Origin: Shadows of the Past

Some things are better left undiscovered!

They arrived in droves.

Dressed in formal attire as they blanketed the ice in a waddling sea of black and white. Their shrill cries merging with the howling wind, lending it an eerie voice as they converged on the field of tumbled stones that lay at the base of one towering peak.

Distant instruments had measured a seismic event that dwarfed any in recorded history. The resulting shock wave sent tremors spreading out in a widening pool like the ripples on the surface of a pond. The mountain range danced in response to the disturbance; the towering peaks weaving back and forth as the tremors subsided. Avalanches were triggered as layers of snow hurtled down the mountain side towards the vast expanse of the South Polar Plateau below. Fissures opened as entire walls of stone plunged down to the plateau, exposing virgin stone to the elements, and revealing the black maw of a massive man-made cave that had last seen daylight in the Pre-Cambrian period.

Lured from their migratory routes by strange memories that stirred within their collective consciousness. Drawn into the wilderness, their instincts were swept aside by ancient images that carried the promise of unfulfilled divination. They had come to witness the birth of a new era. The emergence of a new age. The unearthing of an ancient secret.

From the distant horizon a faint sound played hide and seek with the restless wind.

They are coming. The thought raced among them like an electrical charge, adding to the urgency of their march as they gathered along the edge of the debris field. It was from here those memories radiated. Like the spinning searchlight of a lighthouse that stood upon a battered coast. Drawing them like moths to a flame.

Beyond the debris field of cracked crumbled stone the truth waited. They gathered at the edge of the rocky terrain. Immobile shapes whose intense black eyes carried a smoldering hint of intelligence.

Behind them the first C-130 transport plane from the American base at Amundsen touched down. On board was a small group of scientists who had been tasked with conducting a preliminary study of the exposed structures.

“Are they penguins?” Albert Meeks, the head of the group, asked as he adjusted his glasses while peering through the small window beside him. A section of the interior of the C-130 had been converted to a small crew cabin capable of carrying passengers.

“I’d say they’re a bit off track; none of their migratory routes pass through this area.” Sandra Falcon said. She was a zoologist who had come to this frozen landscape to study the behavior of the continent’s indigenous creatures. Never expecting she would become involved in what many anticipated would be the greatest discovery of all time. 

“Why are they here?” Jenny asked.  She was the group’s survival expert. She taught them how to act and respond while on the ice. With temperatures that remained below zero around the clock, the simple act of stepping outside was an undertaking in itself. One did not venture outside without good reason. And getting lost could easily lead to one’s death “Guess that’s what they sent us to find out,” Albert said.

“Welcome to the Mountains of Madness,” the group’s resident ‘Mr. fixit’, Charlie Jenkins said. He held no advanced degrees, but had been blessed with an ability to fix anything that was broken.

“What are you babbling about?” Jenny said as Charlie leaned over the seat and gazed out at the shattered mountain. She couldn’t help but admire the firmness of his butt as he leaned across the seat. She noticed that Sandra was eyeing him up as well and felt a sudden flash of jealousy. She smiled at Sandra and nodded, who returned her acknowledgment with a curt nod of her own.

“Yeah, Charlie, what are you talking about?” Albert asked.

“Do any of you read anything other than text books?” Charlie said.

“Of course, I recently finished a wonderful thriller by Patterson,” Albert said.

“Which one was that?” Sandra said.

“Oh you know, the newest one about Jack Morgan, what is that title?” Albert looked at the ceiling in his search for the name of the book.

“What is this At the Mountains of Madness?” Sandra said. She had been gazing out the window at the towering peaks, and the title of the book had sent a delicious shiver racing the length of her spine.

“A story about an ancient city discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica, of things long dead that were still very much alive.”

“Sounds intriguing. When was it written?”

“I believe it was the mid-thirties.”

“Do you think we’ll find an ancient city here?” Sandra said.

“What do you think?”

Sandra leaned forward and looked through the small window at the penguins gathered along the edge of the debris field. “Whatever we find under the ice will be long dead, I can assure you of that.”

“I certainly hope so,” Charlie said before he turned and walked to the back of the cabin to watch as the ground crew unloaded the hollow steel tubes that would be their home for the next several weeks.

He had to admit that whoever had designed this temporary structure had put a lot of thought into it. It consisted of a series of steel tubes each already finished inside, and stocked with all the provision necessary to carry out its assigned mission. Each one was thirty feet long by twelve feet across. They could be connected to one another in several different ways. Side by side with doorways joining them. Stacked atop one another. Connected end to end, or with one end butted to the side to create a separate living or working space. There were six on board with them, flown down from the States by way of South America and the Sandwich islands, with a brief stop in McMurdo to pick up the passengers who currently occupied the cabin with him. When they were done there would be eighteen tubes, three flights in all, joined together to create a research camp the scientists would use as a base for their work on the anomaly, as it was called.

To be continued!

Check out Adversary, book one of the Shadows of the Past series.

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