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Chapter LI

Part 3:

The church, Inglesia del Amor Inmortal de la Virgen Madre por su Santisima Nino de Santo Sacremento, stood as it always had, at the back of the town at the end of the road in the middle of Atacama Desert. A long, long time ago the ground beneath the inglesia had been a temple, a simple stepped mound of the sort The Master commissioned everywhere he stayed more than a fortnight. At some point those original people disappeared and the sand swallowed all their labor.

The church offended him. All these later religions were either acts of rebellion or the crude approximations of his dreams, nothing but the work of people. He had little respect for those.

Back when he had dwelled in this part of the world he had been known as “The Staff God,” a fertility god for the most part. They credited him with the advent of potatoes, or quinoa, or maize. He tended to lose track after a while. He had not created every animal of use to mankind in the world but some of his more drastic interventions happened in the Western hemisphere. He had come to the New World very late, the captain of a ship out of Tyre, purple sails billowing as he landed in Mesoamerica. As was the case in the Old World, he let himself be greeted as a god and grew once more optimistic. His experiments in the old world had all crumbled, victims of the ambitions of men and the sloth of their subjects.

But here was a fresh start, among people who knew few diseases, had little contact with the outside world. One last chance at paradise. However, little of the raw material he needed existed here. No horses, no cows, no wheat or rice. Nothing but a few wild grains too bitter and hard to be eaten.

He did what he could do, pressing the ancient stalks of teosinte against his forehead as he dreamed of its future. He bit into an unpromising tuber and spit out the potato. And he had been loved. And worshiped.

And abandoned and forgotten.

He sighed. Always the same.

The problem were the people he dreamed for. Stubborn and willful, ungrateful and perverse to the last. He had tried in Tical, Chicama, and Cahokia to dream at them, tried to thresh out the threads of evil and greed. But it was same in the New World as the Old. Patterns could not be changed past a certain point without monstrous results. And he had bred armies of these in his stubbornness; were-jaguars and bandersnatches, wendigo and stone giants. Each dream some tantalizing sliver away from completion, each one ending in disaster.

So he gave up. He left the New World and attempted hibernation. He saw enough of the world to see things were changing. Perhaps given enough centuries the peoples of the earth would wipe themselves off the planet and he could start completely fresh. Or, perhaps, they would come up with enough clever devices to return to his plans.

Spaceman pulled himself from the car, took his hand and lead him to the church. They were surrounded by the zombie-men. He knew that his time had come for the boy from Dymi, that it was time to pass on the dream to a new vessel. For the first time in many centuries, that prospect terrified him. In the wake of the disaster at Delta Omega, he found himself at the mercy of another being. A lesser being to be sure, but one with the power to destroy him.

He had found others like Spaceman before, those willing to serve, desperate to serve, but few that had demonstrated new talents he had not previously encountered. He suspected Spaceman shared a lineage with one of his monsters. Certainly his powers of persuasion were formidable. It was a shame that he was contaminated. He might have served as a good vessel.

But the purpose of a vessel was to contain, not adulterate. Spaceman could protest all he wanted, but in the end, some confluence of events had conspired to create within him a unique and willful being. To merge them together as he had with young Nikolas was impossible. One or both of them would be destroyed in the process.

They opened the doors of the church together and Spaceman went to check on how the ceremony proceeded. The Master waited by the door, watching his hands grow stronger in the morning light. There was still life in this vessel, and still resources for him to command. Alone among all the creatures of creation, a god must have choices.


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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 LIX

“Do not worry,” said Necropolis. He was sitting at one of the pews, his legs kicked up on the headrest in front of him. There was a hymn book flopped over one knee and Nikolas was smiling. “What we need to do is not complicated.”

“Are we talking about the ten-hour long ceremony with an entire freight car of exotic compounds and rare animal parts, and enough priests for a baseball game? That ceremony? The Gemini program seems somewhat less complicated.”

“Reasonably complicated, is how I’d describe it.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“The ceremony is window-dressing. I need the priests and their descendants to keep this place sacred and unmolested, and they need something to believe in. We both get something.

“No, Spaceman, what I was referring to was your part in all of this. All you have to do is survive. After that your life will become as complicated or as simple as your will dictates.”

“I don’t buy that either.”

It was late in the day, and the change had begun for Necropolis. His face…

Chapter LXI

“Frankie, listen to me. You have to pull the trigger.”

Frankie was silent. The rifle rested at his shoulder, just like he had practiced. He had D sighted, the slender cross-hairs pointing to spot just over her right eye. There was a slight Eastern wind which would pull the rifle to the left. He made his calibrations and rested his finger on the trigger. Perhaps a dozen men who could make this shot. He was one of them.

“This is the way it has to be, Frankie,” Marcus said. Was that nerves in his voice, or genuine terror. “If she doesn’t die, then The Master will just go on. We get this one chance and that’s it.”

In the scope, D was going through a strange contortion. Her body shuddered and she threw her head backwards as she rose first to her feet and then straight up into the air, suspended a full foot above the ground. When he had her reacquired, she was looking right at him. This was impossible, but it was plainly and obviously true. The girl knew where they were.

“Why do we need to kill…