"17 June 2198 The DeepEarth Boring Company stopped its engines this morning when they suddenly had a malfunction. The massive tunneling machine had been operating for just over 2 years without any problems. The reason for the stoppage has not been released. As soon as we receive more information we will pass it on to you." The news report continued with a brief history of the project to dig as deep as humanly possible.
"Sweetie, what happened at the dig today? There's a report in the news about the boring machine stopping," said Janet. Her husband, Anthony, worked for the DeepEarth Boring Company and was a member of the crew that operated the digging machine. For it to stop was unprecedented.
Anthony said, "Yeah, it did stop. Everything was running as well as it has for the last couple of years then suddenly it started to spin wildly, like it was in air." He was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for his dinner and looking at the news report in the afternoon paper.
"What happened? How could that happen? Isn't it almost 25,000 feet into the earth?"
"That's a good question. We're all wondering the same thing. Of course, it's not possible to put the machine in reverse and back it out, so we have to work around it to find out what happened in front of it. A team is going to drill a hole from the side of the machine head and into the area in front of it and send through a camera. Hopefully, we will see something when we get through."
Within a couple of days, the crew working on the drilling machine started to drill a hole alongside the machine's head. About 2 hours after starting the new hole, only a few inches in diameter, the drill stopped. They removed it, got it repaired, and started drilling again, and the next day it stopped again. It was hitting something and breaking the head of the drill bit. The next day they started again, but this time with a bit made of a new material that was supposedly the most durable material on earth. They started and it was biting through the night then it suddenly began to spin out of control. After they got it stopped and removed they decided it must have hit the same space as the boring machine, so they fished a tiny camera through the new hole.
The camera had a small light and at first all they could see was solid black rock. But when they approached the area where the drill and the boring machine stopped, what they saw was more than any could have imagined.
"What are we looking at?"
"Dear God above!"
"What on earth? Or, should I say, what in earth, is that?"
"How? How can this be?"
On the monitor, the view from the little camera couldn't be believed.
"We need to send in another camera from another hole. Let's drill on the other side, but make it large enough for a RAB35X camera. We've got to get a better look at that area."
That night at home Janet asked Anthony, "So, darling, how'd your day go?
"Interesting? That's all you're going to say about it?"
She looked at her husband, saw that he was obviously disturbed about something, and decided it would be best to not push the questioning any further, for now.
"Ok, well, dinner will be ready in 20 minutes, maybe you should shower and relax."
"Yeah." Anthony took a long shower as the images from the monitor occupied his mind. He tried to change his thoughts to his wife, to his family, to anything else, but those images just wouldn't go away.
"How's the roast?" She searched his eyes for any sign of life more than one-word answers.
"It's fine." He stared out into the space between himself and his wife.
"Anthony, darling, I'm concerned about you. What's the matter?" She set her fork down and waited for a response. She didn't get one. "Sweetheart, please talk to me. What happened at work today?"
"We're going to drill another hole and send in a bigger camera so we can bet a better look."
"A better look at what?"
"At what we saw."
"What did you see, honey?"
"We'll have to get the big camera and send it in from a different angle, so we can determine what's on the other side of the machine."
"Okay, so you won't tell me anything, I see that, and whatever it was is bothering you, I can see that, too. We've never kept secrets from each other, right?"
"I'm not keeping any secrets from you, sweetheart."
"Well, whatever it is, I don't like the way it has affected you."
"I'm tired. I'm going to bed."
"Now? It's barely after 7."
Anthony hadn't finished his dinner but got up from the table, walked to the bedroom, laid down, and fell asleep. Janet followed a couple minutes later and found him sleeping like a baby. She didn't disturb him, but sat next to him and caressed his hair for a couple minutes, gave him a kiss on his forehead, and went back to the kitchen to clean up.
The next day at the dig the crew started a second drill that would ream out a hole almost a foot in diameter. On this other side of the machine, they were able to get the new hole punched through in little more than a day.
That night wasn't much different at home. As much as Janet wanted to know what was happening at the tunnel she was afraid to push the subject any further. Anthony simply wasn't going to say anything more about it.
"Okay, guys, is the camera ready to send through? Where is it?" Jack, the supervisor of the dig crew, was pacing and anxious to get back to work on the dig.
"They're running a little late, sir. It'll be on the next trip down," one of the workers said as he looked at his radiophone for messages.
"The next trip? That's still an hour away!"
"It's out of our control, sir. They say there was a problem with attaching the lens you requested, but they got it figured out and are sending it."
Over an hour later the camera arrived and Jack grabbed it from the man and inspected it, "This isn't the RAB35X! Why did they send this?"
The others all looked at each other with blank looks, then they all looked at Jack and nobody said anything. "Well?" Jack shouted at everyone in the area and finally, one man stepped forward.
"Sir, may I suggest-"
"No! You may not!" Jack grabbed the radiophone out of the hands of the man who gave him the news and called back up to the surface. "Hello! Get me Arnold! Right the fuck now!"
"Okay, one minute," stammered a voice on the other end of the call.
"Hi, this is Arnold, who is yelling for me?"
"Who? What's wrong you your people up there?"
"Sorry about that Jack, he's a new guy and has no idea what he's doing."
"Fire him and get the other guy back. What's his name, Pete, Peter, Skeeter, I don't remember, but I liked him. He knew when I was calling before he even answered the call."
"As much as I'd like to I can't, he moved away. I think he said he was moving to England, or Scotland, or somewhere over there. Anyway, why are you calling up here and yelling and cursing at my guys? What's wrong"
"Arnold, I asked for the RAB35X, and I got a RAB30W. What part of RAB35X did those idiots not understand?"
"They told me the 35X has a focusing problem with the lense you request. The 30W works just fine, the resolution is slightly lower, but it'll be fine, Jack. Just use it without anymore yelling."
"Arnold, I hope you're right about this. You did see what we saw, right?"
"Yes, of course, and it's incredible and unbelievable and all the rest of those kinds of words, all rolled up into one. The 30W will be fine. When will you send it through?"
"First thing in the morning. The night crew is finishing prepping the hole to make sure there's nothing in the way to cause any kind of delay."
At home, Yanet and Anthony were sitting down for dinner and Janet started with the same question as always, "How was your day at work, sweetheart?" Janet poured Anthony a big bowl of stew and dumplings.
Anthony actually spoke a little more this evening, "Well, today we finished drilling a second hole, and tomorrow we'll send in another camera."
"A second hole? What's happening, dear?"
"The first hole was small, and it should have been easier and faster to dig. The camera was quite small, and the view we had was limited. The hole drilling didn't go as easily as expected. But, we got the camera through, but the view is not what we expected. So, this new hole is bigger and the camera is bigger."
"So, you should have a much better view of what?"
"Whatever it is that we saw."
"What was that?"
"We're not sure, hopefully with this bigger camera we'll know exactly what's in there."
"Okay. Do you think it's anything dangerous?"
"I don't expect it will be."
"Hmm, that's not very reassuring, sweetheart."
Anthony finished his stew, drank down his glass of milk, and said, "Well, we'll know tomorrow, for sure. I'm going to bed."
He was at the dig site early preparing to send the camera through the new hole.
As he prepared the camera for the journey through the hole he said, "Thankfully this older camera isn't any bigger than the newer one or we'd be shit-out-of-luck. Let's get this ball rolling, guys!"
A couple minutes later he had finished his preparations and said, "Okay, the camera is ready to send, are the computers ready and recording?"
"Yes," responded one of the technicians watching over the systems.
Anthony pressed a few keys on a keypad and the robot started forward with the camera onboard. The onboard light came on and the monitors lit up with images of the dark hole through which the camera was traveling. A few sparkling bits of rocks reflected light back at the camera, a few others simply glowed in the light. All the men crowded in front of the two monitors in the small space near the huge stalled digging machine. Then the robot reached the end of the small tunnel and stopped. The camera looked straight out, then after a few seconds started a slow sweep from one side to the other. The view left the men speechless.
Up on the surface, there was another crowd of men staring at the monitors, nobody could say anything. The sight before them left everyone dumbfounded.
Finally, after several minutes of watching the camera's view move from one side to the other, Anthony said, "Well, now we know where all those lost socks ended up."