Shadowland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

“Skipper!” Doc called, frantic.  There was no answer, just the whistling of the rising wind.  He changed tack.  Seaview!  Shore party to Seaview!  Commander Morton, are you reading me?”

“Yes, Doc.  What’s going on?” Chip had picked up on his anxiety, Doc noted.  “Are you with the captain?”

“No, blast it, I got turned around in this fog and ice.  What are the sensors picking up?”

There was a pause.  “You are within a quarter mile of the center of the island.  We are picking up the skipper.  Patterson tells me he is picking you up as well.  Walk due south.”  Doc began walking.   “Pat says you’re right on track.  You should be able to find him easily now.”  There was a pause.  “Keep your communicator open.  Lee’s is open, but there’s nothing but wind right now.”

“I know.  That’s what has me worried.”  He tucked the communicator in his parka pocket and continued.  It was hard not to run, but even though the fog had dissipated, the surface was still deceptively treacherous. 

 

                             

<Captain?   Lee!>   The voice in his head was insistent, persistent and annoying in his misery. 

He was cold; so very cold.  “Would someone turn up the heat?” he mumbled. 

<I cannot do but little.  You must get off the ice>

The words seemed to beat inside his head in time with the headache that he felt.  Words—whose words, he wondered lethargically.   Where?  What was going on?  Someone else was talking to him.  Almost screaming at him.   Or was it in him?  He couldn’t tell.   His head throbbed, his body felt as though he had been beaten and it was so cold.   “Just put a blanket over . . . me and . . . leave me alone.”   He had the flu, that’s what it was.   Doc was giving him a hard time.

<Captain Crane!>   The voice in his head was persistent, almost clamoring in its intensity.

Then the memories began to filter through the pain.  Antarctica, trying to find the admiral.   Found Dr. Crawford--- and an alien entity.  It had crawled on him, was inside him.  Host!   He was its host.   Damned parasite was inside him!  He jerked up off the ice where he had apparently fallen, was on his feet and then down on his knees, heaving the breakfast he had eaten early this morning.  The pounding in his head intensified, but the nausea began to subside.  As he sucked in a breath of cold air, his head cleared.  “You said you wouldn’t take over or whatever without my permission!” he snarled as he slowly got back to his feet, wavering not only with the force of the wind, but the horrifying realization of what was happening to his body.   Something inside his body, something alive in his mind, controlling him.

<Captain, I cannot exercise total control over you; probably not even minimal control.  I have more command over our people’s hosts because of their lack of relative intelligence, but with more sentient creatures, that is not possible>

“I feel like hell.  Talk in shorter sentences,” Crane growled. 

<First, I am sorry that I used you the way I did.  I was frightened….>

“That makes two of us!”   Lee straightened up, despite the messages that every joint, muscle and bone in his body were giving him.   His exposed hand was almost numb from cold, but he wasn’t sure he could bend over to get the mitten without falling over.  There was no more fog.   Now there was biting wind.  “How do you think I feel with you playing around inside of me?  Now get the hell off!”

<That was why I was frightened, Captain.  You began to pull away and I was afraid I would be left.  It is imperative that I have a host>

Crane felt the rage superceding the pain and illness.  “I didn’t tell you to come here!” he snapped.  “And I sure as hell didn’t….”

<Captain, you will listen to me!>  

Lee felt the headache intensify and once more he fell to his knees, this time holding his head in his hands.   “Okay, okay, I’m . . . listening,” he moaned and laid his aching head on the cold ice.  The pain subsided. 

<You will take me to my people at this Vinson Massif>  Whereas before the tone had been emotionless or even blasé, now it was imperious; as though he was talking to a king or big shot CEO.

Crane snorted.  “We could just go there ourselves.  We do know a bit about our planet.”

<Yes, you do, enough to blow it and yourselves up.  Enough to pollute and abuse it and enough to spill your own blood on it>

Lee was calming down as the pain subsided slightly.   Anger still smoldered, but he realized that this creature had the upper hand.  “All right.  I get your point.  I’ll listen.”

<You can think your questions and comments to me, as I told you before, Captain>

Okay, like this? Lee asked. 

<Yes.  I can understand you perfectly.  Now, I need to clear a few things up before your doctor comes>

I am willing to listen.  Can you turn down the volume on the pain a little more?

There seemed to be a bit of confusion at his last statement.  <I only exerted a bit of pain stimulus to get you to listen.  I am doing nothing right now.  Dr. Crawford said her pain came from her illness, the growth that took over and destroyed her body>

“Well, evidently I am feeling pain over the . . . what has taken over my body,” Lee snapped, forgetting what the Krilore had just told him.

The tone seemed more thoughtful now as though the alien had calmed down a bit, too.  <There may be some truth in what you have said.  You are an imperfect host.  Our scientists have had to overcome the tendency in most species to fight any intrusions.  That is likely what your body is doing.  This did not happen with Dr. Crawford>

Lee slowly got up again, trying to think this nightmare through.  The pain and stiffness was slightly less, but there was still the headache.  Dr. Crawford had terminal cancer; she probably had chemotherapy.  That would have suppressed her immune system.

<A likely explanation, Captain.   To finish what I was trying to tell you.  Your people need me to lead them directly to your friends.  If I am not with you or anyone else who approaches our site, then my people might do them harm thinking you had killed or left me and were out to do the same to them>

So I don’t have a choice, despite what you told me.  Lee took a shallow, slow breath, trying to temper his anger.   Sorry.  So just what do you want me to do?

<I will give you more precise coordinates when we are closer to Vinson Massif and then I will leave you for a more suitable host that my people will have prepared for me>

You have spares?

<Captain, this is not a joking matter>

I really wasn’t joking . . . uh, what do I call you?

<Krilore>

“That was your name, not the name of your people?” Lee asked in surprise. 

<Yes> 

Lee said nothing for a moment.  That’s it? Just take you to the mountain and you’ll hand the admiral and the other scientists over?

<We will need certain items from your submarine.  When the repairs are complete, then you and your people may leave.  You will also not tell your crewmen about me>

Another wave of nausea passed over him, but he gulped in a breath of the bitingly cold air and it subsided.  Krilore, I have to.

<Why?  The fewer of your kind that know about us, the better>

No problem with that, but how do I explain my ‘illness?’  Especially to Doc, who, incidentally, will be here soon.  I have had enough dealings with him to know I can’t fool him.  He will know I’m not well, and check me over thoroughly.  That’s his job.  Then he’ll wonder about all that’s going on inside me and about whatever residue of you is hanging on to me, so to speak.  He wished he had something to sit down on.   His body felt like it had been in an iron man contest.  Twice in the same day.

<He can be trusted?>

“Krilore, Dr. Crawford told me to trust her before she died.  She trusted you.  Don’t you think it’s about time to trust a few of us?  It might make this difficult situation a bit less stressful.”  He heard a voice in the distance.  It was Doc.  Think the sentence, he reminded himself.  Apparently your people trusted the admiral and his colleagues enough to allow him to call Seaview in. 

<You are sure you cannot keep this from your doctor?>

Think about what you just asked me, Krilore.  And you’ve all but admitted that we’re a paranoid race.  No, I won’t be able to keep this from Doc Jamieson.  He is very dedicated and devoted to the men under his care, including me.   I have to tell him at the very least.

<So be it, Captain>

Lee sighed, wondering if Dr. Crawford had this creature pegged right.  Then he wondered if Krilore could pick up on that thought, too, even though it wasn’t directed at the alien.  He rubbed his temples, stumbling a bit as the wind almost pushed him down.  As long as we’re on first name basis, my name is Lee.

<I know, Lee, but you are in authority among your people and I was waiting for the invitation.  And yes, I am able to hear your other thoughts>

Despite what Krilore had just told him about reading his mind, Lee had another nasty thought about invitations and courtesy.  He wasn’t going to pointedly bring that out; he figured the alien had picked that up, too.  A voice interrupted his dismal thoughts.  

“Lee!  Why in the world didn’t you answer your communicator?” Doc asked as he approached.  “And who were you talking to?”  He came closer and peered intently at Crane.  “And what happened?  You look like death warmed over.”

Told you.  Aloud he said, “I feel like death warmed over.  I’ll explain when we get back to the boat.”  He turned slowly and pointed to Dr. Crawford’s body.  “She died in my arms.  I don’t want to leave her here, but I don’t feel up to carrying her.”

“I will, Skipper . . . if you think you can make it on your own.”  Doc was continuing to study him, his face etched with concern.

“I think so.”

Jamieson gazed at him in shock.  “Three admissions in the same number of breaths.  That’s a record for you.  I think I’d better call Seaview and have someone meet us part-way back.”  He looked around and saw Crane’s communicator about eight feet away.  He picked it up and handed it to the skipper.

“Good idea, except you get Dr. Crawford and I’ll make the call,” Lee replied.  He carefully picked up his mitten.  When he had put it on, he called the boat.  

“Lee,” Chip said excitedly.  “Are you okay?”

“Fine, Chip.  Doc’s here and we’re coming back.  Been a bit strange out here.  Found Dr. Crawford.  She died right after I found her.  Could you send out a couple of crewman to give us a hand?  The wind is picking up.”   He couldn’t believe how tired he was.

“Sure, Skipper.  Any sign of the admiral or the others?” Chip asked.

“No, but did find out where they are.  I’ll brief you when we get back,” Lee said tiredly.  

“Lee?”  There was concern in the exec’s voice. 

“Crane out.”   He just wanted to get back and crash, not answer questions about his health.  Turning into the wind, Lee saw Doc continuing to watch him curiously.   He had Dr. Crawford in his arms.    “When we get back, Doc.”

Jamieson just nodded and began walking back toward the waiting submarine.

<From what Admiral Nelson said, your ship is very powerful> Krilore said. 

Yes, she is.

<Able to destroy a great many of your people>

She is a research vessel primarily, but Seaview is prepared for defense.

<Only defense?>

Crane’s headache had not lessened.  If anything, it had increased.  Are you exerting your ‘power’ over me now?

<No, Lee.  Are you feeling unwell?>

Headache’s worse, if that’s what you mean.  He had to bite his tongue to keep from comparing Krilore to a flu virus.

<Interesting analogy> was all she said for a moment.  <I will try to find the pain centers that are causing your discomfort and decrease the pain>

“Look, you’ve done enough messing with my body!” he snapped aloud and then glanced at Doc, realizing what he had done. 

Jamieson gazed at him in surprise and concern.  “I didn’t say anything, Lee, nor have I done anything to you.”

“I, uh, wasn’t talking to you.  I mean….”   He stopped and then shook his head.  “Never mind.” 

“Captain, you’re holding back.”

Crane felt a slight alleviation of his pain and discomfort, enough so that he was able to step up the pace a bit.  Thank you, Krilore, that did help.

<I gather that you do not like taking help from others.>

Lee chose to ignore Krilore for the moment.   Instead, he turned to Doc.  “Yeah, I’m holding back.  I wanted to wait until we got back to Seaview, but I guess now is as good a time as any.   When I got to the location the admiral’s directions led me to, I didn’t find anything, not even the full campsite.”

“Just Dr. Crawford,” Doc interjected, indicating the body with his chin. 

“Yeah, she was only barely alive.”

“She was dead when I got there, Skipper.  Just who were you talking to?”

“The scientists’ discovery was an alien spaceship.  Dr. Crawford, when I found her, was hosting one of the alien symbiots because its own host was critically injured in the crash and died shortly thereafter.”

Doc gazed at the dead woman in his arms, and then stepped back to look Lee in the eye.  “You were talking to an alien,” he said bluntly.  “But it wasn’t with Dr. Crawford anymore.”

“No, it isn’t,” Lee said softly.  “And please, Jamie, let’s just keep this confidential.  Krilore would prefer it and, frankly, so would I.  In your case, it’s a need to know situation.”  He smiled wanly.  “As I told Krilore, I wouldn’t be able to keep it from you anyway.”  He didn’t say anything more, letting Doc assimilate what he had told him.  Besides, he needed to concentrate where he was walking on this rough, wind-scoured ice pack.   The going back wasn’t nearly so easy as the coming had been….

 

               

Sparks pressed the headset closer to his ear, not believing what he had just heard.  He swallowed hard.  Some of the skipper’s last words were impossible to hear, but still the meaning was clear.  Captain Crane was ‘hosting’ an alien entity.   He had not been sure of what he had been hearing before Doc got there.  The skipper talking out of his head, Sparks thought at first.  But now?  Not only was the captain hosting one, but he was also bringing it on board.  Voluntarily or coerced?   And Captain Crane didn’t want anyone else to know about it.  Again, Sparks wondered if this was voluntary and then wondered if it could be because the admiral was with aliens.  Could Admiral Nelson be hosting one?  How many were there?  What were their intentions?  His mind was reeling, but he had to continue listening.  He had to know what these aliens were doing here.   Besides, although the skipper had signed off on the exec, Mr. Morton had ordered him to monitor the skipper and Doc, just in case something happened to them.  The conversation had come through Doc’s communicator, which the CMO had apparently left open.  He wondered if he should warn Riley and Porter, but decided against it for now.   Then he wondered if he should tell Mr. Morton.  After all, that was who had issued the orders.

 

 

Chapter 3
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