Having successfully crossed the mountains into Invid territory, Scott prepares an offensive against the invaders. He holds a council meeting to share gathered information and strategy.
"There's an old mountain offense outpost that the Invid have converted in to a fortress," Scott explains. "Unfortunately, it lies between us and Reflex Point, so we're going to have to take it out. I don't need to tell you it's not going to be easy. Our alien friends have the place pretty well defended. Now...don't everyone volunteer at once, okay? Lancer, what did you find out?"
"At 6:30 every morning, most of the scoutships and shock troopers go out on patrol," Lancer tells them. "That would seem to me the best time to make our move. Whatever our move is!" Annie is not happy. "Rats! So what are we gonna have time to make breakfast if we have to leave so early, huh?"
"How 'bout ham and eggs and pancakes with lots of butter on 'em?" Lunk teases. "And plenty of syrup – and tea and toast and – "
"Why don't we just waltz in and raid the Invid's refrigerator while we're at it?" Rook breaks in.
"Yuck!" Lunk makes a face. "You know what protoculture tastes like? I may be hungry, but I ain't that hungry!"
Lancer becomes serious: "I really hate to interrupt all this, but if we're not careful we may not be around to have breakfast. Get it?"
"Lancer's right," Scott agrees. "This operation' not going to be any picnic."
They continue with their plans. Rand shapes several pairs of skis to take them across the snow-laden woods to the fortress. As they divide into patrols, the Invid simulagent collapses again. They have named her "Marlene" at Scott's suggestion. "After all," the lieutenant had said, "we can't keep calling her 'hey, you." They comfort the girl the best they can and go about their business.
Rand and Annie make their way into the fortress. Inside, the building has taken on an eerie, organic appearance. It looks like a giant beehive. They spy on the Regess, watching as she transforms protoplasmic material into scout troopers, but are discovered when they attempt to leave. They are concerned by the living, jelly-like substance. It swirls over them, suffocating them beneath its bulk.
Outside, Scott, Rook, and others have picked up their friends' signal. Although Rand has successfully managed to sabotage the hive's interior, neither he nor Annie has made an appearance. They follow the emergency tracking beam to their friends' location and find them beneath the unformed Invid creatures.
During their escape, the resistance fighters manage to blow the reflex-furnace. The mechanism overloads and reaches critical mass – just as the group battles its way past the fortress. Scott feels special satisfaction at this victory – an entire Invid hive destroyed and all the freedom fighters and mecha left intact. He allows himself to feel a little hope.
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