©14 The Media Desk
San Feodor Kuzmich, Oaxaca, Mexico
"We have to get out of here. If the Triangulo find out, they'll kill us and take them and... It will be bad. And I'm sorry, but I do not trust Pessas and his friends. They will sell us out in a second."
"Yes, Mario, we have to leave Mexico, but. Where can we go? We can't go north to America, and we can't..."
An urgent voice cut her off, "Gabriella, there is a truck on the road."
"Quiet, hide," she said urgently and they all hunkered down and waited breathlessly.
The ancient smoking relic slowly passed, inside and on the back were a dozen tired and dirty loggers, instead of armed thugs.
"Where can we go?"
Gabriella thought about it for a minute. "We'll take the plane up for another survey, and we'll fly south. I know a professor in South America, he's at the University in Sao Paulo."
"The plane will not make it to Sao Paulo," Mario said.
"No, but it will make it to Guatemala City, and then to Costa Rica. We'll take everything, and go there. And I'll call him, and maybe he will know where we can go."
"I would like your professor to look at what we have."
"Yes, he has worked with things like this. Maybe he will know what we should do and how to do it."
They were all looking at her, waiting for the decision.
There was silence for a long moment, then, at last, Gabriella nodded slowly, "OK, let's pack up, we'll leave as early in the morning as we can. Doņa, can you get our things from the cabin? Quickly and quietly. Leave some of it, some clothes and things, like we're coming back."
"Yes," she stood up and composed herself, then walked toward the small living quarters like she had every other day they had been down there.
"Mario, you and I will pack the gear and all the relics and everything. But we'll leave most of the tools."
"Yes, of course."
At one time the Cessna 421 Golden Eagle was the state of the art for light aircraft. It had a good range and a relatively good top speed for its class. However, that was over thirty years ago. The 421 Gabriella and the others got into in the middle of the night along a grass and dirt runway had already delivered a career's worth of air travel. Now it had been used to take aerial pictures of a scientific survey area as a last act before retirement. It had seen service as everything from a private plane to a scheduled airliner and then gone back to private service. It had seen more mileage and flying time than planes ten years older, but it was still serviceable, and the survey team had been putting it to good use.
"Is it ready, Miguel?" Gabriella asked the man who had been checking the engines.
"That is all of the fuel," he said and patted the right engine cowling. "I will miss her."
"We'll come back."
"I'm sorry Senorita, I don't think you will. Not soon. Just see to the oil, when she is hot, she uses some."
"I'll remember," she looked at the old plane's still gleaming paint. It seemed to want to go on one more adventure with them. "If anyone asks... You know, the ones working with us. Or anybody else."
"Senorita, you were called to a conference at Universidad Veracruzana, do you not remember? I delivered the message to you the other day."
"Of course you did. Thank you."
The small plane fired up its engines and launched into the night sky. After flying for about ten minutes heading north at an easy cruising speed, Gabriella made a long slow turn and then headed south east as fast as she was comfortable flying the old aircraft.
"We're not going to Guatemala?" Mario asked after awhile.
"No, I have a friend at the Tegucigalpa airport. He can get us fuel and he won't talk to anybody. And I've never heard of the Triangulo in Honduras."
"Oh, OK." Mario answered.
With invented call signs and a fictitious flight plan, Gabriella was able to sweet talk her way into a landing at the international airport by promising to pay the landing fee in cash.
Later, the same scenario would be repeated in Costa Rica at Quepos Managua Airport.
"No, no, no," Gabriella's friend said to them. "Make for Quepos. My brother, he is there, I will call him and tell him to be good to you."
"I don't know where that is," she answered.
In a moment he had entered the directions into the mapping program on his cell phone. "What kind of trouble are you in?" He asked as he looked from one to the other.
"We're not in any trouble," she said, "not yet, but if certain people found out what we know about certain things, we would be."
"Then I didn't see anything, and your fuel went to CAA." He handed Gabriella his phone, "You can use it for now, give it to my brother when you get there. You won't have any trouble finding him."
"But Senor, didn't CAA go out of business?" Mario asked.
"Yes. And, so?" He laughed softly and smiled, "Give me your phones, I will destroy them before they track you on it. If they have the power you say they do, they'll do that."
"I'd forgot about that," she nodded to the others, "we'd better."
"Of course," Mario said and patted his pockets. "Oh, I forgot mine, it is still on the workbench on the charger."
"Good," Doņa laughed at him and handed her own telephone over.
Finally on the ground in an airport they'd never heard of in a town nobody went to, Gabriella bought a new phone with a local number, then she called her colleague in Brazil.
"How far away do you need to get?"
"I don't know," she answered. "Once they find out we are gone and not coming back, which could be today or tomorrow, they'll put out contracts for us and anybody that helped us. And they have people in governments. That's why we didn't go to Guatemala."
"In that case, I'm not sure where you'll be safe." He paused. "Wait a minute, you said there's just three of you."
"Yes, me, Doņa, and Mario."
"Three Scientific Refugees. Can you stay where you are for a couple of hours, I'll know then if my idea will work."
"What kind of idea?"
"Something totally preposterous, but will let you effectively drop off the planet for six months or more. A couple of my students know of a man with a research station that is totally inaccessible."
"That's my kind of place."
Brabant Island, Antarctica
"Welcome. Welcome. Dear friends. Colleagues. Today is an Anniversary of note for our Newest Partners in our little band. Now that we are all here, we can begin the celebration!"
Noel looked at the man in his gray tuxedo in disbelief, then at Carol, then back at Doctor Rose. "He's out of his mind. Again."
"Oh, no, my good friend. Yesterday, was precisely Nine Hundred and Thirty One Days since you left Miami to come be with us."
"Any excuse for a party in the dead of winter," Roxanne said and lifted her cup and saluted the other three residents.
"But why are you wearing a striped shirt with the gray tux?"
"I needed to wash the white one, and forgot about it," he said without breaking character.
The next day was more of the twilight that signaled they were nearing the end of the winter season. During the brief period of not quite pitch blackness outside Doctor Rose and Noel went down and checked the underwater infra red camera rig that was hanging below an iced in buoy out in the channel. Once the weather turned and the ice began to break up, the camera would have to be retrieved, if possible. Doctor Rose wedged himself into the tiny wooden equipment shed just above the cable boom and took his gloves just long enough to swap out the memory cards from the recording devices.
"Power's good," he called into the wind, "Memory changed. Let's go check the cables."
"I checked the tethers, it's good," Noel said meaning he had verified the tethers that secured the cable boom to the shore were still intact. "It's my turn to go out."
"Are you certain?" Doctor Rose asked him.
"Yes, sir. You went the last time we were down here."
"If you say so, I'll belay you. When you're ready."
"I'll never be ready, but I'll go." Noel checked his lifeline and his lights. "All right."
The lifeline was more for comfort than any realistic rescue line. If he fell off the boom and broke through the ice below, he probably wouldn't survive the experience no matter how quickly he could be pulled out.
Noel inched his way out onto the boom to the box at the end where the cables that ran from the hut on shore connected to the ones that fed out through the water to the buoy. The buoy itself was invisible in the gloom and blowing snow. His only indication that the device was still out there was that the cables offered significant resistance when he tugged on them. That meant that either they'd frozen to the ice, or the camera float was still out there several dozen meters off shore with the camera and IR lights another twenty meters below it in the freezing water with its anchor on the bottom below it.
In truth, in all the times they'd come down to check the equipment and change out the memory cards that recorded the photos from the unit, Doctor Rose had only been out on the boom a handful of times. Usually, when Noel told Doctor Rose that he had gone last time, the Doctor didn't argue and let Noel go. Noel was less nervous walking out onto the icy rig than he was standing on shore holding the rope hoping the Doctor didn't slip and fall. And besides, if the coupling had worked itself loose, as it had done on a couple of occasions, he wasn't sure Doctor Rose would be able to fix it so he'd have to go out anyway.
All told, they were outside for just under an hour. But in that time, their outer layer of protective clothing froze solid. Noel's short beard and mustache were thick with condensed moisture from his breath that had frozen, and their tracks down to the experiment site were covered with a thick layer of snow to where it was hard to tell anybody had been there.
They hustled back to the base and got back inside as quickly as possible.
"It is twelve below now," Doctor Rose said as they shed their outer layers. "It is colder than when we left."
"Is that twelve below C or F?" Noel asked him.
"Does it matter?"
Noel thought about it and shook his head as he brushed ice, and now water, out of his beard.
"Doctor Rose!" Carol called to him, "You've got an urgent call from Professor Bernie. I told him you'd get right back with him, he said it is very urgent."
"I wonder what it could be?" Doctor Rose said to the air.
"Call him and find out," Noel said with just a touch of sarcasm, "I'll take care of the cards and stuff."
"An excellent idea. Excellent."
Carol and Noel listened to the Antarctic half of the conversation. For awhile, Doctor Rose was more serious than he usually was, then he smiled broadly and agreed that whatever Bernie had proposed was another 'Excellent idea'.
Then he shut down the satellite phone and turned to them, "We are going to have company."
"Wash your white shirts," Noel said.
"I will. Yes."
"Are we there yet?" Mario asked once again. He had made it a habit to ask every time he woke up.
"No, but you can see it from here. Come on," Doņa said to him. "You might want to put a coat on."
"I'll be OK. How bad can it be?" Mario shook his head and followed Doņa down the passageway. As they neared the exterior door the air got colder and he could hear the wind blowing Then she opened the door and a frozen blast of air straight from the South Pole swept in and enveloped Mario with the first snow anybody in his family for at least three generations had ever seen. "Aaaiiii!" he said with wide eyes and immediately retreated to their cabin and the warmth of his bunk.
"We're at sixty one degrees. This is about as far South as I want to go this time of year. We'll keep going east, but no further south," the captain of the research vessel that used to be a commercial fishing boat said.
"It'll be fine, they said they were on their way to meet us," Gabriella said.
"You're mission must be very important to call all these favors in."
"Life and death," she said softly.
Together they stood silently and watched the weather.
In a couple of hours the icebreaker radioed to them and said they had the boat on radar and would rendezvous with them in a matter of hours. Not long after that, the boat's own system picked up the larger target and the captain said he'd set a course to come alongside.
If Mario had been miserable in the hallway from his first encounter with the cold, he was certain he was dying as they climbed a shifting, freezing, always moving, and extremely cold boarding flexible boarding ladder to the larger ship.
All of their gear and specimens, now encased in several large plastic tote boxes and a couple of bags, was transferred by cargo net in one quick shot.
"It is so cold," Mario said as he shivered for half an hour after they were safe and secure in the passenger lounge of the icebreaker.
"It is Antarctica, what did you expect?" Gabriella asked him.
"I thought cold was, Cold. But not, like that."
"He's from Guadalajara," Doņa said as an explanation.
"You should have stayed in Santiago."
"I cannot leave you, Senorita."
She just smiled at the man and went to check on their cargo.
Three days later the ship left King George Island and steamed south slowly.
Their instructions were to be ready to go at a moment's notice once the ship was within air range of the island. Everything they had, everything they wanted or needed was already baled and ready to literally throw onto the helicopter. All they were waiting on was the wind to die down enough that the chopper could make the trip in and out.
In the meantime, the icebreaker earned its name as it crushed its way through the slowly fracturing sea ice along the northern reaches of the peninsula.
Mario stood at an observation window with eyes wide in disbelief.
One of the crewmen nodded in agreement. "It is amazing isn't it?"
Mario looked at him, "I. English not good."
"That's ok, buddy."
"They're on their way," Noel said from the communications station. "They just lifted off. They'll be at the pad in about twenty minutes."
"And we shall be ready," Carol said with a glance at Roxanne who nodded, then both looked at Doctor Rose.
"I shall be more than ready."
Mario had been fine on the airplane. And he hadn't been too seasick once he'd gotten used to the first boat. But now, on the helicopter, he was a mess and when the crewman opened the door he was the first one of the group to set foot on the island.
"I'll get the stuff," a man in a heavy parka with a fully covered face said to them, "get on the sled, it's too cold to walk." He pointed to another heavily covered figure driving a snowmobile.
"Noel?" The crewman said to him.
"Mail and stuff in here," he handed the covered man a taped up box, "that's all theirs."
"OK, I'll get it."
In another minute the first snowmobile left with the three passengers on the sled being towed behind it. Noel loaded the other sled with the cargo and the few supplies that had been sent, then waved for the helicopter to take off once he was clear and the door was shut. As soon as its skis left the ground he was roaring back down the trail toward the camp on the second machine.
"WELL COME Travelers from Old Mexico. Welcome indeed."
"We have no secrets here, and yes, Bernie told me about why you had to get out of your home country, and I agree. You'll be safe here, and we can evaluate your mystery and you may evaluate ours." Doctor Rose said once they'd gotten over the fact that he was wearing a formal black tuxedo complete with his best watch and chain and a bright red rose in the lapel. The only thing distracting from the image was the water spots on his shoes from the snow that blew in as he opened the door to let them in.
"But this place is not an anthropological research station," Doņa said. "We were researching..." she paused and looked at Gabriella.
"Let's go ahead and tell them," she glanced around, "where did our packages go, all of our evidence is in those containers."
"I put them in the Castle." Noel said, "I didn't know you wanted them."
"It's OK, tell now, we'll all look later," Doctor Rose said.
Doņa shrugged and sipped at the drink Roxanne had made for her, and then she continued in her very slow English. "It's a long story, but, like you said, it won't be morning for another two weeks so...."
The University of Veracruz had put together an all female research team to investigate a possible new Central American monkey in the southeastern wilderness of Oaxaca. There had been reports of what appeared to be a larger than usual type of howler monkey outside of their normal range or perhaps another unknown species.
The team was unusual in that it was all female, except for two men who were assigned as security and, as the lead researcher put it, 'sherpas' to lug around bulky equipment. Everybody else, the two research partners, the photographer and video camera operator, the student interns, and even the camp cook, were all female.
They left the capitol Oaxaca City and traveled south in a convoy of three off road vehicles with a course set for San Maria Lachixio where they would turn off the marked road and then drive into the forest looking for an abandoned Russian Orthodox Monastery where they would make camp and do their initial surveys for the monkey.
But then the research team ran afoul the local drug trade power structure.
After some tense discussions the Triangulo bosses acted like they believed the group was looking for monkeys and not narcotic production facilities and a mutually uneasy and suspicious truce was drawn up whereas the gang would supply 'assistants' to help with the research. And to make sure they weren't snooping around where they shouldn't be.
After several months in the jungle one of the crew developed malaria, another went home to attend to family business, and the two students had to go back to school. Before the end of the season, it was only one of the two lead researchers, Gabriella and her best friend and photographer, Doņa, and their only remaining male assistant, Mario, who were left to continue on the work.
And that's when they made their biggest discovery.
Yes, they had documented at least two types of monkeys who were outside of what was believed to be their normal realm east of the mountains. But that wasn't why they had to bug out in the middle of the night.
"Those are not monkeys," Doņa said as she peered through her telescopic lens at the creatures huddled outside the entrance to one of the areas many, and possibly endless, caves.
They were dark skinned and about a meter and a half tall at most. When not doing anything they tended to drop into a half squat with at least one hand on the ground.
"They look, almost human, but not...." Gabriella said she actually felt her blood suddenly go chill in her veins and a wave of vertigo wash over her as she realized what they were looking at.
"No, they're not human," Doņa said still in analytic mode, "but I'm not seeing any tails, but the faces," she paused, "my God."
"Well? What do you think?" She asked after Doņa fell silent.
"They're like some sort of proto humans. Not even Neanderthals. Something else."
"Oh, Mary Most Blessed, I did not want to see them."
"Me either, but we have, and we must document them, and then protect that secret to our graves if we have to."
Now when the their assistants from the gang were there, the one named Pessas and a rotating selection of others, they spent their days slogging up and down stream beds looking for monkeys. When they weren't the three spent their time carefully collecting everything from droppings to tools and in one case, parts of a body when they discovered a dead one that had been left to the elements and the local predators. The bones and teeth were crucial to prove that the creatures did indeed exist.
Mario had accepted the idea of their existence in his same nonchalant way that he had accepted everything except the absolute bone splintering cold of Antarctica. "My grandfather's people talked about wild men, and the Aztec Trickster who was a man and was not a man. They were right."
As the months wore on, their evidence grew, both for local monkeys, and the other species who appeared to move up and down the valley as the seasons changed from rather mild to blistering hot, and they followed the proto-humans from cave system to cave system. Sometimes they wouldn't see them at all for days on end, and then they'd find evidence of their passing, and then, they'd turn up in the flesh once again.
They had even explored a cave entrance back as far as they dared trying to determine how the beings used the caves. Even though they had small flashlights it wasn't too long before the way became dangerous and they gave up. But they had seen a good sized group of the creatures go into the opening just a few hours before.
"We can't keep calling them it and they." Gabriella said to them one night as they looked over their photos and the casts of several footprints.
"Bromista," Mario said, "the jokers."
"Better than 'it'," Doņa said.
"And fitting, they tease us and then vanish."
"That was what was reported. At night in the lumber camp, monkeys were stealing things and then taking off with it. It wasn't the monkeys that were doing it."
The 'show' part of the tour began with Doctor Rose and the others letting the newcomers see their frozen examples of their own unusual research subjects. A display that now included new samples of eggs that Doctor Rose had almost paid too dearly for.
In the Castle, Gabriella showed them the teeth and the bones, "We wanted to get the DNA tested in these, but we never had a chance. This is the first time I've seen them out of their case since we left." She handed the plastic container to Carol.
"I can arrange that, I need to send some of our own samples for testing."
"Of the plesiosaur or the squid?"
"Both," Carol said. "You work up the sample and in the spring, we'll send it with our next batch to be checked. We'll label as....a Bromista," she glanced at Doctor Rose, "possible unknown mammalian species."
"Very good. Very good."
Gabriella then took out one of the casts of a footprint. "See, it's kinda human, but not quite."
"Yes, the tallest Bromista we saw came in right at one point three meters."
Noel didn't speak in 'meters'.
"Fifty inches. Give or take...."
Noel nodded, "Four feet. OK, they're short."
Then it was back through the howling wind to the Quonset hut for nightcaps and more stories of adventures in science.
"Nobody knows we left the country except Ome in Honduras. And he won't tell anybody." Gabriella said.
"How far will the Triangulo go to find you?"
"They'll think we were after their drugs after all, and come after us with everything they have." Doņa answered.
"You can stay here. We'll think of a reason to explain why our population has almost doubled." Roxanne paused. "We'll lie to them. But that gang will look for you at home, right?"
Gabriella stood and stared into her cup, listening to the wind outside. "Yes. But I don't think they'll look here. They'll harass our families in Veracruz, but we warned them about that when this started." She looked up and shook her head, "but I don't think they'll look here. We just won't tell anybody where we are. Right?"
Mario shrugged when Gabriella asked him the question in Spanish. When he answered, Doņa translated, "I don't talk to anybody. I don't have a family. That's why I stayed with you."
Then it was Doņa's turn to answer for herself, "Monkeys, seals, squid. I take pictures. It doesn't matter to me."
"How long will you have us?" Gabriella asked them.
"You are welcome until they tell me to close the base," Doctor Rose said.
Noel laughed, "And then you can come with me to Halley or McMurdo."
"I don't want to spend the rest of my life down here," Doņa said sourly.
Gabriella shook her head, "Not that long, but if we go back any time soon, we may not have a life."
The cover story was invented that Gabriella's group were down there to set up and observe the new crew when they arrived and document how greenhorns adapted to the unusual living arrangements and conditions.
One of their best test subjects to develop their methodology was Mario. He hated the cold, he hated the snow and ice, he hated the ocean, and he wasn't too fond of the seals. But, he was adapting.
By the time the summer crew arrived, the Travelers were old hands at the routine, and Mario had developed into Noel's assistant and was very good at checking the cables on the boom and had proven himself by reattaching the junction box to the end of the boom when it had worked itself loose as the ice around the buoy began to break up and drift.
"Better?" Mario asked him as they watched to see if it came undone again.
"Much better. Beuno." Doctor Rose answered.
Mario smiled broadly, then shivered.
Doņa didn't have any cold weather gear, but the base did, and she made due with what was available, and actually enjoyed photographing the totally bleak primeval landscape on the island. At least it was bleak and primeval compared to the lush forest and green hills southern of Mexico.
Roxanne heard her saying something under her breath about a penguin's madre and asked her what was going on.
"I was down on the inlet, you know, taking pictures when one of the big ones walked right behind me and pooped all over the rock. When I stepped backward I slipped in it and almost landed on the bird."
Roxanne laughed until she had a cramp in her side, "I know which one did that."
"If it does it again, I'm going to make penguin enchiladas."
But it was Gabrielle that had proven to be the new head cook. Not only had she devised austral versions of Mexican classics, she had proven that she could read a cook book as well.
"Seal isn't lamb, but it is lean, so it worked well."
Doctor Rose was delighted with the dinner, "My dear, it is excellent. Thank you so much."
The consensus was that Noel and Doctor Rose actually liked having more women than men on the base when for the last year or so, the balance had been heavily the other way, and with the overwinter crew being the smallest it had been in ages, just the four of them, it was a treat to have unexpected company.
As the southern spring progressed they got word that soon they would be joined by a new crew of five polar scientists, none of which had ever been to an outpost such as theirs before.
Carol had the bios of the newcomers. "Doctor Johnson spent a season at Scott, and on KGI a few years ago, he's a weatherman. He's doing a short tour here and will be leaving in a month."
"He's a climatologist?" Roxanne asked.
"No, it says a Weather Man. Broadcast meteorologist."
"Trudy Waples is an avian researcher, doing a doctoral thesis on nesting patterns." Carol looked up at Doņa, "here's one for you. Franco Marseau, he's photographing cloud patterns in the polar jet stream."
"I'd like to see his equipment."
At which point Noel all but fell out of his chair laughing but wouldn't say why.
When word came that the helicopter would be leaving the ship within the hour they all made their preparations. Noel and Mario would go meet them. Gabriella and Carol were preparing the meal. Doņa and Roxanne made final preparations in the Castle. And Doctor Rose....
Doctor Rose was making sure his freshly laundered white shirt was correctly buttoned and his gleaming white shoes were perfectly polished and his bright red silk rose was properly smart in his white lapel.
Dinner Rose 1 and Dinner Rose 2
[NOTE: All characters, places, events, and businesses/organizations are FICTIONAL. No primitive humans were harmed in the writing of this piece. NO inference to REAL anything is to be made. No similarities to ACTUAL anything is intended. This Piece Is FICTION, enjoy it as such. Thank You -the Author.]
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