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Chapter XLIX

The force bubble was a nearly perfect one way reflector of energy; under ideal circumstances, the sphere should be able reflect a thermo-nuclear explosion. This was not an ideal circumstance; the closed hallways reflected the energy back on the bubble. This quickly raised the surface of the sphere past the melting point of steel. None of this heat reached the Starfire agents but it was enough to cause the floor to sag and buckle noticeably. All the while the eye was fixed on Shield, its pupil squeezed into a nearly imperceptible singularity of wrath directed at them. Shield knew that if he let the bubble down for a second all three of them would be incinerated in an instant, but the pain clawed more and more of his attention away. He could feel the tendons pulling from his muscles from the exertion. He felt something on his upper lip and wasn’t surprised to discover he had developed a nose bleed. Still he pressed on. He resisted. He endured. As the monster slowly pressed down on him with inconceivable ferocity, Shield pushed right back, if only because he knew that a moment’s weakness or hesitation would doom all three of them.

Suddenly something gave way. For a terrible instant, Shield supposed the bubble must have given out and they were already dead. Such was not the case. The floor had merely burned through. The monster had pumped so much energy into collapsing the bubble that it had melted the floor. Their shelter hit the deck below and began to turn upside down as the bubble began to roll down the incline. They traveled down the next several intersections in this fashion, finally fetching up against an old filing cabinet and a custodian cart.

Shield scrambled to his feet, dropping the bubble, and taking out a length of electrical tape to bind his broken ring finger. The other two agents immediately collapsed onto the deck and stayed there, moaning. Shield, who was by now all too used to the disorientating possibilities of his power, was able to rapidly gain his balance.

The floor began to once more shake, a dim purple-violet light streaming down from the gap in the ceiling a few dozen meters away. The enormous eye descended, held aloft by twitching tendrils of lightning, its pupil once more locking with the agents of Section Starfire. There was something almost gleeful in the way it eased itself to the canted deck, and began to slowly roll towards them.

Shield was about to find another appendage to break when from behind a large steam pipe a AC henchman sprang into view. The zombie launched himself at the creature, armed only with a simple stake of wood. The pupil swung around to lock on the assaulter, arcs of electricity already connecting with the AC henchman. Too late.

The tiny wooden stake did what none of Frankie’s bullets nor D’s spells could, pierce the surface of the great malevolent orb. Lightning discharged, converting the henchmen into so much smoking meat, but the Boolemanga popped like a balloon, leaving not so much as a scrap of itself behind.

Marcus was about to rouse his companions when he heard footsteps behind him. He sighed deeply before looking up. A good half dozen henchmen brought weapons up to their shoulders.

Shield lowered his head. No rest of the weary, he thought, as he put pressure on his left metacarpal.

“If you do that, we won’t be able to talk, Agent Shield,” said the voice of Hugo Simplex. The director of the Anti-Cerebrists strolled forward and exposed himself to the light. He wore his trademark smirk but also an air of fear and anxiety. Shield stood fast.

Frankie rousing himself asked, “Then get to the point.”

“The Boolemanga that I have dealt with is one of the nastier but by no means most formidable barrier you will face leaving this station. And once on the surface, where will you go? As you are no doubt aware, Antarctica is not convenient to pedestrians.”

Frankie stood up. “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”

“I think you’ll still be standing on that bridge. I have a way to leave this station.”

“I’d be curious why you’d bother,” said Marcus.

“Simple, I want to live and I need each of you to escape this station.”

“And once we’re gone, you’ll have your henchman turn their guns on us.”

“Not necessarily.”

D laughed. “Not necessarily?”

“Allow me to be more definitive. I would not betray you unless I felt that you were getting ready to betray me. As a matter of fact, my plan depends on each of you being alive for the conceivable future.”

The three conferred silently. Left unspoken was the simple observation that all three were beaten down, exhausted and ready to clutch at any thread of hope no matter how slender. Also to be weighed was the quality of Hugo’s muscle; a dozen old-style henchman and one clearly over-worked Elite radio controller. To Shield, the odds looked favorable even with the high risks of trusting a psychopath like Simplex.

“Alright, are you going to tell us how we’re getting out of here?”

Simplex’s smirk split into an outright grin. “Right this way, Shield. Although I wouldn’t put your guns away quite yet. You’ll still need them, just hopefully not against me.”

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Link to First Chapter


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