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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 this man? Because D wants us to? What authority does she have?”

“Of for Chrissakes, Frankie! You saw what this man built in Antarctica. You saw the people he brought together for the AC’s. You fought the man’s snakes! He has to die.”

Dust began to blow away from D’s prostrate body. Not as if a wind had kicked up from some particular direction but more like some force was driving the sediment away from her.

Shield saw the turn of events and punched the dirt next to Frankie head.

“Fire!” he screamed. “Frankie, you have to take the shot!”

Frankie returned the cross-hairs to her right eye and made the adjustments. Around the witch, streamers of dust were beginning to whip up. There was something nasty coming their way. Oh hell, he thought to himself, she knew where they were. She’d stop his bullet before it’d even reach her. It was too late.

The sight wobbled and he touched the trigger. D was looking at him, her eyes locked with his. They looked normal now. Her lips pursed, pronounced a word, ‘do it.’

The rifle bucked in his hands and D’s head came apart in a jagged red splatter. Her body fell lengthwise.

“Oh my God!” Frankie said. Shield was clapping his shoulder and telling him what a fine shot he had made.

“Oh my God,” he said again, now more softly.

Frankie didn’t blame the mission leader for what he said. He was glad to be alive. Anyone would be after this long nightmare.

Frankie picked himself up and stumbled away from the mound of dust he had fired from. It was nearly dawn, a fresh pink haze was spreading over the mountains to the East.

“What have I done?”


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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 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…