Krubera: Part 1

KRUBERA

1.

The Sell

She leaned in close, whispered as though she feared being overheard. “John, please!”

They were two of six people in the small patio of a Parisian-style cafe.

John, the curator, watched her display with pity, “Elliot, what makes you think this is it?”

She scowled. He responded with a crossed leg, and a lean back to sip his Cappuccino while his little-finger protruded further than a man’s should.

He returned the cup to its saucer, “In all the years the theory’s been around, we’ve found nothing. More money’s made off speculation on the topic, nowadays than invested by formal channels. No-one wants to find it anymore.”

Elliot’s dark eyes matched her dark hair, both wild in the slight breeze around them, “John, if anyone can find it, I can. You of all people know that.”

His brows bucked grandly, one after the other. It was true; if you needed something found, Elliot would find it. She was young, energetic, and in all the time he’d allocated funds for her expeditions, she’d never returned empty-handed. The Museum received display rights, and Elliot’s fame sky-rocketed again. She’d lived lavishly off the Museum’s grants and various, academic novels and book-tours. Her discoveries drew crowds, and her benefactors raked in the cash.

But this was different. If she found what she was looking for, it would be miraculous. If she found it. The odds were slimmer than nil. The entire scientific community had searched for this since the fourteenth century. Then again, they weren’t Elliot, and only now did she want to find it.

He set is cup and saucer down, folded his hands in his lap, “Alright Elliot, sell me.”

She reached into a briefcase that hung beside her, produced a thick file-folder, and laid it open to subsurface resonance scans. They looked like ultrasounds, but from the body of a creature the size of Earth, and with a distinct, geologic topology in place of a uterine one.

“These are from SGSM– the new system NASA’s just launched.”

He waved his hand to press her forward; everyone knew what the SGSM was. It was the first time NASA had ever collaborated with the National Science Foundation. Together, they built and launched a new type of satellite system known as the Sky-Ground Sonic Mapping system, or SGSM. Its purpose was to map the Earth’s interiors via low-frequency sound waves– well below that of human hearing– on invisible lasers. The lasers simultaneously read the reverberations of the sound-waves, formed a picture of the ground beneath a set of coordinates.

Widespread global earthquakes had both preceded and followed its launch, caused some to decry the use of the SGSM, cite it as the cause. NASA said these complaints were unmerited. The system was simply incapable of this. The truth was, no-one knew for sure. It had however, made it possible to scan for active and building earthquakes. The computers on the control-end received early-warnings of the seismic activity, recorded peta-bytes of varied information in real-time.

Elliot elaborated on this point. John could tell she was leading him somewhere. He stopped her with another hand, “Elliot. Elliot. What have you found?”

She gathered her thoughts, “You know I have more access to the system than anyone outside NASA. I went over the most-recent scans in detail. One stuck out: Krubera’s cave system is deeper than we ever thought possible. Something’s happened. Something’s been shaken loose.”

A curious brow rose on John’s face, “We?”

“My team and I.” She hesitated, “John… we think it’s in Krubera.”

His brows sank. He shook his head, “Elliot–”

“It all fits, John! The Krubera range has cracks beneath its surface where the Black Sea spills in. The cracks have widened from all the activity lately.”

His tone incised her, “So?”

She was taken aback, “So? You know as well as I do there’s been dozens of new zoophyte species in that area in the last year. No-one has any idea how they’ve gotten there, but no-one’s really looking either. They aren’t accounting for the cavernous mountain-range.” Her brown eyes widened with a plea, gleamed from the sunlight above them, “If it’s anywhere, it’s in Krubera. You have to believe me.”

He watched the gleam, considered her logic. He knew of the Krubera cave system and the Gagrinsky range of the Western Caucasus mountains of Abkhazia. It had been in the news some years back when the scientific community speculated on its possible depth. Named for Alexander Kruber, whom founded Karst-Science in Russia, its mouth was discovered in Aribika Massif by Georgian speleologists in the 60’s. It was Kruber’s study of irregular limestone, eroded over time, that led him to trek the range in question. His published observations were later honored by the bestowal of his name on the system. While its mouth– the Crow’s cave– added the alias Voronja; the Russian word for crow, due to the birds that nested there in droves..

More relevant in John’s mind was that fact that, in 2001, it had been discovered as the deepest of all recorded cave systems: Its topology disguised its 2,200 meter concave into the Earth, rivaled the previous record-holder, Lamprechtsofen of the Austrian Alps, by over eighty meters. This last fact had been discovered only recently due to the first Georgian foray being made impassable near one-hundred meters.

This assertion alone convinced John. If the system could have widened to allow for such a depth in forty or fifty years time, then it was more probably the Black Sea findings were indicative of something more. At that, Elliot was right. New species of all kinds were being discovered regularly in the Black sea. Although most were microbial, a few marine Chordata had appeared that were strangely unsuited for the Black Sea.

His mind was made up, and a familiar smile graced his cheeks that brightened the gleam in Elliot’s eyes, “Alright, assemble your team. Find me this “lost world.”

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