Rykovsk, the sparkling heavy metallic queen on the taiga. Reachable only by plane or by barge, and then only during the brief but intense Sakha Republic summer, it nevertheless was lavishly supplied with expensive diesel and even nuclear fuel to support a nearly 100,000-person population. The area’s mines, including the gigantic Kirov complex not far from the city, had been essential to Soviet heavy industry. Even now they provided important hard-currency exports, and there was a waiting list to apply for clearance to work there despite the risks.

People were dying there.

That much was nothing new; Rykovsk was one of the most polluted cities in the country. The Soviets had cared little about the environment, and the robber barons that followed them gave even less of a toss.

The murders, though? Those were bad for business.

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