The stainless steel elevator doors slid open revealing a pitch dark room. Bill Abrams jumped from the elevator proclaiming, “Let there be light!” The motion detectors activated a series of florescent lighting illuminating the underground laboratory.
Michael shook his head while exiting the elevator. “Let’s get the equipment we came for and get on with this little excursion of yours before Mr. Hackman finds out what we are doing today.”
“Come on,” Bill reasoned. “Here we are in Barrow, Alaska, doing an ice core study for the U.S. government, and what do we discover?” Without letting Michael respond Bill exclaims, “A camel! We have a chance to go down and look at this thing and you don’t want to risk it? We could end up on the cover of Archeology Today with this find!”
“You know as well as I do,” Michael rebutted, “we were hired by the government to do a study on the global warming phenomenon and how the melting ice packs are going to affect our ocean levels. Not how our polar ice packs seem to be sitting on a tropical haven of quick frozen plants and animals.”
“I know,” Bill responded, “but doesn’t seem odd how our ice cores have brought up so many things that do not belong in this area of the planet. And now, after hitting this ice cavern yesterday, we have the chance to see one of these specimens up close and personal.”
“I still keep thinking that Mr. Hackman is going to find out about this and we will not receive the final installment of our compensation package. And you know what you would have to deal with then?” Michael paused while staring at Bill. “The wrath of Becky!”
“Okay,” Bill said grabbing the last piece of equipment. “Then let’s get going before anyone finds out.”
In less than an hour Bill had flown the two person Piper Cub plane to the work site landing a good distance from the hole drilled the day before. They didn’t want their vibrations to disturb what lay below. About 200 meters down, their core drill had struck an ice cavern, and then traveled another 100 meters of open air before hitting the ice again. Directly below that surface they brought up the remains of an animal. The DNA showed it to be a camel indigenous to the northern Africa region.
They lowered a camera through the hole indicating the cavern traveled approximately 50 meters in all directions. The camera could also make out the faint shadow of the animal below the surface of the ice. Just before nightfall they attached the largest drill available digging a 24 inch hole into the cavern.
Now the time had come to lower one of them into the cavern. “Let’s do rock, paper, scissors, to see who gets to go!” Bill suggested.
“We have already been over this,” Michael explained. “I have had classes in repelling while you have a better idea how to run the gas powered winch. Let’s just do our jobs and get out of here.”
“You’ve got your ears on?” Bill asked speaking into his head set.
“Check.” Michael answered.
“Is the camera ready to go?” Bill inquired.
Michael held up the device indicating he had a fresh battery pack in his pocket.
“Now, get your oxygen flowing,” Bill instructed. “We have no idea what the air quality is like in this cavern that has been sealed up for thousands of years. You’ve got 30 minutes on that tank and should be fine.”
A small seat was attached to the cable. Michael hunched his shoulders together as the winch lowered him down the tight shaft. The light on his yellow hard hat illuminated the side wall of the freshly drilled hole. The ice turned from a clear tone to a bluish hue the farther down he went. This indicated more of the oxygen had been pressed out over the years from the weight of the ice above.
“I’m just entering the cavern,” Michael reported back to Bill. “Keep it slow and steady.”
Once on the cavern floor Michael exited his chair. Immediately he could see their six inch sample hole from the day before. And there, less than twelve inches below the ice, lay their discovery. Michael was in the middle of taking measurements when Bill’s satellite phone began to ring.
“Hello,” Bill answered. “Oh, it’s you Mr. Hackman. Yes, I know we were supposed to be wrapped up yesterday, but we had one more sample we had to finish up. You can be assured there will not be any additional costs for this extra day of being on site.”
Bill was so engrossed in his conversation with Mr. Hackman he could not hear the sound of a Tom Cat snow transport heading his direction. The sound of the gas powered winch had drowned it out. This eight passenger caterpillar vehicle belonged to the Japanese crew posted in the next section. They knew this was Bill & Michael’s last day and had traveled over to say their farewells.
Before Bill could stop them, they were over the cavern. “I’ll talk to you later Mr. Hackman!” Bill slammed the receiver on the phone while frantically trying to get the surveyors to stop their vehicle. But it was too late.
Below the surface the vibrations fragmented the walls and ceiling of the cavern. At first snow-like particles floated from above. “What’s going on up there?” Michael radioed to his partner. Suddenly particles turned to ice cubes, which turned into sheets of ice descending on Michael. He covered his head attempting to shield himself from the onslaught. A huge piece of ice struck him on the back of his head knocking him unconscious. He awoke, encased in an avalanche of ice, and to the sound of his air pack timer ringing in his ears. This meant he only had five minutes before the air in his tank would be depleted!
“Help me Bill,” was all Michael’s weakened voice could get out. In response all Michael could hear was that ringing. And the ringing seemed to get louder.
Suddenly Michael sat up, in his own bed! His heart was racing a mile a minute! The telephone on the nightstand was ringing, just like the sound of his air pack.
Becky lunged across the bed toward the nightstand. “We’re you having that nightmare about Alaska again?” she inquired while reaching for the phone.
All Michael could do was nod his head while exhaling in relief that it was only a dream.