do too.”

“You believe in privilege and advancement, which are not quite the same things.”

“Old arguments fall into old ruts,” her fingers smoothed a rumple in the sheets, “Maybe we should try some new ground.”

Shield plucked the bowtie from around his collar and draped it over the closet door. “Be my guest.”

“The Anti-Cerebrists, besides having a ridiculous manifesto do have some common reference points with our nation’s enemies.”

“Marx, Engles, Bakunin, and Goldman; yes, yes, your point?”

Her eyes sparkled. “So, other than the obvious fact that you draw a government salary, why should you be opposed? Or to put it more directly, there are plenty of other organs of this government concerned with beating back the Red Tide, why does the one anarchist agency feel the need to shoulder the entire burden?”

“You said this was going to be a new argument, so far it doesn’t sound that way. Our charter back in the Roosevelt days was pretty clear, our bonafides in the International Labor Movement make us the ideal vehicle for American values. Even you have to admit that the AC’s are bad actors. The CIA would just wipe them out or start ferreting out their obscure links with decent people. We do the job clean, neat and quickly.”

He caught her smiling at him. “I sound like a pamphlet, don’t I?”

“It’s amusing, I never said it was a joke.”

“Hah, hah.”

“Oh, come on Marcus,” she propped up her head. “Isn’t it awfully uncomfortable carrying around the entire world?”

He felt her gaze. The only light in the room was from a small pink lamp on the stand behind her. Lost in shadow, her face was a frame of glowing hair and a sad, perfectly curving mouth. He took a step towards the bed.

“There’s no reason you have to cut yourself off,” she said. “Not when you have someone here who wants in.”

He did not resist when she slid her hands up the lapels of his suit and pulled him down. He knew they were going to kiss, knew that was a bad idea, and decided he didn’t care. That momentary loss of control, of simply letting his body do what it wanted to do, was better than anything that followed. There had been women before, but never one able to reach inside him and exposed what he had so carefully sought to hide. She unlocked him, turned him inside out, and left him gasping for air, obliterated.

They nestled together, he brushing the strands of her soft hair away from her forehead as she lay on his chest. Every once in a while he would take his finger and run it carefully along the outside edge of her ear.

“Tomorrow,” she breathed, simultaneously making an observation and a question.

“We’ll wait until Frankie enters the pit,” he said, squeezing the bridge of his nose between thumb and index finger. “You should watch D, make sure she doesn’t get in trouble. Suliman is in deep, he’ll have to swim to the surface on his own.”

“Where will you be?”

“Trying to find where the bastards keep the snakes.”


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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 …

Chapter XLVIII

Spaceman found it very easy to leave the station. His coterie of friends kept growing with each attempt at intervention until a kind of critical mass arrived. Whether or not he was a prisoner, or a Section Starfire agent, or a notorious addict became immaterial. Spaceman lead, and those looking to follow did so.

Heading up from the bowels of the engineering deck, they passed by the cryptozoological section. It occurred to Spaceman that his escape would be that much easier if the personnel in the station had something distracting them. A command to Mr. Doubtful cut off the emergency power to the pens, cages, and corrals keeping the cryptids at bay.

He figured the result would be a few sasquatch and sea serpents making a break for it. He hoped there were enough penguins in Antarctica to feed a new population of Big Feet. Big Foots? Spaceman chuckled to himself, bummed a cigarette from another engineer and directed his followers upwards.

By the time they reached the main exit, the station a…