Chapter Ten: Dec 9 1933 - Jan 24 1934 - The Long Road Home
The Belle set down at Lake's camp late on the 9th of December. As the plane touched down they were greeted by Dr. Thorson who, as the most senior member of the expedition present, taken over operations. He and the others had gotten the generator and radio that had been recovered from the Germans' supply cache set up and running. After unloading Professor Moore from the aeroplane, hasty explanations were made. Buernor realized that the others were not telling him the whole story, and Stacey reassured the big Norwegian scientist that he really did not want to know everything that had happened. Nevertheless, Tyson shared the basics of what they had learned which proved enough to ensure Thorson's silence.

After a few hours of rest, the investigators were woken up by the sounds of three triple-engine Fokker aeroplanes landing nearby. The Barsmeier-Falken Expedition had sent a rescue party, as promised. After the DBFE-B, DBFE-C, and the DBFE-D set down, the investigators met with Jacob Falken, the co-leader of the German expedition. He inquired as to Dr. Johann Meyer's fate, and was saddened to learn of his colleague's death. Despite his leading questions the investigators did not reveal the secrets of the City of the Elder Things or the monstrous truth of the Elder Pharos. Acacia Lexington intervened at that point, explaining that she had extensive footage of the super-plateau revealing only unusual rock formations. Though they could tell Falken was skeptical, he relented and made sure that his people would be on hand to help both the Starkweather-Moore Expedition and the Lexington Expedition evacuate back to the Ross Ice Shelf and from there to their ships. It was time to leave Antarctica.

It was time to evacuate both expeditions from Antarctica.

But Professor Moore would not be joining them. His injury was too serious, and he was to be airlifted back to the Barsmeier-Falken Expedition's base on the Weddell Sea for surgery. From there he would be taken to Buenos Aires aboard the Graf Zeppelin. "I will see you back in America, my friends. Take good care of our people." With that, the expedition was bereft of its leadership, and Tyson stepped up to take the role for the remainder of the voyage home.

By the 12th of December both expeditions had left the ice, and the Gabrielle and the Tallahassee were under sail. After no more than a day both vessels ran into heavy pack ice, and from the 13th to the 17th they were at anchor. It was too dangerous to turn back and it would have been suicide to press on. Their hulls creaked and groaned as the thick ice scraped and threatened to crush them. But the ships proved as steadfast as the members of both expeditions and their crews, and the pack ice broke at last. By the 22nd of December, the Tallahassee parted company with its sister ship, as the Lexington Expedition was bound for Hobart in Tasmania while the Gabrielle was bound for Dunedin in New Zeland. With luck, the Starkweather-Moore Expedition would arrive on Christmas Day.

Shortly after dinner on the 23rd, the officers' mess was disrupted as Bert Pacquare, the engineer's mate, brought a trio of squabbling crewmen in for Turlow, the first officer, to deal with. Two of the men, Beakins and White, had been accused of theft by the other man, Humphries. After a brief talking to, the men were set back about their duties. Out of boredom more than anything else, the investigators set out to see what had caused all the fuss. Tyson went back to the crew mess to speak with Beakins and White, while Thorson, Myers, and Jeeves sought out Humphries in the engineering room. Humphries stated, "I won a pair of black opals from that German pilot in a game of cards. Them two stole them from where I had 'em hid, in my tobacco jar." When pressed, he revealed that he didn't really know what black opals were, but assumed that the smooth, matte-black, and cool to the touch stones were valuable. The other two stated their bunkmate had grown suspicious and covetous of his new treasures, while all three of them had "been having bad dreams."

After sharing this information, Tyson became suspicious of the stones he had picked up outside the Elder Pharos and opted to investigate them further. The rest checked the three engineers' cabin, finding an empty and suspiciously clean tobacco jar along with a trail of corrosion staining the wood floor. It ended at the base of the radiator, which had been turned up to a blistering 80 degrees, and a hole had been dissolved to the stainless steel showers on the deck below. No sign of the stones was present. Tyson's experiments revealed that the stones could blunt chisels and hacksaws and proved impervious to corrosives. But once heated...the one he was testing began to move.
It became a blob of black foulness, slightly corrosive, and heavier than water. Cooled to freezing, it became dormant and solid once again. Smaller fragments became completely inert, but were eventually re-absorbed by the rest. He made sure the samples were refrigerated, and tracked down the rest. Late that night, he tossed them overboard, hoping that their lack of buoancy and the cold of the deeps would keep them inert for all time.

As the group struggled with this information, things took a turn for the worse. Early on the morning of the 24th, shortly after breakfast, screams echoed up the stairwell from the engine room. Rushing down to see what had happened (along with much of the off-duty crew) they discovered one of the engineers, Brunel, had been horribly injured and much of one of his legs was gone, dissolved by a powerful corrosive. Two other men had tied the leg off with a tourniquet, but Brunel was in bad shape. As Jeeves and Tyson saw to his aid, Buernor went into th engine room. "Careful!" One of two other mates in there yelled, "It's in here!" Stepping in he saw two sailors, one armed with a huge spanner and the other a fire axe, watching an overturned bucket on the floor. Suddenly it moved as a black ooze beneath it tried to wriggle out. Thorson called for a sheet of metal and some ice, remembering Tyson's discovery, hoping to cool the grapefruit-sized lump off. With a bit of caution, they had captured the black ooze.

The black blob had been caught. Could it be destroyed?

Taking it up to the impromptu lab they had set up in the owner's cabin, Buernor waited on Tyson to continue their investigations. Tyson meanwhile had helped the ship's physician, Lansing, amputate the man's leg. As he headed up the stairs to join his comrade, Paul Turlow stormed on to the scene. "Get that damned thing off my ship!" Before the matter could get out of hand, Captain Vredenburgh intervened. He chose to give the investigators a day to figure out what it was, if there were any more on board, and how to deal with them. Revealing their previous experiments, the precautions they had taken, and what the likely outcome would be, the captain offered them his full support. They found that the larger sample acted the same as the smaller ones, though that the bigger pieces still moved independently and would eventually rejoin.

A few preliminary searches revealed nothing, but by evening the situation worsened. That afternoon they had talked with Brunel, who revealed he found the black blob atop one of the engine stacks. "I thought it was a grease-soaked rag, and shoved it in the front pocket of my overalls. Then it started burning and eating my leg!" Despite that gruesome news, they joined the Captain for a bit of Christmas Eve dinner. Tyson and Thorson opted to remain in the cabin above in case Turlow tried anything - a reasonable precaution, it turned out.

But the relative calm was ruined by the sound of dogs howling and snarling from the hold. Rushing across the deck, the investigators made their way down. Jeeves, Evvy, Myers, and Tyson went below as Stacey remained above, looking down from the hatch. Eight of the nine remaining dogs were snapping and tearing at their harnesses, while the last was writhing on the ground tearing at her own belly. Jeeves approached and saw another black blob, slowly devouring the poor animal. Blasting it with a fire extinguisher from the engine room, he lost sight of the thing. Fiskarson, the dog wrangler, was beside himself but panicked when the dead dog began to move of its own accord. Jumping back, all present saw a black, rat-like blob the size of a large cat explode out of the husky's chest and dart for the storm lantern carried by Evvy! She dropped the lantern, spreading fire over the hold, but Jeeves quickly put it out. Though they tried to capture the mass with buckets, it was too large and quick, and oozed up the ladder with lightning speed. It latched on to Stacey's leg, and began dissolving his boot. Jeeves tore it off before it could reach flesh, and the thing darted for an open hatch and into the main castle, past Pacquare. It had lost them.

Tyson had realized what it was at this point. The black stones were no less than seeds - aminiculi - of the Nameless God. They were part of it, not bound by physical contact or distance, and the energy and mass they absorbed were the prisoner's way of trying to escape the Cold Hole. As they grew, so would time and space distort around them. One alone could grow, devouring a world if necessary, to free the prisoner. The revulsion they caused was a consequence of the Nameless God's presence. The aminiculi could not be destroyed - only contained - and had to be stopped lest the world be doomed.

The hunt was on. After talking with the investigators, Vredenburgh addressed the crew. "The Black Rat," they had started calling it, was loose on the ship and had to be hunted down. Knowing that the creatues sought out heat, the boiler was turned down and the ship cooled. It was likely it would try and find warmth. Crewmen were advised to avoid it and keep in contained with metal, hatches if at all possible. They would set traps for it, with three groups scouring the ship, one led by Turlow, one led by Driscoll, and the other led by the investigators. The plan was simple - lure it towards the deck with torches or herd it with fire extinguishers, then try and trap it in a steel fuel drum. The drum would be sealed and filled with icy saltwater. When cooled, it would go dormant. The barrel would be sealed and then dumped overboard.

The search of the ship finally led to the engine room. There Myers saw the blob perched atop the boiler. It had grown to the size of a large dog, and undulated with sinister purpose. Turlow and his men tried to dislodge it with poles and hooks and the thing leaped down to the bottom of the engineering deck, landing atop an unfortunate crewman and killing him instantly. As it began to feed, Jeeves blasted it with a fire extinguisher. Dislodged, it went after Tyson's torch. As the creature pounced, he dove to one side and tossed the lit brand into a steel drum maneuvered into place by Myers. In an instant, he had the drum tipped and the creature trapped! It strugged fiercly, latching on to his skin for an instant before Tyson scraped it off. But with Buernor's help, the lid was secured and icewater poured in. Moments later, the drum was pitched over the side into the frozen waters of the Southern Ocean. The danger had passed.

Come Christmas Day, the Gabrielle steamed into Dunedin Harbor, greeted by cheering crowds, reporters, and well-wishers. A few days passed, and cautiously guarded interviews were given. O'Neil had prepared their stories carefully, and the heroism of the explorers was emphasized while the truth was obscured. Word reached them that Professor Moore had safely reached South America, and wished them well. A telegraph came in from Nicholas Roerich in New York, thanking them for Acacia Lexington's return and asking to meet with them when they returned to the United States. There was also news of a tragedy from Antarctica, as a blizzard had struck the Barsmeier-Falken Expedition's base. All but four men out of the hundred there were lost, and their efforts abandoned. After reading Pym's manuscript, Stacey wondered if they had found the tunnels that ran from the coast to the Mountains of Madness - and the seeds of the Nameless God. They could only hope that none of the seeds had reached the airship dock at the volcanic caldera on Desolation Island just north of the Antarctic coast. The boiling water there could prove a recipie for disaster...

After what seemed an eternity, the Gabrielle returned home to New York.

A few days later, the Gabrielle steamed out, bound north for the Panama Canal. More than a month passed, and early in new year the ship docked back in New York. Grand crowds, fireworks, and the world press greeted them. Their celebrity was assured. Stacey received a knighthood for his bravery, and Jeeves a well-earned pension. Tyson became a celebrated lecturer and earned tenure at Miskatonic University. Myers did likewise at Harvard. O'Neil went on to write a best-selling book about the journey to the southern ice. Evvy and Acacia formed a venture that spearheaded the women's movement. Buernor went on to continue his explorations, using his famed expeditions and cover, searching the polar wastes and the mountains of South America for signs of the Elder Things.

But the problem remained. The God Trap was failing. In time, all would be doomed unless living brains could be provided to the alien denizens standing vigil over the Elder Pharos. Rumors began to circulate of a conspiracy in the pre- and post- World War II years. Flying saucers in Antarctica? Strange disappearances in major cities? Perhaps all of these were merely wild rumors. Only the survivors of the Starkweather-Moore Expedition would know the whole truth...
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