They began at the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility. Peter had programmed a search pattern, but they were not really sure what they were looking for. Would it be something hidden under the ice? Something open to the sky (as Homer suspected, and was right)? A cave, lit by internal fires, heated by the heart of the Earth itself?
Terminus is all of these things.
They were moving slowly across the glacial ice, climbing the sastrugi, building bridges over crevasses so deep they could not detect the bottom. The ice was three thousand meters thick up here. Three kilometers, over nine thousand feet of ice, layer after layer, millions of years, built slowly a few centimeters a year. The ice offered a complete record of Earth's history. It contained atmospheric pollutants from the 20th century, volcanic debris from the eruption of Krakatoa, particle recordings of the sun's activity and the early debris left over from the solar system's formation.
It was like a gigantic data crystal packed with information, a Leyden Jar the size of a continent!
Peter knew this. He would speak of such things in hushed tones.
They crossed a particularly wild, dry part of the great desert, where the waves were eight feet high and marched beyond the horizon in endless regularity and nothing broke the surface but an occasional outcropping, the nunatak peak of some under-ice mountain.
Near one of these Larin slipped.
It would have been a minor episode under ordinary circumstances. They were roped together, after all; but there shouldn't have been such a large crevasse just on the other side of the sastrugi.
Larin was in the lead, so when she slipped, she shouted half in alarm and half in the pleasure they sometimes felt when they got to toboggan along on their stomachs like penguins before the rope pulled them up short. She flew wildly down the far side of the sastrugi and over the smooth lip of the crevasse before she knew it. When she found herself dangling over an open space far deeper and wider than she had ever seen, her shout stopped suddenly. She dangled, turning slowly at the end of her line.
Keywords: ice, sastrugi, slowly, would, before, half, side, crevasse, slipped, larin, such, knew, like, debris, layer, feet, thousand, things, earth, open, something, peter
All text © 1986 Rob Swiggart. "Portal : A Dataspace Retrieval" is available courtesy of the Author's Guild Backprint Programme. ISBN: 0595197841All programming and software © 2002 Salim Fadhley. Released under the GPL. Code available on request.
Updated: Sun Apr 14 2002
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