In A Colder War by Charles Stross, it is stated several times that the Gates are being used by the protagonists to smuggle heroin.

  • The Colonel has "diverted their payload capacity to another purpose",
  • The main character is "the guy with the diplomatic passport and the bulging briefcase full of heroin and end-user certificates."

  • There is also the scene where the submarine returns:

Gorman slowly dials it into a combination lock on the briefcase, lets it fall open and unthreads the chain from his wrist. Floodlights glisten on polythene bags stuffed with white powder, five kilos of high-grade heroin from the hills of Afghanistan; there's another quarter of a ton packed in boxes in the crew compartment.

It seems quite clear and nondebatable that the protaganists, a branch of US military/goverment/super-spy types, are smuggling heroin though the gates, at truly unbelievable risks. I can't see at all why they would be doing that. I've now read the novella three times and I think I am missing a lot. Perhaps because I did not live through the cold war.

  • 1
    I found that puzzling too. They're smuggling the heroin from Afghanistan to Antarctica, which can't be the final destination; even if travel through the Gates were perfectly safe, how could this be the best route? What obstacle are they avoiding? – Beta Mar 15 '15 at 22:32
  • It has been suggested to me that Antarctica is a waystation, that they then carry it onwards via another world. – Lyndon White May 31 '15 at 7:47

This is a reference to the Iran-Contra Affair, where the CIA were accused of facilitating the trafficking in illegal drugs in order to fund the (anti-communist) Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

To hammer.the.point.home we later learn that the Colonel in charge of the op is indeed a Colonel North. We're also treated to a diatribe from him about the perils of communism and the rise of liberalism:

“Relax a bit. Drink your coffee.” The colonel paces back behind his desk, sits down. Roger sips cautiously at the brown sludge in the mug with the Marine Corps crest. “The president told me to organize a team,” says the colonel, so casually that Roger nearly chokes on his coffee, “to handle contingencies. October surprises. Those asshole commies down in Nicaragua. ‘We’re eyeball to eyeball with an Evil Empire, Ozzie, and we can’t afford to blink’ — those were his exact words. The Evil Empire uses dirty tricks. But nowadays we’re better than they are: buncha hicks, like some third-world dictatorship — Upper Volta with shoggoths. My job is to pin them down and cut them up. Don’t give them a chance to whack the shoe on the UN table, demand concessions. If they want to bluff I’ll call ‘em on it. If they want to go toe-to-toe I’ll dance with ‘em.” He’s up and pacing again. “The company used to do that, and do it okay, back in the fifties and sixties. But too many bleeding hearts — it makes me sick. If you guys went back to wet ops today you’d have journalists following you every time you went to the john in case it was newsworthy.

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