The Kola Peninsula

See here for a brief introduction to the Gateau Method.

In 1970, the Soviet Union began a programme to explore the Earth’s strata by drilling down through the rock of the Kola Peninsula (the lobe of Russia that hangs off the end of Norway and Finland).

By the time the programme halted in 1989, the Kola Superdeep Borehole extended more than 12km straight down into the ground, a third the way to the Mohorovičić Discontinuity, the boundary between the Earth’s crust and its mantle. It even spawned a hilarious hoax that Russian scientists had discovered Hell.

(To be fair, it probably inspired The Core as well. On the other hand, portions of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri bear evidence of similar inspiration, so I guess it evens out in the end—just.)

The US had previously run a similar programme, Project Mohole, off the coast of Baja California from 1957 until cost overruns and mismanagement closed it in 1966. Although Mohole had managed to drill in over 3500m of water, their bit only penetrated a further 180m or so into the crust. Japan’s Chikyū Hakken programme hopes to accomplish a similar feat by 2012; however, as its boreholes are located on the seabed of one of Earth’s most seismically active regions, it will only need to drill seven kilometres in less than 2500m of water.

Whilst geologists have drawn fairly accurate inferences about what lies beneath our feet, they’re still not entirely certain how it all works, hence the need to drill holes in the ground and examine samples directly. But in the spirit of the Gateau Method, what if all these investigative bores have a more sinister purpose?

Atomic death-rays notwithstanding, there’s probably a downward limit on reactor size, so the K’n-yani civilisation is going to need another source of power-dense, portable fuel. There just happens to be such a source, pooled just above their heads: black gold, Texas tea. But blue-litten K’n-yan is enclosed by kilometres of stone; in order to make use of oil, the K’n-yanis must have perfected carbon sequestration, or they would quickly choke to death. Good thing that they’re technologically superior and all, huh?

Despite their technological advantage, the K’n-yanis are hardly a nuclear threat to the US—they’re difficult to hit, but they have a lot more to lose by having their subterranean empire caved in on top of them. If they compete with the US for oil, however, then this becomes a source of future conflict. As the 1970s’ energy crisis should have taught us, oil is a vital strategic resource because our own civilisation depends on it for just about everything.

Conventional warfare isn’t much use against the K’n-yanis’ superscience sidearms, so if the US is going to strike at them, then it’ll have to look like an accident. And the best way to do that is to find a large body of water directly above K’n-yan, drill through the crust, go all Lake Peigneur on their subterranean butts, and hope that the ensuing deluge wipes away any evidence of malfeasance on the US’ part.

The K’n-yanis aren’t stupid—they’ve detected the drilling. They’ve even begun to issue warnings to cease and desist before disaster strikes.