Michael Keng was back on Java again. He usually
avoided going there in the same way that a typical pre-glacial German soldier
avoided the Eastern Front of 1944, it was just the type of place to stay away
from whether you were patriotic or not. Other than the war however, Java was
actually a nice island. Of course. Keng thought to himself.
Thats why they are fighting over it.
As he walked
along the open plaza in central Bogor, he noticed that many of the stores were
closing themselves up and moving off to shelter. His network assistant sounded
off about incoming weather. Unfortunately no place on the planet was immune to
bad weather, especially really bad weather. Keng remembered learning in school
how the pre-glacial world had such stable, mild weather. Sure winters were bad
and they had hurricanes, but nothing like the duration and violence of
todays systems that regularly savaged the surface. Well, at least
it gives our civil engineers something to do. he thought as he watched
the businesses facing the plaza retract their verandas and send barrier panels
rattling into place. He imagined that if the Japanese had stayed on Earth, they
would somehow have come up with more elegant ways of doing these things.
Instead they had elegantly left the planet and moved into space. Keng admired
that sort of determination, and wondered how he would have reacted to the
ultimate decision; stay or go?
wasnt Japanese, and as a Selangor intelligence officer his current task
was to attend the upcoming meeting on captured Australian technology. He
already knew there were a few bombs to throw into the conversation and looked
forward to it.
to the plazas main hall, he sauntered down to the same military elevators
he and Vasiliy had used last time they were here. Instead of hopping on the
underground transit system however, he walked back through a maze of hallways
and offices, some old and some new, to a meeting room deep in the security
area. General Hazric Chatan was already there along with several of his staff
officers, he was commander of the corps that defended central Java. Behind Keng
was Colonel Hwee Lan , senior scientist from the Selangor Army Lab in
Singapore. Once several officers representing local and regional service
branches showed up, the meeting was ready to start.
Chatan greeted everyone as they seated themselves in the rather austere room.
Good afternoon gentlemen, Im glad you were all able to arrive in
one piece, and welcome to Java Colonel Hwee, I understand this is your first
time here. he said pompously.
had a talent for saying just the thing that would make a person feel awkward
and unwelcome. Keng had to constantly remind himself that the world was full of
such people and that there was no escaping it.
you General.Lan replied graciously.
probably wants to stab him in the heart. thought Keng, who didnt
care what the base sensors read because nearly everyone hated the general.
However like some small handfuls of hated people, at least he was not stupid
and could actually be smart on occasion.
to keep the meeting on track by opening. With your permission
general he said, I would like to begin the meeting with an outline
of our findings from the most recent offensive. As you all know, our ground
forces captured several key pieces of enemy equipment during the course of the
fighting, and we also captured two command bunkers intact. While Keng
spoke, each attendees viewer showed a series of streams, graphs and 3D
data interpretations of the findings and equipment.
enemy equipment salvaged, little revealed anything new or valuable. As we have
discovered in the past, the Australians are very good at maintaining the
integrity of self-destruct command loops within damaged vehicles. So there was
little to be gleaned from their destroyed ground vehicles or aircraft, other
than an improved suspension system they are using on light and medium duty
unmanned routers. They are also using improved munitions and their
reconnaissance ordnance has predictably become more efficient. The employment
of such munitions in their counterattack against our command bunkers at the
start of the offensive is an excellent case in point.
that. Keng thought to General Chatan, who had been warned that his own
command centers were vulnerable.
two bunkers we captured, one of them disintegrated in a large self-destruct
sequence 13 hours after being captured. Apparently the Australians thought that
was about the amount of time it took for one of us to get into the place to
look around. The other bunker was not so equipped, but it also contained little
of interest. It is positioned above an access tunnel which leads to their
former rear lines, but we have learned that the entire area beneath the command
bunker is heavily booby-trapped and could explode in a manner that might be
disruptive to units already emplaced in adjoining positions. I should point out
general, that the Australians may still be able to detonate that command center
autonomously. Keng was leaving the general to come to his own conclusions
about how to handle a potentially rigged bunker in the middle of his lines.
Analysis of MGV and nano-level compounds revealed a similar pattern.
Their MGVs are all very efficient at self-destructing and during combat our own
microforces find it nearly impossible to scan their vehicles. Their
nano-compounds continue to be effective yet quick to break down into harmless
elements once in the environment, leaving their makeup mostly unknown. A
beneficial side effect of this however, is that the environment itself does not
become heavily contaminated.
So far so
good, that was the easy part, Keng continued. Our most interesting
finding may have nothing to do with the Australians, at least not directly.
Amongst the data recorded during the capture of the command bunker at Ratu
Boko, our MGV forces tracked the presence of what we thought at first was a
type of surface defense. But during the engagement, these supposed defenses
were seen to engage Australian MGV units just as much as our own. After the
battle we gathered samples from the exposed faces of the command bunker. It
turns out that all bunker surfaces which were previously exposed to open air,
and related surfaces down to approximately one-half meter below the surface had
none of these defenses as we will call them. But more than one-half
meter below the surface, the exterior walls of the command bunker were
increasingly infested with them. And it turned out, these were not Australian
defenses at all, but actually a new type of biological entity which for now we
will call a metal fungus. The Selangor general and his staff looked in
astonishment at Keng and for a few moments chattered amongst themselves. Keng
continued, I will let Colonel Lan from the Army Lab in Singapore give us
a more detailed technical assessment, Colonel:
Singaporean colonel rose and paced to one end of the room before starting to
speak; Thank you Mr. Keng. Gentlemen, early in the identification
process, we established that this material has a taste for metallic compounds.
When exposed to open air it has an impressive ability to contaminate the
surfaces of metallic and semimetallic surfaces which come near it. We think
this is one way it spreads underground. We do not yet know how it spreads over
great distances, but it does manage to do just that. A quick check of our own
underground structures on Java has confirmed the existence of the same
parasites, and additional checks have confirmed the same thing on Sumatra and
up to 150 kilometers North of Singapore. So far the main contamination vector
is composed of metallic or metal bearing composite surfaces with prolonged
underground exposure, but we are continuing to test whether they can grow
more murmuring amongst the assembled staff, Keng raised his hand for quiet
until Colonel Lan could complete his outline. Lan continued; It was this
discovery that prompted the order from high command that all existing
underground construction projects eliminate metal bearing armored facing from
the underground components of structures. We included Mars in the warning,
although so far no contaminated structures have been found there.
answer a few questions in advance; no, this fungus does not appear to be a
health threat to humans. It does gradually weaken the structures which it
infests, which could eventually become a safety problem. It is unclear how it
relates to the environment around it, as it currently appears to offer no
benefits for existing flora or fauna. Like more normal fungi, once removed from
its place of growth it seems to die, but unlike normal fungi it leaves behind a
metallic husk very strange, but apparently not infectious.
is all gentlemen, Im afraid we cannot answer many questions about this,
as we still know precious little about it. But we will answer what we
from the regional medical services spoke up almost immediately; Colonel,
has the fungus been sequenced yet, and if so does it relate to other known
question. replied Colonel Lan . Yes it has been sequenced, and no,
it is not related to any known species. Its chemical signatures however are all
of this planet, so it is not an alien species, not that we would expect such a
Australians know about this? asked General Chatan. Even Keng had to
grudgingly admit it was a decent question. Nobody knows. he
replied, If they do know, they choose to do nothing about their own
structures that are infected. We are expanding our search efforts to see how
this is distributed worldwide. We do not currently plan to make this
information public, even though by all appearances it is not a strictly
military problem. We had considered that the Australians created this as a sort
of scorched earth policy, but Intelligence feels this is unlikely. Keng
cringed slightly at this last opinion, as General Chatan was just the sort of
person to latch on to the Evil Australian Plot theme and wring it
for all it was worth. His early reaction did not seem to show he was headed in
that direction Kengs felt relieved, although he had prepared a
rebuttal just in case.
up again, addressing the entire group; I would like to point out
gentlemen, that our current evaluation is that this is an invasive species
engineered by a third party and introduced to our region. Our immediate goal is
to ascertain the areas infected and simultaneously attempt to locate its
country or territory of origin. There is an understandable tendency to blame
the Japanese at this point, but given that Australian structures are also
contaminated, we would like to discourage that train of thought until we can
finish our preliminary investigations.
Keng looked around the room, giving the audience the opportunity to ask
questions or make requests. General Chatan did not disappoint by trying to
inject himself into the investigation; Mr. Keng, Colonel Lan , I would
like for Java Command to be involved in any investigations conducted in our
corps command area. It will be important for us to have results on this as soon
ready for that one. Currently General , all research is being conducted
directly out of Singapore, but we do appreciate the offer. From what I
understand based on the meetings yesterday, Army Command will pass
investigation results down to regional commanders, which will likely include
Java Command. The general gave him a look as if to say Then why did
you even come here? to which Keng replied; That is all gentlemen,
this orientation report was courtesy of Army Command in Singapore, who felt
that you could benefit from what information was immediately available.
Im sure they will be in direct touch with your various commands, thank
you for your time.
Keng made a point to terminate all streams that he had been supplying for the
meeting, and then stood. Several other officers stood without waiting for
Chatan, and the meeting then began to break up of its own accord.
Perfect. Keng thought. Now we need to find out where this
stuff came from. He was already getting ideas on how to use his new
backchannel contact with the Australians. If she comes back. he