Sunday, March 4, 2012

Goldstein Republic Chapter 20

Chapter Twenty

“Wake up!”
Devin rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“Wake up! We’re here!”
“Goldstein?” Devin asked still half asleep.
“No, Fairbanks,” explained Ramielle.
Devin sat up on the bunk and scanned the bright landscape beaming in through the windshield. They were the only vehicle in the middle of a large swath of gravel. Dark spruce trees lined the borders of the parking lot. The sky above was clear and blue.
“What do we do now?” Ramielle asked. “I think the Bear left us.”
“He’ll come back. He wouldn’t leave his rig for long.”

“I can’t believe we’re here. We made it. We are in Alaska! I’ve always wanted to come here to see the igloos and the penguins. When can we see the penguins?”
“Penguins?” Devin asked with a chuckle. “We’re not quite home yet. We’ve got about two hundred and fifty kilometers to go.”
Click! The sound of the door handle startled the two of them but it was only Bear. He brought donuts and coffee.
“Breakfast is served,” he announced as he handed them a wrinkled paper sack and a leaky, gaia-friendly, triple-cupped coffee to Devin. Ramielle snatched a glazed donut from the bag.
“Is this really Fairbanks?” Devin asked.
“Yep,” Bear answered.
“Can we see it?” Ramielle asked.
“Nope. I’m sorry to say that I’ve not been paid to give you a tour of this fair city. There isn’t much left here, anyway, just an army base and a few government buildings.”
“What do we do now?” Devin asked as he sipped the bitter coffee while trying to keep it from leaking.
“I hand you over to a bush pilot. He should be here any minute. I think I see him now.”
Ahead, a lumberjack caricature appeared strolling towards Bear’s rig. He was dressed in a flannel shirt and had a full red beard.
“That’s him,” Bear said. “This is where we part ways. It was a pleasure smuggling you. Thanks for not shooting anybody or making things difficult.”
“The pleasure was all ours. Thank you for your help.”
“Good luck to you. Now, if you don’t mind, please get out of my rig. I’ve got a delivery to make. There’s twenty five tons of government cheese in the back and someone’s gotta take this crap. Then I got a backhaul.”
“Just out of curiosity, what are you hauling back?” Devin asked.
“Government documents. Stuff they don’t want destroyed but don’t want found either so they keep it moving in the back of trucks. Know what I mean?”
“What kind of documents?” Ramielle asked as she gathered her things.
“Ever hear of Iran-Contra?” Bear asked with a wink.
Devin and Ramielle with Mercurius hopped out of the cab. Bear fired up the engines, slipped the titanic diesel into gear and it rolled away kicking up a cloud of gray dust as it disappeared into the spruce trees. Devin wondered if he would ever see Bear, the free-agent smuggler again. Probably not, was his guess.
The bush pilot escorted them to an adjacent airstrip and they piled into his small, rickety plane.
“How old is this thing?” Ramielle asked.
“One hundred and thirty years young,” the pilot responded.
“I don’t think anything a hundred and thirty years old should be flying,” she exclaimed a moment before Devin shoved her in.
The plane’s propellers whirled to life. The roaring engines made it too loud to speak so they flew without conversation as the pilot took them southwest. They passed over oceans of spruce, waves of gentle hills and countless, meandering rivers and rivulets fed by the melting snows of the great Alaska range.
In three hours, a great lake came in to view, Lake Minchumina. The plane began its wobbly descent. It skimmed the glassy surface of the lake. Then its pontoons plowed into the water, braking and slowing the plane. The propeller roared as the craft made its way to a dock on the northern shore. When enough momentum was built up, the pilot eased off the throttle and deftly guided the craft to a gentle rest alongside the dock.
Ramielle and Devin stepped out of the plane and onto the creaking wooden planks of the dock. They walked down the causeway towards a weathered gray shanty with a moss covered roof.
Devin knocked on the flimsy door. Behind him the engine of the float plane roared back to life and pulled back out into the lake. The door of the shanty creaked open. The bright sun outside rendered the interior completely dark.
“Hello,” Devin called into the shadowy hut. “Hello?” He called again. He looked back to Ramielle and shrugged his shoulders as their float plane took off towards the east behind them.
“Put your hands up!” Came a gravelly voice. Devin’s first instinct was to run but he froze not knowing where he would run too. “I said put your hands up or I’ll pulse you.”
Ramielle slowly backed away from the shack. She dropped her duffle bags but still clung tightly to Mercurius’ cage.
“You there,” continued the voice, “put that thing down and get your hands up or I’ll pulse you too.” Ramielle continued slowly backing away. “Get down on the ground. Put your hands behind your head!”
Ramielle took off running with the carrier swinging violently to and fro with each stride.
Devin started to slowly back away as well. He was not going to go anywhere with any nat.
“Mr. Devin Moore?” asked the voice.
“Yes,” he answered, a mere fraction of a second before he intended to flee for his life into the woods.
“I have a question for you.”
“What do you want?” asked Devin.
“Did you bring me any of that government cheese?”
“What?” Devin asked. Then the recognition of the voice brought a wide grin to his face. “Roth? Is that you?”
“It is me.”
“You’re a bastard. Ramielle, come back! It’s okay. It’s just Roth!” Devin shouted.
Ramielle was still running, flailing poor Mercurius about as she made her way down the shoreline.
“Everything’s okay!” Devin shouted.
“You’ve had quite a trip,” Roth observed.
“We have.”
“How’s your head?”
“It feels fine, now.”
“Come on in. Sit down. Take five.”
“Is it safe here?”
“Not really. Not for long, anyway. The dragonflies will be dropping in to check things out in about fifteen minutes or so. The great thing about Alaska is that it’s so damn big that NaPol can’t be everywhere at once.” Devin shook Roth’s hand, took a seat, and caught Roth up on the events of their journey.
“And this must be your Oriental friend?” Roth asked, insensitively.
“Excuse me?” Ramielle asked, having just appeared in the doorway.
“He’s teasing you,” Devin explained.
“Is that really Mr. Roth?” she asked.
“It is me. In the flesh. And who is this little guy?” Roth asked, gesturing towards the carrier still in Ramielle’s grip.
“This is Mercurius.”
Roth stepped forward, cautiously opened the carrier and removed the limp but frazzled cat.
“Good kitty,” Roth assured as he stroked Mercurius’ black, shiny fur. The cat licked his wrist. “What a clever way to pack a lunch,” he observed.
Un-amused, Ramielle dropped the carrier and snatched the cat from Roth’s hands.
“I’m here to guide you back to Goldstein. It should be an adventure with all the nats prowling around. Dragonflies have been patrolling every hour or so. There’s even a drone up there somewhere right now. They’re so damn small you can’t even see them. Hackers are reporting there’s eleven spy satellites trained on Goldstein, too. All the eyes are on Alaska. It’s the center of their world right now. There’s something big coming.”
“How long will it take us to get back?”
“I figure about three days. But it could be six, depending.”
“Depending on what?”
“Depending on the route we take. We want to avoid the nats as much as possible. Here, put these on…” Roth tossed them each ponchos made of a thin, metallic fabric. They both slipped them over their heads and cinched them at the waist with velcro.
“Push that button on the sleeve. Right there,” Roth advised.
Devin pressed the button and the poncho’s hue instantly changed to match the shadows of the hut.
“It’s diode silk,” Roth explained. “The fabric in them blocks your heat signature, too. They’ll have a tough time spotting us with these.”
“What other gadgets did you bring?”
“Let’s see,” Roth continued, “water, rations, wetsuits, a beacon in case we get in trouble, oh, and some explosives.”
“What about guns?”
“No guns.”
“Why not?” Devin asked.
“Guns are not a good choice against nats. They know how to handle people with guns.”
“Is this army stuff?”
Roth laughed. “No. They’ve got cloaks too but they’re nothing like these. This is high end Goldstein gear.”
Off in the distance, they could hear the beat of the approaching dragonflies.
“We should get going,” Roth advised.
“What about my duffel bags?” asked Ramielle.
“We’ll hide them in the woods. We can come back for them when it’s all over,” Roth replied. “But they’ve got helicopters and tanks. What does Goldstein have? I’m not sure I wanna follow you guys there.”
“Relax,” said Roth as he pulled up his hood and walked to the door. He took a moment and gazed out over the great lake, soaking up the majestic view of the great white titans: Forakker and Denali, far away to the southeast. “Goldstein’s been waiting for this for a long time. They’re ready. It’s too late for you to turn back, anyway.”

Chapters 21 & 22 will be available next weekend.

For those who missed the beginning of Devin's journey, click here for Chapter 1

Goldstein Republic can be purchased here at Amazon