“Mr. Grummish?” interrupted Dr. Maggie Talley, “I think we need to discuss the logistics of this trip to Alaska.”
“Oh,” said the six foot tall Ork who seemed only slightly distracted by Maggie. He didn’t look up from the large, embedded touch screen conference table.
While he always treated Maggie quietly and kindly… or at least not hostile, she couldn’t shake her first interaction with him. Drenched in the blood of an assassination “wet work” job, but presenting himself as a snobby aristocrat, stuck with her. His idiosyncrasies, like using glasses when he was packed with cyberware that did who-knows-what, tended only to confuse her. Of course, the consistent monotone of his voice left her unsettled, leaving only the impression of no humanity.
“Um, yes,” she continued, “It seems the remoteness of the coordinates will pose a problem. Anchorage is several hundred miles away, a very long haul for a VTOL. The nearest inhabited place is a small town called Arctic Village –“
“Quaint,” Grummish interrupted, still reviewing documents displayed on the table. While his English was fluent, the slight French accent was prominent.
“Uh, yes, quaint,” Maggie continued, “Well, this small village is inhabited by the Gwitch’en Alaskan natives, and most speak only Gwich’en… no English.”
Grummish stood and straightened his dress shirt and tie. Well, at least it’s not covered in blood this time, Maggie thought.
“Surely there are translators? The village must have some bilingual inhabitants to interact with the Alaskan government.” Grummish’s speech had a nonchalant quality, almost like he had no interest in the conversation, and yet he seemed to hear and remember everything.
“That seems likely, but-“
“We do not know who in the village is bilingual.”
“A trivial matter easily resolved when we arrive.”
“But-,“ Maggie asserted, interrupted by Grummish silently looking over his glasses at her, with an expression reminiscent of her father’s “disappointed” face. She decided that the language conversation was over.
“I assume you have more important logistics to discuss?” Grummish asked condescendingly. Maggie had to catch herself before her automatic eye roll occurred.
“Yes,” Maggie continued. “Given the distance, we’ll need to bring multiple VTOLs to carry equipment and gear, including fuel for use there and a return trip. Arctic Village is 55 miles from Mount Isto, the 9,000 foot mountain at the coordinates we found.”
“8,975 feet,” Grummish said plainly.
“What?” Maggie asked given the interruption of her train of thought.
“Mount Isto. 8,975 feet, not 9,000” Maggie stifled another eye roll.
“Um, thanks? Can I continue?” Maggie asked. Grummish nodded. “So, we have to find a way to traverse 55 miles into some very rugged mountains. We could use snowmobiles or snow cats, but that’s more fuel to carry, and we’d need something large enough to transport them. Regardless, the closest we can get to the coordinates is 3 or 4 miles. Then it’s all climbing. We can carry the gear, but I doubt any of us has real skill in using it. To take the easiest path possible, we may need to travel nearly twice the distance to wind our way to the mountain, instead of a direct path.”
“I believe your meandering is leading to the conclusion that we need a guide, lots of equipment, and additional skilled personnel. Am I correct?”
“That’s a concise summary, yes,” Maggie replied. “Though, what do you mean by ‘skilled personnel’? Obviously, we need a guide or guides, pilots,-“
“Skilled personnel refers to those ready and able to fight and kill any threats to our equipment. While I am sure I would manage, though not sure you would, I do not envy a walk of hundreds of miles in harsh terrain during the late fall in Alaska. A possibility that could occur if our pilots, vehicles, fuel, etcetera were attacked.”
“Well, there’s another point,” Maggie continued. “During this time of year there will be more hours of darkness than light. At that latitude, maybe only a few hours of daylight. If you can call the sun hovering at the southern horizon ‘day time’.”
“Scared of the dark are we?” Grummish teased. “I am sure we can handle some darkness. Anything else?”
“No, I think this is enough.”
“Very well,” Grummish said as he turned his attention to the screen in the table. “We can overcome these hurdles.”
Being ignored for several seconds, Maggie began feeling uncomfortable and assumed their conversation was over. Maggie left the conference room and entered a receptionist area just outside. Sitting at the receptionist’s desk was a young woman reading Cosmopolitan. The name “Melissa” was on the desk’s nameplate, tilted askew because of Melissa’s feet pushing it out of place.
“Infuriating, isn’t he?” Melissa said not looking up from the magazine. Maggie managed a slight smile. “Yeah,” Melissa continued, “sometimes I just have to tell him to shut up.”
“Seriously,” Maggie asked in disbelief. “He won’t get offended and gut me like a freshly caught salmon?” Maggie proudly thought of the Alaskan reference.
“Yes, so you can’t tell him that. But I can.”
Maggie furrowed her brow, the confusion of the inconsistent treatment on her face evident.
Melissa smiled. “It’s why I get paid the big bucks.”