Enjoying the darkness, paleontologist Wailee Ming sat alone in quiet reflection at his private work area. His senses were alive with anticipation for tonights event. Soon I will be the most famous paleontologist in the world. He hoped Michael Tolland had been generous and featured Mings comments in the documentary.
As Ming savored his impending fame, a faint vibration shuddered through the ice beneath his feet, causing him to jump up. His earthquake instinct from living in Los Angeles made him hypersensitive to even the faintest palpitations of the ground. At the moment, though, Ming felt foolish to realize the vibration was perfectly normal. Its just ice calving, he reminded himself, exhaling. He still hadnt gotten used to it. Every few hours, a distant explosion rumbled through the night as somewhere along the glacial frontier a huge block of ice cracked off and fell into the sea. Norah Mangor had a nice way of putting it. New icebergs being born . . .
On his feet now, Ming stretched his arms. He looked across the habisphere, and off in the distance beneath the blaze of television spotlights, he could see a celebration was getting underway. Ming was not much for parties and headed in the opposite direction across the habisphere.
The labyrinth of deserted work areas now felt like a ghost town, the entire dome taking on an almost sepulchral feel. A chill seemed to have settled inside, and Ming buttoned up his long, camel‑hair coat.
Up ahead he saw the extraction shaft‑the point from which the most magnificent fossils in all of human history had been taken. The giant metal tripod had now been stowed and the pool sat alone, surrounded by pylons like some kind of shunned pothole on a vast parking lot of ice. Ming wandered over to the pit, standing a safe distance back, peering into the two‑hundred‑foot‑deep pool of frigid water. Soon it would refreeze, erasing all traces that anyone had ever been here.
The pool of water was a beautiful sight, Ming thought. Even in the dark.
Especially in the dark.
Ming hesitated at the thought. Then it registered.
Theres something wrong.
As Ming focused more closely on the water, he felt his previous contentedness give way to a sudden whirlwind of confusion. He blinked his eyes, stared again, and then quickly turned his gaze across the dome . . . fifty yards away toward the mass of people celebrating in the press area. He knew they could not see him way over here in the dark.
I should tell someone about this, shouldnt I?
Ming looked again at the water, wondering what he would tell them. Was he seeing an optical illusion? Some kind of strange reflection?
Uncertain, Ming stepped beyond the pylons and squatted down at the edge of the pit. The water level was four feet below the ice level, and he leaned down to get a better look. Yes, something was definitely strange. It was impossible to miss, and yet it had not become visible until the lights in the dome had gone out.
Ming stood up. Somebody definitely needed to hear about this. He started off at a hurried pace toward the press area. Completing only a few steps, Ming slammed on the brakes. Good God! He spun back toward the hole, his eyes going wide with realization. It had just dawned on him.
Impossible! he blurted aloud.
And yet Ming knew that was the only explanation. Think, carefully, he cautioned. There must be a more reasonable rationale. But the harder Ming thought, the more convinced he was of what he was seeing. There is no other explanation! He could not believe that NASA and Corky Marlinson had somehow missed something this incredible, but Ming wasnt complaining.
This is Wailee Mings discovery now!
Trembling with excitement, Ming ran to a nearby work area and found a beaker. All he needed was a little water sample. Nobody was going to believe this!