Cold Digs: Chapter Two

If you missed Chapter One, or want to review it,
You shake your head to clear it. A metric ton of emotions (fear chief among them) run across your mind. You take a deep breath watching it turn to fog as you exhale. Calming your nerves, you respond with what you know is the right decision. You know it’s the right decision, because it’s not the one you want to make at all.
“We have no way to get up to that hatch.” You jut your chin upward, trying to tell yourself that the banging up there hasn’t gotten less emphatic. “And frankly, I’m not optimistic that we could find another way out. There’s no guarantee there’s another door out of this room, and if there is, going through it could just get us locked behind something else the team would need to pry us out of.” You shake your head. “No, I don’t think the two of could get out of here, so what we need to do is examine our surroundings. This could be the biggest discovery in the history of mankind, but we have to be careful. The more we mess around with this place, the more likely we could contaminate the data.”
“So look, but don’t touch.” She stares ruefully at her injured wrist. Not touching something doesn’t seem like it will be a problem.
“Or at least, don’t touch much. Remember, King Tut’s tomb was important precisely because it wasn’t disturbed for so long.”
“I’m a paleontologist, not an archaeologist.”
You shrug. “Hopefully the skills transfer. Besides, we don’t know for certain this wasn’t made by really smart dinosaurs. Let’s start with a cursory examination.”
You begin on the closest wall. Some of the frozen soil on which you stood struck this wall on it’s way down. There’s less dust than might have been if the soil wasn’t mostly frozen, but enough of it struck the wall to leave a mess.
“So, first observation, the walls are not perpendicular to the ground, though they do appear to be square with each other. This room, or whatever, looks roughly like a cube, except that curved wall on the far side.”
Kim nods. “So not being square with the ground is what? A strange architectural choice?”
“Maybe. Can’t rule it out.”
“Or everything could have been level at one point and it was swallowed into a sink hole.”
You nod. Now she’s getting into the spirit of things. “Or, something in the sky crashed into the earth and buried itself in here.”
Kim squeezes her injured wrist to her chest and turns to face you. “Are we both trying not to say this is an alien spaceship?”
“It’s not the bottom of my list of possibilities, but the origin is unknown. I can’t prove it’s not extra-terrestrial, but I also can’t prove this isn’t an antechamber to the lost city of Atlantis. Or maybe someone with a lot of money tried to build a nuclear bunker and just did a great job of hiding the fact that they did it in Antarctica.”
“We didn’t see any evidence the ground had been disturbed in the last century or two,” Kim points out.
“True, but we assumed it couldn’t have been, so we might have been discounting any such evidence we did notice.”
She rolls her eyes at you, then goes back to looking at the wall. “This surface is different than the rest of the walls. I’m not sure what . . .” She stops abruptly. “What do those look like to you?”
You follow where she’s pointing with her good hand. “Those are a couple of dirt spots on the wall.”
“Yes, but what do they LOOK like?” She looks in your direction, telling you with a glance not to insist on empirical data. “If you saw these in a Rorschach test, what would you say they were?”
“Muddy footprints which have dried out a long time ago.” You could argue against the likelihood of it, but you’re walking a fine line between not jumping to conclusions and being willfully obtuse.
“So perhaps what’s now the wall was meant to be the floor?” She gestures to the top. “If that’s the case, it appears there is a passageway turning off to the left if we wanted to climb up there and take a look. The hallway, or whatever, would lead down to where we’re standing, and there’s about a ton of frozen soil between us and wherever that would lead. Maybe a door? Maybe a dead end? No way to know.” She shrugs. “Or perhaps it’s not the floor and I’m just wrong about that.”
“I can buy the floor idea. That makes the hatch we came through part of the wall, and it explains the curve on that wall on the opposite side. If that was originally a ceiling, no need to make it flat.” You turn slowly in place.
“There are more lights over there near what’s now the ground. Maybe that’s another hatch which was meant to be on the far wall?”
Kim frowns as she looks at the light. “It’s amazing to me that any light source still has power under any circumstances. Even a nuclear power source would have run through its half life if this is dated to anywhere near what the surrounding materials would seem to indicate.” She takes a step forward to look more closely, then stops, cocking her head to the side. “Do you hear that?”
You swallow past the dryness suddenly in your mouth. “Yes. It could just be some weird acoustics making the banging from the hatch sound like it’s coming from somewhere else.”
You can tell Kim is getting a little frustrated with you. “Okay, fine. Sure, that’s what it could be. Does it sound like that’s the case?”
You shake your head.
“What would you say it sounds like if you had to guess?” She focuses on you with a grim set to her face. “And you do have to guess, because I’m going to punch you in the throat if you try playing devil’s advocate here.”
You nod to indicate the point is taken. “If I had to guess, I’d say it sounds like there is some knocking and banging that’s coming from somewhere else, somewhere other than from the hatch above us. And I would further say …”
Kim waits for a full ten seconds before helping out. “You would further say what? That the rhythm of that banging sounds way too much like ‘Shave and a Haircut’ to be, I don’t know, anything other than that?”
You dearly wish you could say she doesn’t have this pegged on the nose. The problem is, in this hollow environment, there are so many echoes you’re not sure where that sound could be coming from.
What do you choose?
With Choose Your Own Geekery, you don’t just get to make a choice, you get to offer a choice for others. You have from now until November 10th to make a suggestion for what our intrepid Paleontologist should be doing. I’ll be filling the TBDs in with an actual suggestion on the 14th. You can make your suggestions here or on our Facebook Page.
You may vote now, or wait until all options are in. Please do not vote for TBD, but wait until they are filled in. All votes must be in by November 24th.
The new chapter will be up by November 30th.

Cold Digs – Chapter One

“Do you know what I love about working in Antarctica?”
“Absolutely nothing?”
“Absolutely nothing.”
You roll your eyes at Kimberly. “No one forced you to come here.”
She shakes her head. “May as well have. The whole field of Paleontology got so swamped with researchers, all the good excavation sites were taken.”
She has a point. Certainly at one point, Antarctica was part of Pangea, and there had to have been life on the continent at one point. It’s just that in the extreme cold, digging for dino bones is miserable and largely fruitless. The ground is frozen solid, meaning the digging goes slowly. The cold means you can’t be out digging for very long, meaning the digging goes even more slowly. Also, almost everyone on your team wants to go home, so the digging is, for all intents and purposes, not really happening.
You finally managed to erect a tent over the dig site. On the plus side, this means you can introduce a certain amount of heat into the area. In the minus column, you’re working in extremely cramped conditions for paleontology. Usually, the bigger the space you can dig, the better your odds of finding something. Looking in the space where just one tent is set up is almost entirely certain to be a failure.
Almost certain. And so you dig.
Digging through frozen soil has all the charm and entertainment value you’d expect, which is to say none. The dirt quickly turns to mud, which refreezes almost immediately onto your clothing. Progress has been slow, not only because of the climate, but because of morale. The work is so frustrating, as the lead at this dig, you constantly have to send the work teams out so they can go and enjoy the spectacular, unblemished surroundings and get their heads back together.
You stopped calling this “taking a few minutes to cool down” after week one for obvious reasons.
The mornings are the best. It’ll be a few hours before you need to remind everyone not to dig so hard they risk damaging any of the fossils which might potentially be under your feet. Though to be honest, your hopes are simply not very high. After a picturesque walk from the base camp to the dig site, you and Kimberly pick up your tools and begin your work. The labor is Sisyphean, and you know the best way to get through it is to keep your head down and try not to notice how much every single piece of rock and debris hidden in this bitterly cold mud looks exactly the same with no variations whatsoever . . .
Except that bit.
No, that bit looks quite entirely different. It nearly glows in comparison to its drab surroundings. Hematite possibly? Though normally you need to polish hematite to get that much of a shine, and besides if that indentation in the ground is an indication . . . it’s huge.
“Kim!” No one has needed to shout in the confines of the tents for so long that your voice breaks with the effort. All eyes are on you, and not only Kimberly, but the entire team is suddenly around you. Everyone’s been doing the same thing as you have for so long that there can be no doubt as to why you called them over.
There is a fury of very precise and careful work. You’re all trained at such digs, and it’s vitally important that you work as hard as possible to prevent damage to whatever it is you just found. After what seems like an impossibly short time, however, the surface of your find has been cleared out. You all stare at what you’ve uncovered, trying to find some way to explain how this could be what there can be no doubt that it is.
Kim is the first one to say it out loud. “It’s metal.” She swallows. “It’s forged metal.”
“It can’t be,” Sanderson replies. No one bothers to correct him or point out that it obviously is and couldn’t be anything else. Sanderson didn’t seem to believe himself when he said it, but all of you were thinking it.
It can’t be.
It simply can’t possibly, through any means, under any circumstances, be.
But quite clearly it is.
No human civilization ever existed on Antarctica. The continent was always too inhospitable, and besides what little information you’ve gathered from the surrounding fossil remains is that whatever you’re finding dates to more than a few million years before the dawn of mankind.
So clearly somebody at some point in history carried a huge piece of metal (unlikely) far into the vast frozen lands of Antarctica (yeah, right) and for some obscure reason (speculation at best) they underwent the Herculean task of burying the thing in the frozen soil (inconceivable) without leaving any trace of having done so (dubious at best).
“All right, so clearly this is weird.” Heads nod all around you as you find your voice. “We still haven’t uncovered the whole thing from what I can see. What we need to do is . . . What’s that sound?”
That sound is a rumble. You suddenly realize that you’re not so much hearing it as feeling it. You’re feeling it coming up through the ground below you. You stare down at your feet mouth agape, once again telling yourself that what you’re experiencing really shouldn’t be possible. This must be some sort of earthquake. Sure it feels like machinery activating beneath your feet, but certainly something so long buried couldn’t possibly function even if it were . . .
Things become considerably more academic very quickly. The rumbling ends with a sudden click that you tell yourself could not possibly be the final stages of an automatic door unlocking. As you start to fall —  you, Kim, and about half a ton of earth which apparently were standing on top of this hatch which now opens beneath you — you reassess your position. Whether it can be or not doesn’t matter. It is, and you’ve got to deal with it.
Assuming you survive this fall, of course.
You awaken. Simultaneously, you realize that awakening indicates you must have lost consciousness, at least for a moment. Slowly, you sit up, taking inventory of your body parts. Your head feels a bit tender.
Obviously, you struck it on the way down. In other words, you were probably limp when you hit the ground, which is why, aside from some wicked bruises on your left side, you appear to be uninjured.
There is no answer, which makes her safety your first priority. You struggle to your feet, pleased that you experience no dizzy spells. A concussion would make this even harder.
Again, she does not answer. You scan the soil-strewn floor of … wherever this is, until you see her. You rush for her prone form, and you breathe a sigh of relief when she moans and turns over.
“You okay?”
“Think I broke my wrist.” She cradles it in her other hand. “What did we fall, about fifteen feet?”
You look up to judge the distance, and your mind freezes. What had struck you as light coming down from the opening at the top of the hole is, in fact light coming from what you can only call the ceiling. The light is a square pattern surrounding the hatch which you fell through.
The hatch which is now sealed shut.
You can hear, sort of, your crew on the other side of the hatch pounding to get in. You shout up to them, but it’s obvious that the sound is not getting through to them. Nothing is really getting through to them.
Which means you’re trapped here.
“What do we do now?” asks Kim.
What do you choose?
15 votes · 15 answers
With Choose Your Own Geekery, you don’t just get to make a choice, you get to offer a choice for others. You have from now until October 13 to make a suggestion for what our intrepid Paleontologist should be doing. I’ll be filling the TBDs in with an actual suggestion on the 14th. You can make your suggestions here or on our Facebook Page.
You may vote now, or wait until all options are in. Please do not vote for TBD, but wait until they are filled in. All votes must be in by October 21.
The new chapter will be up by October 30th.

Coming October 16, 2018 from Cleanreads —


If you loved the first book, read the second. If you haven’t read the first book, read it before 10.16.18 so you’ll know what you missed.


I thank you all for your patience. Choose Your Own Geekery is back with a new format.

Below are four possible beginnings to a story. Click on the link to view chapter one of each story. Then use the poll at the bottom to pick the one you want to hear more about.

And the sharp-eyed among you will notice there are five possible options on the poll.

If you aren’t in love with any of these options, tell me what you want. You can use the comments section on this page or you can post on our Facebook page. Give me an idea for a story to tell.

I’ll choose one suggestion if any appear and add them to the poll. Place your suggestions by August 30th.

Cold Digs — A Paleontological dig in the least hospitable place on earth. Don’t expect things to get better when you actually find something.

Pepperoni and Cheese Detective Agency (Volume 2) — Everyone’s favorite teen detectives are back. Our last story was told from Parker’s point of view. This one will be from Ash’s.  (And if you missed out on Volume 1, you can read the whole story HERE.)

Division of Dragon’s Loot — Every adventurer dreams of the untold riches of a dragon’s hoard. Well, you’ve got first choice of the treasures, but you’re surrounded by somewhat less than savory fellows. Slaying the dragon might have been the easy part.

Rock-Em Sock-Em Romance — They said it couldn’t be done. In a world where giant robots battle for entertainment, what possible room could there be for a love story? Well, it can indeed be done. Should it? That’s for you to decide.

Which story would you like to tell with us?
20 votes · 20 answers


Votes will close on September 22nd. The new story (with new options to progress) will appear on September 30th. If you need a reminder, events will be available on Facebook.

Let’s do this . . .

Art Heist Agony: Chapter Two

If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here.

You slowly made your way out of the chair on which you sat, moving as silently as possible. You waited long enough that your shadow crossing the light spilling out into the hallway is unlikely to attract their attention, and you followed the burglar.

You were reasonably certain you were following a woman based on her build and small stature. She went to an office door that looked like all the other doors as far as you could see. Then she pulled a crowbar out of her jacket. This was your second surprise of the night. The lock on that door, if it were indeed locked, could have been picked with a credit card or a stickpin by anyone who’d taken ten minutes online to watch a video showing them how to do so. Instead, the woman seemed to have gone out of her way to make this break-in obvious. You watched her struggle for five minutes making way too much noise before the cheap wood of the door gave way.

The next few minutes made you question your decision to not interfere quite yet. The woman seemed far more intent on vandalism than on theft. She scattered papers about the room, knocked books off shelves, poured several bottled waters onto the office computer, and generally made all sorts of mayhem.

The last thing she did, however, was obviously calculated. She opened the bottom drawer of a particular filing cabinet, stuffed all of the files into a satchel, and high-tailed it out of the room. You had just enough time to duck back out of her way as she walked briskly to the nearest exit.

Thankfully, your car was in the same lot. You gave her enough time to get out without seeing your headlights come on, but managed to catch up to her before she disappeared into the midst of the city. (Memorizing the plate number helped as well.)

So you were close enough to her to see her double park her car, jump out of it, pull one file out of the satchel and throw the rest of them, bag and all, into a nearby dumpster.

——— Wait, so what do I do now?

You will notice two TBD slots on the poll. These are meant to be filled out by YOU.

If you have a suggestion for another option for Agent Kelso to have taken, please comment on this site, or send it to our Facebook page. (Like us while there if you don’t already, please and thank you.) Get your suggestions in by Tuesday because I’ll be updating the poll on Wednesday with your suggestions.

A little side note here: We all know that eventually this story winds up with Agent Kelso having a stack of paintings behind a pile of dirty laundry. What we don’t know is how it got there! I encourage you all to find creative ways to mess with me. The challenge here is write me into a corner, presenting a situation where Agent Kelso cannot possibly wind up where he or she is supposed to. Then you choosy geeks get to watch me squirm and find a way to make the impossible happen.

So be ruthless! (In the nicest possible way.)

You may vote now (though I ask that you not vote for a TBD until it no longer says TBD). If you’d prefer to wait until all the options are up on the poll, feel free, but get your votes in before next Sunday when a winner will be chosen, and a new Chapter will be posted.

So make your choice.