“So what’s a Seal doing on a rescue mission?” Lieutenant Kray shouted over the whup, whup, whup of the helicopter’s spinning blades. The man who usually led this six-man rescue team did not like the stranger sitting across from him in the Sikorsky Seahawk. Not one little bit. Kray had heard that the Navy Seal had flown down from the States and had talked to the McMurdo base commander even before he and his men had finished prepping the rescue chopper, and Kray’s men moved fast when lives were on the line. Then the dust-off was held until the Seal, one Lieutenant Robert Lynch, came aboard, told Kray that he was taking operational command of the mission, and issued each man a winterized M4 carbine. All of the Navy rescuers were trained in the use of the assault rifle, but as sailors who specialized in saving lives, not taking them, they usually only packed a sidearm. The added firepower left Kray’s men with questions, and unanswered questions got people killed. Kray was determined to get some answers before the skids touched the snow at the Hamilton Research Station.
Lt. Lynch did not answer Kray. He was sitting with his head leaned back against the shuddering wall of the helicopter with his eyes closed. Kray didn’t give a damn if the other man was trying to sleep, so he kicked his boot with his own and shouted again.
“I said what’s a Seal doing here? Where the hell is the rest of your team and why are you overseeing a rescue mission of civilian scientists?”
“I heard you the first time, Lieutenant,” the Seal said as he opened his eyes and brought his head down to look at Kray. “Sorry, but I’ve been on four airplanes for over twenty hours. Jet lagged does not even begin to cover how I feel,” Lynch said with a smile. It looked like an honest attempt at being friendly, but it did little to dull the edge in Kray’s voice.
“How the hell can that be? We only received the distress call three hours ago.”
“It was sent out over forty-eight hours ago. It was too weak to reach you and was first picked up by a closer Brazilian base who forwarded it on to us. That put me in motion, and as I neared Antarctica, it was then forwarded on to you to get you ready.” Lynch said.
“Wait, what? Why the hell were we not notified of a distress call until two days later?” Kray said, anger rising inside him. He then thought for a second before adding, “And who is this ‘we’ that got notified before us, and why did we have to wait for you? Who the fuck are you?”
Lynch looked into Kray’s eyes and held the rescue man’s gaze. He did not blink or look away. As for Kray, he could see that the Seal was weary, but also alert, calm, and composed. “Well ‘we’ are the Navy. As for me, I’m a Seal, but you knew that already. As for why you were not notified until I was en route, that was so I could take command of this mission. Any other questions?” Lynch said without a hint of sarcasm. His matter of fact demeanor only served to enrage Kray more.
“God damn it, that doesn’t answer anything! Why are you here? If this is a Seal combat mission, where is the rest of your team?”
“I was the only one close by,” Lynch said.
“Bullshit, if you had to fly twenty hours to get here, you sure as hell weren’t ‘close’.”
The Seal smiled slightly. It looked like he was impressed that Kray had picked up on that, rather than being upset he had been caught in a lie.
Lieutenant Kray continued, “Why are my men carrying M4s? We’re Navy, but we’re primary a noncombat unit.”
“You and your men were the only ones close by.” Lynch said calmly, coldly.
“Do you know what happened out at Hamilton Station? I sure as hell don’t. If we’re going into a dangerous situation, as your presence and these weapons suggest that we are, my men and I have a right to know what to expect.”
Lynch sat motionless and Kray could all but see the gears turning inside the man’s head. He was weighing whatever secret bullshit he knew with his desire to not see fellow Navy men put into harm’s way without knowing the full score. Kray guessed that the Seal wasn’t a bad man, but that didn’t necessarily make him a good one.
After several long, silent moments, Lynch spoke.
“There could be some danger, but we don’t know for sure. It could be a danger you can’t even begin to imagine, or it could be nothing. I am here because I’m one of the few people who have dealt with stuff like this before and survived. Threats like this are exceptionally rare, but not completely unknown to certain people in Washington. You ever hear about the Miskatonic University Expedition down here in the 30s?”
Kray blinked, trying to take in and make sense of what the Seal just told him. “No, never heard of it.”
“I’m not surprised. It was a very public undertaking back in the day, but then that was a long time ago. It made the papers and the radios, especially after a good chunk of the expedition died. Back then the government didn’t have the tight grip on the media it does today, so some of the details got out and caused an uproar. That’s when the government did take notice, and after that they tried their best to make it all disappear. I’m telling you this because it’s not classified, just sort of hidden. If you want to find the info on what happened back then, or what people believe happened, you can if you dig deep enough.”
“So what happened to the expedition?” Kray asked.
“Officially that is classified, and I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you.” Lynch said with a slight frown. “Unofficially it is known that a bunch of people died and the expedition came home. Several people were hospitalized, others were institutionalized, and still others just sort of disappeared after a while.”