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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 sight of what lay beyond.

“What’s this?” Frankie asked.

“Section IV Galley,” Simplex replied tugging at his left earlobe.

“A kitchen?”

“Not just a kitchen. It’s difficult to get consistent supplies this far south. Certain things need to be…improvised.”

There was a metallic bang from behind the door. The Elite henchman jumped visibly.

“What exactly are we walking into?” asked Shield.

“I told you, we needed to make sure some kind of nutrition was reliably available. We found a kind of fungus in the rain forests of the Congo that more than fit the bill. Each bite is a complete meal and it grows quickly under the right conditions.”

“What happens if it doesn’t get the right conditions?”

There was another sound from the galley, this one the screech of something heavy and large being pushed out of the way.

“I’m guessing it gets upset,” observed Frankie.

“Look, when we enter this place, the fungus will try to prevent our exit. It is even now most likely growing to block the far door. However, running will simply attract its attention. Walk swiftly but silently to the other side of the room and wait for my signal.”

The inside of the galley was humid and smelled stale, like the inside of an old locker. They spread the twelve meat puppets evenly in front and behind them and made for the other wall. Other than the occasional puddle of ooze left on the floor or wall, they saw nothing out of the ordinary. It was only when Shield glanced behind him and counted five henchmen that he saw how this was going to go.

“We’re missing one,” he reported to Simplex. The Director acknowledged this with a slight depression of his chin and pressed on. From behind a pot rack, they could hear the muffled sounds of struggle.

“Where’s the door?” Frankie asked.

D pointed past two more rows. There was a noise like a carpet being dragged over the tile floor and one of the henchmen in front of them abruptly dropped out of sight. The Elite struggled with the other meat puppets now, their survival instincts now very much active.

They were almost to the door, surrounded by sounds of scraping, knocking, and slurping when the fungus made its move.

Less than ten feet away a pot rattled on the side of a prep table. There were shallow puddles of yellow ooze pushing towards them, hugging the cracks between the floor tiles.

“Now!” cried Simplex. Behind them, the Elite jammed the sticks of his radio control decks to the left. Reluctantly, the meat puppets shambled towards the source of the noise. As Shield sprinted for the door he heard sounds of struggle smothered by loud squelches.

A great beigish tide emerged from all corners of the room. As it rushed forward, it knocked tables and racks free and swept them up in its surge. The fungus was not satisfied by their offering of henchmen, it wanted them all. Simplex reached the door first, flung it open and held it there long enough for D and Frankie to escape. He gave Shield a look, judged their distance too great and shut the door. Saving D and Frankie must have been essential to whatever plan he had cooked up, Shield less so. A heaping trough of fungus pushed against the first of his force bubbles and shouldered it out of the way. It was time for innovation. Shield ground the bones of his recent breaks together and covered his fists with blue-violet halos.

With one swing, his forced-swaddled hands broke the handle of the door and bent the frame outwards. He struck the same place with his other fist and smashed the door open.

The Elite screamed behind him and out of the corner of Shield’s eye he saw a ropy whip of the stuff snake around the unfortunate man’s neck. He was yanked from his feet, dragged over one of the preparation tables into the writhing mass beyond. Something caught Shield’s leg. He kicked but the grip was unshakeable.

Above him the face of D appeared, and he could feel hands grab his shoulders.

“Run!” Shield screamed. “Leave me!”

“Not likely,” said D. “Muftani Mufstaj Mutal!”

A flash of green fire freed his ankle. D dragged him clear of the door. He sacrificed his right ring finger for a bubble lodged in the space the galley door had once occupied. Mycelia squirmed around the edges of the bubble but couldn’t dislodge it. At least not yet.

D offered a hand to Marcus and hauled him to his feet. The two ran down the hallway, their footsteps echoing in the dark. They reached the bottom of a metal staircase and found themselves in a submarine bay. The metal framework of the station was beginning to shudder and collapse but Hugo stood next to Frankie, with pistol pointed at his head.

“Now, Shield,” Hugo said. “We are going to have a talk.”

“There’s no time for this,” Marcus screamed, already reaching for an unbroken finger. Not too many of those left.

“I wouldn’t do that, Marcus,” Hugo said. “So much as flinch and I’ll fire. You need me. Without a password, this submarine’s engine will not so much as turn-over.”

Exhausted, Marcus realized he was willing to hear the man out. After the events of the afternoon, he was willing to admit temporary defeat. The important thing at the moment was to get the agents of Section Starfire off this base. He was about to raise his arms in surrender when a hatch behind Hugo opened and produced Melissa LeHaze. Hugo turned, but too slow, and Agent LeHaze struck him to the deck with a length of cooling pipe.

“I’ve got an alternate proposal,” she said to the Agents. “Come with me and we’ll deal with this piece of crap later.”

Marcus lowered his hands and was about to tell D to climb aboard the submarine when he discovered she had collapsed to deck, blood pouring from a wound in her chest. In the excitement, Marcus hadn’t even heard Hugo’s gun fire.


(This concludes Part Two of "Agent Shield and Spaceman")


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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 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…