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Chapter XLVII

The trio of agents quickly discerned that they were not be leaving the way they had come in. The Cryptozoologicals had turned the outer rim of the station into a slaughter house. Armed soldiers carrying rifles, machine guns, and the occasional heavy ordinance prowled the intersections. Whether AC or Red Brigade, no one seemed to be much in the mood for asking questions. Shooting was the order of the day.

The agents snuck down the ring corridor for nearly an hour, but found no way outwards not blocked by paramilitaries or worse. D announced she would cast a ritual to find a way forward. Frankie and Shield lurked close by, hoping to get a warning shot off at least, if something discovered them.

D withdrew from her bag a number of brass beads, a length of twined leather cord and copious amounts of red and ochre sand which she heaped in intricate kabbalistic patterns on the deck. She spoke in an indistinct voice, occasionally repeating the same word, mukthir. Pronouncing this word seemed to have the same effect as a match on a fuse, the sand sparkling and casting glowing hot scintilla up and down the hallway. One by one, D pitched the brass beads into the magical pyre. This would cause a geyser of fireworks to spout from the Mandala as the beads dissolved.

Frankie watched this in frustration. “You know, if you had done this at the beginning, we’d already be on our way.”

D barely gave him a glance. “There are drawbacks to this ritual,” she said. “The spirits I’m enlisting tend to be a gossipy lot. We will be attracting attention.

Shield noticed Frankie peering into the gloom they had just traveled down. He was working his jaw in a way that suggested either physical discomfort or anxiety.

“What do you see?”

“Same thing you see, probably, just more of it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

A slim smile dented his weather beaten features. “I don’t see anything, Shield, and that’s what’s got me worried. I heard some gun fire from that last barricade we skirted. A few minutes ago.”

“I heard it too.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t hear it any more.”

“They probably shot up what they set to kill and are waiting in ambush for the next creepy monster that wanders by.”

“That could be.”

Frankie continued to stare into the shadows.

“But you don’t think so.”

“No, I don’t,” said Frankie. “That was a big emplacement and they let loose with everything. Only, it didn’t taper off, like you think if they brought something down.”

Shield suppressed a shiver. “What did it sound like?”

“Like the guns were switched all off at the same instant,” Frankie shook his head and looked back at the mission leader. “That wasn’t all that far away. Now, I am as much a fan of finding out where we should be heading as the next person, but I don’t think this is the best place for us to stop.”

“Do you want to set up some barriers?”

“Don’t think it did them much good.”

There was a dull flash far down the hall and for a moment, the lights overhead sparked into life again. Far, far down the hallway they could see something coming their way. Too distant to make out what it was, but too close to ignore.

Shield turned around. “D, not to rush you, but we need to rush.”

“I know,” she nodded enthusiastically, but took luxurious care in plucking one of the brass beads from the mandala. “I’ve almost got it.”

“D, we’ve got to go.”

“This isn’t an easy spell, one second too long in the fire and the charm will be useless.”

There was another flash, but this one was closely followed by a crack of thunder. Again, Frankie reported seeing something but could give no description of it. Shield began to wonder if he was sparing them details.

“Got it,” D shouted. She strung each of the brass beads on the leather cord, tied the ends together and slipped the bracelet onto her wrist. The charm evidently worked as D’s head immediately whipped around to face to her left. “That’s the way.”

The corridor suddenly filled with a pale white light. Shield had to cover his eyes. There was another peal of thunder and the sharp trace of ozone. Frankie yelled hoarsely and brought himself into motion. Another crack, this time the echoing report of his service revolver. Shield searched past the glare.

The thing traveled impossibly fast, hurling itself above the floor. Fat electric arcs traveled from its body, to ground themselves against the bulk heads and nearby furniture. Frankie had fired point blank, each shot found its mark, but with no effect. The monster glided forward, careening from one wall to other.

The creature was an eyeball, about the size of VW Bug, rippling with lighting and static discharges. The shape of its iris was a very inhuman shade of green, but it was possible to see red blood pulsing through the many capillaries branching across the cornea. The eye swiveled from one agent to the other, its pupil quickly focusing on each of them in turn, appraising them, evaluating them for threat. Shield didn’t give the monster time to decide one way or the other.

The force bubble snapped into place just a millimeter above the surface of the eye, completely encasing it in a violet-hued capsule. Eye and bubble dropped to the floor with a loud thud and then began rolled back down the slight decline of the corridor. Lighting pulsed behind the barrier in increasingly savage waves.

“That worked like a charm,” Frankie said.

“It won’t last,” D said, already rushing away from them.

Shield felt genuinely hurt. “How do you know?”

“It just won’t, we need to get out of here.”

“Getting out of here is as good idea now as it was ten minutes ago,” said Shield, “but I should tell you that my force bubbles can theoretically contain an H-bomb explosion. I think I bought us a little time.”

The hall suddenly tilted violently forward and all three agents went sprawling. Rush of heated air blew past them, along with a sound like someone tearing a pick-up truck in half. A swirl of dust blocked out the overhead lights. Shield got back to his feet, helped the other two and began to run. The corridor was shaking relentlessly now and Shield could feel hair beginning to stand on end.

He didn’t want to look, but he had to. The eye had shrugged off Shield’s force bubble and was now speeding towards them, Tesla Coil discharges searing afterimages into his retinas. But what really began to unmoor Shield’s brain was the thing’s pupil, narrowed to a single pin prick of black, the eye fixed on him. Shield’s fillings ached and he could feel the creature’s magnetic field pulling at his watch and belt buckle. He threw another shield around himself and the others but had no illusions now of its impregnability.

The eye scoured the force bubble with lightning storms. The surface of the shield deflected the initial assault but the creature did not relent. Shield could feel the bubble beginning to heat up as the monster rained lightning upon them. The bulkheads went molten, sagging outwards. Worse, he could feel the force bubble begin to stretch and thin as more and more of it bled away into mathematical abstractions.



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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.

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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?”

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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 …

Chapter XLVIII

Spaceman found it very easy to leave the station. His coterie of friends kept growing with each attempt at intervention until a kind of critical mass arrived. Whether or not he was a prisoner, or a Section Starfire agent, or a notorious addict became immaterial. Spaceman lead, and those looking to follow did so.

Heading up from the bowels of the engineering deck, they passed by the cryptozoological section. It occurred to Spaceman that his escape would be that much easier if the personnel in the station had something distracting them. A command to Mr. Doubtful cut off the emergency power to the pens, cages, and corrals keeping the cryptids at bay.

He figured the result would be a few sasquatch and sea serpents making a break for it. He hoped there were enough penguins in Antarctica to feed a new population of Big Feet. Big Foots? Spaceman chuckled to himself, bummed a cigarette from another engineer and directed his followers upwards.

By the time they reached the main exit, the station a…