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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, this would be the time. Crossing in front of a door with a station map bolted to it, Spaceman halted abruptly. The henchman walked a few steps before returning to his side. They reached for the agent, intending to bundle him up and carry him, if necessary, the rest of the trip.

“I think we’re going the wrong way,” Spaceman said simply and gestured to the map.

Mr. Doubtful opened his mouth and waved at the waiting corridor. He poked at Spaceman’s chest and strongly indicated they should get moving. The other henchman stood and watched Spaceman with irritation.

“Are you sure we aren’t supposed to be here?” Spaceman pointed at some point close to the station’s outer bulkhead. “Or maybe even here?”

Spaceman took a closer look at where he had casually pointed. He smiled. “Oh yes, wasn’t this where we were supposed to go?”

Resolute, Mr. Glower shook his head and stabbed his finger down the corridor. The plastic tubes hooked to his skull slapped against his shoulder pads. Mr. Doubtful, though, kept peering at the station map.

“We are taking you to sub-level D. That is where you must go,” said Mr. Glower.

“Look, fellas, I just don’t want to get you guys in trouble. This is a big station, and I imagine it’s easy to get lost. Are you sure we’re supposed to be going there? I mean, sub-level D? I don’t even see it on the map.”

Mr. Doubtful shook his head and leaned into the map. To make sure Spaceman didn’t try anything funny, the other henchman raised his weapon. Spaceman smiled amiably, hands raised. Apparently finding sub-level D, Mr. Doubtful emphatically tapped the plastic map.

“Oh, I see,” said the agent, then, puzzled, “But how are we going to get there from this corridor? Doesn’t this go the complete opposite direction? Look, for a second, here you have our corridor, Molotov Corridor, right? And it intersects with this one right here, the October Revolution Accessway. You see that, right?” both henchmen nodded. “Well, either way you go on the October Revolution you’re going to wind up meeting yourself. It travels a big loop,” Spaceman traced the inner circumference of the station. “You see that, right?”

They nodded. Mr. Glower came closer to look. Mr. Doubtful had developed a twitch in his right eye. “Well, I guess you could walk around the station, again and again. You know, just walk around and around the station. Asking people here or here. Ask them, ‘hey, is this the right spot? Is this sub-level D? Or is it sub-level T? And they’re not going to know because they’re walking around the same access way. You see that, right? So what we have to do, is travel down these steps, these ones, right here, and go down to the next level. You can see that that’s a much faster way to the sub-level Q.”

Mr. Doubtful nodded. Mr. Glower’s head was still following the orbit of Spaceman’s finger.

“I suppose we could go to the Lenin Promenade and cut back to the sub-level, but that would be the long way. Probably add at least an hour to the trip. You might be late. Get in trouble.”

That prospect greatly alarmed Mr. Doubtful, “Where must we go?”

“Oh, I would go here,” Spaceman said, pointing at something clear across the station. “Much faster that way.”

Mr. Glower peered at the new destination, a glint of saliva running from his mouth.

“Well, I don’t want to be late.” Spaceman turned around and went back the way they had come from. “You guys coming?”

The henchman hastened to resume their positions by his side. Mr. Glower even pointed out which turn to take at the next intersection.

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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 …