Hard Line - Pamela Clare
Thanks as always to Michelle White, Benjamin Alexander, Jackie Turner, Shell Ryan, and Pat Egan Fordyce for their support during the writing of this book.
Special thanks to my mother, Mary White, an RN and respiratory therapist, for her guidance with the medical scenes.
And a big thank you to my readers for their encouragement and for reading my stories. Thanks for exploring these imaginary worlds with me. You are the best.
SPT — South Pole Telescope
LO Arch — The Logistics Arch where supplies are stored
On Station — The act of being at the South Pole station
Going to Pole — Traveling to the South Pole
BICEP — Acronym for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization
IceCube — The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole
Skiway — The runway at Amundsen-Scott Station
Cosmic Microwave Background — Relic radiation left over from the Big Bang
Skua — A kind of bird that scavenges whatever it can. Also, the nickname given to areas where South Pole residents trade and give away their belongings to others.
This story is set in the unique environment of Antarctica, where few of us will ever go. Down there, they have some fun and unique slang. I’ve done my best to incorporate that into the story when possible without overwhelming my readers.
Also, the hero is Danish and, although he speaks English well, I have included some language errors for the sake of veracity. I speak Danish and lived in Denmark, so I’m familiar with the kind of pronunciation and syntax mistakes native Danish speakers make when speaking English. There are also Russian characters in the story. Their English isn’t perfect, either. Those are not mistakes in the text; they are deliberate.
It’s been a strange experience to write about the coldest place on earth while in the middle of a very hot summer. I will admit to being jealous of my characters at times. Can’t it just be minus eighty for five seconds?
I hope you love Thor and Samantha as much as I do.
August 19, 2020
Thor Ravn Isaksen put the ax back in his tool shed and locked it up, enough firewood stacked near the porch to get him through the next several days. It might be April, but in Colorado’s high country, spring had yet to arrive.
He picked up an armful of firewood and carried it inside, where the fire had almost gone out. He had gas heat, of course, but he preferred the warmth of the woodstove. When the fire was burning hot again, he grabbed a beer from the fridge, stepped outside onto his deck, and sat on the bench he’d built from scrap lumber.
He drew in a breath, the air clean and fresh, no sound but the wind in the pines.
He’d bought this property just before the holidays, moving from a condo in Northglenn to this three-bedroom house in the mountains. His property abutted National Forest land, which made it seem far bigger than a mere fifteen acres. It also came with an endless view of the snow-capped peaks to the west. His nearest neighbors were black bears, cougars, elk, bobcats, and mule deer.
It was Thor’s idea of paradise.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like people. He just preferred solitude.
He’d grown up an only child in the Danish countryside, surrounded by a dense birch forest, and had learned to be content in his own company at an early age. That skill had come in handy during his two years with Sirius Dogsled Patrol, the Danish special forces unit that guarded the unpopulated expanse of Northeastern Greenland. Some of the guys had struggled with the isolation and the cold, the darkness and the vastness of the landscape creeping inside them.
But for Thor, that had been salvation.
The hard part had been returning home. After Greenland, the world had seemed too loud, too rushed, too … meaningless.
The only thing missing from his life was a partner. He had no interest in getting married. All the fuss and paperwork seemed like bullshit to him. Still, it would be nice to share his life—and his bed—with someone special. But he had yet to meet a woman who loved him enough to tolerate his profession.
As an operative with Cobra International Security, a private security company, he spent as much time out of the country as he did at home, leaving at a moment’s notice. Women thought his job was sexy until the reality of broken dates, missed birthdays, and long absences sank in. Or maybe that wasn’t it at all.
The last woman Thor had dated ended things one