On a mission in the Antarctic, ExoFleet e-frames swoop in while jumptroopers land. They open fire on and then enter a building complex that turns out to be abandoned. Not liking the situation, Yuri Stavrogan calls for an evac shuttle to pick up the jumptroops. Within seconds different breeds of Neo warriors begin rising out of the snow. First into action are the crab-like warriors, and after they grab a jumptrooper, some of the scorpion and lizard type climb out of their hiding spot in a large fracture in the ice and make a charge. Yuri Stavrogan shouts, "It's a trap, we've been suckered!" and he moves back with the rest of the e-frames as they bunch up. The jumptroop commander order his troops to fall back, but at least one has a scorpion leap and land on him as he does so. An e-frame pilot exclaims, "We're being overrun!" but Stavrogan tells him as he blasts back a charging lizard, "The jumptroops won't have a chance if we can't hold 'em 'til the evac shuttle gets here." Just then the evac shuttle is seen preparing to land, but one of the bat-like Neo warriors sets an explosive charge on it that destroys it.
Yuri shouts, "The jumptroops are surrounded! Come on!" The three of them take to the air, and three bat-types approach from behind with explosives. Stavrogan swats his bat off, but the other two succeed in planting the charges that destroy the other two e-frames. "All right, just you and me freaks," he says quietly, and he proceeds to fly around shooting those he can. He reports to command that he is heading for the coast and is able to hold off a Neo eagle-warrior to escape.
On Venus, Alec DeLeon is fighting in a battle. He dodges a few blasts, returns fire, and then turns his attention to the opposite direction. It soon becomes clear that it is a training session, as he blasts Rita Torres and Marsala. She passes it off as a lucky shot. Algernon is watching, and is ecstatic, "I score it a hit on Torres! Simulated damage estimate, 100%!" Rita can't believe it, muttering, "I gotta be losing my touch. Nailed by.. DeLeon?!" Algernon explains, "The modifications in DeLeon's exo-frame allows it to sense the enemy and respond with extraordinary quickness."
Rita announces, "I want another shot at you Alec," to which he responds, "Come and get me." as he flies off. She takes off after him, but he shots are dodged easily. He maneuvers behind her and plants a shot right in her back. Declaring that the new systems make it too easy, he then turns to fire and hits Marsala's frame, even though it is cloaked. Algernon is excited as he announces the hit, and then another on Torres. Rita lands and asks Alec how he could do that to a cloaked Marsala, and he is somewhat confused that he was just able to "sense" him and that his e-frame "just knew". Maggie Weston arrives from the air and scores multiple hits on DeLeon asking, "Did you sense that, Alec?" Algernon is noticeably disappointed as he announced the hit on DeLeon.
Torres asks her how she did it, and Weston replies, "I know him better than the e-frame does." Algernon says he hadn't considered that, and says that despite Weston he believes the modifications can be called a success. Alec says, "It knows what I want before I do. It reads my mind." Algernon tells him, "More precisely, it is your mind. It joins its own insights and perceptions with those of the pilot." Torres says he could take out a Neo squadron single-handedly, and asks when she can get one herself. Algernon says that the tests must be completed first, and the next is actual combat.
In orbit Admiral Winfield is telling J.T. Marsh about the failed mission to destroy the warrior Neo sapien breeding facility. Marsh says there is a rumor that the facility has been abandoned, and Winfield seems somewhat annoyed as he tells him that the Resistance still claims it is on Antarctica. He tells Marsh that his e-frames will locate the complex, and then lead jumptroops in to destroy it. Winfield feels the Neos are on the verge of something big, and so the complex must be taken out. He also assigns him the survivor of Fox Squad, Stavrogan.
Marsh goes to visit Yuri, asking him if he's been cleared for duty. Yuri responds, "Well, physically I'm okay. But now the head-shrinkers want their turn. Musta heard I was one 'Wild and crazy guy'." J.T. asks him, "You want another crack at the Neos?" The reply with a deep scowl is, "They wiped out my squad. Yeah, yeah I want another shot at 'em."
In an antarctic snowstorm, a Neo shuttle lands. Galba exits, and is somewhat taken aback by the cry of an eagle-warrior passing overhead. Praetorius meets him and describes what he saw as, "The future. A new breed of warrior Neo sapien, the Neo lord. And they are ready for the ultimate trial, combat."
Able Squad approaches Antarctica flying low over the ocean, through a snowstorm.
In the Neo sapien breeding complex, Praetorius is giving Galba an explanation of the facility workings. It is a subglacial base, virtually hidden from ExoFleet sensors, and with geothermal energy to provide heat for the birthing process. They go by the brood chambers containing developing Neo lords, and Praetorius says, "The new strain has proved to be everything we hoped for, and much more. The Neo lord combines genetic material from many species without sacrificing normal Neo sapien intelligence. If every Neo sapien soldier were a Neo lord, the Terrans would have been destroyed long ago." Galba sees one stirring within its tube, and his reaction is one of horror or shock.
At the squad's base camp, Marsh explains that the Neo will send supplies in once the storm lifts. With sensors in place they can track their movements and locate the Neo base. Marsala notes that the blizzard will provide good cover for planting the sensor grid. Stavrogan says they've got a lot of ground to cover, and will therefore split up. Marsh orders them to frame-up, but tells Alec to remain behind, and that all communications will be linked through him. Alec agrees, but is excited to get some action in for his new e-frame. The rest fly off. Torres and Wolf Bronski are shown planting a sensor with little difficulty. The pairs of Nara Burns and Marsala, as well as Stavrogan and Weston are shown carrying out their mission as well.
Marsh and Kaz Takagi are shown planting one, but its impact on an ice wall causes some snow to fall and a feline Neo Warrior to notice them. They fly off to their next target, a large crevice in the ice. There J.T. says, "We need to plant the next one deep, but the vibrations from our frames could cave in the sides." Takagi gets out to lower the sensor down himself. Once he has done so two bat-warriors appear behind him. Marsh blasts them, but a scorpion-type appears at his side, and multiple types stand between him and his fighter. Takagi pulls out his hand blasters, but can't get to his fighter. Marsh takes to the air and orders Kaz to get down, as he then uses his solar pulse. That disperses the warriors on the ground, but an eagle warrior knocks Marsh's frame from the sky. Marsh climbs out of his fallen frame, but can't do much before he is captured. The eagle-warrior says the other Terran (Takagi, who is hiding from the elements beneath some rocks) won't survive long in that weather. He orders the two ExoFleet machines taken back to base as well.
DeLeon is trying to contact Marsh and then Takagi. He reports his inability to do so to Burns, who tells him to provide the coordinates of their last know location as a rendezvous point for the rest of them.
Inside the Neo base Galba examines the markings on the ExoFleet craft that were brought in. He is somewhat surprised to see that one of them is Marsh's. He goes to the room where Marsh is being held and wakes him. Marsh jumps up and looks ready to defend himself. Galba says, "Please, we don't have much time. You must say you are Kaz Takagi. All our commanders have orders to hand over J.T. Marsh to Phaeton if he is captured." Marsh asks why he is helping him, and as Galba is saying that there is little he can do and is about to divulge Praetorius' plans when he is interrupted as Praetorius and an eagle-warrior walk in. "You are.. J.T. Marsh?" Praetorius asks nonchalantly. Galba states, "His name is Takagi." Praetorius quickly looks at Marsh and asks, "Where is Marsh?" Seeming confused, and looking at Galba before answering, Marsh says, "We... got separated in the blizzard." Praetorius turns about to face his eagle warrior and tells him, "Return to the ice field; don't come back without Marsh." As the eagle-warrior leaves Praetorius tells Galba, "Prepare this Terran for the experiment."
Meanwhile DeLeon has found a shivering Takagi. Torres and Weston get out of their frames to help Kaz, who is barely alive.
Back at the complex Marsh is led by guards into a room where his e-frame stands. Over a loudspeaker Praetorius says, "Welcome ExoTrooper Takagi. You have been chosen to take part in the ultimate test, single combat with a Neo sapien warrior." "This must be my lucky day." quips Marsh. Praetorius continues, "You will use Commander Marsh's e-frame. Are you capable of operating his machine?" "I can do anything J.T. Marsh can do." says Marsh, almost chuckling to himself. Praetorius replies, "Very well. Your weapons are fully operable but your flight systems have been disconnected. Escape is... impossible. Send in the test subject." Doors slide away to reveal a Neo lord, and J.T. is shocked by what he sees. The Neo lord is breathing deeply and looks quite fearsome.
Back at the ExoFleet camp Bronski is on guard outside. Inside Takagi is speaking, "They gotta be holding J.T. at the Neo base. If we split up and do a recon..." when Stavrogan interrupts, "That's not our mission." Takagi looks at him, "We can't leave J.T. out there!" Raising her voice Burns says, "Trooper, you're out of line." Takagi stands to face her, then points at Yuri, saying, "But Lieutenant Burns, you can't let him get away with this!" Burns tells him, "His commission's older than mine, I may not like it, but Stavrogan's in charge. It's ExoFleet regulations." Takagi plants his right fist into his left palm, "Can ExoFleet regulations! They've got J.T.!" Torres puts her hand on his shoulder, saying, "Take it easy Kaz. The Lieutenant's right, regs are regs. Unfortunately." Stavrogan states, "We wait. The sensor grid'll pinpoint Neo air traffic and lead us right to J.T. But not until the weather clears." Kaz exclaims, "But that could take days! You've gone soft Stavrogan. When you lost your squad you lost your nerve along with it." Restraining his anger Stavrogan tells him, "One more word out of you and you're grounded." Burns is about to follow him out, but Yuri stops her saying, "Let him go. He has to learn discipline. And that's a hard lesson for some." She tells him, "He's worried about J.T. We all are." Outside Kaz sits in the front seat of Marsala's frame.
Marsh is busy battling the Neo lord, who has jumped on his frame and pulled out some wiring. Marsh throws him off and blasts him repeatedly, but it does little good. The Neo spits some acid, and though it hits it isn't much. Marsh approaches, blocks two punches and then picks up the Neo lord and throws him down. The Neo does a couple backward somersaults to dodge fire, but then withstands it with little trouble as he approaches. Marsh is shocked that the blasts do no good, and is knocked on his back by a punch. The Neo tries to leap on him, but Marsh does a catch and roll to slam him to the ground instead. Marsh gets up and backs off, blocks a punch, gets hit by another, then lands three of his own, knocking the Neo lord down. He tries a long continuous blast, and though the Neo's flesh is burned he is not stopped. "It's not possible," mutters J.T. in disbelief.
He heads to a tunnel and closes the door behind him. But the Neo lord uses his strength to try and hold it open, before J.T. blasts him back allowing it to close. The Neo lord is trying to punch down the door as Galba and Praetorius watch. Galba exclaims, "The Terran has escaped! The Neo lord has failed!" With excitement and curiosity in his eyes, but not his voice, Praetorius states, "The second phase of the test will now begin."
Marsh walks through the tunnels, and another Neo lord waits for him, blending in the shadows. He reappears and leaps on Marsh's frame from behind as he walks by, rips out some wires from the front and gets knocked off into the cave wall and into unconsciousness. Marsh reaches a fork in the tunnel, and wonders which way. "I wish I had DeLeon's new e-frame, I could use a machine that's smarter than me right about now."
Torres is on guard back at the base camp. Suddenly DeLeon's frame crackles with electricity and glows with it. Inside Bronski is snoring, and Yuri, Maggie, and Alec lie sleeping as well. Marsala works at a computer. Alec wakes, and sits up. Maggie rolls to face him and says, "You know, it's a wonder the Neos can't hear Bronski." Alec tells her, as though he doesn't understand it himself "Bronski didn't wake me up... it's... it's my e-frame." He goes outside and climbs in his frame. When the cyberjack plugs in he sees things from J.T.'s perspective, with an attacking Neo lord in sight. He rushes into the tent to let them know he found Marsh. "It's J.T.!" Bronski complains, "Man, can't a guy get any sleep?" Maggie asks, "What, J.T.'s here? You saw him?" Alec says, "Not me, my e-frame." Bronski smiles, "Yeah, you're brain's frostbit DeLeon." Alec continues, "It's some kind of communication link with J.T.'s e-frame. It's like these machines have one mind. I think, my e-frame thinks I can use the contact as a homing beacon to lead us to J.T." Stavrogan states, "Our mission is to find the Neo breeding complex. And it's a good bet that's where they've taken J.T. Let's go!" And they all rush out of the tent.
Inside the breeding complex a Neo lord vanishes when viewed against the cave wall. Marsh switches to infrared, and picks him up and blasts him. The Neo lord runs back and slashes some power cables, presumably to cut the lights. Galba observes, "Darkness will do the Neo lord no good. The Terran has infrared sensing." Praetorius tells him, "The Neo lord knows what it is doing. It can control its circulation and temperature, reducing the heat of its body to match the outer air." Just then the Neo lord disappears from Marsh's viewscreen, shocking him. The Neo lord is quickly upon him, knocks him down, and punches through the windshield on his second try.
The ExoTroopers frame up and when his cyberjack connects Alec exclaims, "No! J.T.! I've lost contact with J.T's e-frame! It's... it's not alive." Share this article with your friends