Frank was grateful his plasma mole was heating up the rock he was penetrating because it had to be no higher than 40 below: a typical winter day in Alaska. The snow and ice sizzled before producing clouds of steam that nearly blinded the gold prospector. As the steam condensed, the water droplets iced up Frank’s beard. Ground up rock and earth spewed from the chute attached to his mole that was the size of a frontend loader. After penetrating a few yards, he would rummage through the pile of spew to see if there was any gold.  


     He had been warned about the dangers of Alaska. There were grizzlies, bigfoots that could rip your arms off, and even giants that made him look like a baby. But for years after watching all the gold prospecting programs on cable stations, there was the chance he could strike it rich in Alaska. After mortgaging his home in Idaho and investing it in the plasma equipment and nearly emptying his accounts to buy provisions, a good muti-mode rifle and pistol, and an inflatable habitat shelter, he had better find at least a few pounds of gold.  


     Some of his friends back in the lower-48 advised him to save money by just panning for gold in a river. He followed part of their advice and set up his habitat near a river that was down the hill from where he was going to eat and sleep. He hoped his geothermal system would provide enough energy for at least a few hours of drilling before going to the flywheel for stored energy because if it ran down, he would be eating a cold dinner that night.  


     After boring out a shallow cave, Frank turned off the plasma beams and backed the mole out. The support wheels slowly extended after the mole reached the outside. Frank parked the mole near the pile of spew that was a few yards away. The sun was shining brightly and raised the temperature to a balmy -15. But in a couple hours the sun would be down and the temperature would plunge to 60 below.  


     Frank examined the pile of spew and spotted some shiny pebbles and warm earth which he scooped up with a few five-gallon buckets. He had left a couple five-gallon buckets of water in the habitat and an empty five-gallon bucket so he could pan for gold and dump the mud into the empty bucket. He would save the panning for the long evening.  


     After nearly filling up the buckets, Frank picked up his power pick and plugged it into the power pack on his back. At least it was fully respun and was good for the limited time he had to chip away at what was inside the small cave he had bored out. He turned on his headlamp and illuminated the interior of the cave. His eyes widened when his light caught the glint of gold in the warm wall of rock. He quickly chipped away at the wall and caught the material in a bag.  


     Despite the sound of the power pick chipping away at the rock, a sound outside caught Frank’s attention. He had heard it the evening before. It sent shivers up and down his spine. It was similar to what old-timers described as coming from a sasquatch. At least he was packing his pistol in case the thing got too close. But would 9-millimeter slugs be sufficient to stop it? He set the muzzle velocity to five miles per second.  


     The more he chipped away at the wall, the more gold he revealed. It was in thin veins in the quartz. He used his pick like a knife and scraped at the veins to loosen the gold which spilled into his bag like tiny flakes of yellow metal.  


     Suddenly, the noise he had heard minutes before sounded like it was a few yards away. It was joined by the growl of another creature. Frank had to decide whether to stay in the cave chipping away at what might make him rich or pick up his buckets of spew and head up the hill to his habitat and the relative safety he would experience.  


     When the noise of the growling sounded like it was no more than a couple yards away, Frank left the cave and pulled his pistol out of its holster. Before he could reach the buckets, two bigfoots attacked. Frank shot one of them in the head and dropped it instantly as the slug traveled through its brain. He hoped the other bigfoot would be frightened off. But instead it became enraged and lunged at him. He had to put it down with another slug that remained buried in the back of its skull. 


     Frank tied his bag to his belt and headed up the hill to his habitat. He thought about taking at least one of the buckets up with him. But it sounded like at least two bigfoots were charging through the forests toward him. If he could reach the high ground, he was confident he could hold off the creatures.  


     Out of nowhere appeared something he thought was only a myth.  A man that had to be at least ten feet tall pushed some small trees apart and emerged a few yards away.  Frank entered his habitat and grabbed his rifle that was leaning against the wall next to the entrance hatch.  When he left the habitat, the giant was a few feet away.  


     Frank shot at the giant. But the slug grazed the side of his head and left a groove. The huge man screamed in pain and anger and charged toward the prospector. He was at the base of the hill when Frank nearly had to shove the barrel of his rifle into his mouth before firing a 9 millimeter slug down his throat. The giant stumbled and reached out toward his nemesis. But Frank was able to nail the man in the eye. The slug buried itself in the man’s brain and brought him down in a heap.  


     As if the ground assault wasn’t enough, two huge flying creatures that had supposedly gone extinct over 100 million years ago soared high in the sky as the last rays of the setting sun turned the bottom of the clouds crimson. At first, Frank admired the sight of the magnificent creatures until he realized they were diving toward him. They were as big as a hang glider and caused a tinge of fear. He shot at the nearest one and shattered its right shoulder. It fluttered to the ground like a giant leaf.  


     Frank shot at the second pterodactyl and punctured its right wing. But it kept flying toward the man in a power dive. It was either going to kill the gunman or die trying. If it landed on the man, the weight of its body might be enough to crush him.  


     The man had only a few seconds to take his second shot at the ancient flying raptor. But it looked like the monster was going to slam into him if he didn’t move out of its way.  



     The quest for gold in Alaska can be exciting and dangerous. But with the possibility of discovering the mother lode, even in the future people will take their lives in their hands and do whatever it takes to find it or die in the effort. Maybe you can decide his fate.  

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