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Chapter LVII

The one formal road leading into and out of Santa Rosa terminated at the white chapel named “Abode of the Undying Affection of the Virgin Mother for her Blessed Child of Holy Sacrament.” On either side of the road, which while unpaved was kept neat and level, one story wooden buildings stood; some were homes, others businesses. Nothing offered much shade. The day was miserably hot; Shield found himself constantly mopping at the back of his neck with a hand towel.

This might be D's mission but he wasn't going to give up Spaceman without a fight. Maybe she was right and he was beyond help. He knew upon setting foot in Peru that he would need to see that with his own eyes.

So, he strode into town alone and unarmed. The first of these was by choice, the other was not. As a condition for him coming here, D had insisted he do nothing to provoke the Master. There would be a time for that, she assured him, but not yet. Shield was not entirely happy to be striding into the hornet’s nest,…

Chapter LVI

In Frankie’s mind, the plan was simple: D lead the way.

He was in a curious frame of mind; fatalistic but oddly satisfied. D had filled them in about her role in all of this. It was as a detailed a mission brief as Frankie had ever been privy too, and among the least illuminating. Before departing to requisition some Peruvian paramilitaries in case the agents botched their surgical strike, LeHaze asked D what sort of resistance they could expect.

“All of the vermin of the earth.”

“Could we be a bit more specific?”

“Scorpions will be a problem.”

Whatever they’d face, she wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Everything Frankie needed fit neatly into a single duffel bag. Shield received a change of clothing and a toiletry bag. D was still doing inventory on the three crates they found waiting for her in a dusty section of the Lima airport. Frankie had surreptitiously looked at one of the invoices and discovered the listing “assorted dried animal parts.” Fair enough. Frankie was accustomed to a…

Chapter LV

It didn’t take long for Spaceman to discover what had happened at Port Adelaide. The simple fact was the people of the church liked Spaceman. They were rooting for him. Freed for the first time in decades from the junk, Spaceman found it easy, almost liberating, to simply be charming. That this brought the knock-on effect of bending their loyalties to him was a pleasant surprise.

“I told him that he should not attempt the rescue,” said Iglesias.

Despite the transparent lie, Spaceman smiled. Iglesias meant well and that counted for more than a little.

“You did the right thing,” Spaceman comforted the slender, nervous man. “Where can I find The Master?”

“He has not left his quarters in many days,” and seemed once more nervous. This reaction mystified Spaceman until he realized Iglesias had assumed they all already knew this. The preparations for the transference had claimed most of his attention. Spaceman saw that he had put himself in an awkward position, the assumed su…

Chapter LIV

As the mini-sub pulled into a quay at Port Encounter in South Australia, the light began its slow transition into evening. Only a few people gathered on the dock, a few seamen with mooring lines held loose in their hands, an officer of the watch standing at attention.

“Well, this isn’t quite the welcome I expected,” said Frankie. D stood up from the fold-out chair behind him and coughed once. The interior of the sub had been silent for days and now the impromptu crew of the sub, which they had dubbed, “The Exodus,” began to stretch.

They heard the sharp metal thud as the hull of the Exodus struck the quay. The mooring lines splashed on the other side of the sub, the fabric of the ropes rasping against the metal surface. Shield clambered up the conn tower, flipped open the hatch and hailed their small welcoming party.

“Welcome to Australia,” the officer called up to him. His smile was wide and friendly. “If you can disembark we will begin the process of completing your arri…

Chapter LIII

The Supreme Archon arrived the next morning and entered the Master’s chamber with an obsequious bow.

“We have located the other vessel, my lord,” the Archon said in a soft voice. The Master’s trust for him had not wavered despite the many years since their last conversation. If only the Archon had possessed the traits he needed for a vessel. It would have made many things simpler.

But alas, The Master had to make do with this man’s unwavering support.

“Where?” The Master said. The night’s decrepitude was lingering on his current body, the youth of Nicholaus slow to return to his body.

“Australia. Adelaide.”

“Do we have resources in place?”

“Soon.”

The Master succumbed to gravity and let his still frail body fall back onto the bed. To kill or capture. He did not trust Spaceman but Hugo’s incompetence couldn’t be overlooked. Perhaps a struggle was required. Bring Simplex to the church unbeknownst to Spaceman and let them duel for the privilege of being a ve…

Chapter LII

The tiny submarine surfaced north of the Antarctic circle on June 22nd. The passengers were able to establish contact with a listening station in New Zealand and eventually got routed to a secure line with the Chief. Marcus was at first tempted to lock himself in the forward cabin with the radio but what would be the point? It was clear from the Chief’s incredulous tone he had long written off the entire team.

“I simply not understand how you could abandon a member of your team on the field, Shield,” the Chief said.

“He abandoned us, sir!” Marcus said, about to smash his crippled hand on the radio board before thinking better of it. “He turned double agent, Chief. Both Simplex and LeHaze confirmed it.”

Simplex, lashed to one of the fold-down chairs in the cabin, shouted over to the radio. “It’s true!”

Frankie shot him a look from the pilot chair of the sub. Simplex gave a half-hearted smile and then regained his silence. Melissa looked up from her control panel and sh…