Read Arctic Rising Online

Authors: Tobias S. Buckell

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

Arctic Rising (6 page)

BOOK: Arctic Rising
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It went against her nature to go ask someone for help. But she was sort of looking forward to this trip, she had to secretly admit.

If she could arrange transportation.

She walked next door and banged on the screen door. “Karl!”

She banged again, until Karl’s blond curls appeared at the window, and then at the crack of the door as it opened. He was wearing a towel around his waist, tufts of coarse, dark hair running up from his belly to his chest, covering a fairly fit physique. “Jesus, Anika, what?”

“I need to borrow your bike, if it is charged.”

Karl rubbed his eyes and looked up the road. “Oh, come on, Anika. You ran your damn car down
again
?”

Anika didn’t answer that, but cocked her head. Karl sighed and reached over to the hooks screwed into the wall by the door, then handed her the keys. The key fob was made of paracord, six feet of it woven into a five-inch decorative plait. Useful. She kept telling herself she needed one. The bike’s “key” was actually just an RFID chip in a decorative logo casing that didn’t need to be inserted into the bike. As long as Anika had the keys within ten feet of the bike it would start up with a press of a button. “Make sure you plug it back in when you’re done,” he growled.

“Thank you, Karl.”

“Fuck off. It’s late,” he grumped. “I’m going back to bed.”

“It’s not like I’ll get any sleep with you having a visitor over. These thin walls. Is it still Chief Evisham?”

He closed the door. They had a good-natured sort of blackmail arrangement. She borrowed his bike and kept shut about fraternization.

Though Anika was pretty sure he’d let her borrow the bike anyway.

*   *   *

The bike’s rear tire spat gravel as Anika wobbled her way out of the drive, and then she got her balance as the bike sped up. The wind snapped at her loose hair.

Out past base housing she turned onto the paved Nanisivik highway. The bike’s motor whined as she gunned it, sucking juice for a sudden burst of speed that left a long strip of rubber down the fresh asphalt.

At seventy miles an hour she eased back, letting the rhythm of the bike and the road’s dips canter underneath her. The whine fell away, leaving her with the just the sound of the constant hurricane of wind ripping at her.

This felt good. She was releasing something buried deep inside.

Now that she was off the gravel and on pavement her Oakleys finally connected wirelessly to her phone. A map appeared in her field of vision, showing her location and turn-by-turn directions.

It was an hour’s ride, and a fun one. She wound her way around the bases of the peaks overlooking Nanisivik. She crossed over the valleys carved out by now-extinct glaciers in the mountainous hump of the semi-peninsular Nanisivik.

A dip into a valley again, then slowly back up, and she was coming down toward an icy shoreline. Houses began to appear again, dotting the hills overlooking the sea.

It was a spare landscape. Rock. Snow. Moss. What little green there was struggled to live in the cold, constant wind. It was as much a desert as any she’d seen in Africa.

And it was all changing.

Baffin Island was some eight hundred miles long. North of Quebec. West of Greenland. And eight hundred miles farther south on Baffin Island the older folks shook their heads when they talked about how things were. They had vegetable gardens, now. And farms! They only remembered ice.

Greenland was growing more and more of its own food. And Canada’s grain lands, once in a thin band of land just above the border with America, now extended ever farther north, while First Nations villages relocated farther south as the ice their villages once sat on disappeared into an ever-warming Arctic Ocean.

She gunned the bike along toward the core of Arctic Bay, where the neon lights flashed along with the dim, distant Northern Lights, barely visible in the ever-constant twilight.

The Oakleys guided her through downtown and back to where the neon flashed the most garish. Now Anika knew she could take the glasses off, because all she had to do was follow the brightest lights and the noise to her destination.

*   *   *

The Greenhouse was jumping tonight. Superbikes and fast cars cluttered the street, and the bike racks were packed and looking like brightly colored metal shrubs.

People spilled out onto the sidewalk, their breath puffing out in the cold air. Bright colored jackets, leathers, and look-at-me hairstyles. Someone inside had the bass jumping, and even on the street people were unconsciously tapping out beats with their toes or nodding their heads.

Anika locked Karl’s bike up to a lamppost and joined the line at the velvet rope.

Five stories tall, The Greenhouse was exactly what the name implied. In the past it was used to grow fresh greens here in Arctic Bay, but as the roads and shipping got better, and the farms in lower Baffin started up, it had been abandoned.

So it had been repurposed as a club.

Anika pulled out a plastic card and showed it to the bouncer, a vaguely Eastern European bodybuilder with black-light tattoos of wildlife on his forearms that fluoresced with the grow lights that had been jacked into a computer running them through some Fibonacci sequence.

He looked it over. The Greenhouse didn’t use RFID tags, or social technologies, or your phone, as a pass. They actually printed up these physical membership badges once they “adopted” you. Very retro. Very coveted if you wanted to jump the line.

“You’re one of those Smurf pilots, yah?” the bouncer asked. The Eastern Europeans called anyone in the UN military Smurfs, thanks to the damn blue helmets and please-shoot-me blue uniforms.

Anika nodded as he handed back her badge and she slipped it into her jacket. He looked her up and down, clearly not liking her sense of fashion, but sighed and waved her in anyway.

The wall of noise being delivered by locationally targeted speakers aimed right at the foyer just about knocked her off her feet, but she took a few steps to the right, into a virtual corridor of dead silence created by reverse noise-canceling zones.

Three feet to the right, people were jumping into the air to the music. Others walking the corridor of silence nodded wryly at her, a sort of instant bond between those who liked the clubs, but couldn’t handle the distorted sound.

She stepped out into the atrium and glanced up. The twilight trickled in, boosted by mirrors and grow lights. And everywhere in the niches and nooks and crannies tropical plants bloomed and grew. Banana trees, rich with green clumps ripening away. The smell of mangos and nutmeg drifted around, intoxicating for their exotic smells so far from the tropics.

Flowers and fruit of every color was all the decoration The Greenhouse needed.

Since she’d discovered it, Anika had been coming here for the smell of something like home. Not all the trees and fruits were things she recognized. She’d never been to South America, or the Caribbean. But there were things in common.

And the tropical heat, partially generated by the sweaty dancing bodies constantly inhabiting The Greenhouse, made her feel more at home than sitting in her tiny box on base with the heat turned up to max. Because at base those drafts of cold air still seeped in through the cracks and mixed with the heat like oil and water, caressing and chilling her, reminding her where she was even while she was slick with sweat.

A couple of girls wearing jackets with large Chinese flags on the back were feeding meat to a pitcher plant in one of the nooks along the stairway. Anika walked past them up to the second level and along the railings to the bar.

From up here, away from the coherent sound speakers targeting their music at specific spots on the floor with sound, the dancing masses on the ground floor looked like an insane, but eerily quiet mob.

Anika stopped at the second floor bar, which was framed by bird-of-paradise flowers and hibiscus threaded through self-watering and self-feeding glass-tube trellises.

A lean, but whip-muscular older First Nations man with wolf eye contacts and deep creases around his eyes, a look gained from a lifetime lived outside, leaned over the polished mahogany. “What do you want?”

“Vy.”

He straightened up and folded his arms. “Who’s asking?”

“Anika.”

An arm draped itself across her back, and Anika stiffened. “Hello there, little Smurf,” Vy said into her ear, then nodded at the bartender. “It’s okay, Eric. Two Belladonnas?”

“I don’t need a drink,” Anika said, still facing the bar. There were hundreds of bottles, all shades of liquors, catching the grow lights against a back mirror, sparkling and dazzling the air.

“Oh, you need a drink,” Vy said. “Heard what you’ve been through. You really, really need a drink. You’ll like this, the pineapple juice in here is fresh squeezed, made right here in The Greenhouse.”

Anika could see herself in the mirror behind the pyramids of bottles, her hair haloed out around her face, the black jacket loose and unzipped, and Vy slipping onto the stool next to her.

Vy had a strong jaw and Midwest girl-next-door features. Her impossibly straight blond hair hung loose just above her chin in a pageboy cut. Anika almost suspected she had pompoms in a closet somewhere, and that until the recent cut, her hair was kept back in a ponytail.

There was a short, bubbly cheerfulness to her that seemed at odds to the crisp Armani suit and executive look she had right now. And it also seemed at odds with the fact that Violet was the biggest drug dealer in Arctic Bay.

 

10

The Belladonna, all real fruit juice and rich, expensive rum, settled over Anika like a faint haze. She grabbed Vy by the crook of her arm and guided her to a couch in a niche dominated by tiny palm trees in large plastic tubs.

So Vy had already scanned the news. She rubbed Anika’s shoulder, concern in her eyes. “I’m glad you’re okay. Some of us were worried about you. They’re saying the navy hunted the bastards down, right?”

Here in the niche, in the humid air, silenced from the outer party, Anika relaxed.

“They had me fly out to take a look. The Americans do have the people who fired at us.”

Vy grinned. “U.S.A. for the motherfucking win!” Vy was from somewhere in the southern United States. Anika had heard the accent in her voice the first time they’d met, when Vy had been drunk. Her slurring had strange cadences to it that weren’t there when she was sober and alert.

“But there’s something that doesn’t make sense,” Anika said. “They said these guys were running drugs.”

“Really? What kind?”

Anika leaned forward and buried her face in her hands, frustrated. “Shit, I didn’t think to ask.”

“Well, they’re not moving weed, not by ship. Anywhere in the Canadian Polar Circle, it’s all grown locally. Look at me: I have a license to sell. Pay taxes. I mean, you can think of me as the CEO of a very lucrative series of farms and pharmacies here in North Baffin. No sense in shipping it when you can grow it. The harder stuff, that usually comes smuggled up from the States, via the Midwest. That’s how I got my start, actually.”

“What gets shipped, then?”

Vy frowned. “Not much. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals, sometimes? Opiates from Afghanistan. But they usually ship them with regular shipments. Stick a container in the middle of a crapload of other containers. Smuggling via anonymity. It’s pretty awesome at getting your stuff where it needs to be.”

“So this chartered drug boat stuff, it’s bullshit.”

“I don’t know for sure. But my guess is: yes, it’s bullshit. I mean, I’m not hearing about it. It’s ridiculous, risky, expensive, and totally pointless. Particularly now that the UNPG has such a strong presence.”

Anika finished up the Belladonna and set it on the small table catercorner to the couch. “Okay. Thank you. I guess … I owe you? I’m not good at this sort of thing.” She stood up.

Vy sprang up next to her. “You’re not going to stay, are you?” She sounded disappointed.

Anika looked over at her. “I can’t.”

Vy’s eyes flicked around, and then she smiled ruefully. “You look determined. I won’t press it.” Then she leaned over, grabbed Anika’s hand and kissed the back of it. Anika closed her eyes for a second. “Well, I’d tell you that you know where to find me but it’s been two months since I last said that and you came to visit. Take my card.”

She slipped a piece of actual cardboard with contact information printed on it into one of the pockets of Anika’s jacket. The action reminded Anika of when Vy had slipped her the pass that let her into The Greenhouse.

“Vy. I can’t take your card. It would cause me trouble.”

“Sweetie, you’re out here asking me about how drugs are smuggled. You’re
already
in trouble.” And with that, Vy slipped back off down toward another niche where a pair of very large men with shaved heads waited for her.

*   *   *

Anika whipped the bike out of town, passing cars tooling their way along too slowly for her. She had a two-thirds charge still left in the batteries. That was plenty to allow her to race back home.

She’d gotten what she’d suspected: proof that things didn’t add up right. But did she have to come all the way out to Arctic Bay?

No. She had to answer that honestly to herself. She’d driven down to see Vy as much as anything. After everything she’d been through, she’d wanted to get back to Vy. To see if she was still at The Greenhouse. To see if she was still … interested in her?

Anika had first come down to The Greenhouse several months ago in a van full of pilots looking to blow off steam. Vy had tracked her down, picking her off from the pack.

There’d been something there. A sparkle in the smile. A knowing glance between them.

But that’s as far as it had gone. Because Anika couldn’t date a dealer. She wasn’t going to risk her pilot’s license.

Not that other flyboys weren’t doing similar things, or worse. But Anika knew it would come down heavier on her if her higher-ups found her involved with a dealer. That’s just how it was. Women didn’t get the same latitude. While boys would be boys,
she
would lose her airship.

BOOK: Arctic Rising
10.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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