Two dark shadows watched as the Endeavor II deported from Ushuaia as the sun sank into the western horizon, powerless to stop the ship. The figured seemed to fold into the darkness and disappear outright.
Meanwhile inboard the Endeavor II the grim task of preparing the dead rounder for the cold embrace of the sea began. Timothy wasn’t certain that what Jo-Anne and Bonnet were planning, but there was little he could argue against this pending burial at sea with. The Endeavor II with all of her features was lacking a suitable corpse storage facility, and they certainly could not wait till they returned to the United States to burry the man. He was confident that in his authority as Captain he was permitted to conduct burials at sea, given concerns for the health and safety of his crew and passengers, he had just never had to make that call before. He wished he could remember the advice his father had given him as a child about such matters, but that was the problem with ignoring the man for much of his early life.
The mayhem had settled down, to the extent they could have anticipated and Steede Bonnet was busily ensuring that all the proper rights of passage occurred for the fallen man. There appeared to be a vast degree of knowledge the man possessed regarding pirate tradition, and Ginger Malloy was impressed with the caring nature that he was presently displaying for the complete stranger. This of course did nothing to ingratiate him with Timothy as it was more apparently obvious to anyone who had their eyes open, the Captain of the Endeavor II held designs on the redheaded bar tender.
The seas south of Ushuaia were unexpectedly calm, and this disturbed the seasoned Captain of the Endeavor II. He had never experienced such calm water on the oceans before, and thought that it was more like a rough day on a small lake then even the mildest of days at sea. He didn’t like this one bit, it was wrong and he did not know why he felt that way.
Steede placed the dead man into one of the large laundry bags that were abundant in the ships laundry facilities. Bonnet was relieved by the fact that the man had been of a small demeanor because it was a tight fit none the less. The bag was weighted down with several fifty pound weights from the crafts gymnasium. It had been Jo-Anne’s suggestion since no one had utilized the small room since the craft had become her home.
As the sun floated just above the horizon, Ginger, Steede, Cederic, Jo-Anne, and Timothy gathered on deck. The body of the dead rounder lay perpendicular to the center line of the ship. While it was Timothy’s responsibility to ensure everything was conducted per the law, he permitted Steede to conduct the traditional pirate burial ceremony. For this reason the body was not to be lain parallel to the ships center line. Steede had explained that such an act would doom all on board to an untimely death. Timothy silently thought to himself that any adventure with the Lady Bassalt carried the possibility of an untimely death, usually at the hands of some unknown beast.
Steede Bonnet looked solemnly out to the horizon. The sun dipped into the sea, illuminating it with a ghostly red glow. The man cleared his throat loudly and began to speak in the loudest voice “He earned his share, plus another half for his wife and kids, but he has none to pay so we will keep it in kind for our wives and children…if we were to ever make that mistake.”
The observers gasped in astonishment at the sermon that was being given. By Steede. Jo-Anne felt as though she should stop him before he continued, but her urge came too late. “Mother Ocean and Father Sea take this man in your cold embrace down to the locker, and ferry him to the ever after so we may not see his face again nor hear his tales.”
The man hefted the end of the board into the air with ease and the body slid off the side of the ship and sank into the icy brine of the south Atlantic. Turning around the man looked at the observers, their jaw agape. “don’t stand their with yer fly traps open, there be treasure to hunt in front of us.”
Timothy spoke up, “what in the hell was that?” the Endeavor II captain’s voice was high pitched and shrieking. “That was the most inappropriate thing I think I have ever seen, and my own mother offered to give me a lap dance once so I know a thing or two about inappropriate.
“That’s how we see our fallen off, there ain’t no use in crying for him because he wouldn’t return the favor if the tables were turned.”
“That’s not what I meant you baboon,” Timothy’s voice seemed to be reaching even higher octaves then before. “Where was the Lord in that service, where was the dignity. For Christ’s sake he was supposed to be some sort of equal to you.”
Steede gafawed at the notion that the man was an equal, “He was not my equal, he was not even of my crew. His father’s, father plus about fifteen had been left on this island for treason. The fact he had the key to the treasure indicates that the cursed Blackbeard was right for leaving them.” The man’s eye flared, if you looked hard enough you might could have imagined that a hellish fire was burning deep inside his skull. “My ancestor died at the Beard’s side, struck down by him as they attempted to take what was their due. That man was the descendant of a traitor and a lout that barely deserved the pirate burial.”
Jo-Anne stepped in between the two men and interrupted the brewing verbal bout, “Steede I am certain Timothy meant no disrespect. We don’t understand your code and he was just trying to point out that this was unlike any burial we have ever seen for a Christian.”
“The man was no Christian, none of us are that are descended from the pirates of lore, I cannot tell you what those posers in Africa are. We know of your God, but we do not think he has a say in our lives and doing. We witness the power of Mother Ocean and Father Sea, their winds guide us on our way and bring to us either plentiful bounty or punish us for our indiscretions.”
Cederic was fascinated by this, he had thought he knew of most religious casts and this was a new mythology that he was not familiar with. “But I thought the likes of Black Beard and The original captain Bonnet were devout christians?”
“They were on the surface, but all pirates pretend to be other to keep the secret and avoid persecution.”
Cederic looked fascinated, and stated just that “Fascinating.”
“This man got the burial he would have been proud to have, he is off to other treasures and with his kin. He is also in the Mother’s bosom and not stuck on land. He is therefor among his own.” Steede paused for a moment and looked back to make certain the body had sunk beneath the waves. It had. He turned his gave to the looming ice on the distant horizon, “and speaking of treasure, don’t we have gold to find?”
“Can we talk about this religion later,” inquired Cederic as the last surviving Rounder began to walk away.
Steede Bonnet turned and looked back at the male archeologist, “Assuming we both survive, yes we can.” he mumbled something beneath his breath that was barely audible to the others and sounded distinctly like “that trucking dance in Chell wombat pampering.” But nobody had the courage to ask for clarification.
Three hundred feet directly over the Endeavor II and about half a mile to the left a solitary figure was flying through a cloud bank to avoid being seen. His golden mane of hair was dripping wet with condensation and he looked as though he were about to turn into a ice cube. The look of utter frustration and hatred on his face was unwittingly causing children in China to cry.
Klaph ‘Nal would have preferred to be in the open sky, but he dare not reveal his presence to the humans yet. The time would come for him to make a stunning resurrection from the dead, for the last time that the he dealt with Jo-Anne and Cederic they believed he had died. The alien wanted to dictate his first personal meeting with the two monkey men himself and that meeting time to be of his own determining. Wiping rain from his brow, he thought to himself that he really needed to invest in some rain gear.
Settling into the long flight ahead of him the winged alien reflected back on the past three five thousand years of his life. A great deal of that time had been spent in the hibernation chamber; resting, rebuilding his body in dreamless sleep; but that did not mean he was oblivious to the developments on Earth. The grate data core observed everything and dumped that information directly into his head while he slept, that was until the core stopped getting updated about a thousand years ago.
Although he wasn’t present at the building of the pyramids he had seen that construction through the eyes of the collector. The same could be said for the building of the Nazca Lines, those strange symbols the primitive earthlings carved into the ground as a tribute to his people. The thousand year gap in his knowledge was about to be closed as the missing collectors were being returned to the central core. Once they are plugged into the core they will download the last thousand years of knowledge to the core and all he need to do is enter a hibernation cube to gain the sum of all knowledge on this planet.
The hibernation chambers of the central hub would also permit him to catch up on news and events from his home world. The last time he had “checked in” with Ravilon IV was three hundred years ago, so he was looking forward to an update on his people’s discoveries and conquests.
While the Ravilonians were primarily a scientific race, they used their knowledge to conquer lesser species and their worlds. When they encountered an uninhabited world they planted the seeds of life to breed slave populations. While it would normally take millions of years for the fruits of their labors to be realized it was all for what they considered the greater good.
Klaph ‘Nal allowed his mind to float drearily back to his childhood as he himself effortless floated through the sky on great feathered wings. His childhood wasn’t nearly as recent as his appearance would have people believe; nearly twenty thousand years had passed since those early days on Ravilon IV. To the untrained human eye he looked as though he was in his late twenties, maybe a very fit thirty.
Growing up on Ravilon IV was not easy for young Klaph ‘Nal, his family was one of the most respected in the empire and his father was the chief of scientific research. There was a tradition amongst his family that demanded greatness, a tradition the man was raised to believe in, a tradition he couldn’t help but let down.
Lord ‘Nal remembered that first day when he had learned that he would be coming to the planet Sol III in the Mutter’s Spiral. A back water little planet with two primitive species vying for control of it’s mostly water covered surface. He was upset by this, even at the young age of two hundred he knew that this was an undesirable post to get him out of the way. He had figured it was his Father’s way of getting back at him for disappointing the family by barely passing the scientific qualification exams.
His father of course had been the third ‘Nal to score a perfect score on the five day long exam, just as his father before him, and his father before him. It was family tradition to be at the head of the class, a tradition that fledgling Klaph had not maintained. Instead of going to some prime world in the confederation he was being thrown out into the wilderness of a failed experiment where he could do no harm.
Sol III had been seeded by his people not once but twice, and as such those seeds fought one another for world domination. His role would be to sit in a central hub away from the fighting to observe which species became the dominate life form and then report back so a team of high ranking scientists could begin the process of enslaving the planet.
His father wouldn’t even trust him to do that by himself, he had to call back to the confederation for help. The words to describe how he felt about this existed, but not in any language he was aware off, they had all failed to accurately capture the level of visceral hatred and utter disdain he was feeling. The young man knew what was happening, he was being shunted off into the corner of the universe to hide his failure. His father had assured him that these feelings wouldn’t last and that he should be happy to have an assignment at all. His father was wrong.
Twenty thousand years later an older and much wiser Klaph gritted his teeth against a sudden burst of cold air that sent him spiraling downward toward a sheet of ice. For a moment he thought he would end up having to activate the emergency medical teleport system he wore on his wrist, but he managed pull himself up just in time to avoid hitting the ground at terminal velocity.
A trail of light snow lifted in his wake as he flew just feet above the ice sheet towards the pyramid looking mountain on the horizon. As the mountain crept closer a smile made it’s way across his normally stoic face. He was home at last. At least his home on this planet.
The Endeavor II dropped anchor at the southern most scientific port in the world, a grateful captain at its helm; glad to be at a port controlled by the United States of America. Jo-Anne and Cederic were greeted at the port by a heavily bearded man in a parka and goggles.
“Lady Bassalt,” the man spoke unnecessarily loud; “we’ve been expecting you.”
Jo-Anne shivered as an arctic blast swept across the dock. “you have?”
“Yes, your captain radioed ahead to ask for permission to port, we naturally granted it since we don’t get dignitaries all that often down here.”. Noticing that the two archeologists were not actually appropriately clothed for the climate the man added “we should take this inside.”
“Inside” was a term loosely assigned to a series of double wide trailers connected by thermal tents. They were kept at a balmy sixty degrees, and could only possibly feel warm to the people stationed at ice port zero. Cederic looked around the small trailer disappointedly. The man thought that the building was nothing but a disappointment. He was used to this type of ramshackle assortment of buildings from poorly financed groups but this was the United States government, he could not find justification for the level of half assery that he detected. “Not much of a base you have here is it?”
“You think this is bad, you should see some of the stuff further in on the ice shelf,” responded the heavily bearded man indignantly. “They would love to have a trailer, they have nothing but igloos and tents.”
Cederic was not certain if the man was serious or joking, but he decided to give a half laugh in appreciation to the man’s joke if he were joking. Turned out he was joking, but Cederic still sounded like an ass clown, and Jo-Anne couldn’t help but let out a giggle of her own.
“We have two snow mobiles ready for you, but you are going to need better gear if your going out to the sheet.”
“Do you have gear that we can use,” inquired Lady Bassalt?
“Normally I would say no, but seeing how you made such a generous donation we can make an exception.”
Jo-Anne was unaware of any donation, but she figured it was Timothy spending company money freely again. The captain of the Endeavor II was good at greasing the wheels of commerce and bureaucracy, usually with a large wad of her cash. She didn’t mind so much since she wasn’t certain what to do with all of it, and by spending it for her he spared her the effort of having it.
“How much of a donation do we need for four sets of gear?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it mam, you more than covered that, and the two snowcats.” The archeologists thought they saw a smile creep through the heavy beard of the man.
Jo-Anne and Cederic looked at each other with an air of silent concern. While it was nearly impossible for Timothy to have over committed the Bassalt trust fund, it was sounding more and more that he may have figured out a way to slay the golden calf.
Sensing the concern the bearded man turned back towards the two archeologists and smiled, “don’t worry, it’s not the monetary donation that has earned you our friendship, that’s for the bookkeepers to suss out, there are three cases of rum and two of whiskey that are off the books that opened our arms in friendship.”
Cederic did a quick mental turn in his head, headed down the wrong path, somehow got his calculation wrong but ended up with the right response. “Good old Timothy, winning hearts the old fashioned way.” the man paused only long enough for the bearded man to turn back towards his computer terminal and then whispered into Jo-Anne’s ear “by getting them drunk off their gourd.”
A few keystrokes and the printer started churning out a couple of documents on an old dot matrix style printer. “Had he thrown in a new computer with a decent printer and twenty gigs of porn and you would be signing for the entire base camp, but as it is…” he ripped off first page of the document, “I just need you to sign there and there accepting the loan of two U.S. Government owned, genuine nineteen-sixty eight snow cats valued at approximately a twenty-thousand dollars.” the smile appeared between the folds of bushy brown and grey hair.
Jo-Anne grabbed the paper and gave it a once over. Much to her amazement there was absolutely non of the normal shenanigans that she had come to expect from civil servants. The document was clear, concise and clearly written in a simpler time when a hollywood actor was in the White House. She even reread the fine print three times over, ensuring that there was not some aspect of a soul being promised or the live sacrifice of a baby goat. Of course that language was not standard until the mid nineteen nineties governmental contracts and this base was definitely working with some antiquated systems.
The Lady Bassalt signed at the appropriate letter “X” and handed the document back to the bearded man. He in turn looked at it appreciatively, although oddly enough he held it up to the light as though to verify some mysterious watermark that the Epson 320 had left while it printed the document out. He than walked over to a a large steel locker, precisely the type you would expect to find in Churchill’s London bunker and removed a large bag that was bulging with winter gear.
While everything else at the base seemed to be surplus equipment from the cold war era, the arctic gear was top of the line NorthFace equipment. “Take what you need, bring back what you don’t;” growled the man through his thick beard.
Cederic grabbed the bag and looked at Jo-Anne curiously. He was waiting for her to make the next move. He was not a hundred percent positive that he trusted this arrangement, but if she were game who was he to complain about it if she didn’t. Jo-Anne did not complain,but rather thanked the bearded scientist and popped out the door heading in the general direction of the Endeavor II.
Walking back to the ship they noted two bright orange Snowcats that were parked near the building they just left. They assumed that these were likely the two machines that they had just “rented” from the United States government. Their assumption was correct, except they had actually purchased them outright and they were not expected to return them, which when they undoubtedly would, would create a lot more paperwork for the Epson 320 to churn out.
“Jojo, do you really know what we are doing,” inquired Cederic?
The woman looked back at the man as they walked up the ramp to the Endeavor II, “don’t you trust me.”
Knowing well that his response would mean pissing the woman off, but needing to express his concerns to her when it was essentially just the two of them he decided to actually respond, “not really, you haven’t been exactly truthful with us as of late. I just feel like your winging it right now and don’t really have much of a plan.”
“Don’t be sill Ced,” stated the woman quietly as she disappeared down a hatch on the deck, “of course I have a plan.”
“Would you mind sharing it with me?”
“I don’t really know what it is. I am still working out the details.”
“Any idea when you might know those pesky little details?”
“Not certain, I’ll let you know when I stop talking.”
Mumbling something inaudible under his breath Cederic decided to let the topic rest. He knew that the woman was improvising their way into a dangerous situation, but he also knew that she was good at improvising her way out.
Ducking into her cabin the woman looked back at Cederic and smiled a coy little reassuring smile that made the male archeologist a little uneasy. Her feminine wiles seemed to tell her that she was loosing the man’s faith, ever so slightly. “Ced, sweetie, how many times do I need to tell you that you need to learn to trust me?”
“But you don’t always tell me the truth.”
“If I did I wouldn’t need you to trust me, now would I?”. Not waiting for an answer the woman let the door to her cabin close. Shouting through the door the woman told Cederic to gather Steede and Timothy and meet her in the observation lounge.
Cederic sulked off to gather the requested attendees, but could not help but pick up a straggler by the name of Ginger Malloy. The woman insisted on being part of the conversation since she was along for the ride on this adventure, and was not about to miss out on anything. The male archeologist figured it was only fair and that Jo-Anne wouldn’t mind the addition of the woman to the meeting.
Timothy was on the command deck, arguing with Steede over the best way to ensure the Endeavor II didn’t get iced in. The male archeologist couldn’t help himself and burst out laughing at the two men. “You two sound like a couple of raging idiots, you know that right?”
Both men stopped arguing with one another and turned their mutual frustration toward Cederic. As though their minds were joined in a Vulcan mind meld both men shouted at the man, “Shut Up! You don’t know what your talking about.”
The men turned to re-engage their verbal assault on each others lineage and mental capacities before looking into each other eyes and bursting into laughter.
“If the two of you are quite happy the Lady Bassalt would like us to gather in the observation deck for a briefing.”
The group of four headed to the large room that had Nearly an unobstructed three hundred and sixty degree view surrounding the vessel. Timothy had done his best to clean the blood off the white leather sofa, which harkened back to when Angus Emero, former CEO of Bassalt Industries and now happily dead, had treated the vessel as his personal yacht.
Jo-Anne was not actually startled with the addition of the bar keep to the meeting. Se had assumed that the woman would be around, she had actually grown accustomed to her presence. She had been following Timothy around like some love sick teenager, that was until Steede had impressed her with his caring for the deceased rounder. Now the woman seemed conflicted with which man to pursue. Secretly Jo-Anne hoped that she chased Steede and left her childhood friend alone, something told her that she would make his life miserable.
Lady Bassalt was dressed in one of the borrowed winter survival suits and looked not only toasty warm, but also very much the part of a stereotypical Eskimo. She looked around the room and tossed another of the suits at Cederic, “There are two more openings on the expedition team, Steede I suspect that you will want to join us as the key has been so important to you.” not waiting for the man’s response she tossed a suit at the man. “You will have to do your best to squeeze into it, sorry!”
The man looked at the suit, which was clearly too small for him. The others in the room could see the virtual wheels in the man’s head begin to turn. “I’ll see what I can do. Thank you Mam.”
“Timothy I had thought I could use your help on this one as well. “. The female archeologist look at her life long friend and saw the apprehension in his eyes. She knew that despite the man’s outward bravado he was not at home off the Endeavor II. “Or maybe you would rather join us Miss Malloy. It has been a long journey for you not to see this adventure to the end.”
Ginger looked at Timothy and sensed he was looking for a way out; ” I would like that very much, thank you Jo-Anne.” The bar keep through in a smile to cover up her uncertainty, she was never much for the cold; let alone the coldest place on Earth.
Both women noted a quiet sigh of relief from Timothy, who had looked like he would have rather spent the Holidays with his mother than go inland. Jo-Anne knew that asking him was a long shot, but she really did want him to attempt this journey. “That’s fine Ginger. Timothy, please make the Endeavor ready for our departure.”
The Captain smiled, he felt confident that his desire to stay onboard his home had been met. Timothy also thought that he had managed to save face with the lovely Miss Malloy, a thought that much like monkeys writing Shakespeare was God awful wrong.
Ginger changed into the snow gear and emerged shortly after Cederic, who’s suit was the correct size for him. They laughed at the fact the woman could have fitted another person in her suit. It was immediately obvious that Jo-Anne had pre screened the survival gear and picked the best fitting of the bunch for herself. In the woman’s defense she had intended the suit that Ginger now wore to be Timothy’s.
The three explorers waited for twenty more minutes for Steede to emerge. No one was surprised by his appearance since they had heard his cursing and straining as he folded his frame into clothing that was at least two sizes too small. The seams of the winter gear strained like Bruce Banners clothing as he turned into the Incredible Hulk. Steede looked every bit angry enough to actually become the green beast of comic book lore, but he burst into laughter as he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. He looked like some twisted muscle head from the jersey shore that was trying to fit into his old school uniform, the fabric strained at the seams as it stretched over his form.
Jo-Anne wondered if it would be safe for the man to travel like this across the arctic wasteland, but she figured she would be hard pressed to convince him he should not finish his life long journey. Anyway the snow cats were covered and heated so the man would only be in trouble if they broke down or had to stop because of open water.
“Come on you three,” stated the female archeologist to the small party of adventurers.
Leaving the observation deck and descending the gang plank they were greeted by the bearded scientist who seemed to be the only one at the base. Lady Bassalt could see his wide grin o n his face as he got a glimpse of Steede in the much too small uniform, he couldn’t help himself at commenting; “I didn’t know you were bringing a giant with you, I might have been able to find something in Neanderthal.”
Jo-Anne thought that the man had spent a little too much time by himself if he was willing to joke about Steede. The Captain of the Rounders was easily twice his size, and looked every bit as mean as a pit viper with the heavy scaring over his missing eye. She was about to say something to that extent when she heard the Giant man’s voice chime in, “I would have prefer something in Wooly Mammoth if you have it, maybe with a brontosaurus leg for a snack too.”
Steede never failed to amaze Jo-Anne, his gentle nature and good sense of humor despite what was a less than stellar life and reputation. The female archeologist thought that their encountering one another it may have been a gift from God, if she were to believe in a a higher power. The man was in a better place now and she believed with all her mind that he was going to be much happier now, even if it meant losing everything he knew first.
The foursome of travelers paired off into the snow cats, necessity dictated that Jo-Anne and Cederic take separate transports since neither Steede, nor Ginger knew how to operate the lumbering vehicles. The cabins of the crafts were too small to accommodate both Steede and Cederic so they split into teams of boy girl.
The heavily bearded scientist shouted over the rumble of the two diesel engines, “you can make about twenty mile an hour over flat ice, and you should have enough gas to go ’bout two hundred miles”
Jo-Anne gave the man a thumbs up as she eased the tank track vehicle into first gear and started driving. It took several gear shifts to figure out how to smoothly transition the snow cat between gears, but eventually the ride smoothed out and the team was headed toward the interior of Antarctica.
The bearded man walked back to the warmth of his trailer mumbling beneath his breath, “where the he’ll are they going, ‘ain’t nothing that way but a bunch of penguins.”
Once off the coast line the frozen dessert of Antarctica stretched endlessly in front of the two snow cats. While the strange little man said that they could get up to twenty miles an hour the two drivers struggled to maintain anything faster than a brisk walking pace as they eased the vehicles over ice chunks and snow mounds. They were afraid to go any faster as they knew that beneath any sheet of ice could lie some mammoth inland lake, filled with nothing but certain death and a rapid decent into a watery grave. The only thing nice about the inclosed snow cats was the fact they were temperature controlled and they pairs were very toasty warm in their survival suits with the cabin set at a balmy forty degrees.
The crafts rumbled along loudly across the ice and snow until a vast stretch of flat planes appeared at which point Jo-Anne and Cederic decided to test the twenty mile an hour speed of the vehicles. While it was technically possible it felt a bit jarring to them and their passengers as they sped across the snow filled field toward a distant mountain. Jo-Anne was not certain why she knew to head toward it, she just did. Inside of a cave there would be the entrance to the home of the skulls. At least that is what the little voice inside her head told her. She chose to ignore the other little voice that told her that death awaited them all. She had learned that to listen to such voices only created a sense of pessimism. She depressed the throttle a little further and the speedometer crept up to twenty-one miles an hour. It felt like a breakneck pace in the craft, a swirl of light snow flowed behind each of the vehicles.
The loud rumbling of the engine made conversation nearly impossible, but Jo-Anne was confident that Ginger would find a way to chew Cederic’s ear for a while. The woman was not certain what the bar keep had for intentions, but she was unwilling to think that Cederic was off the dinner menu yet.
Steede on the other hand was more than comfortable sitting and staring at the horizon. There was so much new wonders that he had seen in the past month that he wondered if he were going to see the very stars in the heavens. He could not rule that out as a possibility, because it seemed as anything was possible while in the company of Lady Bassalt.
The mountain range loomed omnipresent on the horizon, growing larger until it filled the vision and blotted out the sky. The now cats slowed their pace to navigate through giant ice boulders and down into canyons that were nearly invisible. Jo-Anne could here the twelve voices of the skulls in her head, telling her where to go. They were the only thing that she could hear, blotting out the engine and sound of the treads digging through the ice and snow. They spoke to her in a single voice, but comprised of many. They lead her to the ice covered entrance of a cave.
The cavern entrance was nearly twenty foot tall. A thick wall of snow and cloudy ice blanketed the entrance and obscured visibility. Jo-Anne shrugged her shoulders. Cederic recognized the gesture as the one that the woman made when she was attempting to figure out fourty-five down in the New York Times crossword puzzle. He figured this wall was equally as perplexing as figuring out what “Cubiti” alluded to.
“How do suppose we get in Jo?” Cederic’s teeth chattered slightly through the thick fur that lined the hood of his jacket.
“Not a clue, I was sort of hoping you might have an idea.”
The two figures examined the edges of ice and packed snow that encrusted the entrance to the tunnel and determined that the mouth was slowly closing off. This meant that their was likely a mechanism buried under the ice and snow. Cederic turned back toward the snow cats to gather a couple of shovels and picks in hopes of clearing the entrance through manual labor.
As the man walked back towards the vehicle Jo-Anne crumpled to her knees and clasped her head. The voice, that only she could hear, was screaming at her. Instead of the unified voice that guided her to the opening the voices were disjointed and seemed to be argumentative; each of the twelve voices expressing it’s own opinion as to how to clear the blockage. Jo-Anne thought it reminded her of sitting at the board room table at Bassalt Industries when Angus Emero ran the company. “Shut the hell up,” screamed the woman out loud!
Cederic turned and started running back toward his fallen companion. At the same time Steede and Ginger scrambled through the snow toward the woman. The pitch of Jo-Anne’s scream rose inexplicably high. It seemed unlikely a seasoned operatic singer, classically trained by masters in the art of glass breaking, could achieve such a high octave. The noise resonating from the archeologist seemed comprised of twelve distinct tones, with a feeble female tone barely perceptible.
First Cederic, followed by Steede and finally Ginger, fell to their knees; hands cupped over his ears in an attempt to dampen the sound of Jo-Anne’s cry. Even the mountain itself seemed to moan in agony at the whine emanating from the petite woman. Cederic looked up in horror as he realized that the sound was not the mountain groaning, but rather the sound of cracking ice.
Thoughts raced through his mind. Where they over water? Could there be an avalanche that would bury them all alive? Would he ever be able to hear normal octaves again? You would be amazed at what went through your head when that close to a sound that seemingly could shatter the very fabric of time and space. It appeared as though the sound would have to be content with destroying the ice wall in front of the four explorers.
The wall of ice blocking their path exploded into a fine mist of ice and coated the landscape with fresh powder. Jo-Anne collapsed to the ground, shivering; not from the cold, but exhaustion. Cederic rushed to her side, he was able to move again now that the blood curling banshee cry had ended.
Reaching his fallen friend, Cederic was shocked to see a thin trickle of blood from the woman’s nose. Jo-Anne’s breathing was shallow and her eyes remained closed as she lay unconscious in the snow. by the time Ginger and Steede were at her side as well, Cederic had rolled the woman onto her back and was in the process of clearing the snow from her face.
The woman seemed more asleep than unconscious, gently snoring as she rested in Cederic’s arms. It was as though the female archeologist had simply over exerted herself and had collapsed, much like a young child might after a great deal of excitement.
Cederic roused the woman by gently brushing the snow off her face, she seemed at first disoriented; unaware of what had just transpired. After a few moments though she became alert and uncomfortably aware of the cold seeping through her vintage snow suit. Standing up quickly the woman seemed to have renewed energy and vigor. She barked out to her three friends, “what are you all looking at? Let’s get into that damn cave.”
The walls of the cavern were smooth and exactly what you did not expect to find on The continental shelf of Antarctica. Jo-Anne examined them closely as group moved further into the cave. The woman thought that it was familiar, although as of late many oddities seemed familiar to the woman so she was learning to take that sensation with a grain of salt. Regardless the woman could not help but think she had been in a similar structure in the past.
The realization that this was in fact a structure and not a naturally occurring cave dawned on the woman just after it should have, and not quite early enough to stop the from being taken captive by figure in dark coats.
Had Steede and Cederic been paying attention they could have told her that a similar structure was located in Central America, deep in the rain forest. Regrettably for them they found it difficult to speak with beefy, muscular hands clasped over their mouths.
The cavern walls stood twenty foot tall exactly, and were more than subtly unnatural in their formation. Jo-Anne figured out that she had seen similar structures in the Library of the Ancients in Egypt. Of course none of these sudden epiphanies proved of use to her as she was dragged silently along the corridor by the brutish dark figure. The realization that their foe was a Descendent of Kain occurred just in time to take the shock of seeing Klaph ‘Nal alive and well, smirking a mug little… smirk.