Read Arctic Rising Online

Authors: Tobias S. Buckell

Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Suspense, #General, #Global Warming, #Suspense Fiction

Arctic Rising (22 page)

BOOK: Arctic Rising
9.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

He was not an immoral man.

And also, not a masochist. He was suffering.

“Gabriel, please. Please answer a question. Just one. We’ve stopped. It’s me.” A thick rivulet of blood dripped down the side of his left eye as she looked right at him and leaned forward, half hugging him. He rested his head, wires and all, on her shoulder. “When that nuclear bomb explodes, will it hurt people?”

She could feel him pause. It was the muscle language. He was refusing to answer, one way or another, but she could feel him gather himself to resist more torture.

“A moral man can condemn innocents to death in war,” she said softly, letting him go. “The religious, the righteous, those getting ready for war, they agree to sacrifice innocents caught between them. The lives are filed under ‘collateral damage.’ That is the price,” Anika said. “I’m not so innocent either, Gabriel. And I know that even they, when forced to stare into what they’re about to do, flinch slightly.”

“Anika?” Vy asked. “What are you talking about?”

“He’s trained for resistance,” Roo said, squatting in front of Gabriel. “No one survives torture forever. He’s hanging in there, long enough so that whatever he’s hiding, it will be over soon. But he doesn’t like it.”

“He’s conflicted about his mission,” Anika said. “Regret, guilt. That’s why he almost welcomes this.”

“He’s conflicted, but determined,” Roo said. “We could beat something out of him, with the help of that machine, but how long will that take?”

They all looked down at the beaten man, who remained slumped, looking down at the floor.

“Fuck,” Vy spat. “Just … fuck.”

“The nuclear weapon was on what we presume was a Gaia-chartered ship,” Anika said. “And Gaia headquarters is docked in Thule. The man running away from the UNPG is in Thule. Everything, it seems, leads to Thule. Doesn’t it, Mr. Garret Dubuque?”

Gabriel didn’t answer.

Anika leaned over and slid the brass knuckles off Vy’s fingers, and gently pushed them onto hers.

“All I want is a yes or no answer, Gabriel, for the machine. You don’t have to tell us where the bomb actually is. But I wonder if you might point us in the right direction? Because there are a lot of people who live their lives in Thule. Innocent people. You yourself asked me a question—about what I would do, if I could get information that could save lives. Now I know.”

He shook his head.

She hit him. They both flinched. Her own body shuddered in empathy, and she wanted to throw up. But he was a killer. He knew where this bomb was.

This could save lives.

He wouldn’t break. But he could let her know if Thule was the right direction.

She hit him again—in the ribs, the brass knuckles digging hard into the palms of her hand—thinking of the people who could die. Thinking of Tom.

Tom. That made it easier to punch again, this time hearing something crack. To hit the face and see the blood and spit and not even care.

Think of the man who tried to kill her.

Think of being tied up, helpless on the ship, wondering what would happen to her.

And yet. If this was vengeance, the blood didn’t feel very good. Even the blood of a dangerous man like Gabriel. Something in the back of her brain screamed stop, that he was tied-up, defenseless, no longer a threat.

But that was her lizard brain. A poor moralist. Gabriel was no longer a threat directly. Like a caged lion, he had been neutered. But the greater machine of plans he was a part of, something the back of her brain struggled to literalize, that was still a threat.

Gabriel’s body twitched with sobs. “You wouldn’t be able to find it. It’ll be hidden. Shielded.”

He was convincing himself, she knew. Convincing himself that he could make the pain stop, but that he wouldn’t be betraying whatever it was he was a part of.

“But it’s in Thule, right?” Anika asked, out of breath.

Gabriel nodded. Ashamed. For being weak, for giving this up. “But that’s as much as I’ll tell you,” he grunted. “Any more, any more, and it would be better for me to die. Maybe … maybe you can get some people to leave Thule. Evacuate.”

He looked up at her with pleading eyes.

“Vy?” Anika pulled the knuckles off and let them drop to the floor, relieved. She was ready to cry herself. “Can we get to Thule quickly?”

“We’re owed favors,” Roo said. “I’ll get on it.”

“Vy, call your doctor back,” Anika said. And she kneeled in front of Gabriel.

He looked at her through blood and puffed skin, coughed, and leaned further forward. “It’s okay,” he said.

Anika shook her head. “No, it isn’t. I don’t know what the fuck you’re involved with, Gabriel. But it was far from fucking okay. It’ll never be okay. I won’t be okay.”

He started laughing, a wet choking sound that ended with a cry of pain. The ribs. “Please stay away from Thule, Anika. Send them a warning, tell them to leave. But don’t go. I’m sorry you’ve lost friends. But no good will come of going to Thule. I promise you.”

“Good-bye, Gabriel.” You weird, strange, little old man, she thought.

And then: I’m so sorry. She’d have nightmares about what she’d just done for the rest of her life.

Outside the kitchen doors, Roo was on his phone. He gave her a thumbs-up. “We have transportation into Thule,” he said. “Courtesy of the Dutch Navy. They’ll also pick up Gabriel. Various people are very interested in him now. For one, we’re all really interested to know who he’s working for.”

Anika could imagine. “How long?”

“They land in fifteen minutes. Grab what stuff you need and let’s run. And yes, I am definitely flying out with you. I’ve been officially attached to you by the Caribbean Intelligence Agencies.” Roo left to find a bag for the laptop he’d somehow acquired and some spare phones.

Anika looked over at Vy. “You don’t have to come any further. You’ve done too much.”

But Vy shook her head. “With all the trouble you’ve already gotten into, you’ll need someone who knows Thule. And who can watch your back. Besides, this has gotten somewhat personal. They killed Chernov. I owe them.”

Deep down, she’d been hoping Vy would come. “Thanks.” She let out a breath she’d been holding in.

“It’s going to get ugly, I think.” Vy crossed her arms.

“I know,” Anika said. “I’ve seen ugly. But I’m not backing down, either.”

Vy nodded.

And Roo returned. He threw a duffel bag that clanked loudly down on the floor. He unzipped it to reveal semiautomatic weapons, pistols, several grenades, and an assortment of very large knives.

“Pick your weapons of choice. Seeing what happened the last few times we ventured out, I think from now on, we stay heavily armed.” He looked at Anika. “Get ready to get back outside, you’ll need to fool the cameras again, just to be safe.”

Anika picked up a pistol, checked it over, and then found an ammunition clip in a separate part of Roo’s arsenal. She tucked it into the back of the waistband of her newly acquired jeans.

“What about you, you getting made up?”

Roo nodded. “War paint for the digital world.”



They flew out of Pleasure Island aboard a Dutch Navy helicopter. Unlike the last pilot, this one flew high over the water, leaving Anika feeling more comfortable.

She preferred it when the water looked like a solid surface far below.

The bench seats behind the pilot and copilot had room for six people. Roo, Anika, and Vy had been joined by an officer, who patiently waited for them to put on large headphones with mics.

Noise cancellation washed over them.

“Hello, I am Albus Van Petersen,” their host told them in precise English. He hadn’t even blinked at their camera-confusing makeup. “I am pleased to be meeting you. I’m an intelligence officer attached to the Standing NATO Naval Response Force Three. I serve aboard the HDMS
De Ruyter
. I have been assigned to make sure you understand the position in which you are about to place yourselves.”

He pulled out a pad with a long, legal-looking document on it.

“What’s that?” Vy asked.

“Right now the Response Force is blockading Thule. A coordinated, multinational response has demanded that Gaia, Inc., immediately cease releasing its products into the upper atmosphere.” Albus pointed out the window. They were flying over more naval ships steaming north, wakes stretching behind them like long arrows of disturbed ocean. “Ships and troop transports from the G-35 nations are contributing more forces to the blockade of Thule. Gaia, Inc., has had its assets seized in most G-35s, but we have found that a considerable amount of assets, particularly factories, have been moved over the last decade to non–G-35 nations. We’ve moved past demands and into all-out military action.”

“And if Gaia doesn’t stop releasing those devices?” Roo asked.

“If non–G-35s refuse to shut the factories down, there
be airstrikes, which will, of course, cause all sorts of blowback. Sovereignty will be violated, nations upset. And it looks likely the standoff with Thule will turn into conflict at any moment. I think the non–G-35s are basing their decisions on what happens in the next forty-eight hours over Thule. I am guessing that will be a full invasion, the way things are moving.” Albus thrust the pad all the way forward between them all. “That’s why you need to sign this document. All of you. It states that we are not responsible for whatever happens to you as a result of us transporting you into the middle of all this.”

“The Dutch Armed Forces want us to sign a waiver to cover their ass?” Vy asked, amazement tingeing her voice.


Roo took the pad. “Yeah, man, why not?”

As they signed the pad and passed it around, Anika looked over at Albus. “You think the G-35 nations are really are going to attack Gaia headquarters?”

Albus shrugged. “I don’t know for sure. But look outside the window. I think many of the rules are changing.” He pointed.

Anika craned her neck to look up in the direction Albus pointed.

The sky flashed silver, as if God himself had sprayed a mirror finish on the clouds that normally sheeted the highest part of the sky. She could see that there were still clumps of air in between five different masses of silvered clouds as the spheres were still coagulating over whatever position Gaia was commanding them to slowly move into.

“There must be billions of them,” Anika said.

“And more launching every hour,” Albus said. “Once those five formations join up, they become as powerful as if Gaia had launched a giant mirror into orbit. In fact, more so. A mirror could be shot out of orbit. The spheres cannot be destroyed—an explosion would damage some spheres; the rest would scatter from the concussion. We’re trying to compute how powerful the mirror will be, but until we see it in action it is hard to say. Right now it’s mainly using heat energy to move itself around, we’re not seeing it in full action.”

Anika thought about the flash of light that boiled the water back at the mist boats. It wasn’t just navigating—that cloud had destructive power. But she had another pressing concern: “How will we land at the harbor if Thule is being blockaded? Won’t they refuse to let us land?”

“It’s Thule,” Albus said, sounding puzzled. “Even if you declare war on them, if you pay for the harbor fee and entrance visa, they’ll happily trade with you.”

*   *   *

Someone, somewhere, once realized that the Arctic Circle needed its very own Hong Kong, its very own Singapore. A replication of relatively unfettered laissez-faire mercantilism run amok. A free-trade harbor. Low-tax haven. A place for the edges of Arctic society to experiment and innovate.

It began with offshore oil ships used for storage, rafted together, serving as the hub for cross-polar oil shipping. Several oil multinationals joined their resources and gave birth to a new entity responsible for maintaining the flotilla and storing the oil. It also buffered them against liability in the event of a spill.

And then things went their own direction. The flotilla began serving as a free harbor for not only oil, but
shipping. Floating factories were towed into place so that midsized and pico-sized factories could manufacture on the spot the objects that were being shipped, using raw materials shipping in from other directions.

The flotilla grew. The harbor ossified. Tall buildings grew out of the decks of the ships. Floating derricks the size of skyscrapers were purchased. Anika could see this seed that began Thule as they flew in, a twenty-square-mile area of glittering, floating metal. The harbor side of Thule consisted mainly of barges lashed to other barges to create a miniature Venice at sea here on the edge of the ice. Towering apartment blocks really were encased derricks, their feet stretching out far below to stabilize them.

Thule Corporation leased space to the various entities that grew into being under its larger umbrella, made few rules, and profited. As the old flotilla harbor grew, its board of directors realized that gaining more usable “land” would allow unprecedented profits.

So they decided to save the polar ice cap and move aboard.

Who was going to complain? After all, the rest of the world was resigned to just letting it slowly … melt away.

That part of Thule stretched out past the industrial metal grime of the harbor and its swinging walkways and long piers. Fresh, pristine ice architecture radiated away from the blotch of the harbor. The size of this salvaged ice-island was famously compared to roughly that of Rhode Island. Underneath the igloos and ice apartments, burrowed in and insulated, Thule’s explosive growth continued on, reaching icy fingers out until it reached the North Pole Arctic Preserve.

Massive snow machines, just like the ones usually seen at ski resorts but scaled up an extra magnitude, spat snow out from the tops of buildings and artificial hills, constantly laying down inches of new snowpack to compensate for the continuous ablation of warmer water.

Fields of solar panels glinted in the harsh, cold air. Massive wind turbines poked their superstructures out from between buildings; several even had buildings on their bases. Offshore, away from the ice pack, even larger wind farms floated, tethered in place by anchors, blades spinning slowly and patiently. Oil might have fueled the rush to the North, but Thule’s constituents had a radical commitment to power independence that was visible right from the air.

BOOK: Arctic Rising
9.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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