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The Night of the Asteroid

Part 2

The next day, the agents set out for Thunder Mountain. Finding it wouldn't be a problem since it was the only mountain out on the badlands. The rode along an empty streambed in order to approach the mountain from the north. AJ took the point and led his companion toward the mountain in a fashion designed to minimize the possibility of being spotted by observers on the mountain. They reached the foot of the mountain with no alarm raised - at least, no alarm they were aware of. From there they considered their options. A path worked its way up the mountain in front of them, a path too narrow and steep for horses. This was probably the path the Apache took to climb the sacred mountain. No other easy way up was apparent from this side.

Sean looked up the incline, and whispered. "We could stride right in and talk our way out of trouble when we're put upon, or try to get closer and see what Tezlowska has going on." He looked at AJ, "and then talk our way out of trouble," adding with a grin.

After a moment's consultation, the pair hid their mounts in an arroyo, and began to move around the base of the mountain looking for another way up. AJ pointed out a possible approach and the two moved up to narrow chimney-like gap. They began to climb. A while later, sweaty but unharmed they rolled out onto a ledge overlooking the conventional approach. From their vantage, they could see that two Apache had been posted as guards looking down the path.

Sean pointed off down a nearly invisible path and made a gesture to AJ indicating that a better point to ambush the two guards could be found, and the two slowly made their way there. They split up to approach their men individually. At the same moment, they leap down onto their men. A few quick punches and the unconscious guards were being pulled out of sight. The agents continued on up the path, carefully keeping an eye out for further sentries. Eventually the path flattened out on a plateau bordered by a sheer cliff on one side and a steep drop on the others.

"Looks like we've got no choice but to go that way and put ourselves out in the open," Sean commented softly. He and AJ looked up the cliff face to see if they could see any signs of sentries or other observers. The cliff was sheer with no indication of any watchers. Or any way to scale it for that matter.

With a shrug the agents began searching the cliff face for some kind of entrance. They had the right idea, but the wrong location. Behind them a section of the wall slid open and a number of figures crept out. A cultured voice suddenly broke the silence, "Gentlemen, Professor Tezlowska would like to invite you in."

Turning the agents saw a tall, lean man dressed in what looked like some sort of Eastern European military uniform, complete with sword. It was he who had spoken. By his side was an enormous, swarthy man bulging with muscles. Arrayed to either side of them were another half dozen Apache. "Do please come quietly," said the man.

Sizing up their foes, Sean and AJ quickly decided that had they intended to kill them outright then the pleasantries would have been unnecessary. "Since you asked politely," Sean said, "we accept, General..." he trailed off.

"Count. Count Polzosky," said the man. "Forgive the rudeness, but ..." he shrugged and gestured. Two of the Apache came forward and relieved the agents of their gunbelts. "This way," continued Polzosky. He led the agents to the secret door, the huge man and the Apache falling in behind them.

Through the door they found themselves in a series of rough tunnels which debouched into a large cave, part of which was comfortably furnished as drawing room and part of which was a laboratory filled with a variety of strange looking equipment, most of it electrical in nature at first glance. Standing in the lab was a dark haired figure. When he turned, Sean recognized Mikel Tezlowska. "Ah, 'Mr. Simonchild' we meet again," he said with a smile. "Count, this man first interefered with my plans some time ago using the name 'Richard Simonchild.' I learned later his real name was Sean Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln, this is Count Polzosky and Keffuz," he pointed to the large man. "They are helping me with my current project."

"Believe it or not, we are here to talk about that very project," Sean said, returning the smile. "This is James Arliss, and we are pleased to make your acquaintance Count Polzosky and Keffuz. I will try not to allow your choice of associates to affect my opinion of you."

"I find that easy to believe. I suppose it's too much to hope that you bringing word of the capitulation of the US government?" asked Tezlowski.

"I never knew you were a dreamer, Tezlowska, but I suppose madmen like yourself have to pass the time somehow," he taunted. He turned to Count Polzosky, "Do you see why such associations might cause some to doubt your character? After all, he is lying to the Apaches."

"Lying?" Tezlowska smiled. "In what way?"

Sean gambled, "Portraying yourself as some kind of savior to restore the traditional lands, I'd guess the Count here is hoping to acquire some of the very same land once the President signs over the deed."

"We shall restore the traditional lands to the Apache," said Tezlowska. "We shall forge a new nation here, an enlightened nation."

"What is your role in this, Count? Are you the charitable nation builder, or have you consulted the Apache in this magnanimous gesture?"

"There will be a place for me in this brave new world," said the Count.

"And the Apache have been lied to by the United States often enough to welcome the aid of one who speaks only truth," said Tezlowska. "And who backs up words with deeds."

"I suppose you won't believe me when I tell you that you will not get away with this," Sean said matter-of-factly.

"Why should I? The land is not of much use to the United States, we have shown that we have a weapon capable of destroying towns, and now we have you! You were a thorn in my side before, but now you are in my power and no longer a threat to us!" Tezlowska smiled happily. "There will be a place for men of creativity and vision in our new land, a place for men like you ..."

"Are you offering us a job?" Sean asked incredulously looking at AJ.

"Why not?" asked a smiling Tezlowska.

"B'cause we work for the enemy?" AJ said. "Besides, you'd have to hire a translator, I don't speak maniac."

"Is it madness to see a wrong and to strive to right it? To see injustice and bring justice? To see oppression and seek freedom?" Teslowska had begun to rage and then took a moment to collect himself. "Still, it is a pity. Men of resource are always needed... "Well, you can reconsider your position for a bit. Take them away," said Tezlowksa and turned back to his lab.

"This way," said the Count and the two agents were hustled out of the lab down a series of passages past wooden supports and finally pushed into a stone room with a wooden front wall. "My apologies for the accomodations," said the Count. "But we don't get many visitors."

The door closed and the agents were left in darkness.

"Locked up again," Sean muttered in the dark. "Just once I wish we'd go straight to the gallows," he joked feeling his way up to the door.

The floor was rough stone beneath his feet, the door and the wall in which it was set were wood. As he approached a faint tracery of light around the door became visible as the light from the torches crept in between the door and frame. There was no lock and an interruption in the light suggested a bar across the door.

"Looks like a simple bar," he said squinting between door and jamb. "Got a blade?" he asked AJ.

As he spoke, he popped the blade in his boot out and took off his boot. The blade was able to slip through but just barely reached the bar and the leverage was poor. He couldn't get the bar to lift.

"Drat," he said provoking a snicker from AJ. Popping the blade back into its loading mechanism Sean leaned against the door and ran his hand over the rough wood, "The 'buster may take her down, but it sure won't make for a quiet exit."

Shawn popped the heel off one of his boots while AJ dug around for a match. From the heel Shawn pulled out a small blob of putty-like substance which he handed to AJ. AJ placed it around the level of the bar while Shawn put his heel back on. With a nod, AJ struck the match and touched it to putty which sputtered then burst into a harsh actinic light. They squinted to avoid blinding themselves completely while the charge burned itself out.

"Two against an army." AJ said quietly. "My kind'a odds. You ready?"

Shawn stood and bowed respectfully to let the scout proceed, "After you."

Keeping eyes and ears open, AJ slowly and carefully opened the door...hoping they didn't bother to post guards. He saw a dimly passage stretching away in both directions. No guards were immediately apparent. The FSS agents crept out of their cell and down the hall, looking for something that might give them a clue as to the means by which Tezlowska was raining doom on the nearby towns. With AJ in the lead, they crept through the halls, several times hugging the shadows to avoid passing Apache. Finally, ahead they saw a strong light and heard voices. They crept closer. AJ risked a quick peek around the final corner and reported back.

AJ had a slightly wide-eyed look about him as he spoke. "It's the biggest telescope I've ever seen, or at least it looks like 'un." he said. "There's one person in there...woman, redhead." He then gave Shawn a look that seemed to say, "Right up your alley".

Sean perked up at this notion, pawing at his hair subconsciously. "Let it never be said that I don't give all to my country," he whispered. Slowly he crept in to the room, gently but not to appear threatening.

The woman was strikingly attractive and sufficiently busy with the equipment that she utterly failed to notice Sean's entrance.

"From where I stand, the only equipment you need to see a heavenly body is a mirror," Sean offered with matter-of-factly strolling up to the telescope and patting it. With a disarming smile and bow he introduced himself, "Sean Lincoln, miss, I didn't mean to startle you."

"Who ... don't touch that, please, it's been calibrated very carefully," she said advancing on Sean.

Sean lifted his hands and took a step back, "Didn't mean to disturb your work. You run this outfit all by yourself?" he said with a touch of admiration.

"Of course not. Who are you, anyway?" she asked.

"Sean Lincoln is my name, what should I call you?" he offered pacing about the room glancing at the machinery.

"Mary Connelly," she said, "but who are you? Why are you here?"

"Well Mary Connelly, tis a pleasure to meet yeh," he said letting a bit of his Irish brogue surface. "I'm here to rescue you, save the innocent people this here device is targeting, and stop Dr Tezlowska. Any other questions?"

Mary frowned prettily, "Innocent people being targetted? I don't understand. This device is for use in uninhabited areas. Dr. Tezlowska has gone to a lot of effort to make that the people are warned. The Apache have been very cooperative because they know the relocation is temporary and in a good cause. Has there been an accident?"

"That depends on your definition of 'accident.' If your intention was to hold the United States of America hostage by destroying good people's homes and towns then the good doctor's plan is going well."

"I think you are mistaken. The plan is to use this device to crater desolate desert in order to make it easier to find water," she said.

"Miss, I'm afraid Dr. Tezlowska has used you. I'm with the Federal Special Services, sent here to put a stop to this threat of the country. Tezlowska along with his associates intends to force the President to sign over land else this here device will destroy more towns. And that is something I can't allow to continue," Sean said in a convincing manner, trying not to scare the young lady but to show the seriousness of the matter.

"You must be mistaken, he is a great man and can explain it, I'm sure." She stepped toward a bell-pull.

"Miss Connelly, please don't do that. Hear me out," Sean said moving toward her non-threateningly.

Sean lunged past the Irish lass and got between her and the bell pull. He turned it into a rather elegant spin past her and found himself in a position to continue the conversation. "Miss Connelly, I know this is sudden and directly offends your good sensibilities but you need to listen or at least investigate independently," Sean put her at ease. "AJ," he called out looking toward the door. "This is my partner," he said by way of introduction, "perhaps if you could lead us out of this...laboratory we could have you talk to someone in the government. Then you could make an informed decision."

"Lead you out? Are you lost? Again, I'm afraid I don't understand," she said.

"We were detained, captured is more the word," Sean said good-naturedly. "Once outside, we can get this all cleared up, then you can return if you desire. Surely that cannot be too much to ask?" he added with a grin.

"He's telling the truth." says another man walking into the observatory - more rugged looking than Sean, but not without his own charms. "I'm his partner, name's AJ. Ma'am, give us a chance to let the facts speak for themselves, but right now we and many many others are in danger, and we'd like the chance to stop it."

The woman looked from one man to the other and back, then shook her head. "I'm sure you are mistaken, still ... if all you want to do is leave, that can't be a problem, can it?"

"One wouldn't think," Sean replied. "If you could show us the way out, we'd be much indebted to you, Miss."

"I'll only be a moment here," she said and turned back to her equipment.

After not much longer than the promised moment, the woman finished her rounds, made a final notation on her papers and set them down. "Now, Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Strebs, if you'll follow me - these tunnels can be confusing. This way." She led them toward one of the exits from the room.

Mary led Sean down a passage as AJ slowly lagged behind. Both men did their best to remember the twists and turns as they went. After a bit, they stepped into a more finished passage and had only gone a few steps when Tezlowska's voice rang out from above. "Mary, my dear, where are you going? Surely our guest hasn't tired of our hospitality so soon?"

"He says he has, sir," said the girl. "I didn't see any reason not to show him out."

"Mary, Mary," Tezlowska shook his head sadly. "You are too trusting. This man as been sent to work against us."

"Being the fair, compassionate man you claim to be Tezlowska," Sean began, "surely there is no objection to allowing Mary to escort us out?"

An exaggerated expression of sorrow came across Tezlowska's face, "Sadly, if you were to go, you would, steeped in evil as you are, attempt to stop us." A selection of Apache had begun to appear, creeping in from various passages and carrying a variety of weapons. "No, you must remain. Mary, please return to the control room. I shall deal with this."

"Resorting to violence, good doctor? Perhaps Mary wishes to make her own mind up as to what is going on here?" Sean turned to Mary taking her hand and whispered, "disable the device until you can talk to Colonel Butler at Fort Collins. Please."

With a sigh Sean turned to Tezlowska, "You need to work on your hospitality, of course considering Willistown this is right neighborly of you."

In the shadows outside the hall, AJ silently slipped back further and began looking for a way up. Tezlowska, meanwhile, was continuing to speak, "Willistown was an unfortunate neccessity. Your government can be very stubborn. Mary, you really must go. Count, see Mary to the control room and then make ready."

Count Polzosky moved forward and gently but firmly began to lead Mary away.

"I presume I will be another unfortunate necessity?" Sean asked Tezlowska loudly so Mary could overhear as she was lead away.

"You are sufficiently persistant that 'unfortunate' is perhaps too strong a word," said Tezlowska. "Take him to the Hexagon. Then keep looking for the other one." A dozen Apaches moved to obey.

Night of the Asteroid, Part 3
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