Less than ten feet from her a black shape rose slowly from beneath the ice, piercing the thick shell of frozen water and rising like a phallus into the cold air. The ice shrieked and buckled beneath it, doming up unevenly as the conning tower of the submarine began to emerge through the ice. Raylene felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach accompanied by the knowledge that all of her painful work at the trade delegation was about to slide through a fissure in the ice and drop to the bottom of the Artic Ocean. She screamed with horror once more into the satellite phone and willed the submarine to halt its ascent with all of her non-existent psychic powers.
To her amazement, the NWOS Good Deed for the Day stopped forcing its way up through the ice. The only sound was the soft hiss of static over the satellite phone and the creaking as fractured plates of ice shelf sloughing off the deck of the conning tower. With a hydraulic whir the periscope rotated 90 degrees and looked directly over the top of Raylene's head. Fearing they would submerge again without her she calmly drew a pistol from the lining of her long coat and fired a magnesium flare directly into the periscope optic. It struck the plastic with an angry splash of fire, bounced off the top of the conning tower, and landed hissing in the snow. The periscope spun frantically away and then retracted down into the barely-protruding tower.
Almost a minute passed before there was a squeal of metal and the hatch on the tower swung open. Tara Kirkpatrick emerged into the arctic air like a super model cast in a rap video as background scenery. Her long blond hair caught on the wind and swirled around her neck, her lips full and glossy red, her eyes hidden behind wraparound mirror shades. She wore a black Soviet-style naval coat with mink fur collar flapping in the wind that whipped and howled around the conning tower. The coat was cinched tight at the waist to show off her flawless figure and her high-heeled black boots clanked reassuringly on the deck plating as she fully exited the submarine.
Tara leapt down from the conning tower with confidence and strode purposefully towards Raylene the short distance across the ice. A stream of less glamorously uniformed women poured out of the submarine, jogging and stumbling behind Tara towards the pile of matte black cases. Raylene watched her protégé approach, discarding the smoking flare pistol into the snow. Tara pulled up short and saluted, somehow managing to make her high-heeled boots click smartly.
"Ma'am." Tara acknowledged in her deep sensual voice with a slight southern twang. "I assume everything went well."
Raylene grabbed Tara around the waist and pulled her into her arms, locking her freezing lips over the younger woman's in an embrace more hungrily pornographic than passionate.
"I'll tell you inside, I need a bath." Raylene sighed hoarsely, tasting the peach-flavored lip gloss Tara was wearing.
An hour, a bath, and a particularly spirited session of mutual cunnilingus later Raylene sat on her bed smoking a Dominican cigarillo and stroking Tara's sweat disheveled hair. The state room vibrated pleasantly around them as Good Deed for the Day made speed beneath the ice floes.
"Tell me about Operation Bring Freedom Forever," Raylene said in between satisfied drags on the cigarillo. "Did that utter moron finally die?"
"The ah," Tara paused to clear her throat with a sip of merlot. "The mission went well I suppose. We have a lot of good skull shrimp footage of the layout of the xenoform craft, new archival footage of various unidentified species, and our clearing teams have located seven of the eight discharged radioactive container. Fortunately, the Gamma Strikers are once again no more. Unfortunately, Captain Henry's remains have still not been identified."
"Any other hitches?" Raylene tried to blow a smoke ring but her lips were too chapped.
"We may have to prematurely detonate." Tara took the cigarillo from Raylene's lips, puffed deeply on it, and blew out a perfectly good smoke ring.
"You little showoff twat." Raylene scolded her with mock sternness.
"It will be a shame to lose the eighth containment unit like that," Tara continued, "but we've got press ranging from CNN to the guys in the bee suits from Univision poking around the crash site. It's getting difficult to keep them all out of the area, not to mention our people in the Guatemalan government are starting to hear noises from the less obedient folk that whatever passes for their military should be sent in to investigate."
"What about President Clark? Is he holding it together?"
"Oh Jesus Christ," laughed Tara. "You haven't heard, have you? Clark was giving a press conference yesterday and some sort of atmospheric disturbance interfered with his cerebral transmitter. Without us to keep him talking he swallowed his tongue. Literally."
"Do we need to grow another one?" Raylene asked, referring to the cloning vats they used to produce duplicates of the president whenever the current one degenerated beyond viability.
"I think we can get a few more days out of him; we still need to get post facto sign off on the CIA authorization for the action in Guatemala. After that we should be able to dissolve him and reinstall a new Clark."
"I swear they get worse every time," grumbled Raylene. "You would think we're photocopying photocopies with this. Can't the girls in the lab do better?"
"They pretend they can, but unless you've got a full gene therapy tank in those cases you brought back I doubt it."
"Speaking of which!" Raylene felt invigorated after the bath and the sex and hopped spryly out of the bed.
She walked over to the scroll-case given to her by the Imperatrixian and popped the seal on it with her thumb print. It unfurled and flattened into another of the glowing metal sheets, which she handed to Tara.
"Linus Guthry." Raylene jumped face first onto the bed and snagged the cigarillo back from Tara. "He's some sort of contraband dealer that the xenos want really bad. They've got a pair of special envoys that are looking for him and should be arriving soon. I want to arrange a very special welcome for them both and then I want you to find Linus Guthry yourself."
"He looks like a human." Tara turned the sheet around and pointed to a picture of a balding and extremely unhealthy looking young man wearing outrageously thick glasses.
"I suppose he could be, although that would surprise me. My point is that the whole sleaze ball galaxy is searching for this guy because he's running some sort of contraband under their noses. I want to find out what the contraband is and I want to find out how he's sneaking things past them. I want him."
"Want him?" Tara pouted exaggeratedly and leaned forward, pushing her breasts together between her upper arms. "More than you want me?"
"Sex time is over, it's work time." Raylene snapped. "Get your uniform back on and inform the captain that I'll be assuming command of the bridge once I rinse the taste of your ass out of my mouth."
With that Raylene headed into the bathroom and began brushing her teeth. Tara, used to summary dismissals from Raylene, draped her coat over her body and exited without another word.
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