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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Mystery · #2294584
Dr. Lindsey Whitehead discovers a radioactive anomaly on Antarctica
Antarctica, August 1971:

Lars adjusted the thick goggles on his face, protecting his eyes from the extreme freezing temperatures of Antarctica. He gazed skyward and marveled at the bright starry heavens. It was rare the skies were clear during the winter, and he planned to take every advantage of opportunity. The constellations were different than in the Northern Hemisphere in Norway his home, but few places had absolutely no light pollution. The stars and the moon cast their dim glow on the snow-covered continent, giving the area an almost surreal, eerie setting.

And total silence. The only sound he could make out was his own breathing. Otherwise, it was if he had gone deaf.

Make that dead if I don’t finish my readings and get back to the lab.

Two of his fellow Norwegian scientists waited by the snow mobiles, about fifty meters away. From their crossed arms and wide stances, he could tell they were becoming impatient. They wanted to get back to the lab at the Norwegian research center where it was warm, and vodka flowed freely.

Lars turned back to his instruments, checking readouts and downloading them to his table to study later. He rose to standing, with difficulty since the multi-layered clothing inhibited much movement. His cold-weather suit weighed approximately 100 pounds and took almost half an hour to put on.

It was necessary in Antarctica during the winter months, where the sun didn’t appear for months, and blizzards with winds of unimaginable fury were common. Just as he began to turn toward his companions, a streak of bright light blazed across the dark sky. Lars watched as it fell to earth somewhere in the distance. It could have landed ten miles away or hundreds of miles away. He really couldn’t tell in this terrain.

His colleagues had seen it as well and were chatting with excitement when Lars joined them. They returned to the King Harald V Research center, Norway’s single outpost on the southernmost continent. Soon, they had shed their layers of clothing and had gathered in the research station’s cafeteria, which served as a bar. They toasted the spectacle, something to break up the boredom, darkness, and depression of Antarctic winters.

Lars made a note in his journal later about the meteorite, recording when it fell, the general direction of its fall, and a wild-ass guess about where it might have landed. While drinking with his friends, they all agreed it would be years, maybe decades before the meteorite was located. If it ever was.

As Lars lay down in his bunk to get some sleep, he had a final thought. It was just a meteorite. It could not possibly have a profound effect on the history of the world.


Antarctica, June 2022

Charles Gardner lowered the flaps of his bush plane and banked into the wind, searching for a relatively smooth area on the ice to set down. Snow blew across the featureless, white landscape blurring the scene ahead.

“Hang on,” he told his passenger. “Winds are a bitch today, so it ain’t gonna be a smooth landing.”

“We’ve been through a lot worse than this, so we’ll survive,” Dr. Lindsey Whitehead said in a snarky tone.

Gardner gave her a sidelong glance and gripped the controls until his knuckles turned white. He lined up on a stretch of land that appeared to be the best opportunity. If he miscalculated, the plane could crash into the glacier just half a mile away. He spotted crevices in the massive river of ice that could swallow his aircraft whole.

It was as close as he dared. Whitehead would just have to walk to the glacier in the gale-force winds and below-freezing temperatures. He would stay inside and let her brave the elements.

I’m not stupid. Like she is.

The plane dipped and rocked as it approached the ground, but Gardner managed to maintain control and brought the craft to a rough but safe landing. Winds buffeted the small plane even sitting still. Whitehead gathered her instruments and pulled her cold weather clothes around her.

“Aren’t you coming?” She gave him a scathing look.

"No way, lady,” Gardner said. “My job is to bring you here and take you back. If I don’t have to get out in that shit, I’m not gonna.”

Whitehead muttered something under her breath. Gardner heard what she said but ignored it. Not even insults would be enough to get him to traipse through a white death.

Whitehead threw herself against the door several times to open it against the pressure of the wind. She finally succeeded and stepped out into a blizzard.

Gardner watched her, shaking his head. Who cares about neutrinos or meteorites or glaciers? More importantly, what was so important about all that for someone to risk their life for it? Scientists and their dumbass theories. Climate change? Hah! Global warming? Look around you. Does it appear to be warming up? Moon landing? Yeah, right.

He reached behind him for his thermos and took several sips of the coffee, grateful it was still hot. Or at least somewhat hot. He spent the next half hour dozing and watching the snow blowing past. Thirty minutes later, he spotted Whitehead pushing through the blizzard toward the plane.

He hadn’t expected her back so soon. What happened?

Whitehead yanked the passenger door open.

“Chuck, I found something odd, and I need your help,” she shouted over the maelstrom.

Gardner scowled. She sounded obsequious and she never called him ‘Chuck’. Only his friends did. The worried expression on her face indicated this wasn’t a frivolous request.

“What is it?”

“I have no idea, but you might recognize it or have a clue as to what it is. Please hurry.”

The urgency in her voice prompted him to move. He closed his thermos and pulled his parka up over his head. He positioned his goggles and face mask and headed into the storm.

“I was taking measurements next to the glacier when the Geiger counter started showing something nearby as radioactive,” she yelled over the howling wind.

“Is it dangerous?” Gardner hesitated.

“Not if we stay a good distance away from it. I didn’t detect lethal levels, but we need to be careful.”

She led him through the blizzard toward the glacier. Near the edge of a ridge with the glacier below them, she pointed to a spot, black against the snow about ten feet away.

“There! Can you make out what it is?”

Gardner took a step forward. If the thing was radioactive, he didn’t want to get too close. It didn’t appear to be a meteorite. In fact, it looked as though it was man-made. What would something like this be doing out here? How did it get here? Where did it come from?

Thoughts raced through Gardner’s head. He turned back to Whitehead.

“Well? Do you have any idea what that is?”

Half an hour later, Gardner rushed back to the plane and grabbed the microphone to the radio.

“Emergency! I need help out here! Dr. Whitehead has fallen into a glacier!”

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