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Continue To The Next Chapter - Chapter 2

A HEART OF ICE

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER ONE

TIME : January 11, 2015 2:15 A.M.
PLACE : Deep Space

Hank rubbed his eyes sleepily and looked at the window. The stars were there as always to tell him he was not alone in the world and in the middle of the night he needed all the reminding he could get.

His friends were sound asleep after a hard and disappointing mission. A terrorist from the iceworld of Frigida, in a system neighboring Triax, had threatened to blow up a small city in Triax unless they gave in to his unrealistic demands. Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa had been sent there to try to talk some sense into him and if they couldn't, they were to stop him at all costs. As it turned out, the bomb was a hoax and the four of them had wasted their time. They had spent all that effort for nothing.

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa worked for M.W.G.D. (Milky Way Galaxy Defense), an organization dedicated to protecting the galaxy from terrorists, unpopular dictators, and anyone else who was a threat to galactic peace. The bomb threat was a hoax, but it could have just as easily been real in which case they would of had to do their duty and accept any risks that came with it.

They were on there way back to M.W.G.D. headquarters which was actually a space station at a secret and ever changing location. The ship was flying on automatic pilot, but they took turns staying to make sure everything was going smoothly anyway. Nothing had happened to them going to and from M.W.G.D. headquarters, but that didn't mean nothing was ever going to. Things had happened to other M.W.G.D. during the twelve to twenty-four hour journeys it took to travel between most major systems and thev knew that it was only a matter of time before something happened to them.

Something did happen to them, but not what they expected. Hank had just folded his arms and let out a loud sigh when the alarm sounded. All four of them sprang to their feet expecting the worst, but it turned out that it was only Shawn, the leader of M.W.G.D., giving them their next assignment. However, they knew it was not to be taken lightly when his message was preceded by an alarm. It was the first time Shawn had ever done that.

"I'm sorry to wake you, but a new predicament has just arisen that threatens the entire galaxy, " Shawn began with a sense of urgency. "Someone on Frigida, we don't know who, has developed a way to freeze entire planets. He has demonstrated his newly found power on an uninhabited world and says he will do the same thing to inhabited worlds shortly. He gave no demands, no terms of surrender. All he said was he was going to freeze the other planets one by one until they are all like Frigida."

"This guy makes the Ruler sound like a choir boy," commented Peter trying to put some humor into a rather serious situation.

"I am not in the mood for your humor," Shawn snanped angrily. "Your ship is near Frigida right now, so I want you to go there and help the people on the M.W.G.D. base on Frigida to find this unknown villain and stop him before he destroys countless lives. For the exact details of your mission, I am turning things over to the leader of the M.W.G.D. base on Frigida."

Shawn's voice was replaced by the voice of a middle aged woman who sounded wiser than most people her age and talked with a slight accent that did not resemble any form of dialect found on Earth. It echoed with a glistening sound like that of ice crystals vibrating on a cold day. From what they knew about Frigida the four of them figured out that was exactly what it was.

"Welcome, Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa. Shawn has told me so much about you and I am glad that I am finally getting to meet you," she remarked trying to start off on a friendly note. "The first thing you will need are your Thermal Protection Suits. Without them, you will not be able to survive here for any significant length of time. Our average temperature is well below what most other races can normally tolerate. You will find your Thermal Protection Suits in the center closet at the back of the ship. It is an M.W.G.D. requirement for them to be there. There should be one for each of you will your name on it, custom made to your measurements, and two no-name extras in case one of the others gets ripped."

Peter found the Thermal Protection Suits right where she said they would be and handed each of them their respective suit. It would be awhile before they reached Frigida and they would be going back to sleep shortly, but they had to at least test their suits to see if they were working properly. On Frigida, it would be too late.

"Have you reprogrammed the ship's navigational system to take you to Frigida?" she asked.

"I'm doing that right now, " Hank replied as he oid what he was told.

"I will send your ship's computer a signal to let it know the exact location of our M.W.G.D. base " she continued. "If you need to know where it is for any particular reason, you can access it from there. Feel free to ask me any questions that you have. I am here to help you."

"I have a question. What's your name?" Peter wondered always asking the obvious questions first.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she apologized. "My name is Navillian."

"Glad to meet you, Navillian," acknowleded Peter. "Do you have any idea what part of Frigida the enemy is in?"

"Yes," answered Navillian. "but I can't tell you over the air. We don't know who's listening. I will give you the details immediately upon your arrival."

After a brief silence, Hank spoke up. "It looks like that's all we have to say for now. We should reach you in slightly under three hours. We hope to see you then."

"I'll be looking forward to it," Navillian agreed signing off.

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa just sat there looking at each other. They had just completed in mission, even if it was a hoax, and now they were suppose to start on another mission less than twenty-four hours afterwards.

"At least the suits fit," said Peter trying to put them in a better mood.

It didn't succeed. They were as depressed as they were before. Linda agreed to begin her shift early and let Hank get some well deserved sleeping time. She didn't think she could sleep anyway with the dramatic turn of events that had just occurred. In less than five minutes, Peter, Hank, and Lisa were sound asleep.

"It's going to be a long night," Linda sighed quietly to herself.

TIME : 5:00 A.M.
PLACE : The M.W.G.D. base on Frigida

The temperature was -50 C (-58 F). It was cold even by Friqida's standards. With their Thermal Protection Suits, the four Earthlings would have frozen to death instantly in the harsh winds that put the temperature at -85 C (-121 F). Even without the wind chill factor, survival would have been very tough. Earthlings had been known to survive such temperatures before, but they were very few and far in between.

Inside the suits, it was quite comfortable except for the extra weight they had to carry around with them. They were amazed at how well the suits worked and were glad that they had them. A little weight was nothing compared to the harsh cold surrounding them.

Two people came out to greet the foursome as they entered the M.W.G.D. base. They could tell that one of them was Navillian by the look on her face of concern and compassion for them. She knew how isolated they were in their Thermal Protection Suits, but it was the only way that they could work together. The other one was named Kental. He was in his twenties or early thirties with eyes that reflected a well above average intelligence. Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa studied them carefully. Their shape was similar to that of other humaniod races they had seen throughout their many travels, but their appearance was quite different.

First, their skin was a pale white, the color of paper. They didn't need to much pigmentation because the sun never shown that brightly on any part of their planet. Second, their clothing was more for decency and protection than for warmth. In spite of the weather being cold even for Frigida, Kental and Navillian were wearing rather loose fitting clothing preferring to keep their arms and legs exposed. Third, they had very few distinguishing facial features. Their eyes had rather large pupils which they needed in order to survive. Seeing was very important on Frigida, however, some of the other senses were not needed as much. They had no chin which made them look funny when they spoke, their ears were just holes in the sides of their head, and their nose was nonexistent. Kental was first to speak.

"Be glad you weren't here in the winter," he said.

Peter couldn't imagine the temperature being colder than it already was.

"What season is it?" he asked out of curiosity.

"Early spring," stated Kental. "Things were just starting to warm up until today."

Navillian led the way as they entered the M.W.G.D. base where it was only -20 C (-4 F). Peter saw what the internal temperature was and removed the helmet to his Thermal Protection Suit as a gesture of good will. It was a little colder than Peter had originally thought it would be, but it was nothing he couldn't tolerate for a few minutes. Hank, Linda, and Lisa saw that Peter had removed his helmet and seemed to be doing fine so they did likewise. At the first gust of cold air, Lisa put her helmet back on. Gesture or no gesture, she saw no reason why she should freeze to death.

"This is as warm as we dare to go," Navillian explained. "Anything above freezing will cause the ice in our bodies to melt and flood our respiratory system suffocating us instantly."

The others made a mental note of this knowing that the villain was from Frigida and would therefore have the same weakness. Only Lisa was dead set against killing, the others would kill someone if that person was hurting others and if there was no other available alternative. Peter felt that killing was a sin, but it was a far greater sin to do nothing and let thousands of innocent people suffer. There were times when he had to choose the lesser of two evils and he had a feeling that this was going to be one of them.

Navillian wasted no time in getting straight to the point.

"We traced the source of the weapon when it was tested on a few nearby asteriods in this system and found it to be the South Pole," she began. "The weapon apparently needs to kept at extremely cold temperatures, even our planet is too hot for it except at the poles."

"Why doesn't he just launch it into space where the temperature is almost absolute zero?" inquired Linda thinking she had found a flaw in Navillian's theory.

"We had about that ourselves," Navillian agreed. "We concluded that he must want to keep an eye on the weapon so nobody will be able to steal it or destroy it. That is why we think the villain is somewhere within the vicinity."

"I am going to be your guide," Kental cut in proudly. "Just before you arrived I was investigating around the South Pole and I think I have located his hideout."

He displayed a few pictures in front of them and pointed out the area that looked like some sort of hidden fort. They couldn't see it until he pointed it out and then it became quite obvious that something was there. Kental smiled. He knew he had done a good job and was pleased to see that the others knew it too.

"Well, we'd better get started," he urged them. "The longer we wait, the more chances he'll have to strike."

Kental led Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa to an M.W.G.D. ship that was reaoy to be launched. To Lisa's dismay, the inside of the ship was the same temperature as the inside of the M.W.G.D. base, a little bit too cold for her blood. She wasn't the only one to feel that way. Peter, Hank, and Linda had put their helmets back on again. They had had enough of walking around in what was equivalent to the inside of a freezer.

The five of them said good bye to Navillian and entered the ship. Less than a minute later they were on their way to the South Pole to face whatever dangers awaited them.

TIME : 5:20 A.M.
PLACE : Somewhere around the South Pole of Frigida

The fort that Kental had discovered earlier was crawling with activity. A wide variety of people from all over the galaxy were hustling to and fro setting things up for the new empire that would spread throughout the entire galaxy if they were successful, and they had no reason to think that they wouldn't be.

In the center of all the activity was a native Frigidan who was rather heavy for his size, though not truly overweight, with a large scar running down the side of his neck. A scar that was given to him by the Ruler. He had worked for the Ruler for years only to be betrayed after he had given him what he wanted. He had barely managed to escape with his life, but now he had a weapon more powerful than the Ruler, or the rest of the galaxy, ever knew existed. It was time for his revenge!

He looked around at the people who were helping him. All of them except the ones native to Frigida were wearing Thermal Protection Suits reminding him of how fragile most of the other races were on his home planet. They could never survive some of the tortures he gone through. The whole galaxy would be made to pay for the suffering he had been through. He would show the Ruler the true meaning of the word "destruction".

"How are the preparations coming along?" he demanded authoritively.

"Quite well," reported one of the people from Frigida. "We should be able to begin our attack on Alt air 7 in a few hours. just like you scheduled."

They were suddenly interrupted by a non-Frigidan with some important news to tell them.

"An M.W.G.D. ship has landed less than a kilometer away from here," she began. "It had five people on board, one Frigidan and four non-Frigidans. The Frigidan is a person you are quite familiar with, Kental."

The self-appointed emperor of the galaxy cringed as Kental's name was mentioned. Kental and his boss, Navillian, had caused him plenty of trouble when he had been working for the Ruler. It was his failure to kill him that had caused the Ruler to get mad at him. He knew that that was not the real reason, the real reason was that he had simply that he had outlived his usefulness, but still, it gave the Ruler the excuse he was looking for to sentence him to death. His rematch with Kental was one he looked forward to, especially considering that he had the upper hand for a change.

"Where are they right now?" he snapped expectantly.

"They're approaching us at this very moment," she replied. "They obviously know where we are."

"Do they know they have been spotted yet?" he asked giving the faintest hint that he had a plan in store for them.

"They've given no indication that they have," she stated giving him her opinion while deliberately trying to avoid giving him a straight answer for the fear that she might be wrong and, just like with the Ruler, one mistake was all it took.

"Let them enter," he commanded everyone within the range of his voice. "but keep a sharp eye on them. As soon as they find out something important, I want you to pounce on them before they even know what hit them. They are to be taken alive and brought to me! I will deal with them as I see fit."

He had already planned what he was going to do with them, though he didn't tell the others because he didn't trust anybody, not even his own soldiers. He would give the M.W.G D officers a chance to blurt out anything they knew about the secrets of M.W.G.D. He knew they wouldn't do this, but he wanted to see them tremble before him while the conflict between loyalty and survival took place inside them. Then, whether they told him anything or not, he was going to throw them inside a blast furnace that he kept somewhere inside the fort, a rather ironic way to die on an ice planet. Even their Thermal Protection Suits couldn't stand that much heat for an indefinite length of time and, even if it could, they would suffocate from lack of oxygen. Everything fit perfectly into his plan.

He turned to the other Frigidan who had informed him of the progress of the preparations to attack Altair 7.

"Tell them to double their efforts." he ordered. "I want to launch the attack ahead of schedule if at all possible."

"I obey," the other Frigidan acknowledged bowing slightly toward his master as he left.

His master didn't even bother to watch him leave. He just stared off into space trying to decide which planet to freeze next after Altair 7 had been destroyed. He would continue to destroy planet after planet until they were all like Frigida. Then, he would turn on his own people and achieve his life long dream, to be the only living thing in the galaxy.

TIME : 5:40 A.M.
PLACE : Just outside the fort

"Well, this is it," declared Kental unceremoniously.

Not knowing they were being watched, Peter took note of his surroundings. The temperature was so cold that the temperature back inside the ship would seem like a heat wave. He was surprised that gasses could still exist at such temperatures.

"If it gets any colder, we'll be swimming in liquid nitrogen," Peter remarked.

He admitted that his statement wasn't very accurate, but it sure felt that way, even with his Thermal Protection Suit on.

Kental really didn't feel that cold. Heat was the only thing that he was worried about. In order for him to freeze to death, the temperate would have to be a mere three degrees above absolute zero, a condition that did not exist naturally on any known inhabited planet. The cold was a reminder to him that whoever was in charge of the weapon liked to keep things as cold as possible. His reason was still unknown, but he knew that there had to be one. It was too much trouble to take such precautions just to hide from public attention.

"Shall we enter?" considered Hank after he found what appeared to be the entrance.

The others turned to Kental for support. He was far more experienced with the region than they were and would be better at judging the risks of entering and not entering. After a few moments of weighing things out, he decided that it was best for them to enter.

"If we don't enter the fort, than we had no reason to come here," he reasoned.

The others agreed with his logic though they did not like the idea of going in. Linda led the way as one by one they entered the fort. As many times as they had been on spy missions deep into enemy territory, they still felt uncomfortable with the situation. Each time they went undercover, they wondered if it would be their last.

"Keep an eye out for anything suspicious," Linda advised the others.

Her timing was perfect. Hank looked up just in time to see one of the Frigidans fleeing to tell his master of their presence.

He silently pointed it out to the others and they nodded ever so slightly to acknowledge that they had seen it. They knew that they were being watched, but they didn't know whether to back out or press onwards. Both choices had their drawbacks, but it would be far worse for them to just stay where they were and wait for the whole fort to come caving in on them.

Kental insisted that they press on. If they had been spotted, and he knew they had, all the exits would be cut off leading them right into a trap. Their only chance to escape was to go deeper into the fort and look for another way out. Besides, Kental knew that reinforcements would be arriving shortly and they would be rescued if they were captured.

Capture seemed inevitable, but all five of them had been in such situations before and had gotten out before. All they had to do was stay calm and act intelligently. No matter what the crisis was more people were hurt or killed from panicking than by the actual crisis. In all crisis, split second decisions were necessary and any time spent panicking would prevent most chances for survival, even if it required a very simple action.

"I sense danger up ahead," warned Kental. His instincts were usually right.

"And I sense danger behind us," Hank reminded him.

Fortunately, there was a side passage that they could take. They walked quickly along hoping to elude their pursuers. To their dismay, their path was blocked by a huge metal barrier. They had managed to pick the path leading to the weapon, but they never got a chance to find that out. The barrier was impenetrable.

As Peter, Hank, Lisa, and Kental tried to find a way to get through the barrier, Linda called their attention to something that demanded their attention even more. Their pursuers had decided to show themselves. They had cut off their only way out and were rapidly approaching them.

"What do we do now?" wondered Kental who had seemed so sure of himself only a few seconds earlier.

After all his training not to panic, panicking was about all he could do. Linda looked around considering the possibilities, there were none. "Surrender," she replied grimly.

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