Alpanon

Wurm Wrangler 0069, Prologue

Feb 26th, 2015
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  1. Grandma had said that she still remembered how things had been during the old calendar. Weather had changed the most. When she'd been young, people had been worried about global warming.
  2. Damn. That sounded nice. WARMING.
  3. Through four layers of clothing, Ronnie was still shivering. The squad was skiing along their set path, none of them talking, none of them looking around. Everyone was too worn out for that. Just move along, move along. It'll end in time. No march was endless.
  4. They had felt some relief when they came down that last downward slope and saw the base. Not much though; they all remembered that the distance looked shorter from the top of the hill than it actually was. And that there was a long, if gentle, slope upwards.
  5. For the past eight days the squad had been making do with their tents to keep warm in. It had been the shittiest experience in their military training so far. It would be over soon. Yeah. Soon enough, right?
  6. Everyone was breathing heavily. They were all carrying a lot of stuff on their backs, after all. Way less than when they'd left. Ronnie found himself remembering the fact that this had been just an "orientation to prolonged stay in the ice fields". Fuck.
  7.  
  8. Ronnie was second to last in their queue, and he was starting to feel a little anxious at their slow progress. He stole a glance behind him, not to the guy coming in after him, but to the sky above the slope they had descended from. The Sun didn't show up at all this time of year, but there usually was plenty of light since everything was covered in white snow and the Moon and the stars were always shining. Now some clouds were forming. A grey wall of them, rising up like a thunder cloud would during the summer. A Gray Tide. Those sucked bad. During the last eight days, they had witnessed none of them, and counted themselves fortunate. They'd picked up the pace when the first signs had shown up, and very much intended to make it back inside by the time it hit. Gray Tides would drop the temperature by maybe ten degrees Celsius, which may not have sounded all that bad, but the wind blew so strong it hindered movement and visibility was reduced to less than two meters. And of course, it was already -29 degrees Celsius.
  9. The worst part about the Tide was that once it formed and went one way, it came back after a while, like a tide did. Luckily it dissipated after that.
  10. The phenomenon was magical in origin, which meant that there was jack shit that anyone could do about it.
  11. The formation was getting ready to break under its own weight and fall across the land.
  12.  
  13. "Call us in" Mutt, the squad leader, said to the woman behind him. Carol had the radio, and she did so happily.
  14. The radio crackled, and they were informed that according to the measuring gear, the Gray Tide was going to hit in seven minutes.
  15. "Haul ass. Over and out"
  16. And haul ass they did.
  17.  
  18. The base had several layers of "defence". Of course, since the place had only ever existed for training purposes, these layers were not meant against enemies, but against the elements. The first layer was the hill it was built on. During a Gray Tide, the wind and snow all travelled along the ground. The stuff would lose momentum climbing up a hill.
  19. The second layer consisted of several buffers, barricades that looked like snowploughs, set asymmetrically all around the hill. The squad skied between two of these and turned a little to the left to go around the next one. Mutt was starting to look for the closes gate in defence layer number three, the chain-link fence. It just wasn't a military base without one of those.
  20. There were eight gates in that fence, and it was the south-east gate the squad arrived at. There they were greeted by the friendly neighbourhood MP's, all bundled up and keeping themselves warm by stomping their feet and jumping around.
  21. "Bloody great timing" one of them mumbled from behind a balaclava and a scarf. "Two more minutes and we'd have left you out"
  22. The squad slipped through the gate quickly, and the two locked the gate behind them.
  23. "The blokes got in, Gate 4 is closed and locked" they radioed in before running away. They wanted to be safe and sound inside ASAP.
  24.  
  25. The barracks this squad made their way to was surrounded by another chain-link fence, though the two gates in this one had no locks. Once inside this fence, they took their skis off and fell in line. Sergeant Major Nielssen was waiting for them.
  26. "Wee arrrre thhhhe ELITE!" he said.
  27. "Wee dooo not FEAR a little SNOW!" he said.
  28. "Yooouu wiiill return your equipment in prrropeeer places aaafterrr MAINTENACE!" he said. And then he went inside to no doubt drink coffee.
  29. About twenty seconds after he shut the door behind him, the Gray Tide hit. The squad couldn't finish up the equipment maintenance in the storage shed fast enough. Once again Ronnie found himself remembering that this entire ordeal has been just "orientation to prolonged stay in the ice fields".
  30.  
  31. ***
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