Okay, just one more little chapter...

"The nearest bases are Vostok station and the Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the south Pole," Zed announced over the howling wind. "The latter is further off by several hundred kilometers, but much larger, and not far from other stations. We make for it. It appears we shall go to the pole after all."

"You're talking almost twelve-hundred kliks," Zotjakt said. "We could do it, on paper, but we got nothing to spare. And I don't think I need to tell you, nobody's going to be greeting us with open arms."

"We will do it because we must," Zed answered, "and because the measure of my destiny is not yet full."

The Flea sailed by on a sled improvised from a piece of the dome. "Hey, at least it's all downhill- WAAGG!-hooof."

The Tick helped the Flea out of a snow drift. "I'll tell you what," the Tick said, "if you cover my butt, then I suppose I can cover yours."

"Yeah, well," the Flea said, "if you save my butt, then I guess I can't complain if you're a pain in the butt."

Soon, what gear and supplies they could find were consolidated. The wind went into a lull, giving better conditions to hike, but Zed paused to survey the unearthly landscape with a clear field of view. The other three stood beside him as he gazed intently in the direction of Prydz Bay. Surprisingly, it was the Flea who broke the silence with introspection: "Y'know, it's kinda sad. I mean, mostly, they seemed decent enough, and you can't help wondering if they really thought they were human. Hell, the one who was really screwed in the head was the guy who was still human. If there'd been a way to take them back, and make sure they didn't Thingy anybody else, that wouldn'ta been so bad, would it?"

"What I cannot help but persist in thinking about, is the irony," Zed said. "They could have imitated a million life forms on a million worlds... but they couldn't stomach being human."