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Chapter XXIX

Spaceman had just finished another martini when the pilot announced the plane had reached its destination. Looking out the window, he didn’t see anything suggesting a destination. What he saw, what he had been seeing for hours, was the icy wastes of Antarctica.

Necropolis looked bored as the plane banked for its descent. Only then did Spaceman catch sight of where they were going.

“The Delta Omega base,” said Necropolis. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Shaped like a gigantic hockey puck, the Delta Omega base was roughly the same size as the Pentagon. Instead of rings of office buildings, the Delta Omega base consisted of a single immense dome. Equipment sheds and guard emplacements surrounded it, all dwarfed by the scale of the base. Some distance beyond lay the airstrip, in reality little more than a patch of level ice. Landing could be interesting.

“How could you have built this thing?”

“Oh, building is not so difficult,” said Necropolis. “Designing: that was the challenge. So many competing interests, diverging purposes.”

The answer bemused Spaceman. “I don’t even know how you would go about dreaming up something like this. Who built it?”

“The Russians initially,” he chuckled as though he had just revealed the punchline to a joke. “Always supportive of their revolutionary cousins.”

“The Russians? You mean the Soviet Union? How did you manage to have them turn it over to you?”

“We didn’t,” Necropolis said simply. “The Russians still control the base, vast portions of it, at any rate. The rest they lease out to reliable parties.”

“Why? What’s in it for them?”

“Any group with radical agendas experiences a need for privacy. Some organizations are willing to pay the Kremlin a little extra for that guarantee. And where else could we go? Sahara? It’s getting as crowded as Florida,” Necropolis jogged his eyebrows up and down engagingly. “I’ve found we live in times where even the most minimal surveillance is unacceptable.”

“The Russians don’t snoop?”

“The vodka never runs out here,” Necropolis smiled.

Spaceman was not satisfied with Necropolis’s thin joke, but decided Suliman would be. Difference in perspective. Suliman was interested in getting paid.

The pilot announced the plane was readying for landing. Spaceman checked his seat belt, finished his drink, and sat back in his seat, saying, “God is great.”

“Indeed he is,” Necropolis said with an arch of his eyebrow.

A reception party met them on the tarmac. The flight attendants passed out heavy parkas to Spaceman and Necropolis and leaving the hatch, Spaceman saw a brigade of AC’s finest operatives standing on the dirty snow, outfitted in white tundra gear. Every third AC was equipped with a light gray helmet fitted with a battery of electronics and antennae, designating them as elites. There were a few more nondescript persons towards the back, liaisons from other terrorist agencies, Spaceman decided.

Hugo Simplex stepped out from the welcoming party and shook Necropolis’ hand. Spaceman immediately noted the deference the AC director showed Necropolis and he inwardly smiled. Another place where Section Starfire’s intelligence had failed. All of the organization charts had Hugo Simplex at the apex, with only rumors of mysterious funders. Spaceman alone now knew the “hidden banker” was actually in control of the whole show.

“I wasn’t expecting a guest, Master,” Simplex said, looking over at Spaceman.

“A possible recruit,” Necropolis said. “I’d like to get his impression of our facility and operations.”

Simplex had a pained expression. “Gunther passed on some disturbing information about Mr. Sulimann. Are we sure we can trust him fully? Perhaps he should go through orientation first?”

Spaceman was content to let Necropolis speak on his behalf until he saw her. Not for an instant to cross his mind to wonder why she was in Antarctica or what had happened to the rest of the team. Regardless of the reason she was here, it couldn't be good. She had to be neutralized before she ruined everything.

Pulling at Necropolis’s arm, he showed him Agent LeHaze in the crowd. “That woman is a double agent! She works for the CIA."

“Are you sure?” Necropolis asked. "That's a serious allegation."

“I know CIA,” he hissed. “They’re my biggest buyer. I would know their sort anywhere.”

“Well,” Necropolis said. “As long as your certain, I suppose we ought to bring her over for a quick chat. I would hate to think a some sort of double agent slipped through our background checks.”

Spaceman nodded, already pulling his hood close over his head. As long as he could remain in the background he might actually pull this off.

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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

“Do not worry,” said Necropolis. He was sitting at one of the pews, his legs kicked up on the headrest in front of him. There was a hymn book flopped over one knee and Nikolas was smiling. “What we need to do is not complicated.”

“Are we talking about the ten-hour long ceremony with an entire freight car of exotic compounds and rare animal parts, and enough priests for a baseball game? That ceremony? The Gemini program seems somewhat less complicated.”

“Reasonably complicated, is how I’d describe it.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“The ceremony is window-dressing. I need the priests and their descendants to keep this place sacred and unmolested, and they need something to believe in. We both get something.

“No, Spaceman, what I was referring to was your part in all of this. All you have to do is survive. After that your life will become as complicated or as simple as your will dictates.”

“I don’t buy that either.”

It was late in the day, and the change had begun for Necropolis. His face…

Chapter LXI

“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.

“This is the way it has to be, Frankie,” Marcus said. Was that nerves in his voice, or genuine terror. “If she doesn’t die, then The Master will just go on. We get this one chance and that’s it.”

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.

“Why do we need to kill…