Fairbanks, Alaska – January 2012
“So, they wanted a press monkey instead of a real scientist?” Kyranda Harper leaned over and turned up the volume on her speaker. She snagged her wireless keyboard and eased back into her over-stuffed office chair. She put her feet up on the desk, set the keyboard in her lap, and started to type.
“Yeah.” The voice from the speakerphone sounded thin. “They wanted the head of entomology to make nice with CNN.”
“CNN? Does anybody watch that garbage? I’m tellin’ ya, Joycee, it’s just a bunch of tree huggin’ hippie crap.”
Joyce Ann laughed. “Stop watching South Park.”
“The only way you’d know that was a South Park reference is if you watched it too.”
Joyce Ann laughed again. “Guilty.”
“So when do you leave?”
“Well, call me if you find something cool.”
Kyranda slid open a desk drawer and pulled out a small apothecary jar filled with gummi bears. She flipped up the lid and popped a couple into her mouth. “Have you heard from Conner?”
“Just that he was going to be gone for a week or so. You know the drill. When it comes to his job, we’re all mushrooms.”
“Kept in the dark and fed a lot of crap, I know. Have you been to his new place?”
“Not yet. I’m supposed to go next month.”
Kyranda popped a few more of the sugary, colored bears into her mouth. “Mind if I tag along?”
“Sure. You can get the time?”
“I’ll work it out.”
“Okay, I’ll email you the details. Are you eating gummi bears?”
Kyranda laughed. “Guilty. How did you know?”
“I could hear your sugar rush. I gotta pack.”
“Okay. I’ve gotta go yell at my boss.”
“I just did it. You’ll love it. Bye.”
“Bye.” Kyranda leaned over and punched the disconnect button on the phone.
She lifted up the candy jar, letting the sunlight pass through the rainbow hued sweets. She flipped the lid closed.
“Time to go back in the drawer, boys.” She returned the jar to her desk drawer. She blamed her dad for her addiction to the little suckers. Her mom had been a stickler about sweets, but her dad was another story. Whenever they went shopping her dad would always get them some gummi bears to share.
She leaned back into her chair and crossed her legs. She looked out at the Chena River through the “V” her crossed Nikes made. She watched as a stern-wheeled riverboat full of tourists churned a white wake as it made its way down the river. The bay window of her third-floor office had an amazing view. That’s why she’d chosen it.
She loved it here in Alaska. The temperature was perfect for her most of the year. Unlike her peers, she enjoyed camping, fishing, and hunting. She was the conservative in the liberal camp. Despite that, she’d made some good friends in town and was able to indulge in her frowned upon leisure activities with locals that loved them just as much as she did. She enjoyed her life.
Well, that is, until it came to Conner. She’d known Joyce Ann and Conner McCollum since she was five. She and Joyce Ann had become friends when she was a Daisy. Joyce Ann’s mom was the troop leader, Kyranda’s the assistant leader. Their mom’s also taught at the same elementary school.
Conner was the tagalong little brother. She had never thought of him as a tagalong. He was just another friend that came over to play. He was fun.
As they entered junior high, the three of them stayed tight. Still hanging out only now it was more about music and movies. The thing that really brought them together was archery. Something they still did whenever they got together.
It didn’t start to get complicated until high school. Conner had asked her out. She had agreed not realizing he was asking her out on a date. She was under the impression they would grab Joyce Ann and go to a movie. When she finally realized what he was asking, she didn’t react well. It was the “but, you’re like my brother” reaction and Conner had been humiliated.
She had felt horrible. She hadn’t meant to hurt him and she tried to rectify it. But, for the next week he had avoided her. Joyce Ann stepped in and fixed everything. She asked Kyranda if she liked hanging out with Conner, if she had fun. Kyranda had said yes. Then she’d asked if Conner made her laugh. Again Kyranda said yes. Then came the big question: Was he handsome enough? Kyranda thought about it. He was handsome, enjoyed the same things she did, and she knew him inside out and backwards. Joyce Ann had laughed when the wheels stopped turning. She told Kyranda that if she wanted to date her brother, it was okay.
Then Joyce Ann went to Conner and called him an insensitive jerk that didn’t think about a situation before he jumped in and he should have thought about Kyranda’s feelings. He should have given her some time to think about.
Conner tried to protest, saying that Kyranda should have known how he felt. Joyce Ann had said he felt that way because he was a boy and just didn’t understand girls. At all. Period. That he should grow a set and go apologize. And if Kyranda accepted his apology and ever went out with him, he’d better be a good boy and not try anything or she would personally kick his ass. And how would his friends on the football team like that.
Conner apologized, flowers in hand, the next day and they soon went on their first date.
By the time high school had come to a close they were still not steady, but only dating and only on occasion. He was fun to be around and had never tried anything. Kyranda was sure that was more Joyce Ann’s doing than anything else.
She was getting serious and wondered if Conner would ever be when it came to their relationship. Then her graduation day rolled around. Joyce Ann had graduated the year before and was already attending college. Conner still had a year of high school and she decided it was time to have the “Is this a serious relationship” talk with him.
He told her he wanted it to be serious, but that he’d made a decision to join the Navy. She’d been shocked. He’d never said a word to her about joining. She was mad. He said as soon as he finished his tour, that he would be committed to their relationship. She knew then that it was over. That would be at least three years unless he re-upped and then . . . Who knew?
They had remained friends even though there was still a little tension between them. But there was still a little “what if” in the back of her mind.
Her visit to the land of memory was cut short as her computer beeped, wanting her attention. She widened her eyes and blinked, clearing the past from her mind.
She watched as the data scrolled across her screen. It had taken the better part of the day to hack Doctor Pandey’s private work files. She shouldn’t have had to hack it in the first place. She was the deputy director of this field office. Nothing was supposed to be hidden from her and Pandey was hiding something.
She read the information and grew angrier at the end of each line. Pandey’s report about the orange jelly found in Kivalina had been a lie. Every word of it.
She grabbed up her phone and stabbed a button. When the receptionist picked up the line, Kyranda didn’t give her time to speak. “Where’s Pandey!”
“He’s in his lab. He’s been in there all morning.”
Kyranda could feel a head of steam building. “Page him and tell him I want him in my office now.”
The receptionist was a little hesitant. “Uh, we’ve been paging him most of the morning for other calls and he’s ignored us. You know how he is.” She tried to laugh.
“Never mind.” Kyranda hung up the phone, grabbed her purse, and headed for the door. “I’m going to string you up by your sack.”