“But what if I’m right?” Said Kay. Can you imagine if there’s an ancient civilization still living there, buried under the ice? Wouldn’t that be incredible? Wouldn’t it be amazing to meet the trains that live there?”
Kay, Duck and Alf sat at a table in the crowded café. Nearby tables hosted their fellow students from the nearby university, working diligently on their studies. Banya, the café owner, worked tirelessly, running up and down the tracks leading from behind the counter to each table, with coffees and hot chocolates to warm the students against Area V’s unforgivingly cold climate.
“Come on Kay. This is a really foolish idea.” Said Alf. “You could get hurt plus, I’m pretty sure you’ll get in big trouble if you get caught.”
“I think it’s a neat idea, Kay.” Said Duck. “I’ll help you!”
“Thanks Duck!” Said Kay. “But Alf, we could really use your help. I’ve cleared away most of the snow, but it isn’t going to be easy to dig through the ice.”
“I’d rather just focus on staying out of trouble and passing my exams.” Said Alf, picking up his book and attempting to return to his studies.
Janne, who had been listening in from a near-by table, spoke up. “Kay, as much as I admire your ambition, as a future gatekeeper, I’m going to have to advise against it. Unauthorized access to unexplored locations definitely isn’t safe.”
Alf jumped at this newest opportunity to postpone is less than engaging reading assignment and looked up from his book again. “Janne, you’re studying to be a gatekeeper!?”
“Why do you sound so surprised!?” Asked Jan, with indignation in her voice.
“I guess I assumed you were going into culinary or maybe gardening… It’s just…I would expect a gatekeeper to be someone strong…and tough. You know, like Commandant or Mikhail…”
“Hmph.” Said Jan. “I think you need a refresher on Professor Hussar’s lesson on what you make of yourself when you assume. And for your information, I am strong and tough.”
Selly put her book down and piped up from a nearby table. “I’d love for you to be the gatekeeper for my area, Jan. If I ever get to be in charge of an area, that is. I think you’d do a great job.”
“Thanks Selly.” Said Janne. “At least you and Professor Victor have faith in me.”
“I have faith in you too!” Said Kay “I think you’d make a great gatekeeper. But Jan, as a future gatekeeper, wouldn’t you want to know if there’s a lost city buried under the ice here in Area V? Wouldn’t knowledge like that be an important security matter?”
“Kay, what makes you think there’s an ancient civilization buried out there anyway? How would they survive being buried under all that ice for so long?” Asked Jan.
“Professor Lazar said that area V used to be inhabited by an advanced civilization with vastly superior technology. And, when I was out running early the other morning, in the snow field behind the university, I found a strange structure sticking up from the snow. I have a feeling it’s the top of a building from the ancient civilization professor Lazar was talking about. And, if their technology was really as advanced as he says, maybe they haven’t disappeared at all.”
“Professor Lazar!?” Said Alf. “He needs to just stick to physics, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s full of half-baked theories.”
“Come on Alf, are you with us or not?” Asked Kay. “I mean, Duck and I can probably handle the situation ourselves but… we could use a little help from someone who knows his way around ice.”
“Alright fine, I’ll come with you. But only because otherwise, you’re probably going to get yourselves killed.”
“Great! I’ll meet you outside the dorms tonight, at sunset.” Said Kay.
Kay, Duck and Alf carried flashlights and tools with them as Kay lead them towards the spot where He’d found the mysterious structure.
It looked like the top of a large grey smoke stack about 10 feet across. Kay had already cleared much of the snow from around it, revealing a floor of solid ice under the snow. The structure protruded up through the ice about three feet.
“Alright,” Said Alf. “This could be dangerous. If the ice gives way we could fall through and we don’t know how far down it goes. We have to anchor ourselves before we start digging.”
Alf used a rope to make some makeshift harnesses for each of them and anchored the rope to the ice a good distance away, then he began chipping away at the ice beside the structure. Soon, he had chipped all the way through the ice, which turned out to be about two feet thick. The moment the ice was finally pierced, a rush of air briefly blew out of the now uncovered chamber as the pressure equalized with the outside world.
Alf kept chipping at the hole next to the structure until it was big enough for someone to easily fit through.
Alf shined his flashlight down along the side of the structure. It looked like a about a four storey drop, leading to a flat, grey concrete surface, of a material similar to the smoke stack.
“Uh…guys…It looks pretty far down. And it’s completely dark down there. I’m pretty sure there isn’t any lost civilization.”
“Well, someone had to have built this thing. And, it’s night time, everyone could be sleeping. Alf, let me use your rope to rappel down and check it out. ”
“I’ll go with you Kay!” Said Duck.
“Well, it’s too dangerous for us all to go,” Said Kay “and since it was my idea to come, it isn’t fair to put you guys in any unnecessary danger.”
“Kay, are you out of your mind!? You’re not even built for climbing.”
“Well, it’s concrete, not rock or ice, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Besides, it would be safer if you guys wait up here so you can keep an eye on the rope and help pull me back up if need be. We can keep a communication line open and I’ll let you know what I find.”
Carefully, Kay began the descent down into the newly uncovered ice cavern.
Meanwhile at Stella’s base, Jan and Stella talked by the fire, surrounded by opulent curtains and velvety cushions. Janne often spent her evenings visiting Stella to listen to her stories and guidance.
“Stella,” She asked. “Do you think I’ll make a good gatekeeper?”
“Well,” Said Stella. “If that’s your goal, we can consult the stars and see what you would need to do to achieve it.”
They approached Stella’s crystal ball and sat on either side of it. Stella stared intently into it, at the image of the stars projected inside.
“Hmm.” Said Stella “That’s strange.”
“What is it?” Asked Janne.
“Remember,” Said Stella. “An individual’s fate is always intertwined with that of others. …I see that some significant figures in your life are going through a very pivotal moment…right now…” Concern began to grow in her voice. “It’s Kay…”
“Kay will be a significant figure in my life?” Janne asked with hope in her voice.
Stella remained transfixed on the crystal ball and said “His life may be about to dramatically shift course. And Duck’s as well.”
Janne’s eyes widened and she was gripped with guilt over keeping Kay’s reckless plan a secret. “Could they be in danger?” Asked Janne.
“Very likely.” Said Stella, with growing urgency. “All I know is…at this very moment, their lives are at a sort of junction, like a switch point where two rail road tracks diverge. Whatever happens next will irrevocably shape the rest of their lives.”
Janne gasped and said “I think there’s something I’d better tell you.”