Read Arctic Rising Online

Authors: Tobias S. Buckell

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

Arctic Rising (4 page)

BOOK: Arctic Rising
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She hadn’t even gotten in a fuzzy hello. Her father sounded scared, hopeful, nervous, and angry, all at the same time.

“Father…” She blinked against the light streaming in around the darkening blinds. Hearing his voice, even if transported from so far away, made her feel better.

“I cannot believe you did not call me. Here we are, hearing this news that says an airship was blown out of the sky near Baffin Island, and you have not even called us to let us know you are okay, or even sent us a message? I called your phone over and over and over again. Then your aunt says to me that she has another number for you and that’s how I finally reached you. I almost died from the worry.”

Anika braced herself against the headboard from the onslaught of clipped, angry words from her father as he lectured her. “I fell asleep,” she said, rubbing at her eyes. “And yes, it was me they shot at.”

“I … what did you say?” Her father lost his train of thought.

“They shot me down. Me and the other pilot.”

A long silence dripped from the other side of the phone. Then finally her father collected himself. No more yelling now. “Are you okay, Anika?”

Anika slumped forward around the phone. “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it all yet. I am just … still thinking over what happened. And trying to figure out why.”

“But you’re not hurt?”

“No.” Suddenly she now wanted to hear him drone on about her cousins, and who was pregnant, and what was coming into season in the markets. She wanted to hear about the air conditioner that kept breaking down in the window of his Lagos apartment and hear him complain about the heat. All those mundane details of life back home, that she usually wanted him to skip on past, now sounded like delicious nuggets of familiarity and normalcy.

“I thought you flew normal patrols,” her father said. “I don’t understand. I thought you had taken on a
less
dangerous job. This isn’t the Sahara.”

The phone beeped. Anika looked at the incoming call. Commander Michel Claude, the phone blinked. “I thought so, too. But I have to go,” Anika said.

“You should call your mother,” he said quickly. Anika sat, letting the words roll past. “You are close enough to
visit
her. Whatever our pasts, she will have heard the news story. She will want to know her daughter is safe.”

Anika pursed her lips. “It was good to hear your voice. But my commander is calling. I have to go.”

“Well, be careful, Anika,” her father said. “And think about it.”

“I will,” Anika promised. Then she switched to the incoming call. She took a deep breath. “Commander?”

Michel sounded tired, his voice scratchy from lack of sleep. “Anika … I’m very sorry about this.…”

Anika’s stomach lurched. This couldn’t be good. “Commander?”

“I know you were just with him, but Tom passed. I’m so very sorry.”

Anika closed her eyes and bent over on the side of her bed. “I was
just
there. He seemed okay to me. He made jokes.”

“I saw him as well, Anika. But it happened.”

She gripped the phone and heard a piece of plastic in the case crack. There was no going back to bed. No time for curling up and waiting to process what had happened. “We need to hunt down these assholes who did this to us, Commander. They need to pay for what they did. I want to come in and
do
something; I don’t think I can sit here by myself.”

Michel paused for a moment. “You sure about that? You up for flying out to Resolute?”

Anika sat up. “What’s in Resolute?”

“They’ve found the
Kosatka,
trying to hide in the harbor with other ships. The U.S. Navy has a patrol boat there, and the local police have the crew in custody. Can you fly our Investigations Unit guys out there to participate in the interrogation? They might use you to ID any of the guys. If you can.”

“Of course I’ll do it.” She stood up.

“There’s a light jet being fueled up right now,” Michel said. “They’ll be waiting for you.”

 

6

Resolute hadn’t changed much in the last three months. It was still a mess of boxy prefab mini-skyscrapers. They all cluttered around the sloping gravel leading to the harbor, which jutted out of the boundary of rock and sea.

Another port deep in the Arctic Circle. Another island detached from the mainland of Canada, like Baffin. Just farther west. Most of these places were barely presences at the turn of the century. Forty years later, they were bursting with prefabs and activity. When the ice left, the Canadian North opened up. Once-tiny towns exploded, particularly once shipping traffic began to stream through the Northwest Passage, and ports rapidly built themselves up. Places that were actually on the Canadian mainland, like Bernard Harbour, Coppermine, Gjoa, and Taloyok, had become powerful economic and demographic engines that made Canada the lead of the so-called “Arctic Tiger” nations that benefitted from the warm polar oceans. The megalopolis Anchorage turned into had made Alaska one of the more powerful states in the U.S.A.

Anika stood for a moment on the helicopter deck on the back of an old U.S. Navy destroyer. Her blue UNPG flight suit kept her warm against the bitter wind.

She spotted the familiar bulk of the
Kosatka
at anchor among four other larger ships.

Her lips quirked. There it was. Like a shark hoisted out of water. She remembered why she feared it, and she remembered the attack. But now it was just this inert, still thing. It was nothing more than a ship at anchor.

The two very serious-looking UN Polar Guard special agents that she’d flown out to Resolute paused as they noticed her looking. Yves and Anton. French and Russian. Mirrored sunglasses. And not a smile between the two.

“Real fucking mess, no?” Anton said, taking off his glasses to reveal bright blue eyes.

Anika nodded. “Can we go inside to see them now?” Standing up here stewing about what happened wasn’t what she wanted to do. She needed to keep moving and to keep busy. To not think about Tom. Not think about Jenny, sitting on that bench in the hospital.

Yves pulled a cell phone down and pointed to a pair of uniformed Americans waiting for them. Yves, Anton, and Anika had been let aboard the destroyer, but in the time it had taken to fly out here, the whole thing had become some sort of jurisdictional mess, and they were stuck on the helicopter deck as everyone tried to figure out if they were allowed belowdecks.

The Americans had found the
Kosatka
trying to hide in the harbor. But the Canadians said it was their port the
Kosatka
was inside, and that the men should be handed over to them for charges. And of course, the UNPG wanted a piece. After all, it had been Anika and Tom shot of the sky.

Her special agents, usually used to internal investigations and smuggling prosecution, had spent the whole flight out making calls and arguing with people on the other side, trying to penetrate the international layers of bureaucracy involved.

“We can go in,” Yves said, nodding at the Americans. “We can interrogate, we can record. We cannot move prisoners.”

Anton swore in Russian, then gently grabbed Anika’s elbow. “You can stay out here, if you like. You don’t have to come inside. But it would be helpful for our cause if you ID them.”

He looked hopeful, but understanding at the same time. Giving her space to come to a decision of her own. No pressure here, said his body language. And yet, there was some tension. He was angry and keyed up. The attack on Anika was an attack on him.

Brothers in arms. The uniformed tribe. Anika suddenly had a lot of pissed off fellow guardspeople in blue wanting to lash back at whoever had done this.

Anika turned toward the pyramid-shaped stealthed superstructure of the destroyer and nodded. “I’m ready.”

*   *   *

A short man with a silvering mustache stepped out and waved them through. “Captain Martinez,” he said, introducing himself and quickly shaking hands. “Glad you were able to get out here. Come with me.”

Then it was down into the tight confines of the corridors. Everything gleamed: polished and clean. Shipshape navy. Hardly a speck of dirt, grease, or anything of the sort.

Anika stepped sideways past a seaman on his hands and knees, polishing a kickplate on a bulkhead door. Salutes were exchanged between the Americans in passing, and the group continued on through the metal warren, footsteps echoing on down ahead of them.

“My superiors view this as a justification of our presence,” Martinez was explaining to Anton. “Critics aren’t happy about diesel-burners chewing up fuel rations for force projection up here in the Circle, they think the fuel’s better kept in reserve. In case we ever do end up in a major conflict, we can’t afford to use it up.”

“That is what UNPG is for,” Anton grumbled.

“Yes, and the Canadian Guard, and Navy.” Martinez grinned back at us. “But brass thinks you guys are undermanned and the Arctic is a real Wild West sort of area: Northern Europe and Russia to Canada and Alaska smuggling, new drug trade routes, loosely monitored offshore drilling operations, ecoterrorists.”

“So your brass thinks, Alaskan coast is not enough, no?” Anton said. “Wild, Wild West gets your attention?”

“Yee-haw,” Martinez agreed.

“And you, what do you think?” Yves asked the captain.

Martinez scratched his beard and slowed down. He looked back at them. “I’m just trying to explain to you why you had such a hard time getting permission to come aboard and talk to the
Kosatka
’s crew. One sailor shot at is just the same as any other to me, understand? I’m glad to burn fuel and hunt for the bastards, after what they did.”

Then Martinez narrowed his eyes and stabbed his finger to make a point. “But I want to make sure you understand that this is also a PR coup for the people who gave me the orders to go hunt for the vessel. They’re trying to justify keeping ships like mine operational. Normally a ship like this, we coast around, trying to sip fuel as best we can and patrol some area. We usually leave the fast-moving interception and hunting to nuke-powered steamers and the sailships.”

And, Anika wondered, was that also a sign of the Americans overcompensating for the unexpected rise of Canada’s strength throughout the polar region, and as a result of those riches, the world?

There were Americans rioting about the cost of their military. And the American naval fleet would be testing combined maneuvers soon with other G35 navies as a way to possibly make cuts in its fleet. No wonder this captain’s superiors wanted the usefulness of their ships proved. It’d get that much harder for the UNPG to keep order in the North if the Americans started drawing down from the Alaskan bases because of the cost of the Polar Fleet.

Maybe Canada would step up.

Anton nodded. “We just want to talk to the sailors of the
Kosatka
. No pissing match, Captain. We won’t try to take them back with us.”

Martinez smiled sadly. “It’d be nice if we could prove the value of keeping these ships around, enough to justify the expense of converting them to nuclear power.”

Anton and Yves nodded sympathetically. They were both former sailors, now deskbound. They understood a captain’s desire to work hard to keep a ship going.

Martinez stopped in front of a locked room with two men on guard outside of it. “I doubt they’ll tell you much more than we found out already. We already passed on everything they said.”

“Yes,” Anton replied as he waited for the door to be opened. “But it’s always best to do your own interrogation, I feel. Look into their eyes and see what is there, yeah?”

The thick metal door swung open.

“Knock yourselves out,” Martinez said.

Six grubby men sat on a long bench, their backs to the gray-painted metal bulkhead. Two of them had their faces in their hands, elbows on their knees.

Anika locked eyes with the man wearing the blue woolen cap.

“That’s the man who fired the rocket at me,” she said.

 

7

Anika’s attacker had been about to stand, as were some of the other men on the uncomfortable-looking bench.

They were, she realized, quite young. Very early twenties, maybe late teens. Hardly more than boys. One of them had a patchy beard.

This crew wasn’t a group of hardened drug runners, as Anton and Yves had passed along to her. That was what the
Kosatka
’s crew told the navy they were, after they’d been captured.

The U.S. Navy said they’d most likely weighted and sunk their evidence after ramming her airship in the water, then ran for it, because there was nothing in the
Kosatka
’s holds when they found the ship. And the U.S. Navy didn’t buy the whole seasoned criminals thing either.

“A bunch of young punks, most likely first timers, who panicked,” Yves said. “That’s what everyone seems to think.”

Now Anika felt like a tightly wound spring that had snapped, pieces scattering everywhere. She’d come here taut and angry. Self-controlled, but sadness and anger torqued tight and deep within her.

These … kids, she thought.

Just scared kids.

Anton and Yves sat down on small metal chairs in front of the five drug dealers and started asking questions.

“You’re … you’re not the lawyers, then?” one of the young men asked. He looked scared.

Yves shook his head and leaned forward. “Terrorists don’t get lawyers on a U.S. Navy ship,” he said softly. “Terrorists don’t get much of anything at all.”

One of the young men leaned forward and threw up.

Anika turned around and left the stink of fear behind her.

*   *   *

Half an hour later Yves joined her, leaning against the rail, looking out at the
Kosatka
again. “Okay?” he asked.

“They’re younger than I expected,” she said.

“Young drug dealers. Young murderers.” Yves lit a delicate thin cigarette and drew in a deep breath of smoke. Exhaled. “You know … drug dealers on a street corner, they can be any age. They are still deadly people, yes?”

Anika looked over. “I’ve seen enough fourteen-year-olds with automatic rifles, Yves. I know. I was just surprised.”

BOOK: Arctic Rising
8.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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