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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.”


“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.”

“Mysterious sounds promising,” said D.

Shield traced a finger on the map from their intersection to the ‘hidden-beast-study’ labs. If they were going to accomplish anything and still have a prayer of leaving intact, they were going to need to act on the information they had.

That route took them deeper into the station, and closer to the source of the emergency. There were fewer personnel running around and certainly no one interested in challenging them. They saw a couple of orphaned henchmen, pointlessly bumping into walls or tugging at locked doors. The sight was wrenching for Shield; Section Starfire had determined the zombification process was irreversible. For all intents and purposes these men were already dead.

“Do you hear that?”

“What?” said Shield.

“No, I heard it too.”

“Sounded like, what, a roar?”

Shield looked confused. “Like water, do you think? Has the bulkhead failed?”

The sound came again. It was long and undulating, like a wolf call.

The next corridor revealed a scene of carnage. The floor, ceiling and walls were streaked in blood and gore . A peculiar smell hung in the air, the tang of blood and heavy animal musk.

“Maybe the zombie animals went berserk, starting killing their handlers,” Marcus said. “Might explain the alarm.”

D bent down near a office chair. A shank of human tissue was draped carefully over the head rest, almost as though placed there like a towel. “I know what did this.”

“Agent D, we have to keep moving.”

“No, I’m telling you, I know what did this, it’s not a zombie wolf or whatever. See these indentations?”

Shield and Frankie grimaced and leaned in. “They look like pin pricks,” said Shield.


“Touch of grey tea?”

“Datcha-klatie,” D repeated. “A very nasty creature from the Dimensions of Bleeding. I don’t think we should go this direction.”

“Dimension of what?” Frankie still sounded amused. Marcus swiped his hair back away from his forehead.

At that moment, the floor lurched. All of the loose furniture and debris slid or rolled to the right.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing good,” said Frankie. “I think whatever kept the station upright just stopped working.”

D reached into a small purse and drew forth a pinch of yellowish powder. She whipped it into the air, saying a few arcane words as it scattered.

“What was that about?”

“Protection spell.”

“I don’t think a few grains of salt are going to keep this entire installation from falling into the ocean.”

“No, I was more concerned with ensuring we have bodies to be retrieved if we fail to escape.”

“God you’re grim,” said Frankie.

Something howled at them from around the next corner. It sounded close. There was a steady gabble of noises, the click of animal paws on the hard deck of the corridor.

Far down the hall, something craned a neck around the corner and stared at them. Its face contained eyes and mouths in no predictable order; a mane of slender tentacles waved at them. Frankie blinked once and shot at it with his machine pistol. The sound was harsh and deafening in the confined space. D backed away slowly.

Frankie’s shot was well-aimed, two bullets had struck the beast above the centerline of its face. Something pink and quivering stood exposed there but the creature appeared undaunted. There were sharp eagle talons arranged below its chin that tapped together, flicking spittle against the wall. It walked on splayed elephant legs, heavily veined and covered in thick dermal plating.

Frankie shot again, this time at the creature’s legs. One of the bullets sheared away a chunk of its knee and the beast fell to the floor. Its many throats produced a sound like the buzzing of a hundred detuned guitars.

“I don’t suppose that’s your breakfast tea thing,” said Frankie.

D shook her head. “Although, I do think we know what sorts of ‘hidden animals’ they were keeping here.”

Shield was backing away from the corner. A station worker was running towards them, his tunic blotchy with blood stains, his face wild with terror. The agents made no attempt to block him. A second worker appeared but only cleared a couple of steps before being snatched backwards by something resembling a carnivorous, two-headed giraffe.

A gaping purple mouth opened between the giraffe-thing’s necks and it stuffed the worker down its gullet. Shield watched this and began to consider their situation.

“In case anyone was wondering, that’s a datcha-klatie,” said D softly.

Link to Next Chapter

Link to First Chapter


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