Somewhere north of Noatak, Rariil caught a whiff of a woman. The smell, dilute in the breeze off the Chukchi Sea, was familiar. He licked the air, tasting for details. It was Graashah. She’d been here recently, and without cubs. Rariil grinned. As tradition demanded, she’d come home from Dheznaya to find a mate. She couldn’t have walked. The ice across the Bering Strait had thawed early. She must have taken a ship. They now allowed bears on ships, polars and kodiaks alike, with a special class of ticket. His lips curled back over his canines. He wondered what the terms of those tickets were.
Graashah had been Rariil’s first mate, back when the ice pack lasted through the mating season. He’d been a smaller bear then but well-fed and determined enough to impress her. Rariil was now the biggest polar bear around. He’d secretly perfected a method for still-hunting seals in open water, so he was fat on seal blubber despite the warm winter. Graashah would surely choose him, if he could get to her first. A fishing boat was moored a couple hundred yards offshore. If Graashah could take a boat, so could he. A polar bear could set his own terms on a boat that size.
Still Hunting (Free pdf download.)
This story was first published in the May 2008 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.