U.S. Secretary of State Joe Imperio wrapped his thick, red parka around his thick body as he stepped out of the Arctic transport vehicle. The inside of his nostrils froze solid as he inhaled. When he exhaled, his breath met the icy air with a white mist that hung heavy in front of his face.
“Mr. Imperio,” a man with a Russian accent approached with an outstretched hand. “We’ve been expecting you. Please. This way.”
After driving for hours over the frozen tundra, the familiar sight, smell, and sound of an oil-drilling plant was more than welcome to Mr. Imperio’s tired and age-worn eyes. The brightness of the sun on the snow had given him a headache and sitting confined in the vehicle bumping and bouncing over the icy surface had made him nauseous. Now all he knew was that he had to take a piss, and quick. His prostate wasn’t what it used to be.
He followed the Russian man, but struggled to keep up even though the walkway was clear of ice. His stiff joints needed time to warm up. As if that would happen in the middle of the Arctic Circle.
The Russian man held open a door. “Right this way, sir. The president is eager to meet with you.”
The man led Mr. Imperio to an elevator mounted to scaffolding in what looked to be the interior of a giant metal tank. Mr. Imperio silently stepped onto the riser and the man closed the gate behind him.
“Aren’t you coming?” asked Mr. Imperio.
“It is a private meeting, sir. Please hold on for safety.” He pushed a red button on a console and with an echoing clank, Mr. Imperio ascended to his meeting.
The elevator, if one could call it an elevator, it was more of a lift in the truest sense of the word, came to a halt with a thud and a jolt, which caused a little leakage into Mr. Imperio’s boxers. The wall behind him slid open to reveal an office with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides overlooking the abyss of the tank’s interior, in which sat the Russian president, Mecheslav Stradinsky, along with the CEOs of the biggest oil-producing companies in the world, Russia’s Raduganeft, and Nautilus Oil & Gas from the United States.
The American CEO spoke first. “Good afternoon, Mr. Imperio.”
“Hello, Nick. It’s been a while since we worked together at Nautilus.”
“I trust you know why we’ve asked you to meet us here today,” Nick said without acknowledging that he and Imperio had a past. Mr. Imperio had, in fact, been Nick’s boss before retiring last year.
“I know exactly why I’m here,” answered Mr. Imperio, unzipping his parka. He was starting to sweat. “Where is she?”
“Take off your coat. Get comfortable,” said President Stradinsky. “Get Mr. Imperio some of our good Russian vodka.”
“No, I’m fine. Really. Let’s just get this over with,” said Mr. Imperio thinking this was a bad year to come out of retirement to be Secretary of State for what was quite possibly the most corrupt administration in U.S. history. But it was his specialty after all—making corruption seem as American as apple pie, in line with all the values the American people hold dear. He wasn’t sure how he was going to spin this one though.
“Gentlemen,” said President Stradinsky to the two CEOs.
The CEOs stood and escorted the Secretary of State to a door that he had not previously seen because it blended so well with the wall. All three stood facing that door, the CEOs behind Mr. Imperio, one at each shoulder.
“Open it,” said President Stradinsky.
“Are you two his henchmen now?” Mr. Imperio asked Nick.
Nick shrugged and signaled with his head and eyes that Imperio should open the door.
The Secretary of State reached out and slowly twisted the doorknob. He pushed the door open. He was appalled at what he saw: American climate scientist Colleen Clover gagged and bound on a chair in the middle of an empty room.
“Jesus Christ!” said Mr. Imperio. “She was supposed to be dead. Do I have to fucking do everything?” He took off his red parka, carefully folded it into a pillow shape, and placed it against the scientist’s head. He unholstered a pistol from his belt and anchored the muzzle against the parka roughly aligned with the scientist’s temple. He pulled the trigger. Downy white feathers floated in the air. Imperio then re-holstered the pistol, dropped the parka to the ground and said, “There. Now climate change isn’t happening.”
Watching from the doorway, President Stradinsky said, “It’s happening Mr. Imperio. We have no issue there. Unlike you Americans, we do not deny what our scientists tell us. We embrace it. Do you think we could have built this oil plant at our northernmost latitude if climate change wasn’t happening? The permafrost is melting and in so doing, the earth is releasing to us all manner of treasure, from oil to minerals to uranium. The melting ice has opened up the Northern Sea Route which our tankers can travel through even without an icebreaker. Climate change is happening and it’s a beautiful thing, Mr. Imperio. Your scientist here was going to publish on what we’ve done here. As our partnership is still top secret, we couldn’t let her do that. She was a bump in the road that we all needed eliminated.”
“I’m gonna need a new coat,” said Imperio. “And where can a guy take a piss around here?”
Even though the whole place was still under construction, the bathrooms at the joint Raduganeft/Nautilus Oil facility were surprisingly functional, complete with flushable toilets and running water. Since the facility was too far away from any municipal water supply, on-site engineers came up with a pressurized system that utilized melting glacier water to supply freshwater to the sinks. It wasn’t safe to drink, but for occasional hand-washing, it did the job.
After relieving himself in an alternating spurt and stream pattern, Mr. Imperio stood at the sink washing his hands in the ice cold water. He looked in the mirror. “Damn,” he said to himself, “there’s a spot on my tie.” He took some paper towel, held it under the running water, and proceeded to dab at the spot. It seemed to work. He couldn’t see how it would be a blood spatter. Probably just something from lunch.
When he got back to the hotel, he changed his clothes in preparation for the flight back to the States. He folded his dress shirt and he rolled his tie neatly and packed them in his suitcase.
There was a knock at the door. “It’s time to go, sir.”
Imperio zipped up his suitcase.
“I’m ready,” he called out. He picked his suitcase up off the bed and rolled it over to the door. He opened it. “Let’s go.”