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Organism 46b | Part of the Saga! - Phoenix Shaving

Organism 46b | Part of the Saga!

With the discontinuation of Organism 46b it was clear I needed to find a new home for this part of the story...and so here we are!


And now, our tale begins...enjoy!

It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth's dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sweeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life.~HP. Lovecraft
Part 1

Vostok Station
Antarctica - February 5, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

Ivan pulled off a mitt and smiled to himself, a satisfying sigh of relief escaped his chapped lips as he reached out to grab the cold, ancient bottle of brandy that was now being passed to him. After 30 years they had finally made contact with the Other World - an after the fact ice umbilical now connected them, parallel evolution becomes one, the conduit complete...Symbiosis begins.

Now 61 he had given his youth to the cause, a sacrifice for a dream about to come to fruition, a dream about to be revealed. It was impossible not to succumb to the shared reverie in this moment. He turned over the bottle in his hands and reflected, it had been given to him by his father on this very site so long ago.

"This is to be opened on that day son." is all he said and Ivan understood. That day was now here. He breathed another sigh of relief.

Though past his prime, Ivan was in excellent physical shape and one of the top scientists in his field, none were sharper. He was driven by the mystery below, a mystery only 3768 meters under base camp, Vostok Station. Many had come and gone, but he couldn't walk away like the others, he would see this through- and he did.

Suddenly there was a commotion coming from the ice cave...

---------------------------------------Part 2----------------------------------------------

Vostok Station
Antarctica - February 5, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

In all the excitement of finally breaching the ancient lake, the engineers, distracted by the need for a sediment sample, forgot to switch on the Thaw Tubes immediately after. These two PEX tubes were a little over 2 miles in length, red and blue and covered with tiny, almost irrigation line type holes. Like the veins of a giant beast, they lined and zig-zagged throughout the ice tunnel, one containing kerosene and the other a freon solution.

The release of the two forms of antifreeze would prevent the cave from filling up with lake water and freezing solid once more. The timer should have been turned on as they got closer to piercing the last few feet of ice...but again, had not. Now the cold, dark, unforgiving waters of Vostok were rushing into the worming luge while members of the expedition ran around trying to stabilize the sudden chaos.

Understanding immediately what needed to be done, putting his mitten back on, Ivan cooly made his way to the master valves and back flow crank. With hands on each, he slowly adjusted them to compensate for the lost time of the release and regulate a new ratio of each solvent. It was impossible to know for certain if enough time elapsed for any freeze to occur at the lower levels but Ivan suspected they were good...they had to be.

* * *

Ivan stood there a long while after the excitement died down and as members of the expedition left for the night. It was a big day tomorrow for all of them and most wanted to get a good nights rest before the dive. Ivan stared at the swirling surface of the massive ice cave they had worked so long on, stars reflected in the pool dreamily and the light from the moon gave it a magical glow.

Suddenly the surface was broken by a blurry figure, human in form. Ivan made a dash to it but it vanished just as suddenly as it appeared, it was now gone. Had his eyes been playing a trick on him? It was time for him to cash in for the night himself, clearly he was exhausted.

* * *

Phoenix Shaving Compound
Arizona - February 8, 2012
32.9110° N, 111.7734° W

Over ten thousand miles away Douglas Smythe sipped yerba matte from a gourd ever so gingerly in fear of getting green mush in his moustache. He seemed to have misplaced the metal bombilla or straw-filter. The bombilla was actually on the desk in front of him by his keyboard but his mind was clearly somewhere else.

About an hour earlier he had received a rather cryptic email from an untraceable IP address. The clever sender, trying to confuse and hide his digital footprints made it appear to be sent from Antarctica of all places! It seemed to be badly google translated, not even the good/badly, laughable google translated stuff either - in short, it was downright creepy.

The first thing he thought of after struggling through the text was this is some sort of ancient Egyptian curse. Not your run of the mill everyday hex or easily counter cursed curse but an untouchable, unfixable Egyptian style curse typically found on the entrance way of a royal tomb.

"How interesting..." he said to no one awaking Huxley from his slumber.

----------------------------------------Part 3----------------------------------------

Vostok Station - 3 am
Antarctica - February 6, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

Ivan awoke unable to move. As the panic set in it became harder to breathe as if the weight of the world were resting upon him, pressing the air out of him. Worst of all, he sensed he was not alone, there was someone or some thing in the room with him, it danced around the bed just out of the corners of his vision, in fast staccato movements, strobing in the splintered moonlight that bled thru the shades of his window ports. There was something calculating and malevolent about this entity as it seemed to mock his horror in it's flickering state of visual tremolo.

It was then kneeling beside the bed he felt, whispering into his right ear incoherent and unintelligible in a blast of cold air...then it was on his left side, then at his feet crawling slowly up the bed. He eventually realized it was not just random noise escaping the phantom but a language, spoken slow and repetitive in what resembled a throaty quatrain, a, an incantation of some sort, both soothing and terrifying at the same time. Then in a bright flash the shadow figure was gone and Ivan was sitting up shaking in a cold sweat, gasping for breath and looking around the room in confusion. There was a knock at the door and concerned voices from the hall...

* * *
Mess Hall, Vostok Station
3:36 am

"The communication tower has fallen over in the night and the dish is badly damaged." said Maksim in almost a whisper as he poured a hot coffee and what was left of the brandy into a mug in front of Ivan. Still shaken up all Ivan could do was look deeply into Maksim's blue eyes, searching.

"Without proper lighting we cannot know for sure how this happened, the tower was set deep into the ice and had 6 cables securing it down...even the winds blew at their mildest last night. We will have to wait for first light to get a better look." continued Maksim.

"As much as it pains me to say it, It may be wise to postpone the dive until our communications are back online. We have waited 30 years, what's another day?" Ivan said matter of factly, feeling more like himself.

"I thought you might say that, and I normally would agree but..."

* * *

Arizona - February 9, 2012
32.2967° N, 111.1666° W

3 am

"Crimson and clover, over and over

Crimson and clover, over and over

Crimson and clover, over and over

Crimson and clover, over and over

Crimson and clover, over and over

Crimson and clover, over and over..."

Douglas Smythe turned the volume down a little on his wireless headphones as he came close to finishing what he liked to call "Moonlight Surgery". He was almost 10 feet off the ground standing on a ladder which leaned precariously against a giant Queen of the Night Cactus. Wearing gloves he gently clasped the bud of a flower growing out of the crown of the plant, and with the pruning scissors in his right hand, made a quick snip at the base of the would be flower.

These magically smelling flowers only bloomed at night and once a year therefore had to be harvested in the exact moment, if harvested at all. Douglas was one of the few people in the world who went through the painstaking task of steam distilling the essence of these fleeting desert wonders into essential oil. He considered it his personal mission to sustain such a sweet scent that so few knew, and if this meant getting up in the middle of the night and traipsing around the desert where everything wants to prick you, gosh darn it he would do it. Fran however, positioned at the base of the ladder wearing over-sized safety goggles, sat on a lower rung trying to remove a spiny needle from her thumb felt otherwise about the whole ordeal.

Huxley on the other hand felt purple with a little yellow, a synesthetic effect caused by the toad he licked 45 minutes before, he decided to stay in the car however and do what most dogs do best, nap in an effort to sleep off another psychedelic trip.

"Hold the bag open, I'm dropping another!" Douglas stage whispered in Fran's direction, without a headlamp there was no way of knowing for sure if she was even still there.

He sacrificed light for his headphones. Despite what some people said, Doug had a small melon and only so much apparatus would fit on it groovy tunes won of course. Fran immediately thought this was a bad idea but by the time she voiced her opposition, the headphones where already on and the creepy sounds of The Shondells was bleeding through in that tinny way that all headphones tend to bleed. She was now off the ladder and fiddling with the canvas bag trying to anticipate where the bud would fall this time.

"I need a vacation!" Fran screamed in vain as something whizzed past her head making a thump on the dark sandy ground beside her.


---------------------------------------Part 4--------------------------------

Arizona - February 9, 2012 - 3:36 am

Doug was in the middle of snipping off one last blossom before calling it a night when he noticed them.

"Shit." he uttered to himself so as not to alarm Fran and Huxley...wherever that dog was. Fran noticed them at the same time.

"Not again." she blurted out, making no attempt as to not alarm anyone.

4 equally spaced coyotes surrounded Doug, Fran and their most epic Honda Element in which Huxley was currently guarding/sleeping in, depending who you asked. These were not really coyotes however but Skinwalkers, a Navajo witch and the thought forms he had conjured up to join him.

This had happened once before and Doug assumed it was a one time thing...turns out, it's just A Thing. Apparently they were where they didn't belong and possibly committing a metaphysical faux pas of some sort; disturbing sacred ground, disrespecting a burial site, committing some late night taboo, being gringos, or all of the above. Or maybe, just maybe, this was an omen to be interpreted? Doug did have a feeling in his gut, and after all, his gut kept him alive and well fed.

Then from behind, Doug heard a whisper, the creepy guttural type that are really meant to be heard and scare the hell out of you.


"We were just leaving gents!" Douglas said as he slid down the posts of the ladder nearly landing in the bag of freshly snipped flowers and toppling over Fran. He reached out to steady her then grabbed the ladder, Fran scooped up the bag and together they dashed towards the car. Huxley didn't even stir as they slammed the doors and drove away at a tire squealing speed typically used as punctuation in road side Breakups and last words.

"We need to stop doing this." Fran said without inflection, white knuckled and wide eyed staring ahead as Doug dodge cactuses of all shapes and sizes.

"Oh Fran, we can't, the sweet Bitter Orange-esque aromatics that escape from the Giant Queen of the Night are simply magical..."

"Yeah, BLACK MAGICAL!" she countered louder but still lacking inflection...this was not a good look for her.

"I'm not so sure about that." he said, almost to himself.

"What do you mean?" she asked sounding more like Fran and less like a late night AM radio dj out of coffee and on their last hour taking call in requests from the lonely, the self medicated and those road warrior, long haul truckers.

"I mean, I think the Skinwalkers were trying to tell us something. Did you notice they were positioned in the shape of a compass? Having a birds eye view, this didn't escape me... another oddity in comparison to our last awkward run in with them is one of the coyotes, the one closing the circle behind me wore a white animal skin hat and some sort of snowy white cloak? Doug thought out loud. Huxley now awake, liked where this was going, he respected pooches that could accessorize.

He continued, "I believe it represents a snow cap and being behind me rather than in front signifies South rather than North..."

"Where the heck did you get any of that from?" she asked, complete inflection and disbelief had fully returned as the color also returned to her face.

"Gondwana, though it sounds like it could be, is not a Navajo word." He said in a very self satisfied tone. Fran looked blankly at him, one eyebrow raised.

He went on, "The continent of Antarctica was once part of a larger land mass called 'Gondwana' that settled over the South Pole and split from Australasia and South America long before humans were even a thing. Aside from that, I also received a really spooky email from somewhere in Antartica that I dismissed as hacker hoo i'm not so sure."

"Coincidence, just a coincidence." Fran said more to fill the void of silence rather than to participate any further in this conversation. She herself was spooked and really just needed to sleep, and she was starting to get concerned about the ear to ear perma-grin on Huxley.

"You and I both know babe, there's no such thing as coincidence." Doug said staring at the road deep in thought. Fran shook her head and turned on the radio, it was the BBC News Hour on NPR.

".....The world holds its breath, hoping for the best after almost 3 days of radio silence from Antarctica -- where a team of Russian scientists is racing the clock and the oncoming winter to dig to an alien lake far beneath the ice..."

"Boom!" Exploded Doug as he punched the roof of the car.

"There's no such thing as coincidences." Fran said robotically and mildly stunned while her everyday mantra/touchstone repeated like a broken mp3 in here head, "I need a vacation."

-------------------------------------Part 5----------------------------------

Vostok Station - 9:30 am
Antarctica - February 6, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

Ivan robotically suited up in silence with the other seven members of his dive team. This was possibly the most important dive in the history of modern marine biology, it was also potentially the most dangerous, extreme cold water dive ever attempted.

Like all cold water dives, the point of entry also served as the only exit, however, the tunnel was just that, a tunnel, not a simple hole in the ice or a straight shoot bore hole...but a multi level, zig zagging tunnel. "This will be something else for sure", thought Ivan as he tested out the external heat controls on his suit.

To speed up the descent, the team were using 8 new, experimental, high-powered scuba jets. Having only a little over an hour worth of air each and a treacherous 2 plus mile area to cover, time was of the essence. The Jets were basically mini torpedoes minus the explosive pack, and painted a bright yellow. They took a bit of practice but could be controlled by the slightest body movement.

The plan was to jet down through the ice cave with all its twists and turns, leave the jets anchored on the last tier of the tunnel floor before they entered the lake proper, tether together and begin their first exploration. This would be a preliminary 20 minute dive into the lake, a form of scientific recon done to inform them for future dives.

Fully geared up, the team made their way to the mouth of the cave and one at a time slowly made their way in. They were to float here and allow their bodies time to acclimate to the cold water before they began. At this same time the engineers tested the lights on the Thaw Tubes that would be lighting their way to the lake entrance. Scuba Diving was not a sport or exercise for the impatient. This was fine for Ivan who couldn't help but drift back to last nights experience...what happened?

His scientific mind told him it was just a text book example of sleep paralysis, but his gut told him it was something else. Again he told himself it was just a manifestation of stress, excitement and possible anxiety over today's dive, it had to be...but now it was time to push these thoughts out of his mind and focus. He looked around at his team.

Positioned in a semi-circle in the now lit up dive pool, Ivan couldn't help but be reminded of sitting in a jacuzzi. To his immediate left was Dr. Anton Padalka, Dr. Marta Karischnik, Dr. Sasha Kapitsa, Junior lieutenant Misha Ivanov, Alpha Frogman, Starshina Loka Popov Alpha Frogman, Senior sergeant Grigory Petrov and Russian Navy scientist, Dr. Zach Mikhailov. One heck of a motley crew for certain he thought.

Being that this recent expedition was more than partially funded by the Russian Military, there would be 3 special Alpha Force divers and one well respected Navy Scientist joining them, and this was more than welcomed by the marine biologists who really didn't know what to expect under the ice in an ecosystem untouched by man and over 25 million years old!

It was no state secret either that Vladimir Putin himself had taken a very keen interest in this expedition. "Great...", thought Ivan, "...wonder what he thinks of our current state of radio silence?"

* * *

They had been in Lake Vostok for over 10 minutes now without a hitch, but Ivan couldn't shake the feeling that they were being watched or stalked. The rest of the team performed efficiently in their roles seemingly unaffected, reporting in turn over the radio back to base what they had observed. The frogmen had two channels of communication, one closed on an unknown frequency and the other, shared with the groups multi-plex system.

Fifteen minutes into the dive, Dr. Anton Padalka then made a shocking discovery, what appeared to be some sort of cuneiform type etchings with random glyphs above it; Four simple looking lines of an ancient script on a natural looking rock over hang. This was simply impossible. He snapped a dozen photos with his head cam. Even the soldiers looked at each other baffled. Ivan was just about to skeptically join in the conversation over the radio when he felt a slight, short jerk of the tether.

"Wait, what the..." a frightened voice trailed off over the radio as all the tethered divers were pulled forcefully in the same direction away from the rocks, then it stopped, as if they were thrown.

"What the devil was that, report!", cut in Team Leader Misha Ivanov.

Everyone in a panic now, the radio chatter was confused and garbled with each person talking at once. The lake visibility in Lake Vostok was ok as long as the torches were on, but still not the best, especially in a moment of crisis. Ivan, like the others, cast his light in the direction of Dr. Sasha Kapitsa who was on the end that had been so abruptly dragged. What he saw horrified him. Dr. Kapitsa's face mask was off and he swam in place with a huge, bubbling beatific smile, waving without a care in the world.

"Base, we have a situation, base?!?" One of the Frogmen screamed into the radio. "We need to locate his regulator right now and get him breathing again!"

Dr. Marta Karischnik, being the closest to Sasha, swam frantically to him and began searching his suit for the mouthpiece, which seemed to have been torn off. Sasha seemed unperturbed by any of this and continued to smile and wave. Marta turned back to the group shrugging helplessly. Ivan wondered what he was looking at? Was this hyperthermia, or trouble with his tank? The underwater pressure?

Then it happened, a lightening fast creature was on Sasha...possibly an eel or a tentacle? Massive in size it wrapped itself around the doctor's gleeful smile and popped off his head like a dandelion, a sudden blooming cloud of crimson bubbles masked the spectacle and the tether suddenly went loose. In shock Ivan and the rest of the biologists felt themselves being pulled the other way by the quick thinking military frogmen.

"The Radio connection to Vostok Station is dead, we must exit the lake NOW while the creature is distracted..." Dr. Zach Mikhailov calmly advised.

The team hysterically reversed their direction and swam towards the lighted hole in the ice ceiling. Dr. Marta then felt something rub past her, she swatted at whatever it was, it made another pass and again she swatted at it. "Please be a fish", she thought.

Finally it had her by the ankle. She looked in horror at the black, pulsating tentacle that was beginning to slowly wrap itself all the way up her leg. Thinking fast, she grabbed her diver's knife from her belt and made a quick, calculated swipe with the blade. Marta was no military frogman but she was a former athlete and very strong for her size.

With one clean cut the tentacle fell away and sank to the bottom of the lake in a plume of streaming black ink. She swam with even more gusto through the blackness towards the hole.

One by one the team made it into the tunnels where they quickly untethered themselves and found their jets. Without hesitation they were off with the frogmen taking up the rear- The radios were still dead, but they were alive...for now, they weren't out yet.

-------------------------------------Part 6------------------------------

Vostok Station - 1:43 pm
Antarctica - February 6, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

As the engineers, supervised by Dr. Mikhailov, finished securing and welding the industrial wire mesh panel to the opening of the ice cave, Ivan and the others sat around the wood stove, still in their suits wrapped in thick quilted blankets holding mugs of hot vodka between their shaking hands. All were in different states of shock and suffering from decompression sickness. They had been sitting in silence for some time, processing the mornings events, soul searching themselves for answers. Ivan finally broke the calm.

"What the hell just happened?"

* * *

The bath she had absently drawn was calling now to Dr. Marta Karischnik and then bed...but would she really be able to sleep?

After finally peeling off her wet suit and lowering herself into the clear, steaming water she noticed something curious, a thin cut at her ankle. This was obviously from her swiping at the creature with the knife, she had not felt this at the time, probably due to the adrenaline coursing through her. Intermixed with her dried, caked blood was a black, sticky pitch-like substance. She sighed and raised herself back out of the tub before she submerged her ankle, then baby stepped nude and wet on a towel back into the bedroom where she knew her field kit would be.

She plopped down on her bed and crossed her ankle over her knee sliding it closer to the light emitted from the lamp on the night table. She instinctively gloved up and carefully removed a sterilized sample spoon from its plastic packaging and gently began to scrape off the mysterious secretion. Not that she wasn't certain where it came from, but she wanted to get a good look at it under the microscope bright and early in her lab, No, she'd go now she thought and stood up fast. A flash of vertigo kicked in and she grabbed the bedpost to steady herself, clearly she was still showing signs of decompression sickness...this could wait a few more hours. In the back of her mind, Marta was also slightly concerned that the tarry substance had been commingling with her own blood for hours now unchecked. She closed the collection tube and sealed it in a plastic baggy...then gave Ivan a call for his opinion.

The phone in Ivan's room rang for a long while, Marta thought she could faintly hear the buzz through the thin walls of the base, but he didn't pick up. Oh well, she thought, she would see him in the morning then, she too should try and sleep. It did feel good to get back into thinking like a scientist rather than a victim of some bizarre event. As her heart beat began to pick up again, she chased those thoughts away. She thought back to the strange cuneiform writing Anton had discovered, she almost forgot all about it. That was the real takeaway...that was impossible. Had anyone previously accessed the lake? Had the military breached it first? They would be the only other group capable of pulling that off, but why go through all the trouble for some elaborate practical joke?

* * *

Ivan was sitting up in bed, dizzy and perplexed, trying to journal, an exercise that always centered him...but it was no use. There were so many questions spinning around in his head and impossible to focus on just any one. He couldn't get Sasha's face out of his mind and that strange scent that escaped the mouth of the cave, bittersweet, citrusy, inviting. Ironic that succumbing to it meant a violent demise...the whole thing was unsettling, this had to be a nightmare, he just needed to wake he went to sleep, and the journal fell from his hands.

* * *

Chile, South America, February 11, 2012
Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport
53.0051° S, 70.8431° W

"And this is what sir?" The customs clerk asked suspiciously in broken English as he poked at the corrugated tubes and masks with his pen.

" Why my Anchor, por supuesto." Douglas replied, seeming yet again pleased with himself, and grinning like a gator, until Fran elbowed him in his side, smiling mirthlessly, not breaking any eye contact with the clerk.

Up until now the trip had been smooth sailing, almost felt like a real family vacation. So much so, he had to constantly remind himself they were heading to Antarctica to investigate something more sinister and would not be sipping Grand Marniers with the missing Russian Scientists. The other obvious clue that this was not a vacation was his charge now in question. Doug was once again being forced by Fran to drag this bloody CPAP Machine along with him. He was still in denial of his sleep apnea, convinced he had nothing more than a cute, cartoonish snore.

This was hardly the case. For example, on a past camping trip in Yellowstone, Doug woke up having a conversation with a his tent. He was convinced it was his deceased Aunt Betty revealing the hidden location of King Solomon's Mine. Another time, they were rudely asked in the middle of the night to vacate a hostel they where staying at...reason being, no livestock was allowed in the dorms after 10pm. The clearly young, frightened staff were convinced Doug and Fran were harboring a sow of grubbing wild boar - and this was in Papua New Guinea! They quickly moved to a hut in the jungle but the damage was done, for as we all know; news travels fast in a small town. The rest of their time in the village the children would snort at Doug and their parents, in hushed tones, would refer to him as "Pik Manmeri"...which Douglas mistook as a compliment. Later he would find out it meant "Pig Man" in English. Small town = Big Hell.

At first the CPAP sounded like a good idea to our boy Doug, there were moments, that seemed like forever when he'd stop breathing in his sleep. It was in these fleeting, blissful, deadly breaks that Fran would find peace and sink into sudden slumber. The whole no breathing thing did seem like a bad thing to Douglas, so he jokingly referred to the machine as his anchor, his tether to the mortal coil. The selling point was a more restful sleep. this was a lie however, unless they were referring to your spouse and the rest of the household occupants. So for better or worse, CPAP it was in all its clumsy glory, tumbling out of his suitcase wrapped in his underwear onto the floor of the humid Chilean airport with a thud that reverberated in the tin roof of the hangar.

Next an attendant rolled up with what appeared to be a cage on coasters with a tarp strapped to it. The customs agents looked on wearily and wide eyed as Doug with the ease and flair of a B Grade street magician ripped off the covering.

"Behold, Bumble Fluff!", everyone took a step back, including Fran.

There in the pen was an 18 month, 100lb Malamute tongue out and huffing, wearing bee wings and bobbing antennae. Doug thought it would be fun for Huxley to travel in his halloween costume from last October. When questioned by Fran why this was a good idea, Doug simply answered, "For Effect."
And what an effect it had. After all 3 were thoroughly interrogated and body cavity searched, they were finally allowed to leave.

Fran hooked arms with Douglas and cozied up to him as they walked to baggage claim "I am glad we brought "Bumble Hux" however!"

"It's "Bumble Fluff" and yes I think a little visit to the South Pole could be good for him!" Doug said looking up at Huxley who led the way in all his Bumble Fluff glory.

After grabbing their luggage they were boarding another plane headed to King George Island where they would then board a helicopter and head to Vostok Station. They had no time to lose and no way of letting anyone know they were coming.

* * *

After what seemed like hours Marta finally drifted off to sleep. The dream washed over her suddenly like an ocean wave, like a weary sailor drowning she breathed in the warm, bittersweet, citrusy liquid and gave into it.

She was back in the lake under the ice, in a slight panic as she realized she was sinking into the deep dark unknown. She fought to paddle up, battling against the sub glacial pressure and gravity, but nothing...she was still sinking down, down, down, leaving a trail of blackness in her wake. Then with her mind she stopped everything, froze time. She glanced around and though now in complete darkness, she new she was no longer falling. She looked up where she could just barely make out the hole in the ice ceiling, she thought "up" and she began to move. Making her way into the ice cave the lights of the Thaw Tubes were now off, yet she could still see. She noticed the Scuba Jet still left anchored on the floor of the cave, that was Sasha's. She decided not to use it this time for there was no way in hell she would go through the agonies of decompression sickness again and there seemed no immediate threat to outrun.

She still made good time however as she willed her way up and around the different abstract ice sculptures the cave threw at her. Eventually the tunnel became brighter as she grew closer to the mouth of the cave, it was directly above her and she could see the nights stars blurry and above her. Soon she saw the grid-like pattern of the wire mesh above the cave entrance, she began to panic again. She would die in here, freeze to death or drown.

"Now I don't hardly know her,
But I think I could love her
Crimson and clover."

Not slowing down she seemed to pass right through the obstruction, which made perfect sense to her in the dream state. She made her way now in the direction of the base, moving at a steady pace across the ice. She looked up at the structure above and before her, it stood massive, like an enchanted castle lit by the moon.

"I wish she'd come walking over,
Now I've been waiting to show her,
Crimson and clover,
Over and over."

She passed through the entrance into the loud, heat blasted vestibule that dried her sticky skin. The vertigo came back for a moment, she paused in her trek to catch her breath. Slowly she looked around feeling like Alice passing through the looking glass. She began to move again, towards her room, as if being pulled by external forces that once again she gave into.

My my, such a sweet thing.
I want to do everything...
What a beautiful feeling.
Crimson and clover,
Over and over...

Now entering the dark hall she made her way more quickly, with intent, with purpose. As she was carried by this unseen drive she looked around, she could hear random snoring and the rhythmic breath that comes to guilt free sleepers. She could see light coming from Ivan's room, brightly cast from under his door, creating a semi-circle, sun like shape on the cold, cold tile floor. She moved carefully around the penumbra of it as if it was made of salt.

"...Crimson and clover, over and over,
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over..."

She now made her way into her quarters, she climbed slowly up the foot of the bed, clinging to the ledge like wrinkles in the heavy quilt. As she flung herself over and onto the bed she could see the shape of someone under the covers already. She kept on moving up, over the sleeping creature, pinning it down. Marta was hysteric now, angry in her movements, primal. She clamped down on the dark shape and squeezed as the body now awake and flailing pried at her - it would soon be over. Marta's eyes still blind and tracing from the light of Ivan's room began to adjust. She could now see directly into the creatures eyes as it went through it's death throws. Suddenly all became a flashing strobe of clarity, recognition and pure suffocating horror. Then all went black...

"...Crimson and clover, over and over,
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over..."

* * *

Ivan Kulchinsky
Journal Entry - February 7, 2012

Dr. Marta Karischnik was found unresponsive in bed this morning and pronounced dead at 10:38 am by the station medic. Bruises found on and around her neck indicate she had been strangled. A strange black resin was found under her nails and a dried, severed tentacle was found beside her bed. What does this all mean?

---------------------------------Part 7---------------------------------------------

Vostok Station - 12:00 pm
Antarctica - February 12, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

Since the mysterious deaths of Dr. Sasha Kapitsa & Dr. Marta Karischnik, the expedition slowed its pace dramatically, so much so that the Russian government upped their mandatory daily reports to twice a day since the base communication was back online. But what they often received was vague pablum from the lab techs.

After the memorial services for both doctors, morale was especially low. Everyone seemed to be moving around on auto pilot in a fog. There had been no more strange incidences but people were noticeably on edge, so a meeting was called by dive team leader, Junior Lieutenant Misha Ivanov and lead base scientist, Dr. Maksim Bespalov.

Ivan was the last to take a seat at the long mess hall table. Misha nodded at him and began. Since Ivan had been so close to Marta, and part of the dive team, he got a pass for being late.

"Clearly, we approached this expedition all wrong, but rather than pick apart our errors and mistakes we must glean something from them. We now know there is both a threat below the ice and above. Whether they are working together or are one in the same is yet to be proven despite the rumored speculation circulating around..." There was a slight murmur from a few. Misha cleared his throat and continued.

"...which is why I called this meeting. I must postpone all scientific research until the threat is observed, caught, or terminated. This is for all of our safety. I refuse to see anymore senseless deaths on my watch."

Misha then looked at Dr. Maksim.

"I could not agree more with Junior Lt. Ivanov, but must clarify that though scientific research has been suspended, we will still be using our skills and specialties as a team, a team of some of the worlds most capable scientists. Collectively we can outsmart this creature stalking us and at the risk of sounding trite, turn the hunter into the hunted. We will begin by dropping submersible drones into the lake, something we should have done day one...but no one could have predicted this..." Maksim trailed off and looked down into his coffee. He then caught himself and picked up again.

"We must learn everything we can about this creature and the environment in which it lives, and we must do this without the typical analysis paralysis that is often allowed by academia. In short, we must work like Sherlock Holmes in lab coats, both quick and clever!" Maksim smiled and then looked around the room for questions.

Before anyone could speak up there was a loud banging at the door. A muted American voice was also barely audible through the thick, weatherproofed door.


* * *

Much like the scientific research now on hold, so too the meeting had been halted due to this exceptionally odd interruption. The station leaders did not know what to make of the man in the captain's hat or his giant dog. The woman with him was rather pleasant though but quiet. His story checked out as did his credentials, he was in fact Douglas Smythe, Perfumer/Soapmaker & Paranormal Swashbuckler...which is what was printed on his business card that was tucked shamelessly into his passport. it was his story however that they found a little out there, then again, the way things were going around the base it might not hurt for them to take him and his small team on. After all, they did seem to have a fair bit of experience with the bizarre and unexplained and had traveled all this way out of concern.

Ivan was most curious to chat with the strangers and he asked Maksim if he could brief them. Seeing a spark of life in Ivan's eyes that had been absent this last tragic week, Maksim thought this would be good for his old friend and granted him permission and to withhold nothing.

* * *

12:43 Mess Hall, Vostok Station

As Ivan went on describing in great detail the events which unfolded over the last few days Doug looked down into his notebook, enthusiastically scratching away with his pen. Truth be told, what Ivan interpreted as spirited note taking was in reality, mindless doodles of octopi in the margins. Fran knew better and was taking careful notes so as not to rely on Doug's doodles, as she had to in the past, which was a real bitch before google maps.

"So tell me more about the cuneiform?" Asked Doug now looking up and leaning forward, a pretzel dangling out of his mouth like a snacking Groucho Marx.

"Well, since it was discovered, we have determined it is not Sumerian at all but Pre-Old Kingdom hieroglyphics. At this time we really can't date them or verify if they are genuine for certain. They really are a conundrum. They completely turn the accepted historical record of the ancient world on its head!" Ivan said, his voice bloated with amazement.

"Absolutely fascinating. Has your language guy gotten any further on the translation?" Fran probed not looking up from her yellow notepad, sounding her best Joe Friday.

"He believes he is done and it is accurate. It is in fact a curse..." Ivan spoke in a hushed tone as Doug burst in.

"I knew it was curse!" Doug looked at Fran who was not looking at him, so he connected eyes with Huxley who WAS looking at him and gave him a supportive nod. Hux wasn't really listening at all but you gotta keep the guy who feeds you happy, same goes for the fella who buys the wine, keep 'em happy. Besides, how could he listen when such a thing as SNOW existed! For a malamute born and raised in the desert of Arizona his tiny, nordic breed mind was blown wide open by this revelation. Doug tossed Hux a pretzel.

"How could you possibly have known this?" Ivan asked looking around, concerned there might now be a mole on the base, encouraging Doug with his hands to keep his voice down.

"Mea Culpa..." Doug whispered and then continued. "Well, the way it was laid out in quatrains, the location of the accompanying glyphs or etchings, and oh yeah, the sender may have mentioned it." Doug said matter of factly. Ivan's eyes went wide, he couldn't believe what he was hearing...There really was a leak. Doug leaned in closer to Ivan.

"I can say, if you are looking for a mole among your staff, count the linguistics guy out, the English in that email was absolutely atrocious. Now, may Fran and I hear the actual translation and possibly get some more pretzels? Who knew these twigs were so much more delicious when served chilled?!?!" Doug looked at Fran and then Huxley, Huxley nodded.

-------------------------------------------Part 8-----------------------------------

Vostok Station - 10:43 pm
Antarctica - February 15, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E

"Let he who dares disturb my eternal sleep
Die a thousand violent deaths, 
May their bones be gnawed on by and scattered 
by the shapeless guardian of the depths."

"Yes sir..." Doug thought out loud, "...that's a curse."

Fran and Doug both looked over Ivan's shoulders as he scrolled through photos of the glyphs, the translation, and other notes made during and after their initial recon on his laptop. It had been a couple of days now and the team really had not learned anything new on the creature. The Drones proved useless and caught nothing on their cameras, no sign of the creature. Doug and Fran requested that they have a deeper look at the curse.

"So as you can see, we have really been in the dark on this one." Said Ivan turning to look up at Doug.

"Always the best place to be Ivan." Said Doug and continued as he dusted pretzel crumbs off his shirt and Ivan's shoulder, "In the dark our eyes are open the widest! Might you have any bacon...and pretzels, we'll need more chilled pretzels!"

* * *

"What the hell was I thinking!" Screamed Douglas into the mouthpiece of the radio of the tiny, one person submersible that he now found himself in. The mini sub was wrapped in generous amounts of bacon with only it's yellow nose and propellers sticking out. Tentacles now wrapped themselves around the greasy craft and was pulling Doug back, he gunned it forward...though "gunned it" might be the wrong descriptor here since his only controls really were a joystick.

The vehicle was very high tech and AI assisted, any idiot could drive it, and it was very, VERY when Doug began wrapping the expeditions year supply of hickory smoked bacon around it, more than a few scientist became concerned...they also like bacon, a lot.

But it actually worked! Up until now, as Ivan pointed out, the submersible drones were not catching anything at all on video. It had been days and nothing...until Doug decided to go "fishing". Ivan's voice came calmly over Doug's headset, "Base to Pik Manmeri..." Doug insisted on this handle over the radio and after all the bacon, it did kinda still make sense. "What is going on, we have lost all video feeds!" Ivan's voice began to betray his previous calmness.

"Um yeah, kinda in the middle of something right now...might there be any weapons installed on the Yellow Submarine; mini torpedoes, lasers, machine guns, French ticklers?!?!" The radio went silent as Ivan thought. Weapons? This vehicle was designed for underwater exploration not battle...then he had an idea.

"Pik Manmari, there is an underwater acetylene torch feature. It too is AI assisted but we will over-ride that from up here in order for you to wield it as needed. Find the controls right side of the joystick under a red plastic panel, but..." Ivan was again speaking calmly into the headset.

Doug found the red panel and flipped it open, there were two levers and a toggle switch. He was going to have to learn this baby hands on. He flicked the toggle, the sub was suddenly bathed in tiny bubbles and a white light. Ivan was still talking, " sure to wear the tinted safety goggles before you throw the switch Pik Manmeri. I will now talk you through operations..."

Doug was pretty sure he was now blind however, all he saw was the searing flash of white that had burned itself onto his retinas. "Ahh..." Doug radioed back, "good to know now my friend." He took his headset off and began to control his breathing. He was going to have to approach this Jedi style...god how he hated Star Wars!

He listened, trying to sense where the creature was, which was really tough. The small craft was insulated really well, like a snow cave. All he could make out was the gentle engine hum and Ivan's faint voice escaping the headset that was now on the floor. The sub began to spin and that's when Doug's atrophied Atari reflexes came to life!

The torch arm extended out tearing and searing through the hickory smoked bacon, with heightened senses Doug caught a metaphysical whiff of Russian Hickory goodness.

"The Pig Man is ready to dance..."

-------------------------------------------Part 9----------------------------------

Vostok Station - 10:43 pm
Antarctica - February 16, 2012
77.5001° S, 106.0001° E


Fran and Huxley decided to take a walk around the base while Doug's, or rather "Pik Manmeri" was being lowered into the cave entrance. Huxley really could not get over Antarctica. If you have ever seen The Jerk, you remember the scene where Navin discovers he is in fact a honky, that is pretty much what the last few days had been for this desert raised Alaskan Malamute.

As they passed one of the small labs they overheard what sounded like an argument escaping a door left open a crack, a hand was sticking out, so as the person it belonged to on the other side of the door could make a quick dash if need be it would seem.

"How interesting..." Fran said to herself.

They crept up slowly and hid on the side of the building. The language being spoken was Russian so Fran found the app on her phone that could translate it in real time as well as record it.

" just don't understand Maksim, we are here to take this creature alive!" Said the voice

"You have deceived all of us, the whole team trusted you with their lives..." Maksim replied. Fran observed his hand tapping on the door for emphasis with every syllable.

"And they still can. The frogmen and I will continue to protect them until the creature is contained and then we will depart. However, you will be sworn to secrecy about what has happened here and that is why I need you to sign this now! The voice said angrily and it sounded as if a sheet of paper was being ruffled.

"If the American is successful in his mission today, capturing the beast, there is no way this will be kept secret, this became an international expedition as soon as they knocked on our door. Where are these orders coming from and how could you ever possibly anticipate any of this Zachary? As a man of science I do not know how you can allow for a cover up...See what I'm seeing?" Again Maksim rapped on the door as he spoke and as if to punctuate the last four words, Maksim's hand pointed around the corner in four jabs. Fran and Huxley looked at each other then in the direction where Maksim's floating hand was pointing in. There was a window, they slowly crept to it.

"That is why he will not be successful, the soldiers and I have made sure of this already." Dr. Zach Mikhailov responded coldly.

Now at the window and watching, Fran's eyes widened at the sound of this. In the lab before them they could see two figures. Maksim at the door and Russian Navy Scientist Zach Mikhailov at the other end of the room, his gun drawn with a silencer attached to the barrel and aimed at Maksim. Like Maksim's hand he seemed to speak with the gun in jabs. Fran saw Maksim glance their way for a split second, showing no recognition then, right back to Zach.

"You know I can never sign that paper and you will never get away with this Zach, the truth always comes...." The bullet came fast and quick out of Zachary's gun, Maksim was more in shock than pain as he looked down at his chest and back at his assassin, then collapsed in the doorway.

The Navy Scientist quickly lurched forward grabbing Maksim by the feet and dragging him to the center of the room. He noticed the door was open. He poked his head out and quickly looked around before leaning back in and shutting it. Fran and Hux both ducked at the muted, spikey sound of the gun. They quietly but quickly made their way around the other side of the lab, they needed to report this...They were all in danger, especially Douglas!

* * *

After Zach was done wrapping the body in thick plastic lab bags he lifted it and dropped it into the open long ice core sample cooler. When he was done cleaning the lab he was ready to head back to his quarters where he would shower and change his clothes. He left the lab and locked it, then made his way around the tiny one room building, his mind was a flutter with thoughts, that's when he looked down and stopped...tracks.

* * *

Starshina Loka and Senior sergeant Grigory watched Doug's sub get attacked by the creature from a safe distance. It looked like the ancient beast was going to take care of the job for them. Just when the sub was being forcibly twisted and turned Loka caught a strong whiff of...."Бекон?" he thought to himself. [That's bacon to the rest of us.] Loka could tell Grigory smelled it also, they looked at each other confused then immediately back to the strange scene unfolding before them.

A pinpointed white light on a robotic arm whipped around the craft like a sword, cutting and searing through the tentacles like butter. The creature pulled back as the whole area was suddenly engulfed in an explosion of inky blackness, soon the lights of the sub were coming out the other end of the cloud at warp speed. The frogmen were now in hot pursuit of the tiny bacon draped craft.

* * *

Doug immediately felt when the creature had let go and gunned the joystick forward full tilt. "My kung fu is stronger than yours ya big bastard!" Doug said out loud and into the head set as he slipped it back on with the other hand. Ivan was still talking and stopped when he heard this.

"Pik Manmeri, please report...what is going on?" Ivan asked distressed, he was almost certain Doug was ignoring all his instruction and then this unappreciative outburst, "Typical American." he thought. 
Suddenly the monitors picked back up and Ivan had eyes again on the submersibles inner control deck and a 90 degree view of the outside of the craft. It was now clear that the beast had been defeated, at least for the time being and more importantly, Doug was not talking to him. However, Doug did look weird on the screen, he was blinking a lot as he leaned into the joystick.

"All is well Ivan!" said Douglas into the headset making Ivan jump. He continued, "I had a temporary vision issue but it's slowly coming back, I believe the sub is still in good shape but we are going to need to do another lap around the lake to try and lure that thing out again. I won't let him get too close this time...oh and how many tentacles does the creature supposedly have again?"

"14, Pik Manmeri." Ivan cut in with a curious tone in his voice.

"Well, it's actually" Said Doug, and then turned down the volume on the headset so as not to hear Ivan scold him. After what happened to that one doctor, Doug would not be sleeping tonight he thought.

As Ivan yelled at Doug over his mic he suddenly noticed movement in the other monitor...Frogmen. "What the devil are they doing down there?" Ivan asked out loud. "They're trying to kill Douglas!!!" Said Fran without missing a beat as she and Huxley blew through the doors.

* * *

It didn't take Fran long to bring Ivan up to speed. He desperately tried to reach Douglas who appeared oblivious to the frogmen now stalking him but with the volume turned way down it was no use. All Fran, Ivan, and Huxley could do was watch helplessly.

* * *

The frogmen were getting closer to the sub by the second. Each of them carried EMP devices that they would need to get close enough to the craft to attach. All they needed was to connect one but two would ensure overkill.

Out of the corner of his eye Grigory sensed movement, it was another diver. Grigory slowed to asses the situation. Thinking this must be Zachary he waived, the diver waived back then all went black. Loka turned around just in time to witness the human looking creature wrapping a tentacle around Grigory, and with a quick jerking squeeze bursted both the diver and his tank. A flush of Crimson bubbles encapsulated what was left of his friend. The creature now completely shifted back into its true form and turned its attention to Loka.

-------------------------------Part 10-------------------------------

Douglas woke up to a smack on the forehead dazed and staring into the sun it would seem.  There was a rather alluring, familiar scent in the air and sounds of water dancing around him. The weather was warm and pleasant, as his eyes came back into focus and the sun spots slowly vanished he found himself lying in a field staring at Aldous who sat cross legged in front of him.

"You fell asleep Douglas, either due to that strange fruit you were munching on or my lecture on the insect population of AGHARTA. It seemed fitting that I just killed a Moskito on you while you slept...I suppose I could have been more subtle?" Aldous rubbed his hand on his cloak in an attempt to rid himself of sticky bug guts and smiled at Doug.
"Al...Al, Aldous, where are we? Where's Fran and Huxley?" Doug asked with a dumfounded look on his face wiping away drool and the remnants of bug guts from his forehead.
"Fran is with Ludmilla in the College of Time looking over the literature on Vril. But she told you this already and as for this Huxley, I do not know." Answered Aldous now getting to his feet.
"Aldous, this is very strange...the last thing I remember is being in a small yellow submarine underwater in an Arctic Lake and now I am here, back in AGHARTA." Said Doug as if lost in a dream and just realizing it's lucid.
He saw that he was in the lower park set in the center of AGHARTA, Elysian Park he believed it was called. About 20 feet away was the Vril Fountain on which decorative, bejeweled cherubim made of precious metals stood in a circle, shooting streams of this magic liquid from their tiny mouths. The sound of the water breaking the surface of the large 10 foot pool was soothing yet added to Doug's confusion. Aldous helped Doug to his feet and dusted him off.
"How very odd, we have been here for days now and all has been well, dare i say uneventful...especially in direct contrast to what we experienced in the tunnels. Dreams are funny like that, but at the same time should not be laughed away. Please tell me more about this lake and your experience in full detail and I shall try and interpret it. In the meantime, we are suppose to meet Fran and Ludmilla for lunch...may we walk and talk?"
This was all so very overwhelming for Douglas. He had zero recollection of arriving in AGHARTA and vaguely remembered their journey through the tunnel system. He had a lot of questions for both Aldous and Fran.
"One more thing, who is Ludmilla?" Asked Doug looking up from his hands to Aldous.
"You don't remember your own sister?" Aldous asked with a new, serious tone of concern in his voice.
-------------------------------------------To Be Continued----------------------------


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