NaNoWriMo Word Count: 2,487
“Whose plane was it,” asked Nolan Fox, setting down his whiskey on the rocks without removing his fingers from the glass. It was an occasional indulgence for a man who ran three miles every day, but holding up in Iqaluit for a week was getting on his nerves. He still ran with ice cleats and face mask along trails packed by snow cats and skidoos.
Laurel Henney was the only woman at the four-top table in the dim, smoky bar called the shack. She had no issues with whiskey or cigarettes, and preferred coffee to jogging. “First Air,” she said, pulling out a last puff of inhaled smoke and grinding the embers out in a heavy glass ashtray, something you didn’t see much of back in the states.
“How is it that a commercial airline in the Territories has a C-130,” asked Barrigton Fleetwod, wiping gravy from both his chins that squeezed fleshy over the tautness of his buttoned white shirt and gold-striped tie. Even Nolan had loosened his red tie in the shadows of this local dive. Three men in black suits with only different colored ties to tell them apart was unusual. The locals stayed clear, figuring this group represented one of the mining interests and that might mean good-paying jobs. It put the locals on their best behavior.
Laurel answered with a snort that would have made her debutante mother faint. “Seriously? With all the build up for mining and exploration? Of course they’re going to have what it takes to fly and keep in business up here.”
“I’m just surprised. Thought they were military planes,” said Barrington, shoving a forkful of gravy-dripping fries into his mouth.
Hunter Ruiz, also with tie loosened and in a different color from his companions—shimmery sky blue—remained quiet. He chewed ice from his third diet Coke, swirling the cubes with a straw. As Green Global Petroleum’s vice president of Health, Environment and Safety, Laurel had expected him to say something about the search and rescue plane that gone down somewhere north of Clyde River, a fishing town barley a blip on an unknown arctic island in the Canadian territories. But then again, Laurel knew Hunter to be studious and absorb information before bestowing it.
Laurel recognized that the men were getting edgy. Lack of sunlight and board room meetings would take its toll on any senior executive accustom to the pace of skittering rats. They continued to dress in their power suits as if the ritual would would speed up policies that wouldn’t even come from this frozen town. Yet, the reality was that the policies would demand cooperation between the established nations of the arctic circle. With Baffin Island so close to American interests, and American interests tied to what potential could be pumped from beneath the melting ice, Iqaluit was a necessary staging point.
Nolan lifted his glass of ice in the direction of the bar-maid, making rounds. He jiggled his ice and she nodded at him, walking over after scratching an order on a notepad with her pen she tucked into an apron. “Any others,” she asked as she stood by their table. Her dark hair was pulled back into a pony-tail to reveal a round face with arching black brows.
Silently, Hunter lifted his glass. She said, “Diet root-beer.”
“No, diet Coke,” he said, looking somewhat surprised.
The bar-maid quirked a smile. “Just seeing if you were alive.”
Nolan laughed. “Another whiskey on the rocks for me, and you too Laurel?”
“Yes, please,” she said.
“These fries are great. Can I get another,” asked Harrington. “And, I’ll have a diet Coke, too.” Harrington pushed his red and white checkered boat of remaining fries to the middle of the table. “You have to try these,” he said to his companions.
Nolan’s perpetual frown only deepened. He shook his head. Hunter poked at the fries with a fork and looked at a piece he skewered. “That doesn’t look like a potato,” he said.
“That’s cheese,” said Harrington.
Hunter scraped his fork off into the food boat and set his fork on a napkin. “That doesn’t even sound good. Gravy and cheese?”
Laurel drew out another cigarette. “It’s French Canadian,” she said. “Called poutine.”
“Well, I knew it wasn’t Texan,” said Hunter with an exaggerated drawl. “How can you eat more?”
Harrington shrugged. “It’s cold. You have to fuel up on fats in the arctic.”
“No, you just need to have the proper under armor,” said Nolan. “The right layers, made of the right materials.” Nolan and Laurel had been to the arctic numerous times. Laurel’s strategy differed from Nolan’s only because she avoided the outdoors as much as possible. Nolan had paid big bucks to go on a fully guided rock-climbing trip to Baffin Island three years ago—in the summer when she doubted he needed his under armor. Ever since that trip he acted as if he were some great arctic adventurer. When you had enough money you can pay to go to the places where elite athletes train to go without being more than an average jogger.
“Do you think the C-130 could survive a crash,” Laurel asked Hunter, as she lit up her second cigarette. All four men were responsible for strategies, but each focused on one area; Nolan on international government affairs, Harrington on capital and resources, and Hunter on safety and environmental liabilities. As corporate secretary and chief governance officer of GGP, Laurel advised both board of directors and senior management. It was her job to know what these men thought and act as liaison between the strategists and the backers.
He stared at his empty glass a moment. “C-130s have one of the highest reliability ratings among aircraft. Most likely the pilot is military-trained, even if he flies as a civilian now. A SAR operation is going to be equipped for arctic survival. Question is, did they crash over land or ice?”
“According to the First Air rep I spoke to, their last coordinates given were over land,” said Laurel.
“And did they say send out a may-day that they were going down or making an emergency landing,” he asked.
“That I don’t know,” said Laurel.
“If a Herc falls from the sky, it could be an ugly ending with not many more pieces to scrape up with a garden shovel,” he said, rubbing his clean-shaved chin as if he were surveying such a scene and responsible for putting the puzzle pieces back together. “Yet, if it makes an emergency landing, it could be mighty bumpy, but survive in tact.”
“What SAR operation was First Air running, anyhow,” asked Nolan.
Laurel snuffed out her cigarette and arched an eyebrow as she crumpled the butt into the glass tray. One thing she liked about the arctic was getting to smoke without having to dodge to some unseen nook where smokers were corralled like petty thieves. “Not First Air,” she said. “They loaned the plane to locals and some visiting mounties.”
“Mounties,” interrupted Harrington. “Dudley Doorights on Baffin Island?”
Nolan looked askew at Harrington. “This is Canada, not Alaska,” he said.
“Oh, right.” Harrington mopping at his chin as began looking for his second order.
“Anyways,” said Laurel, “They are searching for that owner of that debris we reported.”
“When we flew over the Walker Citadel along the eastern shoreline,” asked Nolan.
Hunter looked conflicted as he asked, “You mean they initiated a search with a Herc over some tarp floating in the ocean?”
“Poor use of resources,” said Harrington.
“How do they know it warranted a search,” asked Nolan.
“Well, according to what I’ve heard from several sources, there are two local men from Clyde River missing,” said Laurel.
“Two? Poor use of resources, indeed,” grumble Harrington. “You figure the cost of leasing a plane like that, the fuel, the pilots, the SAR team flown in from wherever they came from for two people, the value doesn’t add up.”
“Depends,” said Nolan. “Who are these two men? Local officials? Should we offer aid? Would we look good, riding in to rescue some village mayor and his son?”
Laurel let out an unexpected laugh. All for men looked at her momentarily puzzled. “I went visual on that one, Nolan. You riding up on a white horse like a night in his under armor.”
Nolan, despite the frown, articulated a perfect laugh. Harrington and Hunter glanced at each other, but neither Texan probably knew what under armor was.
“Like long underwear,” explained Laurel.
“Oh,” said Hunter with half a smile.
Just then, the bar-maid returned with their drinks and Harrington’s fries. “Sorry that took so long. Got busy.” It was true. The small square room was near capacity, although not as boisterous as it had been on other nights. Harrington cut off the tips of several fries and scooped up a hot bite, slowly chewing. “So good,” he pronounced.
“To get back to your point, Nolan,” said Laurel, “These were just two common Inuit hunters, no one influential.”
“Well, then,” said Nolan, “I’d have to agree with Harrington. Misuse of appropriations.”
“Do these locals just go out under any circumstances,” asked Hunter. “I mean, what did they do before Canadian mounties and airplanes were available?”
“Well, here’s the crux,” said Laurel. Despite the bar room casualness of cigarettes and whiskey, she was always ready for business. Her casual demeanor not only helped her glean information, it also help in being heard among the power units of a mostly male corporate world. “Popular local history is that Inuit have been hunting on the sea ice for thousands of years.”
“What do they hunt on sea ice,” asked Harrington in between bites of gravy-fries.
“Seal, a kind of fish, whale. Basically aquatic animals that polar bears also hunt. Like you said, fat is part of an arctic diet,” explained Laurel.
Nolan swished his drink at Harrington and said, “You should have ordered the whale blubber.”
Harrington shook his head. “I’m pretty sure this tastes better.”
“So what does a heritage of hunting have to do with current affairs,” asked Nolan, redirecting the conversation back to Laurel.
“They have always hunted in the sea ice. It’s their way of life. But in the past decade more and more Inuit hunters are falling through the ice to their deaths,” she said.
“So stop going out on the ice when it’s thin,” said Hunter.
“But they are saying that they no longer can tell when it is safe. For instance, the sea ice should be rock solid in March. But we saw broken ice and open water when we flew across the eastern fjords.” Laurel took another sip and let the men ponder the connection.
Nolan was the first to make it. “So this is another complaint to global warming, this unpredictable ice and hunters who are dying.”
“Yes,” said Laurel.
“With the jobs and infrastructure mining and oil extraction will bring to Baffin Island, the people can eat delicious food like these incredible fatty fries rather than have to subside on hunting fatty fish and things,” said Harrington.
Nolan added, “It’s a given that the northern ice cap is shrinking. Soon, our governments will be shifting their policies to defending these natural resources that are going to become available. With new shipping lanes and greater tourism, this land is going to be more accessible and less remote than when it was ringed in ice.”
Laurel leaned in toward Nolan. “But you know how locals do not always see the benefits. And, if woeful stories of dying hunters reach mainstream media, the anarchists are going to use it as fodder to flame their public opinion fires.”
“So, what are you suggesting,” asked Nolan, his frown deepening.
“Let’s be open to helping. We already are taking measures to collect scientific data to share with the greater public. We are confirming, not denying, the reality of a climate in flux. Why not help locals adjust, expose some good GGP press, search for a couple of missing hunters and their stranded mounties.” Laurel resisted the urge to light up another cigarette. It was too easy to smoke here.
“What kind of cost would we be looking at,” asked Harrington who looked ready to set aside the fries for a calculator.
“No more than we are already incurring,” said Laurel. “We have a reporter on location, a radio personality known throughout Dallas, and beyond.”
“I thought he was covering our weatherman,” said Nolan.
“You mean our climatologist,” asked Laurel.
“Yeah, that guy.” Nolan took a drink, swishing ice. He was impatient with the pace, yet a man who would wait for the right moment even if sitting still nearly killed him. The indigenous resistance, in the form of their territorial government, to exploration and extraction of natural resource was futile in the long run. But Nolan understood the nuances of politics and putting on a good face rather than ripping the rug out from under the feeble local government that had only existed since 1969, long after other natural resource policies had been penned.
“Our reporter is covering that guy,” said Laurel. “And that guy just volunteered for the rescue of the rescuers.”
“He didn’t take off with all that scientific gear, did he,” asked Harrington.
“I don’t think he’d lug that equipment along for a rescue mission,” said Laurel.
“Then, it’s secure, right,” asked Harrington with a worried brow. “That’s a big investment. For God’s sake, the tent alone cost $5,000.”
“For a tent,” asked Hunter. “Well, I suppose it has to meet safety specifications for arctic conditions.”
“I’m sure Dr. Starkka is responsible with equipment,” said Laurel. “And, our reporter went with him, so it will look like a GGP supported rescue effort.”
“What about that tinsel town bimbo,” asked Nolan.
Laurel had long ago learned to skim over the sexist remarks to stay focused on the important parts of the conversation. She also made sure she never looked the part of a bimbo, with her hair styled short, maintained dark red despite the oncoming crop of gray hairs that only her colorist knew existed. Her make-up and jewelry were counterpoints to the power-suits and ties that the men wore. She made sure she looked like a woman, but a woman who could command the attention of a room of men not through looks or promiscuity, but through her cleverness and useful intelligence. “Yes, Ms. Winslow is still in Iqaluit,” said Laurel.
“There’s a bimbo in Iqaluit,” asked Harrington, looking as eager as he had for a second round of fries.
“Yes,” said Laurel, “She has the looks, but I don’t think she’s the putting out kind, if you get my meaning.”
“Oh,” he said with disappointment.
“What are we going to do about her and those contract demands,” asked Nolan.
Laurel smiled and sipped at her whiskey like a cat holding cream. “Oh, I have that all figured out.”