2046 - Southern Khabarovsk Krai, Russia
I let out a deep moan as I stared down at Suyin kneeling in front of me. She knew what I liked, working faster, tightening her lips to collect every last drop. Some days there were others, of course, but when I saw Suyin step off the train all those months ago, I knew I needed to have her.
“Am I finished?” she asked in her broken Russian, always the same question, always avoiding eye contact.
“Go. The back door this time,” I said, pulling my pants back up. “Take that bag of seeds with you. Come back later to label this morning’s shipment.”
Suyin lifted the bag onto her shoulder and leftthe storage barn, heading towards the field. It was the end of August and we hadone more growing season before winter came.
I grabbed my blazer and exitedthrough the front, easing into the warm kiss of the sun on my face. With only two hours until sunset, it continued to blanket my potato fields with its nourishing warmth. The inspector wouldbe happily surprised duringhis visit next month. This season’s harvest looked to be the best in two years, good enough to earn a greater share of land in next month’s annual reassessment. But more important, I’ll earn a greater share in the next shipment of Chinese farmhands.
846 were under my service. Half dotted my farm for miles, seeding, weeding, watering, and picking. The other half worked my egg farms, maintained my wind farms, and manned the assembly line at my drone factory. All obedient. All desperate. And all paid for by the Chinese government, on top of my per head management fee. The more, the better really. Why bother withall those new and expensive mechanized pickers.
I walked the farm’s main service road, as I dideveryday, inspecting and sternly correcting the workers I passed by. In truth, they worked diligently and without a fault, but one must always remind them who they work for, who they must please, to avoid being shipped back to starvation in China.
Overhead, farming drones buzzed through the sky, many in groups of four. They flew year round. The armed ones guarded the farm boundaries against crop looters. Others kept tabs on the farm’s soil composition, water retention, and crop growth rate, directing the farmhands to where they should focus their day’s efforts. The larger drones transported seed bags, fertilizer, and other support materials to the farmhands where needed. Everything was so efficient. I never imagined applying my computer science degree to the simple life, but after marrying a farmer’s daughter, it just made sense.
After a half hour, I reached my mansion at the end of the service route. The Samoyeds, Dessa, Fyodor, and Gasha, were playing in the garden. Their caregiver, Dewei, kept watch. I stopped by the kitchen to check what the cook was planning for dinner, before heading up the steps.
Outside my bedroom, Li Ming,our midwife,satknitting another infant onesie.She noddedthat was awake.
“Irina,my dear, how are you feeling?” I sat on the bed carefully, aware of her condition.
“I could be better,” she said, staring distantly at the photos decorating the dresser.They were a memory of a better time, when we travelled widely and loved deeply.
Irina’s skin was pale and moist. This was our third try for a baby. This time our doctor saidshe would bring the child to term, only a few more weeks.But all the same, the drugs protecting the child hadbeen especially draining this last trimester.
“Is there anything I can do? Can I bring you anything?” I ask.
Irina lay silent. Always so difficult. This year especially, no matter how much I give. A great home. Jewelry. Servants. Foods that can no longer be bought in the open market. And still, silence.
“These are great days for Russia,” saidGrigor Sadovsky, Chief Agriculture Inspector for the federal subject of Khabarovsk Krai. He finished chewing his bite of overpriced steak, before adding, “You know, I was only a small boy when the Soviet Union collapsed. The only thing I can remember of that time was finding my father crying on his bed. When the factory closed, he lost everything. It was very hard for my family to even give my sisters and me one meal a day.”
“I can only imagine, sir,” I said. “I’m sure we’ll never return to those days. Look at all we’ve built. We feed half the world now. And we live well because of it. Isn’t that right, Irina?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she mindlessly picked ather helping of carp and salad, ignoring the bounty offoodcarefully presented on the dining room table. This was our most important visitor of the year and her manner could not care less.
“Yes, Russia is strong again.” Sadovsky emptied his second cup of rare and aged red wine. The dining servant immediately refilled it.I had instructed him to keep the inspector happy, even if it cost me my best vintages. “The Europeans thought they could cow us when they no longer needed our gas, but now look at them. I never imagined Russia would retake its place in history through agriculture, but here we are.” He guzzled more wine, and then added,“You know, I’ve been invited to attend the global climate forum in Zurich this October.”
“What a great honour, sir. Will you be speaking? Maybe about those geo-engineering plans the West is talking about lately?”
“I’ll be a panelist on the East Asian climate normalization committee. But between you and I, there won’t be any normalization. The climate has changed and the world must change with it. If they bring back the world temperature to 1990’s average, we’ll lose our farmlands back to the winter. Our economy will fall.
Sadovsky shook his head. “No,Russia is strong now. The Europeans need our food. The Chinese need our land for their refugees. And with both of their money lining our pockets, we can buy off enough ministers to block any vote the American’s try to push to lower world temperatures.”
Irina’s fork clatters against her plate. She stands up, her eyes wide,left hand holding her swollen belly. “Excuse me, Inspector,” she then rushed out of the room.
Sadovsky grins at me. “Don’t worry, my wife was the same when she had our children. By the size of her stomach, I’m sure your baby will be a healthy one. Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?”
“A boy. We’re naming him, Alexei. He’ll be our first. We’ve been trying for so long now, it’s hard to believe it’s going to happen this time.”
“Have as many as you can, Bogdan. Russia needs more children, especially with all these Chinese settling here.” He extends his emptied cup to the dining servant for yet another refill.
“Of course. After Irina recovers, we hope to—”
The dining room doors burst open as the the midwife rushed in. “Mr. Bogdan, your wife is in labour! I need you to come.”
“Ha! You see, I told you I would bring good luck.” Sadovsky laughed heartily and grabed the wine bottle from the dining servant’s hand. “Go, I will drink for the both of us!”
“Push, Mrs. Irina! Push!”
I waited in the bedroom outside the bathroom door. Between Irina’s screams, the painful contractions, and the midwife’s chalkboard accent, I just couldn’t stay in that tiny room with them. We waited so long for this. Finally a son to call my own, someone to carry my name, inherit all that I have built.
Hours pass before Irina’s screams stop. Moments later, a baby’s cries shattered the silence. Alexei.
Then I hear Irina. She was laughing, but it was a hysterical laugh.
I opened the washroom doorto find Irina sitting in a tub of bloody water, her face covered in sweat and satisfaction. She stared at mefor a moment, then started laughing even louder. The midwife satquietly, shivering, holding the child tightlyagainst her body.
“How is he? My child, Alexei.”
The midwife turned to look at me, dread filling her eyes. “Mr. Bogdan, sir, I, I don’t—”
“Give me my child!” I pulled Alexei out of her hands. Irina’s laughter stopped. I pulled the towel away from Alexei’s face. Then I saw it. His eyes....
“You think I didn’t know?” said Irina, herface is lit by fury, blood drippingfrom her nostril. “You think I’m a fool?That I wouldn’t find out?”
“Not like this, Irina. This,how could you do this?”
“I’m taking everything, Bogdan. Everything!”
“Who? With who!” The baby started to scream. The midwife tried to reach out for him, but I kicked her to the floor. “Who’s the father?”
Irina stood up from the bath, her body painted in blood. “Who else but the husband of your whore.”
An insane rage grew inside me as I raced out of the bathroom.
“I’m taking everything, Bogdan!” Irina screamed.
I ran down the house and into the garage. I lay the baby on the jeep’s passenger seat, then rushed to the locker nearby. A few pin presses later and I pulled out my hunting rifle.
The jeep tore down the farm’s service road. The child’sscreamed the whole ride, drawing shocked stares from the farmhands working in the nearby fields. It didn’t take long before I reached the storage barn. I grabbed the rifle from the back seat and barged inside.
“Suyin! Where are you? Suyin! I know you’re here.” I walked down the aisles of seed bags and farm tools stacked three stories high, aisle after aisle, until I saw her. She stood quietly in thebarn’s southeast corner. “Suyin! Where is he?”
She calmly walks out of view and into the back aisle. I chase after her, turn the corner and there he is.
“How is my son?” he asked coldly.
I drew my rifle, fingered the trigger, took aim, then froze.The pain was suffocating. I lurched forward as the blade pushed between my ribs. The gun fell to my side as I clutched at my side.
WWIII Climate Wars series links
WWIII CLIMATE WARS: NARRATIVES
Southeast Asia, Drowning in your Past: WWIII Climate Wars P9
South America, Revolution: WWIII Climate Wars P11