Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him.
As Brophy’s four huskies pulled his sled of geologic sensing equipment across the tundra, the dogs suddenly slowed, looking skyward.
“What is it, girls?” Brophy asked, stepping off the sled.
Beyond the gathering storm clouds, a twin-rotor transport helicopter arched in low, hugging the glacial peaks with military dexterity.
That’s odd, he thought. He never saw helicopters this far north. The aircraft landed fifty yards away, kicking up a stinging spray of granulated snow. His dogs whined, looking wary.
When the chopper doors slid open, two men descended. They were dressed in full-weather whites, armed with rifles, and moved toward Brophy with urgent intent.
“Dr. Brophy?” one called.
The geologist was baffled. “How did you know my name? Who are you?”
“Take out your radio, please.”
“Just do it.”
Bewildered, Brophy pulled his radio from his parka.
“We need you to transmit an emergency communique. Decrease your radio frequency to one hundred kilohertz.”
One hundred kilohertz? Brophy felt utterly lost. Nobody can receive anything that low. “Has there been an accident?”
The second man raised his rifle and pointed it at Brophy’s head. “There’s no time to explain. Just do it.”
Trembling, Brophy adjusted his transmission frequency.
The first man now handed him a note card with a few lines typed on it. “Transmit this message. Now.”
Brophy looked at the card. “I don’t understand. This information is incorrect. I didn’t-”
The man pressed his rifle hard against the geologist’s temple.
Brophy’s voice was shaking as he transmitted the bizarre message.
“Good,” the first man said. “Now get yourself and your dogs into the chopper.”
At gunpoint, Brophy maneuvered his reluctant dogs and sled up a skid ramp into the cargo bay. As soon as they were settled, the chopper lifted off, turning westward.
“Who the hell are you!” Brophy demanded, breaking a sweat inside his parka. And what was the meaning of that message!
The men said nothing.
As the chopper gained altitude, the wind tore through the open door. Brophy’s four huskies, still rigged to the loaded sled, were whimpering now.
“At least close the door,” Brophy demanded. “Can’t you see my dogs are frightened!”
The men did not respond.
As the chopper rose to four thousand feet, it banked steeply out over a series of ice chasms and crevasses. Suddenly, the men stood. Without a word, they gripped the heavily laden sled and pushed it out the open door. Brophy watched in horror as his dogs scrambled in vain against the enormous weight. In an instant the animals disappeared, dragged howling out of the chopper.
Brophy was already on his feet screaming when the men grabbed him. They hauled him to the door. Numb with fear, Brophy swung his fists, trying to fend off the powerful hands pushing him outward.
It was no use. Moments later he was tumbling toward the chasms below.