I looked out over the white expanse, the throb of the helicopter engine and rotors pounding through me, draining me of the energy I had at the start of the flight. I’d be really glad to finally get to the base, even if it was the most remote base on Antarctica and won’t be able to leave for half a year.
‘Base in sight.’ I heard the copilot say in the headphones to my delight. ‘Not much longer now.’
I could see the relief on the soldier’s faces as well. We would be the last flown in before the night season started.
One of the troops escorted me to commander Davis’s office. He knocked and opened the door for me after hearing “Enter.”.
The commander stood up and walked up to me, extending his hand. ‘Welcome to base 3113, doctor Maurey.’
He was younger than I had expected, but I heard he managed to get promoted quickly, so it was not quite as surprising. ‘Thank you commander.’
‘Sit.’ he said, gesturing at the chair in front of his desk and taking the coffee pot. ‘I expect you could use some of this.’
‘Please.’ I said, feeling my body slowly starting to get back to normal temperatures.
‘No second thoughts about having to stay here for at least half a year?’ he asked as he handed me a cup.
I inhaled the hot smell of the coffee to get used to the heat. ‘I recently went through a not so fun divorce. I could use the time away from home.’
He sat and leaned back in his leather chair. ‘Well, you’ll forget about home as soon as I tell you what we’re really doing here.’
I took a careful sip from my coffee to mask my surprise. ‘Not a joint scientific effort by the US and Norway?’
He grinned slightly. ‘That part is true. It’s the subject of investigation which has been kept hidden.’
Now he got me curious. I couldn’t think of anything that had to be kept in total cold isolation.
He leaned forward. ‘I’m no shrink, but I can see you wondering what it is.’
‘Finish your coffee and I’ll show you why I requested a psychiatrist after Miguel’s suicide.’
I slightly regretted drinking the coffee too quickly, feeling how sensitive my tongue had become.
‘Last year we lost contact with outpost 31.’ Davis said as he led me through the corridors to the lab. ‘It’s nothing new to lose contact for some time during this season, with the storms and everything preventing radio signals getting through. But this time it took too long to hear anything from them, so when the first opportunity arised a helicopter was sent to investigate.’
We arrived at the lab door guarded by two soldiers. Davis punched in the access code and the door buzzed open to what I would have imagined a lab to look like, big white room, tables and shelves with lots of beakers, cans, tubes, burners, electronics and what have you.
The men and women inside didn’t look up from their work.
Davis led me to a wall filled with photos.
‘This is what they found.’ he said, tapping one photo showing the burned down complex.
‘They had a terrible accident?’
‘It was no accident.’
I looked at him. ‘Deliberate?’
‘We found evidence of explosions, disabled vehicles and helicopter.’
I looked at the photos. ‘Sabotage? Did they all go mad?’
‘We don’t know, but it wasn’t just one man who did this.’ He moved to the photos on the left. ‘And then we found this.’
I looked at more photos of burned buildings. ‘What am I looking at?’
‘A Norwegian outpost.’
‘Afraid not. It looks like it has been burned down before ours.’
I found a couple of photos from what seemed like something buried in the ice. ‘What’s this?’
He smiled and gestured to follow him.
We went through a larger door into a dome construction and I saw the thing I usually had to subscribe medicins for when patients talked about it. ‘This is not a fake, or experiment?’
Davis shook his head.
I looked at the giant saucer, partly damaged. ‘No Russian spy plane or swamp gas filled weather balloon either?’
I had to sit down and felt lucky there was a crate next to me.
‘Not quite what you had in mind, right?’
I shook my head.
After a few moments to get the strength back in my knees I followed him back into the lab to a wall with large windows. There we looked into a freezer room where I saw the bodies of a white and a black man, a white woman and what looked like burned remains.
‘The men we found frozen at our outpost, MacReady and Childs. The woman, Kate Loyd, we found several miles away from the UFO crash site in one of the Norwegian vehicles. It had run out of gas.’
‘The burned bodies?’
‘That’s the mystery. Part of it looks human and animal. The rest, unknown.’
I could come to only one conclusion. ‘Alien.’
‘We’re seeing if anything can be made from the charred remains.’ a voice behind me said.
‘Doctor Maurey, meet doctor Olafsson, the commander of the norwegian delegation and leading scientist.’
He looked friendly at me and gave me a firm handshake. ‘Welcome to hell frozen over.’
‘Heh, apt name.’ I said. ‘Nice to meet you.’
‘You can understand what mental stress this thing can cause to people. I’d hate for anyone to go through what that poor soldier had to go through.’
I could see it bothered him. ‘I’ll go around and have talks with everyone. See if there are others having a hard time dealing with this.’
‘Thank you.’ he said, then went back to his work.
The commander had someone show me my room with attached small office I could use for private consultation. My luggage was brought here and I saw they had brought Miguel’s belongings into the office for examination.
I unpacked and sat down at the desk, looking at the cardboard boxes on top of them. A wire hung out of one and I lifted the lid to find a walkman in the box. The wire was from the headphones.
It had a cassette in it but the batteries were dead. Wondering if it was stereotypical and he listened to latino music I put the tape into the recorder on my desk and pressed play while I looked further inside the box.
‘One other thing,’ a male voice said, sounding very tired. ‘I think it, rips through your clothes when it takes you over. Windows found some shredded long johns but the nametag was missing. They could be anybody’s. Nobody..’
I looked at the recorder.
‘Nothing else I can do, just wait.’
I leaned closer to listen.
‘R. J. MacReady, helicopter pilot US outpost number 31.’