Genre: Man from UNCLE, The Thing from Another World
Word Count: 2272
The Prompt: Could you do a Christmas story with Illya and Napoleon in the North with lots and lots of snow. They might be on an assignment or on a vacation or doing some research - Ik doing research and NS as bodyguard/helper (?). You get extra goodies in your stocking when you mix in a Polar bear or some sea lions or such.
My thanks to gevr not only for a great prompt, but also for giving me a reason to bring into the mix one of my very favorite horror/sci fi movies ever. And, as always, my thanks to sparky955 for her beta and figuring out just what went wrong.
Napoleon looked up at the walls as they cracked and shuddered from the wind. The blizzard outside had practically covered their Quonset hut with snow, turning day into night. He sighed and returned to his book.
He still wasn’t really sure why they were there, not really. The outpost was run by a mix of Russian and American troops, and everyone seemed on fairly good terms, so it wasn’t that. Instead, he glanced over at his partner, fingers entangled in his hair, poring over a small book.
“Is it ever going to stop snowing?” Napoleon longed to look out the window, but they were well out of reach, letting in what little daylight the North Pole had to offer at this time of there year. All this in activity was making him itchy. Plus there was a vibe running through the men here. Something was very wrong and he couldn’t put his finger on it. He expected the Russians to be standoffish, but not his fellow countrymen.
“Don’t look at me. You were the one who wanted a White Christmas.”
“Yeah, right, Christmas. You couldn’t tell from looking around here.” He’d drawn a lopsided Christmas tree worthy of a fifth grader and taped it to the wall. He’d been adding ornaments to it on a daily basis.
“It’s a research facility, Napoleon, and half the staff is Russian. You surely didn’t expect a Currier and Ives experience here.” Illya closed the book carefully.
“Okay, Illya, you have done nothing but read that book since you found it in the remnants of the ruined greenhouse. What’s going on?”
“What’s going on is that I’m quite literally, scared out of my mind at the moment, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
“You? Nothing scares you.” Napoleon sat up at that.
“This does. It’s the lab book of a Dr. Carrington. He was a Nobel laureate back in the fifties”
“He’d been working and experimenting basically with plants. They had brought him here to see if he could cultivate something that could withstand the cold and short grow cycle here. Everything was fairly routine until he writes about them finding a crashed spaceship.”
“A spaceship? Now I know you are pulling my leg.”
Illya held up the book and showed him a drawing, meticulously done. “The base commander verified it. They tried to melt it out with Thermite, but it was destroyed and that’s when they found it.”
“An alien creature, frozen in a block of ice. Apparently, it had been thrown clear of the craft when it crash landed. They brought it back and were waiting for a storm to clear, much like this one, so they could ask for instructions. Sadly, they made an error in judgement and covered it with a blanket, an electric blanket. It was enough to release it from the ice, where it had apparently been dormant. It went on a rampage, killing several of the sled dogs and soldiers stationed here before escaping back into the storm.”
“Surely that would have killed it.”
“No, sadly, it lost an arm in the struggle and Carrington discovered it was plant based. He did the only thing open to him. He started to experiment with it. He learned that it was carrying seeds and projected that the reason the creature was attacking was that it needed sustenance to propagate.”
“I could think of better reasons.”
“Napoleon, be serious. Good men died because of this. While the Captain did his best to protect his people from the creature, Carrington was been growing them, feeding them plasma--”
“The creature fed on blood,”
“Of course he did. They always do,” Napoleon said, smiling. “Illya, do you know how unlikely that scenario is? This sounds more like a Halloween story.”
“Yes, but I also know that there is supporting evidence to back it up.”
“It’s real reason we are here, Napoleon. I’m not sure why Waverly wanted to keep you in the dark, but he was adamant that you not know the reason.”
“All he told me was that I was to protect you with my life, as if I wouldn’t do that anyway. So what is this evidence?”
“The space ship wasn’t destroyed. It was merely sent deeper into the ice. The Russians recently discovered it and started extricating it.”
“Our mission was to see just how viable a threat the ship would be if one side of the other got their hands on it and figured out how to repair it… Not even Waverly could have foretold Carrington’s discovery. It was reported and then immediately debunked. Carrington gave his life trying to protect the creature and it killed it without even breaking a stride. He was a good man, a good scientist, and it killed him. His name still carries a blotch on it, one I don’t think he deserves now.”
Suddenly, their hut was plunged into darkness and Napoleon scrabbled to find a flashlight. “What happened?”
“Maybe it’s the generator again. They were struggling with it earlier. They said it looked like someone had tried to sabotage it.” Illya turned his on. “It shouldn’t be out for long.
“Great, so much for detente.” Napoleon reached for the door and yanked. Nothing happened. “What the heck?”
“Precaution. When the generator goes, everything locks down. You might as well just relax.” Illya took his bunk under the snow-encased window and after a minute Napoleon went to his and crawled under the blankets. Illya did the same and turned his flashlight off as did Napoleon.
There were strange noises from both outside and in the corridor, pounding and something akin to a howl. There were crashes and men shouting. Suddenly, horribly, all was silent except for the raging of the storm outside.
“What the hell is going on?” Napoleon asked.
Illya wiggled his jaw slowly left to right and then got up to throw the steel bolts on their side of the door. A suddenly pounding on it sent him scurrying back to his bunk, reaching for his weapon. It shook and dented, but stood firm. A moment later all was back to an eerie silence.
“Illya,” Napoleon whispered.
“I just saw something… a face… in the window.”
“That window is nine feet off the ground. How is that possible?”
“Something is looking for us.”
The temperature in the room was plunging and Illya considered starting a fire. “They may not know we are here, but they will if they smell the smoke.”
“Who is this they you are talking about?”
“Animal, mineral or vegetable, I don’t much care at the moment.”
As the temperature dropped, Illya struggled to stay awake, but he was just so cold. Napoleon had gone quiet moments earlier. It was not the end he’d expected for them. He thought he’d go out with a bang and not a shiver.
He was so tired, he just closed his eyes and slept, at least until his arm was shaken roughly.
“Mr. Kuryakin? Please, Mr. Kuryakin, wake up.”
Illya blinked blearily, trying to make out the figure in the near dark. Stupidly, he blurted out, “Santa?”
“Close enough. Come on. We need to get you and Mr. Solo out of here.”
“Let me grab my things.”
“No, just your jacket, gloves and hat. I have the Snowcat ready for you. Now hurry, hurry. Meet me there.”
Illya nodded, still in a daze, and somehow got to his feet. He roughly shook Napoleon. “Napoleon, we have to move.” There was a murmur and nothing else. Napoleon, It’s THRUSH and they are on the move.” That was the magic phrase or so it seemed. Napoleon nodded and somehow got to his feet. Illya passed him gloves hat and jacket. “We have to go now. We’re in terrible danger here. Someone rescued us and told me that there was a Snowcat waiting for us. We need to get out.”
Leaning on each other, they stumbled through the destruction that was the outpost, stepping over bodies and equipment.
“What the hell happened here? It looks like a battle.” Napoleon searched the darkness for any sign of life.
Illya leaned down and picked up something that looked arm like. He tossed it aside before Napoleon could see it.
“I think it was. Come on, we have to get out.”
Outside the front door was a Snowcat and Illya and Napoleon piled in. Illya looked around in the blowing snow, obviously concerned.
“What about your friend?”
“He’s not here. Maybe he never was.”
“But the Snow cat... How did you know?”
“No idea. I just know someone or something woke me up and told me we needed to leave. It sort of looked like Santa.”
“Santa? I wonder if we were getting carbon monoxide poisoning from the stove.”
“Which wasn’t on.” Illya pulled his gloves off and started the vehicle. It roared to life and then there was another sound, a roar, a cry. Illya didn’t know which. Napoleon spun around in his seat.
“Illya, there’s something moving out there. It’s big.” Napoleon turned back. “Let’s go.”
Illya floored the accelerator, except the Snowcat didn’t move. The vehicle rocked and buck. Something was holding them.
“Illya!” Napoleon reached for a rifle and Illya suddenly shifted into reverse. There was a solid clunk and abruptly they were free. He slammed it into drive and took off or as off as the Snowcat could be. In his rearview mirror he saw something climbing to its feet and stagger after them, but it was slow and clumsy. Soon they lost sight of it to the snow and the wind.
There was a note attached to steering wheel. Head due southwest, bearing. C.
Illya did. As they were driving away, he looked back and there on a snow bank sat two polar bears and three seals Each were holding up cards with numbers on them – 8.7, 8.2, 4.1, 4.2 and 2.1. Leave it to seals, he thought, then he blinked and they were gone.
“Illya, what just happened?”
“No idea.” Suddenly the words, take cover formed in his head and he took refuge behind a large snow drift.
“What are you doing?” Napoleon asked as Illya shut the vehicle off. “That thing is still out there.”
“What I was told to do,” he said simply.
There was a sudden blinding blast of light from the direction of the base.”
“I have a feeling the base is gone.”
The explosion sent tons of snow into the air, and it rained down now, effective burying the Snowcat beneath it. All that remained uncovered was a small sliver of windshield.
Napoleon shivered in the cold. “And I was just getting warmed up. Now we are going to have to dig out way.” Then he gasped at what he could see in the sky despite the storm. “Oh my…”
“Be very quiet and still.”
The spaceship above them shone a light on the crisp snow, the blizzard sending up a fluffy of blanketing snow up and over them as if protecting them. Neither man could see a thing now except the brilliance of the light against the snow.
Eventually the light died and for a long moment they sat quietly.
“What do we do?”
“Nothing for the moment, except for this.” Illya turned over the engine and hit the windshield wipers and they managed to clear the windshield. “That’s better.” He cut the engine again as they watched the light in sky start to fade.
“What are we going to do, Napoleon? We can’t just--”
An explosion rocked the night air for a second time, but this time, instead of snow, bits of metal tumbled back to earth.
“Guess their repairs weren’t as effective as they thought.”
“Or they had help. I was just thinking about the guy who woke me up. I think it was Carrington.”
“I thought he was dead, but perhaps not.” Illya reached into his pocket and pulled out the small journal. “Listen to his last entry.
I have tried to reason with the commander, but he refuses to see the significance of this. For us to drive away the first alien life form that has come to visit our planet would be an act against God. Therefore, I will try to reason with the creature. It should recognize my voice and realize what I am doing for it and its race. If not, may God have mercy on my soul.
“Poor guy. A scientist to the end.”
“At least now I have the evidence to exonerate him and I will. We’ll need to collect a few bits of the spaceship to take back with us. Not that anyone will ever admit to this.” Illya smiled. “You want to know what the funny part was.”
“There’s a funny part?”
“Carrington used to wear this red parka. The group used to call him Santa when they were thinking kindly of him. I think he was the one I saw, the one who rescued us. If we’d stayed much longer, we would have been incinerated.”
Napoleon looked back in the direction of the destroyed base. “Let’s hope Carrington has found the peace he’s been denied for so long.”
Illya turned the Snowcat on and broke through the snow pile that he hid them so effectively. “You ready to go home?”
“I can honestly say that there’s no place like home for the holidays.”
This was based (loosely) upon the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World starring Robert Cornwaite as Dr. Arthur Carrington and James Arness as the silent but threatening Creature.