The workingman earns his bed

Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 29 Mar 2013 11:29:00 GMT

The man without a country pulled the hood of his parka closer while a synthesized voice droned into his left ear giving a GPS track. The Alaskan taiga around him had been scoured clean and flat by stinging crystals of ice originating somewhere over the Kamchatka Peninsula, so over this featureless plain he plodded kilometer after kilometer through darkness. The faceted structure he was making for was tundra-drab, just a few shades lighter than the clouds dense with moisture that crawled over the horizon. Knowing with altered senses he was the only warm-blooded creature for fifty kilometers, not even a polar bear sniffing about his trail, he had no need for stealth then. All he needed for his errand was endurance.

When he got to his destination he circled around to the side where the airstrip was paved atop the permafrost. Clipping a few strands of razor wire, then up and over the fence, he hurried towards the door set beside a large bay. He couldn’t take a chance on whether they might have set up a few drones to deal with visitors, so the best strategy was to crack the place open as quickly as possible, with a minimum of fuss. Ignoring the biometric and RFID readers, he produced a cold chisel along with a compact hammer and did enough damage to the hinge side of the door that he was able to slip in after maybe ten minutes. Though the facility was mostly unheated, the contrast with the out of doors still required him to spend a half minute to reorient his senses. Calling up the site plans, he found his way inward toward the central command center.

This next door was locked, displaying considerably more security than the outside perimeter. For what he needed, however, explosives would not do. From inside his parka the man pulled a nylon bag containing a dense cube the size of a die, one side marked with minute gold traces like a circuit board. This side he fitted against corresponding contacts on the door at about waist height where he could feel a slight depression. He had to wait only a second for a click. Stowing the unlocking mechanism, he stepped a few steps up into the tracking center.

There were four compact consoles around the edges of the room and a central horseshoe-shaped operating position. A large display flicked on with a map of dozens of satellite tracks projected against a globe seen from above the pole, each one with identifying codes attached. The man sat down at the central console and uncapped a fibre bundle that had been running down his right sleeve, plugging it into a mating receptacle. Now he could breathe. There was no need to issue commands, even if there had been a keyboard or touchscreen there.

While he waited for the all clear the man considered the words of a song that had been running through his mind all through the long trek up to this place: pigeon flies, heaven flies, a hat flies, my heart flies. At that moment, though, he changed the sense to say that the man waited, heaven waited, a bear waited, the planet waited. It only took a quarter of a satellite orbit, though, to get the chime in his earpiece telling him he could unplug. But before he left, the man pulled a crisp white envelope from inside his parka and laid it neatly on the tip of the horseshoe where no one could miss it. He took no special care with fingerprints or skin cells, now or at any other time during his operation.

By the time he was back at the outside door, an unmanned quadrolifter was squatting on the airstrip, churning the snowflakes into dust. The man strode toward the unlocked hatch, and if a tune running through his head, and if his pocket held a passport, these were those belonging not by law but by mere convention to his beloved, broken non-country.

For Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: ten words will give you five
Storm – Envelope – Cube – Chisel – Satellite

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