If this is your first time joining the Reactor community, and you are curious about what madness has kept a diamond-handed community of racing, sci-fi and comic fans together while so many other NFT projects fell through the cracks – Welcome.
However, the odds are good that this is not your first time reading about Reactor Motors, as you are more than likely a holder of one of the storied 8888 Series X Reactors. If you are an OG, the original rag tag team of dreamers who have come along on this journey, my heartfelt thank you goes to you for your faith, passion and willingness to see this crazy story develop from a seed sized shard of Reykium and grow into the Ultimate Multiplayer Web3 Racing Game that is currently in Beta.
It is a story that has been born as much out of the fever dreams that keep me up at night as it has from the feedback, criticism and creativity that is shared daily by the community on Discord.
No matter what brought you here, I’m thrilled that you’ve chosen to take the time to read this little corner of the Metaverse and hope that like those before you, this story that is unfolding day by day, being transformed and adapted into comic, film and game formats, will resonate as strongly with you as it has with me and my team of other hardcore nut jobs that have dedicated our waking hours to bring it all to life for you. Take a few minutes and dive in.
Welcome to the Reactorverse.
————— WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
THE COMIC (Present Day) – The Comic which was announced at Stan Lee’s 100th Birthday event follows the contemporary storyline of eco-geologist Eva Mason as she discovers and harnesses a new form of renewable energy which she calls Reykium. The incredible value of such a power source put her and her team of close friends square into the sights of a powerful energy company, Anaco, which her father founded, that will stop at nothing to get it. Her only option – make her findings available to the world and prove its potential before Anaco and their security team can stop her.
THE GAME (2042) – The Multiplayer Web 3 Racing Game is set in a near future Reykjavik. Transformed by the discovery of the most valuable energy source on the planet, the once modest town has exploded into a futuristic multi-national tech city with a culture focused heavily on racing. Speed is revered. The Top Racers are also the Top Celebrities. Players are able to learn how to control their Reactor cars, explore the city and race against friends and strangers. The massive advances in energy science have also allowed for the Reactor cars to be instantly transported via jump portals. Players can work their way up the leaderboard and increase their standing in the community. Those that explore deeper will start to unlock clues left by Eva, now older and in hiding, that will help them discover that not everything is what it seems.
ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2023 POETS GAMING, A DIVISION OF POETS ROAD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
STORY SEGMENTS WILL BE UPDATED REGULARLY
When Eva Mason heard that another massive volcano had erupted in Iceland near Reykjavik, she knew it was time to pack up and race there to explore the possibility of testing one of her new geo-thermal converters. Her father, Charles Stanton III, never would have approved the trip. Geo-thermal was a waste of time for him, a distraction from his never-ending hunt for the liquid black gold on which he had founded his company. Not that Eva ever needed his approval before following her gut and leaping into the next adventure but the thought of him chafing at her spending her inheritance on new energy research helped give her a sense of purpose and a connection to the utopian fairytales her mom used to tell her as a child. Sometimes it felt like the only thing she and her father had in common was how much they missed Lucy, her mom, and the love of his life. He had never forgiven Eva for taking her mom’s maiden name instead of his before he passed, but even if she wanted to change it back, the Stanton name was blasphemy in her eco-circles.
Scrambling to pack up the converter and its related tech, her friend Enzo “Tweak” Diaz, raced to get everything into its proper case and locked up before Jaxson could grab the heavy gear and load it onto their small plane. Tweak knew that once Eva set her mind on a target, every second counted. They tried to travel as light as possible but the converter case still strained Jaxson’s tattooed arms causing the inked M1 Abrams Tank on his bicep to move, earning him his nickname. Eva shouted out to Tank and Tweak that they had to hurry as the airspace would be closed soon. If they didn’t leave now, they may not even be allowed to land.
The three buckled up and took off, aiming for the large cloud already forming on the horizon as millions of pounds of molten ash were jettisoned into the sky.
In London, Dixon Montgomery, head of Anaco’s first response unit got the word that it was time to gear up. He called up his team and told them to move out. Destination… Reykjavik.
Eva looked out at the impressive sight – the billowing steam and ash piercing through the lower cloud layer that hid the massive lava flow pouring from Fagradalsfjall far below. Her two companions were concerned about their destination, understandably not wanting to go anywhere near a live, spewing volcano. She assured them that their target was not the angry explosion before them but instead an inactive range about 200 miles to the east. As the plane banked to the right, she brought up the thermal map that she had charted which inspired their journey. The fissures running beneath the island ran in a broken diagonal path like red claw marks that connected Fagradalsfjall with their actual destination – Grimsvotn.
While Tank commented on how peaceful the lake-filled crater looked, the news did little to calm Tweak who reminded him of Grimsvotn’s massive eruption ten years earlier that had followed over 60,000 earthquakes and downed aircraft worldwide. Eva, like many other scientists had thought the island had gone cold, having expended its energy, but the new round of activity near Reykjavik proved that Iceland still had plenty of secrets left in it.
The plane landed in Höfn, about two hours from the base of their destination. Even that far east, they could see the mushroom cloud rising from just outside Reykjavik. Outside the luxury of the private hangar, a grizzled elderly man in a fur-lined jacket stood waiting for them next to a dirty single prop Cessna. Aron introduced himself as their guide as they loaded up, carrying only what he allowed them to bring – turning away the heavier equipment. Flying near the tallest peak in Iceland, the expanse of snow was blinding. Aron’s radio blasted AC/DC as he pointed out key features of the landscape. Grimsvotn’s caldera laid beneath a massive ice glacier that made for a bumpy landing, knocking around the Iron Man bobblehead that Aron kept on the dash.
The ice strip they landed on was still a good distance from the main crater. Tweak joked about whether they would be taking a dogsled the rest of the way as they approached a small barn at the edge of the strip. To his delight, Aron instead opened the frozen door and pulled back a tarp to reveal a Land Rover Cuthbertson fitted with snow treads. Making quick work of the snowy climb, they approached the crater’s edge, looking down to the center lake – steaming in the sunlight – never frozen due to the intense thermal heat.
Eva pointed to a crack in the crater’s edge, large enough to descend into, so that Aron and Tank could begin lowering down gear tethered to the Rover’s winch. Peering down into the crevice, Tweak cracked a light stick and threw it down ahead of the first case. When he had first met Eva, clotheslined by her while he bolted from the FBI raid on his studio apartment, he never thought he’d be joining her down into the mouth of volcano. Seems like the fortune cookie from Grandma Chow’s that day was correct.
Four ropes descended from the winch, anchored by the weight of beastly Rover. Normally Eva would have preferred to keep one person up top and the idea of having an elderly man descend the six stories to the bottom of the crevice would have given her pause but the sheer size of the cavern they found under the icy mantle meant that she needed all hands on deck. Aron’s lifelong knowledge of the stirring of the volcano and lava flows would be invaluable, so down went the whole team. Surprisingly, Aron made quick work of the descent making it far easier than it was for Tweak who took three times longer to stumble to the dark icy floor.
After Tank set up the lights, the four marveled at how expansive the space was. Nothing like this had been seen before with this space only having opened up with the many earthquakes following the eruption. Most crevices were narrow icy cracks that dead-ended quickly. This was like finding a new world. Drips of water from the melting ice above tapped rhythmically, echoing through the stony walls. As their eyes adjusted, Aron pointed to a cavern opening farther to the back and asked for the lights to be turned down. Tweak complied, sliding his finger on his phone, dimming the permitter lights. Imperceptible when they first descended, the team began to see red and white glowing lights illuminating the distant walls. They switched to soft lights, just enough to see their way but not enough to dim their target, and headed along, Tank carrying the thermal converter on his back took the rear.
As they neared the back cavern, Eva couldn’t help but take off her jacket. The temperature had risen dramatically even on the short walk and the heat emanating from the rocky walls belied the molten river hidden behind them. The higher temp also meant more melting and a steady stream of water ran beneath their feet, splashing quietly as they walked. Between their heavy breathing, the splashing and their depth beneath the surface, they had no way of hearing the Turbojet helicopter landing about seventy feet above them on the icy crater bed.
Dixon stepped out first, surveying the landscape. It was unearthly, even for someone as well traveled as himself. He understood why NASA had used the crater to run Mars rover tests. With a two finger wave, he motioned for three others from his recon team, fully equipped and armed, to jump out and secure the Rover. They confirmed no one was inside. Larson, a bald and heavily tattooed former SAS member, asked Dixon if he wanted them to “clean up the site” as he pointed with his knife to the four ropes attached to the winch. Dixon waved him off and asked them to set up sonar beacons in a large square perimeter. Why not wait and see what the others bring back up for them. In the meantime, Dixon needed to run some tests of his own. He pulled out his iPad, which scanned his face, but not before it revealed a Lock Screen from years earlier – a photo of a much more carefree version of himself, and a smiling Eva, in each others arms. A flash of regret on his face quickly transitioned to focus as the sensor app came up displaying the 3D sonar map being charted as the beacons started to come online. He was going to learn what was down there, one way or another.
Tweak wondered how long this cavern extended. His meter mapped the cavern sonically as they progressed but its radius was limited and it felt like hours since they had seen the sun. Between the growing heat and the dead weight of his meter and backpack, Tweak found himself about to complain as his legs wobbled. Opening his mouth he began to utter “Are we there yet?” when Aron, fifty years his senior, strode past him as if he was fresh on a spring walk. How?! Tweak tried to muster the strength to stand straight and tall but it was no use. Gasping, he dropped his hands to his knees, bent over and wiped the sweat from his brow. Suddenly, his feet lifted off the ground. He looked around startled to see Tank standing next to him, trying to hoist his backpack off him. Tweak was past the point of pride and gladly wiggled his arms out of the straps and allowed his larger friend to take the extra burden. What a difference it made. Peacocking, he raced up to Eva to ask what she thought of the cavern. She simply smiled. He knew this was what she lived for. Eva checked his meter briefly to confirm that it was still mapping their progress – if only as the backup way to track their return in case the chemical light sticks Tank had been dropping at 8m intervals went dim.
It was certainly larger than she had expected and the thermal presence was encouraging. They should be able to find an excellent test zone for the converter – close enough to the flow to pull the heat but far enough that it wouldn’t be turned into liquid metal. The dim warm light ahead seemed to indicate an exposed vein of magma so Eva warned the group to be on their toes and watch for ceiling leaks or thin walls. Even a single drop of the molten rock would sear through their bodies like a hot coal on ice. Aron pointed out that the cavern had been carved out centuries or millennia earlier as part of a lava tube but it had to have been cooled for some time given the presence of water and the dust accumulation on the walls. Likely, it had remained subterranean until the recent eruption cracked a fissure to the surface.
Above them, Dixon’s sensors were in place. He motioned to Larson to bring out the Thumper. A hydraulic press that looked like a World War II mortar, the Thumper would pound a 40kg piece of steel down a metal shaft and slam it into the ground it was bolted to. The sensors would then read the sonic waves and use the echo response to map out any open terrain below.
Eva motioned for the team to stop. Had she heard something? The ground beneath them tremored slightly, just enough to cause loose pebbles and debris to trickle down the side of the cavern walls. The four braced, anticipating a heavier tremor, but none came. Maybe it was just nerves. As they continued the center of narrow cavern began to dip down, raising the water level. They all had the same initial instinct of wading in as the trickle of water had been warmed by the hot air but as the depth got to their ankles they discovered the lower water was ice cold. Lest they freeze their feet, the team began awkwardly straddling the stream, bowing their legs out to brace against the angled rocky edges. Eva reminded them to be careful on the slippery edges, just as Tweak began to slip, falling back into Aron’s arms who gently pushed him back up. Aron pointed to how he used one arm to push against the opposite wall to allow his feet to remain together on one side. Tweak set the meter to auto and slung it from his belt to free up both hands and tried Aron’s method which was vastly more comfortable.
Ten minutes on, they reached the source of the water, a giant block of glacial ice. Behind it glowed the magma, diffused by the wall to wall ice block creating a peaceful ambient tone. The heat had been slowly eroding the ice, streaming out into the center of the cavern and pouring downstream towards where they had entered. Tank hung the two backpacks on a protruding rock slab and asked Eva if she wanted to get through, already knowing the answer. He pulled out a Rock Pick hammer and motion for the others to cover the eyes. With a giant swing, he slammed the sharp point of the hammer into the ice wall. With a resounding clang, the impact let out a room shaking noise, shocking the whole team. Did he not know how hard he had hit the ice? It sounded like it had originated from everywhere. The vibrations continued for a few seconds with Tweak pleading with Tank to – for the love of Saint Isidore – try hitting more softly next time.
Looking at the hammer, and just as confused as the rest, Tank leaned forward to give the ice one more gentle tap. Barely an inch from the ice, he gently tapped the same impact site. Again, it pounded through the room, and through their jaws, rattling their teeth. What was going on?
Dixon shouted for One More as Larson prepped the Thumper for another strike. The first two hits had been enough to start getting readings and while Dixon didn’t want to collapse anything too fragile below, one more would add to the clarity. The four digital sensors on his screen began to display concentric rings bouncing around between them and forming a blocky low resolution 3D map of the sub caverns.
Tank was still mystified at the sound they had heard, and even more so when he tested the hammer on this backpack with only the sound of dull pats. He leaned back in to inspect where he had hit. A small chunk of ice was missing, a few spider cracks in the eyes radiated out but nothing major. With a timid finger he reached to touch the impact spot. Tap. Tap. Nothing.
The Thumper finished lifting the weight to the top of the cylinder and released its payload with a vengeance.
Tank turned to show that it must not have been him. To prove it, he knocked his fist on the ice and BANG, the same intestine rattling sound shattered the front of the ice wall, dropping softball-sized chunks of ice around their feet. Eva looked at Tank scoldingly. At least the way was suddenly clear.
As the mist cleared, the group stood staring. At first Tank thought they were staring at him, fearful that he had just smashed an ancient ice wall. Turning around he saw what had caught their eye – behind the ice wall, the long thin tunnel expanded into a giant geode replete with smaller geodes, some broken, some intact. The space by itself would have been enough for a full research paper but it was the light emanating from the crystals that was truly unique. Eva made sure that everyone was seeing the same thing she was before she stepped up carefully onto the broken ice shelf and began to climb over into the expanse.
One by one, they followed, approaching the crystal beds like they were holy relics. Miniature waterfalls streamed from cracks in the outer core above and pooled on the floor before flowing out toward the cavern, under the ice wall. The room was magical, lit with enough warm white light for them to see without their flashlights and warm enough to remove their outer gear. Tweak reached into the backpack that Tank was carrying and pulled out an EMF meter. The crystals were definitely emitting electromagnetic energy but it was within safe parameters. Carefully, Eva reached out to touch one of the crystals only to leap back as she felt it vibrate. She said that it felt like it was humming. Eagerly, the team broke out the rest of their gear.
Above, Dixon approached the chasm and peered down. The ropes descended into the darkness about 20 meters below. He wondered what was keeping Eva. His map showed the caverns extended in a web beneath them but nothing connected to a primary vein and he couldn’t see any underground water repositories that would be heated enough for thermal use. So what was keeping her? Was he missing something? He knew her well, probably better than anyone, at least until her father died. It was the same independent spirit that he had loved about her – the same spirit that made her invaluable on scouting jobs for Anaco, looking for new drilling locations. He wondered what his life would have been like right now if they were on the same side instead of competing.
Another SLAM jarred him from his daydream as he watched as rocks broke off the edge of the chasm and tumbled down along the ropes. Spinning around furiously, he saw that Larson had set another thump and was preparing for a follow up. Dixon yelled for him to knock it off and threw a snowball at him! Larson was laughing and said he just wanted to get them to hurry up.
The ripple reverberated down through the rocky earth, sending small pieces of the geode crust onto the heads of Tweak and Aron. Confused, they looked over at Tank who threw his hands in the air in a “Wasn’t ME!” Gesture. They looked up as it finally dawned on them that they weren’t alone. Tweak couldn’t help himself and with a sly grin said “They’re heeeere.”
Eva watched as the cracks in the crusts continued to grow. She urged the others to hurry and get their readings. She’d handle Dixon. Holding the mic strap on her throat she barked out that whatever lowbrowed caveman was thumping around up above should knock it off before it killed somebody. A moment of silence before she heard Dixon’s voice reply teasingly that she used to like it when he made a grand entrance. Unamused, she explained they were in a fragile space about 25 meters down that could collapse if they didn’t stop the thumping. Behind her Aron exclaimed that it would be a historic tragedy if the geode collapsed, before Eva could cut off the signal. That perked Dixon’s ears. A geode big enough to stand in implied a healthy water system and possibly mineral deposits. He would have to go take a look for himself. He walked over to Aron’s rig and buckled in to the first rope, following it as he prepared to descend.
Anaco’s presence meant that Eva and her team didn’t have much time. Maybe they would have left if Eva could have convinced them that they hadn’t found anything but a giant geode was worth exploring. She motioned for the team to start packing up. Tank walked over to the larger backpack and began lifting it up but the strap was loose. He saw that it had been burned through and was still smoking. In the spot where the strap had laid, a small glowing red dot of magma was cooling off. He looked up, and then got the others attention as they squinted at a thin red vein of magma high above them that was visible through one of the cracks. It wasn’t just bags that those drops would burn through. Time to hurry.
Dixon descended and found himself grinning – it had been almost two months since he had seen Eva in person and truth be told, he was looking forward to it. Larson began calling the other crew to come back in from their positions when he realized that he had forgotten to turn off the thumper. Looking over, he saw that it had reset itself. It was too late to stop…
THWUMP!!! The sound echoed beneath Dixon’s feet as stood frozen, his hand reaching out to stop the machine in vain. He and the other security team dared not move as they listened and hoped for the echoes to fade.
Down below, Eva and the team felt the sound before they heard it, deep frequency rumbles shaking the walls around them. Like an earthquake, the sound got louder and louder, the shaking stronger, as the vibration amplified through the hard but fragile volcanic rock. Pebbles and dust fell from the ceiling and the crystals, began to shake like inverted chandeliers. Tank set his gear down and helped everyone brace against one of the walls. His hand reached out, pulling Aron’s old body in to join them just before a basketball sized stone fell right where he had been standing. Another stone fell onto one of the crystal outcroppings, breaking off large chunks. Softball size chunks of the crystals fell in front of Eva. For a moment, she forgot about the chaotic rumbling around her as it dawned on her that the crystals, even when broken free from their bed, continued to glow. The large ones remained white, almost prismatic, while the smaller chards seemed to glow in a myriad of colors. She had assumed they were just backlit by magma or were thermally reactive. Instead, the crystals appeared to produce their own energy. It was so beautiful that she began to step out away from the wall, ignoring the shouts of her team.
Up above Dixon could see the edge of the crevice erode like small waves washing ashore at a lake. The ice and dirt chipped away and tumbled down into the darkness. He spun and ran to the edge near where the ropes descended. Holding his throat mic, Dixon called out to make sure Eva was ok. Only static. He switched channels and tried again. Still static.
Eva bent down to pick up the largest crystal, almost in a trance, her fingers lit up by the colorful glow of the shards. She was oblivious to the rocks falling around her and hadn’t even flinched when one had knocked the radio off her belt. As she gazed into the large crystal, holding it like a baby in both hands, the sounds of her teammates yelling began to permeate her trance. As they shouted her name, she turned to respond only to find the quake settling. They all looked up in thanks as the rumbling stopped. Clarity returned to her and she grabbed Tweak’s walkie and yelled into it, cursing Dixon for trying to kill them. Meakly, he tried to respond that it technically wasn’t him but it fell on deaf ears as he promised there wouldn’t be any further thumping.
Frustrated, Eva suggested they assess the damage to the cavern. No one was hurt. The EMF meter had been crushed by a large stone and one of the crystal beds banged up but all in all, not too much damage. Tank started to collect the remaining gear while Eva turned her attention back to the crystal still in her hand. She wouldn’t have broken off a crystal on her own but was secretly thrilled to be able to be holding one. Suddenly, Tweak yelped and exclaimed that something had bitten him, rubbing his arm. Aron walked over and looked at Tweak’s arm. Where he was rubbing, a charred slit and had been cut through the fabric. Looking back they saw the still glowing red droplet of magma. All three looked up to see that a bright red crack had begun to expand and was starting to drip molten rock. It could give at any second Aron shouted pushing Tweak towards the entrance. Tank turned to pick up the gear bag but a glowing red train of liquid earth began pouring on to it, eating through the equipment instantly – another hole was opening. The damage from the thumper was far worse than they had expected. Eva agreed – time for everyone to evacuate as they stumbled across the rock fragments towards the ice wall remnants even as more of the geode’s crust gave way, letting loose the thick and fiery fluid. Eva helped Aron over the ice wall remnant, growing slippery from the growing heat. Trying to hold back his panic, Tweak scrambled on his hands and knees to get out followed by Tank. With the one large crystal in her side bag, Eva looked back at the crystal beds. If only she could break a few more free to study. She stepped back towards them, hesitating for a moment when another quake rumbled the room, knocking her back on her butt. Large chunks of crust broke free letting a small wave of lava to come pouring out and heading straight towards her. She tried to get up quickly but the debris and melting water caused her palms and feet to sleep. Just in time, a hand grabbed the back of her shirt and yanked her up. Turning, she saw Tank pulling at her as Tweak and Aron stood with arms stretched, helping her cross the threshold moments before the lower floor filled with lava.
It wouldn’t stop there. The four had a long way to get back. Without their lights, they raced with eyes squinting to see the beacons that Tank had left along the path. Half way down the tunnel, they could begin to see a bit of light coming from the crevice opening above. Tweak’s adrenaline was peaking as he scrambled like a spider in a flooding drain, suddenly finding much surer footing than he had had on the way in. Eva lead the way, calling Dixon on the walkie she had grabbed from Tweak.
Above, the radio squawks of Eva’s voice didn’t come through clearly but the tone was unmistakable. Dixon strapped into a harness and began to descend into the crevice rapidly. His eyes took a moment to adjust so he pulled out his flashlight and aimed it toward the sounds he was hearing. Blinded, Tweak stumbled back as if burned by the bright light suddenly in his face. Dixon apologized and asked what happened as Eva reached him. With a strong right hook, she clocked Dixon’s jaw, knocking him back a step. That was for causing this. Dixon did his best to shake it off and began helping Tweak strap on to his rope. What was the rush?
Aron finally caught up and shouted that it was getting closer. Dixon was still confused. Grabbing his flashlight, Eva turned it off and pointed. Surprisingly, Dixon could still see here. She was pointing to the tunnel they had come from which was glowing brighter and brighter as an eight foot tall wave of lava advanced on them. Now he understood. Tank was already on the way up. He helped Aron and Eva on to their ropes. With Tweak almost at the top, Dixon took his rope. The three climbed with the lava now close enough to cause beads of sweat to form on Dixon’s forehead. Being much younger, Aron and Eva climbed rapidly. Aron struggled but continued. By the time Eva crested the surface, the lava was flowing visibly beneath them, burning through the excess rope as if it didn’t exist. Dixon approached the crevice edge and seeing that Eva was safe, paused and looked back down at Aron. His old arms were cramping and straining at the exertion, sweat soaking his white hair. Yelling, Dixon commanded them to back up the Rover to help pull the ropes – only problem is that Aron had the keys. They tried the winch but it required the car to be on.
Wet with sweat, Aron’s hands slipped on the rope but his years of experience kicked in, clenching again immediately before he dropped more than a couple feet. The blisters ripped open but he pushed on. Ten meters higher, Eva demanded that everyone, including Larson and the rest of the security team grab Aron’s rope and pull. Initially stuck, having been wedged into the ice by the heat and friction, they were finally able to get movement as they slowly raised Aron up. Dixon remained on his rope to guide and encourage Aron as they hoisted him up.
Beneath them, the lava had filled the cavern and begun flowing through old iced over tunnels. The heat was intense. With so many people standing together on the ice shelf, and the heat below it, cracks began to appear in the ice beneath the team’s feet. Eva told everyone to keep going. Aron was almost there when a rumbling wave shook at their feet and broke across the entire ridge, knocking them to their feet – dropping Aron’s rope – the jolt shaking Aron loose. Terrified, Eva scrambled on her knees to the edge and peered over. With a sigh, she said a silent thank you as she saw Dixon with one hand on his rope and one hand wrapped firmly around Aron’s bloody forearm. She pushed for the team to start pulling at Dixon’s rope now. Larson looked around as the landscape cracked and shuddered, hot lava flowing openly now beneath the icy crust. Forget this! He got up and made a run for the chopper. The rest of the Anaco team followed, leaving only Tank and Tweak to come help Eva pull desperately at the rope. Aron had gone limp, exhausted from the climb as Dixon struggled to keep his grip, slowing loosing it to the blood and strain. They could see Dixon’s hand! Tank ran over and grabbed Dixon’s arm and pulled with all his might. The majority of Dixon’s knee had come over when a loud crack was heard and the entire ice block they were on came loose, sliding forward 6 feet and slamming into the opposite side of the crevice. Dixon howled in pain as his arm got pinned between the two sides momentarily before the ice block slide further, freeing it. With a helpless look down into Aron’s eyes, Dixon knew his arm couldn’t withstand anymore. Time seemed to slow as he turned his head to look back at Eva as if to apologize but she was just shouting NO. Uncontrollably, Dixon’s fingers came loose from Aron’s wrist. He couldn’t bear to look as Aron fell back down into the glowing red pool beneath them.
Free of the extra weight, the three were able to pull Dixon back away from the edge. No one could talk. What had just happened? There was no time to mourn as the ice shelf continued to fracture, itself now sinking into the furnace below. The movement was so fierce, the three couldn’t find their footing before a massive chunk of the opposing ice wall broke free and crashed down on the Rover, crushing the engine.
Eva wiped away the snow covering her face. How long had she been out? Her head felt like weighed a hundred pounds and the drops of blood in the snow made her check her forehead. Wincing, she knew she was hurt but not seriously. Everything was still a blur. Sound as muted with a pulsing whir that she assumed was her heartbeat until she started to make out the rotor of a helicopter about 20 meters away. Was that Dixon the men were carrying into the helicopter? EVA! The shout helped her snap to attention. Tank was calling for help as Tweak was pinned under part of the ice block that had fallen down on them. The ice shelf beneath them was precariously angled after breaking free from the main chunk where the helicopter was. It wouldn’t be long before the molten flow beneath them melted away the support holding them up – assuming another tremor didn’t knock them loose first. Scrambling, she made her way over. Tweak’s ankle was caught but he seemed otherwise in decent shape. As Tank braced his back against the opposite ice wall, he pushed against the ice block while Eva pulled Tweak’s chest until he finally came loose. Quick check – it wasn’t broken, just sore. They helped him to his feet and braced him, one on each side as a cloud of blinding snow engulfed them. With her arm up and squinting, Eva tried to see the cause. What the hell! Larson almost looked to be smiling and gave a sarcastic wave as the Anaco helicopter took off. Tank tried to help the them move faster but between the injury, the incline of the ice shelf and the blast of the snow there was no chance.
By the time the three made it to stable ground, the helicopter was getting smaller in the distance. What now? The sun was starting to set. Maybe they could use a radio to call help. The dashboard of the Rover was smashed in with the engine and without pain killers Tweak wasn’t gonna be able to focus enough to Macgyver something. Maybe they could walk? Dumb question. The temperature was falling. Maybe they could find something to make a fire – a flare, a battery, anything to get a spark. Either way, the Rover cabin offered a bit of protection from the wind.
The two helped Tweak into the back seat while Tank began looking through the exterior bins. Eva pried open the driver’s side door and started going through the glove compartment and floor. A few rumbles reminded them that the cold wasn’t the only clock they were fighting against. Lots of old crisp wrappers and a half eaten Twinkie that still looked new but no flares. Tank came around, similarly empty handed. Anything useful seemed to have been left below or had slid down in the last shake. Eva stuttered for a moment causing Tank to check to see if she was ok. She simply pointed at the Iron Man bobblehead. The three held a moment of silence for Aron that would have lasted longer. A powerful tremor rocked the Rover, slamming Tweak’s leg against the door causing him to yelp in pain.
Another massive shake forced Eva and Tank to grab on to the support beams of the cabin. Eva’s eyes grew big as she saw the side of the caldera burst open, spewing glowing red lava out of the earthen wound. All around it rocks crumbled and steam bellowed as the intense heat vaporized the ice. It certainly didn’t take her PhD to realize they were straight in the path of the flow, and it was moving fast.
Find something! Anything! They looked around for anything that could help. Tank and Eva looked back at a pair of snow shoes strapped to the inside of the cabin only to look back at each other, realizing how silly that thought was. The ground screamed, forced hot air ripping out just meters from them. They could see that it was too late. One last look from Eva to her two friends – an apology for bringing them to this place – and their unspoken response of camaraderie. The ice plates ripped open, bucking like pieces of a shattering plate, and tossed the Rover along with its three inhabitants into the air. They each held on for dear life with Eva’s bag slipping from her grasp. The explorer in her couldn’t help but reach for the leather strap but instead closed down on the front flap. As the Rover slammed to the ground, the bag ripped open revealing the large crystal had broken into three smaller shards. Desperate to not lose them, Eva yanked at the bag but the smallest shard, about the size of a Zippo lighter, slide free and rolled down on to the edge of the seat. Forget it! Eva knew that Tank was right and turned back to him, ready to meet their fate. Behind her, the small shard slid off the seat and landed on the exposed metal floor.
It was only in the reflection of Tank’s widened eyes that she said what happened next. Split seconds of frozen time, slowed in retrospect as her brain continued to try and recollect the sequence. A stunning flare of light that dilated his pupils instantly, forcing him to wince in pain from the brightness. The tingle of rippling static across her hole body. A brief, high pitched wail that reminded her of a tea kettle before a sonic crack, not dissimilar to a bull whip. And then, they moved.
As if suddenly released from a tether, the broken vehicle seemed to come to life, its tread wheels roaring to life, spinning with all their might. This must be what an aircraft carrier launch feels like, she thought as she caught her breath. Her instincts took over and her hands slapped onto the steering wheel, guiding the glowing behemoth wreck across the tundra, dodging trees and boulders as bolts and chunks of metal dissolved from the car body. Each passing second found her more grateful to be outrunning the lava but growing concerned about how long the jalopy would hold out. Down the hillside they went, sliding more than driving as the rattling and shaking grew with each jettisoned piece. Seconds later, in what had seemed like hours, the final metallic straw broke loose, the energy depleted, sending the Rover into a nose dive that tossed the three of them out on to the snow in front like a bronco ejecting its rider. What in the world had just happened?
All Tweak could hear was the sound of his heart beat. He couldn’t open his eyes and his body was totally numb. Maybe he was paralyzed. Maybe this was it – fleeting thoughts of being trapped in his body, unable to speak, unable to feel. His worst nightmare was coming true. He could hear Tank checking on him. Suddenly the thought of never being able to tell Eva how he felt about her, not being able to check off the long bucket list he’d been working on, never going to an Anime Con again – it was overwhelming. Tears began to flow letting light in. Instinctively he raised his hand to wipe the darkness from his eyes. He could see! Looking at his hands he saw them stained dark – was he bleeding? Before he could descend into another panic spiral, Tank had grabbed him by the collar and sat him upright. Tank was covered in the same dark flakes, ash spewed out by the eruption. Eva was combing through the almost unrecognizable wreck of the Rover. A huge grin lit across Tweaks face. He was alive! He could see! He could speak! He could feel, but maybe that wasn’t a great thing as the pain of his leg came rushing back in, the adrenaline wearing off. He let out a massive groan. Eva raced over and stuck him with a small shot she had grabbed from a med bag Aron had kept in the Rover. Much better.
The three looked around. They were safe. Somehow they had traveled all the way down the long slope of the glacier, past Eystrafjall and dumped out just shy of Route 1 – it’s yellow marker poles reflecting the small amount of light from the rising sun. Looking back up the hillside and back, Eva pointed out that with the ocean to the south, they must be on the route to Hofn. She suggested that they may be able to get picked up if they could get closer. With the sun coming up, someone was bound to see them on a morning delivery. Tank and Eva hoisted Tweak up on their shoulders and the three stumbled across the 100 meters of frozen earth to the edge of the highway. Tank pulled a mylar foldable blanket out of his vest pack and draped it over them to keep everyone warm as they waited.
Adrenaline kept them wide awake until the headlights of a dairy truck came around the curve in the round. The kind elderly man pulled over and helped them into the back of his cab and offered to drop them off on his route in Hofn. Gently they got aboard, taking care with Tweak who stretch out in front to help his injured leg. Under way, Eva stared out the window at the rising sun still trying to process the previous night. The other two had passed out instantly, sleeping like infants with wide open mouths, dead to the world. The sun starting to sparkle on the ocean made her think of what they had seen. What were the crystals they had found and had the reaction really been from when they touched the car? She’d never seen anything like that. One squeeze on the bag on her lap to reassure herself that the crystal was still in there. It was.
Had Dixon really just left them there? She knew he was bitter about how things ended with them but she never thought he would take it that far. Hell, if he was that pissed then he should say it to her face not run away and risk the lives of her crew. It was unforgivable and he was now dead to her. At least everyone had gotten out ok. Then she looked at the elderly man driving and it dawned on her that not everyone had gotten out ok. Poor Aron! A flood of tears came rushing up overwhelming the dwindling Adrenaline and Eva found herself helpless to do anything but sob into her jacket. The elderly man looked back but not speaking English didn’t know how to comfort her. He reached back and patted her on the back kindly. Eva looked up to see his smiling face. “Allt verður í lagi” he repeated. She smiled weakly and rested against the window, falling asleep as soon as her eyes closed.
A bump in the road caught her attention. The squeal of the brakes opened her eyes. They were in Hofn. Eva showed the man the business card for the hotel they had arranged and the three awkwardly got down out of the truck. Eva looked sheepishly thru her pockets hoping to find money for a thank you tip but the man waived her off and smiled, before starting the truck up and driving away.
Tweak was full of thought after the brief nap. He hobbled over to Eva and tapped on her bag. He could not wait to start examining that crystal and figure out what was behind the energetic reaction they saw. They were going to have to get some additional gear – but first a proper sleep.