Excerpt from “The Assassin”

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Hero Material
“Come!” She grabbed Reinhold by his parka slee e and ran! off the Solar "ind! off the #etty! all the $ay back to the kennels% “&t'ak! &t'ak!” She $as o(t of breath from r(nning as she came charging into the h(sky station% The dogs #(mped (p and milled aro(nd her! trying to lick her face% “&t'ak! yo( m(st help me! They) e gone o(t! They)re o(t there! They)re in tro(ble!” “Slo$ do$n! girl!” said &t'ak% “They ha e to be on the base! All the sno$mobiles are here! the only one missing is the one *ederi took+” ,e stared at her! d(mbstr(ck% “Say! do yo( ha e an identical t$in-” She shook her head! (ns(re $here this $as going! stressed abo(t the delay% &f that blasted craft tipped any more! it $o(ld slither do$n into that alley . or $orse! topple and roll! And they $ere obli io(s+ “/o()re Federi’s girl!” said &t'ak firmly% ,e glared at Rhine 0old% “/o( and *ederi ha e been back a $hile! There is another craft missing!” 1aean stared at Reinhold! her heart sinking% The ,amb(rger $as grinning indecently at her2 she had no idea $hy% 3aybe that came $ith tomato ketch(p% The idiot! ,er brother and R(shka $ere in mortal danger!

“&)d page them first!” s(ggested &t'ak! seeing her stress% “3aybe they are+ close by%” “*irst thing & tried!” replied 1aean% “They)re not responding%” “To their $rist4coms!” completed &t'ak% “5et)s try the com on the sno$mobile!” ,e p(shed a se6(ence on the b(ttons on his $rist4com! and his face fell% “7ash it% &t)s the craft $ith the broken com%” 1aean felt like $ailing% “7on)t the cars ha e tracers-” This $as part of Captain)s pro#ect! and Captain $as into safety meas(res% “The tracer is interconnected $ith the com!” said &t'ak% “So it)s also in #eopardy% 8(t let me sho$ yo( a neat little trick $ith o(r $rist4coms%” ,e beckoned her closer and sho$ed her a ne$ se6(ence% “The coms all ha e tracers in them! *or resc(e! at sea and at the bases! and in combat sit(ations and so on%” “& see%” This $as good ne$s% 1aean $atched ho$ &t'ak paged R(shka)s com% A signal came back to his! gi ing him exact coordinates . “*lying shards!” he c(rsed% “That thing says they are . right o er there!” ,e pointed at the kennels% 1aean)s heart pl(mmeted% She stormed in the direction of the signal and picked the t$o $rist4coms (p from the floor% “&t'ak!” she said! high colo(r creeping into her face! “my brother)s not like that! ,e)s ne er this irresponsible!” Except! hell! he $as being so irresponsible right no$! 3other $o(ld ha e skinned him! “R(shka is!” s(pplied &t'ak% “She)s ad ent(ro(s% Think

R(shka might ha e taken him to+ that other place- Can)t imagine tho(gh! R(shka kno$s ho$ Captain feels abo(t his places+ b(t there)s no$here else they can really ha e gone%” 9h yes! tho(ght 1aean! there $as plenty of else they co(ld ha e gone% There $as the $hole icy! endless Antarctic night! 8(t it $as probably faster to h(mo(r &t'ak on this than to ha e a battle% “5et)s go then!” she p(shed% &t'ak looked $orried% “& can)t lea e the doggies% :ot right no$% &)m act(ally do$n here tonight beca(se 5(mpi o er there is abo(t to ha e p(ps% She)s already in labo(r%” /es! she remembered% ,e)d said something like that to *ederi% 1aean peered at the dogs% ,er little brother $as s(re going to $itness that miracle% 8(t her older brother $as in danger of free'ing to death tonight% 8eca(se the Captain)s da(ghter $as ad ent(ro(s! 7oggies- &t'ak)s h(skies $ere more important than t$o h(man cre$ members“&)ll go by myself!” she said% “Stay p(t!” ordered &t'ak! s(ddenly angry% “This is not a blinking to(rist base! ,ang tight! 1aean!” ,e mo ed a$ay! $ell o(t of earshot! $ith the h(sky top dog by his side% 1aean sa$ ho$ he engaged his com once more% She $as ready to scream% She checked on her brother once more . and $ithdre$ her tab! st(ng% She)d recei ed a painf(l b(ff on the nose% She co(ld almost hear his sn(b: “8(g off! yo( little pest!” And that craft $as hanging o er that cliff! nearly half of its chains not connecting $ith the le el gro(nd any longer%

&t'ak came back to her! looking baffled% “They ha en)t reported in there!” he said% “5ittle ;ohn says he only sa$ yo( and *ederi tonight%” 1aean headed to the sno$mobiles% “/o( can)t go o(t there alone!” said &t'ak% “Too dangero(s% /o( o(ght to inform *ederi and let him go look!” “*ederi)s in an officer)s meeting!” snapped 1aean% “,e)s in eno(gh tro(ble for (s being late! &t'ak! it)s my brother o(t there% &)m going% Reinhold can come along!” “& can)t dri e a sno$mobile!” ob#ected Rhine 0old% “:either can &! b(t &)m abo(t to find o(t!” She $as already in one% “Can)t be too different from the ship console!” “,oy! 1aean! "ait (p! 5et me at least sho$ yo( ho$ the controls $ork!” called &t'ak% “*irst of all! go slo$ly% And don)t stop any$here% <eep the com acti e% There)s going to be a bli''ard% Temperat(res drop terribly fast in these parts%” “3y brother)s o(t there!” said 1aean% “:o$ ho$ does this ehicle $ork-” After 1aean had promised to stay in constant to(ch and &t'ak checked the com and tracer of the sno$mobile! she and Rhine 0old closed the door% &t'ak fiddled $ith his com and the great gate opened% Rhine 0old gaped% “Alright!” came &t'ak)s oice o er the com% “&f yo( to(ch the console! yo( see a map%” 1aean follo$ed his instr(ctions and opened the map% The So(thern 7eep 8ase $as indicated in red! and a defa(lt 6(estion spr(ng (p on the screen: “A(to4na igate to So(thern 7eep-” 1aean to(ched the “ok” and the sno$mobile slid into motion%

“:o$ yo( hold onto the steering rod!” instr(cted &t'ak o er the com $hile the sno$mobile cleared the exit of the &ce 8ase% “There are rocks and gaps in the gro(nd% Stay on the track and try to a oid all the b(mps% These cars ha e one dra$back% They)re top4hea y% They topple easily% So no do(ghn(ts%” “7o(ghn(ts-” asked 1aean! not comprehending% “:e er mind!” said &t'ak)s oice% “7ri e slo$ly% &)m on standby%” “Thanks! &t'ak%” She s$itched her $rist4com to standby too and foc(sed on the path ahead% “"here are $e going-” asked Rhine 0old next to her% The ehicle a(to4na igated nicely! and 1aean kept her hand on the controls to ease it aro(nd all (ne enness on the track% &t $as s(rprising ho$ many (nexpected obstacles the track yielded! &t had felt so smooth $hen *ederi had na igated! ,o$ she $ished he co(ld ha e been dri ing instead of herself! 8(t $hat choice did she ha e- "ind b(ffeted the ro(nd craft from ario(s directions! $hich didn)t help% 1aean clamped her #a$% She $as doing fine! :o need to b(g &t'ak and his holy h(skies! She $as angry $ith the man and his callo(s attit(de% Rhine 0old stayed 6(iet for a time! in a state of a$e of the little red darede il% E ent(ally he let rip an ocean4deep sigh% 1aean fle$ aro(nd% “7on)t do that!” she che$ed him o(t% “/o( ga e me sitch a fright!” She st(died him critically% “"hat)s $rong! Reinhold-” “,a!” said Rhine 0old acerbically “& sa$ yo( first% And no$ Federi’s got yo(%” ,e shook his head% 1aean la(ghed% “,e hasn)t got me! yo( nit$it!”

“&t'ak seems con inced!” grinned Rhine 0old% “3(st ha e seen something!” ,is smile faded% “And Ailyss . "olf hogs her the $hole time% R(shka is in Ronan)s cla$s% "ho)s left for me-” “0et together $ith 3r 3arsden!” s(ggested 1aean and delighted in the look of absol(te disg(st that crossed the ,amb(rger)s face% “3aybe he)ll t(rn into a girl! 9r ho$ abo(t that f(rry girlfriend of yo(rs . that h(sky! *reedom-” She m(lled% “/o( like Ailyss-” The sno$mobile sped past a deep sno$drift! missing it by inches% Sheesh! The flakes $ere floating aro(nd them no$! lit (p in the headlights like h(ndreds of s$irling stars% “Sho(ld) e gi en "olf)s task to yo( then! sho(ldn)t &-” considered 1aean% “,is task?” 1aean grinned mirthlessly% “,e)s (seless at it any$ay! Told him to look after her and keep her o(t of tro(ble% 8lackmailed him% "ith his knee%” “"hat- /o( little b(sybody! "hy do yo( ha e to meddle in e erybody)s affairs-” 1aean glared at him% She)d had #(st abo(t eno(gh! ,er brother)s sn(b still st(ng! too! for blasted trying to sa e his life! “And yo()re a co$ard!” she retorted% “:o$ that she)s harmless yo( $ant her% ;(st beca(se she)s a girl! no other reason% 8efore that! $here $ere yo( $ith yo(r friendship"hen she needed it- There $e are! here)s the 7eep 8ase%” “"hat-” asked Rhine 0old! gaping at the entrance that $as opening in the hill before them% 5ittle ;ohn came to$ards them $ith a sco$l as they got o(t of the sno$mobile%

“/o(r gypsy can)t be too happy abo(t this!” he said to 1aean! glancing meaningf(lly at Rhine 0old% “Sho(ld ha e $aited for him!” “3y gypsy nothing!” snapped 1aean! annoyed% “&)m not his girlfriend! Captain)s orders are! & m(st find R(shka%” “She)s not here!” said ;ohn "hitcombe% “,a e a look! There are fi e sno$mobiles that belong to this base! and &ce 8ase has eight% :one of the &ce 8ase craft are here% They can)t arri e here any other $ay . not in this $eather%” “&s there maybe another entrance-” ;ohn 5ittle le elled a dark stare at her% “/o( kno$! there is! b(t there)s no $ay to access it by sno$mobile%” “"hat)s the point then!” m(ttered 1aean% “9h shoot!” ,er tab! $hich $as acc(rate in any case! had #(st been confirmed% They $ere indeed o(t there some$here% She acti ated her $rist4com% “&t'ak! come in%” “1aean! "hat)s the sit(ation . fo(nd them-” “:ope% 8ad ne$s% They ne er did arri e at 7eep 8ase%” She fro'e% The image $as i id% ,er hands $ent o er her eyes trying to block the horrible ision o(t! b(t it $as as if she $ere in that blasted craft% Now they $ere a$are of the danger! 8(t no$ $as too late% “"here are yo( going-” called ;ohn 5ittle as 1aean di ed back into the sno$mobile% “0oing to find them!” Rhine 0old only had time to #(mp in after her% She $o(ld ha e gone alone too% “7ri e safely! Skipper!” sho(ted 5ittle ;ohn% “&)ll organi'e

the search from this side% 7on)t get o(t of the sno$mobile! and remember! don)t let the engine die! The snapf4resparkifyers are cold4sensiti e! they free'e o er and then yo( can)t restart!” “Shukar,” yelled 1aean% Then they $ere on their $ay! heading o(t into the dancing sno$% ;ohn 5ittle ga'ed after them! fro$ning% She $as an intense girl! "hen had *ederi had the time to teach this yo(ng $oman ho$ to dri e a sno$ craft“"hat 4-” Radomir 5ascek glared at his $rist4com% “;ohn! s(rely yo()re #oking-” The meeting exploded% There $as no disc(ssing alliances and political scenarios no$% R(shka $as in mortal danger! and Ronan 7onegal $ith her% The Captain barked commands2 moments later sno$mobiles fanned o(t from &ce 8ase! and more from So(thern 7eep% 7oc and 8enita 7)Ara(#o manned one craft2 5ascek and /ang <o another2 7r ;ake shared a craft $ith "olf! and *ederi and 3arsden $ere in another% Three ehicles from 7eep 8ase #oined the search! carrying all a ailable cre$% ;ohnsson stayed at the &ce 8ase s(per ising =(inlan and his da(ghter% The b(bble cars spread o(t in an organi'ed $ay! each ha ing its o$n bit of icescape to co er% ;on 3arsden s$itched the heating element on% *ederi nearly bit him% “7on)t do that!” he snapped% “"hat- The heating! b(ddy! &t)s essential! 7id yo( notice the bli''ard aro(nd (s-” *ederi didn)t respond% ,is $orld $as in t(rmoil as he na igated the sno$mobile into s$irling sno$flakes!

cross4co(ntry% ,e had set the craft)s tracer on 1aean)s $rist4com2 she $as a blipping red dot on the console screen! and his biggest challenge $as to get closer% She $as dri ing like a $ild thing! m(ch faster than $as safe in these little b(bble craft! b(t at least she seemed to be going mainly in one direction% &t seemed as tho(gh she had some sort of fix on $here her brother $as% ,er radar% She kept tabs on lo ed ones! recalled *ederi% Co(ld she sense that he $as not too far behind her- Co(ld he reach her someho$! pacify her! tell her to slo$ do$n- She didn)t exactly seem to be listening! Sho(ld he contact her on the com- ;on 3arsden $as already f(nny abo(t the $hole sit(ation! 9h hell! if something happened to the little s(nbird no$! The Animal $as pacing in its cage! looking for its gap to escape% And the Samoa tic ran thro(gh his a(ra once e ery thirty seconds% 5ike a st(bborn case of $ere4hicc(ps% “Slo$ do$n! man!” reproached 3arsden% “7on)t $ant (s landing in a sno$drift! Sho(ld ha e taken the controls myself!” “,a e yo( considered!” said *ederi thro(gh his teeth! “that $hate er R(shka is playing! she can at least dri e- There are t$o inexperienced dri ers in 1aean)s craft and in fact the kid is at the steering col(mn!” “9of!” m(ttered 3arsden% “Slo$ do$n! man! &t $on)t help yo(r little l( any if yo( o ert(rn this craft!” “That explains the lime4green bandana!” commented Rhine 0old as 1aean steered thro(gh the storm% “"hat-” She glanced at him! and back at the o(tside! $here

co(ntless specks s$irled in the headlights of the sno$ craft% “"hat)s it like! to be the girlfriend of an old g(y-” asked Rhine 0old $ith a grin% “"hat-” snapped 1aean! incensed% “,e)s not old! blast yo(! ,e)s t$enty! :early! "hat the hell does age ha e to do $ith it-” She met his old stare% “&)m not his girlfriend! "hat . are yo( #ealo(s-” “Think he)ll make yo( $ear skirts- 0ypsies don)t like their $omen in pants!” teased the ,amb(rger% “Aargh!!” She na igated horrifyingly close to a deep crack in the ice! $here the gro(nd fell a$ay into a black abyss for the $idth of t$o metres% ,er ner es sang in high stress as she t(rned it o(t of the $ay% 1aean $asn)t 6(ite certain anymore ho$ to slo$ this thing do$n $itho(t coming to a complete stop% She only remembered ;ohn)s $arning abo(t not letting the engine die% All she co(ld do $as follo$ the psychic trace she $as getting and keep the craft going in the right direction! and try to a oid ob io(s disaster% The images $ere flooding in no$% Ronan and R(shka $ere both in deep tro(ble% They sho(ld ha e stayed inside the craft! blast them! :o$ the $arm air $as o(t of there! 1aean c(rsed herself for listening to &t'ak and first going to 7eep 8ase% She o(ght to ha e follo$ed the trace right a$ay! aimed to $alk in on them+ at least there $o(ld ha e been less danger! “/o( $ere saying!” prompted Rhine 0old! clinging to the seat for dear life% “Abo(t *ederi!” “"e)re not talking abo(t *ederi!” said 1aean! conf(sed% “This is abo(t Ro and R(shka!”

“7i ersion tactics!” grinned Rhine 0old% “&diot!” shot 1aean% “,ah!” retorted Rhine 0old% “:o$ I’m the idiot! /o( (sed to like me! 1aean!” 1aean negotiated past another sno$drift% Sight $as se erely limited in this r(sh of sno$flakes% The sno$mobile)s chains kept slipping in the ne$ po$dery sno$! bet$een gripping the older! compacted bits (nderneath% There $ere also patches $here black ice sho$ed thro(gh (nder the yo(ng sno$% 1aean tried to steer aro(nd those% "hene er the chains hit one of those parts! they slipped frighteningly and the engine ga e a tort(red $hine% ,er ner es $ere #arring% “"olf #(st needed a comb!” she commented% “/o( need a brain transplant%” She leaned for$ard in a s(bconscio(s attempt to see more% &t didn)t help% An ice $all s(ddenly loomed right in front of her! and she s$er ed frantically! praying to any resident g(ardian sno$ angels that the craft $o(ldn)t topple% &t didn)t% &t danced a $alt' instead! losing its grip on the ice% 1aean $alt'ed $ith it (ntil she tho(ght of steering into the c(r es! getting the chains to grip again% Adrenaline shot thro(gh her belatedly% She cl(ng onto the steering rod! shaking% 7on)t stop the craft! The engine might die! Those snapf4 + snapf+ dingbats+ Rhine 0old $as grinning at her! his eyes as $ild as hers in the light of the console% “"hat-” “"olf $orships yo(!” he said% “Sh(t (p!” $arned 1aean% “Ay! "atch the road!!”

“"hat road!” 1aean bit o(t! fighting $ith the dancing craft once again% “Stop talking sheka!” She tried steering into the c(r es again and it $orked a second time% She grinned! relie ed% And tried to ignore the $ay e ery m(scle in her body $as #(mping% “&t)s tr(e!” insisted Rhine 0old% “"oe betide him if yo(r gypsy finds o(t!” 1aean screamed% “9ne more $ord from yo(!” she threatened! “and &)ll kick yo( in the . er . o(t of the sno$mobile!” “E$$!” grinned Rhine 0old% And sh(t his mo(th% 1aean gro(nd her teeth and tried foc(sing on the psychic trace! and the road% "olf didn)t $orship her% "olf $as a lo(t% "ith no le er% They all tho(ght there $as something bet$een her and *ederi! ;(st beca(se he had decided to keep her company% She shook her head! the phantom of a smile in the corner of her mo(th% ,e)d probably la(gh himself silly abo(t this con ersation! "as that kind of $onderf(l friendship so to(gh to (nderstand- 7arned hell! she tho(ght! it $as! &t $as rare and precio(s! that $as $hy! :one of them had any cl(e abo(t something like that! She $o(ld ha e gi en all she o$ned right no$ to ha e him in the sno$mobile next to her instead of this big blond moll(sc% And ha ing him dri e! she tho(ght! her panic mo(nting% This terrible craft $as picking (p speed again% Aargh! *ederi! help! "here are yo(There $as this s(dden calm spot inside of her% The connection $as there%

Little luv, touch the brakes gently. Is it working? ou’re slowing down? !ood, now do it again" 1aean obeyed the impression and the craft slo$ed% ,er $ildly beating heart slo$ed do$n too and she started breathing again% ,er com bipped% She to(ched it% “*ederi!” “0ot my message! little l( -” “/es! thanks!” she smiled% “"e)re on o(r $ay! s$eetness% 7on)t $orry% 7ri e gently%” “Thanks! *ederi!” She to(ched the >o er)4b(tton! still smiling to herself% “There yo( ha e it! little l( !” commented Rhine 0old% 1aean shook her head% #hat epithet had ne er bothered her yet! “/o( g(ys are being st(pid!” she said softly% “*ederi is an ace friend% 0o look (p the definition in the Sher4“ She fro'e% "as Reinhold a pirate- 9r $as he a hostage- Sheesh! "as he riling her to conni e secrets o(t of her“& think!” said Rhine 0old $ith a kno$ing grin! “doth yo( not protest a bit too m(ch no$-” “That)s d(mb!” snapped 1aean angrily% “7oth! "hat the hell do yo( mean by that- &s this brain damage from the ?nicate School System-” “5ook it (p in the Sherman *iles!” ad ised Rhine 0old $ith a grin% 1aean gro(nd her teeth% 7oth! ,o$ dared her brother get a$ay into the Antarctic night #(st o(t of p(re . p(re . her $hite4hot anger ran o(t of $ords% ,o$ dared he p(t R(shka)s and his o$n life in s(ch danger-

3olly Street! she tho(ght dismally% They $ere from 3olly Street% &t had finally ca(ght (p $ith her brother% "ell! she)d never allo$ it to catch (p $ith Sha$ney! The oid $as s(ddenly right ahead% She hit the brakes $ith f(ll force! ca(sing the craft to spin a do(ghn(t and coming to rest mere inches a$ay from the drop% The engine c(t o(t% The flakes s$irled do$n into the ya$ning g(lf% 1aean cl(ng to the steering col(mn! $aiting for the adrenaline in her blood to stop fi''ing 6(ite so badly% She stared do$n the precipito(s slope! horrified% This $as $here the trace had led her% &f those blasted flakes co(ld take it a bit easier for a moment+ As tho(gh it had heard her plea! the $ind calmed a bit! and the sno$ came do$n more gently% She opened the door of the craft and #(mped o(t! and sank a$ay in knee4deep sno$% “,ay!” protested Rhine 0old! shocked% “/o( can)t get o(t! &t)s too blasted cold! Close that door!” “Schat' (p! &)m listening!” They $ere close by% She stood listening to the enormity of the night! s6(inting into the falling sno$% Close by . do$n thereRhine 0old to(ched her sho(lder% She half4t(rned to him% ,e $as holding o(t sno$ goggles . hi tech ones! she sa$ in the dim light of the sno$ craft)s console% She p(t them on thankf(lly% “Close yo(r parka)s hood!” he instr(cted% She obeyed! 'ipping the face4g(ard closed% She accepted the thermal elbo$4length mittens he held o(t to her and stripped them on o er her glo es% And then she str(ggled to$ards the steep drop! and sank a$ay into the irgin sno$ (p to her hips% She

felt colder inside than o(t% &f it $eren)t for the distress signals she $as still consistently picking (p+ Rhine 0old got o(t of the sno$mobile as $ell and follo$ed her a fe$ paces along the ridge! holding o(t a pair of sno$shoes from the craft to her% ,e $as already $earing a pair himself% ,e looked like a moon man $ith his parka closed (p like that and his goggles% She motioned him into more silence! sensing that he $as going to say something again% Then she pl(cked his slee e and pointed do$n into the chasm% “7o$n there!” There $as something dark in the sno$% &t co(ld be a rock% “&)m bringing the craft closer%” Rhine 0old got back inside and fiddled $ith the sno$ ehicle)s controls% There $as no response% “Can)t! The engine)s dead!” She stared at him in dismay% 0reat going! 1aean 7onegal! :o$ $hat- Coming to resc(e her brother and getting st(ck herself“*irst things first!” said Rhine 0old as 1aean str(ggled into her sno$shoes% ,e d(g in the interior of the craft and located t$o strong spotlights and bro(ght them o(t% She glanced at him% “1aean!” said Rhine 0old! “relax%” ,e placed his h(ge Antarctic mitten on her sho(lder% All she co(ld see of his face $ere his eyes! b(t they s(ddenly seemed to ha e intelligence behind them% “"e ha e three f(nctional coms! and the craft)s tracer is on! and $e) e got that g(y from that other base organi'ing a search! and &t'ak kno$s $here $e are%” She ga'ed at his parka)d (p face and light4bl(e eyes and

breathed% This $as a different man from the immat(re moron $ho had #(st occ(pied the craft $ith her! This $as Rhine 0old! ,ero 3aterial% A real ally $ho act(ally meant something% A$! thank the stars! They fastened the lights to their belts and climbed do$n the steep slope to $here Ronan and R(shka)s sno$mobile had (pended% That blasted craft $as lying on its back! sno$ chains (p in the air% The door $as half $renched off% 1aean and Rhine 0old forced it open together% 1aean s(ppressed a scream% Ronan $as h(ddled against the $indshield! his arms aro(nd R(shka% *or a second 1aean tho(ght they $ere both dead% She knelt do$n and felt for a p(lse in her brother)s main artery! and fo(nd it . slo$ and $eak! b(t distinct% “Ro is ali e!” she breathed% “0ot to get him a$ay from that icy $indshield!” ,er brother $as $earing a parka! and so $as R(shka2 b(t neither had fastened their face g(ards! and they had been sitting in this icy little place for ho$ long- 1aean checked for R(shka)s p(lse too% &t! too! $as there b(t ery $eak% ,o$ long had those t$o battled to t(rn their craft the right $ay ro(nd again“"e ha e to get them into o(r sno$ craft!” said Rhine 0old% 1aean glanced at him% “1(ll them o(t of here into the bli''ard-” she 6(eried! raising her eyebro$s 6(ite pointlessly at him . he co(ldn)t see them behind the parka% “"hat else can $e do-” asked Rhine 0old! exasperated% “0ot to get them $arm!”

“3ake a fire!” gro$led 1aean% “*ire!” echoed Rhine 0old! a fara$ay expression in his eyes% 1aean took her mittens off and r(bbed her brother)s cheeks $ith her neolaminene4glo ed fingers% &t didn)t do m(ch% “*ire!” Rhine 0old m(ttered to himself and started filching thro(gh e ery compartment he co(ld find aro(nd the craft% The bli''ard retook its speed o(tside% 1aean tried $edging herself bet$een the $indscreen and her brother% “That)s pointless!” remarked Rhine 0old% “/o()ll only free'e as $ell%” “&t b(ys them time!” snapped 1aean% “*ire!” reiterated the ,amb(rger% &f he said it one more time+ “8ody heat!” s(ggested 1aean! starting to open her parka% “Stop that! are yo( n(ts-” exclaimed Rhine 0old% “8e cool! 1aean! There are many flammable things aboard here! &)m only trying to fig(re ho$ $e are going to do this $itho(t ca(sing the $hole thing to explode!” 1aean glanced aro(nd the tiny cabin% &f the blasted console co(ld be res(rrected and the heating acti ated! $ith or $itho(t the engine r(nning+ $ome on, Federi, don’t tell me you’ve never commandeered a vehicle? ,er com bipped% She s$itched it on% “*ederi!” “5ittle l( ! $hat)s going on-” “"e fo(nd them!” she reported% “They)re fro'en% "hat do & do-” “Can yo( get in (nder the seat- There)s a compartment!”

said *ederi% 1aean reached (p to $here the seat h(ng o er them% She fo(nd the compartment and p(lled it open% A large blanket and a sheet from some or other artificial material pl(nged o(t% “Ah!” she said% “This isn)t going to help!” remarked Rhine 0old% “/o( p(t a blanket aro(nd them! yo()re only locking the cold in%” “1aean!” came *ederi)s oice on the com! “yo( see that other thing that looks like a piece of $rapping material-” “/es%” “1(t that aro(nd them% 9ne corner has a b(tton% /o( p(sh that b(tton%” “&t)s electric-” asked 1aean! excited% “Ni. ;(st do it% ,ang tight! $e)re right behind yo(%” “Thanks!” she breathed and $rapped the sheet aro(nd Ronan and R(shka% She searched its corners and fo(nd the b(tton! and clicked it% ,eat spread thro(gh the sheet! gro$ing o(t from that one corner (ntil it had reached e ery part% “1(t the other blanket o er!” (rged Rhine 0old% “That $ay the heat stays in!” As he $as speaking! he $as already doing it% “& ha e no idea $hy R(shka $o(ldn)t ha e done this in the first place!” m(ttered 1aean! p(''led% “She)d ha e kno$n!” She helped Rhine 0old t(ck the blanket aro(nd her brother and R(shka! and then res(med r(bbing Ronan)s face in an effort to restore circ(lation% Ronan groaned% And the door of the craft $as $renched open once more% Extra torch beams shone on the t$o ictims%

1aean t(rned% “9(t!” commanded 3r 3arsden)s oice from (nderneath layers of parka% “"e)re going to get them into o(r craft and take them back to the base%”

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