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The Wild South

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About this City Journal

2150. The Antarctic ice is thinning. Join our intrepid Blogist on his journey to Carver, the headquarters of Australis Inc., Dominion's biggest mining corporation.

Entries in this City Journal

ar2910

Kai stepped off the plane onto the apron. "Some airport" he thought bitterly, as a cold wind stumbled over the low mountains behind him, "Where are the Exat ramps? The hydrox containers? Even a jet?" His pilot stopped the engine and relaxed back into the cockpit seat. Kai tapped on the glasstic. "Where am I supposed to go now?" he asked the pilot a little impatiently.

"Beats me buddy!" replied the pilot cheerily, with a heavy Southern Panamu accent, "I just fly here and back all day long. Maybe you could ask those guys over there, but you'll have to be quick because they're coming with me once we're refueled!" He pointed over the runway to a small hangar building. In front of it stood three men in impecable black pinstriped suits. All of them were tall and slim, not a hair out of place. Kai noticed they did not shiver even though it was an unthinkable two degrees. "Thanks a lot" muttered Kai to the pilot, and stalked off towards the hangar, coat flapping in the wind.

He approached the besuited men. "Hey" he said trying to sound as positive as possible, "My name is Kai Singh, for Artemis on behalf of The United Blogs." He held out his hand in greeting. The man closest to him took it tentatively, shook it and dropped it quickly as though it was venomous. Kai stood, the seconds becoming awkward. When no introduction came, he rummaged in his pockets for a miniTAB, and pulled it out. The blue semi-transparent screen glowed with a hand-scribed name. "I'm looking for a Mr. Callum Moss." he inquired, reading the name from the miniTAB, "He's supposed to meet me here."

"Ah," said the man with whom he had shook hands. It was a strange voice, regal, sonorous, yet with an air of mistrust about it, as though you wanted to believe what it said, but somehow couldn't. "How foolish of me not to recognise your name Mr. Singh. I am Dr. Ivan Solzehnitsyn, CEO of Artemis Incorporated. These" he gestured towards the other implacable men, "are my associates Mr. Bulow and Mr. Cyrill. I'm afraid we cannot stay to talk, we must get back to Berlin by tomorrow to close some key deals. However I am sure Mr. Moss will arrive for you shortly." He reached into his jacket and produced a silver pocket watch. Kai noticed it was a duodecimal clock. "I notice the plane is refueled so we must continue on our way. Good day"

And with that the three figures walked towards the plane, stiff backed, hats pinned to their heads by pale, ungloved hands. Kai was a little taken aback. It was not every day that the world's most famous Blogist was spoken too so abruptly. With little else to do, he watched the plane slowly taxi, splutter into life and then almost lazily take to the skies.

An hour passed, maybe more. Kai's watch said it was 8.89 but the Antarctic Summer sun was still high in the sky.

Eventually, a blue pick up truck pulled up into the tarmac at the side of the runway. The gentle whirr of the electric engine shut off. A figure stepped out. He was somewhat short, and stocky. Glasses perched on his red, round, clean shaven face. He strode towards Kai, his worn blue jeans cracking in the wind, his hooded tartan jacket billowing around him. "Hello!" he shouted in a good-natured voice from across the apron, his voice whipping away in the cold blasts.

Kai raised his hand in greeting. He didn't care much for shouting. The man strided over to him, slightly out of breath, and thrust out a hand. Kai shook it vigorously. "Kai Singh, for Artemis on behalf of The United Blogs." he said, teeth chattering. "Callum Moss" the man replied heartily "Director of Public Relations and Media for Artemis Incorporated. Sorry I'm so late! Our CEO left us for the first time since we've been established this afternoon, and it's been rather hectic trying to sort everything out!"

"I know," said Kai, "I saw him catch his flight. He didn't seem too happy to see me."

Callum chuckled, "I wouldn't worry too much about him. A brilliant man, but perhaps lacking a little in the personal touch. Besides, he might have suspected you were a Chinese or Russian agent from over the mountains. You can never be too careful these days. Anyway, it's getting late. We need to be off. We have no hotels yet I'm afraid, not much call for them, so you'll be staying with me. I do hope that's alright?"

Kai replied that it would be fine, and Callum lead him towards the pick-up truck. It was wonderfully warm inside, and soon they were speeding down the road parallel to the runway. "Well," began Callum, "There is so much to tell you. You're the first press we've had here,"

"Blog," interjected Kai, "Not press. Blog."

"Oh, of course! Sorry! Blog! Anyway, there's so much to tell you. Most of it will have to wait I'm afraid. This is Carver, our main settlement. It is presided over by the Australis mining corporation, and named after Dr. Ellen Carver, the first person to geologically map this terrain. It's split into two main sections either side of the industrial road. The main section, which is where I live and where the company's Southern headquarters are located, is called Embankment. The other section is called New Tarn. We're passing over the industrial road now. It offers access to the mine complex for industrial traffic, bypassing the town."

The pick-up sped over a bridge. Below ran a newly metalled road, still shining black.

overpass.jpg

The truck continued into Embankment, the houses looking prestigious and anarchic, constructed with their old technology. "I want to save the main tour for another day," said Callum, breaking the silence, "But right now we're passing the Eco3 Memorial Playing Field, and we're about to pass under the CERS and turn left onto Darby Road."

"The Eco3?" said Kai hurriedly, "You know the story of the Eco3?"

"Of course. We all do here. We kept it quiet of course. One of them was my nephew." Callum became silent all of a sudden, his face creasing into sadness. Kai decided not to press the point further. Maybe later.

drivehomp.jpg

The silence continued along Darby Road. "Right," said Callum, his voice picking up, the happiness coming back to his round, ruddy face. "This is my house. Number 3 Darby Road. I'll introduce you to the wife. Hopefully she's remembered to put my casserole back on to reheat!"

3darbyroad.jpg

"The main tour can go on tomorrow, but right now, we eat." And with that the two figures, strangely ambling together down the driveway in the high unsetting Antarctic sun, walked into the front door of Number 3 Darby Road.

ar2910

Hello readers,

As you can see my editor has been at it again. I've left the comfort of my London flat, and I'm now below the Southern 80th parallel. The time is now 4.20 and I'm about to land on a rocky plain on the foothills of the Dominion mountain range in Antarctica. Why? I cannot be too specific at the moment; I'm not allowed to tell you much until I meet my contact down on the ground. However nothing was said about pictures, and you should be able to see what I'm talking about from the photographs I took from the prop-plane.

(A prop-plane! I feel like I'm in the 20th Century. But apparently the people down here need good, reliable, mechanical technology that can be easily replaced. None of your nanos or fuel cells here!)

Anyway, as promised, here are some of the photos I took from the plane. I will update as events unfold.

Kai Singh.

embankmentoverview.jpg

An overview of the new settlement on the Dominion Plain.

minesoverviewh.jpg

To the North of the settlement (although every direction here is North). I can't say much, but I think you can guess what's going on here.

arrivalm.jpg

Before landing. Notice the prop-planes and a concrete apron! I still can't get over it.

ar2910

Kai sat on his bed in his Pimlico flat. The sun streamed between the towers across the river and onto his pale, sharp face. His TAB whirred gently to itself as his boss, bearded and wizened, appeared in the corner of his blog. Kai sighed. It was a bad assignment month. EU elections had passed in June. He would be in Washington for Empire Day in August. July was a slow time for the blogsphere. The EBBC had ringfenced all the good stories already. "Maybe," he mused "I should go into newsforecasting instead?"

His boss' avatar cleared his throat noisily, the 'Editor - Cyprus DeLong' tab flashing red to try and grab his distracted Blogist's attention. Kai snapped back into focus. It didn't look to be good news. DeLong was on edge, pupils wide as he chewed on a SharpUp mephcake.

"Hello Cyprus", Kai said lazily in a dry, bored voice, "What am I doing this time? Barrier workers in Greenwich? Nitrate farmers in Morocco? Hopefuls for the Havana Olympics?"

"Look," replied Cyprus, his normally deep voice cracking from the miaow, "I know my last few jobs for you haven't been brilliant"

"You can say that again," Interrupted Kai, "I'm Europe's Number One Blogist. EBBC is still offering a postion in their Pre-Break Division."

"But," said Cyprus hastily, "If you'd let me finish, I've got a proper assignment for you this time, a long one. It's for Artemis. They're offering almost a hundred thousand Euros."

"How long is long?" asked Kai, his interested suddenly peaking.

"Three months, or thereabouts. It depends on the weather."

"Oh am I going far? You're not sending me to that Virgin orbiting resort again are you? I couldn't spend three months with low gravity showers."

"Oh no, nothing like that. Besides, Accounting weren't too keen on your expenses last time we sent you offworld."

"Come on then, what's this new amazing assignment you have lined up for me?"

"Ah!" said Cyprus smiling. That was Kai's weakness. His curiosity always hooked him in the end. Kai watched his boss on the semi-transparent TAB screen. He appeared to be unfolding something, swearing occassionally, taking great care not to rip it.

"A paper map?" inquired Kai. "How archane! Am I going looking for treasure?" Cyrpus gave him a simpering look and held the map up for him to see. It was clearly Antarctica. Kai's mood fell. Antarctica, in July. Long days, no sleep, and a bitterly cold Winter. He knew a Blogist up in New Edinburgh who had been to the Halley Station a few Summers ago. She said it had got as low as two centigrade. He shivered at the thought. But there was something different about the map Cyprus was holding. Slightly off from the middle was a brown shaded area, maybe only a few hundred miles across and half that top to bottom.

"This," began Cyprus, a little more excitedly now that mephcake was kicking in, "Is the newest map of Antarctica. That's why it hasn't been digitised yet. Believe it or not, most governments still prefer official documents on paper. Stupid I know. This brown bit here is Dominion. You haven't heard of it yet. Not many people have. It's too low on the Pole to see from Virgin One. The Climate Coalition has spent billions of Ameros covering it up. Basically these are the highlands of Antartica, and the ice has been melting a lot more rapidly than the UN has been telling us."

"So, what's so exciting about that" asked Kai, steadily becoming more intrigued.

Cyprus knew he had him caught up in his own curiosity. He continued, "Well as you well know the EU, Russia, China and Australia have all been vastly increasing their research into the Antarctic recently. We've been told it's for Climate Change purposes. But a PFI operating way down there leaked to us today that it's not for environmental presentation at all. The EU and UN have been bending the truth. They're mining the Antarctic!"

Kai sat up, his eyes wide, "So you're telling me that not only have the governments been lying to us, but they want me to break the news? Why?"

"Well, after the piece you wrote on the nitrate farmers in the Sahara, knocking down all the myths about eco-system harm, I think they want you to go there and do the same thing. Not let the EBBC go in with guns blazing decrying them as planet killers. But a well respected Blogist spending some time there, seeing what's going on, and reporting back to the Blogsphere. Then people can make up their own minds."

Kai sat for a long time. His boss waited patiently, his fingers strumming the desk, venting some of the pent up energy. After what seemed minutes Kai spoke. "Alright. I'll go. If, and only if, you can guarantee to make my fee up to a hundred thousand, and I am there only three months. I don't want to spend more than that in three degrees. I'd perish."

"Deal!" exclaimed Cyprus, "I knew I'd get you on board. An Exat will take you from Ebbsfleet airport to Buenos Aires. From there you'll be getting a PanAmerican Union mail plane to Port Stanley and then a transfer to Carver, the newest town in Dominion. You should be there by about mid-day tomorrow. The Exat leaves at 5.8."

"How do I get the feeling you knew I'd go" said Kai, smiling a little at his own predictability. Cyprus said nothing, a pale violet mephcake stained grin on his face as he signed off. Kair sighed and got up, sweeping up random clothes and gadgets into his bag. "An unusual assignment indeed" he thought, throwing his TAB into his case.

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