Ice station ss 1, p.1

Ice Station ss-1, page 1

 part  #1 of  Shane Schofield Series


Ice Station ss-1

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Ice Station ss-1

  Ice Station

  ( Shane Schofield - 1 )

  Matthew Reilly

  *Captain Shane Schofield and his elite team of marines is about to discover . . .*

  There is no hell like a man-made one.

  It is an island that doesn’t appear on any maps. A secret location where the government conducts classified experiments. Experiments that have gone terribly wrong. . . . When all contact with the mysterious island is suddenly and inexplicably lost, Captain Shane Schofield and four crack Special Forces units parachute in. Nothing prepares them for what they find—the island is a testing ground for a deadly breed of genetically enhanced supersoldiers. You could say they’ve just entered hell, but this place is much, much worse. . . .


  Matt Reilly

  St. Martin's Paperbacks


  First published in Australia by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited.


  Copyright © 1999 by Matthew Reilly.

  All rights reserved.


  Special thanks to Natalie Freer?the most genuine and giving person I know. To Stephen Reilly, my brother and my good friend and my loyal supporter, even from thousands of miles away. To Mum for her comments on the text and to Dad for his woeful title suggestions and to both of them for their love and support. And, last, thanks to everyone at Pan and Thomas Dunne Books (in particular, my editors, Cate Paterson, Pete Wolverton, and Madonna Duffy, first, for "discovering" me and, second, for enduring all of my crazy ideas). To all of you, never underestimate the power of your encouragement.




  From: Kendrick, Jonathan

  The Cambridge Lectures: Antarctica?

  The Living Continent

  (Lecture delivered at Trinity College,

  17 March, 1995)

  Imagine, if you can, a continent that for one-quarter of the year doubles in size. A continent in a constant state of motion, motion that is undetectable to the human eye, but that is devastating nonetheless.

  Imagine if you were to look down from the heavens at this vast, snow-covered mass. You would see the signatures of motion: the sweeping waves of the glaciers, bending in curves around mountains, falling down slopes like cascading waterfalls captured on film.

  This is the 'awesome inertia' that Eugene Linden spoke of. And if we, like Linden, imagine that we are looking at that picture through time-lapse photography, taken over thousands of years, then we will see that motion.

  Thirty centimeters of movement every year doesn't look like much in real time, but in time-lapse glaciers become flowing rivers of ice, ice that moves with free-flowing grace and awesome, unstoppable power.

  Awesome? I hear you scoff. Thirty centimeters a year? What possible harm could that do?

  A lot of harm to your tax dollars, I would say. Did you know that the British government has had to replace Halley Station on four separate occasions? You see, like many other Antarctic research stations, Halley station is built underground, buried in the ice?but a mere thirty centimeters of shift every year cracks its walls and drastically skews its ceilings.

  The point here is that the walls of Halley Station are under a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure. All of that ice, moving outward from the pole, moving inexorably toward the sea, it wants to get to the sea?to see the world, you might say, as an iceberg?and it isn't going to let something as insignificant as a research station get in its way!

  But then again, comparatively speaking, Britain has come off rather well when it comes to dramatic ice movement.

  Consider when, in 1986, the Filchner Ice Shelf calved an iceberg the size of Luxembourg into the Weddell Sea. Thirteen thousand square kilometers of ice broke free of the mainland ... taking with it the abandoned Argentine base station, Belgrano I, and the Soviet summer station, Druzhnaya. The Soviets, it seems, had planned to use Druzhnaya that summer. As it turned out, they spent the next three months searching for their missing base among the three massive icebergs that had formed out of the original ice movement! And they found it. Eventually.

  The United States has been even less fortunate. All five of its 'Little America' research stations floated out to sea on icebergs in the sixties.

  Ladies and gentlemen, the message to be taken from all of this is quite simple. What appears to be barren may not really be so. What appears to be a wasteland may not really be so. What appears to be lifeless may not really be so.

  No. For when you look at Antarctica, do not be fooled. You are not looking at an ice-covered rock. You are looking at a living, breathing continent.

  From: Goldridge, William


  (New York: Wylie, 1980)


  ... What the literature is oddly silent about, however, is the strong bond Richard Nixon forged with his military advisers, most notably an Air Force Colonel named Otto Niemeyer... [p- 80]

  ... After Watergate, however, no one is quite sure what happened to Niemeyer. He was Nixon's liaison to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his insider. Having risen to the rank of full colonel by the time Nixon resigned, Niemeyer had enjoyed what few people could ever lay claim to: Richard Nixon's ear.

  What is surprising, however, is that after Nixon's resignation in 1974, not much can be found in the statute books regarding Otto Niemeyer. He remained on the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Ford and Carter, a silent player, keeping much to himself, until 1979, when abruptly, his position became vacant.

  No explanation was ever given by the Carter Administration for Niemeyer's removal. Niemeyer was unmarried; some suggested, homosexual. He lived at the military academy at Arlington, alone. He had few people who openly claimed to be his friends. He traveled frequently, often to 'destinations unknown,' and his work colleagues thought nothing of his absence from the Pentagon for a few days in December of 1979.

  The problem was, Otto Niemeyer never returned ... [p. 86]


  Wilkes Land, Antarctica 13 June

  It had been three hours now since they'd lost radio contact with the two divers.

  There had been nothing wrong with the descent, despite the fact that it was so deep. Price and Davis were the most experienced divers at the station, and they had talked casually over the intercom the whole way down.

  After pausing halfway to repressurize, they had continued down to three thousand feet, where they had left the diving bell and begun their diagonal ascent into the narrow, ice-walled cavern.

  Water temperature had been stable at 1.9° Celsius. As recently as two years previously, Antarctic diving had been restricted by the cold to extremely short-lived and, scientifically speaking, extremely unsatisfactory ten-minute excursions. However, with their new Navy-made thermal-electric suits, Antarctic divers could now expect to maintain comfortable body temperatures for at least three hours in the near-freezing waters of the continent.

  The two divers had maintained steady conversation over the radio as they made their way up the steep underwater ice tunnel, describing the cracked, rough texture of the ice, commenting on its rich, almost angelic sky blue color.

  And then, abruptly, their talking had stopped.

  They had spotted the surface.

  The two divers stared at the water's surface from below.

  It was dark, the water calm. Unnaturally calm. Not a ripple broke its glassy, even plane. In the glare of their military-spec halogen flashlights, the ice walls around them glistened like crystal. They swam upward.

  Suddenly they heard a noise.

  The two divers stopped.

  At first it was just a single haunting whistle, echoing t
hrough the clear, icy water. Whale song, they thought.

  Possibility: killers. Recently a pod of killer whales had been seen lurking about the station. A couple of them?two juvenile males?had made a habit of coming up for air inside the pool at the base of Wilkes Ice Station.

  More likely, however, it was a blue, singing for a mate, maybe five or six miles offshore. That was the problem with whale song. Water was such a great conductor, you could never tell if the whale was one mile away or ten.

  Their minds reassured, the two divers continued upward.

  It was then that the first whistle was answered.

  All at once, about a dozen similar whistles began to coo across the dense aquatic plane, engulfing the two divers. They were louder than the first whistle.


  The two divers spun about in every direction, hovering in the clear blue water, searching for the source of the noise. One of them unslung his harpoon gun and cocked the hammer, and suddenly the high-pitched whistles turned into pained wails and barks.

  And then suddenly there came a loud whump! and both divers snapped upward just in time to see the glassy surface of the water break into a thousand ripples as something large plunged into the water from above.

  The enormous diving bell broke the surface with a loud splash.

  Benjamin K. Austin strode purposefully around the water's edge barking orders, a black insulated wet suit stretched tight across his broad barrel chest. Austin was a marine biologist from Stanford. He was also the chief of station of Wilkes Ice Station.

  "All right! Hold it there!" Austin called to the young technician manning the winch controls on C-deck. "OK, ladies and gentlemen, no time to waste. Get inside."

  One after the other, the six wet-suited figures gathered around the edge of the pool dived into the icy water. They rose a few seconds later inside the big dome-shaped diving bell that now sat half-submerged in the center of the pool.

  Austin was standing at the edge of the large, round pool that formed the base of Wilkes Ice Station. Five stories deep, Wilkes was a remote coastal research station, a giant underground cylinder that had literally been carved into the ice shelf. A series of narrow catwalks and ladders hugged the circumference of the vertical cylinder, creating a wide circular shaft in the middle of the station. Doorways led off each of the catwalks?into the ice?creating the five different levels of the station. Like many others before them, the residents of Wilkes had long since discovered that the best way to endure the harsh polar weather was to live under it.

  Austin shouldered into his scuba gear, running through the equation in his head for the hundredth time.

  Three hours since the divers' radio link had cut out. Before that, one hour of hands-free diving up the ice tunnel. And one hour's descent in the diving bell....

  In the diving bell, they would have been breathing "free" air?the diving bell's own supply of heliox?so that didn't count. It was only when they left the diving bell and started using tank air that the clock began to run.

  Four hours, then.

  The two divers had been living off tank air for four hours.

  The problem was their tanks contained only three hours' worth of breathing time.

  And for Austin that had meant a delicate balancing act.

  The last words he and the others had heard from the two divers?before their radio signal had abruptly cut to static? had been some anxious chatter about strange whistling noises.

  On the one hand, the whistling could have been anything: blues, minkes, or any other kind of harmless baleen whale. And the radio cutout could easily have been the result of interference caused by nearly half a kilometer of ice and water. For all Austin knew, the two divers had turned around immediately and begun the hour-long trip back to the diving bell. To pull it up prematurely would be to leave them stranded on the bottom, out of time and out of air.

  On the other hand, if the divers actually had met with trouble?killers, leopard seals?then naturally Austin would have wanted to yank up the diving bell as quickly as possible and send others down to help.

  In the end, he decided that any help he could send?after hauling up the diving bell and sending it back down again? would be too late anyway. If Price and Davis were going to survive, the best bet was to leave the diving bell down there.

  That was three hours ago?and that was as much time as Austin had been willing to give them. And so he'd pulled up the diving bell; and now a second team was preparing to go down?


  Austin turned. Sarah Hensleigh, one of the paleontologists, came up alongside him.

  Austin liked Hensleigh. She was intelligent while at the same time practical and tough, not afraid to get her hands dirty. It came as no surprise to him that she was also a mother. Her twelve-year-old daughter, Kirsty, had been visiting the station for the past week.

  "What is it?" Austin said.

  "The topside antenna's taking a beating. The signal isn't getting through," Hensleigh said. "It also looks like there's a solar flare coming in."

  "Oh, shit...."

  "For what it's worth, I've got Abby scanning all the military frequencies, but I wouldn't get your hopes up."

  "What about outside?"

  "Pretty bad. We've got eighty-footers breaking on the cliffs and a hundred-knot wind on the surface. If we have casualties, we won't be getting them out of here by ourselves."

  Austin turned to stare at the diving bell. "And Renshaw?"

  "He's still shut up in his room." Hensleigh looked up nervously toward B-deck.

  Austin said, "We can't wait any longer. We have to go down."

  Hensleigh just watched him.

  "Ben?," she began.

  "Don't even think about it, Sarah." Austin began walking away from her, toward the water's edge. "I need you up here. So does your kid. You just get that signal out. We'll get the others."

  "Coming to three thousand feet," Austin's voice crackled out from the wall-mounted speakers.

  Sarah Hensleigh was sitting inside the darkened radio room of Wilkes Ice Station. "Roger that, Mawson," she said into the microphone in front of her.

  "There doesn't appear to be any activity outside, Control. The coast is clear. All right, ladies and gentlemen, we 're stopping the winch. Preparing to leave the diving bell."

  One kilometer below sea level, the diving bell jolted to a halt.

  Inside, Austin keyed the intercom. "Control, confirm time at 2132 hours, please."

  The seven divers sitting inside the cramped confines of the Douglas Mawson looked tensely at one another.

  Hensleigh's voice came over the speaker. "I copy, Mawson. Time confirmed at 2132 hours."

  "Control, mark that we are turning over to self-contained air supply at 2132 hours."


  The seven divers reached up for their heavy face masks, brought them down off their hooks, clamped them to the circular buckles on the collarbones of their suits.

  "Control, we are now leaving the diving bell."

  Austin stepped forward, pausing for a moment to look at the black pool of water lapping against the rim of the diving bell. Then he stepped off the deck and splashed into the darkness.

  "Divers. Time is now 2220 hours; dive time is forty-eight minutes. Report," Hensleigh said into her mike.

  Inside the radio room behind Sarah sat Abby Sinclair, the station's resident meteorologist. For the past two hours Abby had been manning the satellite radio console, trying without success to raise an outside frequency.

  The intercom crackled. Austin's voice answered, "Control, we are still proceeding up the ice tunnel. Nothing so far."

  "Roger, divers," Hensleigh said. "Keep us informed."

  Behind her, Abby keyed her talk button again. "Calling all frequencies, this is station four-zero-niner?I repeat, this is station four-zero-niner?requesting immediate assistance. We have two casualties, possibly fatalities, on hand and we are in need of immediate support. Please acknowledge." Abby released the button
and said to herself, "Somebody, anybody."

  The ice tunnel was starting to widen.

  As Austin and the other divers slowly made their way upward, they began to notice several strange holes set into the walls on either side of the underwater tunnel.

  Each hole was perfectly round, at least ten feet in diameter. And they were all set on an incline so that they descended into the ice tunnel. One of the divers aimed his flashlight up into one of the holes, revealing only impenetrable inky darkness.

  Suddenly Austin's voice cut across their intercoms. "OK, people, stay tight. I think I see the surface."

  Inside the radio room, Sarah Hensleigh leaned forward in her chair, listening to Austin's voice over the intercom.

  "The surface appears calm. No sign of Price or Davis." Hensleigh and Abby exchanged a glance. Hensleigh keyed her intercom. "Divers. This is Control. What about the noises they mentioned? Do you hear anything? Any whale song?"

  "Nothing yet, Control. Hold on now: I'm coming to the surface."

  Austin's helmet broke the glassy surface.

  Icy water drained off his faceplate. Austin lifted his Princeton-Tec dive light above the water's surface. The exposed halogen bulb cast a wide flood pattern over the area around him, illuminating it to its farthest corners.

  Slowly, Austin began to see where he was. He was hovering in the middle of a wide pool, which was itself situated at one end of a gigantic subterranean cavern.

  He turned in a complete circle, observing, one after another, the sheer vertical walls that lined every side of the cavern.

  And then he saw the final wall.

  His mouth fell open.

  "Control, you're not going to believe this." Austin's stunned voice broke over the intercom.

  "What is it, Ben?" Hensleigh said into her mike.

  "I'm looking at a cavern of some sort. Walls are sheer-sided ice, probably the result of some kind of seismic activity. Area of the cavern is unknown, but it looks like it extends several hundred feet into the ice."

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