Off the coast of the Antarctic continent, a World Navy destroyer was cutting through the waves on routine patrol.
However, inside the vessel things were decidedly anything but routine.
Professor Ian McClaine was pacing the deck of the situation room, which had been assigned to the professor and his companion for the duration of their operation. He looked anxiously at Sam Loover, who sat with his hands clasped on top of a large table.
“It’s been a long time, Sam,” he said uneasily, “Surely we should have heard something by now?”
“Try to relax, Mac,” Loover replied, “Joe’s got the brain pattern of the most experienced polar explorer of the modern age. He’ll be okay. Sit down, have a cup of coffee.”
“No, thanks. I just wish there was some news…”
The door of the room slid open and an officer in a smart uniform stepped inside.
“Excuse me, gentlemen. We’ve picked up something on our geo-scanning equipment. I think you’ll want to take a look.”
The officer moved to the screen at the end of the room and pressed a button on the wall. The lights dimmed and the screen flickered into life showing an aerial map of Antarctica. The image zoomed in, bringing part of an ice shelf into clear view. A series of annotated overlays appeared in the centre of the image.
“The ice shelf at reference Z-21 has cracked and partially collapsed,” he indicated the red area on the screen, “The worst of it is in this area.”
Professor McClaine jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “But that’s right in the middle of the operations area! It’s right where J-“
Loover cut him off quickly, “Right where our agent is supposed to be. Okay thanks, Commander. Leave it with us.”
The officer turned and left the room.
“Sam! If Joe’s in the middle of that lot, he could be badly hurt! We can’t just sit here and do nothing.”
“Mac, what can we do?” Loover replied, “If we launch a rescue mission, we’re only going to attract the wrong kind of attention and we can’t afford to do that.”
“Blast your precious politics, that’s my son out there! And if you don’t do something to help him, then I will!”
Joe didn’t know how long he’d been laying on the ledge. He wasn’t even sure how he was still alive. When the ice shelf had collapsed, he’d been caught in an almighty torrent of snow and ice that knocked him unconscious.
As he lay on his back, looking upwards, he couldn’t tell where the ice ended and the sky began.
He knew he must have been at least forty feet down and the only thing he could think was that the swirling snow mass must have cushioned his fall. He ached everywhere, but as far he could tell he hadn’t broken any bones.
Painfully, he managed to sit up and then haul himself to his feet.
It had been a near thing. The ice ledge was only just wider than himself. If he’d fallen another foot further out from the main ice face, he’d have plummeted all the way down.
Joe was looking up, trying to determine his best means of escape when he suddenly remembered – the telemetry circuit! Quickly, he checked the pocket of his survival suit.
Yes! Miraculously it was there, safely intact.
The next miracle wouldn’t be so easy. Joe drew out a small ice axe from his equipment pack. Cautiously, he started chipping away at the ice wall, creating a hand-hold.
It was some while later and the tiny blue-clad figure was halfway up the side of the splintered ice shelf. He had made remarkable progress, but Joe’s strength was beginning to fail him.
His survival suit had thus far protected him from the worst of the cold, but now it was beginning to seep through.
He’d been in plenty of tight spots since he began his role as WIN’s most special agent, but he was beginning to think his luck might have finally run out.
And then he heard it. A low rumbling whine, the unmistakable sound of a helijet engine.
So the enemy base had finally sent agents to investigate the crashed drone. Whatever happened, they couldn’t be allowed to recover it. Joe looked down the chasm.
He could see the twisted wreckage of the stealth machine lying near the base. How powerful was the self-destruct mechanism? Would he be safe from the blast?
Joe guessed it didn’t matter. If the blast didn’t catch him, it would certainly destabilise the ice wall or throw him from its face.
Whichever way he looked at it, the chances of survival were non-existent. He drew out the detonator remote and fumbled for the destruct key.
The helijet whine was now a roar. Joe looked up. He could see the rounded shape of the cabin appear above the edge of the crack.
It was now or never. He grasped the detonator firmly in one hand and held onto the ice with the other.
His thumb moved toward the destruct button. And then he froze.
Over the whine of the helijet’s engine, he had heard a shout; one single word.
Joe looked up in surprise.
There, leaning out of the hatch and clad in a survival suit much like his own, was his father.
In moments a winch was lowered and Joe was being hoisted out of the icy deathtrap.
“If Joe’s okay then let’s move it, Mac! We can’t hang around here!” Sam’s voice from the cockpit was anxious.
“Wait!” Joe croaked hoarsely, “The remote.”
He pointed the device towards the rapidly receding shape of the ice crack and pressed the destruct button.
There was a distant boom of an explosion and a plume of smoke from the crack.
Back at WIN HQ in London, Shane Weston beamed from behind his oversized desk.
“Well you really came through, Joe! You recovered the circuit and destroyed the craft so that it couldn’t fall into the wrong hands. What’s more, there were no reports of enemy agents in the area. We figure they wrote off the crash site as unsalvageable after that ice-quake. I guess you could say when it comes to getting the job done, you’re snow joke!”
Joe smiled politely at the terrible pun. After his previous ordeal, a little bad humour was a pleasant change of pace…