We said nothing during the flight. Matt knew I’d been crying. He also knew I was furious, and that had most likely been the determining factor in why he kept his mouth shut. Once again I was grateful for it. We both had our own issues to deal with, and neither of us felt like talking about them.
I wanted to hate Matt at first. But during my walk to the ship I realized he couldn’t have been involved with Noah. He was just a little older than me and joined a year ago. So while my hate for GASPR grew, I appreciated having Matt with me. It reassured me to know I had someone I could trust in all of this.
“We’re entering Chelyabinsk Oblast’s airspace,” Matt said. I glanced out the window and saw evergreen mountains rising up into the air, their peaks capped with snow. It looked like spring was just beginning here.
“How long until we reach Chebarkul,” I asked.
“Weather permitting, about another two hours. And that doesn’t include how Russia’s military will handle our arrival.”
That was a problem. Although global cooperation was at an all time high, landing on any military base unexpectedly wasn’t advisable. We could only hope that GASPR’s reputation could help us out.
An hour later we entered Chebarkul’s military airspace, and a warning broadcasted through our radio. Neither of us spoke Russian, but thankfully a built in translator eased the communication. Matt explained we needed permission for an emergency landing, but nothing worked so Matt turned the plane into a wide arc to appear unthreatening. After a few minutes of going back and forth, the commander of the air traffic control came onto the radio and Matt explained the situation again. Another five minutes passed and the commander granted us permission to land. Great, but we’d also tacked on nearly another hour worth of time wasted.
By the time we landed, we only had five hours until Halley reached its peak. The sun was already setting, and we still had another hour drive before we reached the inner circle of the energy field. Despite the strength of the pull inside me, I still didn’t feel like stumbling around a frozen wilderness at night. We needed to hurry.
But politics seemed like it wanted to stop us at every step, and we wasted another two hours waiting, talking, explaining, waiting, more talking, until finally I snapped and the room disappeared when I forced the walls to collapse under their own weight.
Accidental—sure, but it got my point across. The soldier turned nervous, the commander paled, and we were quickly escorted out of the base and to Lake Chebarkul.
By the time we reached the island night had fallen, another hour had passed, and despite being touchy—I could feel the pull of the artifact stronger than ever. My heart sped up as I stepped out of the jeep, and my entire body tingled like it was touching a battery. Automatic steps drew my feet to the edge of the lake.
Wait, it was in the lake?!
The ground beneath me started quaking as I glared out across the frozen water. I heard one of the soldiers mutter something to Matt, but I paid no attention to it. I focused more on not bursting a blood vessel.
“The captain says the entire lake is still frozen,” Matt said coming up to me. “Since it’s so early in spring, we can still walk out across it.”
I blinked—my frustration quickly washing away and replacing with excitement. Nodding, I allowed the pull to draw me out on top of the water. It wasn’t so bad if you didn’t think about falling through and drowning in a black, icy, abyss.
Nope. Just follow the mysterious energy Nora.
The soldiers opted to stay on shore, so Matt and I made the walk ourselves. The sky was clear, the temperature near zero, and our breaths plumed before us. Multiple times I found my eyes drawn up as we walked, and I became lost in the galaxy as my feet carried me on their own. I could see the comet too—nearly halfway across the sky and moving fast. We were running out of time.
My feet came to a stop, and before us a buoy sat in the ice. Attached to the buoy a metal plaque displayed a Russian inscription. Matt took a picture on his phone, and a second later the writing translated.
“Here marks the spot where the largest remnant of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor was recovered. On February 15th, 2013 the meteorite struck the frozen lake at an estimated speed of 225m/sec. When the fragment was finally recovered from the bottom of the lake on October 16th 2013, the meteorite weighed 654kg.”
“This is it,” I said looking down at the ice.
“But the sign says it was recovered.” Matt’s brows furrowed, “Why did it draw you here if the actual meteorite is gone?”
“What if it isn’t,” I said. “What if what we’re looking for broke off during the recovery and it’s still buried down there?”
Matt shrugged and looked up at the sky. “We have no way of knowing for sure, and we’re running out of time.”
I nodded and focused on the pull. It was deep. Really deep. Palms facing the ice, I imagined a tube punching through the ice and down into the lake bed. A few seconds later, the ice in front of us exploded upwards and a concrete tube rose a foot above the ice. Matt gaped at the construct I’d made, but then shone his flashlight into the center.
“Nice job,” He said raising an eyebrow, “But what about the water?”
I smirked at him, and a few seconds later a large metal disk appeared on top the water. Stepping up on it, I motioned for him to join me. While he did, I knelt down and placed my hands on the metal and focused. Heat rippled through my body, sweat beaded on my forehead, and we started to sink as I increased the density of the metal.
“How are you removing the water,” Matt asked.
“One way valves,” I said panting.
We reached the bottom after a minute of descending, and with a quick motion of my hands the density of the metal inverted until it collapsed under the pressure of the atmosphere. That’s when my legs gave out and I collapsed to my knees sinking into the icy mud of the lake bed.
“You’re pushing yourself too hard,” Matt said. “You’re new to this. World record core or not, you don’t have the experience of using it.”
After a few minutes of catching my breath, I managed to create some shovels and Matt broke three glow sticks. Then came the hard part.
It felt like we spent an eternity shoveling. I was already tired, but the physical labor just exhausted me. I prided myself in my cardio from my MMA training, but this sucked something else entirely. Plus, with each shovel of mud we pulled away, the strength of the meteorite grew even stronger making the very air hard for me to breathe. Finally it came to the point where Matt had to continue shoveling while I just sat in the cold mud and just focused on getting air into my lungs.
We thought we had a ways to go still, but when Matt tossed one of his shovels to the side I felt a pull so hard I actually fell towards the pile.
“I think this is it,” I said.
I reached forward to sift through the pile, but Matt’s hand stopped me.
“Let me do it. We don’t know what will happen when you touch it.” I nodded and Matt stuck his hands into the mud. A few seconds later he pulled it out.
Wiping the stone on his coat, Matt held it up. Even in the dim light the piece shone with a black luster. I stared at it, eyes unable to pull away until finally I fell to my knees again gasping for breath. I’d forgotten to breathe!
“Put it away,” I choked out, and Matt opened his backpack and placed the artifact inside an insulated container.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said and then paused. “Um, how are we getting out of here?”
That was a good question. I guess a ladder—
A screech filled the air making me jump and shocking Matt. I stared at the construct wide-eyed. I hadn’t even focused on making it and the thing had appeared. If this was what the meteorite could do, then what the hell would happen if I bonded to it?
It took ten minutes to climb up, and when I finally reached the surface I flopped on my back gasping for air. Matt wasn’t too far behind me, and when he broke the surface he immediately ripped off his coat. But he didn’t wait for me to catch my breath. Instead he picked me up, throwing an arm around my waist while placing one of mine around his neck. If I hadn’t been so damn tired I probably would’ve blushed at the contact. Hard to ignore lean muscle when you’re pressed against it. Someone was hiding something.
“C’mon,” Matt said. “We need to get back to the plane.”
We made it a few steps before he stopped in his tracks.“Hello, Pisces.”