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Chapter LXII

It took only thirty-six hours for a Section Sanitation Team to arrive at Santa Rosa. Leaving the town a smoking ruin was a non-option, especially with half the world on the look out for the Anti-Cerebrists.

It did surprise Shield to see The Chief leading the Sanitation Team. In the year or so he’d been an active field agent, he’d never heard of The Chief traveling more than five miles outside of D.C. The expression on his face suggested travel did not agree with him.

“We would have, of course, preferred if you had taken him alive.”

Shield looked around the remains of the town. Which him was he referring to?

“Sir, Spaceman resisted D with the apparently preternatural assistance of The Master. It was all D could do to put him down.”

“I wasn’t referring to Spaceman, I meant the Master.”

Ah, Shield thought, well that was a bit more awkward. “Actually, sir, he simply died. By the time Agent Two-Eyes and myself had come down from the bluff, he was already in cardiac arrest. Believe me when I say, I was hoping to have Frankie get at least one conversation out of him.”

“Better luck next time, I suppose.”

“Sir?”

“You did a passable job, Shield, are you waiting for some kind of goddamn medal?”

“No,” Shield smiled. “I was just surprised, sir.”

“Take a vacation, Shield, go someplace warm.”

“We’re in someplace warm.”

“Someplace with a beach, Shield. Jesus, do I have to spell it out for you?”

Shield chuckled as The Chief stalked towards another underling. Marcus knew he had accomplished something here. He was on his way up. There was a future waiting for him in the states, once the particulars of this mission could tallied, judged and, most importantly, scrubbed.

Did Marcus want that? A career? A couple more medals? How about an offer from a real intelligence agency – like the Bureau of Paranormal Researches or the Fortian Foundation or even the Company . It was all possible; more than that, likely.

The terrain outside of Santa Rosa was as bleak a vista as could possibly be imagined. Walking over one final rise, he found a rock to sit on while he considered next steps. Ten minutes later, a white land rover pulled up.

“Are you done here?” Melissa said from the driver’s window.

“I told you not to come down from the bluff, I don’t want them seeing you.”

“They’ve seen me and they know who I am. If they want to bring me up on charges they can talk to my Department head. Relax Shield, you’re doing the right thing.”

“There’s no right thing in this, Melissa, only what has to be done.”

“Is ‘us’ something you have to do, too?”

Shield looked up at the pale, cloudless sky, searching for relief. “Let’s head back to Lima and see what happens.”

“For you I’m calling that enthusiasm unbounded.”

He stretched out on the back seat and watched the dust piled up behind in great yellow pillows. For the most part the trip to Lima was silent. Everything had happened the way it should and nothing could have been changed. Not too many people came out to this lonely corner of Peru. Not too many people ever met people like D or The Master or, for that matter, the late an unlamented Spaceman. The desert they kicked up, cast upwards in violent confusion always settled out the same way. When they were gone, it would drift once more into a new, although terribly familiar arrangement.

Shield wondered how long it would take for scattered parts of this world to once more find their customary arrangements. Not long at all he supposed.

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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 II

Agent Spaceman did not have much difficulty leaving the embassy. He had features and a demeanor easy to forget. Only his habits left their unsavory, distinctive marks.

Apparently there had been some kind of intrusion into the embassy. Every hall, staircase and exit was blocked by yellow-suited mercenaries of the AC’s. There was a time in the dim, distant past where this situation would have demanded his attention, his action. Thankfully, he had moved past such concerns.

Why had he even bothered coming out of his ‘retirement’ in Morocco? His inactive status stipend had been more than generous for his limited needs and the climate had been more favorable to his health. Really, if hadn’t been for that fever dream he would have stayed there the rest of his life. Having secured the object of his curiosity, he intended to return as soon as possible.

Which meant he needed money.

Finally finding a room with a broken lock on its window, Spaceman made his exit. A…

Epilogue

Imagine a space of incredible volume. Now place within its center an enormous ball of hydrogen and helium, collapsing against its own fiery detonation. Imagine a fireball so big that the force of its own illumination prevents light from its center from escaping for millions of years. Now picture the left-over bits from the star’s ignition spinning around in orbit, slowly accreting together over a staggering length of time.

This is the stage. This where all of the acts appear, lit from this ancient fiery torch. This where all of the tragedies and comedies that have ever happened and will ever happen, happen.

Are you getting the hang of it? Can you see this place, this domain? For as long as there are people and intelligences able to record impressions and ideas, this will be the only home of anyone who reads these words. But don’t feel so bad. The solar system is a big place and perhaps bigger than most might know.

For within this enormous system, the…