Chapter 07: Snowcrash

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The pod smashed into the frozen ground amid a mass of swirling snow.

Trent grunted as the force of the crash pulled at his bulky body, trying to rip it free of the chair he'd strapped himself into. He saw Duncan do much the same across from him. As the pod came to a final halt, the silence dropped like a hammer. It had been so loud for what felt like so long, a cacophonous mixture of orbital reentry and the shrieking of the hull as it tried to come apart, that the sudden lack of sound was just as loud.

Slowly, Trent became aware of howling winds. Not something he was looking forward to hearing again so soon. Arctica had been enough, more than enough. Sighing, he undid the latches and stood up, turning to face the cockpit.

There was something that needed to be straightened out.

Enzo was standing up in the cramped cockpit by the time Trent reached him. Behind them both, he could hear Duncan standing up, getting ready for the mission that lay ahead. Trent placed a heavy hand on Enzo's armored shoulder and spun him around.

"Hey! Careful, asshole!" Enzo snapped, grimacing in genuine pain as he was turned around. It threw Trent off for a second, but then his anger returned.

"Let's get one thing straight, I don't go anywhere without Drake and Drake doesn't go anywhere without me unless we say so. Do you have that?"

"Fuck off," Enzo replied.

Trent reached out and grabbed him by the helmet, both hands around it. "Do you have that?" he snarled.

"Yes! Now fuck off!" Enzo snapped.

Trent held onto his helmet a moment longer, then let go and looked back into the cabin. Duncan was looking at both of them.

"Come on, is this really necessary?" he asked, his usually upbeat demeanor somewhat subdued.

Trent wondered how to respond to that, then decided not to and moved down the length of the cabin, joining Duncan near the back.

"Let's go," he said finally.

Duncan opened the back door. Immediately, the cabin was filled with shrieking winds and blowing snow, the temperature plummeting. Duncan stepped out, rifle at ready. Trent was glad his own rifle had survived the crash. He flipped off the safety and shouldered it as he stepped out into the snow. Immediately, he could tell this was going to be a pain in the ass. These were whiteout conditions, like walking around inside a ping pong ball. Visibility was down to maybe ten feet. Gray-white snow blurred around them.

"You coming?" Trent asked over the radio.

"Yeah, hold on," Enzo replied, sounding as sour as ever, still in the escape pod. A moment later, he emerged.

"Now what?" Duncan asked.

"Navigation says that there's a communications booster facility about a quarter mile north of here. It's on the way to the rest of the facility. We can get there, plug into it and hopefully call the others to us," Enzo replied.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Duncan said.

The pair of them set off into the snow. Trent sighed, wondering how Drake was doing, if he'd even made it out. He had to. He was either on his way down or had already landed. There was no alternative. Trent pointed himself due north and started walking.

* * *

Greg didn't like the way any of this was going.

They'd made it down to the surface without a problem. He, Kyra, and Callie were intact and undamaged. Unfortunately, their pod had taken more than a few hits, and as a result, their navigational equipment wasn't working. Kyra was in the cockpit, trying to figure out some way of discerning where the hell to go. Because it all looked the same: an endless, gray-white cascade of falling snow. Callie stood a little bit away from him, scanning the area, making sure they were secure. There was no way any of them were assuming they were safe.

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