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Under a Killing Moon

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Revision as of 03:16, 21 December 2012 by Trier (Talk | contribs) (Chapter Twenty-five)

Under a Killing Moon is the novelization of the video game of the same name, written by Aaron Conners in 1996

Prologue

We are introduced to the world of Tex Murphy, a private detective character created for the games Mean Streets, Martian Memorandum and Under a Kiling Moon. The world has been through a Third World War and a radioactive disaster. A percentage of humanity has mutated.

Tex Murphy lives in the former Ritz Hotel, in Old San Francisco where the mutants have gathered. It’s December 2042, about 20 days before Christmas and Tex is under a bad period of his life, divorced and without a case.

Chapter One

Tex is flying in his speeder, a futuristic airborne personal vehicle, lamenting on his lack of Lucky Strikes, as he can't find a single pack in Mexico City. He finds a forgotten Malrboro Rojo cigarillos in the passenger seat, and although he doesn't like it (he compares them to Sauron's creations in the foul-stench bowels of Barad-Dur, he satisfies his addiction.

He passes near a building called Torre Latino Americana and lands his speeder somewhere near the Dulce Vida building. He seems a bit out of place as flying vehicles are out of the norm in Mexico City. He notices a gang of juvenile delinquents who were interested in his speeder. An hour passes as he stalks the appartments near that of Eddie Chang, before the neighbours' lights go out.

Tex exits his speeder and takes a number of wrapped packages, pretending to carry presents, his plan for entering the building without having the magnetic card the tenants have. He goes to the entrance at the east side of the building waiting for someone to show up. An old lady approaches and opens the entrance, and seeing him carrying the packages, she "helps" him by holding the door for him to enter. The two people enter the elevator, and as the lady exits at the third floor, Tex ascends to the eighteenth floor, where Eddie Ching's appartment is.

Chapter Two

The chapter goes back two days ago when Tex invetigated the building. Pretending to be a buyer, he approached Alfonso, a manager, who showed him an empty appartment and briefed him about the security facilities of the builging. The next day Tex had stalked the building but had no luck as Eddie's nighbour did not leave.

Now back to the present, Tex enters the empty apartment and unpacks his equipment. Making sure his windows have no alarms, he exits and walks on te ledge. He passes after 3 apartment windows and reaches Chang's. With his particle-beam-detection goggles, to find that the windows are made of LCD alarm glass and the floor is protected by a laser net.

With a laser-blade, after memorizing the cycling grid pattern of the sensitive blue lines, Tex opens a hole on the glass and reaches the switch to shut it off. Being unable to find a way to disable the laser net, breaks into the adjacent apartment, and again, with his laser-blade cuts through the plasterboard wall behind a sofa, to Ching's apartment. He finds himself in a den room, full of aquariums and terrariums of lethal serpents. He searches a desk where he notices the name of "Lowell Percival" (a billionaire industrialist who had been his client) in a name list of people interested in buying rare artifacts.

After examining the living room, full of mirrors, a bookcase stuffed with books and a cabinet with exotic antiquities, he discovered a safe behind a painting but he could not open it. He became disappointed but then realised that the wall behind the case was a rectangle of space about 15 feet. Unable to move the case, he went to the batroom and cut through the wall with the laser-blade, and found himself in a treasure room complete with statues and paintings (having destroyed a genuine Rebrandt). There also was a crystal bird statuette 16 inches tall on a marble pedestal, the artifact that Countess Renier sent him to fetch.

As he takes the artifact, the alarm goes off. Hurriedly, he returns to the den as he hears steps and voices coming. He opens the terrariums and sets the reptiles free. He exits through the hole and covers it with a stereo speaker, and then covers the other side with the sofa. He exits the window as men knock the door of the empty apartment, and returns to the unoccupied apartment. Looking through the peephole, he sees the open elevator with Alfonso leading some men to Ching's room; Tex quickly opens the door and rushes to the open elevator, only to get noticed by the people.

Tex stops the elevator at the second floor and breaks into an apartment, startling an old man, and throws himself out of the window, falling 20 feet below onto a flower garden. Under gunshots, he ran to his speeder, successfully ignites the engines and takes off. The geo-grid guides him to Brownsville, Texas.

Chapter Three

Tex is found at the Post-Nuclear café, a Brownsville dinner popular among truckers and migrant workers and finally enjoys his first Lucky Strike. His rapture is interrupted by an impatient LaDonna, the orange-headed waitress of the dinner. Tex orders a white grilled cheddar sandwich (seeming the safest choice) and a gallon of extra thick coffee and then admires her as she approaches the kitchen.

Tex doesn't enjoys his smoke and coffee, thinking of his friend's Louie Lamintz's Armageddon blend.

He then notices a man who fell onto the bar, which reminded of his own recent situation, which wasn't embarassing for Tex only because he had not the money to drink in public: he'd spent most of the previous month locked in his office with a bottle of alcohol listening to Edith Piaf Cds, wishing for Sylvia's return, his divorced wife.

He ponders about his recent emotional hell, when he is again interrupted by the arrival of his meal. Amazed by LaDonna's professionalism and accurate movements, he compliments her only to get the reply that she is too much for him.

As Tex tastes his sandwich, he remebers he past career, how it all started while he watched The Maltese Falcon. Although he did not understand the plot, figures of fedoras, trench-coats and PIs captivated him for the rest of his life. He then lights a second cigarette looking forward to deliver the statuette to the Countess and receive the remainder of his fee. He considered spending some to at Lamintz's place; Louie was kind enough to keep Tex a tab while he had no money, and Tex also suspected him for paying his vid-phone bill, allowing him therefore to be contacted by the Colonel for his new job.

As Tex returned to sobriety, he discovered that his money amounted below $99. He owed two months’ rent, alimony to Sylvia, tab to Louie, even to Digby his bookie. He needed money desperately.

He remembers as he visited Filmore to see Countess Renier in her mansion. The old woman was after an invaluable rare family heirloom which was stolen from her. She paid other investgators and Tex was a last resort. Tex was given $1000 dollars as a retainer and promised $29000 when the job was done. The Countess gave him no leads other than a bad picture, but his underworld contacts, namely the gangster Franco Franco, gave him the name of Eddie Ching.

Now, after some days he has the statuette in his backpack ready to collect his reward. He finishes his coffee, pays LaDonna and finds his way to his speeder. As he pulls up the door, a white flash blinds him as something hits the back of his head.

Chapter Four

Tex is suddenly found in his office, returning from an alcoholic slumber. In front of his desk he sees Colonel Roy O'Brien, his former mentor who pays him a visit. They talk about their strained past; 15 years ago Tex made a mistake which humiliated the Colonel in front of his peers. As a result Tex was kicked out of the detective agency and they avoided each other ever since. Now O'Brien is in his office for an unspecified reason.

Then Tex wakes up from that flashback to find himself lying down on the street, feeling the hit behind his skull. There is an awful smell and he is unable to move or respond. Around him he hears a woman scolding her boyfriend for sleeping with her sister and grandmother. A woman asks him if he is thirsty and throws some water for him, but he coughs it out.

2 days later he opens his eyes to see that he is in the Brownsville Regional Hospital; Dr. Berry and Nurse Chase are tending him. He is told that no backpack was found near him; this only panics Tex and asks to leave the hospital. He is denied as his medication could have antisocial effects; Tex threatened that this could result in violent seizures, but this resulted only in a hypodermic shot to hold him at bay.

Having nothing else to do, he watched the news. He hears about a bombing in Los Angeles which obliterated the headquarters of CAPRICORN, a left-wing group which sided with the Mutant League. The Crusade for Genetic Purity were deemed as the suspects.

Then it was time for Tex to leave the hospital. Tex noticed that his wallet was intact and he was sure: it was not a robbery; the assault aimed at the statuette. The police drove him back to his speeder outside the Cafe. Nobody, nor the police, nor anyone in the vicinity knew or saw anything.

Tex drove back to his apartment in New San Francisco and pondered what to do. He considered visiting the Countess and ask for some support or compensation. He then drove to her mansion but things were not as expected. Everything is dark and quiet, the mansion is abandoned with a Century 22 for sale sign. All entrances are locked and Tex breaks a window to enter the dark building. Only boxes and potted plants. Even the fireplace was cold. Then he realised that the case was a set up.

Chapter Five

12 hours later, Tex is in his office drying after a shower, recounting his last adventure and his collection of injuries. He collects his mail and sits at his desk. As usual, it's bills and junk mail.

He skimms through a threatening mail from his landlord Nilo, a note from Zebra Speeder Finance Corporation, a bill from West Coast Bell charged with an unreasonable amount, an application for a Master Express credit card, an ad for a dating service, a donation form to the Humane Society, a discount coupon booklet for dry cleaning and Et Tu Brute pizza, another credit card application for the Radioactive Shack; and finally, an envelope without return address, containing a blue card with BXK+A261184 written on its side.

He stands up and stares outside at the Chandler Avenue. His crush, Chelsee Bando, is talking with a NSPD cop before he takes 2 styrofoam cups to his police speeder. Tex wonders whether they are staking out for him.

As for now, Tex decides to investigate who set him up. He vid-phones the estate agency. Mrs. Kaitlyn Abbot tells him that the Countess' mansion was owned by some Mrs. Greenburg and hadn't been occupied for the last 6 months.

Tex in his speeder flies under an acid rain and returns to the mansion. He enters from the back. All he finds in the living room was a full asthray with butts of a brand he'd never seen before. Returning to his speeder he flies to a convenience store and accesses a list for tobacconist shops on a pay phone, where he thought get a lead from the strange cigarettes. He locates one called Cigar Bar. Before leaving, he contacted his acquaintance in the SFPD, Lieutenant Mac Malden from the downtown precinct and left him a message to call him back at his office. Perhaps his men will investigate the house and find more leads.

He arrives at the Cigar Bar near the Wharf. He approaches the landlord called Gabby, who seems to fancy Tex's retro style and comments on his Luckies, the Fedora and his wing tips, and begins a chatter on noir figures. Tex then produces the butts to him. The cigarettes are Gitanes Specials, found only in France. The person who smokes them has been to France.

Tex thanks him and leaves. His only other lead is Lowell Percival.

Chapter Six

Tex arrives at the strange Lowell Percival Enterprises building, an irregular structure belonging to the new neo-anarchic form of architecture. Tex passed a militarized zone (whose checks were so exhaustive and violating that would’ve made a proctologist proud) to the vast foyer. He enters one of the 4 elevator among executive types and arrives to the 51st floor receptionist's station.

The receptionist is a beautiful woman who won't allow Tex in. When she asks his name, she remembers him: she is none other than little Ally Moore, the braces-wearing teenage sister of Debbie. Alayna is excited to see Tex again and does not hesitate to say that she had a crush on him while he was dating her sister. Debbie now has been married and living in Seattle and little Ally has removed the braces and became a charming woman in her mid-20s,

Alayna is so eager to go out with Tex that she asks him out for a drink; she will buy it for him.

Less than a half-hour later, they are walked into Lindsay's, a piano bar on the top floor of the downtown Hilton. A holographic projection of Nat King Cole plays at the piano.

The pair sit on the table enjoying the view and the sunset. Ally's provocative behavior makes it not easy for Tex as they are discussing their news and wondering over the French dishes in the catalogue. Tex says that he is now a PI, married and divorced with no kids. Ally is working for the richest man in the world, summing some money for a doctorate and become a teacher. Tex has a hard time ignoring the part of himself that brings him into trouble with women.

The charming atmosphere is cut short when a couple of Mutants enter the bar. Ally looks at the "goyles" with disgust, wondering who allowed them in. This makes Tex look at Ally differently as most of his friends are Mutants. He coldly says that he has to go, stands up, and hurries outside. Looking forward for some junk food that he can pronounce.

Chapter Seven

Driving back at the Chandler Avenue, the unmarked police speeder is still there, so Tex drives around to the Brew & Stew. Outside the diner, before entering, he feels bad for having his friend Louie hold his tabs for one more time, but he notices a lucky penny next to his shoe, which he collects.

Inside, he approaches Louie and orders chili with meat and cold beer. Chelsee is also in the diner reading The Complete Works of O. Henry. They chat about work, money, and the crusade, whose fanatics have attacked the diner and Rook's pawnshop. The mutants established neighborhood nightwatch to protect themselves from the vandals. Louie brings up the matter of Chelsee who would not accept to go out with Tex. At that instant, she visits the bar ordering vodka tonic, and greets Tex. Talking about job, Tex mentions the mysterious blue card with the code. They rule out the possibility to be a license plate, a VIN or a phone number.

When Tex is ready to leave, a vid-phone call rings for him. It is Mac Malden who warns Tex that the cops are out for him. Colonel Roy O'Brien has been missing for about a week and Tex is the only suspect, but Mac knows that Commissioner Drysdale is after the wrong person.

Chapter Eight

Tex thanks Louie for the dinner and decides to investigate the Colonel's murder himself. He visits his office in Sausalito, which is, as expected, guarded by cops. He lands his speeder near a mom-and-pop convenience store called the Market Basket. He notices a metal grate covering the façade, and a Rockwell Alarm System sticker. Cautiously, he throws a piece of asphalt triggering the alarm, diverting the cops towards his place. That way he manages to approach the office.

There aren't many clues for Tex, only a cigarette which seemed strange as the Colonel last told him that he quit smoking; another strange thing was that it had the Gitanes logo. There was also a pack of blue index cards like the one he received, and the book Perry Mason and the Case of the Sleeping Wife by Erle Stanley Gardner, which he promptly takes with him.

Time was running out and the cops would return. But as Tex is ready to leave, he notices that the office has two thermostat control boxes instead of one. He examines both and realises that one of them is actually a camera lens. He starts looking for the camera containing the videodisc. He is led into the coat closet and discovers a secret compartment leading to a small area. He collects the videodisc but hears voices outside.

After discerning that the cops are not going to enter the room, he finds his way out, and collects a Gordon Lightfoot CD case in order to protect the videodisc. However, at the moment that he is ready to open the window and jump down, he is stopped by a cop aiming at him.

Chapter Nine

It is 9:30 and Tex is found in prison along with hookers, drunk bums, and other figures. He is approached by a wino named Rusty who starts chatting with him. Tex fends him off by saying that he killed his grandparents by cutting them to pieces with a shovel.

Thirty minutes later, guard Blake summons for him, and takes him to Commissioner Drysdale's office. He explained to Tex that O'Brien was his friend, and was missing since 6 days ago, and Tex was now in dire position as his name was found in O'Brien's appointment book. Tex had no option but to tell him that he snatched a videodisc from his apartment, which a guard brings from the files.

Watching the disk, they see that on December 1 O'Brien was paid a visit by a dark-skinned man wearing a long overcoat, golden spectacles and a large moustache. The man then hit the Colonel on the back of the head, wore him handcuffs and sat him on a chair. He lit a cigarette and brought him back with smelling salts and started interrogating and slapping him. It was apparent that the man was from the crusade and responsible for blowing CAPRICORN, and was after the "Winter Chip" about chich the Colonel claimed no knowledge. Eventually he inserted a hypodermic needle into the Colonel's neck and he fell motionless. He returned with another man and together they carried the Colonel outside.

Tex now was free and was at the clerk having his belonging's returned. It is now that he notices a picture from Halloween, the Colonel being dressed as a pirate with a beautiful young woman identified as Melahn. Tex then visits Mac Malden in his office. After finishing a vid-phone call from his wife Joanna, he helps Tex identify the woman: Melahn Tode, on probation for soliciting and possession.

Seeing that Mac is leading a boring life with dull cases with Norms against Mutants, he tells him about his case: the Countess' mansion and the case which was a set up. Mac promises to investigate.

Chapter Ten

The city sparkles with Christmas lights, and speeders filling the air space. Tex thinks how he hates this period of the year.

Having passed by a liquor store, supplied with a bottle of Jack Daniel's, he returns to the office. It is 23:11 and Tex ponders about his life. Miles Davis and John Coltrane's saxophone echo in the room.

He unpacks the bottle and lights himself a cigarette. He watches a vidphone message from Alaynah, who gives her number asking him to call her back, before promptly deleting it.

He looks at an old picture with himself, the Colonel and Xavier Jones, wondering the purpose of his visit some days before he died. He also wonders why he still has Sylvia's picture on his desk. He then spends the next hours smoking one cigarette after another and attempting to solve the code on the blue card.

It is 4 AM and Tex quits thinking. He lits another cigarette and fills one last glass.

Chapter Eleven

It is 6:54 with the first rays of sunlight. Tex observes the empty Chandler Ave and Chelsee coming with a cup of coffee from Brew & Stew setting up her bundles of newspapers on her counter. He goes to the bathroom and refreshes himself. He goes down and politely buys a newspaper from Chelsee. He notices her surprise as he is not flirting her.

He enters Louie's cafe full of breakfast patrons. The tv is set on a silly monring show. Tex finishes his newspaper and the 9th cup of Armageddon brew a little after 8:00.

Ten minutes later, he flies over a run-down area full of rubbles and disintegrating material near Oakland. He lands near the Knickerbocker building, a 19th century residence decorated with dirty columns. He ascends 3 stories and locates Melahn Tode in apartment 11. A blond beauty with long legs and light blue eyes answers the door. Tex produces his fake police ID and requests information on the Colonel. Melahn is devastated to hear that the Colonel is suspected dead.

Inside her apartment, Melahn says that the Colonel never mentioned anything about his job. They met some months ago and were planning to retire and leave together near the end of the year. She also noted that Tex is not a cop. He admitted he is a PI and former friend of the Colonel. He gave his name and number. Tex felt that Melahn was not a common hooker but had qualities that not many can see. The Colonel did.

Before leaving, Melahn allowed Tex to examine some of the Colonel's belongings in the bedroom. He browsed through a hardback novel, reading glasses, a tartan vest, two shirts, a pair of khaki trousers, and boxer shorts. The watch pocket of the vest hid a notebook which he took with him.

Leaving the apartment, Tex noticed that the notebook had a newspaper clipping, a photograph of the statuette.

Chapter Twelve

It is just after 9am and Tex enters the Gaslight Lounge willing to spend the last $40 in his wallet. He orders Old Grand-Dad with a sidecar from Denny the bartender and goes to a circular booth in the corner in order to study the Colonel's belongings. He reads from the newspaper clipping that the statuette was unearthd while renovating an old section of Berlin, and then was stolen from the museum. This was not enough to discern where the Colonel, the Countess and Eddie Ching fit in all this.

At the end of the Colonel's notebook he finds a series of letters and numbers: BCM1206428X8. After some study and looking at an old woman nearby reading the Bay City Mirror, he understands the code as a date: Bay City Mirror 12/06/42 8X8.

He then tips Denny and asks from him another Daddy and a copy of the newspaper 2 days ago, which he brings.

Unable to understand the reference 8X8, he scans the whole newspaper, especially the classifieds. In the "Men Seeking Men" section he finds an especially odd ad: "I gave the extra one to David. He seems elated. Counting exact as per policy norm."

He notices that the meaningless phrase is composed of 64 letters, which he puts in a 8x8 table. Diagonally he would read two things "Land Mine" (a dance club in the new city) and IXDECXPM which he understands as "9 December, 10PM". It is a planned meeting, where Tex will go.

Chapter Thirteen

It is 9:30am and it is a good day. After the clouds and rain of the past several days, the sun is out for the first time in weeks. Tex feels renewed. He is showered and groomed, wears clean and god clothes and a burgundy tie with a chess-piece motif. He took his wallet with his last 22 dollars, and exited the office.

He feels good because of the progress he made in figuring something concerning the Colonel, a proof that his mind still worked. It didn't mind that he is not paid for the investigation but he still feels excited. He approaches Chelsee's newsstand prepared to repeat his advances towards her, but his psychological change fails; she promptly rejects him again saying that she doesn't drink with customers.

He then goes to Louie's joint. He reads in a newspaper about Interpol's investigations for the CAPRICORN bombing, and the growing unrest between Mutants and Norms. As he reads, Louie brings him a mug of coffee, omelette with chili verde filling and chunks of chicken, fried potatoes, slices of wheat toast and orange juice. As usually Louie watches him eating, waiting for Tex' approving reaction. He is also happy to hear Tex' progress the previous day.

Tex returns to the newspaper, reading an article about Lowell Percival, and recalls that he must see him. Out of curiosity he searches the personal ads for any mysterious message, but Rook showes up as he was reading the Men Seeking Men section. Rook mocks him saying that stooping to the use of personal advertising was despicable. Tex thanks Louie and leaves, under Rook's sarcastic comments.

Back in his office, Tex reads that a theater, the Bijou, has two classic movies, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. He enjoys the films in the nearly empty movie house while longing for simpler times. He thinks that technology can't surpass the old-fashioned movies and fashions who gave way to pay-per-view and interactive movies and Hollywood met its demise. Art tried to imitate film noir but nothing was the same without Bogart. Tex thinks how most poeple he grew up with entered the PC or online business, but Tex followed a different career. Gumshoes were replaced by the Web PI but a PC could not replace social engineering and stakeouts.

It is 16:35 and Tex has only $10. He drives to the LPE building. Alaynah is happy to see him and repeats her invitations to Tex, but his uninterested reaction makes Ally to back-off. She arranges a meeting for him with Percival for tomorrow at 15:00.

Tex returns to his office and receives a call from Malden telling him that investigation in the mansion returned zero; and that the Interpol now investigates the Colonel's disappearance, meaning that it is something big. Tex then prepares another pot of coffee to be ready at the Land Mine.

Chapter Fourteen

Tex is in the Land Mine 2 hours later, in the nearly empty nightclub. He orders ice water from a bored waitress and starts noting the 20-30 patrons, looking for the Colonel's contact. He notes two young women, one tall and one round, a Don Johnson wanna-be with midlife crisis, a couple of punk lesbians, a glassed young man and another blond one looking nervous. Other seats were occupied by larger groups of all shapes, sizes and ages.

It is 10:05 and the waitress brings him water. He sits on a corner table and he sips for 15 minutes. Having no luck he starts investigating the club and its dark corners. By the time he returns, his table is occupied by 3 Middle Eastern businessmen. As he orders more water, he sees in the mirror the young man being more nervous than before. He approaches the man, lights a cigarette and speaks the message.

He tells him that the Colonel is missing. The man empties away his glass of beer and says he has no idea about the Colonel's whereabouts. Terrified, he attempts to leave but Tex grasps his wrist. Tex tries to make him trust him and offers to meet anytime and anywhere else, as he only wants to know what happened to him. He tells the man about the Colonel's visit and how he came there. The man, Paul DuBois, says that he is from CAPRICORN and about some trouble. They are interrupted by the waitress who brings another beer and bourbon, which Paul pays (to Tex' relief). Paul explains that CAPRICORN is eradicated and he is there to take something from the Colonel and deliver it to someone else, but knows nothing more. When asked by Murphy, he says that the Winter Chip was something developed by computer scientists to be used against the Crusade. He also tees Murphy about a CAPRICORN mole who ranked high in the Crusade, and the names Phoenix, Chameleon and Dr. Perriman.

Murphy thanks him and tells him that he shoul return to Des Moines with mother and sister. Paul finishes his beer and leaves. A moment later, Murphy sees out of the window Paul taken by 3 men and put into a speeder. Shortly later two suited men enter the club.

Tex runs to the large girl he noticed earlier and asks her for a dance. Her name is Teri. Then chaos erupts when one of the men holds the waitress with a gun to her neck and the other holding off some employees showing his identification. Gunshots are heard. Panicked bystanders are erupting out of the club, and Tex himself finds his way to his speeder.

He flies to his office while wondering about the purpose of the mysterious men. Arriving to Chandler Avenue, he sees several speeders parked outside the Ritz. Again, he parks near the Brew & Stew and walks his way home. Then a speeder stops near him, and a beautiful red-haired, green-eyes woman puts a gun on her chest and orders him to enter.

Chapter Fifteen

The speeder lifted off and drives away from the city. Tex is in the front passenger seat, and the beautiful woman in the back. They introduce as Agents McCovey and Andrews of Interpol. Despite McCovey's suggestion, Tex lights a cigarette. The speeder flies towards the no-man's-land to the north of the city. They land on the roof of a derelict building. It is cold and Tex lights another cigarette staring at beuaitufl Andrews as McCovey throws small gravels into the darkness beyond the edge of the roof, lighted only by the half-moon.

The agents explain that they know about the video disc and inquire about O'Brien's murder. Tex realizes that it is an opportunity to gain some information. McCovey tells him that the man in the video disc is the assassin Chameleon, master of disguise. They believe that Tex might help them pinpointing who paid him, and also about the Winter Chip.

Tex is cooperative and shares everything he knows including Dubois as Andrews takes notes. McCovey explains that CAPRICORN was decimated from the inside, and behind the Crusade there is another power. It is likely that they paid Chameleon.

After the interrogation they head back to the speeder and head to Chandler Avenue. As they fly back, Tex also shares them his meeting with Countess Renier, asked to describe the statue thoroughly.

Tex disembarks and the speeder leaves off. Tex realises that the agents never showed him any identification.

Chapter Sixteen

Tex wakes up at 11 and something and enjoys his coffee as he goes through his notes. He remembers his appointment with Lowell Percival, and also notices the name "Perriman" he noted down the previous day. He traces the name on his computer and finds that he is teaching history at the University of San Francisco.

He flies there and enters the Jerry Rice building where he shares a pre-lecture smoke with some students. He finds a directory on the third floor and finds Dr. Perriman in Romo 319. Tex introduces himself and explains the Professor what he is after. Lighting up a pipe, Perriman tells him that O'Brien approached him some months ago. Tex narrates his adventure, and as he describes the statuette, the Professor recognises it as the "Habuh". He finds its picture in A complete History of Arcana and the Occult which Tex recognises.

The Professor then explains that it is a talisman of an ancient cabal known as the Brotherhood of Purity. Despite hidden and unknown they marked the curse of humanity even before historical times. Their members were few and had an oral tradition until the Docetist composed the Secret Doctrine. They survived the fall of Rome and many historical personalities were members. The Crusades were the cleansing of a splinter group, while the Holy Inquisition was an ethnic cleansing. Hitler tried to adapt the Doctrine to his politics and they exist now.

They prophecise an entity known as the Moon Child. The name is known as the orbital resort for the Crusade for Genetic Purity. Thi would mean that the Brotherhood is behind the Crusade and has reached a point where they no longer feel it necessary to hide themselves.

Chapter Seventeen

It is about 3 o'clock and flies his speeder to Lowell Percival Enterprises. He goes up to the 5qst floor and has yet another encounter with Alaynah his secretary, who now is more charming than before. As she calls Percival, Tex notices a top secret envelope from Genetic Research Systems for Percival.

Tex talks with Percival. At first Tex shows him the photograph of the statuette and Percival doesn't reveal any more knowledge. When asked about Ching, Percival admits that he contacted Ching to buy the crystal bird as a beautiful piece of art. He is unaware about any magical properties and when Tex brings up the subject of the Brotherhood, Percival shows some knowledge although he dismisses its factuality.

It can't be clear if Percival is bluffing or not, and Tex excuses himself. On his way out, he can't but notice a photograph with Percival with Claude Shepherd.

Outside, Tex notices Alaynah again who seems as interested in him as ever. Despite their previous failed encounter, he decides to try once more, especially as she would provide him with more information. They arrange a date at 5 o'clock.

Tex goes outside and rides his speeder. As he flies away, he sees the building being blown behind him.

Chapter Eighteen

Tex lands his speeder and runs towards the zero ground, and sees that the scyscrapper does not exist any more and the whole block is destroyed. Journalists, medics, fire-fighters and SFPD officers with Mac Malden also arrive at the scene. Tex tells Malden that he was inside just minutes before the event. Seeing that he is shocked, Malden tells him to go back to his office.

He stumbles his way to the speeder, and when he regains control of himself, he flew over the panicked city to the Ritz where he falls asleep immediately.

It is 7:10 and he is woken by agents Andrews and McCovey banging at the door. Malden reported to them that Tex was present at the bombing scene. Without asking Tex lights up a cigarette and Andrews responds by caughing politely. McCovey notes several "coincidences" surrounding Tex, such as being the last person to see O'Brien, Dubois and Percival alive. During the interrogation, the agents tell him that there are siilarities to the CAPRICORN bombing in LA, however whereas the previous one was politically motivated, LPE had no such official ties. As Percival's fingerprints were all over Wall Street, the stock market's in a panic leading to another crash. Both Percival and his secretary were found dead (what was left of them) and upon hearing this, Tex crushes out his cigarette.

When he is alone again, he puts a disc of Nat King Cole to relax. The vid-phone beeps. It's Melahn Tode who wants to report another clue concerning the Colonel. A 13 November paper of the Bay City Mirror has a personal ad marked by the Colonel: "Gorgeous, rabid single seeks confidential, open-minded lover. Take away our love, and our Earth is a tomb." Tode is frustrated seeing that her lover was seeking for new acquaintances but Murphy tries to explain that it was only a means of coded communication.

Tex determines that the message is yet another code, and he interprets it as "GRS seeks COL". The rest of the phrase seemed to be a literary quote.

It was just after 8:00 and Tex decises to call the San Francisco Public Library. The white-haired librarian responds to the "trivia" saying that the quote is probably Robert Browning. Tex decides to visit the Library and have a search on Browning and newspapers from the past weeks.

The November 23 edition (17 days previous) has a message "Grandfather reaching sixty seeks comfortable, old-fashioned lady. Pyramus and Thisby meet by moonlight." The December 7 issue has a similary one: "Green-eyed, redheaded Scorpio seeks curvy, outgoing Leo. We sail tonight."

The librarian helps Murphy by saying that Pyramus and Thisby are from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Right befre 10:00 and the Library's closure Tex rents Browning's Collected Poems and a small paperback of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Tex is back to his office studying the books. He locates the Browning quote but the poem does not clarify it. He locates the Shakespearean one at the act III-1, lines 49-50 but again, the context doesn't clarify the meaning..

He stops to rest and sees Alaynah in his sleep. He sees that she miraculously survived the bombing and was helping him with the codes. He asks he about GRS and she points at the manila envelop on her desk, reading Genetic Research Systems.

Chapter Nineteen

The other day Tex decides to search about Genetic Research Systems. He finds nothing in the phone directory. He contacts the firm of his stock broker. Lavercan Kimbell wasn't available but his brother Lemmer adviced Tex to start with the Department of Commerce. The government worker said that such information was strictly off-limits to the public but he would check out a publication of Dun & Bradstreet, a directory of credit information on almost every company.

Tex returned to the Library, returning the books he had rented. He finds the reference book and learns that Genetic Research Systems is located in Sacramento. It is one of six subsidiary companies belonging to Western States Pharmaceuticals, which by coincidence, is affiliated to LPE.

He flies his speeder to Sacramento and lands in an industrial section of the city. The GRS building is an uninteresting rectangular abandoned block. Tex finds both entrances locked and the blackened windows prove to be unbreakable. He decides to land his speeder on the roof. Indeed he finds a trap door up there and breaks its padlock with a hammer.

Armed with a flashlight, he looks around the top-floor corridor. There is no electricity. He is in a storage area with metal shelves, boxes and crates, full of test tubes, chemicals and computer supplies.

Another room houses cubicles with computer workstations. He notices that the last date on a desk calendar was December 7, which gives sense to the coded message "we sail tonight" he read earlier.

The next room is an empty laboratory with counters, steel sinks and overhead cabinets, surrounding empty tables. Tex concludes his investigation checking out the men's and women's bathrooms, two utility closets and an office at the end of the hall, which was as empty as the laboratory.

He returns to the room with the workstations and starts closer inspection. All computers had no data storage clips. In the third cubicle he notices a piece of masking tape beneath the computer with 6 digits, an inventory number. All three computers had such numbers stuck on them. He remembers the Shakespearean quote, Act III-1 lines 49-50; searching all the computers, he find the one with matching numbers: 314950. Tex concludes that the mole left the Colonel this message to locate his computer. Indeed, he finds the data-storage clip inside a tissue box under a pile of papers.

Tex leaves the building and flies back to his city and the Ritz eager to try the clip in his computer and find all the answers he needed. He enters his room, but then someone hits him.

Chapter Twenty

Tex recovers seating on one of his chairs. Two thugs were around him. Sitting on his desk is an Asian woman wearing a red silk blouse and black jeans. He understands that she is Eddie Ching who reprimands him for breaking into her flat in Mexico City. She requests her statuette back to which Tex replies that he doesn't have it any more. Tex' sarcastic comments make one of the thugs to hit him, but Tex requests to tell her goon to quit hitting him in order to talk.

Tex explains that the bird was stolen from him in Brownsville where he stopped for cigarettes and doesn't know where it is. Mentioning this, he pulls out his pack of cigarettes and lits one.

Ching jumps off the desk and says that Tex didn't know what he was doing. When Tex mentions the Countess, Ching is sure that it was another disguise of Jacques Fou. Ching reveals that the statue was important to a cult and she tried all these years to keep it from them. Finding the bird was the last thing the cult would do before destroying the world.

When asked, Tex hands her a cigarette. While smoking, Ching discovers that Tex also knows the Colonel. She decides that Tex can be useful to her, as there are no many on her side. Tex then, still skeptical, produces the data-storage clip from his pocket.

They go to Tex's computer and load the clip while he recounted the events. Ching finds a file labelled COLONEL and found a document written by the CAPRICORN mole. There, he described how he was approached by cult members while working in the GRS and his initiation. He mentions an encounter with Phoenix, and his knowledge that the cult was getting rid of everyone involved in their work once it was completed, and his failure to meet with the Colonel. The last entry was about moving to the lunar penal colony.

Chapter Twenty-one

Tex and Ching with her too thugs, Lou and Felipe, discuss their plans. Ching's connections would help them get a passage to the lunar penal colony without clearance.

Tex visits Louie to relax. He sits next to Rook who is playing chess with another old French-speaking mutant. Louie brings kinds of cheese with pieces of ham and turkey and brown mustard in the center, and some Armageddon to treat Tex. While drinking Diet Shasta Louie tells Tex his problem: his sister's son, Dalton, is graduating from Berkley, but his goddaughter's wedding is on the same day. Tex finds him an easy solution, go to the graduation, because "you only graduate once."

Tex is poked when he hears the Frenchman mentioning "Fou", which is the Bishop of chess in French. He checked again his mysterious blue card thinking that he got the interpretation. BXK+ would mean "Bishop captures King" in chess notation, or in French "Fou prend Roi". Tex interprets it as "Jacques Fou takes Roy O'Brien". The next part, A2, is the "Rook's pawn" which Tex understands as Rook's Pawnshop. They understand that the last five numbers is one of his pawn tickets.

The four guys bolt to the pawnshop, reeking of water-stained maps, dusty steamer trunks, and crackling parchment. Rook finds the number in his tome; no name, for which he paid $50. He produces a wrapped cardboard box containing a letter and a watch.

Tex reads the letter to the other 3 mutants who watch him curiously. The Colonel writes about the cult which brought chaos among mutants and norms since some time, about CAPRICORN, and his task to deliver this watch to Paul DuBois on December 9 at 10P.M. in the Land Mine nightclub. Since he is afraid for his life, he tells Tex to do this. However it is too late.

Back in his office, Tex studies the retro-looking watch and finally wears it. He regrets not having figured out the code sooner and now both the Colonel and Paul were dead.

He is interrupted by a beep on the vid-phone after midnight. Eddie Ching tells him to meet at New San Francisco Interplanetary Spaceport, Terminal G at the courtesy phones in a half hour.

Chapter Twenty-two

Tex meets Ching and her two thugs at the bank of courtesy phones. The thugs make their way through the terminal to the gates and outside the building, and enter an aircraft hangar. Ching leads Tex to an office where Karl Voorman, apparently a smuggler, waits for them. Ching insists that there be no questions asked and offers a handsome payoff for his silence. 5 minutes later, they enter a midsized shuttle-cruiser parked just outside and begin their 30-hour flight. 45 minutes later is almost 5 AM and they are off-planet.

Tex finds some time to interact with Ching. She knows nothing about the Colonel's watch and spares her the details. 600 miles later the craft breaks free of the exposure and the flight smoothes out. Ching produces a large knapsack with ready-to-eat foodstuffs, and (to Tex's delight) 2 bottles of Black Bush Irish whiskey. Ching explains that space flights make her sick, and made Tex consider her a close friend. The two share some gulps, and Tex lights a Lucky, which tastes better under the no smoking sticker.

Lou snorts and jolts asking if they arrived and, being told no, resumes his snoring.

Intrigued by Ching, Tex inquires to know better the fearful woman who is now sitting next to him. She explains that her mysterious reputation was built by rarely interacting face to face with her clients; the less they know, the more they fear. Killing is part of the business as bluffing is not enough. So far Tex's favor is 60 to 40 to not kill him.

Ching narrates that her business is something like commodities dealer. She buys rare and valuable items and sells them to the highest bidder. The statuette was one of the most ancient artefacts. Having disappeared during the 1940s pesumably by Nazis, it was discovered in Vienna and donated to a museum there. It was sought after by private collectors, until someone snatched the statuette. Knowing its fortune, he contacted her to find out more. Ching found potential buyers and collected bids, however an agent of CAPRICORN learned about her and told not to give it anywhere. Ching was skeptical but everything she learned verified this scenario. She held onto the statuette and saw that the cult was getting desperate to find its talisman.

Afterwards Ching falls to sleep. Tex grabs the whiskey, lits another cigarette and ponders the great vacuum pondering about his beliefs and God, and closes his eyes.

There are 20 hours to go when Tex wakes up. Ching and the thugs to enjoy a brightly colored snack cake but Tex clings to the whiskey. He gets to know them better while Ching meditates or cleans her weapons. He enjoys cribbage with Felipe who beats him repeatedly.

An hour before landing, the pilot shows them a diagram of the GRS complex and says that he gives them 8 hours before he launches the ship. They are going to land in an airlock at the op-center and then find their way through the domes to the research facility. Ching supplies them with communication devices and rebreathers. They aren't expecting much opposition as it is manned by a dozen people or so.

Before landing, nobody replies to the pilot's asking for permission to land. They are forced to land outside the op-center instead of an airlock. They wear space suits and go out the hatch down the ladder. The door to the dome did not open so Ching shoots its with a firearm.

They enter into a short tunnel. Ching operates a control panel and a door opens and they enter a surprising empty room with computer consoles and stations. They fan out and Tex examines the nearest monitors displaying camera views, records, inventories and other data. Maximum Security Zone 10 had dozen cameras trained on a prison camp, but everything looked abandoned.

Ching shows Tex the complex's layout with color-coded areas as minimum, medium, and maximum security. They decided to explore the three areas without descriptions first. They locate four exits in the room leading to transport tubes, and they separate to each one. Tex operates the panel on one of the exits and a monorail compartment arrives, with two rows of facing seats and windows all around.

He soon arrives to the next section which was shut down and the rebreather is needed. He walks along the corridor around the dome perimeter until he finds a door which is not locked, and also ajar. He squeezes inside and sees dead bodies with shooting wounds. They were GRS employees.

The room has a long, straight, high wall of Plexiglass separating what appeared like the interior of a biosphere. The garden-like area is at least the square footage of a football field, covered with hundreds of dead bodies; entire families of prisoners. For a moment he considers to enter the area but a row of decontamination suits say it would be a bad idea.

Since there is no power the workstations won't give any logs. However Tex finds a printout concerning GRS: it describes the development of a virus that wil be dispensed into the atmosphere by satellites and will eradicate the whole human population. The prisoners were a test subject. As the base is empty, the only possible point of origin would be the Moon Child.

Tex and Ching talk via their communicator and he is called back. Before returning to the compartment, Tex checks whether one of the 9 bodies was the CAPRICORN mole but doesn't find anything of interest.

While on his way back to the op-center, his communicator talks and hears Ching's voice talking with some men. They trapped her, and she uses the communicator to warn Murphy. He reverses the compartment and returns to the dome. He runs along the exterior corridor until he finds an emergency exit, and finds himself outside looking for Voorman's shuttle.

He runs towards around the right side of the op-center dome, and when he is around the side of the dome where Ching was trapped, he decides to jump over a transport tunnel straight ahead. In his attempt he hits it and somersaults over the top, losing thus his gun.

He approaches and crawls inside the shuttle which is empty. At that moment he sees 4 men approaching, one of them being Voorman who set them up. Not finding any weapon, he decides to lock himself into the lavatory.

The men enter and discuss whether they should hunt down "the fourth one" or go to the Moon Child. Voorman's voice suggests to take off immediately on his shuttle. He hears one of the men discovering Ching's whiskey bottle, while another attempts to enter the lavatory. He finds it locked. After an attempt to break it, they order Murphy to open the door and come outside, to which he complies. A large blond man points a rifle at his face as his comes out.

Then the shuttle lurches and Tex finds an oportunity to grab the man's gun. Suddenly the shuttle pitches and Tex loses his hold. Tex is put to sit into the passenger area where the man is going to execute him. Voorman however orders him to wait until they reach the Moon Child as he doesn't want his shuttle messed up or with a hole in the bulkhead. Voorman comes and ties him while Tex calls him a traitor. The other man, Brody, hits him with the butt of his rifle.

Chapter Twenty-three

Tex wakes up still tied and realise they approach the Moon Child. When he regains control of his hands he tests the cord and manages to loosen it. He opens his eyes as the shuttle powers down. The 3 men had celebrated with Ching's whiskey and re intoxicated. Brody leers at him until Voorman steps in and tells them to go out. He has a few things to do before he calls them again to take Tex and execute him

Tex grabs the empty whiskey bottle behind his back. When Voorman reappears, he says they need to have a talk. Then Tex stands up and brings the bottle down on his head. He then ties his hands and gags him with a shirt sleeve.

Exiting the shuttle, Tex finds himself in an immense cargo bay full of vehicles and machinery. He walks and ducks behind vehicles finding his way towards an exit hundreds yards away on the other side of a lone watchtower. Tex finds a small foyer and enters one of the elevators. He notices that there are levels LL through 24 and then to 36. He randomly presses 13. At level 3 he is joined by three gorgeous women who ignore him, chatting about italian food. They stop at level 9 and Tex decides to follow them.

The level is a restaurant complex with a cobblestone street. He passes by a pizza parlor, a Chinese restaurant, bakery, a mesquite grill, an ice cream parlor until he follows the women inside the Italian restaurant. Tex decides to satiate his hunger. He sits on a table and notices that the catalogue has no prices. He makes an order to the mustached waiter. But as he returns bringing the salad, he notices Tex' wrist. Tex notices that everyone is wearing a silver band, and he lacks one. As the mystified waiter returns to the kitchen, Tex runs away and returns to the elevator. He enters and is lost behind 10 people.

The crowd stop at level 13 and Tex follows them to a revolving door marked Environ 3. He steps into an artificial forest full of trees, flowering plants and animal life, even a simulated blue sky, and breezes smellng earth and rain. Tex thinks that he hadn't experienced such things since being a little child. He follows one of tiny paths among the grass and rests on a rock by a brook. He wonders who created this and what can he do against them. He know noone and nothing and his only hope is the CAPRICORN mole, provided he is still alive, and he finds him among thousands of people.

Tex starts feeling tired and a feeling of withdrawal. Everything he can do against the cult seems to be in vain and ponders whether it's time to play along and join them but he wouldn't comrpomise his principles and self-respect.

He dozes off to sleep and wakes 6 hours later by a light rain shower siulated by a sprinkler system.

He leaves the garden and outside sees another croud lined for the elevators. He joins them and passes no less than a half hour before his turn to enter. They all gather to the top level (36) which is an enormous space with a stage, where Rev. Sheppard is going to appear. Tex notices an ornate podium with throne-like chairs and an enormous screen.

The vast expanse echoes the "Ode to Joy" while it fills by continuously gathering streams of people, representing all ages, characteristics and ethnic diversities. Eventually the space is almost full when the lights dim. On the stage, the leaders of the cult appear and sit to the arranged throne-like chairs. Sheppard approaches an ornate podium and gives a sermon. The crowd applauses in adoration and Tex joins in so that he doesn't attract attention.

The leader then reveals that the Crusade follows ancient beliefs, and that those present were selected to prepare the Earth for a golden age. They are supposed to remain on the Moon Child for 40 years while Earth is purified. Mumbles and confusion arose from the crowd as not all the Crusaders knew they were part of such a plan. The purification would begin at midnight.

Tex decides to make a discreet walk towards the stage. He is halfway there when Sheppard mentions to the crowd the presence of a traitor. Tex freezes in terror, but realizes that the traitor is being already brought there, none other than Voorman. The crowd boos as the guards take him away. Tex waits for Sheppard to turn away when he makes his move: he climbs to the podium and shouts to the crowd that the "purification" is going to exterminate humanity, and that everyone there should stop it.

Many hands grab Tex and take him into a corridor. After kicks and punches guards carry him to a room and tie him onto a mechanical chair. Two security guards are left with him, a bald man and a beautiful blond woman. Then he is approached by Lowell Percival.

Chapter Twenty-four

Percival greets Tex and gives his villain speech. He staged his death in the explosion so as to be safe, but he returned from his ashes, as he is the Phoenix. It was him who mentioned Murphy's name to the cult in order to be hired by "Countess Renier" and fetch the Habuh. He finishes his speech by mentioning the advantaged of living in the Moon Child with the elect, and asks Murphy whether he should join them, or die. Tex things of his mutant friends and Chelsee, who deserve to live their misery life, and responds in a violent manner to Percival.

Percival controls his anger and leaves the room, ordering the bald guard to kill Tex. The blond woman, called Eva, asks to stay and be satisfied watching him die.

The bald man is none other than the Chameleon, who killed the Colonel and the one who hired Murphy as Countess Renier. After mocking Tex for not pretending to cooperate and have an advantage to hurt Percival before dying anyway, he produces a TSC gun, designed to dissolve tissue in a painful way.

Tex closes his eyes expecting the inevitable but after a shock, nothing happens. He sees the Chameleon dead having been killed by Eva.

Chapter Twenty-five

Eva frees Murphy and hands him the TSC gun. She opens the door and cries for help. A guard notices Tex holding a gun over the dead body runs towards him, but before doing anything, Eva grabs him and snaps his neck.

She asks from Tex the mysterious watch he is wearing and tells him to wear the guard's uniform. Tex is briefly worried about a security camera but Eva reassures him that it is patched directly to Percival's office - and he is not there right now. Tex finishes wearing the black-red short sleeve pullover and black pants, and is sorry to make his overcoat and fedora part.

While he is dressing, Eva opens the watch and reveals a black chip. She searches Chameleon's body to find a card. After that she operates some controls to make a waste bin open, where they dispose the two bodies and eject them to space. The two then exit the room to the empty corridor and ride an elevator. Tex notices that the controls here are different, giving access to levels 25 to 35.

On 31 they are joined by two young men who however leave them on 29. Tex and Eve leave on 28 and Eva leads him to the check-in area. On the right there are restrooms and Eva uses Chameleon's card to access a door marked Authorized Personnel Only. They find a stairwell and Eva follows the flight upwards. At the top she traverses a hallway and opens the door marked 28-A-41 leading to a garden.

Tex follows Eva darting down a path among the trees until they reach a clearing with a boat by a lake shore. Eva starts the engine and guides through the lake explaining that she will use the service access. The strange route she follows will spare them will less resistance on their way to the computer control area. The chip is the last of the three Winter Chips, designed to destroy the computer system of the station. She also says that Karl Voorman was a CAPRICORN agent and he was supposed to find and deliver the chip to her.

They reach a shore and then locate an ivy-covered wall which Eva opens and bring themselves in a stairwell once more. They climb up 3 levels and Eva opens a door marked 31-D-07, which leads them to another empty passageway. They reach an intersection and then turn to the direction to the command tower. Eventually they reach a busier area with more doors on the walls and noise behind them.

A woman in a lab coat steps out from one of the doors and walks ahead of them. She, and the nervous pair, arrive at an elevator, which provide access to levels 24-36. The woman goes to 35, and as she leaves, she allows two hurrying security guards (a slender young blond woman and a large bald man) to take the ride. Eva starts talking with the woman while Tex just smiles to the man, who looks at him suspiciously.

Eventually, loud beeps are heard from the belts of the security uniforms and it is announced the presence of two intruders on level 28. The guard moves from his tasc gun, but is shot by Eva, who then pivots towards the woman and throws her down.