|Dante Domino, Ultrathief
Author: Michael Panush PM
In a spy-fi world where shadowy espionage agencies rule the world, Dante Domino was a stylish criminal. Now, he's finding himself obsolete, with a divorced wife, a young son and a decaying reputation. The world's moved on - but Dante isn't retiring yet.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Crime - Chapters: 8 - Words: 69,905 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 07-27-12 - Published: 05-23-12 - id: 3025191
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The hovercar descended slowly to the landing pad that topped Dante Domino's crumbling Mediterranean villa on Domino Island. Harvey Diamond sat in the back, still wearing his school uniform for the classes that had ended just an hour or so earlier. He was staring ahead, his hands on his knees, every inch of him expectant and poised. His father, Dante Domino, was in the front seat. His mother, Myra Diamond, sat next to him. They'd been divorced since Harvey's birth. Now Dante had arrived at their house and demanded Myra come with him. He'd promised it would be worth it and Myra relented. Now Harvey was waiting for what would happen next. He loved both of his parents and while he knew the possibility of them getting back together was extremely remote, it was still something he could hope for. He folded his hands as the hovercar came to a slow stop.
Myra hadn't said a word to Dante during the whole journey. It had been extremely awkward, made even worse by the fact that Harvey had wished for them to begin a conversation. Instead, they had both stared out at the ocean and kept their mouths shut. Harvey had tried to start something up himself, but every attempt had failed. Now he was the first one out of the hovercar and onto the landing pad. He looked out over the shining, almost iridescent blue surface of the Mediterranean with the muddy strip of Italy in the distance. He tried to think of something else to say.
He looked back at his mother. Myra was still dressed for work, already tucking her trench coat over her arm to reveal her dark suit and skirt. "It's pretty, isn't it?" Harvey suggested. He pointed back to the sea. "The view, I mean."
"Sure, honey," Myra agreed. She glared at Dante as he hopped out of the hovercar. It was one of his usual vehicles, a sleek black creation with sloped sides and protruding tailfins above the jets. Harvey figured it was stolen. "But you know, Dante, I could get a good view from a photograph. I certainly didn't need to be hauled all the way out here, without having a chance to get Harvey a sitter or a place for him to stay."
"My apologies, my dear," Dante said. "But I did not bring you for the view." He wore his usual thin sweater and charcoal black blazer. His combat belt, containing a pair of silenced automatics, lethal throwing knives, grenades and more equipment, was around his waist. That meant something big was going down.
"Um, I'm old enough to look after myself," Harvey pointed out. "I don't really need a sitter.." Neither of them seemed to listen him. Myra walked over to the small hatch in the corner and pulled it open, revealing a spiral marble staircase inside. She knew the house well. Harvey knew that she had lived here for a while, when Dante and Myra were together. He wondered what it must have been like as he and Dante followed her down the stairs.
He loved both of his parents. More than that, he admired them. His mother was extremely strong, amazingly intelligent and always seemed to know exactly what to do or say in every situation. His father was a man of principles and action, who had once been the greatest thief in existence and still had combat and infiltration experience unmatched by anyone on the planet. Harvey couldn't think of anyone better. He could only hope that he could measure up. But as soon as Dante had arrived, Harvey knew something was wrong. Dante's usual buoyant manner had vanished. He was cold and serious. He had only given Harvey a quick pat on the shoulder before summoning Myra. Harvey wasn't sure why his father was acting this way, but he didn't like it.
They walked down the long, dusty hall leading to Dante's main parlor. Chester, Dante's pet gorilla and butler, was waiting for them. He hummed softly and patted Harvey's head. Harvey gave the gorilla and smile and patted the ape's shaggy arm. Dante headed down the hall, oblivious to all of them. He walked past the open windows, which let sunlight stream in from the sea. Harvey, Chester and Myra followed him. Myra looked at the faded tapestries on the walls, along with posters to ancient rock concerts. She sighed and shook her head at the psychedelic script and odd illustrations, set against the leopard-print rugs and red velvet curtains.
"Christ," Myra murmured. "Dante, have you ever heard of redecorating? This looks like some college freshman's pad, not an adult's house." She stepped over a dark green stain on the carpet and stared at it distastefully. "It reeks of mildew and gin. I gotta say, the old place does bring back a few memories - but you haven't exactly kept it up."
"I'm sorry again, my love." Dante neared a teak door at the end of the hall. "I have not had the money needed to repair my mansion. But I did not bring you here to look at the wallpaper." He pulled open the door. "Here he is, Myra," Dante explained. "You remember Carlo, I'm sure."
The parlor was a bit better kept than the rest of the house. It consisted of a long stainless steel bar, fully stocked with various drinks. Stools with black-leather seats and a few bubble chairs allowed seating. The walls were open windows, looking straight out at the beach and the sea. The bar was not empty. A man in a turtleneck sweater and beret sat at the far end of the bar, a drink untouched by his side. He had a short, trim beard and slicked back hair, which he seemed to be examining in the large mirror behind the bar. Harvey was amazed by how sad he looked. His eyes were wide and deep and a cigarette was burning down, untouched, in one finger.
Myra stared at him. "Carlo Sharke," she said. "My God." She walked over to him and Harvey could tell she was unsure. Her heels clicked on the tiled floor, slowly approaching Sharke. "It's been what - a decade? Or more?"
"I lost track of time after we disbanded," Carlo Sharke explained. He finally stabbed out his cigarette. "I went underground. I didn't have connections that could get me out of jail or an island hideaway and an upbringing that turned me into a master thief." There was a hint of bitterness in his voice. "I did what I had to do." He looked over at Harvey. "Is that-"
"Yes," Dante agreed. He motioned for Harvey to join him. "Carlo, this is my son - Harvey Diamond. Harvey, I'd like to meet Carlo Sharke. A long time ago, before you were born, I called him comrade. Your mother did as well." Dante smiled at Carlo, almost sheepishly. "And I am proud to call him comrade now."
Harvey held out his hand and Carlo shook it. His grip was limp and his hands seemed wet. "P-pleased to meet you, sir," Harvey said, remembering to be polite. "You were in, ah, Revolution 69, I think?" He tried to remember everything he could about that group. There were leftist terrorists, rebels who engaged in robberies and attacks on HAWC, SPYDER, the Legion Eternal and countless other independent espionage organizations in the wild years after the Cuban Missile Disaster. Dante and Myra had joined up and conducted several operations with them, before something went wrong and the group disbanded. Myra's father had pulled strings to get her out. Dante and Carlo Sharke hadn't been so lucky and they were on the run for good now.
Sharke nodded. "That's right, son," he said quietly. "Before it all fell apart." He glanced up at Myra and Dante. "You remember Berlin, don't you?"
"I'll never forget it," Myra agreed. "We were ambushed on both sides of the border - HAWC and SICKLE agents cut us down and rounded us up. It was a massacre and it proved to me that our kind of activism would only end in bloodshed." She drew closer to Harvey. The boy could hear the pain in his mother's voice. "I was pregnant with him, then. I'd just found out, the night before. And after I came so close to killing us both, I swore that I'd find a better life for him."
"A better life?" Dante asked. "Having him grow up in some stinking suburb, surrounded by imperialist propaganda and a hollow, capitalist existence while you create propaganda to make the war criminals in HAWC and the Royal Service more palatable to the American people? Pah!" He spat anngrily. "You let your fear crush your dreams, my dear. And my son pays the price for your surrender."
Myra turned on Dante, a hand protectively going over her son's shoulder. "He's got a normal life, Dante - he's got friends and school and safety, which you never gave him. And you still don't. He told me about all the trouble you've involved him in: robberies in England and Synthesia and a kidnapping that brought him to the moon and it makes me sick! You think that just because I don't tote an AK that I've sold-"
"We were set up." Sharke interrupted them. He spoke quietly, but Myra and Dante both instantly fell silent. Harvey was the same way. He looked at both his parents and then back at Sharke. "We were set up for Berlin," he said. "Someone talked to SICKLE and HAWC. They had everything arranged, in return for immunity perhaps. Then we went into the slaughter and that was the end of Revolution 69."
Dante nodded. "I suspected such a thing."
"Who was it?" Myra asked. "Who was the bastard who turned traitor?" Her voice was cold.
"I don't know." Sharke looked up from the bar. "But I know where they are. That's what I came here to tell you - I've been doing a lot of research into HAWC's classified files and I found out that the traitor from Revolution 69 was sent to a place called Ice Station Boreas. That's one of HAWC's top secret research bases, on an ice shelf in the Arctic coast." He stood up from the bar and walked to the window. "He's there. And all we have to do is get to the Arctic, take down Ice Station Boreas's defenses, go in and get him." He stared outside at the ocean, not looking at Myra or Dante. "I can't do it alone. I don't have the skills or the equipment. But in all of Revolution 69, there was no one better at infiltration than you two. When you worked together, you were unstoppable."
"Very true." Dante grinned at Myra. "You remember that sultan's private floating treasure trove in his high security airship? He thought his fortune would be safe a thousand feet from the earth's surface - and we hijacked the whole ship and flew it right into our base."
"I remember," Myra agreed. "We were kids, then. Stupid kids." She still held onto Harvey. "Carlo?" she asked. "After we get this traitor - what happens then?"
"We kill him," Dante replied. "We get revenge for our murdered pasts."
Harvey had never liked the idea of his parents shedding blood. "You'll kill him?" he asked. "But are you sure? I mean, maybe he doesn't deserve to die and maybe he had a reason for-for doing what he did!" He knew how pathetic his excuse sounded. Harvey looked around the room. The only sympathetic eyes belonged to Chester. "I just don't think you guys should go, um, rushing into things," he added. "It just doesn't seem right."
Myra looked down at him. "You'll understand the situation better when you're older," she said. "This traitor - whoever he is - is a threat to our lives. He's gotta pay for that." She pulled him closer. "Harvey, I love you with all my heart - and I want you to stay out of this. Would you be okay, staying here alone?"
"He would not be alone," Dante said. "He'll have Chester."
"Well, I'll be fine - and Chester's great," Harvey agreed. "But I really don't think you should-"
Sharke interrupted the boy. "Time is a factor here." He tapped his watch. "We'll have to leave if we want to reach Ice Station Boreas at the proper time, before their small garrison receives reinforcements. You have transport, I take it?"
"Hovercars with experimental cloaking devices, in the garage - including a sled for alpine travel," Dante explained. He approached Harvey. "Chester will look after him. I know you will make me proud." He knelt down and clasped Harvey's hand. His fingers felt cold. "This is something we must do. Our lives - our honor - depends upon it. Stay here, my son, and remain safe." He stood up and nodded to Myra. "You are ready, my dear?"
"Sure." She gave Harvey a quick kiss. "We'll be back soon, honey," she said. "Try and do some homework, okay? And don't worry." She grabbed her purse and slung it over her shoulder and then she, Dante and Sharke were walking to the door of the parlor. "The armory still where it used to be? We'll need assault rifles - with silencers - and plenty of ammunition if we have to storm this place. High explosives too, if you've got any."
"My darling," Dante answered. "I had almost forgotten your charming ways."
Then they were gone. Harvey sat alone at the bar, still trying to think of a protest to change his parents' mind. He sat on the bar and then grabbed his backpack and pulled it open. He did have homework, but he doubted he'd be able to focus on it for long. Chester sat across from him and emitted a slow hum. Harvey looked at the gorilla and, all of a sudden, he knew why he felt the hollowness in the middle of his gut.
He stuffed his hands in his coat. "I want them to better than this," he told Chester. "And they are. I know they are. They're my parents and they've never done anything wrong. They're heroes..." He said the last word softly, almost to himself.
Chester hummed and waved his shaggy arm towards the door. Harvey hopped off the barstool and followed him out of the room.
An hour or so later, Harvey and Chester were sitting in Dante Domino's massive ballroom and eating dinner. Chester had cooked up two plates of macaroni and cheese in the manor's large, but mostly empty kitchen, and now they enjoying it while watching Italian soap operas on the massive, four-paneled TV screen. The ballroom had been transformed into something which could have been from a modern nightclub. Colored, glowing floorboards and potted palm trees in the corner, along with the large, circular white leather couch where Harvey and Chester were sitting, made up the dusty decor. With its wide screens and massive speaker systems, at least the Italian soap operas sounded great - even though Harvey couldn't speak Italian and had no idea what was happening.
He watched as one raven-haired, fire-eyed woman slapped a portly man in a fedora. "Wow," Harvey said. "I think she's gonna leave him." He munched another bite of macaroni and cheese, enjoying the taste as he looked at Chester. "What do you think?" Chester hummed slightly in agreement. They both seemed to be doing their best to forget about Myra and Dante's mission.
Then the screen split with static. The soap opera vanished. Harvey washed down his mac and cheese with a sip of apple juice and pushed up his glasses. "Is something wrong with the TV?" he asked Chester, as the screen shifted and split. Now Harvey was looking into the sour face of a man in a green uniform and peaked cap, his chest bristling with medals. He recognized the fellow instantly and sprang suddenly to his feet. It was Commander Augustus Payne, the leader of HAWC and one of the most powerful men in the world - as well as one of the most unpleasant. "Oh no!" Harvey cried. "Chester, we have to shut this off - he must know where the island is and-"
"Hold your horses, boy," Commander Payne drawled. "I don't know nothing. The signal for your daddy's communication device is run through so many scramblers that it could be coming from Timbuktu for all I know - or next door. Besides, we're not moving against Domino Island. If you did, you'd be sitting in the shadow of an Aereocarrier right about now."
"You're not attacking?" Harvey asked. He tried to calm himself. "Well, are you just calling to threaten me or something?"
Commander Payne laughed. "Heh." He folded his hands. He appeared to be sitting at a desk. Harvey could see an American flag in the background. "I could get all manner of enjoyment out of threatening you and watching you squirm, boy. But now, I'm not calling because of that." He clapped his hands. "Barnes! Get over here!"
Another familiar face appeared on the screen, squeezing in next to Commander Payne. It was Agent Niles Barnes, a Negro HAWC operative. He wore a dark suit and thin tie now, instead of his usual blue uniform. Harvey recognized his close-cropped hair and thin nose, as well as the constantly harried expression. "Harvey," Agent Barnes said, his voice calm. "We need to speak to your father. It absolutely urgent, that you understand?"
"Hello, Agent Niles Barnes," Harvey said. "Are you trying to arrest my father, sir?" He tried to stay calm, like Dante Domino would. "Because he's kind of unavailable and I don't think he'd really want to talk with you at all..."
"We don't want to arrest him," Agent Barnes explained. "We want to save him."
"Well, normally, he needs saving from HAWC," Harvey answered. "And I'm not sure I trust you guys." He pointed to Payne. "Commander, you tried to sabotage the peace meeting on Friendship Island. You would have beaten me to a pulp without pause. And you, Agent Barnes, invaded this mansion and tried to arrest or kill my father. So, I'm sure you're both pretty far from trustworthy." He nodded to Chester. "Can you change back to the Italian soap operas? I think I enjoy listening to those a little more."
"Wait!" Agent Barnes cried. "Listen to me - we've got countless moles in SICKLE and the Soviet Union. And they report that the Soviets had turned a man named Carlo Sharke to their side." Agent Barnes cocked his head. "You know the name?"
Harvey's heart pounded. It seemed to be crawling up his throat. "Yes," he said quickly.
Agent Barnes continued. "Sharke was going to convince Dante Domino to join him in an operation against one of our top secret research bases - Ice Station Boreas - and then, after the defenses were brought down, he'd call in a squad of SICKLE commandos led by anonymous Soviet super assassin Comrade Blank to slaughter everyone. Dante Domino would then be captured and killed. Beria's boys want him almost as much as we do."
"Oh no..." Harvey clutched his hands. His mind was racing. He knew there had been something wrong with the mission. "And they already left," he muttered. "They just left and they're probably already in the Arctic and near the Ice Station." He looked back at Agent Barnes and Commander Payne. "Thank you," he said. "I'm sorry if I was a little rude to you. I'll try and figure this thing out and protect my father and mother now."
"You could work with us," Agent Barnes suggested. "Your father could make a deal - service for immunity or a reduced term in prison."
"Yeah!" Commander Payne agreed. "Don't you worry, boy. We'd have him fully programmed and assassinating Latin American Heads of State within the week. Get him to surrender. He's got a bright future ahead of him."
There was no way Dante would agree to that. Harvey nodded to Chester, who approached the TV. "I don't think so," Harvey answered. "Goodbye - and thanks again!" He nodded again. Chester reached up with a hairy arm and switched off the television. The screen went black. Now silence filled the ballroom and Harvey was left with his own thoughts. All of them surrounded one burning fact - he had to rescue his parents. He turned to Chester. "I don't suppose can get a message to them?" he asked. "All the way in the Arctic?"
Chester shook his head. The gorilla seemed pensive, like he knew what was coming next. He sat on his haunches and watched Harvey pace back and forth with his mechanical eye, humming softly to himself slightly. Harvey knew that Chester was frightened. It didn't make him feel any better.
"Okay," Harvey said to himself. "Okay. So we'll have to go over there and warn them ourselves. I can't drive right now - I mean, I don't have a license or anything - but you can, right, Chester? And my dad must have extra cars." He looked over at Chester. "It's simple. We just zoom over there, warn my parents, save their lives and get them out of Ice Station Boreas before the SICKLE agents arrive. No problem." He grinned to himself. "Sound good?"
The groan that escaped Chester's lips was more mournful than negative.
"Come on, Chester!" Harvey cried. "I've got to save them! I've got to prove that I'm the same kind of hero they are." He folded his arms and stared down the much larger gorilla. "Now let's go to the garage, get the fastest hovercar available and head straight to the Arctic."
With a deep hoot, Chester relented. He headed out of the grand ball room and Harvey followed. Harvey caught up to Chester's powerful strides and patted his shaggy arm. Chester didn't seem to notice. They walked down a hall and then a flight of stairs that brought them to the garage. Harvey stared at the various hovercars, all lined up near the rectangular opening that led to the beach and the fading blue sky beyond. It was like being in some kind of candy store, where ever product was sleek, fast and stealth black. Chester moved to a hovercar at the far end, a raven-black model with large silver headlights. Chester slammed open a door, tossed a pair of black duffel bags of Arctic supplies into the back and then reached to the far wall. A shotgun and belt of ammo was waiting for him. Harvey watched Chester sling the shotgun over his shoulder. He felt a little spike of fear strike into his heart.
They got into the car, Chester taking the wheel and Harvey sitting next to him. Chester revved the car to life and then they were roaring out of the open garage door and into the sky. Harvey shifted in his seat, nervousness creeping to life inside of him. This all seemed to be going too fast. One moment he was enjoying some Italian soap opera and now he was hurtling through the sky in the direction of the Arctic Circle, the only hope his parents had. He felt sick. He gripped the side and stared out the window. Everything was a dark blur. Chester must have selected the fastest hovercar in the garage.
The acceleration made Harvey's ear drums pop painfully. He gulped and tried to calm himself. Chester looked over at him, petted his head and made another comforting humming noise. "Thanks," Harvey said. At that point, he was grateful for anything. He slouched in his seat and waited. Thanks to the super-fast hovercar, he didn't have to wait long.
Chester hooted and patted his shoulder. He pointed to the back with a thick finger. Harvey spun around and saw the duffel bags. He unzipped one and saw that each was full of cold weather gear, including furry knit hats and thick parkas. He fumbled around until he found the smallest jacket, then slipped it on. It was awkward putting the bulky jacket on. After it hung over his shoulders, Harvey felt like he was in the palm of some furry monster. He struggled to zip the jacket closed. When he glanced up at the window, he saw that they had entered the Arctic.
Everything below them was brilliantly blue water, split through with jagged flows of ice. Up ahead was the mainland, a great hunk of frozen bluish white ice with cliffs rearing high above the freezing water. The ice expanded out to the horizon, covered with snow and broken only occasionally by a spur of rock. The air was swathed in mist and fog, so it seemed that white curtains were obscuring everything and waving against the ground. It was an amazing sight, the kind of thing that always entranced Harvey in his National Geographic magazines. Harvey pressed his nose to the glass of the hovercar window and stared down. He could already feel the cold, creeping in through cracks in the door. He was grateful for the thick parka and paused to put on his hat. Chester didn't seem to notice the cold at all.
"Wow!" Harvey said. He turned back to Chester and beamed, almost forgetting why there were in the Arctic. "It's amazing, isn't it?" he asked. "That's another thing I love about Dante Domino's son - I get to travel everywhere. Even if I'm in danger, the traveling is swell."
Before Chester could agree, a light on the dashboard flickered the red. Chester hooted in panic and then his thick fingers danced across the control panel. A small screen switched on, revealing a green radar field swishing over a black screen. A number of bright red dots appeared, flashing like a predator's eyes in the dark as the line of the radar line ran over them. Chester switched more buttons. The hovercar started to descend, its engine roaring as the wind tore at its sides. Harvey held on, feeling his stomach lurch as the vehicle began its descent.
Harvey glanced up to the windshield and then he saw them - nearly a dozen humming, oversized helicopters winging their way through the cold mist. They were bulky aircraft, each bristling with rocket pods and machine guns. Even before he saw the gleaming red sickles emblazoned on their sides, Harvey knew the helicopters served. This was SICKLE's strike force. Harvey winced as the helicopters winged closer. All their efforts and they had still gotten their too late. Now the helicopters would outmaneuver them and blow them from the sky. Harvey would let his parents down.
The foremost helicopter fired. A missile roared to life on the helicopter's side and shot out, zooming across the sky and leaving a white trail of smoke behind it. Chester hooted and grabbed the wheel. He gave it a spin and the whole car twisted around. Harvey gasped as the car barrel-rolled completely, then spiraled down straight for the snowy plains.
The hovercar tore upwards as it neared the ground, causing snow to burst around it as the vehicle righted itself and shot forward. Harvey was glad he had put on his seatbelt. Behind them, the homing missile exploded in a shower of fire and ice, which ripped into the Arctic plain and shattered ice and dirt. "Nicely done!" Harvey cried. Then he glanced up and looked back at the helicopters. He felt his stomach grow cold again. A flurry of missiles, perhaps two dozen, were now speeding straight down at them. The helicopters were unloading their weapons.
Chester gripped the wheel and roared. It was a pained and frustrated roar, terrifying to hear. The hover slammed hard to the side. Its edges dug into the icy plains, casting up showers of snow. Harvey was thrown hard to side, enough to bang his shoulder and chest against the car door and cause a blast of pain to race through him. The pain and nausea and fear were all coming together in a terrible mixture. Harvey looked back at Chester and saw him straightening out, then ramming down on the gas pedal with a shaggy foot. The hovercar shot forward as rockets rained down around them. The rockets started to explode, sending up white fountains of ice and sleet. Harvey could hear them, and then he couldn't hear anything else. His hands were clasped on the edge of his seat, his knuckles as white as the snow outside. Then one of the rockets grazed into the hood of the hovercar.
Everything blurred. The world outside became a white and black blur and then it was completely white. The seatbelt bit painfully into Harvey's neck and shoulders as he was wrenched forward. He felt dazed, unsure of which direction was up. He looked up and saw that the whiteness completely covered the hovercar's windshield. Harvey realized that they had crashed into a snowdrift. Then Chester's thick hand was tugging at his seatbelt. Harvey popped it open and reached for the door. Chester did the same. They both rolled out and landed in the snow.
Harvey had seen snowy landscapes before - his school sometimes had ski trips out to the mountains and he had gone along. His natural clumsiness only got worth with a set of skis under his feet and he didn't exactly like it. But those trips had been nothing like this. The cold was biting, almost painful on any bits of his exposed skin. He was immensely grateful for the coat and hat and he wrapped the parka around him as he struggled to stand. The ice felt slick and unstable under his boots.
Next to him, Chester was growling at the helicopters. Chester raised the shotgun and started shooting, more out of rage than tactics. The helicopters hovered above them, covering them with their rockets. A single barrage and they'd be nothing but a red stain on the ice. But the helicopters were holding their fire and hovering closer. They wanted to take Chester and Harvey alive. There was nothing to stop them from doing just that.
"Come on!" Harvey grabbed Chester's furry arm. He had to shout to be heard over the wind. "We have to run!" He knew how pathetic it sounded, but there was nothing else he could think of to say. "Maybe we can head down the ice and find some place to hide from SICKLE. But we have to run!"
With a slow grunt, Chester relented. They both turned and hurried across the ice. It was slow and painful going. The ice crunched under Harvey's school dress shoes, which weren't suited at all to moving through snowy terrain. He just focused on walking, hardly noticing the wind whistling around and the helicopters' rotors rumbling up ahead. Nothing seemed to matter but putting one foot ahead of the other and continuing to move forward. Then he heard Chester hum and hoot. The gorilla grabbed his shoulder and pointed forward.
Up ahead, just a few more feet through the snow, a steel hatch had opened in the ground. It was dark, riveted steel and completely covered with ice. A figure in a thick jacket, white to match the surroundings, was inside. She was calling to Harvey and Chester. In a few seconds, Harvey recognized his mother's voice.
"Mommy?" he whispered. "Mom!" His cheeks reddened a little in embarrassment at what he had said. "Mom!" She was there to protect him, like he always would be. Harvey felt a deep warmth burning inside of his chest. It was comforting. He almost forgot the cold.
He and Chester pounded across the snow. The SICKLE helicopters were swinging down, already raising their guns. They had apparently given up on capturing Harvey and Chester alive. Instead, the miniguns on the noses of the choppers started to spin. Harvey could hear their whine, over the roar of rotors and the wind. The miniguns started to spit lead. Bits of snow and ice began to explode around Harvey and Chester. A bullet punched through Chester's shoulder, taking some flesh with it. Chester howled but didn't slow. Harvey felt a sting across his cheek and touched the wound. He felt blood there and realized that a chunk of ice - stirred by the bullets - had struck him and cut his face lightly. He ignored the stinging wound and kept running.
They made it to the hatch. Myra was there, a rocket launcher on her shoulder. It looked like a complex weapon, with a small flat aiming mechanism mounted on the side and a bulbous rocket made of black plastic tipping the end. "Harvey, honey," she said, steadying the rocket launcher and taking aim. "Get inside and cover your ears, okay? And don't worry - your mother's here." She fired the rocket launcher. Harvey covered his ears and slipped into the hatch, Chester close behind. They ducked down and waited.
There was a small slope, leading down to a cement hallway. Above him, he could hear the flash and sudden explosion. He didn't know if his mother had shot down any of the helicopters. At the moment, all that mattered was that he was safe - and with his family.
The hatch clanged shut, soon after Harvey removed his hands from his ears. Myra hurried to him, slinging the rocket launcher over her shoulder. They were in a well-lit cement hallway, somewhere under the ground. Glowing yellow lights were mounted on the walls, providing illumination. This must be Ice Station Boreas. Harvey had expected a big complex, like a warehouse in the Arctic, but it made more sense for a top secret science research base to be underground. He stood back next to Chester, who was sniffing at the wound on his shoulder.
Myra hurried to Harvey's side. "It fired a scrambler pulse," she said quickly. "Should send the choppers reeling. With this wind, it'll be some time before their pilots can get back into control. It'll buy us time." Then she embraced Harvey. Her hands moved his face. "Oh god," she whispered. "You came all the way out here. You brave boy." She pulled a bandage from her belt and slipped it on his cut, then spun him around and examined more of him.
"Mom!" Harvey hissed. "I'm fine."
"Just checking for any more wounds, honey." Myra stood up. "Yeah - it looks like you're fine." Then her eyes narrowed. "What the hell are you doing here, Harvey? We are in the middle of a dangerous mission and I raised you to be smarter than that. You are going to be grounded for a week - a month - when we get out of this. What could possibly have made you disobey me-"
"Carlo Sharke is a traitor," Harvey exclaimed. Myra froze. "I got a call from Commander Payne and Agent Barnes, of HAWC. They told me that Mr. Sharke is working with SICKLE. He arranged this whole thing to bring you here, so you can open up Ice Station Boreas and then be captured by SICKLE. He was working with the Russians the whole time." Harvey considered pausing for breath, but chose against it. "And we couldn't contact you and the Russians were already coming so I just came up here to warn you and help - and I don't like the idea of you killing some for revenge because you're my parents and I know you're better than that!" He finished with a shout, all his frustration seeping into the words. When he was done, his face glowed even more red. "Sorry," he said quickly. "For coming here."
"It's okay." Myra stood up. She sighed. "If I didn't see SICKLE's helicopters outside, I'd think Commander Payne was lying. But SICKLE is coming." She nodded down the hallway. She and Harvey started walking down. "I can see why. Dante's been a thorn in the side of Beria since the beginnings of his career. We used to receive weapons from them for taking out HAWC targets, but Dante wouldn't have it. He talked about what he had seen, while he was robbing from them - and how they slaughtered the Poles and Hungarians when they put down uprisings." She smiled to herself. "He's always been a man of ideals, your father."
Harvey nodded. "I know." He looked back at Chester. The gorilla had finished tying a quick bandage around his arm. "Oh god - Chester, are you gonna be okay?" Chester nodded quickly and hummed. Harvey turned back to Myra. "He saved my life, well, he saved both of our lives, when the hovercar was crashing. And he knew just what to do to get me here."
Myra smiled at Chester. "Thank you, Chester," she said. "I thank with all of my heart." It was the first time she had treated Chester like he wasn't a big, stupid pet who might shed on her carpet. Harvey smiled to himself. Chester nodded slowly and hummed his gratitude.
They walked further down the cement hall and then came to a large set of metal doors. Myra gave them a quick knock. "Open up, Dante," she said. "It's me - and Harvey's with me."
"My son?" The door slammed open. Dante was there, wearing a similar snowy cameo jacket as Myra. He had an assault rifle slung over his shoulder and was also sporting his black ski-mask, with the gleaming white goggles underneath. That was his uniform for thievery. Dante motioned for Harvey, Chester and Myra to get inside. They slipped past the doors and Dante slammed them shut. "I recognized my hovercar's signature on my watch's data display, Harvey, but I did not think it was you!" He slapped Harvey's back, nearly knocking the boy off his feet. "I should have known better! Of course you wanted to come here! The blood of daredevils flows in your veins!"
Harvey wasn't sure about that. He looked around the wide chamber behind the doors. It appeared to be a kind of cafeteria, with rows of plastic and steel tables surrounding a long bar. Most of the bars were occupied by a few families, all wearing robes and pajamas. Some guards in blue uniforms occupied another chamber, some sporting bruises or bandaged limbs. Carlo Sharke stood in the corner, wearing cameo and carrying another assault weapon. He stared straight at Harvey as soon as he entered. Harvey looked at his sad, dark eyes. He'd already condemned Sharke.
Myra pushed her way inside. "He came here to warn us, Dante," she said. She went to her belt, where a heavy revolver rested. "There's no traitor from Revolution 69, which explains why we didn't find one." She drew out the revolver. "No traitor - except for Sharke." The revolver was in her hand. It swung to face Sharke and fired. He ducked back, already bringing up his own assault rifle. Sharke opened fire, unloading an entire clip in his panic as he turned to run through the nearest door. Myra and Dante ducked down. Some of the scientists and their families screamed. Harvey felt awful. His parents weren't supposed to be doing things like this. He ducked down as well, deafened by the roar of bullets and the pinging clang as bullets struck the steel and cement walls.
When he looked up, he saw that Sharke was gone. He looked back to his parents. "Sharke betrayed us?" Dante asked. "To the SICKLE troops outside? If you say it is so, then I will not doubt your word. But I find it hard to believe. He was devoted to the cause. He was always a stalwart, back in the old days..."
"Those days are finished. Nobody's a stalwart anymore, apart from you." Myra slammed open the revolver and began to slide in new bullets. "He would have let SICKLE's troops come right in here. Then you and me - and Harvey - would be tortured, killed and our bodies dumped in some Siberian ditch. Sharke will pay for that. He'll pay with his life."
"No doubt, my pearl," Dante agreed. "But before we begin the hunt, allow me to begin to understand our situation a bit better." He raised his watch and examined it. A holographic display flashed to life, showing a shining outlay of the area. Large red dots were moving towards the center from all sides. "Hmmm," Dante said. He turned to Chester. "What do you think, my old friend?"
"Exactly. The Russians will be arriving shortly. We have no the ammunition to win a drawn-out fight. And HAWC's own troops will also be soon to arrive. They'll push back SICKLE, who have no desire for a prolonged fight - and the inevitable global conflict that will follow - but then they'll capture us and we'll receive the same treatment. We must flee immediately." He walked over to the table in the corner, where a pile of submachine guns rested. Dante grabbed a gun and tossed it to the nearest guard. "You - arm your fellows and begin the defense. You will delay the main party of SICKLE agents. The rest will be forced to find other entrances and that buys us time."
The guard, a flush-faced young man with a pimple on the edge of his nose, barely caught the submachine gun. "Um, I don't think that SICKLE could really know where the other entrances are. We keep all our secrets here at Ice Station Boreas and-"
"Always assume the Soviets know everything," Dante told him. "You will live longer." He looked down at Harvey, Chester and Myra. "Now we must flee, back to the landing site of my hoversled. It will be difficult but, with a little luck, I think we can make it in time and escape."
"You can pull that off?" Myra asked.
"I know he can," Harvey added. He had no doubt at all in the skills of his father.
Dante grinned and ruffled Harvey's hair. "That's my son. Now, let us leave. And the next time we get a chance for revenge, perhaps I will turn it down."
"Except for revenge on Sharke," Myra suggested.
"Well, I don't think-" Harvey started, but his parents were already moving.
They reached the double doors, which opened into the hall. Myra kicked it open and took point, covering the open hallway with her assault rifle. Dante followed, a silenced pistol in each hand. Chester and Harvey brought up the rear. Harvey looked back at the cafeteria before the doors slammed shut. He saw one of the families, with a female scientist clutching her sobbing daughter and staring at him with hurt eyes. They had been forced out of their rooms and held prisoner in their own research base, by Dante and Myra. Harvey had never considered his parents being cruel, but he thought about Revolution 69 and what the terrorist cell must have done in the past. For Myra and Dante, perhaps such actions were standard operation procedure - or second nature.
Dante seemed angry at himself. "Why didn't we check Sharke's story?" he asked. "I have contacts in HAWC and SICKLE. They would have gladly told me what was going on. And normally I do reconnaissance for weeks before even considering a job. But Sharke mentioned the traitor and we both leapt at the chance."
"Well, I guess you guys were upset," Harvey suggested.
"We were immature," Myra replied. "We were a bunch of damn college kids again, playing at being rebels and guerrillas. It didn't work then and it didn't work now." She sighed. "I thought I was better than that. I thought I'd changed. But I enjoyed fighting today. I enjoyed knocking out those guards and cracking this place open like it was some treasure chest waiting to be ransacked. I guess wasn't better after all."
"No..." Harvey stepped ahead to match his mom's pace. "You are. I know you are." He reached out and clasped her hand. She clutched it back and returned the squeeze, then gave Harvey a quick smile. She didn't agree.
They kept walking. Harvey had no idea where they were going. Everything looked the same and they might have been walking in a circle. But Dante would check the holographic display on his watch and assure them which turn to take. At least it was well lit and relatively warm, though Harvey was still shivering a little in his coat. Myra paused to fuss over him and tightened the jacket, as well as wipe frost from his glasses, which embarrassed Harvey more than a little. Then all the lights in the hallway went out.
Harvey emitted a sudden gasp. "W-what happened?" he asked.
"SICKLE cut the power." Dante reached to his belt and withdrew a small flashlight. Its light was powerful, casting a cone of illumination big enough to fill the broad cement hallway. "We are close to one of the exits. They must have used that exit as an entrance while they took the power down." Dante stepped further down the hall, the flashlight in one hand and his silenced pistol in the other. "And now they are just a few-"
A bolt of gunfire tore through the hall. Chester grabbed Harvey's shoulder and pushed him down. Harvey struck the cement floor, feeling his fingers digging on its hard surface. Bullets raced over his head, each shining like a fireball as they rushed down the hall. The gunshots echoed loudly and Harvey heard himself whimper as bullets clattered off the walls and floor. Dante's silenced pistol, Chester's heavy shotgun and Myra's assault rifle all rattle down the hallway to return fire. Noise and light flashed down the hall and Harvey couldn't see who his parents were shooting at. It was like a slideshow, with images popping up and then vanishing in bright bursts of light.
Chester grabbed his arm and yanked him up. They moved further down the hall, hurrying to catch up with Dante as Myra laid down a reverberating blast of covering fire. Dante looked back at Chester. "Protect my son!" he cried. He reached to his belt, where a number of stealth black grenades waited. "I will teach these Soviet dogs the true meaning of revolution!" Harvey saw his father gripping a pair of grenades, sticking his fingers in their rings and then letting them fly. Then Chester grabbed him and hoisted him onto his back. Harvey had done this before. He trusted Chester and he trusted his father. He dug his fingers into the coarse shaggy fur and held on.
The grenades roared to life. They filled the edge of the hall as Chester began to run. Now Harvey could see the outlines of the SICKLE commandos - broad-shouldered tanks of men in thick white coats, with ushankas bearing the red sickles on their heads and blazing weapons in their hands. They were falling back into an adjoining hall as they kept shooting, running from the brilliant blooms of the grenades. Then Harvey saw another figure, staying in the shadows as the grenades ripped into the walls and floor. This man wasn't running at all, even though the explosion was near enough to wrap him in heat and shower him with crumbs of concrete. He wore a trench coat and fedora, a flesh-colored, featureless mask hiding his face completely. Harvey shuddered. It was Comrade Blank, the Soviet super assassin and ruthless killing machine. Despite himself, he began to wonder if his parents would prevail.
"Mom! Dad!" he shouted to Myra and Dante as they all hurried down the hall. "It's Comrade Blank!" He pointed to the far corner of the hallway, but by then Comrade Blank had alraedy vanished. Harvey stared at the spot and saw only blank cement. No one could possibly be that fast. Maybe he was just imagining things? There was no way of knowing.
"Forget him," Dante replied. He patted Chester's flank. "Keep moving. Almost there."
They continued down the hall. Then, up ahead, Harvey saw it - a small cement staircase leading up to a steel door. It was their exit. Dante rushed for it and pushed it open, while Myra fired back down the hall at the Russians. Then the door was open and they were stepping out, straight into the driving snow of the frozen Arctic.
After the warmth of the Ice Station, the cold was terrible. It clawed at Harvey and he clung tightly to Chester and was grateful for the gorilla's warmth. They walked out of Ice Station Boreas and into a large white field, pockmarked with jagged ravines of ice and hills of packed snow. Just past the field was the sheer cliff that ended the Arctic plain. It was an almost impossibly high cliff, with miles of pale ice leading straight down into the cold and frozen sea below. Looking down was enough to make Harvey feel sick. The sleet and mist remained over the coast and there was no sign of the hoversled. Dante plunged ahead, walking straight into the snow and hugging the coast. Chester followed him. Myra kept pace with the easy strides of the gorilla.
As she walked along, Harvey saw that she was looking at him. "I'm okay, mom," he said. "Really. Besides, it's just a little further, right? Daddy - dad says that the hoversled is just out here and I believe him. He'll get us out of this."
"You think so?" Myra asked.
"Of course," Harvey said. "Don't you? I mean, you are following him after all." It seemed obvious to point out, but Harvey wasn't sure it was the right thing to say. Myra simply stared at him and then she smiled and nodded her agreement.
"I suppose I am," Myra said. "Your father's a lot of things, honey. But - when it comes to tactics and infiltration - he's usually right. Other things, like being an adult and taking care of himself, are a little tougher. But he is good at his job. And he does care about you and me."
Harvey liked to hear his mother talk this way. It wasn't exactly affection for Dante - that would be too much to hope for - but it was at least respect. He was going to tell her so, when heard a shrieking rumbling coming over the snowy plains. It wasn't the wind. Harvey turned around and then he saw a brownish blur zooming straight for them, like some great hawk flying down from the skies. It was Comrade Blank. The Soviet assassin was flying, though he didn't appear to have any jetpack or rocket boots. He was simply shooting through the air, his hands outstretched and his trench coat billowing around him. Harvey couldn't imagine how it was possible, unless SICKLE had technology that nobody could fathom. From what he knew of the Soviets, Harvey wouldn't put it past them.
Comrade Blank began his descent. He sped down, his coat flapping around as he leveled out and then slammed into the side of Chester. The gorilla fell down into the snow, hooting in terror as he crashed into the ice. Harvey tumbled off Chester's back and fell straight into a snowdrift. He sank down, falling hard under the ice as he flailed and tried to right himself. He was already bruised from being knocked around in the hovercar and the fall to the ice only hurt him more. Comrade Blank bounced off of Chester and then his boots struck the snow. He turned to face Myra and Dante.
Dante leveled his silenced pistol at Comrade Blank. "I've heard of you," he said. "The elite Soviet murder machine. Tell me, were you grown in a lab? Or made in an assembly line?" He kept the gun aimed at Comrade Blank, who remained motionless and silent as a statue. "Well, come on then," Dante hissed. "Whatever you are, you're no match for me!"
He started shooting. Comrade Blank ran across the icy plain. His arms drooped and two long, slightly curved blades - like kukris - fell into his black gloved hands. Then he was swinging the blades at Dante, and they moved so fast that they hummed through the chilled air. Dante fell back, still blasting away with the pistol. Then he screeched in pain as the edge of one of the kukris cut into his arm and slashed the pistol away from his grip. Dante fell back. He went for his own knife - until a kick from Comrade Blank sent him back into the snow.
Myra raised the assault rifle. "Don't-" she started, but Comrade Blank hurled a kukri in her direction, without even turning. The kukri slashed past Myra's shoulder. It knocked her back, causing red blood to blossom and spray like shining paint on the snow. The assault rifle fell into the snow as well. Myra gasped. Harvey crawled to her. He could hardly believe it. He knew his parents could not be defeated but Comrade Blank had just done the impossible.
Quickly, Harvey reached his mother. His hands ached from dragging them into the snow. He couldn't stop shivering. But he still grabbed Myra's hand and pulled himself closer. He reached into her belt, digging into the various pouches until he found some bandages. "It's okay, mom," he said, straightening the bandages and preparing to press them down. He told her what she had told him. "Don't worry. Everything will be okay."
Then he felt Comrade Blank's grip on his throat. The fingers seemed made of iron and Harvey could only struggle to breathe. Comrade Blank wrenched the boy back, tossing him in the snow. Harvey tried to squirm away, but then Comrade Blank rammed his knee into the boy's gut and pinned him. Harvey felt pain flare to life all over. It was like he was strapped to an operating table and Comrade Blank was calmly taking him apart with a surgeon's precision. He glanced over Comrade Blank's shoulder and saw a dark shape looming up, before the assassin's fist struck his nose and bloodied it.
Dante leapt at Comrade Blank from behind. He plunged his own knife into Comrade Blank's back, striking deeply and drawing blood. Comrade Blank turned away from Harvey, spun around and dispatched Dante with a spinning kick. The blade was still buried in his shoulder. Then Comrade Blank raised his knife to finish him. Dante tried to rise. He didn't seem to moving fast enough as the silver knife rushed down.
"Blank." It was Myra. She was holding the assault rifle, aiming it with one hand at Comrade Blank. "Stay away from my family." She fired the assault rifle - or rather, the grenade launcher slung on the bottom. The grenade arced through the air and landed right behind Comrade Blank. It exploded, showering Comrade Blank with ice and knocking him back. Then it did its real work. The ice under Comrade Blank's feet shattered. He went down and Harvey looked up and saw him falling straight over the edge of the massive cliff. Chunks of ice fell with him. Harvey looked down and saw the flapping brown trench coat, vanishing in the white rain.
Then Dante was grabbing his hand and pulling him back, away from the cliff. Myra ran to them, followed by Chester. They huddled together, shivering slightly as they walked away from the cliff's edge. Harvey could hardly believe it. Comrade Blank was gone. He looked up at his parents and felt ashamed that he had ever doubted their success. He tried to think of something to say.
"Thank you..." he murmured. "Thank you for-"
"That's okay, Harvey," Myra said. "We're almost there. Save your breath and let's go."
They continued walking into the snow.
After a few more minutes of pushing through the falling sleet and snow, the cold clinging to them and making every step painful, they finally reached the hoversled. It was a sleek vehicle, with flared edges like a flying saucer and a pair of long runners resting in the snow. Of course, it had a stealth black paint job. But there was somebody already there, a figure in a white jacket standing by the motor. He had just gotten there a few minutes before and seemed just about to touch the vehicle. it was Carlo Sharke. Dante and Myra raised their guns and cocked them. Sharke froze. Harvey did too.
Slowly, Sharke turned around. "I'm sorry," he said. Dante walked over to him, holstering his silenced automatic. Sharke's short beard was frosted with white, so he looked much older than he had before. His hooded eyes, the lines on his face and his mournful look seemed to add to his age. "You don't understand, Dante - SICKLE would have me tortured and killed me if I refused. They had their knives ready and were just about to break the skin before I relented! They still might kill me, if they ever catch me again. Please." He drew closer to Dante. "Just spare my life. That's all I'm asking."
"You're asking too much." Dante grabbed Sharke's throat. He slammed him against the side of the hoversled. "You've endangered my son and my wife. You've nearly destroyed us all. You must pay for that in blood."
Sharke turned to Myra. "M-Myra, please!" he cried. "You always were the best of us and the kindest."
"Not anymore," Myra replied. Then she turned over and looked at Harvey. "Harvey, why don't you go back over that hill there and wait for us, all right? We won't be long. Then I'll get you and we can finally go home."
But Harvey stood his ground. "No," he said. "I didn't like it when you left to kill somebody and I don't like you killing a defenseless guy right now." His voice shook, but he stood his ground. "I don't like it. You're my parents and I know you're better than that. You're heroes and heroes don't kill people for revenge. Maybe you've done some bad things in the past, when you were with Revolution 69, even if you did them for good reasons. But all the time I've known you, you've always been heroes. And I don't want you to change now."
Myra and Dante looked at each other. For a while, there was no sound but Sharke's whimpers. Chester hummed softly. Dante sighed. "My son," he said slowly. "You know, I made the same sort of announcement to my own father, when I refused to follow him into the assassin's trade. Harvey, you truly are my son." He turned back to Sharke and then struck out with his fist. He drove it neatly into Sharke's face, bloodying his nose. He sunk down. Dante pulled a pair of handcuffs from his belt and snapped them onto Sharke's wrists. "We'll leave him for HAWC," he said, pulling another steel cylinder from his coat and pulling the pin. Orange gas started to seep out. He set it down next to Sharke. "He'll probably make some deal with them to survive."
"You think so?" Myra asked.
"Yes. He is not a man of principles. Not like me." Dante looked back at Myra. "Does this decision sit well with you, then?"
"I suppose it does," Myra said. She leaned down and glared at Sharke. "But let me tell you this, buddy. You come after me again - you come after Harvey or Dante or even Chester - and I won't let my wonderful son talk me out of putting a bullet through your traitor's brain. Got me?"
"Y-yes!" Sharke whimpered.
"Good." Myra nodded to the hoversled. "Now let's go."
They piled into the hoversled. Harvey sat between Dante and Myra in the back. Chester drove. The gorilla started the engine and the sled shot forward, the runners sliding silently over the snow before lifting off and taking to the sky. The hoversled gained height and kept soaring, until it was lost in the mist and fog of the sky.
Harvey sat between his parents. He leaned his head on his mother's shoulder and closed his eyes. It felt wonderful. He knew that he had the best parents in the world.