arrival_AntarcticaI sat in the dark rear compartment of the vehicle, shivering. I didn’t know if I was cold or if it was the effect of the electro-muscular disruptor wearing off. I bit down on my tongue and tried to calm the shakes. Nothing was working right.

Hours ago, my ship smashed into a commemorative monument on Alexander Island in Antarctica. The militant LMO forces in the region blasted me with an EMD, pulled me from the ship, and apprehended me. I had inadvertently flattened a monument erected to honor two men I’d never seen before and the vile creature I knew as Spegg. Once again, I was a captive, held in a windowless prisoner compartment of a large military-style snowtrack vehicle.

For three months prior, I had encountered pain and darkness and uncertainty because of the actions of just one crazed LMO. To now find myself at the mercy of a large number of these insane creatures made me angry and frustrated. My thoughts ran red with hate and my fear caved in.

Slowly, I could move my arm and my legs again. The paralysis began to subside. I tried clearing my throat but little noise escaped me. As my limbs began to work again, I inched my way into one corner of the dark compartment and propped myself up on my right arm. My wounded left arm and shoulder ached and I could not move them. I began to fear that I would lose my arm if I did not receive medical attention soon. What were the chances?

Although the rear of the vehicle was dark, I could tell that it was clearly a holding pen for the transportation of individuals who were not treated well by their captors. It was thickly constructed. It smelled dirty and earthy, with undertones of nervous sweat and stale urine. There was no interior lighting, save for the soft amber glow of four EMD charging lamps in each of the four corners of the compartment. The activator for this intimidating quad-EMD blaster was at the driver’s touch. And any captive could be kept in paralyzed submission for any length of time.

I heard two LMOs enter the front cabin and lock in. With a roar, the patrol vehicle came to life. Beneath me, I felt the four massive tracks power into gear, bite into the snow and ice, and accelerate quickly away. I was thrown to the rear of the holding compartment and dashed against the hatch door with a bang. The vehicle continued to accelerate quickly and cruise smoothly across the otherwise rough terrain. This ability to glide over a choppy landscape is produced by the inclusion of small anti-gravity pumps built into the framework of the vehicle which cancel a portion of the overall mass and allow for an almost unlimited movement across any type of solid landscape.

A soft ping broke the silence. A dim white line stretched across the back wall of the compartment, as a virtual view portal snapped to life. The broadcast allowed me to see the face of both the driver and another escorting officer. The driver was the same muscular LMO that first found me at the crash site and the same LMO that had taunted me after I was thrown into the vehicle.

“We have little time, Chikushou,” the driver said. “Before we arrive at the processing center, why don’t you tell us about this device.” He held up the M-patch that was taken from me earlier. The patch had gone rigid, a sign that it was conserving power. He tapped it with an index finger.

I weighed my options. I could lie or I could tell the truth. Alternately, since they had no experience with the M-patch, I could give them a half-truth.  My pause angered the muscular LMO and he shouted for me to answer him. I began to speak but all that came out was tangled gibberish, as my tongue and jaw were still not working right. My stammering and babbling caused an eruption of coarse laughter from the LMO crew in the cabin.

As the muscular LMO repeatedly shouted for me to “speak up,” I chewed on the words slowly and managed to get the answer out. “It’s a data patch, a mini system, for files and applications…”

“Enough,” he blurted, tossing the M-patch to the escort sitting next to him. “See that it quickly passes through to the top level. Put it into the hands of The Director himself,” he instructed the other LMO. “Make it happen.”

“Yes, Sar,” came the reply, punctuated with a sharp nod of the head.

The conversation was interrupted by an alert that came from the vehicle’s AI. Approaching Gate 28 dash 04. Identification will be required.

“Acknowledged,” said Sar.

The AI continued. Bio-scans for all passengers will be required, as well as an inventory of all asset tags.

“Yes, acknowledged!” Sar shouted angrily. He shook his head and pounded the instrument panel with a meaty fist. “Some day, I will find the poor creature that voices these AI personality attributes and…”

The explosion cut Sar’s tirade short and sent the vehicle both airborne and sideways. For a second I tumbled freely in the compartment and then smashed hard against the side wall, as the vehicle struck the ground and landed on its side. The virtual view portal showed images of the front shield showered in clusters of black earth and shards of white ice, that plunged the cabin into darkness. We had been attacked from the outside. The view portal went suddenly dark. As I curled into a tight ball, I could hear Sar and the escorting officer shout at each other as they struggled to orient themselves inside the cabin.

From outside I heard the familiar crackle of EMD weapons and the high-pitched ping of another type of small arm. I heard the LMOs scramble to open up and engage their attackers. Another explosive burst threw up more fragments of ice and dirt against the exterior. Sar and the escort panicked, roaring deep and gutturally. A larger burst then rocked the massive vehicle and slid it across the ground with a loud grinding sound. One of the LMOs howled with pain.

There came two more quick bursts from the small arms and it was over. Sar and the escort made no more sounds from the front cabin. I uncurled myself from my balled-up position but stayed low. I could hear my heart thumping. Each beat pounded my chest wall like a hammer. I took breaths in quick shallow gasps and strained to see anything through the darkness. Even in the cold, warm sweat rolled down my face.

Before too long, I heard a scuffle of many footsteps on the ice and snow, They were rapidly approaching the rear of the vehicle. Low voices spoke quickly to each other. There was a short volley of conversation, followed by a verbal acknowledgment of some sort. A few of the footsteps dashed away.

As the outside attackers began to work the hatch lock, I sat up and pushed myself back further into a corner. Something snapped tight against the hatchway and the footsteps shuffled to the side of the vehicle. Instinctively, I put my head down and covered up with my one good arm. Four loud electronic pings preceded a small detonation that shook the hatchway door and sent a number of loose metallic fragments bouncing off the walls of the interior. The footsteps converged. The hatchway rattled loose and fell open with a crash.

As the gray light streamed into the compartment, I squinted and stared into the face of… a woman.

[Communication Relay: 03MAR2086 Alexander Island, Antarctica]

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