Long before he could make out the first, thin plume of vapor, Tomi could hear the telltale rumble of the landskimmer's engine—some steam-powered monstrosity from the last century, no doubt lovingly refurbished in a gearhead's basement. Recreational vehicle, then, not that Tomi had the first damn idea why anyone would want to go joyriding across the Arctic tundra.
"Not Arctic, Vuorela," he reminded himself with a huff of a laugh. His breath clouded the air for a moment, and he dragged his scarf up over his nose. "You're not in Lapland anymore."
He could see the landskimmer now, if he dimmed his goggles to cut down on the glare—or he could see the way the sun struck its carapace, glittering in the distance like the sharp edge of a knife. The air was still, dry and cold enough to burn off the steam from the exhaust pipes. "Tomi Vuorela, calling to report a recreational skimmer traveling north-northeast along the datalink ridges," he said into his comm. "The pilot's on an intercept course with the remote access node. Should I send a round over his head to scare him off?"
"Nah," said Hietala's voice, and even through the crackle of the commlink, Tomi could hear that he was laughing. "It's probably one of the engineers from the server core looking for a refuel. Just plug him in and send him—"
"Negative," Tomi cut in. "It's not an electric skimmer. Steam-powered. Old model—bet you can hear the engine."
"I can't hear a damn thing over this static," replied Hietala. "Look, recreational vehicles aren't our problem, Vuorela. Unless he's trying to crash the node, just give him a fucking cup of hot chocolate and send him on his way, and don't bother me with this again."