"I can't believe it," Nauls repeated into his coffee, "I just can't believe it. Doc, Childs, Norris . . ."
"If there's one thing I learned in Nam', kid, it's life ain't fair." MacReady replied.
The Fujin-Maru was headed toward the nearest U.S. settlement, and for the life of him, MacReady couldn't remember where that would happen to be. As far as he knew, only Chile and Easter Island were 'near' their location, and Easter Island didn't have any U.S. presence, not that he knew of. They couldn't fly them out because the Antarctic equivalent of a hurricane was swirling around them.
The crew was friendly, most of them spoke English and MacReady had picked up some Japanese while stationed in Okinawa. The grub was good, and they actually had a good selection of Western food. But there was something about them. How they'd whisper certain things to each other or stop talking as the Americans came by. Several members of the crew had an odd, almost fish-like appearance, and the Quartermaster was a ghoul. That was what they'd called them in Nam', anyway. Those weird, dog-faced people he'd seen carrying off the dead of both sides. They hadn't been Vietcong, but they hadn't been on the South's side, either. They were just a really ugly tribe of scavengers. Some of the South Vietnamese he'd met claimed the 'dog-people' ate the bodies of the dead.
He didn't doubt it for a second.
He wondered what Nauls thought about the less-than human looking members of the crew.
"I had this weird thing, like a dream," Nauls said softly, "A face. A kid with green skin and golden eyes and little tentacle-things on his jaw."
MacReady shuddered slightly, despite himself. He'd seen that particular face as well, but he figured it was better not to talk about it. Nauls was already shook up enough without having to deal with that. "Green kids and pink elephants." He said, "You didn't happen to get into Palmer's weed before it all hit the fan, did you?"
"I'm beginnin' to wonder myself, man." He replied distantly. "You notice how the crew's actin', how some of 'em look. I know they's a lot of weird lookin' people in the world, but I ain't never seen people who look like fish."
"Well, you have now."
"I'm not bein' prejudiced or nothin', it's just, some a' these people look weird. That guy that looks like a dog . . ."
"He's probably thinking you look tasty." MacReady grinned, "Did you see his teeth? Son-of-a-gun has jaws like a doberman."
Nauls wanted to reply that he probably thought that MacReady looked like a cute little werewolf bitch, but he decided that he didn't want to die.
"I wonder what a tech company was doing sending a ship to Antarctica." MacReady thought aloud, "Who would blow all the money on this barge, the helicopters and the crew just to find a few fossils. And what does a tech company want with fossils, anyway?"
"Why did the government spend all that money to send us to Antarctica? Rich people don't make no kinda sense. Besides, this Yoshida guy is like Tesla, he's probably found a way to turn glaciers into electricity. You know what? I don't wanna know what they were after." He sighed, "Man, if I never see snow again, it will be to soon. From now on, sunshine and beaches."
"And loose, beautiful women who dig guys with beards."
"You jus' wear that to hide your ugly face." The clean-shaven man replied, "I don't need to hide behind a face-fro."
"Face-fro?" MacReady tried to compose himself, but it was too much, he started cackling like a hyena. Soon both men were practically falling down laughing.
Yoshida Goro's estate, Yokohama, Japan
Yoshida Goro sat on a tatami mat mulling over his cup of tea. For a man of over three hundred years, he was remarkably young and vibrant, having a body of roughly twenty augmented by the eldritch energies of The Great Old Ones. "So, you see, I was looking for one of those black basalt cities the Polyps built millions of years ago. I had no idea that there was a spaceship there. And certainly not one with such a dangerous occupant."
"Neither did I," Torren-Wraeth admitted, "I try to avoid the poles, you know. I don't like the cold."
Goro laughed, "I've known you for what now, three hundred years?"
"You understand why I'm being so cautious."
"How will the two survivors explain the differences between their story and the one told by the young lady from the Norwegian incident to themselves? They will surely suspect something is off when they hear of the destruction of Thule station."
"That's where the beautiful part of National Security comes in. The U.S. and Norwegian governments will never allow word of an alien, and such a dangerous alien at that, to reach anybody outside the top brass. Our friends remember that they weren't in the base at the time of the 'accident' and have no idea what happened. Once the government figures that out, they'll shut them out of the loop. Tell them exactly what they'll tell the public . . . Although, I hope they can find a good cover story for two international research facilities being blown apart and flash-frozen within the space of two days."
"I hope they can come up with something better than 'swamp gas' and 'weather balloons'." Goro smiled broadly, "A weather balloon, ignited by swamp gas, caused an explosion which destroyed both bases and resulted in an avalanche that buried all the evidence under tons of ice."
Torren-Wraeth laughed, "The sad thing is, I can see them trying to make that stick!"
"What exactly were they doing off base?"
"One of the helicopters was damaged, MacReady was trying to repair it, Nauls was bringing him dinner, and the whole place went up. They were the only ones not in the dining room at the time. The helicopters were damaged by the blast, and after a few hours of worry they managed to wave down your helicopter, which had been drawn to the smoke. It's not a common sight in Antarctica, smoke clouds"
"How did you find out about this creature?"
"I was visiting my people, and felt the psionic power of the creature. Like smoke, life is not a common sight in Antarctica, when it appears, it's noticed."
Torren-Wraeth's people, his mother's people, were the Rapa Nui, the original inhabitants of the land most of the world new as Easter Island, but which he still called Rapa Nui. The island also happened to be one of the last places near Antarctica where people could actually live. It had been called 'the most isolated island on earth', and it was a fair description.
"What about the woman? They'll think she's insane, and they certainly won't let her tell her story to the public."
"There was nothing I could do, she'd already told the whole story to the Russians, and they'd had a working radio." Torren-Wraeth sighed, "I wish we had gotten there sooner, before they woke that creature up . . ."
"You can't be everywhere, know anything, Torren-Chan." No one outside Goro or Torren-Wraeth's mother could refer to him by only a portion of his name and get away with it. "And you can't solve all of the problems on earth, save everyone. I know what it's like, to want to help every person who is suffering, but it's just not possible, not even for The Great Old Ones."
"I know, but it still hurts"
"And that's what makes you, you. You're a good person, you care about people. That's what I like about you."
"I learned from the best, Goro-Kun."
"Just how dangerous was this creature?"
"One of the Americans, a man named Blair, a biologist, estimated that the creature would assimilate all life on earth within three years if it escaped Antarctica. I believe that it would have been closer to three months, if my father and his kin allowed it to run its course, which is doubtful." He frowned, "When I arrived the creature was part Blair, part dog, part God-knows-what. He was the one that was attacking Nauls when I arrived . . ."
"At least you saved this Nauls kid." He took a sip of his tea, "Maybe I can pull some strings and get him a good job. Not working with aliens, mind you. You say he's a cook?"
"Helicopter Pilot. U.S. Air Force. He served with distinction in Vietnam. I don't think he'd be interested, though." He shook his head, "MacReady doesn't work well with others. He went through a lot in Vietnam, and a lot of people back in the U.S. treated him like scum when he came home. I hated the war too, I hate all wars, but it's the politicians who're responsible, not the soldiers. You can't treat people like that, especially when they've already suffered so much . . . He's sick of people, that's why he went to Antarctica, to get away from everybody."
"Maybe we can help?"
"I hope so."
An unspecified location, one week later
"The Russians reported seeing an entity resembling Ithaqua before the storm hit. Considering the fact that a mile of ice appeared over the span of three days directly above both Thule and Outpost 31, I have no reason to doubt this."
"Curioser and Curioser . . ." The Agent steepled his hands. He smiled thinly, "First Miss Lloyd arrives at the Russian Antarctic base with the story of a shape-shifting alien entity that slaughtered everyone at Thule Station, then the American base goes dark and two of its staff are brought to a Yoshida Technologies' research vessel by Torren-Wraeth and Tektaktequataquarl, then both bases are buried by Ithaqua. It appears that this time the Great Old Ones are doing the cover-up for us."
A subordinate stood by, holding a thick file. "But why alter MacReady and Nauls' minds? Especially when he most likely knew that Miss Lloyd had already reached the Russians and told her story?"
"Our files on Torren-Wraeth indicate a deep sense of concern for humanity. Most likely he was protecting their sanity."
"And he'll likely never tell us what really transpired at Outpost 31. He told the crew of the Fujin-Maru, people who already know about alien life, that it was a freak accident. He may have told Mr. Yoshida the truth, but we know what happens when someone tries to strong-arm Yoshida Goro."
"It pays to have such powerful sponsors." He sighed, "I wonder when the general public will notice that the founder of Yoshida Technologies has not aged appreciably since 1953 . . ."
The Agent shook his head, "None of our agents in YT have any information beyond what we've already discussed?"
"There's a rumor that The Special Research Division has got its hands on a new craft, but we haven't been able to get any details."
"I highly doubt that it is a coincidence. Most likely one of our little godlings acquired the vessel the Norwegians discovered before Ithaqua flash-froze whatever was left of the entity."
"Perhaps it was for the best that they dealt with the entity themselves. I don't think we could have learned how to control the thing before it either forced us to destroy it . . . or it destroyed us."
"Nevertheless, is is infuriating that Yoshida Technologies gets the prize. Again. That ship could place Japan at the top of the space race. Not to mention the possibilities in the fields of metallurgy, chemistry, physics . . . Weaponry. Yoshida refuses to develop weapons. Our sources say he actually destroys them!" The Agent hissed in frustration, "The only thing worse than a pacifist is a pacifist with clout."
"Excuse me, Sir, but what about Miss Lloyd?"
"I think she's intelligent enough not to unduly panic the world with this information. Once she realizes what's at stake, she'll do her patriotic duty and keep quiet. If not . . . There are plenty of sanitariums available."
"And what's our cover story?"
"A freak storm knocked out power to Thule Station and caused an explosion at Outpost 31, due to an overloaded generator. The Norwegians froze to death, the Americans burned. Miss Lloyd went to get help, but was too late. MacReady and Nauls were just plain lucky."
"I think a 'viral outbreak' would make a better cover story. Something highly contagious like Ebola or plague, something to explain why we couldn't recover the bodies of the Norwegians. We can say the Americans were cremated in the blast, but the Norwegians . . ."
"Unfortunately," The Agent said, pulling out a cigarette, "It was Torren-Wraeth who created the 'explosion' cover story by altering the Outpost 31 survivor's minds to believe that's what happened." He lit the cigarette, "As for the bodies . . . Our Norwegian counterparts will tell the grieving families something. Hell, maybe they'll say Thule base exploded. Since no one can reach it now, no one will ever know otherwise."
The Agent's phone rang. He listened for a few moments, then hung up.
"They tried clearing the ice, thermite bombs, heavy-duty industrial drills, nothing can make a scratch." He blew out a puff of smoke, and his subordinate coughed, "Damned supernatural ice. What else could one expect from Ithaqua." It was more a statement than a question.
"Perhaps it's better that way." The subordinated repeated.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Tek strolled along the white sand and looked out over the shimmering water. It was far easier for him to assume human form than Torren-Wraeth. Unfortunately it was winter in Florida as well as Antarctica, so few pretty girls were to be found on the beaches. Still, it was warmer here than most other parts of the world, especially Antarctica. Mid-60's vs -60 below. Unlike Torren-Wraeth, Tek was not bothered by cold, though he preferred temperatures where humans were comfortable. He was a social creature.
He shrugged, he'd have to come back in the summer.
"I don't see many pretty girls, or anyone else, for that matter." Torren-Wraeth stood arms akimbo behind him, smiling. He had assumed human form, of course. Gone were the green skin, golden eyes, tendrils and wings. He was simply a handsome youth of obvious Pacific Islander descent.
"Don't rub it in."
"At least it's warmer."
Tek smiled, "You think this is cold? I think you'd be happy in Hell."
"I don't believe in Hell." Torren-Wraeth laughed. "And if I did, it would be cold."
"I wonder how long the humans will poke around that glacier before giving up. I still need to get the rest of the pieces of that creature home."
"How do I know," Torren-Wraeth smiled mischievously, "That you are really you?"
Tek laughed, "That's ridiculous, if I wasn't me I wouldn't be me. Are you you?"
"I'm thinking of getting a mohawk."
"IMPOSTER!" Tek pointed and made the screaming sound from Invasion of The Body Snatchers.
"Join us. . ." Torren-Wraeth said in a dull monotone. He laughed, put his hands behind his head and began humming Nights in White Satin.
The Whole considered the situation at hand. The earth was a planet blessed with an abundance of bio-matter which could add greatly to The Whole's power. True, humans were weak, hateful, ignorant and technologically primitive, but they had potential for great creativity.
Unfortunately, it appeared earth had already been claimed. The presence of Hastur-Spawn and what appeared to be some sort of hybrid indicated a strong presence of Great Old Ones, perhaps even Outer Gods. The Whole had tried, once, to assimilate a world with a resident Great Old One. The suffering it had inflicted upon the entirety of The Whole would never be forgotten. The Whole desired to spread, but The Whole desired to survive. It could not risk earning the wrath of such powerful entities.
It simply was not worth the trouble.
The End . . .
It's been a long time since I saw The Thing, but I have a feeling MacReady and Nauls wouldn't be very close. So they're probably pretty out of character.
The Quartermaster is an actual Lovecraft Ghoul.
The fishy crewmen are Deep Ones.
The Agency has people planted throughout Yoshida Technologies and is well aware of Torren-Wraeth, Tek and most of the others.
My father was stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam war, Air Force Military Police, and he was present during the evacuation of Saigon. He saw terrible things, firsthand, things that still haunt him, and he was only there during the evacuation. I can't imagine what those men went through who served there for years. I just want to make clear that I am NOT judging or insulting Vietnam vets. A few did terrible things, but most were just trying to survive and do what they thought was right.