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Beneath the Glacier

A 5-Part Tale of Horror and Heroism Under the Fortuna Glacier

by David Reeder

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Episode 2: Entry


THE ENTRY CAVERN WAS HUGE, a long chamber shaped like a Quonset, with a wall and a door built on the far end.  Things seemed eerily quiet out of the wind, and the temperature went from abominable to merely, well -- glacial.

At the far end Mark looked at Gascon, who shook his head.  "Still nothing," he said.  Mark stacked Graywolf, Guerrande and one of the Redshirt twins -- I couldn't tell which -- on the door.

"Hold it," Macha said before they made entry.  "Gimme a status check on everyone.  Everybody okay?  Can everyone feel their fingers and toes?"

She was worried about hypothermia or frostbite or both, and rightly so, given the conditions.  We were dressed warm -- insulated flightsuits with thermals underneath, mukluks, balaclavas over our faces -- but only enough to keep us comfortable for a short period of time.  If we stayed here too long, or had to stay outside for any length of time, we'd be in real danger from exposure.

When everyone but Horton assented (he was dressed warmest of all, in a puffy arctic suit and a fleece-lined parka) she nodded at Mark for the go-ahead.  They popped the door, waited for a moment, then began moving deliberately inside.  If there was anything nasty waiting for them on the other side, it was in for an ugly surprise. It's hard to silence a shotgun, but it can be done.  Mark had the one for Graywolf custom-built for him based on specs he'd gotten from a buddy in the LA County Sheriff's SEB.  It made the barrel longer, but it also completely muted it.  Working the action was louder than actually shooting it, and there was very little muzzle flash either.

The M-4s are serious business too.  O'Kelliher had loaded us down with frangible 5.56mm hollowpoints.  They're designed for maximum tissue damage instead of penetration (the green-tipped rounds we used back when I was in the Army were built to go through body armor -- they'd zip straight through someone, so you'd have to shoot them three or four times sometimes to make sure they stayed down).  Horton would really have screamed if he knew what we'd spent on all those gadgets that went with them.  In addition to the silencers, they had Surefire Responder light systems and lasers on the rails to either side of the front hand-grips.

"Clear."

We moved inside.

The place was a wreck. Computer monitors were smashed, there were papers scattered everywhere, half the lights had been busted out--

"I saw Aliens three times," Gascon quipped off the net, looking around at the mess.  "We're in a fat lot of pretty shit now!"

Guerrande laughed.  "Why don't you put her in charge!"

"Can it," O'Kelliher said flatly.  Someone snickered over the net.

Horton was incensed, his usually pasty face now florid.  "I'm going to have someone's head for this!" he roared.  "Do you know how much this equipment cost the university?!  This is deliberate destruction of equipment purchased with Federal grant money--!"

I tuned him out, to help search the rest of the room.

We didn't find anything but more wreckage.

Mark had a blueprint of the place.  It wasn't too complex.  He spread it out on a table and looked it over.

"Albert, Steve, Johnny, Leroy," he said. "You're with me.  Everyone else hold tight here.  We're going to check the admin offices. Stay on your toes."

That left just me, Eric, the Doc and the tightass.  While they were gone I amused myself by checking out Macha, the Doc.  She's a green-eyed, deep-chested woman whose flightsuit and gear fails to hide the fact that she possesses prodigious endowments.  The other guys on the team called her Doc Bosoms.

I didn't.  Yet.  I hadn't been on the team long enough.

She was carrying a trauma kit and IV pouches on her gear, along with assorted other sawbones-type goodies. Her gear costs more than anyone else's. Something about the drugs and stuff needing a controlled environment or something.  She also had an H&K PDW on her hip.  It's a fancy little thing, the PDW, a sleek little cross between a pistol and a machine-gun.  There were numerous magazines on her vest, in amongst the assorted band-aids and bottles of aspirin.

I just love a woman with a gun.

And prodigious endowments.

She caught me looking just as I was imagining me unzipping her suit to bare the overly bountiful curves beneath.  She must have read my mind too, because the arched brow she threw me just about frozen the blood in my veins.  I could've shaved with her smile.

I started whistling innocently and turned away.

Busted.

Fhataghan Shudde-M'ell Negg'h-ukk

"Did you say something?" Horton asked coldly.

I shook my head and went over to stand by Gascon, who was trying to see if anything could be salvaged from the computers.

It couldn't.

"Admin complex is clear," came Mark's voice.  "We'll be back with you in five.  Coming back through the same door."

They rejoined us and we pressed on.

"Let me take your picture, add it to the mixture, there it is, I got you now!"
A series of corridors led us further into the glacier. Strips of thick metal grating like they use in the military had been rolled out on the ground for a floor, but the walls and the ceiling were still nothing but rock and ice.

"You ever see the remake of The Thing, with Michael Douglas?" someone whispered behind me.

"It was Kurt Russell, dickhead," someone answered.

"Was not."

"It was Russell," Mark said flatly from up ahead.  Funny how he could be all business and still track our bullshit.  "He played the chopper pilot, MacReady.  Outpost 31.  Man is the warmest place to hide.  The movie was a remake of a 1951 black and white."

There was a long, uncomfortable pause.  Sometimes, they'd told me, they worried about their TL.  Said he needed to get out more--

"Bole, how is Mr. Horton doing?"

I grinned, knowing the inestimable Mr. Horton wasn't on the net.  "He's constipated I think, Boss," I subvocalized.  "If things get any worse he may wind up having a stroke."

Snickers echoed down the line.  Horton glared at us.  "I'd like to know what is so humorous about all of this!"

Sheesh. You'd think the money came out of his wallet.  Had it not occurred to him yet that things were looking pretty bleak for the research team?  Did he even care?

No, nothing humorous about it.  Pathetic was more like it.

We soon wound up, after a few minutes of walking and checking small side-chambers and cubicles, in their medical facility.  What was left of it.  We spread through the room and cleared it slowly, marveling at the extent of the destruction.

It went beyond vandalism.  It was like the frenzied damage inflicted by a rioting mob.  A natural disaster or explosion or other centralized cause wouldn't have been as thorough or deliberate.

Horton looked apoplectic.  I was fairly certain he might soon have a heart-attack or just blow up.  Remember that one movie?  I think it was called Scanners. Some guy's head blew up.  His face looked like that.

He was probably counting up what all those X-ray machines and electron microscopes or whatever the hell they were had cost him.

He didn't say anything though.  Not the whole time we were there.  I'm pretty sure it took all his self-control not to go berserk.  It might have started to occur to him that we hadn't yet seen anyone alive either, but that might be crediting him with too much.

The worst part for us, I think, though he didn't notice it, was the graffiti on the wall.

That is not dead, which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.

Now, what the hell does that mean?  And why was it scrawled out in somebody's blood?  No answers immediately presented themselves.

We moved on down another corridor, which eventually debouched through a nautical-looking arched door into another big cavern.  Albert went through first again.  I mentioned that damned big-assed knife of his, didn't I? The entryway led out into a balcony-like scaffolding overlooking the cave from about ten feet up.  I was next up to step through when Graywolf came over the net.

"All callsigns, wait-out," he said tersely and we froze.  Everyone but he and his cover man picked up a point of the compass and covered it.

"Okay, clear," he said after a moment.  "Boss, you're going to want to see this.  Prob'ly ought to bring Doc."

O'Kelliher didn't ask questions.  He trusted our judgement.

"Lummel, hold tight at the door with Horton.  Leroy, stay with him.  Gascon, Guerrande, you have high cover.  Doc, we need you down here."

She slid down the ladder after him while we waited. I could hear them conferring quietly off the net.

"Bring it down, boys," Mark said at length.  "Eric, Steve, hold what you got."  He didn't have to tell them to split areas of responsibility.  They'd worked together too long for that. Eric covered out over the cave while Steve watched the door.
At the bottom of the ladder I saw what all the commotion had been about.

It was a corpse.

Some poor bastard, a grad student by the look of him, had curled up in the hollow underneath the scaffolding to die.  That was upsetting enough (and proof that something very bad had indeed happened at the Miskatonic University Fortuna Glacier Research Station).  What was worse was the way he looked.
His hair was white -- not the light gray or silver or white of a senior citizen, but white.  It got worse from there.

He'd clawed out his eyes...


Back to Episode 1: Deployment
On to Episode 3 :Contact


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Beneath the Glacier (also known as "A SADD2 Day") is copyright 2002 by David Reeder.  It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews.  (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)