"You said you were at Thirty One."
Blake glanced over. Since the test, neither man had said anything. It had been almost half an hour. He'd been dozing. After all the hell he'd been through, all the horror and screaming and blood and death, it had felt good to just...sit the fuck down for more than thirty seconds.
"I was, it was why I was called in," Blake replied, trying to clear some of the fog from his mind. He wanted to sleep for days.
"Did you find any bodies?" MacReady asked. He continued to stare out over the vast antarctic wastelands, his eyes hidden behind his big blue shades.
"Yeah, a few. Only one intact."
"Black? Bald? Big guy?"
"Yeah. Nametag said Childs."
MacReady sighed heavily. "Damn. He was dead?"
"You test him?"
"No, we didn't even know about testing back then and...besides, I haven't gotten into the habit of testing dead bodies."
"Yeah, fair enough. Damn." A moment of silence passed.
"So what happened to you? How the fuck did you get from Outpost Thirty One to here?"
"You go first."
Blake figured it was fair enough. So, he spent the next ten minutes giving a truncated version of his bloody campaign across Antarctica and his struggle against Whitley and the Thing. All the people that had died, the rebellion against Gen Inc.
When it was over, MacReady told his own story.
"This all started with some Norwegians. Two of them showed up in a chopper, shooting at a dog. They ended up getting killed and we got the dog. Turned out to be infected. We checked out their outpost, Dronning Maud-"
"I was there, too."
"Nightmare, wasn't it?"
"So...well, long story short, lots of people died. We ended up burning down our base as a result. As far as I knew, Childs was the only other one who made it. We ended up in a half-collapsed shed passing a bottle of booze back and forth. I ended up passing out. Hadn't had more than an hour of sleep in three damned days. When I woke up, he was gone. I went looking for him, couldn't find him. I managed to get one of the tractors working, took it a Russian base. I tried to convince them about what was going on.
"They thought I was nuts but they tried to, you know, take care of me. I was there for about two weeks, trying to get a signal out. I had at least got across to them that my damned outpost had burned down and people were dead. And that's when the men in black showed up. Well, the guys in gasmasks and black combat armor. They attacked the base, took everyone. They were Gen Inc. We were all kidnapped and brought to some huge facility. Gen Inc. worked fast," MacReady explained.
"Any idea who they are?" Blake asked.
"Not sure. I know they're a corporation into genetics and all sorts of medicine. Also, they've got a fucking standing army of mercs. And they're run by a lunatic. A real rat bastard called Graves. I think he's former military. They kept me there for about two months, running all kinds of tests on me. One day, they had a power failure. I managed to escape. A few test subjects did, too. Thing creatures and people. I gathered some survivors, we broke out, grabbed some guns and snowmobiles and took off. Found an abandoned base and set up shop. Today, I saw an opportunity to grab a chopper, this chopper. I did, flew out to the spacecraft site and found you."
"Jesus," Blake muttered.
"Yeah. That's where we're headed right now. The outpost."
"How many guys you got?" Blake asked.
"Right now there's just eight of us. A good spread, though. Engineers and medics in there. We're trying to get the base up and running right now, running on the down low. Gen Inc. has this whole damned region locked down. They've managed to build a shitload fast," MacReady replied.
"Apparently. What's the plan?"
"Right now? Keep low, gather supplies and information, then hit Gen Inc where it hurts. Ultimately I want to have this continent on fucking lockdown and to take these bastards out," MacReady explained.
"A good plan," Blake said.
MacReady nodded and reached out, grabbing the radio. "This is Wolf Mother to Petrol, come back," he said.
He waited, frowned, then repeated the message.
"What's up?" Blake asked.
"My men aren't responding. Could be the shitty comms tower we were trying to fix or..."
He trailed off, he didn't need to say more. Blake automatically reached down, placing a hand on his pistol. In all the chaos of defeating the gigantic Whitley-Thing, he'd lost everything else. He stared out through the front windshield of the chopper. At first, there was just the whipping gray-white snow that had become so common to Blake just recently. Then, it seemed to clear and he caught sight of the base. It was a simple, dark, inert structure.
It seemed empty.
"Well, it's still there at least," MacReady muttered.
He brought the chopper in for a landing on a flat patch of snow not far from the base. Blake readied himself for whatever may lay ahead. MacReady killed the engine and let the rotors die down, still staring at the base.
"I don't like this," he muttered. "I know you're packing, come on. Let's go. Slowly."
"I'm ready," Blake replied, getting his pistol out.
The two of them got out of the chopper and started making their way through the snowstorm towards the base. Visibility was shit, but Blake could at least tell when the door slammed open and two men raced out. He raised his pistol and opened fire, managing to get two shots off before something hit him in the chest.
He had just enough time to realize what it was when a jolt of electricity hit him hard, throwing him into a cold darkness.
Blake swam back into consciousness.
He was tempted to just go back to sleep. Exhaustion was creeping in, nearly overwhelming in how powerful it was. Blake fought it. Something was wrong. Something had gone wrong but he wasn't sure what, his thoughts scattered and uncertain. He fought against that lethargy, tried to get back to the surface.
Someone was talking.
He focused on that.
"You gave me quite a run for my money, MacReady, I'll give you that much. You're pretty damned resourceful."
"Go fuck yourself, Graves."
Blake groaned as a red jag of pain cut through his skull.
"Ah! And it looks like the good Captain Blake is returning as well." Blake opened his eyes, found himself staring at a pair of heavy black boots. He looked up and saw man who'd been speaking. He was tall, easily over six feet, well-built with a shaved head and fierce, frozen blue eyes. It must be, he realized, Graves.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Captain. You know, I wanted to thank you. Both of you, actually, but you in particular. You killed Colonel Whitley. You killed a lot of our men, actually, but you also caused quite a ruckus. When there's chaos about, it's a lot easy to make men disappear. And Whitley..." He shook his head, waved his hand. "He was a lunatic. Worse, he was an asshole. I couldn't kill him, but you and Mac here could."
"What do you want with us?" Blake growled.
"I need test subjects. Always more test subjects. And you should be a very interesting subject, Captain Blake. You've survived a great deal...come on, get him up!"
Blake felt rough hands grab him and yank him up off the floor. He was brought up roughly onto his knees and had a chance to look around the room he was in. It was fairly empty, just a few tables along the walls, several doors, too. There were others on their knees as well. He was shocked to see that he actually recognized several of the men. North, Burrows, Weldon. His original team, they were all here. MacReady was there too, as well as two more men.
That meant that two were missing. Or it was possible that they'd been killed beforehand. But maybe they were somewhere loose. There were also about half a dozen tough guys in white camo gear with gasmasks and machine guns.
"Unfortunately, you men have caught me in quite a bad mood. Despite how impressed I am by your tenacity and resourcefulness, I'm afraid I'm going to have to kill one of you." Graves turned and pulled out his pistol. He frowned, studying them slowly. He suddenly extended the pistol, placing the barrel against North's forehead. The man stared up at him, silent, his face set in an expression of grim determination.
"No, no..." he muttered, pulling the pistol back.
Instead, he turned and pointed it at one of the men Blake didn't recognize. He didn't hesitate to pull the trigger. There was a brilliant flash and an explosion of sound and the man's head snapped back in a spray of blood.
"You son of a bitch!" MacReady screamed.
"Sorry, Mac. Those of the breaks. I think I may just execute another, I'm feeling particularly vengeful today."
"What about your fucking test subjects?" Blake asked, trying to buy time, trying to bring his body back online. A lot of him hurt.
"We've been rounding up the Special Forces teams Whitley ordered up and, of course, a fair amount of our former employees decided to rebel...I think I can spare one more."
As he aimed at the second man Blake didn't recognize, suddenly, a spray of machine gun fire cut through the room. One of the shots caught Graves in the chest, though Blake didn't see any blood so the bastard must've had on bulletproof armor. One of his soldiers, however, screamed and canted forward and another grunted in pain.
"Who the fuck-" Graves began.
Suddenly, a loud, horrifically familiar shriek filled the air. Blake's eyes shot to the still form of the soldier who had taken a shot through the neck, he was now vibrating violently, as though caught in a grand mal seizure.
"He's infected, burn him!" Graves roared.
Before that could happen, a tentacle tipped with barbed fingers shot out of his back and wrapped around another soldier's head. The man began screaming and beating against the tentacle. At the same time, another one of the soldiers had dropped his gun and was now proceeding to burst out as well. His gasmask fell away, as well as most of the skin on his face, revealing a twisting, bloody mass of muscle and meat.
"Fall back! Fall back!" Graves was screaming.
There was more gunfire now. MacReady and the others had shot to their feet, taking advantage of the confusion. Someone had managed to get hold of a flamethrower and set alight the soldier on the floor who was turning and the man who it had gotten hold of. Blake shook off the hands that had held him and stumbled to his feet, away from the fire. So much was happening, he was having a hard time trying to figure it out.
"Blake! Come on!" a familiar voice shouted.
Burrows, the middle-aged engineer he'd first investigated Outpost Thirty One with, had a pistol in hand and was racing towards him. With no alternative, he followed the man through one of the doors at the back of the room, through a cluttered storeroom, where Burrows paused to grab something and then they kept running through another door at the back, which led to a descending stairwell. Blake ran after him, down into the darkness.