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336 pages, ebook
First published April 17, 2018
People would say she came to Qaanaaq in a skiff towed by a killer whale harnessed to the front like a horse. In these stories, which grew astonishingly elaborate in the days and weeks after her arrival, the polar bear paced beside her on the flat bloody deck of the boat. Her face was clenched and angry. She wore battle armor built from thick scavenged plastic.
At her feet, in heaps, were the kind of weird weapons and machines that refugee-camp ingenuity had been producing; strange tools fashioned from the wreckage of Manhattan or Mumbai. Her fingers twitched along the walrus-ivory handle of her blade. She had come to do something horrific in Qaanaaq, and she could not wait to start.
You have heard these stories. You may even have told them. Stories are valuable here. They are what we brought when we came here; they are what cannot be taken away from us.
The truth of her arrival was almost certainly less dramatic. The skiff was your standard tri-power rig, with a sail and oars and a gas engine, and for the last few miles of her journey to the floating city it was the engine that she used. The killer whale swam beside her. The polar bear was in chains, a metal cage over its head and two smaller ones boxing in its forepaws. She wore simple clothes, the skins and furs preferred by the people who had fled to the north when the cities of the south began to burn or sink. She did not pace. Her weapon lay at her feet. She brought nothing else with her. Whatever she had come to Qaanaaq to accomplish, her face gave no hint of whether it would be bloody or beautiful or both.
Money is a mind, the oldest artificial intelligence. Its prime directives are simple, it's programming endlessly creative. Humans obey it unthinkingly, with cheerful alacrity. Like a virus, it doesn't care if it kills its host. It will simply flow on to someone new.
The American fleet had lacked a lot of things—food, shelter, fuel, civil liberties—but it hadn’t lacked weapons. The global military presence that had made the pre-fall United States so powerful, and then helped cause their collapse, had left them with all sorts of terrifying toys.
“Fine line between good business and a fucking war crime,” he said. “Ain’t that the goddamn epitaph of capitalism.”