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Entrapment: Part 1
Posted By: Arthur Wellesley<arthur_wellesly@hotmail.com>
Date: 6 August 2004, 11:29 PM

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0200 Hours, September 24, 2533 (Military Calendar)/
Plant Farrius V, Gamma-Onagus System

       It was cold. Damnably cold.

       The Warthog skidded dangerously on the icy road. A frozen wind howled and screeched outside the vehicle's armor plating. It's noisy engine was scarce heard in the vast, snowy plains. All around it were unending stretches of white; mountains of ice, fields of snow, and a sky without color. Such was the plainness of the planet that it was almost impossible to tell where the land ended and the sky started. It was a world that stood testament to a silence that never began and would never end.

       To Lieutenant Shirley Steeves, it was the loneliest place she had ever been. It was so still and lifeless, her presence seemed unwelcome. She did not like this planet, and she wanted to leave as soon as possible. Besides her superstitions, her more earthly senses were also discomforted. The Warthog's climate regulator said it was 18 degrees Celsius, but it certainly didn't feel like it. She tried to control her shivering, but she had a feeling that Colonel Anderson detected her weakness. She knew any attempt to warm herself by rubbing her hands together or shaking violently would displease her commander, so instead she did the only thing that would take some of the numbness away: she talked.

       "Might I inquire as to why we are here, sir?" She had not asked any questions about their mysterious journey to this dead planet, but now she felt the time was right - and necessary for the sake of her frozen body.

       The Colonel did not look at her. At last he spoke, but it was not to her. "Private, ETA Goddamnit!"

       "Five, sir," the man driving the vehicle replied.

       After this brief exchange had finished, Colonel Anderson sat back in his seat and was once again silent.

       Colonel Anderson was not a happy man. He was constantly angry at something was prone to blow up at the smallest thing. Shirley was one of the few to have witnessed the full extent of his fury. It was when she had accompanied him during a training mission and one of the trainees had struck him after enduring nearly ten minutes of the Colonel's taunts and mental games. Anderson had beaten the man badly and pushed his face into the mud until he nearly died. Shirley shuddered to think of the man's fate.

       It was thus that she was deeply afraid of her commander, but her curiosity got the better of her. "Sir?" she asked in a voice that did not quiver despite herself.

       Anderson made a sort of throaty growl to show his displeasure at being pressed, but he did not ignore her a second time. "We're here to interrogate a prisoner, Lieutenant." His voice was harsh and gruff, and he said no more.

       Lieutenant Steeves, of course, already knew the basic objective of the mission. Her briefing was anything but extensive, but she did know that. Her question did not strain on the why but on the here. Like most ONI personnel, she was privy to all inhabited planets, classified and otherwise, but she had never heard of Farrius V. Granted, she was not high up, but judging by the planet's emptiness, she assumed she was one in only a handful who knew of its existence. Farrius V was beyond the range of where frozen water could exist in the system. Planetary environmental regulators kept it hospitable enough around the equator so that humans wouldn't become an ice cube if they were outside for more than a minute. It did, however, guarantee a horribly uncomfortable environment as well as the perfect cover; no one would expect a military base on a planet like this.

       After about five minutes passed, Shirley peered out the front window, struggling to see over the hulking soldier who sat in the passenger seat with his rifle on his lap. She was somewhat shocked to see their proximity to the base. They were almost at the gates, and she had not seen a thing, despite the fact they had been driving across a mostly open plain. It was built in the side of a great column of ice, a veritable mountain, formed by the great pressure of the moving glaciers. The installation, of course only a third of it being above ground, had buildings that were made of titanium and concrete but were masterfully covered in ice. Its perimeter was merely a vertical sheet of ice. It was imperceptible from satellite imagery and even from someone on the ground. A man would have to be very determined to find this base, and who would look here?

       As they approached the wall, a section of the ice moved aside. Just inside the compound were several small checkpoint buildings with tired-looking guards in snow camouflage uniforms standing lazily inside. From the looks of it, they too did not feel the effects of the air conditioning.

       The Warthog pulled up alongside the largest building. The soldier driving it turned the engine off. He turned in his seat to face Shirley and the Colonel. "Pull your scarves around your mouth and nose and fasten your goggles, if you please, ma'am and sir." They already had their equipment on and they waited for their guests to do the same. Once they had, the opened the door.

       Shirley had not quite understood why they were making such a big deal of it, for the walk from the warthog to the building's entrance was no more than ten meters, but once she stepped outside she understood. Her thick jacket and scarf could not keep out the biting cold. It felt like her face was being peeled off with a knife. Their two-man escort moved slowly towards the building, enjoying the opportunity to torment the two ONI officers who were used to the comfortable worlds of the Inner Colonies. The Colonel did not seemed to be bothered by the intense cold, so she tried to walk as slowly and as steadily as her frozen muscles would allow.

       Inside the building it was several degrees cooler than the Warthog, but Shirley had never been so warm in her life. After her silent prayer of gratitude and taking off her goggles, she examined the building she was in. It was much larger than it appeared outside, probably because most of it was built right into the mountain of ice. It was a long, wide corridor than ran about two hundred meters down, and several smaller hallways lead to adjacent corridors of equal length. To Shirley's right was a flight of stairs leading down, and next to that were two elevators. Obviously the facility extended down into the ice.

       The worst part of the building was its atmosphere. It was dark and cold and eerie, but there was something more. It had a crypt-like quality, a smell of death and the feel of sorrow and pain. It made Shirley very uncomfortable. She suddenly had a bad feeling in her stomach, a feeling that this mission was going to get a whole lot worse and plunge her into the mysterious underbelly of ONI's secrets.

       Before she could ask, Colonel Anderson suddenly spoke. "Lieutenant, welcome to Juan-Rodriguez." His voice was almost cheery, as if he reveled in the feeling of misery and pain. "This is ostensibly a military outpost, in reality a prison, and is the last Goddamn place you want to be in the galaxy."