In the years since the first edition of this book was published as an e-book on the World Wide Web in 1995, much of what I wrote then has come true, or nearly so. The first edition appeared four years before the human genome had been sequenced, and five years before the horrific terrorism and murder of September 11, 2001.
In 1996, many thought a plot about bioweapons using new forms of genetically engineered life was unrealistic. Others thought it preposterous that a single, driven, ambitious wealthy individual could alter the face of global politics by capitalizing on the frustration, hatred and extremism of a few thousand fanatics.
Of course, that was before Osama Bin Laden demonstrated that Islam can be perverted by political evil in the same Satanic ways that have warped Christianity and Judaism in the past. I wrote this before Al Qaeda became synonymous with irrational fanaticism and the Taliban a watchword for oppressive, misogynistic, drug-dealing dictators who were willing to take the name of their God in vain and blaspheme all that billions of true Muslims hold deal and holy.
I didn't know then, that much of what I wrote would be proved prophetic in 2001. But I pray in the name of God, most gracious, most merciful; the cherisher and sustainer of the worlds, the master of the Day of Judgment that no more of what I have written here will come true. I would pray that this book can serve not as more prophecy, but as a lesson that ambition, greed, lust for power, racial hatred and evil will destroy us unless we recognize that we are all brothers and sisters under our skins and that the God we worship is the same, regardless of name.
February 1, 2002
The barrage of genetically-engineered Flavr Savr tomatoes began slowly -- as it always did -- making red, wet thumps against the big, heavy Suburban. The Flavr Savrs arced out of teeming mobs that lined both sides of the brick-paved road, a new street cut at great expense through the Maryland countryside west of Bethesda. The road had its own exit off the Beltway and lead straight to the gates of the GenIntron Corporation.
The mobs lining the street surged against the striped crowd barriers as the deep metallic burgundy Suburban approached; riot-clad policemen stationed along the crowd barriers looked nervously about, at the crowd, at the approaching Suburban, at themselves. As the police urged the crowds back behind the barriers, their hands lingered near service revolvers, batons, tear gas grenades, radios. The whack-whack of a helicopter's blades echoed in the street.
Those not throwing tomatoes waved signs demanding "No More Franken-Foods," along with scores of other placards calling for an end to genetic engineering, genetic testing, genetically-altered foods, genetically-engineered pharmaceuticals and vaccines. Most prominent among the signs were the slick and expensive ones from Hands Off Our Genes, a well-funded operation run by Elliot Sporkin, a biotech demagogue who knew nothing about science and everything about making a profitable career off the fears of a scientifically-illiterate populace.
Without consciously thinking about it, Lara Blackwood switched on the windshield wipers as she scanned the crowd, recognizing many of the same anger- and hate-distorted faces who cursed her day after day. Just ahead of her, a police escort -- two motorcycle outriders and a van full of riot police added for today's annual meeting -- accelerated toward the heavily-guarded entrance to GenIntron. Lara pressed on the accelerator to keep up with them. The morning sunlight painted brilliant rainbows in her short black hair and made the star sapphires in her earrings glow like deep blue embers. They had been a gift from her father who brought them back from a mission in Kashmir more than 20 years before.
Founder and CEO of GenIntron, Blackwood was a rare woman among the old-boys club of biotech entrepreneurs, bursting to prominence by developing profitable disease treatments from "introns:" parts of the human genome that others had dismissed as "junk DNA." The media loved to lavish print space and air time in this tall, attractive woman who bootstrapped her Cornell Ph.D. in molecular genetics with an athletic scholarship that took her to dual Olympic bronze medals in rowing and sailing.
As the wipers cleared wave after wave of red pulp and juice, Lara glanced at her passenger, a tanned, silver-haired man in his late forties, dressed in the conservative pin-stripes, white shirt and boring rep tie that were the uniform for the top people at First Mercantile American Bank & Trust, Jason Woodruff, president of First Merc and GenIntron's newest board member smiled at her.
"You put up with this every morning?" He asked.
"Almost every," she replied. "Not usually this extreme. They save that for special occasions like today." She gave him a thin smile.
His head was in constant motion as he took in the crowd surrounding them. "They're all here, every nut case. I never imagined there were so many."
Lara glanced over and smiled at the naked astonishment on the banker's face. Welcome to the real-world, she thought as he read the signs aloud.
Woodruff saw the smile on her face and frowned. "You actually enjoy this, don't you?"
"All..." he waved his arm to take in a street's worth of roiling movement, noise and anger, "...this."
"What makes you think that?" Lara asked.
She gave him an even broader smile now, full of even white teeth, followed by a low chuckle that might have been confirmation or denial.
Woodruff frowned. Like most bankers, he found ambiguity subversive and spontaneity unsettling. He was more comfortable with hard numbers, conservative business people, clients who deferred to him by virtue of his position as head of America's largest bank. He frowned. Lara was neither, did neither.
Woodruff admitted he had never understood her, not as an entrepreneur, not as a woman and certainly not as the brilliant scientist the rest of the world seemed to think she was. She was too tall, strong, too full of appetites and ambitions for a woman. Women shouldn’t be like that.
"There's one with a big yellow star of David," he said mostly to himself, "it says 'No More Holocausts,' and then..." He squinted. With amazement in his voice, he continued, "...and then 'Death to the Nazi she-wolf."
Woodruff turned to her. "What...?"
"Our genetic screening tests," Lara said. "A lot of people think they'll be used for some kind of new eugenics program. You know, define a 'normal' test for the gene sequence, eliminate the rest." She paused to hit the windshield washers. "Dumb shits," she muttered. "That's not what we do. Reality's just too inconvenient for the delusional worlds these people live in."
Still scanning the crowd, Woodruff shook his head. "I guess that's what the placards are about from the Downs' Syndrome group there that seems to want you dead as well." He paused." Yes, I see the sign clearly now: 'I'm not...not a mistake; I don't...don't need fixing.' That's from the Down’s Syndrome group," he said, turning toward her.
She nodded. "We might actually have had a treatment for Downs by now if the animal liberation lunatics hadn't broken into the labs in our old buildings and liberated the monkeys," Lara said evenly. "Four years of work gone in one fit of animal rights rage."
"Well, your animal rights friends are over there," he pointed to the left side of the street. "Then there's the Operation Rescue Contingent," he said pointing to the right. "Let me guess. They're against screening because it might mean an abortion?"
"You’re a quick study, Jason," Lara said as she deftly steered the Suburban around a burning plastic trash can that came rolling out of the crowd. "You’ll make a fine addition to the Board." Her sarcasm was so subtle he decided to imagine that he hadn’t heard it at all.
The crowd's screams grew louder, though they were still tolerable inside the custom O’Gara-modified Suburban.
"What are they screaming?" Woodruff asked anxiously as he watched the distance increase between the Suburban and the police escort.
"Oh, the usual." She smiled faintly.
"And the usual is?" He was annoyed by her flip reply and that smile. That damned enigmatic smile.
"Well, here. Listen for yourself." She reached for the window switch and started to lower his window. An angry roar shot through the crack.
"Don't!" Woodruff snapped in alarm as he ducked away from the barely opened window.
Discrete words were still hard to distinguish above the rumble, but "killer bitch!" seemed to come through loudest.
Lara laughed, then she closed his window against the sound.
"I don't understand," he said. "They hate you...and you actually like that."
"Jason," she said evenly, "these are the most marginal of the marginal -- extremists who understand nothing but fictional nightmares. Considering all that, I'd check myself in for some heavy-duty electroshock therapy if they liked me."
They drove in silence as the GenIntron gates grew closer. Flavr Savrs continued to pelt the Suburban.
After a long while. Lara broke the silence. "So? You want to tell me what it is you came to say?"
"Don’t be coy, Jason. You didn’t ask me for a ride this morning to be a good energy-conserving citizen."
"I told you, the Beemer -- "
"Is in the shop." She shook her head. "Right. Uh-huh."
"But -- "
"Jason, the last time you rode with me was the day you wanted to make sure no one else was listening when you told me that your gutless bank was cutting off my credit line and if I knew what was good for me I’d reconsider the buy-out offer that Daiwa Ichiban had made."
"You know as well as I do that when we yanked that credit line, it was the best thing that ever happened to you."
"I’m not fond of being forced to do things, Jason.
"Yeah, well the acquisition instantly made you rich."
"Unlike you, I don’t see money as the most important thing in life."
"That’s easy to say when you’ve got millions."
Lara heard the whine, the jealousy in his voice.
"But that’s not the message that Daiwa Ichiban told you to deliver to me today; now is it?" The banker failed to reply. She shook her head. "They’ve sent you to do the dirty work again, but you can’t work up the cojones to tell me."
He hesitated. Then: "You’re a has-been; you’re history. Today’s your last day as Chairman and CEO."
"That would be chairwoman," she corrected. "And don’t be absurd. There’s six months left in the transition. I have some important lab work to finish before that happens."
Woodruff smiled for the first time.
Suddenly, a piercing cry suddenly shot through the crowds lining the right side of the street. Lara looked over just in time to see a blood-red, jelly-like blob fly out from the midst of the Operation Rescue members, shedding drips as it flew. It slammed against the windshield, leaving a broad slimy smear before the powerful wipers batted it off the windshield and into the animal liberation protesters on the other side of the street.
"What the hell was that? It looked like a fucking fetus."
"It was," Lara said as she hit the washers again to clear the smear from the windshield.
"It was?" Woodruff's voice had edged higher, heading toward hysteria.
"Fetal pig," Lara said matter of factly. "Like those from high school. The Operation Rescue people buy them by the barrel...for effect."
"It looked so...human."
"That's the point," Lara said. "It's -- "
Like an overstressed levee giving way, the crowd barriers on the left side of the street collapsed. Infuriated animal rights protesters, agitated by the fetal pig, stormed toward the Operation Rescue contingent. Instants later a guttural cry erupted from both sides of the street as protesters of every stripe overwhelmed the under-guarded barricades and poured into the streets.
"Uh oh," Lara said as the crowd closed in on them. She pressed the accelerator to get closer to the police van. The Suburban quickly closed the gap, seconds later only feet behind it.
On the right, the animal rights crowd drew first blood with the Operation Rescue members. The police van came to a complete stop as the crowd pressed closer. They were close enough now to be blinded by the television camera lights safely behind the GenIntron fence.
Then a pavement brick tracked a lazy ballistic curve out of the crowd and glanced off the windshield’s expensive armored glass.
"Oh God!," Woodruff cried out instants later as the Suburban shuddered beneath a hailstorm of pavement bricks. He flinched away from his window as bricks smashed into it. Outside a cry of jubilation swept through the mob as they saw him jerk his head away.
"Don't let them see you react," Lara said evenly. "It just encourages them."
"Don't...what?" He gaped at her slack-jawed. "You...you're a fucking lunatic!"
At the gate, GenIntron security and riot-clad reinforcements hired for the annual meeting moved forward, battering the edges of the mob with batons but making little progress. Tear gas canisters arced into the mob. Up ahead, television news crews, hungry for good bang-bang for the six-o'clock news, rolled their tape.
Protesters began rocking the Suburban and the police van.
"Jesus Lara, do something; they’ll turn us over and kill us! Don't just sit here, floor it and get us through the fucking gate!"
"Bad move," she replied calmly.
"But they're trying to kill us!" His voice quivered, partly from the violent rocking, mostly from fear. "It's self defense," he insisted hysterically.
Lara shook her head. "See those TV cameras? When they roll the edited footage, you won't see bricks and bleeding cops. You'll see a big fucking Suburban mowing down innocent community activists."
"Just hold your fucking water, Jason. Try not to mess in your pants, okay?"
Pale now and perspiring heavily, the fight seemed to drain from him; the banker slumped in his seat.
Ahead of them, it was clear that the police van had stalled.
As the crowd rocked both vehicles more and more violently, the solution came to Lara; she slipped the Suburban into gear and released the brake. The huge car, with the overpowered engine, lurched forward. The sudden movement destroyed the mob's rocking rhythm. She tapped the accelerator and collided softly with the police van. It moved forward slowly. The move surprised the rioters who were trying to overturn it. They fell away as the Suburban pushed the van forward steadily, slowly.
That night, the TV video showed protesters making a show of lying down in front of the van, then scrambling away at the last second. The toothy blond anchorwoman seemed upset that both the Suburban and the police van reached the safety of the GenIntron compound, robbing her of a bigger story that might have gotten her national exposure and a ticket to a larger market.
Few members of the media had ever been allowed past GenIntron's corporate offices, beyond the first set of airlocks and armed guards and into the tube-like corridors of main research wing. The fortunate few compared the three, hundred yard-long hallways, lined with laboratories and segmented every one hundred feet by pneumatic airlock doors, to the inside of a subway train whose far end had been stretched to the vanishing point. Others said it was like being digested inside some gigantic gut. The design had won numerous awards and been enshrined in two famous New York museums. While architecturally striking, the form had simply followed the necessary function of producing a seamless surface which hid no germs and could be effectively decontaminated -- flooded and filled if necessary -- with the strongest reagents known to science.
But the award-winning architecture was the last thing on Lara Blackwood’s mind as she stormed down the corridor like fate in search of destiny.
Thirty yards away, Lara stopped to swipe her magnetic ID card over the security reader. Moments later she was prompted to enter her password on a compact keyboard. Instants later, a set of pneumatic doors to sighed open. In this section, the corridor was lined with thick greenish, blast-proof glass windows that led on to laboratories beyond. Most labs in this corridor had solid stainless steel doors, airlocks and "gray area" decontamination zones flanked by additional security keypads and retinal identification systems. These were biosafety level (BSL) 4 labs, reserved for the most lethal of the lethal and for creating forms of life that had never existed in nature and which might be catastrophic if released from the lab.
With the right enzymes and a snip of DNA from here, here and there, life could be created that a decade before could not have been imagined. They clipped genes from yeast, fungus, dogs, frogs, algae and people's next-door neighbors and reassembled them at will, the Legos of molecular genetics. All DNA was equal on the molecular level. This was democracy at the nano-level: one nucleic acid base, one vote.
It was here that Lara had doggedly pried open the genome’s secrets of ethnicity that had opened the door to GenIntron's first commercially successful drug: a treatment for Tay-Sach's disease. Her personal research had located the right sequences that allowed other drugs to deliver targeted treatments for diseases that disproportionately afflicted other ethnic groups -- well known ones such as Sickle Cell Anemia for people of African descent, Cystic Fibrosis for northern European Caucasians -- and scores of lesser known syndromes.
She had been able to find the treatments by focusing on introns -- so-called "junk DNA" -- that had been ignored by other researchers. For it was here in these vast stretches of DNA that others saw as a wasteland, that she spotted opportunities and made them come to fruition by manipulating the introns to fold or unfold in ways that altered the ways in which vital proteins were produced. By creating new molecules never seen in nature, molecules that were active only in the presence of DNA found in specific ethnic groups of people, she could relieve pain, suffering and death.
Tokutaro Kurata stood for a moment under the gracefully curved eves of the Yasukuni jinja, an architecturally unremarkable but politically formidable Shinto Shrine in central Tokyo. Like the 81-year-old Kurata, the jinja played a prodigious role in the rediscovery of the soul of the Japanese people.
Lean, tall and unbent Kurata looked up at the dark scudding sky; his eyes followed the first marble-sized rain drops fall downward, watched them leave dark circles on the sand-colored pavement leading to the jinja. A respectful crowd erected umbrellas and stood patiently behind a rope cordon. Ten paces away, dressed in the officer’s formal ceremonial uniform of the Japanese Ground defense forces stood Kurata’s nephew, Akira Sugawara, who prayed that he was successfully hiding his discomfort from his uncle and the massive crowd.
Akira found discomfort in his own discomfort. Had he not graduated at the top of his class from the National Defense Academy and served his tour with the Ground Self Defense Forces with honor and a file filled with the highest commendations? Should not a man like him be comfortable at a ceremony honoring fallen soldiers? He knew the answer but would not admit to himself that it was the character of those being honored that created the tension in his heart. He was not supposed to feel this way.
He marveled, instead, that despite the weather, a prodigious crowd with no such concern or discomfort had come to worship at the Yasukuni shrine that immortalizes Japan's war dead as kami or gods. Those here this day were but a fraction of the eight million Japanese who visited the shrine to pay their respects every year. More than two-and-a-half million war dead had been deified as gods since the jinja creation in 1869 by the Meiji Emperor. As Japan's most important gokoku -- "defending the nation shrine" -- Yasukuni focused national attention on what kind of nation Japan would become. Since the founding of Yasukuni, warriors setting out on dangerous missions had traditionally parted with the saying, "See you at Yasukuni." They would meet again, inevitably, as spirits or in the flesh.
Most Japanese revered Yasukuni and its beloved kami without thinking about wider social or political implications.
Beyond the shores of Japan, however, the shrine was a source of international controversy and suspicion because many of the most beloved of Yasukuni's gods included those who planned the occupation of Korea, the rape of Manchuria and China, the Bataan Death March, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and those who conducted hideous and inhuman medical experiments on innocent civilians that equaled and often exceeded the atrocities of the Third Reich. At the godhead of this pantheon was General Tojo, executed as a war criminal after World War II.
While the world beyond thinks that Japan has moved past the war crimes of the Pacific War, those who perpetrated them are still venerated by the public and by those at the highest levels of government.
Kurata smiled, gratified to see that the crowd worshipping at the public areas of Yasukuni was so large on such an inclement day. He breathed deeply of the brisk typhoon air, delighted in the way the swirling gusts plucked at his dark business suit and combed through the generous shock of white hair that appeared so frequently in editorial cartoons both in Japan and in the international press.
As head of the Daiwa Ichiban Corporation, the largest industrial zaibatsu in Japan, Kurata commanded international influence and power. As a descendant of an ancient family whose members were carefully documented for more than 1,800 years, he loomed large in debate over the nature of the "Japan-ness" of the nation. It had been his destiny, he told his closest associates, that he had been chosen to help lead Japan’s rebirth, its rediscovery of its sacred roots.
Kurata had been a youngster in the final days before Hiroshima and Nagasaki and attended a navy training school where he trained for a suicide mission along with hundreds of thousands of others who had volunteered for a fight-to-the-death defense of Yamato, the spirit and essence of Japan.
He was inspired, as were his compatriots, by the valiant defenders of Saipan, who had fought the barbarian invaders to the last, then killed all of the civilians and children and, finally, themselves rather than suffer the ultimate indignity of being taken prisoner. So it was for every one of the thousands of islands in Japan.
Kurata had been trained to ride a special steerable torpedoes adapted for long-range distances. is mission was to set out at night with hundreds of others, stealthily advancing on the Allied invasion fleet, head just above water. In a last rush to destruction, they were to steer the torpedo at top speed into the nearest ship.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Emperor's recorded plea for cooperation with the Allied forces ended his hopes of being enshrined at Yasukuni as a kami, but the prestige wrought by his willingness to die for his country had advanced his career and shaped his deepest beliefs.
There was movement in the crowd now, and Kurata saw a small elderly woman dressed in traditional silk kimono recognize him. An instant later, a murmur rolled through the waiting crowd. Some pointed discreetly, others bowed deeply. Sugawara’s discomfort deepened.
With this recognition, Kurata's well-dressed bodyguards discretely moved to his side; "the defender of Yamato," as the newspapers called Kurata, had many enemies among the leftists.
Kurata returned the recognition with a slight bow of his own. An instant later, he heard behind him the muted voice of the Prime Minister, Ryoichi Kishi, as he spoke with the Yasukuni shrine's Kan-nushi-- the head priest. Kurata turned and stepped back into the doorway. He waited for the two men to approach.
Under political pressure from the Koreas, China and other Asian nations, Japanese officials had issued "regrets" over school textbooks and other state-supported activities that denied that the rape of Manchuria had ever happened and characterized the Japanese role in World War II as one of "liberation." Lawsuits had multiplied against Japanese corporations which used POWs as slave labor and against the government itself for its sanction of enslaving Korean women to be used as prostitutes for the armed forces.
"Hai, Kurata-sama." The younger man acknowledged. Kurata looked over this hand-picked Prime Minister, wondering if the new generation had the right steel. Millions of younger Japanese had begun to pick up the nationalist fervor in the 1990s and continued to fill the ranks of those who recognized just how special, different, superior were members of the Japanese race.
"Begging your pardon, wise one," the Prime Minister said. "Those expressions are for foreign consumption only since governments are so easily sated with words. You may rest assured that we will not change our textbooks and we will continue to conduct ourselves as best advances us as a nation."
Kurata nodded faintly. "Just so." He paused for a moment. "Appeasement is filled with danger. For you and for our special people."
"Friend, you and I have spoken often of the need to renew the national spirit, to cleanse us of the cultural erosion from outside," Kurata continued. "Without a shared myth of who we are and where we came from, we cannot remain great. A culture defines itself through its shared illusions. "Without the myth, there is no culture. And without purity, there is only pollution.
"Just look at the Americans: even though they allowed the genetic pollution of their bloodlines by intermarriages, for many years they were a great nation because their different peoples made personal origins secondary to a shared national illusion of who they were. Now, they are spinning apart like the Balkans because no one wants to be an American first; every group insists on the primacy of its own origins, rituals, culture, ethnicity."
"Of course," Kishi said finally, "the mixing of so many disparate peoples laid the seeds of this destruction. We cannot allow that to happen here."
Just then, the telephone rang. Kurata nodded his agreement with Kishi's statement and picked up the handset. The LED indicated this call -- like most of his -- was encrypted to bar prying ears.
"Moshi-moshi ," Kurata said into the mouthpiece. "Hai," he responded. "Hai, hai, ichiban! He hung up the telephone.
Kishi gave no notice that Kurata had engaged in a telephone call, no matter how short. To acknowledge this would be impolite, an invasion of privacy.
"The cleansing proceeds as scheduled," Kurata said. Kishi raised his eyebrows. "This is the tenth day; there are no more new cases of the Korean Leprosy. It is according to what my scientists assured me. And not any new cases -- not a single one -- among Japanese."
"What of that -- "
"Not Japanese at all," Kurata said quickly. "That entire family was Korean; they tried to pass by using counterfeit documents. They fooled the government. They fooled their neighbors. They could not fool the SlateWiper."
"Congratulations," Kishi nodded. "It has underscored to the general population the dangers of allowing gaijin to live permanently in our midst and the ... wrongness of accepting them. This is a great thing for Japan that you have done. History will mark this very June day as the moment the kiyome began.
Kurata shook his head. "The purification is not yet done," Kurata said. "Only ready to begin." He fixed Sugawara with a serious expression as if to say: "Make sure you have recorded this conversation faithfully."
As darkness sifted in among the trees of Tokutaro Kurata’s estate, Akira Sugawara sat by himself on his uncle’s favorite stone bench and struggled to hear the notes of the stone placed there earlier in the day. What he heard in their places were the screams of anguish and the wet, ragged noises of death that blanketed the hospital slopes as the grotesque experiment finished its rampage of an entire block of Toyko’s Korean ghetto. Sugawara pressed his hands against his ears, but the noise only grew louder.
"Damn!" he cursed softly. The sounds of the Korean Leprosy had not left him alone for a second, not sleeping or awake, eating or relieving himself. It was always there, a hissing, screaming, weeping chord of black clashing notes that accreted in his heart day by day and grew heavier and sharper as the seconds passed by.
Sugawara gazed at the elegant woodlands and struggled to find the beauty in the mosses planted there. Instead found the whole scene trivial and pornographic next to the suffering caused by the landscaper.
"Your uncle is proud of you," Sugawara turned to see the bent figure of Toru Matsue walking slowly through the sculpture gardens by the koi pond. Sugawara got up and went to him.
Sugawara bowed. "Good evening sensei-san."
The two men stood silently for a long minute, silently watching the lazy undulations of the koi. They made an incongruent pair: Sugawara, just over six feet tall, lean, muscular, young, limber, straight in stature; Matsue, grizzled, stiff, bent by age and arthritis so that he appeared even shorter than his five-foot-six.
"Your uncle is proud of you," Matsue said again.
"I am grateful for that, but unworthy of his praise," Sugawara replied.
The two men spoke in Japanese in deference to the older man's preferences and his lack of proficiency in what he called "the devil's tongue."
"He wished for me to convey his encouragement."
"Just so," Sugawara commented. He looked over at the oldest of the family retainers, Matsue had served the clan for more than sixty years, first as a retainer to Sugawara’s father and after his death, employed by Kurata to teach his dead brother’s son the essentials of the Japanese spirit.
"You are progressing satisfactorily; Kurata-sama places more trust in you each day."
"I thank you for your kind words," Sugawara said. "I will try my best not to dishonor you."
Following Sugawara's doctorate studies at Stanford, he had returned to Japan and was viewed as a kikoku-shijo, a "child returning to its own country." With an increasing frequency, such children returned carrying Western influences -- pollution as many called it -- and were thus viewed with suspicion.
To counter this suspicion, and to assure that the young Sugawara was fit to eventually assume the mantle as head of one of Japan's oldest clans, Matsue became the kikoku-shijo's retainer, guide and teacher in Nihonjinron -- the art of being Japanese.
Finally, Sugawara spoke.
"I am troubled, sensei-san."
Matsue turned his head toward the younger man and raised his eyebrows.
"Please excuse my presumptuousness by daring to voice this troubling thought," Sugawara began. "As you know, I have the ultimate respect for Kurata-sama, but is it not a duty to speak up when one feels his lord's actions may not be wise?"
"It is rarely appropriate," Matsue began, "and then only after much reflection."
"Hai," Sugawara agreed. "I had no sleep last night, reflecting upon Operation Tsushima."
"What troubles you?"
So many things, Sugawara thought. The concept of killing people for one. He closed his eyes for a brief moment of reflection and saw in the personal darkness the young round faces, eyes wide with innocence, filled with tears and, finally, closed by death. He wanted to unload his doubts and his fears, but he knew Matsue would not understand. He opened his eyes and said, "I wonder if this is the most..." he paused, searching for the word that would accurately reflect his thought without giving away his true feelings. "...most efficient way to solve the Korean problem."
"Do you have an alternative to offer?" Matsue asked.
"I thought, perhaps, they could be resettled," Sugawara said. "Relocated back to Korea."
"And if they do not wish to go?"
Sugawara glanced away, at the fish. "I am so sorry, Matsue-san, but I do not have that answer."
"You must have no doubts about your duty," Matsue said reminding Sugawara of one of the central obligations hammered into every Japanese child and faithfully carried into adulthood. "You may offer -- respectfully of course -- your advice on the best way to complete a task, but it is not your place to question the wisdom or the correctness of accomplishing that task, the correctness of which was determined by consensus, by the collective wisdom of many very respected men."
"Hai, sensei-san," Sugawara said as he bowed deeply to indicate a sincerity he did not entirely feel.
"That is good," Matsue said. "Otherwise you will seem like a narikin."
Often applied derogatorily to post World War II nouveau riche Japanese, a narikin refers to a pawn that has been made into a queen. In a culture where all power was derived from conformance and acceptance by society, a narikin, rich or otherwise, was despised as a lone-cowboy-bigshot lacking any legitimate authority to exercise its newly acquired power. Such people were shunned, whole families isolated in stunning loneliness that brought all but the most dedicated loners back into the pack.
Matsue turned from the pond and shuffled toward a large Rodin bronze. Sugawara followed.
As he walked, Matsue asked the younger man, "May I assume that I need not remind you of your on to Kurata-sama?"
"Of course not, sensei-san. Kurata-sama is my uncle, my family. This binds me with gimu, repayments that can never meet even one ten-thousandth of my obligation in this lifetime," Sugawara said, an acolyte reciting his catechism. "He is also my liege lord which binds me through giri, which must be repaid equally to the obligation assumed. I will be fortunate to have repaid even half this obligation by the time of my death. Only my duty to the Emperor surpasses that to Kurata-sama."
"Very good," Matsue said as he approached the bronze. He stopped and looked at the expressions on the faces of the figures in the bronze.
When Sugawara had joined him, Matsue said, still looking at the bronze, "Observe the expressions on the faces. See the crude, primitive expressions of emotion."
"Yes, sensei," Sugawara said.
"The expressions are like those of monkeys and other hairy apes," Matsue said. "Their facial muscles and the brains inside their skulls are not as highly evolved as ours; they are not capable of the subtleties and expressions we are, neh?"
"That is taught as correct, sensei-san," Sugawara hedged. His less-than absolute answer earned him a frown from the older man.
"Never forget, young Sugawara, you have the blood of Yamato flowing in your veins," Matsue said sternly. "We are the shido minzoku; the other races are but apes. We are a pure race, the purest in the world -- the DNA research by Kurata-sama's laboratories has proven that beyond doubt. The Yamato Sequence is in every gene, held by our race and no other. Even other areas of science support the power of purity. Just look at the laser beam. It is powerful because it is pure, one single frequency of light. It can burn and cut because it is not polluted by many different colors. And so it is with the Yamato minzoku, the race of Yamato.
"As for the Koreans -- and the Bangladeshis and the filthy Filipinos and the debris from the mainland -- they are vermin; they threaten the purity of our race. We must remain pure to remain powerful. There is no choice but to eliminate the threat. Do not forget this!"
The old man repeated the slogans that had finally made their way out of the meeting halls of the neonationalist faithful and had begun to seep into the policies of the Diet, the Prime Minister’s office and into every branch of government.
Sugawara's mind swirled with conflict. At the very deepest level, he was bound by giri and gimu to do his uncle's bidding. The rule was clear: one's obligations always took precedence over one's sense of right and wrong. This made his decision easier.
At an immediate level, Sugawara feared Kurata's ruthlessness, his quickness to punish or eliminate those who opposed him.
His heart sank as he thought of what he had already seen, by what he already knew and by the certain knowledge that he would learn and see worse.. From his years at Stanford, he knew that, at least by Western standards, he was already guilty of knowing about a crime and not reporting it. His only chance of survival was Kurata’s protection. But that protection would come only at the price of loyalty and compliance.
"Yes, sensei-san." Sugawara bowed. "Please forgive my confusion. It is not my place to question these decisions."
Thunderous applause rocked the Washington Hilton's grand ballroom as Lara Blackwood made her way down from the dais lugging a briefcase full of the notes and documents that had made that morning’s presentation the hottest media event in a media-crazed town. Her speech, delivered to a packed audience of scientists, government officials and media from forty-three countries had enraged some in the audience but encouraged most of the others.
The event -- the White House genetic treatment symposium -- had been scheduled long before Lara's White House appointment, but since her arrival, she had energized the proceedings and elevated them from the realm of dry and mostly obtuse papers to an event CNN had termed "the United Nations of human genetics." Never before had the general media paid so much attention to the real issues – the science beneath -- a subject that, was so poorly understood, misinterpreted and demonized. It was what she had intended.
At the base of the dais, Lara plunged into a swirl of people that crowded around her all wanting her attention. Like a successful politician, she shook the nearest hands, patted the nearest shoulders, looked into every pair of eyes that met hers. Lara’s stature and energy made her stand out and it took only moments for the television camera crews to surround her. One network sports anchor called her "a supersized Anna Kournikova" while the political press felt superior comparing her looks with Julia Roberts and her stature with Janet Reno
"Lisette Hartley, CNN," said the first reporter to emerge from the jostling scrum that mobbed Lara. The CNN reporter followed the blocking of her cameraman and shoved a mike in Lara's face. The brilliant camera lights caught the full striking luminosity of the rare, deep red Sicilian amber ear rings, she had acquired in Malta the day after winning the Tour de Mediterannee’ single-handed race with TAGCAT TOO. Each earring was carved into a heart and contained a tiny insect.
"Were you really serious when you warned that genetic research could produce some sort of 'ethnic bomb' -- a biological weapon capable of wiping out one race or ethnic group and leaving others untouched?"
She squinted for a moment at the intense light.
"Facts speak for themselves," Lara said as she set her briefcase down and withdrew from it two sheets of paper.
"This," Lara said as she straightened up and shoved one of the sheets at the reporter, "is the current list of diseases mostly confined to one ethnic group or another. Cystic Fibrosis affects mostly Caucasians, Tay-Sachs mostly Ashkenazi Jews, Sickle Cell Anemia mostly African-Americans and so on down a list that numbers more than two hundred at the present time."
Lara paused as she again bent over her briefcase and pulled from it another photocopy and held it up so the CNN cameraman could get a close-up for later broadcast.
"This is the -- much shorter -- list of ethnically-linked diseases for which cures and treatments exist, cures and treatments that key off the sick individual's specific DNA sequences that cause the disease."
Looking directly at the camera, Lara said, "I know a little about this because more than half of these treatments were developed by my former company, GenIntron. If we can develop a pharmaceutical that targets a specific DNA sequence identified with a particular ethnic group, then it's theoretically possible to develop a killing agent that operates the same way."
"But research on offensive biological warfare is outlawed by international treaty," another television on-camera personality countered aggressively. Lara turned toward the source of the challenge and found a young, immaculately coifed blond woman with expensively even, white teeth, too much make-up and a two thousand dollar designer suit.
Lara shook her head slowly and gave the woman a look that wordlessly asked how she could possibly be so naive.
"We’ve seen clearly that treaties cannot be enforced among terrorists. And if that is the case, can you keep Serbs from wanting to kill Muslims or Muslims from killing Jews or Hutus from killing Tutsis or ..." She hesitated for a moment. "Or today's neo-nationalist Japanese groups from using the technology to rid the country of Koreans and other undesirables?"
A buzz swept through the assembly; she knew some of them were looking hard at her eyes and skin and others were remembering her company had been bought by a Japanese-owned corporation. They were all wondering where she stood.
The blond woman's mouth opened and shut several times. Lara imagined the woman's brain like her mouth, futilely gasping in pursuit of an intelligent thought, much like a fish out of water. Not for the first time, Lara felt terrified that most people got their news from watching television.
Before the blond TV personality found either thoughts or words, the CNN reporter broke through the excited buzz.
"I thought you said the concept of race was an outmoded one," the reporter asked, obviously having done her homework. "That there isn't a gene for being black or Japanese?"
"Technically that's right," Lara replied. "There is no one gene; in fact there is no coherent DNA profile for any given race. In fact, there is as much or greater genetic variation among people of a given race," she used her fingers to place visual quotation marks around the word, "more variation there than there is between people of different races."
"So how do you explain the theoretical ability to produce an ethnic bomb," Hartley persisted.
"Because people who live in a certain area for long periods of time, those who, by custom, intermarry among their own group develop certain genetic sequences that are the same. It's less a racial thing than a process of genetic familiarity. We see it among the Amish and among most of the world's rural populations who don't migrate and who marry among those they know best. All that's required to create an ethnic bomb, as you call it, is the ability to search through the DNA to find the right sequences."
Flickering light from the roaring fireplace played against the deepening afternoon shadows as they settled in the corners and recesses of the White House Blue Room. The air conditioning blew constantly. Lara Blackwood sat next to the fire in an 1817 Bellange' armchair and fidgeted with the altimeter and barometer settings on her watch.
She looked at the flames and -- not for the first time on this deepening late afternoon -- remembered a staff cocktail party only a month or so ago where the same psychiatrist who wrote the president's Prozac prescriptions had told her privately that the president had charged him with creating "the proper emotionally supportive atmospheres to empower success" in all of the rooms of the White House.
"Fire and ice, yin and yang, opposites in the right proportions" were, according to him, the keys to all success.
With an audible sigh she hoped would be recorded on the listening devices she assumed studded each room, Lara stood up and, for what seemed like the thousandth time that afternoon, examined the pair of Sevres vases on the mantelpiece. A brochure, undoubtedly dropped by a tourist earlier that morning when the room had been open to the public, informed Lara the vases were made around 1800 and had been purchased by President Monroe for his card room, "known as the Green Room" the brochure explained. Lara gazed at the delicate vases, decorated with scenes of Passy, "a suburb of Paris," the brochure explained, "where Benjamin Franklin lived while he was minister to France." She wondered where all the giants had gone.
Turning away from the mantelpiece, she turned in a slow circle, taking in the portraits hung on the walls: Andrew Jackson, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. Even the portrait of James Monroe had been painted by another famous American, Samuel F.B. Morse, the telegraphy pioneer. These were giants who built a nation; why did it seem only dwarfs had ruled these rooms for the last half century? Had the people themselves shrunk? Were the mediocre dreams of the electorate simply fulfilled in the leaders they deserved?
One member of the Diet who had agreed with Kurata's viewpoint was Shintaro Ishihara, who said that Hosokawa deserved death for his suggestions an apology was needed. Ishihara, who co-authored a neo-nationalist, racist, Caucasian-bashing book with Sony Corporation Chairman Akio Morita called, The Japan That Can Say No, became a rabid apologist for the right wing, implying among other things that the Japanese invasion of its neighbors had actually been good for them.
"The Asian countries that are booming economically -- South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore etc. -- were all controlled by Japan at one time before or during World War II. Thanks to intensive effort, including Japan's contribution, the countries are making rapid and social economic progress. You cannot say that about any place where Caucasians were preeminent."
"Oh, man," Lara mumbled as she took another sip of the coffee. "Tojo redux."
The database slipped into the full-text of articles from various newspaper and magazine articles. One indicated that Kurata had personally funded a steady succession of fanatics, including the one who shot and wounded Hitoshi Motoshima, the mayor of Nagasaki, after Motoshima's suggestion Emperor Hirohito bore responsibility for war crimes.
No definite link was ever proven, but article after article implied that Kurata's hand, his charisma, and his money had guided and sustained Japan's militarist movement back to its pre-World-War-II attitudes. Further, the articles implied, the Japanese people -- conditioned to conforming to social norms that demanded that "the nail that sticks up must be hammered down" -- seemed happy to go along with its leadership.
Analysis articles from the database concluded that Japan's economic difficulties of the mid-1990s and again in the first years of the new century had fueled support for the right wing, which blamed the problems on Caucasian-inspired conspiracies and on the country's small, but visible, communities of Indians, Koreans, Bangladeshis, Filipinos and other inferior races.
Reading the last page in the stack she had picked up in the printer, Lara sighed. Why didn't she know this before? The articles on the database were all individually available, but no one had ever pulled them all together before. Were editors afraid to offend? Had the purchase of media companies by Sony and other Japanese corporations chilled the discussions? The thought made her shiver. She put her coffee cup down and took another pile of paper from the printer.
Now, as Lara read the most recent hard copy, the deep empty blackness that boiled in her heart turned tight, twisted and cold. The database search for Kurata and Daiwa Ichiban had churned out information on secret Japanese medical experimentation units, which had performed horrific medical experimentation on hapless Chinese civilians in Manchuria and on captured Allied prisoners of war. There was a Unit 731 and a doctor named Shiro Ishii; the name seemed vaguely familiar to Lara. She grabbed a pen and marked the name. The text indicated that Ishii was a "Japanese Mengele" who, among many other atrocities, had frozen thousands of innocent people to death in order to study frostbite and hypothermia. Occupation authorities had not prosecuted him for his war crimes because the American Army considered him a genius in bacteriological warfare. Instead of punishment, they rewarded him and hundreds of his colleagues with immunity and comfortable government-subsidized lives in exchange for their cooperation in development of weapons to fight world communism.
The historical text described multiple "experimentation" centers in Manchuria, in China, in the Philippines, in Indonesia, and in Japan itself. Nausea and loathing filled her as she read the details of the torture, perversion, and crimes against nature that had been officially sanctioned by the Japanese government, with the knowledge of Emperor Hirohito himself.
The text veered suddenly away from medical atrocities to the Japanese government's official policy of rape as an instrument of war. "I witnessed the rape of a Chinese woman by seventeen Japanese soldiers in rapid succession," testified a young professor at the University of Nanking, his words captured in a National Archives database containing documents of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. "I do not care to repeat the occasional cases of sadistic and abnormal behavior in connection with the rapes, but on the ground of the university alone, a little girl of nine and a grandmother seventy-six years old were raped." Trial witnesses estimated that within six weeks of the Japanese occupation of Nanking, twenty thousand women were raped. Many of them were also mutilated and murdered.
"Young girls and women between thirteen and forty were rounded up and gang raped," Hsu Chuan-ying, a sixty-two-year-old official of the Chinese Ministry of Railways told the war crimes trial. "I visited one home where three of the women had been raped, including two girls. One girl was raped on a table, and while I was there blood spilled on the table was not all dry yet."
"Fucking monsters!" Lara slammed the papers on the table and stood up so abruptly the chair tumbled over backwards and thudded dully into a half-full shipping box. "You fucking animals make the Serbs and the Taliban look like Mother fucking Teresa."
Breathing quickly against the bands of anger that strapped her chest, Lara set down her coffee cup and climbed up on deck for some fresh air. The midnight night wind was unsettled, the faint distant whispers of a hurricane making its erratic way offshore of the Carolinas. Lara reveled in the wind and turned to face it.
How is it that we haven’t known these things about the Japanese, she wondered. We knew about the Nazis, but never knew the Japanese massacred more than six million innocent civilians -- mostly "inferior" or "polluted" races like the Chinese and Koreans and Filipinos and Caucasians?
The Japanese had equaled or exceeded the atrocities for which the Nazis were known and had done so with a bloodlust that rivaled Idi Amin or Pol Pot. Yet, no one knew...or seemed to care.
Did the United States still feel the need to maintain their end of the Faustian bargain with Japan's Mengeles now that Communism had imploded? Were such immoral bargains inevitable? If we had to do evil in order to protect our ability to do good, then what did that say about the good we tried to do.
Lara's white-hot anger suddenly turned against her as she realized that by selling GenIntron, she had sold out her convictions just as surely as the government who protected the imperial monsters of Japan who had equaled the Nazis for sheer evil.
Lara returned to the dining saloon and the mounting printout. The computer search had turned up the proceedings of 1989 Conference on the Meaning of the Holocaust for Bioethics at the University of Michigan. Shocked Lara read the page and learned that Shiro Ishii, the Japanese Mengele, had been honored by the Japanese government in 1984, awarded the Outstanding Award for medical research for his work on "temperature regulation in humans." That work, she knew from her earlier reading, had been based on torturing innocent Chinese civilians and Allied POWs in vats of freezing water to see how long they stayed alive, and how hypothermia progressed to death. How could they? How could the modern-day government of what purported to be an enlightened nation give such honors to a hideous monster?
Then, as she read, it got worse. Not only had Ishii been honored, but those who had worked with him at Unit 731 had risen to positions of great power, influence, and prestige in Japan, including various heads of Japan's National Institutes of Health, its Surgeon General, prominent faculty positions at the Universities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka. Many were employed in responsible positions by such well known companies as Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, the Hayakawa Medical Company and -- she caught her breath -- the board of directors of the Daiwa Ichiban Corporation and its subsidiary, NorAm Pharmco.
"Oh, my God," Lara said faintly; the nightmare her life had become grew terrible in a way she could never have imagined. Her hands shook as she read the page over and over again, hoping perhaps the names would disappear. Tears came. Kurata had appointed two of Ishii's cohorts, Japanese war criminals in their own rights, to fill the slots on the GenIntron board vacated by her and Ismail Brahimi.
The hotel meeting room was paneled in rare tropical hardwood and elegantly lit with crystal chandeliers. Edward Rycroft stood at the head of a solid mahogany conference table and faced a curious collection of civil and military officials from a dozen countries known for ethnic strife. They had come to Singapore to hear about his new weapon for solving their social problems.
In the far back of the room, faded into the expensive shadows stood Jason Woodruff who watched each of those assembled and tried to deduce which of them would pay the most.
"In summary," Rycroft concluded, "the ultimate value of the gene-specific weapon we are offering you is several-fold. First, it allows pinpoint targeting of precise populations that may be too intermingled with beneficial populations to remove by conventional means. Second, the barrier to entry is much higher than, for instance, with nuclear weapons. The capital investment in research and production facilities and the remarkable depth of scientific..."Rycroft paused. "...shall I say, genius required makes it unlikely the weapon can be duplicated any time soon, if ever. Third, because of its design, the weapon cannot be defended against, nor can it -- in its final form -- even be detected. When our design is combined with an existing disease pathogen. It becomes the ultimate stealth weapon which also insulates its users against war crimes accusations.
Rycroft paused and drank from his water glass. This was a biotechnological tour de force, and it was his show. "Finally," he resumed, "we cannot overlook the essentially attractive feature that our weapon not only leaves untargeted populations unharmed, but it also does not damage or permanently contaminate buildings, infrastructure, homes, production facilities, or other expensive assets. Conventional war is expensive and absorbs financial resources better spent purchasing products from our companies. Conventional wars destroy markets and ultimately depress our bottom lines. Thanks to the slatewiper, conventional wars are now financially obsolete."
He looked around the room and found only rapt attention.
"So, with that introduction, please allow me to offer you a few more details." He nodded at Woodruff who dimmed the lights and turned on a slide projector.
As soon as the room was dark, Rycroft pressed the cordless remote control and a slide of a chimpanzee appeared.
"Mother Nature is remarkably stingy," Rycroft began. "She believes in re-using available materials rather than creating new ones. That's why our genetic composition varies by less than two percent from this fine simian specimen."
The projector clicked, and up came an image of four microscope photos.
"Here you find yeast cells." Using a laser pointer, he indicated the upper left quadrant. "Counter clockwise, cells from a horned toad, from a mushroom and from a sea cucumber. While their genetic component differs from ours much more than that of the chimp, they still share many of the same genes and enzymes we do.
The next slide, likewise partitioned into four, showed the faces of people from four racial categories: Caucasian, Asian, African, American Indian.
Rycroft paced along the wall, just beyond the cone of light that connected the screen to the projector. "On average, any two people on earth vary in their genetic makeup by only about zero-point-two percent, one-fifth of one percent. Of that zero-point-two percent, most of the variation -- something like eighty-five percent -- is local variation among people. This local emphasis is what makes the weapon we are offering you so effective"
Slide of a group of African Pygmies.
"There are very large and detectable genetic differences between groups of pygmies living only a couple of miles apart."
Slide of people in Tyrolean hats, cows with bells, snow-covered mountains in the background.
"Likewise, the genetic makeup of people in Swiss Alpine villages are distinctly different from village to village."
Slide of a raw-boned family in front of a house trailer.
"This was taken in the American state of West Virginia, where again, there are distinct differences between villages only a few miles apart. Despite the increased mobility of a small minority of the world's population, most people still marry and breed within very narrowly drawn geographic, ethnic, racial, linguistic and religious groups." Around the table, each of the attendees nodded enthusiastically.
In rapid succession, Rycroft made his way through slides of a man wearing a yarmulke, a woman covered with shawl and chador, a group of children in front of a sign for the Sarajevo airport, a huddle of old women amid the ruins of the Grozny train station.
"While many people think of the slatewiper as a racial weapon, racial differences account for only six percent of the zero-point-two percent of variation among humans."
The slide of the four races reappeared.
"Indeed, racial genetic differences are not distinct. They are simply more visible manifestations of the other more significant variations I mentioned before."
The screen went blank as an opaque slide chunked into position.
"It is not so important why there are genetic differences." Rycroft's voice filled the dark with an eerie resonance. "It is just important that there are differences."
He paused as a graph appeared on the screen.
"And even more important to you is the fact that we can quickly find and use those differences."
He used the laser pointer to draw attention to the first graph. "While zero-point-two percent is a relatively small fraction, when it is multiplied against the roughly three billion nucleotide bases in our DNA, the result is some two million nucleotide differences. This is significant in a system where a single nucleotide in a sensitive position can produce fatal genetic disorders such as Huntington's Chorea, cystic fibrosis, and Tay-Sachs."
He walked over to a sideboard and poured a glass of the fresh-squeezed orange juice that was there for his consumption alone. "The trick, as you can imagine," Rycroft said after pausing to swallow, "is in locating those two million or so different nucleotides. We use a powerful new technique called representation difference analysis, a shortcut that compares the genetic makeup of two individuals, subtracts out all the identical segments, and leave us with how they are different. We use a proprietary semiconductor which performs the entire process on a single biochip."
A slide showed a schematic diagram of the technique.
"Because of the variations among individuals even in the same remote villages, it's then necessary to take many different samples to determine which of the two million nucleotides are present in one group and totally lacking in the other. It is this difference that is the margin between life and death."
Another slide appeared, this one a flow diagram of a laboratory process.
"We have perfected the process of locating these significant differences and of creating the slatewiper -- a custom-tailored organic vector that is inactive unless it is in the presence of the specific nucleotide sequence that exists only in our target population. In other words, our custom bug recognizes a specific gene in the target population and is activated by this gene and only by this gene. It is harmless to all other populations.
"As director of research for GenIntron, I made three key discoveries that have made the slatewiper possible. First of all, I identified the regions of each human chromosome most likely to contain the unique sequences that we need."
Rycroft took another sip of his orange juice and resumed pacing along the periphery of the projected light. "These unique genes are found among the vast stretches of DNA that do not actively function as genes."
A slide appeared showing the small portion of each gene that actually produced proteins, the larger sections that did not.
"These stretches encompass more than ninety percent of a person's DNA. Until my pioneering work at GenIntron, most of the scientific establishment denigrated these DNA areas as junk DNA."
Actually, he thought, this part of the work had been done by Lara Blackwood and that Islamic WOG. But the was dead and she would be soon. "These areas are known as 'introns'," Rycroft pressed on. "Formerly skeptical scientists have now been forced to agree with us that many introns play key roles, including the structural shaping and regulation of active, protein-producing genes. They have enabled GenIntron to produce gene therapies for abnormalities linked with specific ethnic groups, and they are half of the key to the slatewiper."
Rycroft warmed to his presentation, the high priest looking out on the rapt, upturned faces of his acolytes; their faintly illuminated gazes hung wordlessly on his every word. In the scant scattered light thrown off the projector's main beam, their bodies sank out of sight in the dark, giving their faces the appearance of disembodied heads, floating in blackness like white theatrical masks.
"The other half of the key lies also in the human introns." Rycroft's voice shaped itself to the pulpit he now commanded. In many ways, he was, right now, the most powerful man in the world. He intended to stay that way. "The second key discovery I made was a genetic fossil that lives in the genes of every human being." He coughed, cleared his throat. "It's long been known that some of our introns are the remains of ancient retroviruses that infected our predecessors millions of years ago -- perhaps five, or more likely ten million years ago -- and, as retroviruses can do, inserted themselves into their chromosomes.
"Retroviruses, you may know, are called 'retro' because they have a very crude structure, in the evolutionary sense, in that their genetic code is not DNA, but a single strand of RNA. However, once they are inside a host -- such as ourselves -- a special enzyme converts the RNA into viral DNA, which is then spliced into our DNA. Once it is spliced into our genes, it forces the cell to produce more and more viruses until the cell finally bursts and dies."
The room grew so quiet now that the projector fan sounded like the winds of a small gale in the enclosed space.
"Fortunately this very potent retrovirus mutated before it could wipe out the entire human species. The mutated retrovirus genome, however, still lives in our every cell, not as 'junk' DNA, but as a fossil message from the very beginning of our species, reaching out to us, spelling out the history of prehistory in eloquent phrases of the four nucleotide bases -- guanine, cytosine, thymine, and adenine."
Lowering his voice for dramatic effect, Rycroft looked around the table, trying to make eye contact with each person sitting at the table as he spoke. "We're lucky that mutations are a daily occurrence in our genes, for my research has revealed the discovery of one particularly lethal retrovirus intron. This intron is the clear, living proof of a retrovirus that nearly wiped out the human species in a cataclysmic epidemic, a global disaster -- the extinction of the entire species -- stopped only by a chance mutation. This virus was a slatewiper, and in its non-mutated form, it was one hundred percent fatal."
An opaque slide fell into place again, casting the room into eerie darkness. People shifted uneasily in their seats. Rycroft's voice filled the darkness.
"Every human alive today carries the lethal slatewiper gene in every cell," Rycroft continued. "All of us carry the slatewiper with the same single-nucleotide-base mutation. We all have this mutation because those without the mutation died."
He paused. The room rustled as those present squirmed uncomfortably with the thought of primitive death lingering in their every cell.
"It is, in every sense of the word, an infection transported across the eons from the very dawn of our species, death carefully preserved by life." Pausing to let his words sink in, Rycroft was pleased to see that even Kurata, who knew all of the details, could still be captivated by the significance of it all.
"Once I discovered the mutated slatewiper gene, the work was just beginning. It was no simple matter for me to develop a method for turning on the original gene so it would produce the original, invariably lethal slatewiper effects. If it were so simple, the human race would not have survived this long.
In GenIntron's maximum containment biosafety labs, I determined that the slatewiper could be activated with a form of synthetic DNA that uses six bases rather than the usual four. Not only that, but I found that when the synthetic pathogen activated the slatewiper, it became aggressively contagious from one member of the target population to the other, thus assuring maximum impact requiring with minimum up-front resources. This almost undetectable vector carries both the factor that recognizes the target population and the trigger that launches slatewiper on its deadly trajectory. This is a small, unstable, completely synthetic, mostly protein-based particle that resembles a very small yeast cell. It lives in the environment for a day, two at the most. It is so unstable that every lab technique -- save the special one I developed -- that could be used to detect the particle destroys it.
"Remember, the slatewiper vector is not a virus. It is not infectious on its own. It simply triggers the resurrection of an antediluvian gene that does the actual killing.
"As I conclude my talk, I'd like to pay tribute to Dr. Shiro Ishii whose pioneering work on the aerosol dispersal of glanders and other disease vectors makes the physical aspect of our work possible. Dr. Ishii's aerosol dispersion research played a key role in the development of NorAm Pharmco's revolutionary inhaler for the respiratory delivery of medicine.
"We at GenIntron licensed this technology for the delivery of our gene therapies. This work was thoroughly tested and subtly improved upon by the Army, and our CIA back in the 1950s and '60s with large scale tests involving releases of harmless bacteria into -- among many areas -- the New York subway system and the prevailing northwesterly winds of the San Francisco Bay area. A small extension of this pioneering work will make it possible for us to deliver the slatewiper to Japan's Korean population when Operation Tsushima begins less than two weeks from today. Following that theater-level test, we -- "he looked at Woodruff" -- will be in touch with you to discuss your own specific needs."
Rycroft then bowed. "That concludes my talk." He grimaced as the lights came back on. The room erupted with excited questions.
With the TAGCAT TOO still stable, she leaned over and skimmed the papers, feeling the heat of her anger chase away the last wisps of sleep from her head. Her eyes fell on a 1994 book she had checked out of the library: Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws.
As the sea rocked the TAGCAT TOO, Lara picked up the book, and revisited pages she had marked earlier with yellow Post-It notes. At page 258 she read, "At Khandok, for the benefit of some Japanese medical students, a POW was tied to a tree, his fingernails were torn out, his body was cut open, his heart cut out. On Guadalcanal, two prisoners were caught trying to escape, and to stop them trying again, the Japanese shot them in their feet. A medical officer dissected them alive, cutting out their livers."
Physically nauseated by the books irrefutably documented revelations of the lowest, grossest horrors imaginable perpetrated by Japanese officialdom, she wanted to close the covers against the book's brutal, horrible truths, and yet her fingers kept flipping through its pages, each successive yellow sticky another creative abomination that made her wonder how people could be so creative in sadistically torturing others to death.
It made her believe in evil. The next highlighted passage concerned Unit 731's operations outside the Chinese city of Harbin. "The Kempeitai [secret police] brought them prisoners for guinea pigs: men, women, and children, Asians and Caucasians. They were called maruta, meaning logs of wood. Some were infected with disease: cholera, typhoid, anthrax, plague, syphilis, and glanders. "Others," the passage continued, "were cut up alive to see what happened in the successive stages of hemorrhagic fever."
"Dear God," Lara cried as she closed her eyes against tears.
A cold deep blackness yawned inside of her as she realized yet again that when she sold GenIntron, she had sold not only her life’s work and all the secrets she had discovered to the enemy, but it was an enemy capable of crimes imaginable only to those whose imaginations were driven by pure evil. She sold these monsters a new and more powerful science capable of wreaking nightmares far more hideous than those practiced and encouraged by the Japanese government in World War II.
"The Western Japan Military Command gave some medical professors at Kyushu Imperial University, eight B-29 crewmen," the book continued as Lara opened her eyes and forced herself along to the next Post-It note. "The professors cut them up alive, in a dirty room on tin tables where students dissected corpses. They drained blood and replaced it with sea water. They cut out lungs, livers and stomachs. They stopped blood flow in an artery near the heart to see how long death took. They dug holes in a skull and stuck a knife into the living brain to see what would happen."
Lara felt the contents of her stomach rising; she swallowed against it and continued to read, finding the next marker, the next highlighted passage.
"At Kendebo," she read, "the Kempeitai chopped the head off a fighter pilot, then his body was cut up, fried, divided among one hundred fifty Japanese and eaten, after a speech by a major general. Ob Chichi Jima, a Japanese general, issued orders in the Bonin Islands that captured airmen were to be killed and eaten; he and other senior officers ate the flesh at private parties. An admiral put in a request for the liver of the next airman."
Lara ran to the head and threw up into the toilet.
Behind her, Lara heard fragments of speech from the television struggling to break through the static as she put down the book and picked up The Other Nuremberg by Arnold C. Brackman. She was a voracious reader. Why had she never heard of the book? Could it be that the American media was so afraid of offending the Japanese that they simply didn't write about such books? She loosed a sigh, opened the book, and read the highlighted passage aloud.
The last surviving judge at the Tokyo, Japanese War Crimes Trials, B. V. A. Roling of the Netherlands, expressed the view that the United States should be "ashamed because of the fact that they withheld information from the Court with respect to the biological experiments of the Japanese in Manchuria on Chinese and American Prisoners of War...'[I]t is a bitter experience for me to be informed now that the centrally ordered Japanese war criminality of the most disgusting kind was kept secret from the Court by the U.S. government."
The commentator went on at length about Kurata's climb from torpedo kamikaze to the wealthiest man in Japan and the number one defender of "our nation's unique culture."
The camera lost sight of Kurata and immediately cut to a shot showing the front of the Yasukuni Shrine.
"These are the people for whom Kurata has waged his battles," said the commentator. The picture showed masses of ordinary worshippers. In their midst, groups of World War II veterans dressed in their uniforms, marched up the steps in tight formation, tossed coins in the offertory boxes, and clapped their hands to summon the spirits of their fallen comrades. As the men walked away, they were surrounded by people in civilian dress.
"Bystanders ask each of the veterans many adoring questions," said the commentator. "The curious -- mostly too young to remember the Great Pacific War -- ask the grizzled old veterans how they received their medals, which battles they fought in, how many Americans they killed?
"Their interest in a war they cannot remember," said the commentator in a more somber voice, "is a testament to the efforts of Kurata and the War-Bereaved Families Association, and the new Peace Prayer Hall will be a huge and lasting monument to all."
A monument to atrocity, Sugawara thought angrily. It made him feel guilty for being Japanese, genetically evil for being a blood relative of Kurata's.
Damn you! Sugawara thought silently as the cameras once again caught sight of Kurata as he made his way through a fawning crowd and walked up to the podium.
There was no such thing as genetic guilt, no gene to inherit the bad karma of previous generations. Just because Kurata was evil, just because those in the bloodline had acted evilly, didn't mean that he, too, was evil.
Instead, he thought, as the crowd quieted for Kurata's address, it seemed as if societies had their own cultural genomes -- traits and habits, prejudices, norms and beliefs -- that were passed along almost like genes. And perhaps among the cultural genome were societal genes for guilt and evil. The group-think, consensual manner of Japanese society made it easier for evil to flourish because it denounced the moral man who might stand up and yell, "Stop!"
Blood rushed through his ears like wind through autumn leaves. Sugawara knew the only way to cure himself of the cultural evil that infected him was to exercise his own personal decisions and faith; he had to stop listening to the group and start accepting individual responsibility for his actions. It really meant that the life that had nourished him had to die. He bit his lip as Kurata began a talk filled with familiar sentiments.
"Japan is at war again," Kurata said, speaking without notes. The television camera showed shocked audience reaction.
"More than fifty years after our honorable war to liberate Asia from the white man's rule, we are at war against forces that would rip our country apart, which would stain the honor of our loved ones who died fighting that just war, revisionists who would tell lies about the role of our great nation.
"We may have lost the physical aspects of the Greater East Asia War," Kurata continued, "but just look at what we accomplished: There is no more Dutch Indonesia, no more American Philippines, no more French Indochina, no more British Malaysia, Burma, Singapore."
Applause rippled through the audience. Kurata bowed slightly to acknowledge the applause.
"This was a great accomplishment," Kurata continued. "We accomplished our goal to form the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere at great cost and sacrifice to our nation. But enemies both within our society and outside it would deny the truth, denigrate our accomplishments."
The flight attendant brought Sugawara's breakfast and set it on the tray. The man's impassive eyes glanced at the television screen, at Sugawara's face, then away. Sugawara felt ashamed.
It's not what you think, Sugawara thought. He wanted to say, I'm not one of them.
"Can I get you anything else?"
Sugawara shook his head.
"These enemies, roused by foreigners and other impure people, have raised a host of ridiculous lies to support their cause: 'what of the rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, the killing of millions of Chinese and other Asians, forced prostitution and so-called medical atrocities?'" The crowd fell silent, mouths gaped at the open mention of these hurtful things.
"These are lies," Kurata said quietly. "They are the victor's history, written to justify the means and the will of the white men who have tried -- and rightfully failed -- to destroy our culture. Lies....lies...LIES!
The crowd cheered; cries of "Banzai!" rose above the general noise level. Sugawara felt nauseous; he sipped at his orange juice, ignored the food.
The crowd took more than a minute this time before it quieted.
"That is why we are here today," Kurata said. "Our new War-Dead Memorial Peace Prayer Hall will tell the truth, our truth, the real history. It will rise two hundred-feet above this honored ground, next to the moat of the imperial palace and just across the narrow canal from the Budokan where our beloved Emperor conducts his solemn ceremony each August 15 commemorating the end of the Greater East Asia War. It will rise tall for all to see the truth, to expose the lies, to exult our well-deserved glory, to honor the fallen war dead to whom we owe more than we can repay in ten thousand lifetimes."
The crowd cheered.
"With your support, we made sure the Diet did not issue a humiliation apology that would have disgraced the war dead," Kurata continued. "Apology! Hah! Those self-righteous Caucasian racists should apologize to us for putting us in a position in which we were forced to defend ourselves and all other Asians."
Again, cries of Banzai.
In the distance behind Kurata, sky writing filled the cloudless sky. "Glory to the Emperor" said the writing. "Hail to the defender of Yamato."
The knot in Sugawara's gut ratcheted down as he watched the skywriting drift across the sky; harmless now, lethal just days from now.
It was then that a giant yawning ache of emptiness opened around him like a sickness, swallowing him in a throbbing maw of loneliness. He had never felt so alone in his life, so far from the supporting hands of friends and family, so divorced from the supporting fabric of society. If he fell now, there would be nothing, no one to break his fall.
As cheers resounded from the crowd in Tokyo, as Kurata yielded the podium to the priest who would dedicate the ground, Sugawara thought of his childhood, of his parents, of simpler times when decisions were made by others and theirs by society.
He felt guilty for the shame he would bring on his family and of the disgrace that would shadow them. He thought of the retribution if he were caught by Kurata. From experience, he knew nothing in his worst nightmares could compare with the real-world punishments Kurata could create.
He was afraid. He had been taught that a samurai was fearless and that courage was born through the banishment of fear.
As the KLM 747 hurtled over Siberia somewhere above the Lower Tunguska River, Sugawara wondered if courage might also spring from the act of putting oneself in a position from which there was no retreat.
"This is an enlargement of the blueprint off the Web," Xue said. "We have copies of this and several others in a warehouse near the Osaka Airport. I have a team assembling all of the necessary supplies and a small number of people gathering there to build the devices.
"You really don't waste any time, do you?" Lara asked.
"We really don't have any to waste," Xue said. "I know that we think we have five days, but there's no good reason that might not be moved up, especially if there is a break in all of the solar activity."
Akira and Lara nodded.
"So here's what we've got to work with," Xue said as he leaned over the drawings. "The main feature is the pipe-within-a-pipe construction." Lara and Akira bent forward to follow Xue's gesturing hand. "The inner pipe is filled with explosive and is held in exactly the center of the big pipe using an insulator. A Plexiglass disc should work." He pointed out each end.
"Then we coil number 12 copper wire around the outer jacket. To keep the whole thing from disintegrating too soon, the whole thing is encased in some sort of insulating material. Concrete can be used although I think the military probably uses some sort of very strong composite material to same weight. Basically, we can find everything we need for this at a well-equipped hardware store."
"Except for the explosives," Sugawara said.
Xue shrugged. "Maybe even that, if your local Ace Hardware’s in Somalia or Teheran."
His attempt at humor won short grim laughter.
"But seriously," Lara persisted.
"Almost anything will work," Xue said. "C-4, Semtex -- you name it -- will all do the job. Everything I have found indicates that machined blocks of PBX-9501 are ideally suited because it produces a detonation wave burn perfectly matched to the compression of the magnetic field. But because C-4 is so reliable and available, I've arranged for a shipment which should arrive in Osaka about the same time we do. It may not be ideal, but it's safe, shapes easily and will save us some time. "
He stopped as the jet hit a patch of turbulence that tossed them about and drew a chorus of groans and creaks from the strapped-down freight containers.
"I hate that," Lara said grabbing the pallet for balance. "It completely freaks me."
"You can sail across the Atlantic in a hurricane, but a little turbulence freaks you?" Akira asked.
Lara shrugged. "We all have our weaknesses." What are yours? She wanted to ask him.
"So how does it produce the EMP?" She asked Xue.
"Well, the whole device is a way to transfer the energy of the explosion into very powerful electromagnetic field," he started. "The whole event starts when we discharge a bank of megajoule capacitors like those made by Maxwell Labs, into the helical coil of number twelve wire which is called the stator. Capacitors can be trickle charged with electrical power much like a small stream feeding a vast reservoir that is contained by a dam. The capacitors can be discharged much like blowing up the dam -- only after discharge the capacitor is not destroyed but can be recharged. This is the same principle that allows the small, low-voltage battery on a common camera strobe to produce a jolt of fifty thousand volts or more through the flash tube."
Xue paused as he looked for signs of understanding. Lara and Akira nodded knowingly. "Pretty basic stuff," Sugawara said.
"How big are the capacitors?" Lara asked. " I assume they're a lot bigger than the rice- and pea-sized ones on a computer circuit board."
"The ones I envision are the size of oil drums," Xue said. "Fortunately, there are suitable versions that are used by companies who do metal forming using non-explosive flux compression techniques. That makes them fairly easy to obtain if you know where to look."
"Like doing a Google search for flux compression metal forming." Sugawara said.
"How do we get from the intense magnetic field to something that fries chips." Lara asked
"Well," Xue continued. "When the start current peaks in the stator coil, the explosive is detonated. Remember, the explosive is contained in a metal cylinder known as the armature. The explosion expands the armature cylinder and forces the metal pieces into the highly charged coil which is at maximum current. This short circuits the stator’s electromagnetic field coils which actually traps the intense current within the device. As the explosive burns from one end of the device to another, it compresses the magnetic field further and further until it produces a single, incredibly intense electromagnetic field which is released just microseconds before the entire device disintegrates."
"Wow," Lara said softly. "So simple."
"Well, yes and no," Xue said, "Almost any garage terrorist can slap one of these together in a matter of hours and take out the local phone exchange, Internet hosting facility or law enforcement communications center. But for maximum range and impact, we’ll need to run tests on the stator coil to see how long it takes for them to reach maximum current. Then we need to know how long it takes to set off the explosives and get the detonation wave to the coils. If we do this, we can use a simple circuit to trigger the detonator just before the current peaks in the stator coil. We also need the proper shaped charge for the explosive, but in this case, that’d be pretty easy to deduce. If you do it right, the current of the EMP pulse that comes out can be 60 times larger than the start current ... and possibly more."
"All from converting the explosive energy into electrical energy," Sugawara said. "Amazing."
They were all silent for a long moment. The steady drone of the 747's jet engines filled the pause.
"Could you ..." Lara searched for a complete thought. "Could you use one EMP device to ... uh, pump another one so that you’d have a multi-stage device that would be even bigger?"
Xue nodded. "Oh yes. That’s what you find in the military versions. Since a deliverable EMP bomb can’t be encased in concrete and attached to a bunch of oil-drum-sized capacitors, they start with smaller capacitors and use multiple stages."
"So," Lara said slowly as the magnitude dawned on her, "instead of having two e-bombs that each multiply the current 60 times, if you combine them so one pumps the other, then you get 60 times 60 -- "
"Holy shit! 3,600 times the original current," Sugawara blurted."
"And if you could manage a three-stage device it would be more than 200,000 bigger than the input current."
"But the timing would be critical...millisecond ... microseconds," Sugawara said. "You would have to make sure you didn’t blow up the second and third stages too soon ... or too late."
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