ILTC Cold Frontier Episode 14

COLD FRONTIER, EPISODE 14 (DAY 12)

Featured Player Characters: Sergeant “Snow Plough” Fentington, Deputy Hayes, Nemo, Fa Tsu, Dodd (the glorious return!), Tweak (new character/player)

Prominent Friendlies: Dr Mya Ross, Connor Bull, Amelia

Pre-credits scene…

The episode opens with the same planet seen in the previous episode. There is a burnt wreck of the building.

Jim-Bob and the young Gerry Hayes, both a few years older than the previous episode, in their early teens stand with a girl of similar age who is tall, skinny, has slick-back hair tied into a pony-tail and far too much make-up.

A shadow strides in front of them. The camera shows thigh-high black leather boots as a thickly accented voice of an adult male addresses the three youths, demanding to know who is responsible for the burnt-out house. All of them deny knowledge, and the man says he will have to ‘take them in’ and see who confesses during a one-on-one interview.

The scene cuts to a police station interview room. Hayes seems to be in tears. The officer repeatedly asks him who did it, but Gerry insists he doesn’t know and doesn’t change his stance. The officer reminds him that the kids he is sticking up for used to beat him up… and probably still do, as he brushes back Hayes long hair to look at a large bruise on the right side of his face. But Hayes still insists, tearfully, that he knows nothing.

Events cut ahead, as Hayes is back outside, strolling past Jim-Bob and Jenny-May leaning against a wall, drinking beers. Jim-Bob calls to to Gerry, who stops and turns. Jim-Bob thanks Gerry and Gerry says ‘why?’

‘Fer not sayin’ nothin.’” He tosses Gerry a can of beer, which he catches.

“Ain’t nothin’. Just know when to turn a blind eye.”

“Haha! That’s what they all gonna say; Gerry Hayes, he knows when to turn a blind eye.”

Roll opening credits!

The episode opens with Hayes, cleaning Maisy (his jeep). And as he cleans the jeep he talks to it, telling Maisy how, despite the temporary fix to the windscreen, he is probably going to have to ask some other people to ‘take a look at you.’ Yeti sits up, where he appears to have been sleeping along the back row of seats of the jeep and mocks Hayes for talking to the jeep, but it doesn’t seem to bother or stop Hayes at all. Jeeves then floats over and says hello to Maisy, admonishing Yeti, since Jeeves is a machine, and yet they all talk to him, which makes Hayes grin. Jeeves continues to try to gesture with his new cybernetic arm, and the fingers continue to move in random, unnatural directions.

Snow Plough, looking very grumpy indeed to be awoken by the conversation says “Sounds like its time for tea then”and starts to climb out of the jeep. As he walks over to the kitchen, he is approached by one of the survivors not yet personally encountered, one of the maintenance workers, who is a large man with a wild mess of hair cascading down from his head, with a beard to match.

He introduces himself as “Tweak” and takes immediate interest in Jeeves, approaching the drone, rather than anyone else, as he asks it if he can examine its arm and the continues to jerk in a bizarre manner. Jeeves informs the man that he is not authorised. Snow Plough, surprisingly, tells Jeeves to let the man take a look. Jeeves obliges and floats to the floor, as Tweak partially removes the arm and inspects the wiring whilst Snow Plough takes in tea orders as the others slowly awaken.

As the remains of the militia get together (with Dodd, Tweak, Ross and Nemo nearby listening in and chipping in their opinions). The Mayor is not present; as Snow Plough walks past the office with the teas, he can hear the Mayor sniffling behind the door. The others continue to discuss their next course of action without him. Snow Plough seems to be of the opinion that staying put and keeping quiet as possible is their best course of action.

Fa Tsu is using his com-pad, and grinning from ear to ear, and Hayes takes the bait and asks what he is grinning about. Fa Tsu shows him the com-pad screen and explains what Hayes is being shown to everyone present. He explains that he is analysing temperature read-outs from the opposite buildings that have been taken over by the razor ants. Whilst there are no reading from a majority of the building, presumably due to the cold exposure destroying the equipment, indicating they are uninhabitable, that is not the case for the food warehouse. The temperature is incredibly low, yes, but the fact that there are still readings means that the temperature controls are still operational. He starts laughing almost maniacally as he explains that he could burn them in their nest, and then they could recover the warehouse. Ross says what nearly everyone else is thinking as he points out that taking the warehouse would then be pointless, as they would destroy the remaining food stored there. Unless they want to start eating razor ants. Which she then adds is perhaps not a bad idea as a continual food source. Everyone goes silent, looking at her with some horror. Then Fa Tsu laughs; “I like you Ross. You’re brutal.”

She shrugs. “Just thinking scientifically.”

“So. Thinking scientifically. How would you go about this? I mean, we know they don’t like fire.”

“As is the case for most living things. But if they respond negatively to heat, we don’t need to burn the place down. Just increase the temperature in the warehouse to room temperature and see if they respond. If they don’t like it, it should make them vacate.”

“Excellent! Sounds like a good plan!”

“If the ants are still there, of course.”

Fa Tsu decides to hack into the cameras to check and then suddenly passes the com-pad over to Snow Plough, who raises one eyebrow. Fa Tsu explains that if they are there, he doesn’t want to see them. Snow Plough takes the com-pad… there is barely anything on the cam-feed, the lens seems to have taken damage, but he can see some shadowy forms moving about.

“All right then!” says Fa Tsu as he takes the pad back. He then tries to remotely increase the heat, but realises he can only monitor the temperatures and cannot remotely alter the buildings heating, due to the primitive tech (in 2450 terms) used on the frontier colony. In order to try out Fa Tsu’s plan, they will need to go next door to the Central Water Heating Building, which involves going outside (though very briefly). Tweak volunteers to go with the group, since he knows all about systems maintenance, and reckons he can carry out Fa Tsu’s plan when they get to the equipment needed for the job. Tweak finishes his maintenance on Jeeves who can now clench and unclench his fist… though it is not clear he can do anything else with it, as of yet.

Hayes points out that before they go anywhere, Maisy is their only remaining form of transport if anything goes wrong. If anything happens to him, he needs to know that someone else can take over control of Maisy for him; Tweak volunteers to take a look. (A montage occurs as Hayes shows Tweak the working of Maisy, as the song ‘Silver Machine’ plays.)

As some of the militia get ready to head out, Dodd points out that some people competent with weapons should stay behind, just in case, so Amelia and David from the conscripts stay behind, and there is also Connor Bull and Gerda to help defend the place (though Gerda is not involved with any discussions and continues to be withdrawn, sat near the east airlock with Anyu). David goes over to Tweak and slaps him affectionately on the shoulder. He tells him that he has some spare gear he requisitioned from the warehouse that Tweak might like. David proffers him an automatic shotgun.

“Know how to use one of these?” Tweak reminds David that he used to be in the Corps too, and seems eager to take the weapon. David gives him a fist bump for joining the team.

Fa Tsu, Snow Plough, Hayes, Yeti and Tweak (in old Corps issue battle armour, also with the shotgun, Greyjoy’s remaining machine pistol and McClusky’s enhanced engineering tools) head into the vehicle airlock at the west of the building (though they leave Maisy inside). Dodd waits on the other side of the airlock as they head out. She closes her eyes in concentration.

Though she cannot see outside, her empathic senses stretch outside instead, seeing colours in her mind’s eye which give her impressions of the emotions of the others. Tweak doesn’t seem to be lying about his prior experience; she gets the feeling of ice cold calm from him. From the others, they seem largely calm, but there is either anger or fear mixing in with that calm. She senses something else… a feeling of watchfulness, but she is not sure from where. She radios the others and tells them to keep an eye out.

Fa Tsu nervously checks his motion tracker. He gets movement in the building they are heading to, but assumes they are the survivors. He doesn’t get any other blips out in the snow.

The blizzard has receded, and though snow still falls, they have visibility of about 20ft ahead of them. Despite his tracker readings, Fa Tsu keeps an eye out ahead of him too. Snow Plough is also being more alert than usual. Fa Tsu holds a hand up. He looks to the roof, then down at the ground, where Snow Plough is also looking. There are shadows stretched across the snow. Fa Tsu and Snow Plough look at each other. The shadows flicker slightly and then remain still.

“Uhhhhhhhh guys, we’ve got company above… so everybody just keep quiet and head into the airlock, okay?” He dashes for the airlock and opens it as everyone piles inside. The airlock swishes shut and locks behind them. They hear a small, brief shriek outside. Dodd feels the feeling of watchfulness become disturbed, a slight tinge of anger… hunger. She tells the group to get inside, but they already have. Dodd feels three different minds, yet all tied by the same emotions, as three Ants fly down to the snow. They shriek briefly again. Irritation, curiosity. They then quickly disappear from the range of her empathy.

The others head through the airlock into Central Water Heating. The accommodation area is dark and silent, empty of people. Fa Tsu checks his motion tracker. Blips are moving intermittently on the other side of the door, in the work area. Light shines through the crack in the door. He breathes a sigh of relief as he hears human voices. Fa Tsu swings the large doors open. People dart out of sight. Someone shouts in panic.

“It’s okay guys, it’s me, Fa Tsu!” The six workers emerge from their hiding places, briefing a collective sigh of relief to see of all the people to survive is the Mech pilot. The others follow him inside. Tweak heads over to the workers and explains Fa Tsu’s plan and helps them get it into play. Another montage occurs as Fa Tsu plays “The Heat is On!” as he watches the temperature readings for the food warehouse start to increase.

“It’s working! Hahahaha!” He takes his com-pad out to check… and then quickly passes it to Snow Plough.

“They seem to be moving”, the Sergeant confirms.

“Yes!”

And then a few minutes pass, and the temperature readings start rapidly dropping. Tweaks confers with the other workers, who confirm that one of the underground heating pipes may have been ruptured. And then the lights go out (though the other equipment is still working). One of the workers screams. Tweak forcefully addresses the workers and everyone else, telling to keep quiet and keep calm. They all back into a corner behind Tweak, who stands ready with his shotgun.

Snow Plough dives in the nearest corner, by the door, rifle out, Jeeves hovering above him. He starts checking over the pipes and valves near him frantically. Yeti gets on the other side of the door, machete out, whilst Hayes is behind him. Fa Tsu in the middle of the large chamber, in between the largest pipes, and his breathing starts to increase rapidly and he refuses to step forward.

Dodd radios the group, telling them she can sense Razor Ants coming; a group are heading for where the marines were spotted outside, but another group seem to be heading for the office where an Ant got through the previous day.

“All right marines, let’s go!” Courage suddenly takes over Snow Plough, as he orders his squaddies ahead. Hayes and Yeti both charge for the airlock outside. Snow Plough suddenly rises his declaration… only to bash his helmet and get knocked back onto the floor. Tweak remains guarding the civvies. Fa Tsu stays put. “No… not going out there… they’re gonna kill us all!”

Dodd grabs Deputy Bull and Amelia (with her pump action shotgun ready) and the three of them head for the office. The Mayor can still be heard sniffling. Dodd shoves the door open without ceremony and asks the Mayor to get out of there. He refuses to move, until Dodd explains more bugs are coming, and the Mayor moves pretty quickly then. She loads her rifle, standing in front of the office door as she watches the area of floor where Snow Plough collapsed the tunnel.

“They’re coming. Everybody ready.” Amelia stands on Dodd’s left, Bull is on the right, assault rifle ready. Gerda and Anyu remain where they are on the right of the three, behind the right-hand wall of the office. Seeing commotion by the office, Nemo sneaks behind the three defenders and makes his way over to Maisy. He climbs up onto the front, examining the railgun mounted over the top of it. He then climbs down and moves behind and to the left of the defenders, trying to keep an eye on them, whilst also still being able to see the railgun.

Mandibles burst out of the floor. Dodd fires. The round hits… and explodes. The office is engulfed in a blast of fire. The blast wave misses the three by inches.

“What the… WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” Connor screams, half in fury and half in panic at Dodd.

“How it’s done” says Dodd. And then the smoke clears. As the hole in the floor has been blasted open, and out of it climbs a smoking, but very much alive bug. A round impacted in its face, smoking as well. “What the hell?”

Amelia and Bull fire their weapons, but the shots bounce off of its chitinous armour, as it is only half emerged from the floor, its legs bent so its underside is close to the floor, and no-one can get a shot at its weak point.

Nemo looks at the railgun. His fingers twitch. The railgun moves slightly. It fires. The slug hits the left hand wall of the office and punches right through it. It hits the Razor Ant Worker in the left side, which tears it from the floor and hurls it through the air. The shell and Ant go through the right-hand wall, Anyu and Gerda are knocked to the ground as the Ant practically lands on them.

Hayes radios through “Who the hell is firing Maisy inside? That ain’t a good idea!”

“I’ve no idea; I haven’t got a visual!” Bull screams back over the radio as dust billows around him.

Gerda looks up at the exposed underside of the creature, bares her claws and fangs, leaps, and grapples onto the underside of the Ant. The Ant dips its head under it. It opens its mandibles wide and rasps. Gerda opens her mouth to snarl… and the mandibles lock around her mouth.

Powerless underneath it, Anyu screams “Gerda!” and watches as the mandibles pull off part of Gerda’s mouth and tear out her tongue with it as she falls dead to the floor. “Gerrrrrrda!”

And then three more Razor Ants, the sleeker, faster Soldiers, clamber out of the hole in what was the office. Connor and Amelia fire again, more shots ricocheting, as the creatures lunge in…

as everything goes black.

End of part one.

Roll end credits.

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