I woke up early the next morning with horrible muscle soreness in my butt and back. At first, I didn’t realize the actual reason for it and I thought I had slept wrong, but when I rolled over in my bed, still yawning, the memories from last night’s fridge performance came back to me, and the mystery suddenly cleared up.
Painfully, I got up and went to the bathroom. I walked like an oldster with bladder problems who had tried to break the world record for pee holding! I peed and took a shower but it didn’t bring me much relief. If the pain persisted until noon, there was a serious chance I would screw up a golden job worth sixty grand. I went back to the living room, made some coffee, and thought that my quickie with Bobby might turn out to have been too expensive after all.
At the beginning of the workday, around eight-thirty, Jill called to say she had mailed me the information I wanted from her. As far as I could gather from her tone, she was still mad with me. After the unsuccessful cuddling episode, which we’d had on her desk, I thought everything between us was alright again, but it was obviously not enough. She said she had bought a new cellphone but it didn’t matter because I was going to hate her new device just as much as I had hated the old one. She also said that if I used her first name for her account in my contacts list, I should switch to her family name instead—Sanders—because that way, her account would be lower in the list and easier for me to forget about it. I assured her that her account was under “A” in my contacts and then I had to hang up because I had no time. I needed to check up on my mail before leaving for the Red Dragon.
It turned out that the corrupt bastard in the GBI had done his job. Two attached files were waiting for me in Jill’s letter. Quite expectedly, Sharon Vorderbruggen had no record within the database, which was no surprise because I was sure she had given me a fake name. Bobby Bjornson had a record though. She had worked for a foreign company for some time—New Delhi Carbide Industries—in which cases, the Bureau always starts a file for that person.
From what I read, Bobby seemed to have been pretty high in the company’s hierarchy—a coordinator for the entire South Pacific—just a step below the General Sales Manager for the region. The headquarters were in Pago-Pago, former American Samoa, and at first, the future had looked promising for the girl. Unfortunately, about five years ago, the company had to cease production due to an ill-fated accident and the subsequent ecological disaster, which eventually cost one hundred lives and environmental issues in a vast area.
I actually had memories of such an accident—it had happened a couple of years ago—but I wasn’t entirely sure if the same company was responsible for it or not. I tried to remember but I couldn’t. All Indian firms were so hopelessly chaotic regarding safety measures that they produced disasters of that sort in different places on Earth almost every other year. Just like China, India grew such a huge population that, at some point, people became uncontrollable. Unlike China, however, India didn’t fall apart and as a result, it infected the world with its exotic business style.
After the disaster, Bobby disappeared for a while and then suddenly reappeared in Greenland, working for a small pharmaceutical firm. She didn’t have much success there either. After a year, she resigned, following a noisy corruption scandal and licensing problems for a new drug, which also caused a few deaths. Bjornson escaped a lawsuit but she had already become too notorious in the pharmaceutical field to find another job. By the way, nowhere in the file was there a word about Green Guards. I looked it up on the Internet too but the only thing I could find was a small factory for gummy bears in Toulon, France. It was no surprise and when I did the same search about Global Guards, the result was just as fruitless.
Then I went on with Li Jin Tao. Quite naturally, his file turned out to be longer than the Great Wall of China! There wasn’t anything really substantial in it, but it was long. The guy had a rich collection of standard criminal offenses from when he was young, like theft, robbery, drug possession, and blackmailing. There was nothing more serious like murder or kidnapping but maybe he was just clever and too careful to get caught. His gang in Nuuk steered clear of the other crime syndicates and they operated mostly in Chinatown. They were well known for distributing drugs and doing business with East-Asian hookers. There had been several police operations on them, none of which bore enough evidence, however. In the whole file, I actually saw only one really interesting thing: the gang, which was called “The Red Dragon” just like its headquarters, was linked back in Chinasia to a clan named “Red Scar”. The latter specialized in delivering illegal weaponry for African countries under international embargo. It also traded in rare goods and exotic foods.
In general, I didn’t learn much from the GBI materials that I couldn’t have guessed myself. The stuff about the Chinese, in particular, I could have safely presumed even without paying for the information. I spent some more time searching on the Internet, but it was rather fruitless and at quarter past nine, I closed my mail inbox, feeling disappointed. I took my Glock from the nightstand and the bag with the cameras; then I picked up my car keys and went outside. There was still enough time until noon but I didn’t want to risk being late with the heavy traffic in Godthab. As soon as I drove out of my neighborhood and turned north on Siaqqinneq, I realized I had done just the right thing. The road ahead was perfectly jammed despite there being four lanes in each direction. Soon I even started berating myself for not leaving still earlier!
Nuuk was no such city in my memory. My folks came here from Kansas shortly before I was born and back then, the entire population of Greenland was about half a million. When I was a kid, I remember there were only a few cars waiting at the traffic lights and the traffic lights didn’t even blink green or red—just yellow. Now the seaside region of the capital alone had more than five million citizens and it was nearly impossible to drive through the center at noon.
It all started with the first migrant wave in the 10s. At that time, the former European Union was caught totally unprepared but later, the problems turned out to have been nothing compared to what would happen next. The first wave was just caused by the Near East and Northern Africa wars and it was eventually brought under control. The next three waves, however, were true nightmares! They originated from climate change and no solution was ever found to stop the flood of people on the continent. The third wave alone brought nearly a hundred million into the now European Confederation and it changed its ethnicity for good.
Weirdly enough, the Arabs and other migrants didn’t settle in Southern Europe, as one would have expected judging by the climatic and cultural similarities. Instead, they populated Germany, France, Britain, and Scandinavia because the wealthy social programs were what people needed. As a result, the situation in the mentioned countries became complicated and their populations started gradually migrating to the poorer, but relatively unaffected, Southern and Eastern Europe. In the end, we all exchanged peoples inside the EC, which put an end to the traditional political map of the continent.
And then the fourth wave came! About ten years ago, the climate started rapidly deteriorating, following the industrial revolutions in China and India, and the process made the Near East and Northern Africa almost uninhabitable places, experiencing constant temperatures of fifty-five degrees and above. Shifting from petrol to hydrogen in transportation only made things worse. It suddenly became obvious that exchanging peoples wouldn’t be enough for the game to continue. The rules were going to change again and they did. Soon the entire population of the Near East swept into Europe! Now only isolated clans remained there, surviving on piracy and looting.
Nevertheless, there were some gains for our losses as it turned out. Climate change did bring millions of people in the EC but it also melted down a huge portion of the Greenland glacier, freeing new lands from the ice grip. This gave us breathing space and, gradually, the island became home for a large mass of people from both Europe and America. Greenland is now the most populated country in the Confederation and there is still a lot of inner territory waiting to be cultivated.
I looked at my cellphone to see what time it was. It read ten past ten and I was still on Siaqqinneq without having made much progress. I had chosen to come this way because the street was an old one, which they had recently renovated and turned into a highway. It cut right through the heart of the city. Except that too many people had obviously made the same choice and it was not a highway anymore! Some drivers even started ditching their cars in the service lane, which made the situation even worse.
Some twenty minutes later, I nervously turned right on the next exit and went east on Aqisseqarajooq. At least I thought I was there because the damn name of the street didn’t fit into the screen of my navigation! The old areas of the capital were full of these semantic anachronisms, and since only five percent of the present population of Greenland was Inuits or Danish, I bet the majority of people couldn’t even pronounce them. Soon I passed the old airport and turned, consecutively, onto Gallagunna and then Lexington Drive to come out of downtown. Following that, the traffic was relatively good. I stepped on the gas feeling hopeful.
Incidentally, our continent was not the only place experiencing problems with migrants. In every region of the world, people were shifting due to globalization. It was inevitable. Ostensibly, this might look like an unfortunate event but actually, it wasn’t. In our case, the migrants pumped fresh blood through the old veins of Europe and boosted the economy. After the disintegration of China and decline of America, EC remained the major country in the world—a confederation in fact—and the process of consolidating soon spread among the other regions too. The contemporary world consisted primarily of confederations and those that stayed outside fell on really hard times—Britain being a very good example. They never decided which way they liked better—in or out—and their constant switching eventually brought them to such a deep recession that the waters around the island now were literally crammed with boats of desperate Brits, trying to reach the wealthy Ireland. In a way, Great Britain became Failed Britain.
And then, the Couloongs came! Things became even more complicated and rules changed once again. The standalone countries were left out of reach of the alien’s marvelous technologies because they were too small to be of any interest to the extraterrestrials. Global confederations occupied the entire trade and the trade routes to the CSS—the Couloongs Space Station, which Couloongs built in orbit around our planet to exchange commodities with us. Speaking of aliens, it’s funny that Couloongs actually smell of urine! They are a life form based on ammonia and they recently expressed their willingness to settle on Mars. To our surprise, our colony there said it didn’t mind. I think they did it just to get even with us. They thought we had betrayed and abandoned them and they saw, in aliens, an alternative source of supplies. They were going to smell urine twenty-four seven from now on—the sick freaks!
On the other hand, the colony benefited quite a lot from their close relations with the Couloongs so it was probably worth the trouble. Presently, no confederation here on Earth could even vaguely compare to what Mars had access to in terms of technology. The rift between Mars and Earth had started even before the alien’s coming: Martians accused us of being indifferent to their sacrifice and backing out of our initial plans to support them. The truth was that we simply had no choice—we had too many internal problems. Back then, Martians had no choice either—they were more or less dependent on us—but now the situation was radically different. They had new buddies and a real choice, and as a result, we didn’t get along with our colony anymore.
I looked at the time. I was good now. It was ten-fifty and I was just entering uptown, not far from Chinatown. I believed I would be at the Red Dragon by eleven-thirty. Sharon wanted me at the place at twelve-thirty sharp but Bobby had said to me to be there exactly at noon. The former argued that Chavez’s people would secure the area first but I decided to trust the latter. I was simply going to keep away until the thugs finished their search and then I was to take my place in the red telephone booth.
By the way, in Nuuk, one always has an idea where approximately he or she is even without knowing the city in detail. In the old urban areas along the seaside, streets are narrow—partly because there isn’t much space there and partly because of the Danish tradition in building. As soon as you leave the old neighborhoods, however, the streets become much wider. In the inner parts of the island, they are American style—straight and crossing at right angles. Chinatown, in particular, is about thirty kilometers away from the shore and the moment I got near the place, I already knew it. I promptly killed my speed because I didn’t want to attract unwanted attention, and very soon, the typical features like red lanterns, decorative dragons, miserable restaurants, and cheap hookers appeared on the streets.
I looked at my cellphone again. It was a quarter past eleven. I reached into the glovebox, took a pair of shades out and put them on. It was time to think ahead now. I just couldn’t know how many of the hookers and the pimps I drove by were spying for the Big Red Chinese Boss—probably, all of them!
Exactly ten minutes later, I arrived at the place and pulled up to the curb some thirty meters away from the telephone booth. It was glaring red and alarming, promising a full set of troubles for Murphy Mellrow. I leaned back and down behind the steering wheel, and shivered involuntarily. I had nothing else to do for the moment, except to keep my eyes wide open. I had to be very careful because otherwise, there was a pretty good chance that twenty-five grand back at home was going to become a lonely orphan and I definitely didn’t want that!
©2016 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!