The crate was carried into the training room with great care by two red-vested Marshals (apparently Roos had been evangelizing others on her marechausee branding, and it had stuck), and Matti Niekonnen removed the lid. He looked to McGee.
“Okay, armorer,” McGee nodded reassuringly. “Let’s see if you’ve done your homework.” Matti cleared his throat and lifted a rocket-propelled grenade launcher from the crate.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “this is the RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher. According to my admittedly-hasty research, this weapon is or was produced in many countries of the former Soviet Union. This one in particular, judging from the serial number, appears to originate from Ukraine. It is a lightweight, reusable weapon that for some decades has been the preferred light artillery of rebellions, terrorist factions, pirates and criminals. The three main reasons for its popularity seem to be these…”
Matti hefted the weapon on his shoulder, avoiding the pistol grip with his hands. “First, it is perhaps the most intuitive, simplest-to-use of all widely available military-grade explosive devices. The trigger, sighting, and safety mechanism are simpler to use than those of most people’s hunting rifles. Secondly, it is extremely versatile. Obviously, its favorite targets are unarmored troops and civilians. But, while the RPG can no longer penetrate a heavily-armed vehicle, it will still spray the occupants with shrapnel if the shot is well-aimed.”
McGee tried not to cringe as a flashback struck him. Matti continued:
“But perhaps most notably, the RPG is cheap to produce. Launchers can typically be had for less than four hundred euros, with the grenades themselves less than one hundred. For this reason, though these units may have been manufactured in Ukraine, they could have been purchased by anyone, from anyone, for transport to this continent.”
By now, McGee was approaching the front, taking over with a handshake and smiling his approval at Niekonnen. “Thank you, sir, and well done,” he said, turning his attention to the assembled Marshals. “Well. You’ve read the reports; you know that fifty-one crates just such as this remain under guard at El Dorado Station. The site where both these and our possibly-Cuban soldier were found, is being treated as a crime scene for now. A full-scale investigation such as this event calls for may not be possible; with winter approaching, completing all preparations has to be our main concern.”
“But,” he offered with a raised eyebrow, “the Antarctic Treaty, whose signatories agreed that the natural resources of this continent are not for exploitation, also designates this as a permanently demilitarized zone. Whatever person or power chose to stage military weaponry in Antarctica, cannot be assumed to have stopped with these small arms.
“We can hope that we’re witnessing the end of something that failed,” McGee concluded. “But we can’t rule out: this could be a beginning.”