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the eylau sequence.war

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. ‘That’s 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 today’s 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?

But he wasn’t 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.

Walking in to the plaza’s 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.

General Chatan greeted everyone as they seated themselves in the rather austere room. “Good afternoon gentlemen, I’m 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.

The general 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.

“Thank you General.”Lan replied graciously.

‘Lan probably wants to stab him in the heart.’ thought Keng, who didn’t 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.

Keng decided 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 attendee’s viewer showed a series of streams, graphs and 3D data interpretations of the findings and equipment.

“Of the 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.”

‘Take that.’ Keng thought to General Chatan, who had been warned that his own command centers were vulnerable.

“Of the 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:”

The 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 elsewhere.”

There was 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.”

“To 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.”

“That is all gentlemen, I’m afraid we cannot answer many questions about this, as we still know precious little about it. But we will answer what we can.”

An officer 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 species.”

“Good 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 thing.”

“Do the 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 – Keng’s felt relieved, although he had prepared a rebuttal just in case.

Keng spoke 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.”

With that, 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 as possible.”

Keng was 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. I’m sure they will be in direct touch with your various commands, thank you for your time.”

With that, 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 thought hopefully.


Next: 16. Alamo Mountain

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