The Malacca Conspiracy
- Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The Strait of Malacca is located between the long, Indonesian island of Sumatra and the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula.
At its northwestern entrance, the shorelines of Indonesia and Thailand are separated by two hundred miles of open water.
Five hundred twenty miles to the southeast, near the city-state of Singapore, the strait narrows into the shape of a funnel. At its narrowest point, eight miles of water separate Indonesia and Malaysia. The strait ends at Singapore, where it flows into the Singapore Strait.
The Singapore Strait, 3.2 miles wide at its narrowest point, begins at Singapore, the busiest port city in the world. Stretching sixty-five miles to the northeast, it empties into the South China Sea, and from there, the Pacific.
The linked Straits of Malacca and Singapore form the shortest sea route between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Most of the world's oil supply is transported on tankers, from the Middle East through these straits.
The Malacca Strait
Near the mouth of the Malacca River
The early twenty-first century
Under the bright glare of the midday sunshine, the cigarette boat sliced through the tropical waters to the east. Glistening like the stainless-steel blade of a sharp dagger, the boat, a thirty-eight-foot "Top Gun" model with twin 600 horsepower engines, carried three passengers plus the pilot.
Approaching the coastline at fifty miles per hour, bouncing across light swells and passing several slower boats, it raced by a navigation buoy a half mile offshore.
Houses and storefronts grew visible as the boat approached the shoreline. Cars could be seen moving along coastal roadways. Two single-engine airplanes buzzed the skies.
A second navigation buoy issued warnings in red and white to inbound nautical craft. The warnings were in both English and Malay.
The pilot throttled back the powerful twin inboards, morphing their rocketlike thrust into a chugging putter, slowing the boat to a floating crawl.
The general waited for a moment until the boat leveled off. Then, from his jump seat behind the pilot, he unholstered his pistol. He worked the action, chambering a nine-millimeter bullet into firing position.
"Doctor, ready your weapon," he ordered.
"Yes, General." The man sitting next to him retrieved an identical pistol, pointed it in the air, and pulled back the firing clip.
In a foreign land, even a foreign land so close to Indonesia, prudence required being armed — especially when the lines between friend and foe were blurred . . . and where his hosts had a track record of murder.
What was their agenda?
To warn President Santos to abandon his Western-loving ways or face a fate like former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto?
General Perkasa smiled. Bhutto had gotten what she deserved. He couldn't be so lucky with Santos, could he?
Initially, General Perkasa had declined the hosts' invitation.
Then they padded the general's offshore bank account as a measure of good faith. Overnight, the general and the doctor had become wealthy men, without even speaking to their hosts yet.
Why remained a mystery.
He would know why soon enough.
General Suparman Perkasa, Army of the Indonesian Republic, was certain of only one thing: a weapon seemed prudent at the moment, and he would fire that weapon without hesitation if necessary.
The boat planed down. Perkasa flipped the gun's safety switch and reholstered it.
Cruising through calm waters, they passed a third buoy, just at the mouth of the Malacca River. Then they puttered under a bridge, just inside the river's mouth.
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