Surrender the Sun - Book 2 - Sanctuary
Surrender the Sun - Book 2 - Sanctuary
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"I see the desperation in their eyes, the fear that grips them as hunger claws at their insides. I promised to protect these people, to keep them safe from harm, but even I couldn't have predicted the harshness of this weather. The snow is deep, the winds are bitter, and food grows more scarce.
But then, salvation comes in the form of an Osprey helicopter. It's unexpected, but it's a chance we can't ignore. We need supplies, we need food, and this helicopter is our lifeline. I can't let my people starve.
The problem is, our enemies know this too. They will do whatever it takes to keep us from getting our hands on that helicopter. They've stationed themselves on the frozen lake where it's landed, heavily armed and waiting for us. It's a suicide mission, but I have no choice. I promised these people safety and I intend to keep that promise."
The hum of the private jet lulled Roman into a deep sleep. At some point the flight attendant laid a soft navy fleece blanket over him. He’d leaned back into the comfortable leather seat, while somewhere over the Atlantic, his long legs splayed out before him, crossed at the ankle. Not knowing the exact time didn’t matter. They were flying blind to the northernmost real town before the North Pole in a January snowstorm. Roman hated the cold. He hated the painful numbing sensation brought to his hands when exposed for too long during the worst winter seasons of northern Idaho.
Once he finished with Geller, he intended to retire to some tropical nation near the equator. That was his plan anyway; in the meantime he was on another mysterious mission for his boss. He’d already made this trip once, and now he had returned for another load, though he didn’t see why they couldn’t just mail these damn totes through a courier. Geller insisted he make these trips in person. Said it was of the highest importance though it made little sense to Roman—silly even. Sometimes the old man’s interests were fairly odd. But he wasn’t one to judge as long as his paychecks kept coming in, as substantial as they were.
“We’re about to land,” the stewardess said as she nudged his shoulder. She was blond, slim, and too young for him, but that hadn’t stopped him the last time. As he remembered she liked spending time with him at the Svalbard Inn. Actually, she liked it a lot, as he recalled—or so she seemed the last time. There wasn’t much else to do in that dreary little town and even less now that the sun didn’t rise at all in January during the polar night. The last time he’d made the trip in May, during the midnight sun, which was quite the opposite, the sun never completely went away. It was a confusing and dreary place most of the time, but even Roman had to admit that when looking out at the landscape and feeling the thin air of this remote archipelago island in which the most formidable place men had carved out a sustainable life, he had to admire the strength of a man tenacious enough to thrive there—a hard life, nonetheless, but sustainable. There was beauty there in stark contrast of light and dark. It was like living on another planet at times, though he wouldn’t have the benefit of sightseeing much this time.
Jeannette pulled down the navy fleece blanket and reached down to each side of his hips. He let her hands roam over his sides as she hiked up the two metal ends of his seat belt and clicked the metal clasp in place, pulling the woven belt tight. Though he didn’t notice, his eyes lingered down the creamy crevice of her exposed cleavage until she lifted her eyes to his with a mischievous smirk upon her face.
His long tan fingers encircled one of her wrists as he pulled her hand to his chest.
“Nice…maybe we’ll play later?” he whispered, his voice husky.
“May…be…” She drew out the word and then disappeared somewhere down the aisle.
His eyes landed on the back of her tight skirt and calves, imagining his hands grasping her slim ankles…until she rounded the corner. Sighing, he diverted his attention out the window. A few lights sped by as the small jet lowered and touched down. Stretching his back, Roman took a deep breath. Back to work, he thought as he pulled on a puffy black parka, the hood lined with fur. He hated the coat, but it was the only thing that kept him halfway warm in the last town north of only two thousand or so of residents hiding from their lives, or so he thought that might be why they’d decided to reside there. Only those who had no life otherwise might live in such a place…those fighting demons within their souls or hiding from demons on the outside.
The next morning, Roman flipped on the nightstand light. He smiled when the pretty blonde pulled the covers over her head to shield the light.
“Yeah, it’s that time. Apparently that’s what my watch says, anyway.”
He showered and met his driver out front in the dark of the morning.
On their way to the destination, the Russian driver said, “You know, we had a polar-bear attack last night.”
Roman never liked making small talk. He didn’t think Russians were ever very adept at the art, either. “Doesn’t that kind of thing happen around here all the time? Isn’t that why you have to be armed by law here?”
“Da,” he said with a nod of his head.
“Well, why was this person attacked then?”
The driver became frustrated all of a sudden. He threw up his hand and said, “The bear was hungry!”
Roman didn’t understand. “Didn’t this person carry the required firearm?”
“Da, shot de bear four times. He kept coming to him.”
Now he understood why the Russian was frustrated with him. Yes, the man was lawfully armed, and, yes, he was mauled to death by the polar bear after shooting the carnivore not once but four times. “The bear was hungry. I see…” Again, a formidable place to live and one he disliked visiting.
It was a nine-minute drive from Svalbard’s Inn to the Global Seed Vault. In fact, they’d passed the turnoff on their small, narrow drive from the airport last night, though it didn’t matter. The Seed Vault wasn’t manned twenty-four seven. He had no doubt there were cameras monitoring the place, but there wasn’t a staff who stayed all hours to babysit precious seeds. There was, however, staff there now, and they were expecting him.
As they pulled up, barely illuminated in the midmorning hours, the portal to the globe’s largest seed vault stuck out of the landscape like some coal-mining-shaft entrance. If it weren’t for the reflective artwork mounted on the top, one would expect coal stored in a place like this, not the precious seeds deposited there for safe keeping for countries and private companies around the world from any catastrophes that might otherwise wipe out that country’s natural habitat. The global storage facility was a way of ensuring the survival of a unique species, and it worked.
“Wait here,” Roman told the driver. With only one other vehicle parked nearby, with a few snowmobiles alongside, he didn’t expect there to be more than one or two people inside the underground building.
The driver opened his palms. “Where I go?”
Great. A sarcastic Russian driver with an attitude.
Roman smirked and shook his head as he got out of the warm vehicle. The snowy gravel parking lot crunched under his boots. He started to cross the little metal bridge to the front entrance when one of the doors opened up, and there stood a blond, middle-aged woman, who appeared to be more like a mother than a grandmother.
“Hello. Good to see you again, Mr. Roman.”
He towered over her by a foot at least. Her accent was a Norwegian lilt to near-perfect English. “I see you were expecting my arrival.”
She smiled at him. “It’s a small island. Word travels fast.” With a purposeful gander, her eyes stretched the length of him. “Dark, tall, and handsome…they were right.”
“Who’s they?” He smiled.
“No one comes to Svalbard without a prior introduction. By the time you leave, we’ll know even your blood type.” Waving to him to follow her down the hallway, she continued, “Of course, I knew you were coming. Your boss has kept me informed.”
They passed another set of white double doors and headed through a concrete tunnel leading on a downward slope into the earth. Growing colder with each step, he noticed there were ice formations alongside the walls and doors as if walking into a deep freezer. She smiled at him as he shivered and pulled his thermal coat closer to his body.
“Not much farther.”
They came to another room, where she headed to another set of doors with more frozen ice formations surrounding the doorframe. Opening the metal door, which creaked from the disturbance of the seal, she led him inside.
He’d been in this room once before with the same experience. He couldn’t help but feel claustrophobic in there.
“You know, we could easily mail these to you in America. We do this all the time. There’s no need to come here personally for these parcels.”
Oh, how he agreed. “That’s very kind of you to suggest. However, my employer prefers to safeguard this cargo personally.”
Giving him a knowing look, she led him inside to a set of shelves. Boxes of all sorts of materials—plastic, wood, cardboard, etc.—lined the black metal shelves. They had one thing in common, though: they were all exactly the same size. She led him down past a sign that read Canada, which held black plastic totes. Then right next to those were red wooden boxes in the same dimensions with a white sign allocating these to North Korea. Roman raised his eyebrow, thinking. Then his guide stopped. Next to the red boxes was a sign in black ink: Geller Enterprises.
Roman was even more intrigued, and his guide must have picked up on his curiosity.
With a wry smile, she said, “We have no wars below the permafrost, Mr. Roman.”
“I suppose not.”
She pulled out the totes labeled in his boss’s name. They were lightweight and easy to carry. Stacking two of them in his arms, she brought the other two herself.
The last time he’d made the pickup, he wasn’t invited to come into the stock room to retrieve them himself. Perhaps that was how the people of Svalbard were. Maybe the citizens were that distrustful; they needed to check him out first before they allowed him into the vault itself.
“Bjork is not feeling well today. He is usually the one to help with the deposits and withdrawals.”
“I see,” Roman said as they made the return trip, dashing his thoughts that maybe he’d been trusted by the citizens of Svalbard. When they entered the last room before the doorway, she had him sign several papers. The driver helped him put the totes into the van, and then they were off to the airport, just down the road not five minutes away. It was a long travel for what Roman felt little benefit. He wasn’t sure why he was made to come all the way from Idaho to this frozen island nearly within shouting range of the North Pole, but he did it at least once a year. He also did not understand where the totes were deposited from. He only made the withdrawals. Some things Geller kept to himself, but Roman really didn’t need to know, though at times he wondered about the man’s soul for whom he worked. If there were nefarious dealings, he’d never know about them. Roman was committed to working for the man no matter the contents of his soul. Yes, he did wonder from time to time whether he worked for the devil himself or merely for a man for whom ethics were an elastic concept. He himself didn’t mind either way unless his dealings got him killed, which would matter, then. That would matter a lot.
As conditions continue to deteriorate, starvation sets in. An unexpected visitor returns, bringing Bishop the chance he needs. An all-out battle on the ice is the only way to survive.