September 2016


by Adrian Simmons



Letter in storage in a shoebox in an attic within a house, no different from many other houses, in West Allis, Wisconsin:

March 21, 1862

Dear Jeb:  

The Rockies are one hell of a place.  We’ve spent a fortune on lead and powder just to deal with the grizz.  

Prospekting was poor for a mite damnable time, and credit is not something they give out at St. Charles, but we’ve still got the trust of some folks in Auraira.  

Luck started to change when we got to Calman’s peak.  Met up with some fellers working a horizontal mine.  Bought a stake and just in time!  Ran into a funny thing- in the mountain there’s a series of shafts, vertikal, and kind of triangular.  Damndest thing.  We don’t know how far down they go.  Longer than our ropes.  

Robert Shensky is our geologist, and he ain’t a very good one.  He don’t know what caused it, some kind of natural upheaval back in antediluvian time, he suspsekts.  But one shaft, it’s got a chamber off’n it, and even I can tell there’s mine spoils in there.  And even Shensky can tell there’s gold flecks in those spoils!  

And no, Jeb, it ain’t Fe Pyrite like last time!  


Analog Tape Recording, in Captain’s Safe Onboard Emergency Ship Calico 7, Containing Conversation Between Alicia Coldwell, Legal Division,  and Felipe Maslan, Medical Technician,  Made at or Around December 8, 2015

“Okay, first thing is that you’re not being a dick and recording this or anything?  Those fuckers at PetroCorp are breathing down our necks and we’re meeting here to do two things:  one, determine what happened, two, determine our story.”

“Well you have to understand, Alicia, all the SOPs in the world don’t actually reflect a real emergency situation.”

“That’s not our issue, Felipe.  We’ve got written procedures and we followed them.  There’s just some strange things that happened when we got Randolph Conner into the medical bay.  Let’s talk timelines, when did you first see him?”

“They brought Mr. Conner into the medical bay of the rescue ship within five minutes of hauling him up out of the water.”

“And this was after how long.  How long after he was spotted?”

“It had taken us about ten minutes to get over there.”

“And were you on deck?”

“Just for a minute, when we got the call to go and start rescue operations.”

“Did you see anything?”

“Smoke, mostly, coming off the rig.  I caught sight of where the railings had been torn out by the blowout.”

“First impressions?”

“Well… anything that could tear up the steel like that would probably easily kill a guy, so I didn’t think they had much chance.”


“And I went down to the medical bay to get things prepped, just in case.  Because it’s my job.”

“I’m not accusing you of not doing your job.  You would be the hardest person in the world to pin anything on.”

“Good to hear.”

“But we’ve got to get everything down, who was where, and when.  PetroCorp is trying to spread some blame and spread the costs.  Now, what time did they bring Randolph in?”

“About 3:30.”

“So, ten minutes to get there, and over an hour of searching before you found him?”

“I didn’t find him.  Someone topside did.  Pete, I think.”

“Fine, Pete found him.  Isn’t that a little odd, that it took so long to spot him?   A guy in a bright orange life-vest?”

“It is, but you know… strange things happen in these situations.”

“But it’s normal for guys wearing fluorescent orange life-vests to float when they hit the water, right?”

“Listen, I’m glad to know you’re not trying to pin anything on me, but-”

“I’ve told you, I have to get everyone in their place.  So don’t they usually float; guys in life vests?”

“Yeah, I suppose they usually do.”

“Any reason you can think of that Randy and Jon weren’t out floating where you could see them?”

“Like I said, if they’d been caught in the wave of… stuff… that came out when the casing blew, it might have pulled them under.”

“And if that had happened, how would he have not drowned by the time he bobbed back up?”

“My only guess is that maybe he was so cold that-“

“Cold?  The water temp is like 75 degrees.”

“Yeah, the water temperature, toward the surface.  But he would have been enveloped in the seafloor stuff—which must have been cold, because he was freaking freezing when they brought him in.”

“So you think that he was nearing hypothermia and thus could survive underwater?  Like in—“

“Like in that movie The Abyss?  Yeah, basically.  That’s the only way I can explain it.”

“And the fact that he seemed to warm back up to normal within what, five minutes?  The impossible heartbeats?”

“Those I can’t explain.  But he was found.  He was alive, and after ten minutes he stood up and demanded to be taken back to shore.”


Digital Recording, in office safe of Mr. Tom Boldan, Field Manager, PetroCorprp Exploration and Research, Central American Division, Chicxulub Project made approximately December 10, 2015

[unintelligible] we have to worry about liability?  

“From Randy?  Maybe.  Like I’ve told you, he just seemed like he wanted out, wanted to get home fast.”

“What about [unintelligible]- their drilling gear wasn’t what they promised.  Are they liable?”

“We don’t know what caused it, Frank.   And we won’t know until we get another expedition down there.”

“My [unintelligible] is to [unintelligible, unintelligible]-tect this corporation.  Can we get any other sources in the shit?  This is not going to be another fucking BP disaster.  Tom, what about those Yankee eggheads?”

“[unintelligible]-katonic?  They got back with [unintelligible], and I kept a hardcopy.  They say the estralla anomalies are a kind of spiny sea-urchin.  [unintelligible] tissue gets cooked off by the heat and the shell is what’s left.  [unintelligible] upheavals push a kind of sedimentary process, like soapstone, that fills the test up under the usual fossilization process.  I double-checked the [unintelligible] Pabodie at the Antarctica reported finding them around Mount Erebus.  Starkweather confirmed it later.  It was  Strosl in the UK that came up with the fundamentals of the process.”

“Fucking Imperialist College guy?  You want to stick your neck out for him?”

“They also said that the buried organic matter can decay and [unintelligible] pockets of high-pressure gas and decay fluids can result.  I pointed it out to you, Frank.”

“Whose fucking side are you on?”


A Digital Recording In Possession of Frank J. Lutz, Legal Counsel of PetroCorp Exploration and Research, Central American Division, Chicxulub Project, made approximately December 10, 2015

“Sure Randolph and Jon were close, but honestly this has to be more than that.  When he showed up at my office he sat down and outside of talking, of moving his mouth to talk, he didn’t move.  His arms just hung limp, his legs kind of spread.  He seemed kind of spaced out.  But he refused to go to medical monitoring.”

“Refused, Tom?  He can do that?  You couldn’t make him go?”

“You’re the fucking lawyer, Frank, you tell me if we could have made him go.”

“I suppose we could go after him for violation of his contract.  Anyway, what happened?”

“He kept saying that he was fine.  He got knocked overboard and floundered around for a while.  He didn’t see where Jon went.  Finally sat up and demanded we fly him back to the US.  And that’s in his contract.   We can’t hardly get an experienced worker who won’t demand at least one trip home and quick leave.”

“So you did it, you let him go?’

“Yes, we did it.  It’s in the contract.”

What do you think is going on?

“No idea.  Randolph’s a good hand, but maybe he and Jon were doing something stupid when the accident happened.  You can take the boy out of the oilfield trash but… But even if that were the case I’m not sure that they could have done anything, once events started to happen.”

“Tom, there is a lot of money involved in this project, and a lot questions being asked and fingers being pointed.  We need to know, as much as is possible about where everyone and everything was when the accident started.”

“The accident started with the sub, and Jon and Randolph didn’t have anything to do with its operation.  From what I can gather, they both seemed to do everything they needed to do, at least before the stem ruptured and coated them in sea-floor shit.”

“I see.  Now, Randy claims he hit the shut-off.  Can you confirm that?”

“We won’t know for sure if that’s true or not until we find that part of the pipe.”  

“Any luck on that?”

“No.  Only a few types of subs are able to do that- and for the coast guard/military to come it has to go through all those hoops with Mexico.”

“Do you think Randoph was still in shock the last time you saw him?

“Could have been.   I’d be.”


An Email Chain from the Technology Editor of Smithsonian Magazine, April 6-8, 2016

From:  Alfred Monahan
To:  SciWriterSighRighter
Date:  April 8, 2016

Dear Sharon:

I think you’ve got a fresh angle on it, but you can’t (and you know you can’t) just make claims without any backing them up.  Either someone on the rescue team, or the PetroCorp gang opens up, or you get an interview with Randy Conner.  


From:  SciWriterSighRighter
To:  Alfred Monahan
Date:  April 7, 2016

I can get you “Something extra”—send me down to Mexico, and let me dig around.  There is something going on here.   Stories are not matching up.  And that’s NOT blame-game, that’s trying to figure out what really happened and why.  Look at the facts.

A lateral rupture of the stem, fully five minutes BEFORE Randolph Conner hit the emergency shut-off at the top.  

Almost no shear damage to the stem where it comes out of the seabed.

The submersible’s fans clogged some ten minutes before that, and it was crushed—it can go to like a half-mile down, not nearly at its limit.


From:  Alfred Monahan
To:  SciWriterSighRighter
Date:  April 7, 2016 Sharon:

I’m sorry, I just can’t get Monty to move on the cover article thing.  2k words, that’s what he wants.  

I see your point, but I see his, too.  Time and Technology Amateur already did articles on it—not cover articles, but then it wasn’t anything like a BP spill or when Shell botched the Kulluk rig in Arctic Ocean.  

And, tbh, you just don’t have much that isn’t already pretty common knowledge.

See what you can do you about cutting it, and focusing on the technical aspects of the operation.  Time and Tech Amateur spent too many words on the causes and the blame-game, so we’ll need something extra.


From:  SciWriterSighRighter
To:  Alfred Monahan
Date:  April 6, 2016

Alfred, this is bigger than just a little internet click-bait.  I really think that it shouldn’t be another “Peak Oil” kind of article.  Yes, there was oil exploration, but there was also some solid basic (and some not-so-basic) science going on.  This is COVER ARTICLE worthy!  This is the Chicxulub crater, killed the dinosaurs, you love that stuff, everybody loves that stuff!



Interview Notes- Captain Roberts and TSA agent Mellendez, June 13, 2016

“Mr. Mellendez, do you think the suspect was acting suspicious in any way?”

“Well, no.  Annoyed, but lots of folks are annoyed going through security.”

“But he wasn’t complaining about the shoes or the belt or anything?  Just the body scanner?”

“That’s right.  Mostly right.  Captain Roberts, when I told him to go into the scanner he looked surprised and asked if he could get the personal treatment.”

“Personal treatment?”

“The pat-down.  We call it the personal-“

“Fine.  So he didn’t want to go into the scanner?”

“At first, like for a second, he seemed surprised, then, I don’t know… worried, and then he just kind of smiled and nodded.”

“‘Smiled and nodded’ Anything else?”

“No.  Well, maybe kind of like he was relieved.”

“And then?”

“He goes into the scanner and it starts to spin and, well you’ve seen the video.”

“And the scanner, it was in adjustment?  It was properly calibrated?”

“That’s not really my department.  Anyway, you’ve seen the video, you know what happens next.”

“Yes I have.  What did you see from your angle?”

“He just jumps out-“

“We can see that on the tape.  We don’t really see what he did just as the scanner passed.  Did he squat down or anything?”

“… no.”

“Mr. Mellendez, that was a very pregnant pause.”

“Yeah, but he just jumped backwards, didn’t turn and look or anything.  Jumped out of there with that long jump, just like on the tape.  Then up on the track to the x-ray machine and, well, then he did that run and bounce thing through the rest of the passengers.  Real parkour looking stuff.”

“And officer McHern?”

“I didn’t see what happened.”


Handwritten Report, Kirkpatrick Security Services, June 14, 2016.

At 11:15 I heard tires screetch screech and looked down from the second story of the parking garage just as the Park-N-Ride van swerve and mount the curb by the taxi-kiosk.  Then I saw a guy man running.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  We patrol the cars in the parking garage and he’s not done anything to any of those, but then I see a bunch of guys, TSA agents running after him.  I’m up on the second floor, he’s running across the ground level and I knew I could head him off if I took the east stairs.

I came down and he was hauling—arms flailing and legs pumping, like a little kid would run but really hauling.  And I come out of the stairwell and run at him, like coming at him from his 2 o’clock and he dodges, runs into a parked car (’13 Taurus, Kansas License NCB-0183) and slides over the trunk and gets past me.

I pursue him into garage 2 and see him turn right (west).  Suspect dropped down out of view.  I ran to the west door because I thought he was going to jump the short wall of the garage and I get outside and don’t see him.  TSA guys are running all over the place.  I thought he was out of the garage and told them to look toward the pay-kiosk.  

I wasn’t sure, though, if he had gotten out or not and I go back in and start looking under cars and that’s when I noticed that the storm drain grate at the NE corner by the downramp had been pulled out.  

Five people have already asked me about it this the grate I don’t know if it was off earlier that day, or the day before or not.  It’s usually under a parked car for one, for two  that’s maintenance’s job, not mine.


Both Halves of a phone call to Jenks Police Department, June 14, 2016

“Jenks Police department.”

“Hello, I, uh. Hey I… I didn’t see a crime or anything, and I’m not sure if I should call the cops—uh, I mean the police, or an ambulance.”

“What did you see, ma’am?”

“I stopped at Circle K on—Pedro what is the address?  [inaudible] 145th and Carlton.  I was filling up on gas and came in to get some coffee and then this woman comes in after me and she’s in bad shape.”

“Bad shape? Like injured?”

“Like drunk or high and-  [inaudible] hang on, let me pass you over.”

“Hello?  This is Pedro, working the night shift.  I’ve seen a lot of drunks and druggies and I ain’t never seen anything like this lady.  She comes in, she’s filthy with a torn up black coat, and it’s too damn hot for a coat, and she’s very very pregnant and she’s all dirty and wet and she ain’t got no shoes-“

“Barefoot and pregnant? Sir is this a joke?”

“No, man!  I mean officer.   You need to send a car over here, she’s in bad shape.  She’s gonna kill that baby.”  [inaudible]

“This is Kathy again.  Yeah, I was at the coffee machine and this woman comes in, and she’s just like Pedro said.  She’s walking funny and she’s very dirty and she knocks over a bunch of stuff on her way to the cooler and she just starts grabbing milk and eggs.  She gets shoes, flip flops, and a t-shirt from one of the racks and then – and this sounds like a joke but I swear it happened—her stomach is making this weird growling noise.  Not like a hunger rumble, but like… a growling.  Or a crying.

“Anyway, she doesn’t pay for any of this, she just turns around—oh, and before she does that, before she turns I mean, her eyes like swivel as far as they can to the side, then her head jerks around, and then her shoulders—she looked like a majorette.  One of those puppets on strings.  Then she just marched out.  She was drinking the milk as she walked out, totally ignored Pedro.  And–” [inadible]

“Yeah, this is Pedro.  I want to report a robbery, but that lady is going to hurt herself and that baby.  No, I don’t know where she’s at, she turned down the side of the building and I guess followed it around into the alleyway.  Maybe down into the drainage ditch.“


Facebook Entry June 15, 2016

Last night I saw a crazy guy pacing outside the parking lot.  Standing by a really sweet Pontiac.  Fucker looked like he had a cut on his head, but he was pacing around his car.  I thought he was yelling at the car at first, but then he looked like he was yelling at himself.  “You gotta give  me the keys.  I have to drive!  No!  It’s not got GPS.”

He’s got that nutty ape-arm swing that all the panhandlers have, plus he’s wearing like every piece of clothing he’s got, coat, ratty shirt, like all the bums do, and I’m giving him a wide berth before he can hit me up for change, and then this dumb ass starts like gagging or choking.  Shit!  Now he’s gonna want me to give him the Heimlich, THEN hit me up for change.  And he sees me and then runs off.

I can’t wait to get the hell out Tulsa.


Interview Notes- TSA agent Mellendez, and SafeFly Tech Ami Roberts, June 15, 2016

“Ms. Roberts, you’ve seen the X-rays, and you still say that the machine is properly calibrated?”

“I told you, it isn’t like a medical X-Ray.  It’s not going to give you a picture of walking skeletons like in “Running Man.””

“But you’ve seen them?  You saw them before the subject bolted?”

“I did.”

“And your impression?”

“I told you, it’s not a medical x-ray, its-“

“That’s not what I asked.  Answer the question that I asked, or you’ll be lucky to be a paper-hat wearing rent-a-cop.”

“Fine.  Mr. Mellendez, this guy’s body—his torso—was full of something.”

“Something?  Lungs?  Heart?  I’ve seen the X-rays and they don’t look like lungs or heart.”

“Why the fuck are you asking me, then?  What does it look like to you, asshole?”

“I’m asking because I don’t look at hundreds of x-rays a day.  I’m asking because I want to know if you’ve ever seen anything like this.”

“No.  No I haven’t.  I haven’t seen anything that looks like a guy’s chest packed full of…”

“Full of what, Ms. Roberts?”

“You ever seen those Mexican salamander things?  The ones with the gills on the outside?  It looked like that.  Like he had that where his lungs should have been, and his heart was like, split in half.”


An Email Between a Brother and Sister, June 18, 2016.

Family tree research goes apace.  It is both boring and fascinating, but mostly frustrating.  Also we seem to be related to a bunch of real SOBs!  

I’ve tracked down the reason why so many people think the family used to be rich.  We had a great-great-second-cousin:  R. Shensky.  I’m not sure if the R is for “Robert” or “Richard”.  Anyway, he was one of those guys who struck it rich in Colorado.  

You’d think that side of the family, being all about the Benjamins would have celebrated him—but if there was one thing they were more interested in than money it was reputation, and ol’ R. Shensky had the stigma of madness about him.  And not ‘eccentric’, but batshit crazy!  

First off, he and his partners find all this gold.  He spends a fortune on cutting edge (for the time) geological equipment, and practically invents the art of caving because in spite of everything he and his partners said, it is obvious they’re not mining, they’ve found some kind of cave system.  

And then the “mine” has an accident in the dead of winter, when anybody with any sense wouldn’t even be up that high, and they find ol’ Shensky wandering witless and half-frozen in the woods.  And it gets better!  He’s got a backpack half-full of dynamite!  

He goes into St. Charles sanitarium and the family pretty much drops him like he’s  part negro (like I said real SOBs).  That’s as far as I’ve gotten.  


FBI/TSA Report.  June 23, 2016.

Accompanied TSA agent Captain Roberts to suspect’s house:

Suspect name:  Randolph Conner

Address:  2189 East Oak Lawn Woods, Tulsa, OK

Knocked, no answer.  Followed entry protocol (see pic #3).   House was empty.  Suspiciously clean.  Fridge was full of milk and eggs (see pic #).  Bed has dent in center, like someone had put something heavy on it for too long (pic #4).  Floor had a kind of track, like whoever was there only walked down one very specific area (see pic #5).  House is meticulously clean, except for the garage, which is very chaotic.  Surprised that there hasn’t been a fire from all the chemicals spilled out.  Does not look like a meth lab.

Noticed that some books on bookshelves haven’t been put up right, they were spine-in.  Encyclopedias (Funk and Wagnall, 1989 set).  Geography sections were marked in (see attachments 1-5).   Seemed to be very interested in geography and geology and had numerous maps marking out rocky mountains in Colorado.  

Captain Roberts (TSA) confirms that Conner had bought tickets on morning of 6/13/15 for Denver.  Still not sure why he would want to fly there.  Noticed (pic #6) that he had several sheets of notes inside one encyclopedia– including calculations on how long it would take to take a bus from Tulsa to Denver.  And, (Pic #7) it even looks like he calculated how long it would take to walk there.  But it looks like he went back and re-calculated it.  Took off 20%.

Captain Roberts mentioned that the suspect’s name sounded familiar, so I googled it.  Turns out he’s kind of famous.  Given his experiences I can see how he could be nervous about travel, but I figured it would be more about boats.

Answering machine messages:  Four from his ex-wife, two from reporters, two from lawyers, three from friends concerned with why he seems to have become such a recluse.  One from himself, which am copying here, note the periodic choking:  

“Randolph, this is yourself, before you buy the tickets make sure you charge up your camera before you go.  And you had the camera in your pocket but now you don’t and… hglugh!!…  you’re not sure where you put it or if you lost it and if you did lose it, it would probably either be in the porn stash, the couch cushions or maybe the… hglugh!… laundry hamper.”

Found a camera in the couch cushions, about 200 pictures, nothing that unusual.  From when he did offshore work.  Maybe a Mexican girlfriend.  Also has something like 10 hours of audio files, I haven’t gone through them all as of the time of this report’s creation, but it sounds like he’s been recording himself sleeping.  He makes that choking noise a lot.


A Pair of Cell Phone Messages, June 16, 2016.  The Phone Itself is 500 feet from the Shoulder of I-90 outside of Plano, Colorado:

8:26 a.m.

“Jim, this is your wife.  Can’t help noticing that according to the GPS you’ve been pulled over at I-90 for like twenty minutes.  Honey… for god’s sake I thought we had agreed: no more strays, no more hitchhikers.”

2:49 pm.

“Jim, it’s Carol again.  I thought we agreed no more damn shortcuts!  I can see it, right  here on my phone.  The app works, just like I told you.  Well mister, when your latest time-saver ends up making you late you just don’t call me a-begging to smooth things over!  This Larrabee’s outfit is the best thing to come along for us in years.  Don’t you mess it up.”


One Side of a Call to the Roosevelt National Forest Office Emergency Number, June 18, 2016

“Hello?  Hey, my name’s Caleb Daniels and my friend David and I are on Calman’s peak.  We were trying to get to the old Shmensky mine-camp—and we know that’s illegal, but we weren’t gonna go in, just see if we could catch—take pictures of the bat colony when they came out at sunset.  But we heard a guy screaming bloody murder, and then a smashing.

“Thought about turning back but went on and found the gate at the mine entrance pulled off, and—you got get a chopper to us.  We found a head.  A human head outside the entrance.  All scarred up, we… whoever did it must have gone into the old mine.  I didn’t want to disturb the crime scene, but I didn’t want the flies and stuff to get to it.  So we put it… we put it in our bear-bag and hauled it up in a tree.  

We get pretty good reception up here, call us back if you can get to us.  One other thing.  I’m sending a video to your text number.  I… took a video of the scene, and  maybe I’m all worked up but call me back as soon as you see it and tell me, please tell me, that you don’t see the head—the man’s–jaw still moving.


Email from FBI to TSA, CC NSA,  June 30, 2016

Here are the links to the Petroleum  Geology and Time Magazine articles .  Long and short, Randolph Conner was on the PetroCorp 73 boat, not on the platform, and not in the submersible.  

He’s done work on rigs and platforms.  Very technically trained.  Onboard the PetroCorp 73 for the Chicxulub borings.  Anyway, he and Jon Kron were the two that were swept out to sea when the cables from the submersible busted up the hull.  Kron drown.  

Conner refused to be interviewed by Mexican authorities.  

They took him into Chicxulub City and and he refused to have any medical treatment.  Once on land it looks like he started having a lot of trouble with his superiors.  Long and short, took the first plane back to Houston.


City of Tulsa Stormwater Permitting and Inspection Department Inspection Form

November 19, 2016 follow-up on department of parks and maintenance call-in complaint of September 28, 2016.

Yale and SE 130 st.  Found the open manhole.  Checked annual stormwater grate and manhole survey after the July 2015 heavy rains, no mention made of problems.  Manhole cover itself was found about 10 feet to the west.  

Parks and Maintenance did not note that the concrete collar around the manhole was also shattered.   It looked like someone took a sledgehammer to it.  

Adrian Simmons is an Oklahoma based writer and editor.  His fiction has appeared in the Black Dragon/White Dragon anthology, and the James Gunn’s Ad Astra.  His genre-related essays, interviews, and articles published at Strange Horizons, Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Revolution SF.  He is a driving force behind Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.