It was on a drilling platform, two metres outside of the territorial waters of Greenland, that Soma Jones found himself at a DVD viewing party for the new Carl Jung bioflic. A white sheet hung over a washing line served as a projection screen and the whole world of Jung’s early years rippled with convection currents from the kitchen, where hip eightysomethings ladled glögi from a copper cauldron into white plastic cups. The subtitles were in Spanish, for the film, and Czech for the voices in the room. It was pointless attempting to sort it into any useful divinatory pattern.
The host, an American who called himself Lars, was counting out a fat stack of luncheon vouchers as payment for the last assignment. “It’s just as well these people don’t know who you are.” He told Soma Jones. “You wouldn’t get out of this place without a dozen hot-takes and a pitch for a graphic novel or three.”
“And how does one get out of this place exactly?”
“Restroom? Other side of the kitchen and down the stairs. There’s probably a queue though. Probably easier to piss off the side of the rig.”
“Which direction’s Greenland?”
“Hey, don’t take it like that Jonesie! They were a young empire. If they’d concentrated on consumer technology rather than stutter drive they wouldn’t have brought the attention of the Galactic League upon themselves.”
“I was mostly trying to avoid being transformed into a pillar of salt.”
“Rather than a heap of language, huh?”
Soma Jones let that one slide; his confrontational days were long behind him. Having said that he would have been willing to kill for a heap of braised tofu at the moment. He took his leave of Lars and went out to brave the wind on deck. The Atlantic was barely discernible from the sky; there was less than one Pantone number between them. The rig gave the impression of movement, although Soma Jones assumed that the platform was by definition fixed in position on the ocean floor.
From somewhere inside a half-remembered Incredible String Band number was playing or being played. This installation attempted to carry too many cultural signifiers for its pin-like proportions against the endless frequency modulations of the sea. The density of self-consciousness here was difficult to maintain. It regularly drove octogenarian revellers to fling themselves from the platform to take their chances in the icy waters. It was, he realised, the polar opposite of a shopping mall, or a museum, or even a cathedral. It was, he was willing to propose, difficult to remain a ghost here. Lars had threatened as much.
Soma Jones took a luncheon voucher out of his stash pocket and started to fold it into a paper plane. You wouldn’t illegally download an easy cop out.