Field Trip

The decision to explore the discovery site firsthand was not one that needed to be spoken aloud – Genevieve and Dale could see it in Evan’s eyes as soon as he was able to tear his gaze away from the monitor. Without any instructions being issued, they each began to prepare for the excursion.

“Any thoughts on what’s actually out there?” Dale asked Genevieve as he crammed a red thermal blanket into his duffel bag.

“We’ll find out soon enough,” she replied, finishing her check of her first aid kit. “No point wasting time or energy on conjecture anyway – we’ll almost certainly end up being wrong.”

“I bet it’s an alien spacecraft, taking refuge in the ice from the deadly rays of our massively powerful sun.”

“I’ll just consider my point proven then, shall I?”

Dale didn’t bother responding; instead he chose to conclude his packing while whistling the theme to E.T. – with a few laser gun sound effects thrown in at random intervals. Genevieve just shook her head and returned to her preparations, making sure that her curtain of hair concealed her smile.

By the time they emerged from the building, safely ensconced in enough layers to make them look like human marshmallows, Evan was already waiting for them. Sitting atop his yellow and black snowmobile, which he affectionately referred to as his Bumblebee Bullet, he was doing his best to appear calm and under control. His right foot, however, gave away his eagerness to be on the way by tapping non-stop on his machine’s Kevlar tracks.

“You got the GPS coordinates all sorted out boss?” Dale called over as he pulled his helmet out of his machine’s storage compartment and replaced it with his bag. His ride was all black, other than the red and orange flames he had painstakingly added on their second day at camp.

“I do indeed,” Evan replied before squeezing his head into his own helmet. “You kids just need to play follow the leader and we’ll be there in about an hour. What’s the forecast looking like Genie?”

“Clear skies until noon,” she said as she climbed onto her machine, a sleek, cobalt blue affair. Dale had offered to add some racing stripes to it but she had politely declined. “Winds are supposed to pick up in the early afternoon and they’ll be bringing a pretty serious looking storm with them.”

“We’ll have plenty of time then,” Evan said after glancing at his watch. “An hour there, an hour exploring the site, an hour back, and we’ll be home in time for lunch. Helmet radios on.” He slid his sunglasses on and pulled his helmet visor into place. After a quick test to make sure everyone’s microphones and speakers were working, he announced with only a slight quiver in his voice, “Alright, start up and stay close.”

The three snowmobiles roared to life in near unison, destroying the delicate silence that had surrounded the camp. Evan slowly manoeuvred his machine around to the other side of their building before carefully pointing the nose of the sled in the direction of the sensor that had picked up the oddity overnight. After a backward glance to make sure his partner and assistant were following, he cranked the throttle all the way to full and sped off into the white expanse before them.

They travelled in single file with minimal radio chatter outside of a few abominable snowman jokes from Dale. Evan led them around several crevices that were each large enough to swallow a small apartment building and up and down hills of varying sizes, from slight inclines to terrain steep enough they were forced to lean forward to stay on their rides. Only the sun watched their progress, for there was no sign of wildlife in any direction.

After just over an hour passed, Evan brought his snowmobile to a halt at the crest of a rise and the others pulled up alongside him. The pure white of the large plain below them was only marred by the large black housing of the sensor they had deployed shortly after arriving on the continent.

“This is the place?” Dale asked, looking slowly from left to right.

“No sign of ice melt or any other disturbances,” Evan said slowly, his confusion causing him to mumble slightly.

“Well, first things first,” Genie said. “Let’s make sure the equipment is functioning properly. It might just have been that damn wind again messing with –”

“I don’t want to push our luck with this storm coming in,” Evan broke in. “You take a look at the sensor Genie; Chip and I will survey the area. Chip, take the southern half and I’ll take the northern. Call in if you find anything interesting.”

The three sleds separated with Genevieve making a beeline for the equipment and the two men heading for their respective areas. As she drove she couldn’t stop herself from taking regular glances to make sure they were still in sight. She wasn’t sure why she was doing it; she certainly wasn’t afraid to be on her own out there – she’d been through that more than enough times in her life as a researcher  – and there was no apparent reason to be worried that anything would happen to either of them. But she kept an eye on them all the same.

She pulled up to the ten foot high tower and cut the engine, wanting to save fuel more by habit than due to any limitation of the supply they’d brought with them. The sound of the other two machines as they paced back and forth in the distance was the only sound to be heard. Flipping up her visor, she approached the housing unit and punched in her password. Not for the first time, she thanked Evan for choosing a model that came with an oversized keypad that allowed her to keep her gloves on.

“Equipment appears to be undamaged,” she reported in. “The object under the ice is appearing on the readout, same as... wait a second. Evan?”

“What’s up Genie?”

“How far down did you say it was when we were looking at it back at camp?”

“At least a kilometre, looked like maybe one and a half. It was hard to get a clear reading. Why?”

“Well, either the machines in the camp are receiving wonky data,” Genevieve replied slowly, “or whatever is down there is on the move.”

“You mean it’s sinking deeper?” Dale asked, his words sounding remote and interspersed with static.

“No. I mean it’s less than a kilometre down now. It’s getting closer to the surface.”

The End

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