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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 acting under orders he didn’t quite understand, but this felt like waking up an extra in someone else’s movie.

Within a day, they were off. Shield had secured an old U.S. Army jeep for them and they brought along enough gas to take them far, far into the Atacama desert.

About 10 hours into the driest, most inhospitable desert Frankie had ever seen, Shield swung the jeep over the side of the road for a break. Frankie had already removed the M-14 rifle from its case. While the others found ways of walking out the cramps in road-sore legs, Frankie leaned against a boulder and cleaned his weapon.

For that fatal afternoon four years ago, he had used something a lot less accurate and reliable. This would almost be a treat. He indulged in bringing the weapon up to as fine a condition as he could manage. He cleaned out the barrel, cleaned the action meticulously, recalibrated the sights and hand-checked each round. For an old Marine like Frankie, his fingers fell into familiar routines, and he felt his mind settle into a comfortable resting state. Questions and concerns drifted far off into the empty blue sky above. That suited him just fine.

He snapped the rifle up to his shoulder and test-fired. A dry click against his ear. No round was chambered because there was no need to. There was only one point to this exercise, could he pull the trigger when the time came. He worked the bolt, brought the rifle up crisply and again squeezed the trigger. Click. Again and again he raised the weapon until he found the exact spot he wanted that rifle to rest on his shoulder. Then he did it some more until the motion was as mindless as breathing. He tested the trigger pull, making minute adjustments until he had it tuned just so. Click.

Could he do it? Could he do what she had asked?

He thought about Dallas, another indulgence. That moment remained a masterpiece, executed flawlessly, a once-in-a-lifetime shot. His handlers in the CIA had shown him footage sometime later. It was on 8mm home movie stock and the camerawork was unsteady. But he could see the moment his round found its target. The critic in him wanted to find some flaw, but honestly there was none to be found. The man had been sitting in a moving car in the rear seat. A tough shot in the best of moments, nearly impossible with the intervening people gathered along the motorcade. There had been other shooters, but they were there to provide certainty. One shot was needed to kill the man, and he had delivered it. Frankie spend the rest of the afternoon watching the footage over and over again.

His handlers hadn’t liked that. They spoke to him about it later and reminded him of things too obvious to even suggest. Frankie lost a lot respect in that moment for them and the organization they represented. The long slide was inevitable. First Brazil, then desk duty and then this chicken shit detail at the Section. The irony in that was breathtaking. There he was surrounded day in and day out by people seemingly obsessed with unearthing the truth behind the Assassination and the man they most needed to talk to was filling out transfer requests right under their noses.

To say he regretted the act was beside the point. He couldn’t undo it and wouldn’t see the use in undoing it if he could. Frankie was a finely-tuned, single use weapon; sooner or later someone would have found another target for him. If it hadn’t been that man it would have been another. And after the deed was done, they would have discarded him just as quickly.

Only, he still served a use. Someone must have known that and that was why he was here. The plan called for the impossible. Actually it called for several impossibilities, Frankie’s role being only particularly difficult.

Shield returned to the jeep. The motor stuttered to life and the others made their way back. It was time to find out if he could do his part. He snapped the rifle to his shoulder and found her head as she sat in the back of the jeep. The sight wavered for a moment, but Frankie couldn’t squeeze the trigger.

He broke the rifle apart and put it in his case. The next time they pulled off on the side of the road, he’d give it another try.

Practice made perfect.


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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.

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 …