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
citys 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.
Singapores main advantage is its location, which is sheltered from large
stretches of open sea.
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.
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.
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.
she cried. Thats no fair using your stupid
assistant at a restaurant, its not like there are any spies here
Mikhail! she exclaimed.
Thats what you think. he thought to himself, followed quickly
by a Sorry, on duty all the time sis.
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.
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
Good. she replied. We added nicely to the catalogs. Yes,
Im still at the same lab, and no we still dont have black marketers
near the west coast.
you get out to the research center up north?
Alin says hello. He still runs the place and still serves excellent food. You
should go there sometime.
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
wasnt for a boy scout jamboree!
Mikhail, I know, Ive 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
the way things are going
way things are going what? she
asked. Is there something we should know?
yet. he replied evasively. But you should keep track of the fact
that there is a war going on, things can happen suddenly.
well... she replied, mildly irritated.
Im just saying, you should be prepared, able to move out quickly if
will, they have evacuation plans anyway, I think they made them up when they
built the place, that shouldnt be strange or surprising.
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 its a monster, but its probably a large male leopard that
developed a taste for killing. Anyway, its a smart one so I thought you
would be interested.
looked at his sister thoughtfully, but inside he felt an involuntary wave of
adrenaline. He calmed himself before responding; Really, are they sure
its a leopard? he paused and added awkwardly Maybe its
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 doesnt allow for much work based on curiosity. Right now it is
pretty much the locals problem, not sure what they are going to do about
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 dont think
its a tiger.
Youre 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 thats what I will call it
for now seems able to infect both plants and animals, although we
cant nail down what species could be affected. Its 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, its probably something we havent
thought to himself; Maybe they dont 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 labs 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?
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.
orders issued, Mikhails 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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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 .
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
One of the
army officers spoke up; So we would need to use our military go
after them one by one if necessary?
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.
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.
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.
spoke, a voice chimed in Mikhail Kengs 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!
impatiently knocked open his display and there was Vasiliys 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.
Shes 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, Vasiliys viewer winked off.
Next: 21 - The