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the eylau sequence.war

As far as capital cities go, Singapore is one of the largest in the world. It is also one of the closest to the sea, with several of the city’s main entrances lying well below the 150 meter altitude level. By comparison the main entrances for the Australian capital city of Darwin, located beneath the Litchfield Plateau in Northern Australia, are all above 200 meters – a distinct advantage when it comes to surviving major tsunamis. Singapore’s main advantage is its location, which is sheltered from large stretches of open sea.

Regardless of its haphazard development and layout, Mikhail Keng still liked Singapore. It was his home, and he enjoyed its ramshackle public sectors and neighborhoods up on the surface. People there were more fatalistic about the prospect for future disaster, so they built above ground and worried about the consequences later. Keng was not quite that fatalistic, but since nothing was scheduled to hit the place anytime soon, he would at least enjoy the more immediate benefits.

Walking along one of the deep inland canals – the sea was miles away – he enjoyed the fresh clean air and blue sky. The weather looked to hold temperate and pleasant for at least a couple of days and it was a perfect time to meet his sister. She had recently returned from Kalimantan and was scheduled to go back within weeks. Mikhail was already thinking that he might use a visit to his sister in the field as cover for a prospective operation.

He arrived at the open air restaurant early and sat down to wait. It did not take long for him to starting browsing through batches of projects, grocery selections, shoe stations and security reports. He remained absorbed until his system pinged him with a proximity alarm. Instantly he looked up and turned around to see his sister Alexandra sneaking up behind him.

“Awwww…” she cried. “That’s no fair using your stupid assistant at a restaurant, it’s not like there are any spies here Mikhail!” she exclaimed.

‘That’s what you think.’ he thought to himself, followed quickly by a “Sorry, on duty all the time sis.”

They both smiled and she gave him a pat on the shoulder as she sat down at the small table. The sun went behind a fleeting cloud and the air immediately cooled for a few seconds. But it soon came out again and the memory of cold and rain fled.

As usual Mikhail greeted his sister with a stream of questions; “So how are things out on the big island? Are you still at the same place? Any news on local black marketers?”

“Good.” she replied. “We added nicely to the catalogs. Yes, I’m still at the same lab, and no we still don’t have black marketers near the west coast.”

“Did you get out to the research center up north?”

“Yes, Alin says hello. He still runs the place and still serves excellent food. You should go there sometime.”

Mikhail smiled. “You know that center cost the government a bundle, the only way they paid for it was to let the Army design a forward staging base into it – just in case you ever wondered why they built it like that, it wasn’t for a boy scout jamboree!”

“Yes Mikhail, I know, I’ve been there and trust me, once you see it there is no mistaking what it is for, and the people who work there also know what it is for. They just enjoy it for now and hope the contingency never comes about.”

“Well, the way things are going…” he added.

“The way things are going what?” she asked. “Is there something we should know?”

“Not yet.” he replied evasively. “But you should keep track of the fact that there is a war going on, things can happen suddenly.”

“Yes, well...” she replied, mildly irritated.

“I’m just saying, you should be prepared, able to move out quickly if anything happens.”

“We will, they have evacuation plans anyway, I think they made them up when they built the place, that shouldn’t be strange or surprising.”

Mikhail returned the optimism with a carefully neutral reserve.

After a few seconds pause she changed the subject; “Speaking of strange things, you might be interested in this one. There is a big cat of some sort that has moved into the forests northeast of the research center. It completely wiped out several bands of large primates and has apparently killed quite a lot of villagers. Many of them think it’s a monster, but it’s probably a large male leopard that developed a taste for killing. Anyway, it’s a smart one so I thought you would be interested.”

Mikhail looked at his sister thoughtfully, but inside he felt an involuntary wave of adrenaline. He calmed himself before responding; “Really, are they sure it’s a leopard?” he paused and added awkwardly “Maybe it’s one of the bigger cats brought in by accident.”

“Maybe.” she replied. “The guys at the research center have some samples gathered after one of the attacks, but to be honest their research contract doesn’t allow for much work based on curiosity. Right now it is pretty much the local’s problem, not sure what they are going to do about it.”

“Hmmm, that is interesting. It reminds me of some similar killings that have happened with tigers up on the mainland. Not many of those left though.” This was a lie of course, Mikhail knew nothing about tigers. He just wanted more information about whatever was having a field day in Northern Kalimantan.

“Yes.” she replied. “But this is different. I don’t think it’s a tiger.”

“You’re right, it is interesting. Let me know what happens. You know me; I like reading up on stuff like that.” He paused and let the air clear a little before continuing; “Find anything else strange?” he tried to ask as innocently as possible.

“Oh!” she muttered with her mouth full of fried noodles; “One of the new viruses we discovered – at least that’s what I will call it for now – seems able to infect both plants and animals, although we can’t nail down what species could be affected. It’s RNA is really quite strange, we initially thought it was a mistake; and a virus without a vector would seem to be an evolutionary dead end.” She waved her chopsticks in the air; “Well, it’s probably something we haven’t found yet.”

Mikhail thought to himself; ‘Maybe they don’t want to find what it infects.’ He suddenly felt uneasy, wondering about the gaps in these discoveries and how they tied in with the army lab’s findings on Java. He had a kind of obsessive epiphany, building an image in his mind of a giant incubation zone for dozens of previously unknown invasive species that would escape their island home – maybe more than dozens. He got that numb feeling a person gets when they realize they have figured out something that nobody else has figured out. What if the metal fungus is from Kalimantan? Or worse, what if all this stuff is from somewhere else?

He decided to move up his time schedule. Whilst the conversation with his sister wandered off onto other subjects, he silently contacted Vasiliy and let him know his new marching orders: “Leave for Kalimantan immediately, visit San Li Research Center and gain access to DNA samples of the ‘killer leopard’ that has been making a nuisance of itself. Also gain access to their database and secure a copy for our researchers. They apparently have been finding things we need to tie in with our Java datasets. Meet me in two days.”

With his orders issued, Mikhail’s attention turned back to his sister, who was still talking about one of her friends up at Gentin. He kept up his end of the chat, but his mind was not really on it. He was thinking about Kalimantan now, and Java.


|||||   |||||


Three weeks later Keng was walking into a plush meeting hall deep in the hills north of Singapore. Along the richly polished wooden walls were small alcoves housing rare Asian antiques, some of them thousands of years old. The floor was overlain with thick, luxurious hand woven rugs. The main table was sleek and modern, but made of the same wood as the wall paneling. Wood was expensive, and there was quite a lot of it in this room.

Keng had convinced his boss that it was important to convene this meeting. So he was in attendance with that same superior; Choi Huah, Deputy Director of the Security and Intelligence Division. Also present was a younger man named Kian Hong from the Special Projects section of the Defense Research and Technology Office. There was also the ever suffering Colonel HweeLan from the Army Research Lab and a number of other specialists and officers from labs associated with security and military research.

Keng related to this group in a rather special way. Even though he was technically a civilian operative for the Security and Intelligence Division, he spent most of his time working with the army and keeping an eye on things that might affect it. His position however, allowed him to take his hunch about these apparently unrelated events and work it in ways the other men would not typically have been allowed. It was certainly fortunate for Selangor – the existence of an operations group with such unusual independence had helped avoid catastrophe more than once.

Mr. Huah opened the meeting; “Gentlemen, I appreciate your timely arrival. I know you are all very busy so I will not waste your time. In any case, many of you already have an inkling of what this is about. I will refer to Mikhail Keng for the full outline as it stands, Mikhail…”

Keng stood and addressed the room. “Thank you sir, I will try to be brief. As many of you know, in the aftermath of our recent offensive on Java, a new type of fungus was discovered on the outer armor of a captured Australian command center. The original samples were taken by one of our men who accompanied me on a visit to the site, and they were forwarded to the Army Research Laboratory here in Singapore.”

On that last note he bowed his head in the direction of Colonel Lan .

“Since there was no reason to suspect anything exceptional, there was no emphasis placed on analysis of the samples and it was some weeks before they were examined. Once testing was conducted however, they came upon the uncomfortable possibility of a potential threat. You have all seen this report.” He paused briefly to post that report and other additional data to the men gathered in the room.

“Through unrelated channels it came to my attention that researchers on Kalimantan have discovered several strange new species of animals and other related life such as viruses – sometimes without even knowing it. In one case, the animal was quite large and long mistaken as a primate-eating leopard – no investigation was undertaken because it did not involve their research contract. Now we know different. It is not a leopard but something else. At the same time this was happening, Colonel Lan discovered additional signs of what we will call ‘invasive life’ in other parts of Java and the northwestern wild lands.”

“We have now pieced together these various datasets and come to the following tentative conclusion: The entire East Asia region is being slowly overrun by an increasing variety of invasive life. By all appearances it is native to Earth and tends to follow rather broadly in the form of existing life. But at a chemical and cellular level it is very different, and draws on different sets of resources for survival. This would be good news if the new life were benign. It is not. So far it shows aggressive tendencies entirely out of line with normal plant and wildlife behavior. A majority of terrestrial animals for example, do not habitually kill for sport. As far as we can tell, all of these new invasive species kill for sport and they are good at it. This gentlemen, is a problem.”

Keng paused to allow discussion, but the room was silent. Everyone there was either already on his side or sitting in stunned silence. He continued; “To head off the more obvious questions in advance, I am going to note a few details up-front:

“One: The invasive life discovered so far appears to combine into a self-sustaining and longer-lived ecosystem independent of our own. In other words the invasives have their own complete ecology ranging from viruses and bacteria, through fungi and plants to waterborne creatures and large complex land animals. For example, the first viruses discovered are capable of infecting a new type of carnivorous fish now being found in our waters that vaguely resembles the piranha found in Northern Brasil. But of course these are not from Brasil and they are not even real piranhas. This initially caused confusion because nobody could figure out what the virus would infect and of course they thought the piranhas were just piranhas.”

“Two: As much as we would like to suspect, there is no evidence that the Australians are the perpetrators. All signs show that they were completely unaware of this until very recently, and they do not seem to be moving on it at all. That may be mere chance due to their location, or the fact that they do not happen to have done research in areas first affected. We have after all, given them reason to be rather preoccupied elsewhere.” he said with a grin. There were a few smiles around the room from the army officers.

“Three: Regarding the Japanese, they are not currently suspect because it would go against their long held positions to date. They have no motive to do this but we will keep an open mind.”

“So, we are not sure who is doing this, we do not know how this new life is being put in place, and we do not know how much more it will spread. I will now open the meeting to questions:”

Kian Hong was the first to speak. “Mr. Keng.” he said. “Has any thought been given to destruction of the invasives.” this brought several nods from elsewhere in the room.

“Yes.” Keng replied. “To give somewhat of a background, my sister was one of the biologists who unknowingly collected data on some of the first invasives identified after we isolated the metal fungus. I posed the same question to her several days ago as the breadth of this became apparent. Her answer was qualified; technically we could kill them, but in a rather old fashioned way; one by one. We do not currently know enough about their ecology to be able to kill them with the equivalent of chemical-biological exterminants. By the same token, the manner in which they have had the most impact has also been rather primitive – the simple physical destruction of whatever is laid before them. Given enough numbers, they could wreak havoc on a planet already damaged by the catastrophes of centuries past. Given similar numbers, we could hopefully eradicate them like pre-glacial man eradicated so many species of their time – it is laborious but apparently effective.”

One of the army officers spoke up; “So we would need to use our military – go after them one by one if necessary?”

“It is possible.” Keng agreed. “I have already given thought as to how our MGV units could be reprogrammed to identify and attack these invasives. Fortunately their metal-heavy composition makes them easy for our units to see. Unfortunately mere reaction on our part does not answer the question of why this is happening.”

“What is our next step?” asked Mr. Hong. Keng looked as his own director Mr. Huah and sat down. Mr. Huah stood and spoke. “We will need to turn samples over to the Army Research Lab,” he said, nodding politely to Colonel Lan , “and begin the process of identifying these invasives to our units. In case this does become an emergency, we do not want to be caught off guard. While that is being done, we will need to continue gathering data and inform higher level officials of the situation as it unfolds. They will require a broad range of departments to be involved in the response, so we must be prepared to debrief other officials as required.”

Keng cringed at this last comment, and he could see Colonel Lan slump in his seat. They had possibly been the first nation on the planet to discover this problem, and it was going to become stuck in the quagmire of Selangor government politics. Keng had little else in the way of options, short of defecting. And he could not do that, not with his current tasks at hand. He would just have to keep pounding away at the wall of bureaucracy that stood solidly before him.

As Huah spoke, a voice chimed in Mikhail Keng’s display; it was Vasiliy and the smell of fresh beer suddenly came to Mikhail, he closed it out impatiently, Vasiliy knew he was in a late night meeting. Just as Keng started to refocus on what Huah was saying, the same thing happened again along with a text message that said: “Mikhail, look!”

Keng impatiently knocked open his display and there was Vasiliy’s viewer – he was at a go-go bar again. Before Keng could close the window, Vasiliy zoomed the view up onto the stage. It was Nin, back from Australia and offering a knowing smile at them.

‘She’s back!’ Keng thought to himself. He paused and looked around the room in amazement. His mind reeled with the possibilities. Keng quickly sent a note to Vasiliy; “Arrange meeting immediately, will rendezvous at debriefing center in 60.”

“Confirmed.” came the reply, Vasiliy’s viewer winked off.

Mikhail Keng smiled.


Next: 21 - The Ocean

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