The wind-blown snow was blinding.
Even with the goggles over her eyes, and the face mask to keep out the cold, Kate couldn’t see. Cursing silently, she forced herself to keep moving. The weight of the rifle on her shoulder, and the pistol on her belt were reassuring to her.
She fought off another shiver despite the artic gear she wore. Beside her, Loving kept trudging along, their tactical net filled with her mumbled curses. For the one time, she found herself agreeing with her old friend. In the world of the lowest bidder, couldn’t they have found someone who could actually make a set of artic gear that kept you warm?
Moving forwards, she ran into a drift of snow. Falling up to her waist, she forced her way through, bursting a hole for Loving to follow. While it was fortunate that she could feel any cold in her extremities, her torso was doing enough for her!
As she cleared the drift, she reached a place where the snow settled in a knee height. Reaching into the weatherproof bag on her belt, she pulled the direction finder. Using a glove to keep the wind-blown snow off the screen, she raised it up to her face.
Damn, she cursed under her breath. They were still two klicks from the base, and a heavy weather system was moving in. Everything that they had been experiencing up to now would be nothing compared to what was coming. Looking at the screen, inches from her goggles, she could see the wind readings.
Beaufort Scale 9 winds coming, she thought, and we’re already walking through for 5…this isn’t going to be good. If we don’t get to that base before the storm hits, we’re liable to die out here.
Taking a last measurement to make sure their direction was correct, she stuffed the direction finder back into its bag. With the storm coming, she told herself, they were going to have to try to pick up the pace. That was going to be a major problem, she realized, when they were routinely running into drifts that were waist high on her.
“Jennifer, we’ve got a storm coming. We’ve got to get a move on before it gets here.”
“You mean this isn’t a storm, Kate? I can’t hardly see you before me!”
“If it’s any consolation,” she said. “I can hardly see where I’m going either. Thank God for the direction finder.”
“I don’t know about you, Kate, but I’m freezing my ass off! These lowest bidder contracts are for the birds!”
A chuckled crossed Kate’s cold, cracked lips. She had been thinking the exact same thing for over an hour now. If she ever served in the Alliance again, she was going to fight to have their equipment improved. While the ships were good enough, she reflected, it was the equipment that they had to use dirt side that was lacking. The clothing they wore should have been keeping them warm in the cold, but instead it was allowing them to slowly become Popsicles. What the hell was up with that?
She forced her legs back into motion, the wind starting to moan. Ahead of her, snow was being picked up and blown across their path. Swirling and dancing, it played hell with her eyes. When she tried to switch to tracking mode, it was all she saw. Trying to lock onto something beyond it to track was impossible.
“I’m freezing too, Jennifer, trust me on that one.”
She switched her eyes into infrared mode and found things easier. The snow showed on the screen as blue and when she looked back at Jennifer, it was red. As she walked, she found switching back and forth to be the best trick; it allowed her to look for enemy combatants while seeing where she was going.
Grunting, she stepped into a small depression, and dropped to her waist in snow again. The cold stabbed at her through the artic gear as she pushed to gain traction. Her boots finally made purchase and she climbed back up.
“Hang on,” she said, reaching back for Loving. Taking her gloved hand in hers, Kate pulled her across the depression.
As the wind started picking up, she noted that the surface snows started to get shorter. While they had been knee-high earlier, they were now only at the tops of her boots. That was odd, she told herself, because the snow shouldn’t be this low…unless they were near the base.
She stopped so suddenly that Loving ran into her from behind. She ignored her friend as Loving stumbled back cursing. Every sense was on hyper vigilance as she pulled the rifle off her shoulder. Two klicks wouldn’t take too long to talk, she told herself, and they had been making good time.
“Ow! Yes, Kate? Couldn’t you give a warning next time before stopping? I think I have loosened some teeth!”
“I think we’re here!”
“You sure?” Loving was all seriousness.
Switching her eyes to infrared, she scanned the area. Leaping out of the see of blue were ten red shapes moving towards them. Damn it, she cursed, she should have known that they’d send a team after them!
“Ten bogeys approaching,” she said, stepping off to her right.
“You go left and I’ll go right,”
Chambering a round, she made her way into the snow. Whoever was orchestrating this little show wasn’t inexperienced, she mused. However, when in nearly whiteout conditions most of the time, how could she expect her troops to be able to keep track of Loving and her?
She knelt down in the snow, the wind howling in her ears, as she watched the figures move by. In a single file group now, the tail-end-Charlie position was out of sight from the others. Now that wasn’t too smart, she reflected, licking her cold, chapped lips. Ignoring the pain from them, she slipped around behind the first figure.
How was she going to handle this, she asked herself. Would she just kill the other person, or merely brain them? If she knocked them unconscious in this weather, there was a better then even chance they would freeze to death. However, if she shot them, there was a one hundred percent chance of them dying.
Are you a bringer of death or of life? She asked herself, knowing that it would determine how she proceeded.
Slipping up behind the other person, she lifted her rifle up. Maybe someone would find them before they froze to death, she surmised, but at least they had a chance to live. With a quick thrust, she slammed the butt of the rifle into the person’s head. Her opponent went out like a light, hitting the ground and their cold weather hat coming off. A tangle of blonde hair fell onto the ground, and Kate frowned.
Nothing like clubbing another woman to ruin your day, she thought, replacing the hat on the woman’s head. She noted that the other woman was breathing. That was all she could do, the rest was up to others.
She disappeared into the snow like a ghost at night. The group had split into two, with one heading towards Loving’s general vicinity. Were they using infrared to track them, or just getting lucky?
The chance to learn what it was never happened. A curse escaped her lips as they started to fire at her. Diving across the snow, she could hear the bullets whipping by her. Damn, these guys could really shoot!
Rolling back to one knee, she fired back. Her counter attack took down three of the five nearest her. The survivors split, trying to flank her. They weren’t giving her an opportunity to take them both out, so she was going to have to take them one at a time.
They have to be using infrared, she thought, working to try to catch the one closest to her. I just hope Jennifer is doing okay!
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