Deep below a desolate Utah mountain lies the largest platinum deposit ever discovered. A billion-dollar find, it waits for any company that can drill a world's record, three-mile-deep mine shaft.
EarthCore is the company with the technology, the resources and the guts to go after the mother lode. Young executive Connell Kirkland is the company's driving force, pushing himself and those around him to uncover the massive treasure.
But at three miles below the surface, where the rocks are so hot they burn bare skin, something has been waiting for centuries.
Waiting … and guarding. Kirkland and EarthCore are about to find out firsthand why this treasure has never been unearthed.
|Publisher:||Empty Set Entertainment|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)|
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March 15, 1942
Wilford Igoe Jr. wrapped his fingers around the pumpkin-shaped rock, steeled himself with a deep breath, and pushed with all his strength. The rock slid back a half inch, accompanied by the sound of stone on stone. He held his breath, waiting, listening for further grinding sounds, for the sound of settling rocks‹the sounds of certain death.
But no sounds came. He let his breath out in a long sigh of relieved tension. No point in relaxing, he told himself, I¹m just going to have to go through it a dozen more times until I clear this rock.
"Just a little more, Will," said his friend Samuel, who stood behind him in the cramped cave, watching for any signs of settling. Will could only grunt in response. The light from Samuel¹s mining helmet jittered from side to side, up and down, bouncing all over the rough gray rock that filled Will¹s hands. Will¹s own helmet lay behind him and to the right‹he¹d had to take it off to squeeze into the narrow crawl space among the cluster of ancient boulders.
The headlamps¹ illumination was the first light this pitch-black place had known in decades, possibly centuries. Sunlight had never graced the interior of the cave; they were too far into the zone of perpetual darkness.
"Stop moving that damn light, Samuel," Will said, grunting out the words. "If I move this rock the wrong way we all die." Samuel¹s light stopped bouncing, but only for a moment, then began flittering about again, following the excited movements of his head.
Will fought down his irritation and tried to concentrate, which wasn¹t easy considering his position. He was wedged into the crawl space that he and Samuel and Douglas had made during the last three days. The space was part of a much larger tunnel that led steadily down into the mountain. Will¹s head was at the low end of that incline, his body lying in powdery cave silt. It felt like going down a slide headfirst, although he wasn¹t actually moving, especially if he couldn¹t budge that boulder.
But removing the rock wasn¹t the real problem. He had to move it right, he had to move it just so. The boulders surrounding him were remnants of an ancient cave-in. You couldn¹t tell how these rocks settled against one another. Move out a "linchpin" rock, even if it was a tiny one, and sudden settling would crush anything lying below.
"Come on Will," Samuel said. His excited voice rang off the dead stone walls. "Try a little to the left."
"Up yours, Anderson," Will said. He wrestled with the chunk of limestone, his thick arms shaking with a combination of concerted effort and exhaustion.
Thousands of years ago this passage had housed a swiftly churning underground river. Now all that remained of the ancient stream was the tunnel itself and a floor of bone-dry silt, two inches thick and as fine as high-grade flour. That same silt coated Will¹s sweaty skin.
Sweat dripped from his face, the inverted position making it seem as if it ran up his neck, up his cheeks and into his stinging eyes. Will heard his own labored breathing as he wrestled with the rock, which had already split open two of his knuckles. His breath sounded loud‹not because of the claustrophobically confined space, but because there were no background sounds. A hundred yards into the cave and all sound ceased. Not even the insects made noise, although that far down the insects were strange indeed‹blind crickets with fragile antenna twice as long as their body, tiny beetles that burrowed ceaselessly into the sand, and ghostly-white, long-legged spiders that had never felt the faintest trickle of sun.
"Keep that fucking light still!" Samuel was really beginning to annoy him. To Sam, the opportunity to take the cave deep into the mountain¹s layers‹to travel into the mountain as if they were a blood cell in the circulatory system of the very stone itself‹was like heaven on Earth. Sam couldn¹t wait to get through this cave-in and continue exploring the tunnel. Will wanted to know what lay beyond as well, but for the moment he didn¹t give a good goddamn about the tunnel or geology or the fact that he had to piss like a racehorse. His world narrowed to his hands, his arms, and the damn stubborn pumpkin-shaped boulder streaked with his blood.
"Try a little to the left, Will," Samuel said again.
"Yeah, thanks for the tip, Einstein," Will said. But for lack of a better idea, he pushed it hard to the left‹and it slid a good two inches.
"Oh shoot!" Samuel yelled. "Holy moley, it¹s moving!"
"I think I¹ve almost got it," Will said, grunting and panting. He had it now. Oh, it wanted to fight him, but it was too late, he had that bastard of a rock and he wasn¹t letting go.
Will felt the thud of footsteps approaching from up the tunnel. Douglas Nadia moved with all the grace of a drunken elephant. Will always wondered how someone so thin could make so much noise.
"Where have you been, Douglas?" Samuel asked impatiently. "We¹ve been working on this boulder for the last twenty minutes."
"What do you mean we?" Will said between grunts. He pushed, and with each fractional movement he listened for the sounds of settling rock, but nothing moved except the pumpkin-shaped boulder.
"I did a little chiseling back up at the plateau," Douglas said. His thick Texan drawl betrayed his excitement.
Samuel sounded immensely annoyed. "Douglas, please tell me you didn¹t carve your name on the tunnel mouth."
"Hell no. I carved all our names. Hey, you think we¹ll find any more cave drawings, or maybe another goofy knife like last time?"
"Who cares about that?" Samuel asked. "Once we¹re through, and if this tunnel continues to descend, I surmise we¹ll drop below the next sedimentary layer within fifty feet or so. That will give us a real good look at this mountain¹s composition."
"You crack me up, Anderson," Douglas said, his sharp laugh bouncing off the rough, narrow walls. "We¹ve found some lost Injun tribe in here, maybe even with buried treasure, and all you can think of is geology. You¹re a screwball."
The two continued to babble, but Will tuned them out. The rock was the last obstacle that stood between them and continued exploration. They¹d found the opening while researching Samuel¹s Ph.D. thesis. The Wah Wah Mountains were only a three-hour drive from Brigham Young University, and yet were a wild and obscure treasure of geological wonders. The thick limestone mountains seemed to rise straight out of southwestern Utah¹s scrub-brush deserts.
Five months earlier they¹d been a thousand feet up the side of an unnamed peak when they discovered a small plateau and a dark, cramped opening. The opening led into a long, slender tunnel that traveled well over one hundred yards into the mountain before dead-ending at the ancient cave-in. Low on supplies, they¹d decided to head home and try again later.
Now, well supplied and eager to explore the caves, they had to clear a path through the cumbersome boulders to access the tunnel they knew lay beyond. For three days they¹d probed the cave-in, placing small charges of dynamite to help break up the tightly packed rocks. Following each blast, they labored to clear loose stones. It had been three days of noisy, backbreaking work, but the intensive effort was all but forgotten as Will slowly worried the last stone clear.
The stone finally came loose with a horrible grinding sound of protest. As Will pushed it free, they held their collective breaths, waiting for the suspended rockfall to give way and crush them all.
"Take that," Will said, his voice an exhausted whisper. "Take that, you piece of shit."
"Quit cursing," Samuel said. "Hurry up and get out of there, will you?"
Will wanted to squeeze out of the opening, sit up, and wring Samuel¹s neck, but he didn¹t have the strength. Samuel and Douglas each took an ankle and pulled, hauling Will out like a dead animal.
Samuel rushed to the opening, laying flat and letting his light probe the newfound depths.
"How¹s it look?" Douglas asked, leaning on Samuel¹s shoulder and craning his head for a peek.
Samuel¹s exuberant yell pealed off the stone wall, accompanied by the hint of an echo from the unexplored passage beyond. "Looks like a straight shot! As far as I can see‹at least another fifty yards!"
Samuel whooped triumphantly. Douglas¹s Texan yelp joined in. Will lay flat on his back, stomach heaving, sweat pooling in sandy little lumps on the cave floor.
Douglas slapped at Will¹s thigh, "Get up, lazybones. Lookit Samuel‹he¹s already crawling in."
Will remained on his back, breathing deeply, but turned his head to see Samuel¹s skinny body wiggle through the narrow opening. Will thought it looked like the rocks were a giant stone mouth with pursed lips and Samuel was a piece of slurped spaghetti.
"You go on ahead," Will said.
Douglas again whacked Will¹s thigh. "Get up, rich boy."
With effort, Will lifted himself to one elbow. "Doug, you hit me again and I swear I¹ll‹"
"Fellas," Samuel interrupted. Both Douglas and Will jumped slightly as Samuel¹s head suddenly reappeared in the narrow opening. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Douglas and Will intoned together.
"That sound," Samuel said. A lock of his thin blond hair fell free from under his helmet, dangling on his high forehead. Only his head and hands were visible. In the poor lighting, he looked like a talking guillotine victim perched on a wall of tan and red boulders.
"Sounded like sand blowing across the desert or something like that," Samuel said. "Didn¹t you hear it?"
"Didn¹t hear a thing," Douglas said. Will simply fell to his back again, staring back down the pitch-black tunnel, ignoring the overexuberant Douglas. Sometimes he hated that kid¹s nonstop energy.
"Maybe there¹s a connecting tunnel down here and there¹s some air circulation," Samuel said quietly. "Oh, forget it. Come on, fellas, let¹s see where this thing leads."
"I think rich boy is staying here," Douglas said, aiming a slap at Will¹s thigh but pulling back at the last second, avoiding contact.
Will said nothing, merely raised his hand, extended his middle finger, and let the hand whump heavily back into dry silt.
Samuel¹s head disappeared into the dark hole. Douglas laughed and followed him headfirst into the mouth, working his way into the confined opening.
Will lay motionless, eyes closed, listening to his friends¹ excited laughter fade into nothingness. He¹d catch up to the goldbrickers in a moment, he just needed to rest. The cave was so peaceful, so still. He¹d just close his eyes for a few minutes, just relax in the motionless, timeless caverns. Just a catnap, perhaps, and then‹
His eyes flew open, yet he remained deathly still. He¹d heard the faintest echo of a noise, a noise that somehow didn¹t belong in that serene place. A faint clicking, the sound of metal tapping rock. And another sound, something he couldn¹t put his finger on and yet it stirred recollections of Chicago, his hometown.
He strained to grasp the noise again, as if by concentrating his hearing he could tear free of the thick veil of silence enveloping the tunnel. Not moving, not breathing, not understanding the cause of his sudden fear, he listened.
And heard the noises again.
click-click, click, click-click
The clicking, followed by that hissing, breathy, scraping sound. He immediately understood why the noise made Samuel think of a sandstorm, but that analogy wasn¹t quite right. Samuel had spent all twenty-two years of his life in the deserts of southern Utah. For Will, however, the sound brought back memories of Chicago¹s powerful weather.
It was the sound of dry, windblown leaves and loose paper hissing across concrete streets and sidewalks. But unlike steady gusts of Chicago wind, the new sound ebbed and flowed with a jerky, stop-start feel. It reminded Will of another noise, a noise he¹d learned to watch out for since he¹d started hiking into the mountains with Samuel and Douglas some three years ago‹the malignant sound of a rattlesnake¹s warning.
He fought down a creeping panic and a sudden, clutching stab of claustrophobia. His reaction to the strange noise was primitive, instinctive, and raw.
Will rolled to his knees and peered into the hole he¹d labored so long to create. He felt a strong urge to run, but his friends were in there. He stared into the tunnel, listening to the bone-dry hissing-rattling sound grow and swell‹until another, more recognizable sound joined the approaching noise.
The sound of a man screaming billowed up from some unseen place far down the tunnel. Will knew it was Samuel, although he¹d never before heard Samuel scream. It was a high, piercing noise, almost feminine, full of agony and terror that transcended either sex. The scream lasted only a few seconds, faded to a single, mournful, fearful moan, then ceased.
Will forced himself to remain rooted to the spot. He couldn¹t summon the courage to cram himself into the narrow opening, to crawl farther into the mountain¹s belly, but he could keep himself from a cowardly flight while his friends remained in the tunnel.
He saw a bouncing light before he heard the rhythmic pound of heavy footsteps and the strained breathing of a man running for his life. He recognized Douglas, pounding hard and fast up the sandy incline, blood smearing his face and covering his chest as if someone had splashed him with a great bucket of gore. Douglas fell hard, his face skidding in the loose dirt, his helmet rolling and bouncing like a decapitated head. Ignoring the lost helmet, he scrambled to his feet and ran some more, kicking up arcing streams of the fine cave silt with each desperate step.
Confusion and panic gripping his voice and thoughts, Will screamed to his friend. "Douglas! What¹s happening?"
Douglas said nothing. His eyes were wide, their whites shining intently in the glow of Will¹s headlamp.
Douglas closed the distance quickly. Will saw strange flashing lights and movement behind his sprinting friend‹the subtle, rushing form of something his mind couldn¹t place. Before he could register the image, Douglas dove for the narrow opening and blocked all sight into the deep tunnel.
Douglas tried to worm his way through the tight bottleneck, but panic slowed his efforts. His hands lashed forward more like he was drowning than crawling through a mountain. His knuckles burst open each time they slammed into jagged, unforgiving rock.
"Hold on Doug, calm down!" Will shrieked as he grabbed at his friend¹s flailing arms and bloody hands. "Let me pull you out!" Douglas made noises that weren¹t words. Spittle flew from his wide-open mouth, splattering against his face, mixing with the blood that Will knew once belonged to Samuel.
Will pulled and Douglas started to slide through, but whatever had been chasing him caught up and pulled back‹hard. Will lost his grip on Douglas¹s blood-slick skin. Doug¹s hands grasped desperately at the rocks, his fingers as taut and rigid as dry sticks scattered by the desert wind. Douglas¹s eyes somehow grew even wider and his mouth opened with a throat-ripping scream that made Will want to cover his ears and run.
Will once again fought down his urge to flee. He dove forward, grabbing Douglas¹s left arm just as the unseen assailant yanked again. Douglas lurched backward into the darkness, into the opening. Will pulled with all his might, fighting to keep his friend alive. The strange lights flickered inside the tunnel, coming from whatever played tug-of-war with Douglas¹s body.
Will planted his feet on the same boulder he¹d worked so hard to move, arched his back, and heaved with every last ounce of strength.
From inside the opening, Will saw a flash of something silver. A sudden release of opposite pressure made him fall backward on his ass, as if his opponent in the tug-of-war had just dropped the rope.
Only it wasn¹t a rope he¹d been pulling.
Will looked down, even as the urge to run claimed his mind, even as he scrambled backward, trying to get to his feet. In his grasp he clutched Douglas¹s bloody mess of a hand‹which had been neatly severed just above the wrist with a cut as clean as that of a butcher¹s meat-saw.
Silhouetted in the lone spotlight of his headlamp, the only light in the eternally black cave, he saw blood patter down in long drips to the silt below. The radius and ulna gleamed white and oozed gooey marrow. The darkness seemed to close in around him like a noxious cloud.
But it wasn¹t all dark.
Flickers of colored light still sparkled from the opening, playing off the rough gray rocks as they quickly grew brighter‹whatever had taken Samuel was coming through the opening.
Good-Samaritan time was over.
Will tossed the hand aside and scrambled to his feet. As he did, he heard movement, something sliding through the narrow opening. It came after him, those strange lights flashing maliciously. Will didn¹t look back. Fueled by sheer terror, he scrambled up the narrow tunnel, attacking the incline like an animal dashing away from a predator. If he could just make it back to the opening, back to camp, out of the narrow tunnel and into the sunlight, maybe he could escape. Maybe this thing couldn¹t leave the cave.
He clung to that hope as he made his desperate dash. Chest heaving, limbs screaming white-hot from fatigue, at last he saw sunlight. With a last burst of energy, he escaped the shaft and made it to the small clearing outside.
Wilford Igoe Jr. didn¹t make it any farther.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Impossible to put this book down. Scott Sigler is an amazing story teller.
I was very lucky to get this book in print from Scott Sigler. I am considered a Sigler Junkie, since I have read every novel and novella created by the author (excluding his collections of short stories). EarthCore is one of my FAVORITES of all time, right behind the Infected series. This book gives fiction readers a ride of a life time. Favorite Sigler - Contagious, EarthCore, GFL Series Least Favorite Sigler - Ancestor ( <---Worst of all his books) I mention my favorites and my least favorite so if you are contemplating reading EarthCore you will know where I stand. Since this title is not available for eBook, no longer available as a podcast (I believe), and the paperbacks are selling for around $40.00, I am sure if you are considering this title, you have already read some of Scott Sigler's work. If I am correct in my assumption, then please trust me, this is a MUST READ for Sigler fans.
What an addicting, suspenseful and clever read. The book flows so well that you hardly realize it's a 500+ pager. Each character is so well developed, yet Sigler has no inhibitions to give them the ax at any point along they way. This makes for a fantastic ending that keeps you guessing and is impossible to predict. I needed a couple days just to catch my breath after reading this amazing piece of work. If you like the pace and attention to detail of Michael Crichton and the horror of Stephen King, then Sigler's Earthcore is a the fix you've been looking for. Can't wait for the next one!
I don't usually find myself unable to put a book down to do things like eat and sleep, but Earthcore did it to me. Sigler draws the reader into his clutches and shakes the daylights out of you and leaves you breathless. This book is a must-read for veterans and newcomers to the Sci-Fi genre.
This is a BIG book, a-la a Stephen King-style tome, but it's very good. The end of the book is amazing!
EarthCore was amazing. I read the whole thing in two days. The characters are vivid and compelling -- Sigler has you hooked on each one of the characters, then he throws them into the fire and keeps the reader guessing as to who makes it out alive.
The best novel I have ever read. I recomend this to all.