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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 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 …

Interlude: Antarctica and Beyond

She saw all and knew more.

The place of knowledge looked exactly like the waking world in its details, its strangeness revealed only by implication. Looking down at her own body she knew she was dead. And yet the possibilities of her life were not entirely spent. She knew this too. Part of her wanted to simply slip back into her body and let the Charm of Utanghk do its work but she wasn’t ready to do that.

D pulled away from her body and the sub. In the ghostly second sight of the place of knowledge she perceived the submarine had already moved some distance from the dying Delta Omega Base. She watched the sub pass beneath the dark vaults of ice and turned her attention to colossal structure shuddering above.
Standing in front of it in the waking world, the station was simply a structure, impressive but also sterile. From within the place of knowledge she gained an appreciation for the effort that had gone into its creation. To see it brought low was an occasion not for celebration but …