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Chapter XLV

The three Section Starfire agents crossed another intersection and paused to get their bearings. Emerging from the tunnel they had been greeted by a thunderous alarm echoing through the corridors. There was another helpful map unhelpfully written in Cyrillic. Frankie knew a little Russian from his days in the CIA but couldn’t make much headway against imponderables such as “Section for the Dissemination of Critical Anti-revisionist Expulsion Media Center.”

“That’s right up here,” D suggested, pointing at an obscure corner of the map.

Shield, to Frankie: “Nothing that says ‘snake house,’ or ‘place where we keep dangerous reptiles’ or ‘Section Starfire Agents, please blow this lab up?’”

“Well, there’s this group of labs right here that’s interesting. Not too far away.”

“Yes?”

“They have it labeled with jargon I’m not familiar with, ‘hidden-beast-study and relict-population-house. Russians usually save obscure words for things they want to keep extra mysterious.”

Chapter XLIV

“Where are you taking me?” Spaceman asked his two escorts.

One of the human robots, the one to his right, briefly glanced at him, the other blindly trudged forward. The Section Starfire agent wanted to believe the former, who he thought of as Mr. Doubtful, had retained some degree of his humanity.

“Is this the way to my quarters?”

Again Mr. Doubtful glanced over, a puzzled expression passing through his blue eyes like a passing cloud.

“You are not permitted to talk,” the other one said, who Spaceman thought of as Mr. Glower.

“Who said?”

Mr. Glower stopped and went over to Mr. Doubtful. They touched heads briefly and then, without comment, resumed their trek down the endless corridors. Mr. Doubtful still looked perplexed, like he was trying to figure out whether he’d left his car lights on.

They were passing through some underused section of the station, where fewer people appeared and those visible all wore venom rigs. If he was going to make his move, thi…

Chapter XLIII

In gloom of early morning, the base appeared as a long sloping wall, embedded in the ice. Frankie had suggested abandoning the snow tank several rises back to make a more stealthy approach to the headquarters of the AC’s. There were three layers of security between them and the outside of the station but none of them looked overly formidable. The big problem was there didn’t seem any obvious gate for them to enter. At least none left unguarded by any less than a platoon of AC henchman.

“I’m surprised they brought this much security out here,” Frankie whispered.

“Got to keep out the penguins,” Shield replied.

D gestured for the binoculars. Adjusting the focusing wheel, she got a good view of the buildings surrounding the structure. “That shack off to the left, did either of you find it peculiar?”

“Seems far from the airstrip and not tall enough for a guard tower.”

Frankie pointed out a few low dome-like structures just beyond the anomalous shack. “Those are munition…

Chapter XLII

Hugo Simplex caught up with Spaceman and his escorts out of the orientation room. Bastard wanted to watch it first-hand. Well, Spaceman wasn’t unhappy to see him.

The cigarette, although foul, had focused Spaceman’s mind, made certain considerations possible. Helped ground him in the real world. Cast sincerity aside, he whispered to himself, trust in the lie.

But lies needed truth the way the head of a coin needed its tail. Hugo was here to remind him of that. He might know exactly where he wanted to go, but he wouldn’t be able to go there without certain corrections made to the ACs. There was altogether too much professionalism at work in the Delta Omega Base. Too much careful attention to detail. It wasn’t becoming.

He raised his hand in greeting to Hugo as they approached. A sneer crossed good old Hugo’s face, no doubt conjured there by visions of Spaceman’s impending operation. He made an elaborate bow, as though stopping low in the presence of great royalty.

“Why …

Chapter XLI

“Yep, I think they spotted us,” Frankie said, leaning over the steering wheel. The idling diesel engine rumbled beneath the seat, but at least the heaters of the soviet snow tank still functioned, filling the cabin with enough warmth to prevent further frost bite.

While they waited for the sorceress to regain consciousness, Marcus decided they would wait inside the snow tank. They found a map inside the cabin, along with a fat book of instructions written in Cyrillic. Neither spent much time looking at it. The engine worked. The steering wheel worked. If they encountered any problems on ice sheet, they would probably die. No sense wasting time puzzling out instructions on the cup-holders.

Frankie suspected that before too long they might have visitors. During their brief hike to the snow tank, he had seen the glow of a distant explosion and a trail of greasy smoke marking the crash site of the C-130. Even in the vast wasteland of Antarctica, that would have to attract attentio…

Chapter XL

Four Months Ago


The man awoke on a very narrow bed on a very thin mattress. His limbs were in awkward, improbable positions and he felt the ache of the sickness. The ceiling above him was more recognizable to him than the faces of old friends. Was he home? Looking around he decided he was.

His mouth felt old, full of desert. It was a hot day and the sweat poured from his body. On the floor near the door of his room was a fat brown envelope. Some residual optimism suggested it was his pension, but he had made it very difficult for the Federal Government to find him.

That someone had managed to find his address disturbed him greatly.

He opened the flaps and peered inside. There were a few pages of vellum and what appeared to be a small plastic baggie. He reached for the baggie, sprinkled a white powder onto his palm. He really should not touch this stuff, he knew. It could be poison or weaponized anthrax. He dabbed a moistened finger into the powder and ran it beneath his li…

Chapter XXXIX

D stood a few feet outside her body, watching the way her black hair flopped over her face. She was still lying at the bottom of a sizeable crater created by Marcus’ indestructible force bubble. She knew the cold would kill her soon but waited patiently for Frankie and Marcus to stir. Even if she could speak in a way they could hear, her encouragements or pleading would do little. Frankie bundled her up close to his chest and walked out of the crater. He saw the still flapping parachute from the biggest cargo crate and began walking towards it. Good. To their right was Marcus, cradling his arm, as he fought to remain upright. She knew an incantation that would knit bones and sponge away his pain but would need her fingers and mouth to produce it.

The strands of hair from the ul-mara goddess had been an enormous drain, and she was too exhausted to remain in the driver’s seat of her own body. Marcus would have to endure until she had recovered. Going ahead, she made sure the lump i…