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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.

Link to Next Chapter

Link to First Chapter


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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 …