First Frontier

First Frontier

by David A. McIntee
First Frontier
The cold stiffness was a meaningless feelIng until Finney realised that it was the sensation of snowflakes freezing themselves to his face. He opened his eyes with some difficulty, blinking against the icy wind that drove in through both the shattered windscreen and a large rip in the Skytrain's fuselage just behind him. Everything seemed skewed, the curtain to the cargo compartment sagging towards the wall while the co-pilot was hanging limply above him.
            Straightening himself in the canted cockpit Finney realised that he could hear no sound from the cargo compartment. "Jim?" he prompted the co-pilot. There was no answer. "Lieutenant Mitchell!" he croaked, hoping to provoke a response. There was none, and Finney finally allowed himself to see the scarlet icicles that stretched out to him like grasping claws from Mitchell's nose and mouth. The co-pilot's yoke was jammed into his chest, the flight jacket there crumpled and thickly spread with frozen blood.
            Another piece of him dying, Finney tried to reach out to him, to reassure him that everything would be fine and his family would be proud of him. But he couldn't, for the words would be as empty as his heart, or thr lives of the family's.
            Weakly, Finney scraped at thc release for his harness It popped free at last but he found that he still couldn't move, though he wanted little more than to get out from under the accusing gaze of the corpse above him. Looking to see what was holding him back, Finney almost passed out in with shock. His left leg was a scarlet block like a frozen side of beef, nailed to the inside of the fuselage by a jointed throttle-cable support that was rammed through his thigh. The blood around it was solid and glassy, the sub-zero temperatures having stopped the flow but having also numbed his body so much that he couldn't even feel the wound.
            Shaking with more than just the cold, Finney retreated into himself, watching the snow as the flakes were tinted gold by some minor fires on the starboard wing. He wasn't sure whether to be afraid of the danger of an explosion, or delighted that it would end it all. The light seemed steady, however, or perhaps pulsing softly along with the howling wind.
            Perhaps he was already dead, he thought. Wasn't Dantr's innermost circle of Hell a frozen wasteland embedded with lost souls? He didn't want to die so far from home, and more alone than anyone in the world...
            "Watch the door there," a breathless voice seemed to say somewhere in the depths of the howling wind. "It doesn't look at all steady."
            "Aye, I'm not blind, you know."
            "Well the snow is rather thick," the first voice replied tartly.
            "We do get snow in the Highlands, ye know."
            Finney's eyes, almost welded shut, cracked open again. Those voices weren't halluanations surely? There were two people back thene, he was sure. It sounded Iike an Englishman and a Scotsman, which meant they were probably from the British 41 Commando; they were attached to the 5th US Marines at Hagaru, weren't they? "There's nothing we can do for these poor men," the first voice went on. "They must have died instantly."
            Finney tried to call to the men, but no sound would come from his raw throat. Fortunately, however footsteps approached the bulkhead behind him, and a head popped through the tilted doorway. The green eyes at the heart of the lined face, which was topped with a limp mop of dark hair glanced quickly over the body of che co-pilot, and onto Finney.
            Summoning all his reserves of strength, Finney mouthed a silene thanks, and weakly beckoned the newcomer over.
            His eyes widening, the new arrival climbed gingerly into the cockpit, stepping carefully over Finney to stand on the side window. The stranger didn't wear any uniform, however, but a very bulky fur coat, while his companion was wrapprd up in a sheepskin jerkin, and courageously wearing a kilt despite the weather. "Oh dear," the stranger announced, "you are in trouble aren't you?" He craned over to examine the dark mass of Finney's leg. "We'll have to do something about that," he added searching around in the bulky coat before drawing out a narrow metal object.
            The kilted youth looked at the wound, grimacing slightly. "He's lucky it's cold enough," he commented in a Scots burr.
            "Yes, if it wasn't so chilly he'd have bloodd to death," the strange Englishman agreed. Finney tried to look towards his le, feeling a strange warm tingling in it. There was a hollow tugging sensation. "Ah, this was the problem," the stranger exclaimed, holding up the cable support. "Very nasty."
            Yellow lights flickered outside, and the Scot looked out of the two small panes set into the ceiling, which was now a wall. Somebody's coming, Doctor," he pointed out. "They've a big red cross on their wagon."
            "Excellent. We can leave this poor chap in the care of the professionals." He hopped back over the slumped Finney, pocketing the slim meral object. Finney felt something pressed into his stiff palm. "A souvenir," the stranger murmured with an infectious smile. Come on Jamie. Zoe will be worried about us by now; if she's noticed we're gone..." Finney watched as the two strangers disappeared into the darkness at the rear of the plane, their voices swallowed up by the howling wind.

* * *

Somewhere far beyond the fragile shell of atmosphrre that sheathed the Earth, adrift in infinite darkness, a razor-edged blade gleamed. Its point hanging directly towards the small blue planet in its path, the starship slid back into normal space as easily as the sword it resembled would slide into flesh.The desert skies were clear enough that one could almost see the ttexture of the inky darkness between the stars. An echoing howl rippled across the stippled landscape as a pair of jets banked around the Proving Grounds off in the disrance, but Coyote Eyes - or so his name translated into English - ignored the aircraft. The planes had been criss-crossing the land long enough for him to know their sound and their every possible image.
            It wasn't the aircraft or the rockets that had persuaded him to pack his small suitcase. "Look," Jack Siegel cajoled. "I know you've some vacation time due, but can't it wait until Rick has moved to his own place? With so many of us to cook for..."
            "I could still cook for you - if you came away from here also." Coyote Eyes gestured skywards with a strong but gnarled hand. "If you're smart, you'll move away from this area for a couple of weeks at least." Jack looked upwards, but saw nothing other than a gently pulsing light that he thought could be a plane or a meteor.
            "It is not safe here," Coyote Eyes went on. "The skies are giving us warning, Jack. Soon, Nayenezgani - Slayer of Alien Gods - and Tobadzistsini - Child of the Water, the brothers of light and darkness will walk the earth. The flying demons - anaye - already own the skies. Those lights that you see..." Coyote Eyes tossed his luggage into his battered '48 pick-up. The old Navajo cook fucfixed the rancher with a calm, matter-of-fact look. "You should all leave. But if you must stay, then protect yourselves - they may come for you; the Slayer of Alien Gods, and perhaps the poison woman."
            "To sleep with her is death. It is a legend of the lost ones, the Anasazi." The old man climbed into the driver's seat. "I'll be back in a couple of weeks - if there's anything to come back to."

Source: Doctor Who Magazine #216