A cold wind blew off the Antarctic plateau, His ears burned from the bitter cold as they stood around a hole in the ice. Cracked ice fell off the cable as they reeled the last few feet of cable out of the hole.
Three workers in sterile suits leaned over to grab the object, a Stainless Steel cylinder the length of about 40 inches, hanging at the end of the cable.
Using a hammer to knock away the ice and a heat gun to thaw parts of the assembly Sam, was able to get a better look at it.
“Did it work?” the winch operator asked.
As Sam wiped the frost from his goggles he said “Yea, Winger it looks like it closed like It was supposedtoo it”
The bitter cold took his breath away as he spoke.
Losing his Dad when he was ten years old, does something to a boy; he had to grow up fast.
For some it meant disaster, but for Sam, it was something different, it brought a desire to excel to prove himself.
He wanted to prove something to a Man that was no longer there and wasn't there much before his death but Sam remembered him well, he was the type of man that turned heads when he entered a room, he commanded the rooms attention and usually got it.
Just like Sam's Dad his Dad before him was an explorer, a Man who would hear of something exciting and be on the next plane or boat.
Antarctica pulled at Sam's Dad just as it did his father, he had already climbed Everest, Pikes Peak, and half a dozen other places.
Sam's Dad was an explorer, a Man who would hear of something exciting and be on the next plane.
Antarctica pulled at Sam's Dad, he had already climbed Everest, Pikes Peak, and half a dozen other places.
But in his eyes, everyone had done that, he needed more.
Antarctica was that something more.
He needed to best Sam’s grandfather with more.
It was this drive that tore his family apart, and finally, Sam's mom had enough.
She packed up their stuff and moved them back to Idaho where her family lived.
It was several years later when he heard his Dad had gone missing in Antarctica and several more before they buried him in an empty grave.
That was a long time ago and by the time he was in high school, it was faded memory.
Sam had met Cathy in High School, well that's when he noticed her for the first time, they had actually been in the same classes in grade school but she hadn't blossomed yet and he wasn't looking yet.
Once they found each other, there wasn't any letting go.
They stayed that way throughout High School and into college.
Cathy had been raised on a farm and understood Sam's desire to become a Microbiologist and supported him by working two jobs so that he could go to college full time.
Finally finishing College they married.
Just getting out of College as a Micro Biologist Sam found out there was Not much call for one in Idaho so he joined the Navy to further his career.
Cathy was reluctant at first but Sam convinced her it would be a good way to see the world as he built up his resume.
He probably inherited this need to see the world from his father.
One thing leads to another and he moves on to the Navy Seals in a role that kept him close to the Ocean and on the front line of Terrorist Microbiology.
The days of door to door fighting were over the Terrorist were becoming smarter and smarter, 9/11 was Proof of that.
After 15 years of roaming the world in the Navy Seals/Spec Ops, it was nice to be a civilian again and putting his degree to better use.
He couldn't forget the look on her face when he told her he was thinking about taking this job and that he would be gone at least 6 months.
And then they had fought and finally, Sam was able to convince her this was a perfect way to jump-start his civilian microbial ecologist career again.
And Sam had another reason… Is desire to feel what his father felt, to be where his father had been and maybe find out what happened to him.
Sam had done that, pull every favor he had to find out everything about his father's exploration, what it was for? where? and the big old Why?
What sam got back was a bunch of papers that read Top Secret on top and a bunch of blacked out paragraphs.
The only thing that stood out was Vostok Station, Magnetic interference centering around due west from there.
Sam did what he could in the little time he could get off but nothing stood out and he just stopped looking.. Life started getting in the way.
Six months on the Ice did a lot to relationships and Sam's didn't make it.
He should have known, after all the years in the Navy, things weren’t the same but the desire for adventure was too strong.
The news came in a Dear John email (chinged like in cha-ching) one afternoon after a long day of drilling holes in the ice, just trying to solve the mysteries of Antarctica's frozen lakes A Day On The Lake as he liked to look at it.
The Dear John letter was enough to send Sam into a spiraling mess which only brought a frustrated downtime that left him exhausted with nerve's as raw as an open wound.
So for months, he had a monk-on an Antarctica Slang word for being in a pissed off mood.
Even if he had known it in the back of his mind, that it was over before he had left the last time, its just something you still can't get used to “Rejection”.
Her emails kept coming slower and slower until the day came that Sam got that email
I've met someone else and we are in love… Your stuff is in a storage unit
Your Mom has the key to your Camaro
Oh and I'm taking Little Sammy
Shit! Sam was now a member of the Chinged Club and Dog-less.. Yea naming their dog Little Sammy was her way of telling Sam he was always in the dog house
He was just getting over a loss of extra baggage as he liked to call it, trying hard to hide the hurt from everyone.
Cathy the only thing in life that had kept him from going insane during all those spec-op missions he had been involved in, She had been his anchor and now she was gone.
“I guess I wasn’t her Anchor,” He said out loud
Holding the cylinder, Sam could feel the slushing of the water- ice mix inside, it was evident that it had filled and closed as it was designed to do before its long journey to the surface.
In the science community what lay inside the cylinder was like pure gold.
The water and ice came from one of the most isolated bodies of water on Earth, Lake Vostok which laid 1200 meters at the shallowest depth which laid directly under The Russian sub station Vostok Station.
At first, Lake Vostok was thought to have been deeper and maybe it was at its deepest but not at its edge which was only recently found by a Government research satellites that TETON QM.
Somehow they had got OK’d to use it for this project.
With the ice melting from climate cycling it had made it more and more accessible than in the past.
Vostok Station mysteriously opened up to the western world with an invitation to work together to explore Vostok Lake which was a miracle in its self.
The largest sub-glacial Lake known and bigger than Lake Mead
With the way, the Russians ran a tight security perimeter it only fueled more of the conspiracy theories.
It was like Russia’s own Area 51.
So for the time being, Sam was grateful that he didn't have to deal with the News Crews or paper punchers.
After reading up on the Russian Scientist problems with contamination and equipment failure with the first samples from Vostok Lake its no wonder they have open the doors to the west, they should of done it a lot sooner he thought.
They were under the direction of Washington DC and Dr. Jordan Era, who worked for Teton QM
Dr. Jordan Era had spent 15 years figuring out how to devise ways for safe sampling procedures so that they would not contaminate the fragile ecosystem of the sub-glacial lake and/or contaminate ours.
Dr. Era had been on several failed Antarctica Lake drilling's and had been sure this was the lucky one.
Crossing the ice Sam felt like a man who carried the weight of this whole project in his hands.
“Sam, is this the one?”
“Dr. only you will know, I'm only the mailman”
“Dr. Era Laughed, No Sam you're much more”
“Well let me take that from you, I'm sure you'd like to get this all wrapped up today and get out of the cold”
“Your right about that Doc”.
After handing him the cylinder Sam thought, we will soon know whether he was right or not.
Dr. Era held the cylinder gently in his gloved hands like he was holding a baby. He looked at it for a moment before hefting it to his shoulder and headed back to the makeshift portable Bio-Lab they had built so it could be kept close to the drilling site.
Hopefully, this would be the last sample, they were running out of time as in Antarctica Winter that was set to start in a couple of weeks with the vernal equinox because no one wants to be out on the Ice in minus seventy degrees Fahrenheit…
Touching my throat Mic Sam said, “Let's call it a day, wrap it up”
John Billings aka Bull started bellowing orders to the team, not that he needed too, every man on the team knew his job inside out but John was always able to pry just a little more out of them.
John had served with Sam through Afghanistan and more and that is why Sam wanted him on his team, Sam trusted him.
He did his job, never complained and could lighten a mood with a joke or two.
Now with other men, it was a different story..they had a name for John, Bullshit you never knew what they would call him next.. But in the end, they all knew he was the one to stand behind in case of trouble and the respect showed.
Entering the mudroom they shook off the crawlies as the locals called frozen snow that blew harder across Antarctica then down.
Dr. Francis James handing them hot cups of coffee after getting their Parkas off and had knocked off the last of the snow that was buried in every crease.
“How was the fishing?” she asked
Sam liked how she called freezing your balls off standing around a hole in the ice all day fishing.
Like we were going to pull up a prehistoric Salmon or something.
“Yea I think we finally got a good sample,” Sam said,
“Didn't the Doc tell you?”
“Sam you know better than that, he has locked himself up in that Bio-Lab and won't answer his phone”
“Ahh the old keep you in the dark routine,” Sam said,
“No, I think it's like he doesn't like to face people with bad news”
“Francis I think this is different this time, it's a good sample”
“Dr. James face turned red when she noticed Bull staring at them both”
“Bull what are you staring at?” Sam asked
Grinning he said, “When did you two get on a first name base?”
Realizing his mistake, Sam felt his face flush.
“Bull it's not how it looks,” He said
“It never is” Bull turned and headed down the hall laughing.
“Funny guy,” Sam said,
Dr. James turned giving him that big beautiful smile, “Sam it's OK we didn't break any rules, we are grown-ups”
Breaking into a smile “Yea your right, why hide it?” Sam said
Taking a sip of his coffee Sam tried to hide a smile as her mouth dropped open "Well I didn't mean that we should just blurt it out over the intercom"
Sam's phone rang saving him from losing his mouth full of coffee.
Holding up his hand, Sam listen intently for a moment, finally saying, "Yea we'll be right there"
"Dr. Era has just called a meeting, and it sounds urgent".
"Oh here we go, Mister, bad news will try to break it to us easy, there goes another Christmas in warm Florida"
"You're not from Florida, Francis"
"Can't you let a girl dream"
Walking into the conference room, Sam was awestruck at who all was there.
Francis said “Florida here I come”
Searching for a couple of chairs, Sam noticed even the Russian Crew was here and everyone down to the mess hall cooks.
Yea this must be good news
Finding a couple of chairs in the back next to Bull, they sat down.
Bull leaned over and asked, “Does this mean what I think it means?”
“I'm guessing it does, no other reason to call this big of a meeting with bad news”
Bull sighed with relief “Good I'm starting to run out of available women”
Sam shook his head “I bet, you slut”
Bull grinned at him “I am what I am”
Sam's cell vibrated in his pocket again, stopping his come back.
Reading the text Sam leaned into Francis We have a private meeting with Dr. Era after this horse and pony show.
Captain Maslow felt a slight shift under his feet as he braced himself against another blow that was bound to come.
Sweat beaded on his forehead as he stared at the sonar, Shaking his head, he bellowed
Lieutenant Uvarov hold your course, steady, steady.
A screech starting from the front of the Submarine and inched it’s way along the side until it ended in the back.
Suddenly the sonar Pings ceased.
What the Hell Captain Maslow thought
“Captain Maslow, there seems to be a malfunction with the sonar Sir”.
“Lieutenant Rzaev see if you can fix that.NOW”
“Yes Sir” Lieutenant Rzaev replied and he turned more knobs on the console
Shaking his head Captain Maslow Yelled “Full Stop”
“Lieutenant Uvarov update please”
“Full Stop” Sir
“Captain switching to radar” Lieutenant Uvarov replied
“Captain Maslow we have some kind of magnetic abnormality and its causing hell with our navigation and communication,” Midshipmen Bartrev said.
Nervous looks came from everyone in the control room, the tension of crawling through the Ice Tubes barely big enough for them and sometimes not big enough was starting to wear them down.
On the too small Ice Tubes, they would have to back up and take another only to find a jettison or other obstruction and they would have to blow it away so they could move forward.
They already lost one Deep diver during one of these times.
He placed the charge and was heading back to the sub when all of a sudden he was gone, One minute there and the next gone.
It shook the men and their confidence after a short search only brought up a diving mask and fragments of his suit. Most thought maybe an underwater burst of cause him to collide with the ice walls and cut him to ribbons but the Men still were not sure and the tension only because worse, Stories started to circulate, fairy tales of monsters found around Antarctica all old wives tales.
The Men have had more than their fair share of mishaps, lost items, and the strange noises since they entered this Ice tube.
The tube they were in now was different, it was larger
It had been days since they enter it, hardly moving 2-3 knots, sometimes not at all until they enlarged it with underwater de-icers.
The charges were faster but no one wanted to volunteer to go out into the water. The Captain didn’t want to push the men farther, they were already at their breaking point.
The Ice tubes were found a year before by a Russian research team, warm fresh water from some unknown source had grooved caverns and tunnels through the ice into the Southern Ocean it was thought the tunnels followed the natural curvature of the valleys of the mountain range that was under the ice, most likely the same valleys as rivers flowed thousands of years ago.
The crew knew that one false move and the sharp Ice could cut into the sub and send them all to the bottom.
“Sir we are having malfunctions throughout the ship,” Lieutenant Rzaev said.
Lieutenant Uvarov, moved to Captain Maslow side
“Captain my men are scared and exhausted from all these break downs and the loss of Vladamir”.
Captain Maslow put his hand up to silence him before he said it
Captain Maslow looked from face to face, knowing his men well, he knew they were tired and soon mistakes would be made, He also knew at least one of them was a spy.
He had received a teletype from Vostok Station that they had picked up a coded radio transmission from The Kraken, the only possible recipient was an American Oceanic Research ship that was anchored in the Ross Sea by McMurdo Station.
“Lieutenant we’ll stop here for a while for repairs, now make your rounds”
The Lieutenant started to argue but seeing the look on the Captains face he held his breath and left.
After Lieutenant Uvarov had turned and left, Captain Maslow patted his breast pocket, feeling some comfort from the outline of the photo he always kept there.
Pulling out the picture, he smiled at the faces of his family, touching the same spot where he always rubbed the small gold frame when he held it.
Staring at the faces of his wife and the beautiful children his wife had given him, Sighing he thought, Pavla, Nitca I’ll be home soon and my beautiful Anna please hold a flame for me, for soon I’ll be in your arms..
Captain Maslow, thought of his father, a strong man that didn't know how to love his family, a man who stood on principle, a man who gave his life to Mother Russian without even saying goodbye.
His mother worked long hard hours so she could bring home enough money to raise him and his sister, what little money his father had as a pension never was enough for the loss.
He worked odd jobs through his youth never having time to be a child, He was the Man of the house now, It was his honor to help.
Captain Maslow vowed to show his family love and always say goodbye before he left for service.
Shoving the picture back into his pocket he said,
“Lieutenant Uvarov, I still feel us moving did you not hear me earlier when I said Full stop?”
“Sir are you sure?”
“Are you questioning my command again Lieutenant?”
“Of course not Sir, I just feel we are close”
The Captains lean brown face looked troubled, if not taken back with the disobedience.
“Lieutenant we are officers of the USSR not gypsies with crystal balls”
“Full Stop and Now” The Captain bellowed
“Lieutenant Uvarov yelled Full Stop Again”
“Lieutenant now maintain our position and change the guard”
Snapping to attention, Lieutenant Uvarov said “Yes Sir” as he saluted Captain Maslow.
Lieutenant Uvarov barked orders to his First Officer to change the guard.
“Lieutenant I would like a word with you in my quarters”
Turning to his second in command of navigation “Take the helm”
Following the Captain out of the control room Lieutenant Uvarov braced himself for what was coming.
But something has to be done, this mission is going to kill them all and the men were ready for Mutiny
“Shut the door Lieutenant”
Turning to shut the door the Captain slammed him up against it.
Reaching around him the Captain locked the door and kept the Lieutenants head pinned to the door with his hand…
“OK Lieutenant I’m not sure what you and your men have been planning but I'm three steps ahead of you”
“Captain what the hell is this about, I have no idea what you're talking about”
“Like hell Lieutenant, you have been questioning my command since we entered this Ice Tube”
“Captain we have been searching these Ice Tubes for weeks trying to find a way to this imaginary Vostok Lake, we are all exhausted”
Shoving his head hard into the door again.
The Lieutenant Stifling a cry for help
“Sirwe have been concerned for you”
Laughing the captain said “For me? I am fine It is you who needs medical attention.”
Keeping him pinned up against the door, Lieutenant Uvarov felt knifepoint pressing into his back.
“How would you like me to kill you right here and now for mutiny or maybe you're the spy?”
Startled, “What?” is all he managed to say before his head was slammed into the door again.
“Yes Lieutenant I know we have a spy on board and maybe it's you”
“Sir I beg you, let the Doctors look you over, maybe its only something minor, maybe its radiation poisoning and you're the first to show signs”
The Captain thought for a moment.
“I've not heard any warnings, of radiation leakage from the reactors".
“And what? Maybe the Doctor is in it with you and he gives me a shot to silence me forever?”
“Is that what you want Lieutenant?”
A crackle came out of the loudspeaker and then the broadcast warning klaxon sound came next.
Captain Maslow to the bridge ASAP
Releasing the Lieutenant, Captain Maslow hissed, “Well finish this later”
Knocking the Lieutenant out of his way the Captain stormed out of his cabin.
Touching the spot on his back where he felt the knife, his hand came away with blood.
Lieutenant Uvarov knew he had to do something before it was too late for all of them.
Pulling the Captains desk drawer open he lifted out the pistol he knew was there and put it in his pocket.
Realizing fate had given him a crappy hand he headed for the door, The time has come to put an end to this insanity
Moving through the gangway he felt the Sub pitch forward as the ballast filled with air, the nose of the Sub is starting to raise he thought.
My God he is going to kill us all The Lieutenant thought as he broke into a run.
“Captain Maslow the sonar and radar are not reading anything above us”
“That's impossible” but the words faded from his lips as his face turned gray.
Unless we found Lake Vostok, he thought
A murmuring between the men in the control room turned to excited talk…
“Quiet now I need to think”
Surveying the faces of the men under his control the Captain realized there was only one decision to be made.
We are surfacing for Mother Russia
“Fill the Ballast slowly”, Lieutenant Korneyev
“Raise the periscope” The Captain yelled
“Raise us slowly Lieutenant, I don't want to be bumping into anything”
“Midshipmen Bartrev, can we talk to the Base yet,” he asked
“No Sir there has been interference since we entered the Ice Tube”
“What about Ultra-low band”
“How about carrier pigeon?” The Captain smiled
Everyone in the control burst into laughter
Breaking the tension in his men before the surface would help in what lay ahead he thought
The Captain felt a jolt from under his feet as the Sub leveled itself
Sir, we have surfaced
Surfaced he rolled the word around in his mouth. It had been months since they had touched land.
But how can there be land so far under Antarctica, this is madness he thought.
They had already been two weeks out testing this new secret Class K-10 Triple Titanium hulled Sub "The Kraken" a big brother of the "Leninskiy Komsomol" but with modifications for range, depth, food storage, and a science lab, it could reach depths of 5000 m and stay underwater for years or until they ran out of food.
When he received a dispatch with information for this detour, he was happy to serve Mother Russia until he read what they expected him to find, as the Americans say “a pin in a haystack”.
A wild goose chase of course, but who was he to question Mother Russia?
But now they were on the edge of a discovery that would gain them all medals if they lived long enough to enjoy it.
“Lieutenant Vaelbe mark our location, date and time”
“Sir, location marked, Date: 17th, July 1962”
Perfect he thought, all eyes are on the Leninskiy Komsomol at the North Pole, a perfect decoy for him and his crew while they were at the bottom of the world.
Grasping the periscope, he looked around the room, it was the first time he noticed the pungent smell of sweat, fear mixed with oil in the control room.
Searching the faces in the control room for any hope that may be left he knew they needed some type of hope, something to get them through this…
"Men we are on the eve of a discovery that has evaded mankind for thousands of years and we will soon go home as heroes"
Cheers rose from the men, as the Captain turned his cap around and peered through the periscope.
Quickly he turned in another direction, then another as if he was searching for something…
The laughter turned into silence as the seconds turned into minutes as they patiently waited for some words from the Captain.
Frantically he swung the periscope left than right and around as if he couldn't believe what he saw.
"Mother of God" escaped his lips…?????.. A City
Behind him, he heard his name called
Captain Maslow, I hereby remove you from a command
The Captain pulled his eyes from the periscope and stared at his own pistol aimed at his heart and the hand that was holding it ..slowly he lifted his eyes and looked into the face of insanity.