After a volatile encounter with a band of religious fanatics in Stonewall, we join Alexis Briggs as she arrives in Antarctica. With no time for recuperation, she connects with the Accord team stationed at a new Antarctica settlement to coordinate expansion and exploration into the recently discovered Melding Pocket. While stationed in the icy encampment, Briggs absorbs rumors of caravan attacks toward an unexplored region west of the campsite. Now she’s in the middle of unknown territory, working to expand a warfront ripe with fearful hearsay and superstitious whispers. As you well know, wherever Briggs goes, trouble seems to follow. The brief spell of safety at Antarctica’s makeshift Accord base will most likely be short-lived.
Lieutenant Colonial Alexis Briggs – Unofficial Report
Travel logs and reference material obtained before the arcport to Antarctica color the locale with strokes of natural wonder and highlights of pristine simplicity. The images strewn across the laminated pages describe this sliver of the continent as a veritable oasis, a sanctuary nestled amongst the deceptively sheer cliffs and bitter cold of the mountain ranges. Clearly these guides were printed long before the Arclight plummeted to the Earth; before The Melding gripped at the throat of humanity’s future, and before the Chosen’s appearance struck the final nail in our civilization’s coffin. One thing is certainly still true; Antarctica is cold; teeth-chattering, bone-chillingly frigid.
Unleashed by the Arclight’s galactic tear, few survived the supernatural storms that danced in deadly pockets over much of the planet, and even fewer could accurately depict the devastation firsthand. Millions lost their lives in the disaster, and the lucky minority were instantly transformed into refugees – the downtrodden vagabonds of the darkest age in human history. Although these clusters of society emerge from the shadows on occasion, finding human settlements within the Melding Pockets’ unforgiving terrain is a rare occurrence. With the masses enticed by sensational tales of cannibalistic tribes and vanishing supply convoys, intrinsic curiosity and perhaps a mild dose of naivety, propels me to delve deeper into the source of the unconfirmed reports. But first I have a job to do, to get this so called base in order.
After only three days in the pallid wasteland of Antarctica, I’ve reached a level of appreciation for New Eden that I never thought possible. Although humanity’s refuge in Brazil is in constant flux – growing and changing against the whims of perpetual hardship, it’s the greatest hope we have to reclaim this planet from the Melding and the Chosen. Antarctica by comparison is a testament to our odds in this fight, an impossible undertaking that we charge blindly because we refuse to surrender.
In its current state, the Antarctica Accord base is meager at best – only a collection of bunkers, tents, container cranes, and heaping masses of debris pitted against the onslaught Earth’s coldest, driest, and harshest continent. In the feeble comfort of my provisional office, I’ve begun to initiate the ARES teams in the pre-emptive tactics of war. Expanding the Accord’s reach from New Eden to Antarctica, Sargasso Sea to Diamond Head marks the beginning of our shift from defensive to offensive. With operation hubs across the world, we’ll have a chance at winning this war.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. The wind nearly renders the pounding inaudible. “Come in!” The rusty door rumbles open welcoming bitter flurries and jolts of cold into the crude bunker. Though clunky and at odds with the terrain, I appreciate the door’s rigidity as the only barrier against the icy gales.
“Lieutenant Colonel Briggs?” A rosy-cheeked man with a boyish face shuffles into the office. He lets out a sigh of relief as the waves of warmth envelop him.
“What can I do for you?”
Stuttering incoherently, “Ma’am, I’m here to collect your recommendations for…um… oh, sentry armaments and de-defensive weaponry.” I flash him a smile.
“Why don’t you take a seat Private…?”
“Jennings, Private Jennings.” With a pat on the back, his tentative nervousness is replaced by jittery enthusiasm. Not exactly an improvement.
“Here you are,” I state while handing over a military ledger sandwiched with tactical notes, procedural recommendations, and exploration milestones.
“Thank you Lieutenant, I’ll be going now.” Turning to face the gateway to the outdoors, Jennings pauses before trudging forward. Who could blame him? “Oh one final thing, Captain Emmerich needs to see you as soon as possible; he’s in the central tent.”
“I guess I’ll be joining you then.” It took me more than a few moments to build up the courage to face the blizzard. I can thank familiarity with Fortaleza’s tropical climate for that.
“Lieutenant Colonel Briggs!” Captain John Emmerich’s premature greeting conjures an awkward snowy handshake right outside the tent opening. “I’m so happy to see the great Alexis Briggs here in our neck of the woods,” his boisterous smile is unhindered by the fact that he is standing outside in the snow.
We chat it up as if we were in a cozy coffee shop until a bombardment of sniffles reminds us that we’re both outside. Entering into the center of operations, Emmerich fills me in on his family life, his new obsession with Holmgang, and how the years are adding to his waistline. Small talk is a rare pleasantry these days, any chance to gush about topics other than war and loss is a cherished treat.
“Wait, this can’t be the important news that you wanted to tell me Captain.”
“Huh?” Snapping out of the carefree banter, the cerebral light bulb illuminates and we’re back on track. “Ohhh right, we received a distress call a few moments ago from an unknown location northwest of here.”
“A few moments ago, what did it say?”
“I’m sorry Lieutenant, SIN is spotty out here at best. Besides a request for help I couldn’t make out anything else.”
Initially refreshing, Emmerich’s nonchalance begins to wear on my patience. “Why are we not sending someone to check it out? There are peoples’ lives at risk,” the assertion is met with silence. Every soldier in the room avoids my gaze including Captain Emmerich.
“Alexis…” He reaches out to place his hand on my shoulder, but I take a step back. “There have been rumors of caravans going missing and people disappearing out there, it’s not safe. We mind our business out here. It may not be what you’re used to from New Eden but in Antarctica, everyone is on their own.”
“Is that what the Accord stands for? Is that what it means to you?” The questions fail to stir the guilty revelation that I was hoping or even the ounce of emotion I expected. The Paragon of the Wastes or so his title is touted in New Eden for volunteering to oversee operations in no man’s land, Captain Emmerich is nothing more than a coward ruling over a kingdom of frightful devotees. If they won’t go, I will.
Under a pale grey sky, the hum of the LGV is eclipsed by the calls of the wilderness. Littered with the essence of hopelessness, the wasteland of jagged crags and bold precipices starkly contrasts the quintessence of New Eden just an arcfold away. The spirit of luxury oozing from every inch of Copa fades into an illusory memory atop the peaks of Antarctica. No crystite shard massages or deep sea facial masks await me at the pinnacle of this expedition. In fact, I’m not quite certain if anything of genuine merit will greet me atop this heaping conglomerate of snow. Perhaps I am a fool to disregard the verbal tapestry of frightful whispers to jump onboard a wild goose chase, but I will not abandon people in need.
Reaching the distress signal origin, the LGV skids to a stop. The expanse of powdered hills is only scathed by a few broken crates and weathered cargo containers. Partially buried and visibly weathered by this landscape of extremes, whatever lies below the layers of frost has been here for quite some time.
“HELLO?” I shout as loudly as my voice will carry. “IS ANYONE OUT THERE?” Silence answers my plea. “Goddamnit,” Maybe I should have listened to the Captain. With a smoldering flare as my guide, I carefully meander back toward the LGV. Doing one final scan of the area, an eerie feeling settles in the pit of my stomach; the hairs on the back of my neck stiffen, and a jolt of apprehension surges through my body. I am not alone.
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Originally written for Red 5 Studios during my time working there as Web Content Editor.