While the Alexanders slept, the objects they had brought back with them slowly warmed. The sludge found in one of the side walls of the main shaft flowed more freely. The fossils found embedded in ice were slowly released from their frozen prison. And the hard round sphere softened into a gray leathery ball.
In the morning, the couple went about their usual routine. Grant inspected the shelter for possible storm damage. He checked to see that the locater flag was still flying and visible above the drifts. Lydia refueled the generator and made a breakfast of porridge and coffee. Everything that they had found needed to be examined thoroughly. Anything of value needed to be packaged for shipping to the proper lab. They would spend the morning examining the samples they had found the previous afternoon.
Lydia slowly worked her way through the fossils that she had recovered from the bottom of the main shaft. The samples were all common fossils that museums had more than enough of in their collections. Lydia made the necessary notes in her diary and prepped her pack for another trek into the cavern.
Grant sifted through the core samples looking for recognizable ores. Gold was always a possibility in Alaska, but most of the samples came up empty. There was some radioactivity in one of the samples and Grant packed it away with the proper note attached.
The vial of sludge was the last sample to be examined. Grant carefully decanted the liquid into a test tube and took a sniff. The discernible odor of petroleum wafted through his sinuses causing him to cough. He capped the test tube and placed a small amount of the residue left on a slide. What he saw under the microscope was consistent with core samples taken from rich oil fields.
Grant’s excitement over discovering oil in the sludge he had found overshadowed Lydia’s disappointment in the fossils she had recovered. They needed to return to the shaft and take photographs and more samples. If this turned out to be a large field, the finders’ fee would take care of their retirement.
The orb she had found was forgotten while they packed up and headed back down into the caverns. They spent that day taking photographs and core samples, carefully mapping out where the samples came from. It was late when they returned to camp and they had not eaten lunch. The couple settled down for a quick meal. They spent the evening readying the geological survey report and samples to be sent back to the labs. It was late at night when they finally tucked themselves into bed.
The leathery ball had softened to the point of no longer being round. It was still sitting where Lydia had left it, but there was evidence of life stirring inside.
To be continued…