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Chapter XXVIII

Marcus awoke bound to a chair in a cold room that shook violently around him. Looking around, he found Agent Two-eyes watching him with the enthusiasm of a man observing mushrooms emerge from a lawn.

“They put us on a transport plane,” Frankie said, his voice indistinct in the cacophony. “A C-130 from the sound of it.”

“You’re alive,” Marcus said.

“You sound surprised.”

“I’m not the one who voluntarily wrestled a pack of snakes.”

“Ah, they were pussy cats,” Frankie said. “I wouldn’t be in this chair if she hadn’t knocked me out.” His eyes flicked to the side, signifying to Marcus where this agent of sabotage could be found.

Marcus leaned forward as much as his restraints allowed, catching sight of Agent D slumped in her own chair to Frankie’s right. Her eyes were closed but moved fitfully beneath the lids.

“What happened to her?”

“Who knows? Maybe she exhausted herself putting a spell on me, maybe she’s hibernating. I don’t have much experience with witches.”

Marcus leaned back, appraising his situation. If Frankie was correct, then they were most likely in the main cargo bay of the transport, lashed into place well away from the bay door. The rest of the space was filled with boxes, crates, and what appeared to be a large tracked vehicle under a tan tarp.

“Any idea where they are taking us?”

Frankie shook his head.

Marcus rested the back of his head against his chair for a moment. The scene in the snake house replayed in his head. How close was he to pulling the trigger when he found Hugo pressing a gun to LeHaze’s head? Not very close at all. The thought occurred to him that other than his powers, he really wasn’t too cut out for his job.

“The mission was compromised,” Frankie said suddenly. “LeHaze recruited me to take out Agent D.”

The ex-CIA agent breathed out, head dipping down to rest on his chest.

“LeHaze is working for the Anti-Cerebists,” Marucs told him. “Don’t feel bad, she got me too.”

He told Frankie about the situation confronting him in the snake house. He knew that the mission was more important than the life of one agent and yet he couldn’t quite do it. Not and risk her life.

“And when you handed over your weapon?”

Marcus looked away. “Hugo handed it to her and she shot the scientist. That was about the point someone pistol-whipped me.”

The two agents let the drone of the engines fill the emptiness around them. Marcus tested the bonds around his hand, experiencing a sharp twinge as he flexed his broken ring finger. He didn’t think he’d be able to enough leverage another snapped finger but a thought came to him. Maybe he didn’t need to.

“Ah good!” came the voice of Gunther Thulewait from behind and above them. “You are awake.”

“It is a felony to detain and kidnap a federal officer,” Marcus said. “Let us –“

“Let’s not get wrapped up in legalities,” Gunther said. “If you came to my ranch to bring some law and order, you would have flashed a badge and shown me some handcuffs. The fact is, you were at my home to catch bigger game. Well, that game got away. Now you’re stuck with me.”

“Where are you taking us?” Frankie asked.

“Some place very cold,” Gunther said. “Not that you’re going to mind much.”

Three guards walked into view. Each one had a pair of venom tubes screwed into their skull, their faces slack and compliant.

“It’s my great pleasure to inform you, Frankie Goldstein, that the Anti-Cerebrist Coalition has decided to accept your application into our ranks of operatives. Now, we only have one last step to our orientation process. It’s unpleasant but absolutely essential.”

Two of the zombie guards grabbed Frankie’s chair, rocked it backwards, and began dragging the chair out of view, the third guard a step behind. A door opened and shut. Marcus could hear yelling, muffled by the roar of engines and intervening door.

Despite the chill of the cargo bay, Marcus felt sweat begin to pour down his neck.

Gunther walked casually down the steps, coming to stand in front of Agent Shield, thumbs hooked into his belt. “I’m glad we’ll have the chance to talk, Agent Shield. I’d like to offer you different position within our organization, something more like an outside contractor role. There aren’t too many benefits to the job, I’m afraid.”

Gunther paused as a piercing shriek came from the door behind Marcus.

“But at least you don’t have to undergo orientation.”


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