Author : Bob Newbell
Antonio pitched forward onto the ice, the exit wound in his left upper back clearly visible. He was dead. I finished reloading my rifle and took cover behind what remained of the wall of the dome. It was almost entirely a ground war now. Between our anti-aircraft lasers and the aerospace support from the Lunies, it was hard for an enemy drone or fighter plane to get through. In the distance, I could see several vehicles approaching. Hovercraft tanks, most likely. I doubted I had anything left that could hit something that heavily armored and do much damage.
My hands and feet were getting numb. It wasn’t that cold out, only -20°C according to the readout in my helmet’s display. Something was wrong with my battlesuit’s heaters. I did a sensor sweep and could still only see the heat signatures from the hovercraft. If there had been individual soldiers on foot, I might have tried to pick one or two off.
I looked back at the fragmented dome. Inside the area of the dome about a quarter of a kilometer in the distance I could make out a few hectares of hydroponic crops, long since frozen and shattered. Off to the left were rows of much smaller geodesic domes: individual houses, some of them remarkably intact given the pounding the giant habitation dome had taken. I wondered what the cities in the Americas and Russia and Asia looked like? The Lunar Free State and Lagrange-5 had been bombarding the enemy for close to eight months. That had to be taking quite a toll.
As I looked around, my eye fell on a small, dark object a few meters away. It was a grenade. My battlesuit’s system interrogated it and the grenade’s computer confirmed it was functional. I ran over, picked it up, ran back to the edge of the wall, and looked around the corner. The hovertanks were getting closer. I could see their skirts had tessellated armor, probably a ceramic-matrix nanocomposite that might withstand a grenade blast. The ice between my position and the tanks had several small craters. If I could manage to get the grenade in one of them just before the tank passed over it, I thought as the vehicles closed in on my position.
I picked a crater and estimated how long I should wait before I made a run for it. I’d almost certainly be gunned down before I could make it back behind the wall. But I figured I was as good as dead anyway. May as well take a half-dozen temps with me to hell. I got ready to sprint for the crater when the tanks all suddenly stopped.
“Wěi! Wěi, can you hear me?” I reflexively jumped when I heard the voice in my helmet’s speakers.
“John? Is that you?,” I replied.
“Yeah, it’s me. Wěi, the war’s over! They’ve had enough of the Lunies and Laggies pummeling their countries. The temperate zone powers just agreed to a ceasefire and they’re ready to recognize us as a sovereign state!”
I gently put the grenade on the ice and then sat down with my back against the inner wall of the shattered dome. My hands were shaking and it had nothing to do with the cold. We’d done it. We’d won our independence. Antarctica was free!
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