This one didn’t make it into the published version of the book, but it was a lot of fun to write. Let me know what you think of it!
Northern coast of Ellesmere Island, Canada. April 2096
The ten-metre-long craft bobbed in the calm waters of Jolliffe Bay, the waves muted as they slapped against the carbon nanofibre hull. At the helm was Buddy Rankin, a native of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia; near the stern was his son Jimmy, preparing their gear for the first time this season. The pair had come north to work as fishing guides, offering their services to tourists who wanted to catch fish “the old-fashioned way.”
The Arctic Ocean was now in its second decade of being free of ice year-round, and marine life previously found only in southern waters had moved north. Marine life that included the Atlantic cod, a fish that ten generations of Rankins had made their living from in the waters off Nova Scotia.
Their boat was floating just off the southeastern edge of Williams Reef, a rocky shoal that only ten years ago had been Williams Island. In the latter half of the 21st century, global warming had slowly raised the global sea level an average of two metres, turning islands into reefs and forcing millions to move to higher ground.
The multi-static sonar integral to the boat’s hull automatically imaged the waters below, the boat’s AI projecting a three-dimensional holographic display that hovered over the instrument panel. Jimmy noted the water depth then let his weighted lure sink until it touched the seafloor sixty metres below. He leaned back in his deck chair and got into the jerk-and-lower rhythm of “jigging the cod,” a technique his grandfather had taught him in the waters off Cape Breton Island.
A faint whine overhead signalled the arrival of a huge airship coming in to land at Alert International Airport, a few kilometres to the east.
‘Der’s our paycheque, Jimmy-boy,” said Buddy as the two-hundred-metre-long, hydrogen-filled behemoth briefly blocked out the sun. It was bringing tourists to Ellesmere Island, all of whom were eager to explore the most pristine and protected wilderness in the entire northern hemisphere and see one of the last remaining glaciers on the planet.
As Jimmy’s attention turned back to the ocean, he noticed that a man-made shape had appeared on the northern horizon — a massive robotic methane collector, creeping along as it mined frozen methane deposits from the seafloor in the deep waters out near the edge of the Continental Shelf. Movement to the east then caught Jimmy’s eye: a convoy of unmanned container ships rounding Cape Belknap. Having completed the transit up Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada, they were following the shortest route to New Moscow on the northeastern coast of Russia — over the ice-free North Pole. A flock of autonomous aerial vehicles lifted off from the nearby Canadian Coast Guard Station and headed straight for the convoy, taking station overhead to shepherd the vessels well clear of the lumbering methane collector.
Jimmy’s line suddenly went tight and his rod bent over, its tip touching the water. “I got one, Dad!” He pulled up sharply to set the hook and was rewarded not with the distinct vibration of a hooked codfish, but with a constant pull.
“Aw, it’s a snag.”
Jimmy considered cutting the line and losing his favourite lure, then decided to try reeling it in. After five minutes of constant effort his lure reached the surface. It had snagged a thin, yellow wire that was stretched tight as it disappeared into the sea; one end going south towards land, the other in the general direction of the North Pole.
Jimmy grabbed the wire with one hand and, with his fishing knife, deftly cut it on either side of his lure. The now-free ends vanished into the depths, leaving him with a piece a half-a-metre long. It was a couple of millimetres thick and made of faded yellow plastic, but was much stiffer than normal fishing line. He carefully carved away the coating, exposing a tiny metal tube wrapped in a thin layer of fibreglass.
“I wonder what it is. Some old fishing gear, maybe?” He handed it to his dad.
Buddy examined it for a minute before responding. “Look, there’s something inside the tube,” he said, carefully pulling out what looked like a strand of human hair. He thought for a moment.
“You know, this looks like the old fibre-optic cable I saw in the Halifax Tech Museum. They used this stuff until the 2040s, when hyper-band satellite technology made transmitting data over cables obsolete.” He twirled it between his fingers as he looked southeast towards Alert.
“You know,” he said, “I recall reading that the Coast Guard station there used to be a military base, back in the days after World War II. I think it was still in use in the early part of this century.”
Jimmy’s eyes widened. “You mean before The Big Warming?”
Buddy nodded. “Maybe this was part of some military project. I wonder if the Net has something on it?”
“Good idea, dad.”
Jimmy twitched his left cheek, activating his neural implant to WorldNet. When it responded, he ‘thought’ a request for a search bot, then paused as he considered which keywords to give it. Let’s try: yellow cable, Alert, Arctic, Ellesmere Island, underwater, fibre optic cable, seafloor, Canadian military history.
The bot was gone for almost a minute, long enough for Jimmy to wonder if it had gotten lost in the WorldNet (something that rarely happened).
“Wow, that took a long time. And only one match!” Jimmy said, his eyes closed so he could better concentrate on the images the implant was placing in his mind.
“It’s a history book, Dad. A real book. Almost a hundred years old! From back when they made books out of paper.” He gave his implant the command to download the book. “I’ll read it tonight.”
The pair spent the rest of the day scouting for good fishing spots. That night, with the boat at the dock and Jimmy comfortable in his bunk, he closed his eyes and commanded his implant to give him a summary of the book: The Cold War. Soviet submarines. Project Spinnaker. Theseus. Underwater listening posts. Canadian robotics.
“Cool!” he said, mentally opening the book to the first page.