The Andaman Express

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Called in to investigate an unusual insurance claim, Finlay Nichols discovers something is seriously wrong with Thailand’s offshore gas fields. Propelled into an ultimate stakes game with the Burmese military government, he realizes that if he can’t solve the problem and stop the coming catastrophe then the 21st century’s second energy war will ignite within days.

The Andaman Sea, South East Asia

A gentle hiss of escaping gas instantly killed the conversation. Nkong glanced up from the pipework and saw panic in his friends’ eyes. He dropped his tools, turned and ran for the exit. The automatic door proved quicker than he was though. As the alarms began to sound, its hydraulic rams closed it at an astonishing speed and held it shut with a force he couldn’t hope to push against. Nkong banged in frustration on the steel door knowing there was no other way out. He took a last deep breath of the rapidly fouling air and turned to look for the emergency breathing equipment. Both sets had been claimed. Their new owners already had the air tanks on their backs and were hurriedly donning the full face masks. There were only two sets of breathing equipment because there was only ever supposed to be two people in the room. The difficult task of manhandling the gas tanks into position required at least half a dozen though. And like the rest, he’d willingly taken the risk because to do otherwise would have cost him his job.

Nkong realised now that going for the door had been a stupid mistake. Still holding his breath, he rushed one of the men and set about tearing a mask off. Four of his former companions had come to the same decision at the same time and a hard elbow in the face momentarily stunned him before he was pulled off balance and flung to one side.

He dropped to his knees, trying to control the rising panic. His heart was pumping, his lungs were beginning to tear his throat open, but he commanded himself not to breathe. He must maintain control. There must be something else he could do.

He watched as the first man doubled over and vomited onto the floor, causing an immediate rise in savagery from those still fighting for the masks. Exhausted from the battle, they also quickly fell victim to the poisoned atmosphere and were violently battered to the floor. The transformation from human to wild animal to violent death had taken mere seconds. There was only him left now. Him and the two men with breathing equipment.

As darkness began creeping into his vision, Nkong put his hands together and pleaded. He begged with his whole being to be allowed a breath of clean air. Sweat was pouring down his face and mixing with the toxic gas and tears he didn’t know he was crying to burn at his imploring eyes. Although he could hardly see, he knew the two men were backing away from him, taking all hope with them.

Oblivion was rapidly closing in now, and Nkong faced up to the reality that he was about to die. There were no other options left for the few seconds he still had of conscious thought. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair on him or his wife and children. As oxygen starvation finally enveloped him, Nkong collapsed to the floor. His unconscious mind now took over, releasing the stale air and drawing in a lungful of pure poison. An instinctive feeling of relief was followed by the sudden conscious dread of what he had just done.

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