Author's note: I know this chapter isn't my best writing, it is my first one. But it is still a good story and my writing improves as the story goes on. I may rewrite the chapter when I have more time.
All around, all that could be seen was a vast white expanse that met the horizon. Above the horizon, all that was seen was a vast, empty, clear, blue sky, only interrupted by a few wisps of cirrus. The sun shone bright in the sky, it did not set, nor will it for a couple of months.
Despite the abundant sunshine, it was cold here, very cold, so cold that life couldn’t possibly survive. Yet, in the middle of the infinite whiteness, a group of figures stood. The figures wore thick fur coats, boots, and goggles to protect them from the cold air and the wind that blew through the frozen landscape unaffected by mountains or trees, for there were none, just a flat, icy, desert.
A red figure stroked his dreadlocks as he stared off into the great white yonder, admiring it’s frozen beauty. In the middle of thought, he heard a voice from behind, “Knuckles,” it said “Are you staring off into space again? We have a job to do here!” Knuckles, startled, turned around to see that the voice belonged to a large green crocodile, “Sorry, Vector” Knuckles said “I was just deep in thought.” “Well, the boss isn’t going to take any excuses” Vector said with a serious voice, “USGS and NOAA want these ice core samples by this weekend.” “Alright” Knuckles said with a sigh.
Knuckles and Vector were part of a climate research expedition in Antarctica lead by scientist Jack Hall. Jack Hall is a human scientist who has devoted his life to studying weather and climate, he has lead several expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, including the one Knuckles is currently a part of. Vector signed up for the expedition because he heard it was well-paid, his interest in locating objects and his strength got him accepted. Knuckles’ ego is what brought him in, the echidna wanted to show off to his friends that he can handle it, his strength and climbing skills are what got him accepted. During his time in training and on the expedition, he made great friends with Jack and learned a lot about the weather and climate from him.
The team was composed of five members, Jack, Vector, Knuckles, and human scientists Frank, and Jason. Their job was to collect ice core samples for USGS and NOAA. These agencies would study them to learn more about the past climate.
They were stationed on the Larsen B ice shelf and all had to live in a small hut the size of two classrooms. It was cramped, but comfortable. Some nights they hardly got much sleep because Vector had his music cranked up all night. Their equipment was state-of-the-art. Millions of dollars worth of drills, vehicles, and storage containers were at their disposal.
Knuckles went into the metal hut to grab his ice drill; he walked through the double entrance that looks like an airlock. The double door design was created to trap the heat inside the hut. On his way to the supplies room, he noticed something strange in the weather center. He walked into the little room filled with instruments that measure temperature, humidity, wind, and pressure, as well as other things. But the instrument that had his attention was not any of the atmospheric instruments; instead, it was the seismometer, and it was showing tremors of 2.5 and 2.8. Knuckles knew that the seismometer showing this much activity could only mean one thing.
Knuckles ran down the hall and barged into Jack’s office, a surprised Jack sat at his desk behind his laptop. “Knuckles,” said Jack “you didn’t knock. You always knock on my door when I am working.” “Sorry, Jack” Knuckles replied, “but this is a serious emergency!” Jack looked confused, “Emergency?” he asked, “What is happening?” “Come on” Knuckles replied, “I will show you.”
The human got up and nervously followed the echidna down the hallway to the weather center. Knuckles showed him the seismometer, “It’s absolutely going nuts, Jack.” Jack looked at the readings, and indeed, it was picking up unusual activity. “The ice shelf is unstable and is going to collapse” Knuckles concluded.
Deep under the surface, the ice was being melted from bottom up. As it heated, it expanded, and then melted; causing the ice to crack, the water from the melting ice further accelerated the process. The ice split at weak points, which set off the tremors that the seismometer picked up. To make matters worse, the team was based on top of a system of cracks within the ice.
This location was chosen for the ice being softer on this crack system making it easier to drill. The weak zone was like a geographical fault line that stretched from one end of the ice shelf to the other. Suddenly, a major “fault” within the ice split, causing the rest to go in its wake. The shockwaves from the split reached the surface, but this time they would be bigger.
“Where is Knuckles?” Vector asked with an annoyed tone, “He should be back out here by now!” The ice rumbled and shook for a brief moment, “What the hell was that?” asked Jason, the ice shook again. “It’s just an ice tremor,” Frank replied, “don’t worry about it” Vector, however, grew increasingly worried as the tremors continued.
Just then, Knuckles came running out of the hut. “Everyone listen,” he yelled, “The ice shelf is unstable and is going to collapse. Me and Jack radioed Vostok to send a plane to evacuate us.” “Where’s Jack?” asked Vector. “He is getting his gear on,” Knuckles replied, “he will be out shortly, just pack up the samples and lets go!”
Minutes passed and the ice core samples were packed up and ready to go. Jack was in his office packing what he could. He packed his laptop, his papers, and a photograph of his son, Sam, which he kept on his desk. He heard a buzz come from over the horizon, Must be the plane, Jack looked out his office window only to have his theory confirmed by a red shape coming in.
The plane landed just 100 yards away from the hut. Jack took one last look at the office and started down the hall. Just then, the ice shook again, but this time violently, Jack was only halfway down the hall when he was knocked over and the contents of the box spilled out on the floor.
Outside, expensive equipment fell over as the shaking continued. Vector looked beneath his feet, and he saw a crack appear in the ice, the crack grew, and was racing straight for the hut. “Come on lets go!” Vector yelled, “Don’t worry about any of the equipment or your stuff, just grab the samples and get on the plane!”
Knuckles looked back at the hut “Jack!”, Knuckles raced for the hut as fast as he could. “No Knuckles,” Vector cried, “it’s too dangerous!” Knuckles ignored Vector’s warning and continued for the hut.
Inside, Jack watched as a crack appeared on the floor before him, he raced to pick up what he could of the box. Objects fell all around him, a shelf fell over and barley missed him. Then suddenly, the shaking stopped, all was quiet for an eerie few seconds. Then a chasm opened up from the crack in the floor, dividing the hut in half, Jack was trapped. He stared down into the blackness of the abyss as scraps of wood, metal, and chunks of ice dropped in.
Knuckles entered the hut to find his friend on the other side of the abyss, “Grab my hand” he said, but it was too late for that. Larger ice chunks were now spilling into the growing chasm, including the one that supported Jack’s half of the hut.
Jack’s half tipped in to the chasm, luckily it got wedged at an angle of 45 degrees. The small building’s contents began to slide into the abyss. Jack grabbed on to a rail as he watched his files, laptop, and most of his belongings, fall into the dark chasm. Instinctively, he saved Sam’s picture from dropping into the darkness.
The chasm was no longer small enough to keep Jack’s side of the hut wedged in, and it gave way. Jack fell into the abyss with the hut just below him. Without hesitation, Knuckles immediately glided down into the abyss and grabbed Jack. Knuckles aimed for the chasm wall and drove his sharp knuckles into it. Jack climbed onto Knuckles’ back and was holding on with all limbs except his left arm, in which he grasped Sam’s photo.
They looked down into the chasm, at this point it was wide enough to allow sunlight to reach all the way down. The darkness slowly faded revealing the cold, deep, dark, churning waters that made up the bottom of the abyss. Knuckles used his fists and cleat boots to climb to the top. Knuckles threw Jack over then soon pulled himself up onto the ice. The two got up and ran for 50 yards, they briefly looked back to see the second half of the hut and all the vehicles and equipment disappear into the chasm.
Jack put Sam’s photograph in his coat pocket and walked with Knuckles toward the plane. They looked back at the chasm where their site once stood. Everyone was silent in shock, Jack and Knuckles seated and strapped themselves in, the pilot gave the announcement of takeoff and the plane sped down the icy landscape and took off into the air, up there the passengers could see the extent of the event.
The chasm had now grown to a narrow strip of blue water that extended from horizon to horizon. “D..d..did you save the ice core samples?” Jack asked nervously. “Yes Jack” Jason answered. “Mission successful, it was a great expedition guys” said Jack, trying to sound optimistic after his close encounter with death.
Jack turned to Knuckles, who was sitting next to him. “Knuckles,” he said, “I was going to talk to you about this earlier, but then the ice cracked” Jack took a deep breath, he then continued, “Vector has been telling me that you have been staring off into the landscape a lot recently, what’s wrong?” Knuckles took a moment, but he replied “I was just wondering what would happen if the world froze over.” Jack sat silently, processing this thought as the plane flew further into the blue yonder. Vector suddenly spoke up, “So,” he said, “When do I get paid?”