The Deepwater Horizon crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was from the deepest oil well ever drilled. The crude oil spilling from this well was from a period in geological history coinciding with the greatest mass extinction of life the earth has ever seen. Some of this leaking crude oil is tied to bizarre deaths, at first in sea creatures, but soon, its impact escalated to threaten land animals, plants, and humans.
When a massive fish kill occurs, it is initially blamed on chemicals used to disperse the crude oil-but a covert autopsy of a pet cat suggests something far more sinister is at play. Personal greed from certain high-profile private and government officials, plus the oil company's fear of financial ruin, results in attempts to cover up the real cause.
A small group of everyday people come together in an attempt to uncover the truth, only to find themselves locked in a life-or-death crusade battling government bureaucracy, Homeland Security, and time. Can they stop the spread of a virus that threatens the extinction of life as we know it?
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The Primordial Tide
By Jeffrey Stettler
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Jeffrey Stettler
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMay 12, 2010 – 3:30 PM
Werner G. Straus was an expert organic chemist. He could be a bit eccentric at times, but nonetheless, he was about the best investigative chemist GG Oil Company had. Werner was nearing 70 years old and had already had two heart attacks, the second of which was a near fatal one a year ago. Medication and artery stents now had him nearly back to his normal routine.
Werner was a lonely man. His wife had died of cancer several years ago, and they'd never had any children. His last living relative, a nephew, was killed in an automobile accident last year.
Werner had just returned to work in April, and was assigned to light duty and moved to 2nd shift to minimize stress. His life was his work. He was getting bored and becoming anxious to get some interesting work like the good old days.
Werner's thoughts were interrupted by the department manager Ron Strong, who usually stayed clear of the lab because of alleged chemical allergies, rushing through the doorway with a concerned look on his face. Ron walked hurriedly over to Werner and said, "Werner. I hate to ask this, but I have a #1 priority job for you tonight. We were going to ask Charley to stay over, but he had a family emergency come up."
Werner replied with a grin, "I'm fine, Ron. Besides, I need a little excitement to brighten things up. What do you have?"
Ron handed Werner a large carton with "Warning Hazardous Material Special Handling Required" labels all over it. Ron stated emphatically, "These are crude oil samples from the Deep Horizon oil leak in the Gulf. They were flown in late this afternoon. There are different samples taken at various locations. Some were taken by the robot sampler at about 100 feet above the ocean floor because they couldn't get any closer due to the high pressure and turbulence where the leak is. There are also samples taken at 2500 feet above the ocean floor and at the surface. Finally, there are samples from the oil plume about three miles from the leak site, both before and after being sprayed with the Triple D dispersal agent. What we want to know is whether the crude is reacting at all with the salt water and whether the Triple D is doing any good."
Werner asked curiously, "Do you think this crude would react any different from any other crude?"
Ron answered, "No, not really. I heard the core samples near the wellhead were a little weird, but I haven't seen the report so I don't really know the details. I wouldn't want that analysis to bias your results anyway. Because this is the deepest well ever drilled, this may be the oldest oil we've ever recovered. It could be from a period in the earth's history we've never examined before."
"But listen, Werner," Ron said, wanting to get the conversation back to the job at hand, "the thing I need you to accomplish before you go home is to run a batch evaluation of a new dispersing agent called OxiMax #7. This chemical is some secret military brew that may oxidize and break down the oil before it gets anywhere close to land. We don't want word of this getting out because if the media gets wind of it and then it doesn't work, we'll catch a firestorm of bad press. I verified you still have a top secret clearance, so you're ok to work this. The test protocol is in the folder inside the box. They'd like to spray this stuff tomorrow morning if the test results are positive. Unless I hear something from you to the contrary, we'll proceed with the spraying as scheduled."
Werner grinned and motioned toward a good looking young man seated at the corner desk on the other side of the lab. "What about my side-kick Timmy?" he asked.
"I'm going to request he cool his heels tonight and leave you alone. That's something I'm sure he's good at," Ron added sarcastically.
For the last month Werner was teamed with a 22-year-old chemical engineer named Tim Gardner. Tim was just out of college, and rumor had it some high up relative had pulled strings to get him hired. Tim spent more time on his cell phone trying to establish himself as a "Don Juan" than learning the job. This annoyed Werner to no end, plus he kept calling Werner "Gramps" with a fake-looking smile on his face. Werner noted Ron giving Tim his marching orders and thought to himself that this shift was going to be a pleasant surprise. At least he was half right.
Chapter TwoMay 12, 2010 – 5:00 PM
Werner opened the carton carefully and photographed the condition and labels on all the specimen bottles for documentation. Although not required by the specified protocol, he decided to do all testing in the decontamination chamber. He was more concerned about the OxiMax #7 chemical than the crude oil. As he suspected, there were no Material Safety Data Sheets on the chemical, so he didn't know what it was made of, nor if any special handling was required. Consequently, he opted to play it ultraconservative.
Most of the tests on the crude oil were pretty routine, such as density, cracking temperature, ash content, volatility, and water absorption. Since the big boss wanted results of the effect of the OxiMax, he decided to work that first, then follow-up with the rest of the testing, probably tomorrow.
Werner divided up the samples into separate glass test tubes, carefully labeling each with the appropriate code number. He ran a spectral analysis on each sample of the crude oil from each of the various depths. They were all pretty much the same with basic hydrocarbons found in other crude oils. There were some unusual trace elements not normally found in crude oil, but again, this oil was formed from a period of the earth's history not analyzed before. Werner noted this for his report.
Werner then began adding various concentrations of the OxiMax #7 mystery chemical to separate samples of the crude. He usually ran the samples in triplicate to verify repeatability if anything unusual occurred. He kept two crude oil only samples at each depth for a batch baseline. The protocol called for a mild agitation after adding OxiMax to replicate wind and wave action that would mix the chemical into the crude oil. Without telling Tim what it was for, Werner had him set up a shaker table and make the coded labels. This seemed to annoy Tim because it took him away from his cell phone calls to various girlfriends. Werner was really enjoying the moment.
By 6PM Werner completed a 10-minute mild agitation of each of the samples and was about to begin his microscopic evaluation. He was interrupted by the phone, which was his communication from the decontamination lab to the outer lab where Tim was working. Werner answered, "Yes?"
Tim's voice on the phone had his usual sarcastic tone asking, "Hey Gramps, I was thinking of picking up some pizza for our lunch time. Do you want me to bring you back some?"
With all the activity, Werner had lost track of time, but he always brought his own food, which Tim knew full well. He answered, "No thanks. I'll be tied up in here with these samples so I'll probably skip lunch for now. Take your time." Werner felt sure pizza wasn't the only thing Tim would be trying to pick up.
Werner was right. Tim had planned to meet a girl named Tina. He thought she might be under age, but she was really hot which made it worth the risk. Better still, she thought Tim was cool. So Tim figured with a couple of hours to spend, he might even be able to score. After all, his mentor told him to take his time, which he planned on doing anyway. Tim bounded out of the lab and headed for his car.
Chapter ThreeMay 12, 2010 – 7PM
Werner set up samples for viewing under the recently procured Ultra Fast Electron Microscope which was capable of taking 4-D movies of molecules. The microscope was a modified transmission electron microscope interfaced with an ultra fast laser. It was capable of capturing 3-dimensional structural changes of molecules over very short time spans. He first looked at the samples under low power, about 10X. He then increased the magnification in increments of 50X up to 500X, taking photo-scans at each power setting.
Each of the straight-from-the-leak samples (no OxiMax mixed in) looked fairly normal except for a faint gray-like crystalline molecule suspended within adjacent hydrocarbon molecules. This alien molecule didn't appear to be bonded chemically to the hydrocarbons. At first Werner thought it might be only an artifact of something that really wasn't there. But each sample had some of these "parasite like" molecules. They did appear slightly larger in the samples of crude closer to the surface and in the samples that had been mixed in the crude oil plume, suggesting that time of exposure to sea water and/or sunlight might be a factor. They weren't different enough to justify retests, so he proceeded to the samples mixed with the OxiMax #7.
In comparison to the non-mixed specimens, the mixed samples did show some degradation of the longer chained hydrocarbons, which was the desired result. But the parasite molecules still remained.
Werner then decided to deviate from the test protocol. Because of his vast experience, he usually was given permission to modify test procedures without getting approvals from higher ups. He wanted to determine if more vigorous mixing would alter the results. He rationalized that this might occur if severe weather, like a hurricane, would move into the area after the OxiMax had been sprayed onto the oil plume.
Werner chose two samples of the medium concentration of OxiMax in the crude oil from the surface. He put these samples through a combination of centrifuge, then high-level shaker. As he placed the sample under the microscope at 300X, he saw something so shocking he poked his eye into the microscope lens, knocking the microscope out of focus. At first he thought he must have blinked at the wrong time. As he refocused the microscope, it happened again. The gray parasite molecule appeared to consume the wall of the adjacent hydrocarbon molecule. It was as if it were alive. "Holy shit!" he yelled and almost fell backwards off the bench he was sitting on.
He reached for the second sample test tube to see if it was reacting the same way. He was trembling with so much excitement that he spilled some of the solution on his arm. The mixture was slimy and slid down the sleeve of his lab coat and contacted the skin on the back of his hand. It felt surprisingly warm to the touch. There was still some of the second sample left, so he brushed the spill off his hand and feverishly worked to prepare another specimen from the remaining second sample, which took about 10 minutes. It only partially registered in his mind that all of a sudden his hand felt cool.
He placed the second sample under the microscope and immediately recognized that the gray molecule was now nearly 100 times larger than any he had seen before. It also seemed to be pulsating. About 30 minutes had elapsed since he spilled the mixture onto his hand. It was now that it registered in his mind that he felt a tingling sensation in his arm.
Werner rushed over to the sink and flushed his hand and arm with tap water. The sensation quickly changed from tingling to a dull ache. But worse, he now felt a crushing sensation in his lungs. Werner was keenly aware of what a heart attack felt like, and this wasn't the same.
In the back of his mind a message flashed that he better call for help. As he tried to move toward the phone, he suddenly realized he had trouble moving in any direction let alone in a straight line toward the phone. He staggered in what seemed to be a random pattern as his mind was losing the ability to concentrate. His chest now felt like it was being crushed in a vise, and he abruptly fell to the floor. His eyes were open and the lab seemed to be rotating around him. As the pain in his chest intensified to an unbearable level, darkness slowly overcame him. The last thing he felt between the waves of pain was a warm fluid flowing through the veins in his neck.
Chapter FourMay 12, 2010 – 10:45 PM
Tim had definitely scored with Tina. After pizza, Tim and Tina went to his place. It had been a wild night and he lost track of time. It was 10:45 when he realized he better do something fast. He dialed up the lab but got no answer. He looked at Tina, who seemed sound asleep. He gave her arm a shake and she groggily looked up at him.
"Tina, I've got to go back to the lab before my shift is over. Do me a favor and don't mention our date. I could get into a lot of trouble at work." He also realized that there could be consequences because he now knew her true age was 16.
"Don't worry. If my Dad finds out where I've been and that I went out with a much older guy, I'll be grounded for a year."
"Ok look," said Tim. "I'll drop you off by your girlfriend's house and you can figure out an alibi with her. Then call home to ask if you can stay the night at her house."
"Tim, you're so smart," giggled Tina.
Tim dropped her off and was back to the lab by 11:00 PM. He thought he had really pushed the envelope this time. After entering the lab thru the back door, he looked around and didn't see anyone. At first he hoped Gramps had bugged out early, but deep down he knew better. He picked up the phone to the decontamination lab and let it ring at least six times. There was no answer. He walked over to the thick glass viewing window and peered in. At first he saw nothing, but then saw a pool of red liquid that looked like it might be blood coming from behind the side of the microscope base. It was such a huge machine he really couldn't see around it, but then he noticed a reflection from a piece of polished Plexiglas they used to make specimen racks. Tim suddenly felt sick. He managed to call the plant 911 number before losing his partially digested pizza in the lab sink.
Tim gathered himself enough to think up a story to tell the manager. He thought to himself that Tim Gardner could still come out looking like a hero.
Chapter FiveMay 13, 2010 – 8AM
Jimmy Sterling strode anxiously toward the recently converted DC3 crop duster. His co-pilot, Tony Duprea, was already in the cockpit running through the checklist. Tony jokingly yelled, "Hey Sterling, how many more trips do you think this crate can make?"
"It won't make one more if you screw up that checklist," he replied.
The DC3 was a World War 2 vintage twin piston engine plane that was still flying with some third world countries and low cost contractors, that is, if you could find parts for the plane. It could fly low and slow, which was great for crop dusting or other cargo drops if needed. This one was pressed into service under contract from GG Oil to spray dispersal agents onto the crude oil belching into the Gulf of Mexico from the deep water oil leak. Sterling had used it as a crop duster up until the Deep Water Horizon oil platform blew up and sank nearly a month ago.
"We better get moving pronto!" Sterling announced. "The weather report predicts some violent thunderstorms around the leak site in about three hours with the possibility of waterspouts. We've got a new oil dispersal chemical called OxiMax #7 the boss wants to try out. It's supposed to react with the salt water, generate oxygen, and oxidize the crude oil. That'll help eliminate the crude oil before it gets close to land."
Tony quipped, "Sure that's what those genius GG Oil geeks say. I think one of those guys was in my high school chemistry class. He recommended an experiment that blew up and damn near burnt the school down."
"Ok, ok let's get serious. We're gassed up and the chemical tanks are full."
Moments later they got clearance from the tower and were underway. The DC3 was nicknamed "The Gunny Bird," and rightfully so. It took about 45 minutes to get to the main oil plume called the "Larson Slick" which became clearly visible in the water. It appeared as an ugly brown surface scar as they approached from the Southeast.
"God, what a fricking mess," Tony commented. "If I had GG stock, I'd sell it ASAP. This is going to cost them big time."
"Yeah," Sterling replied, "and they should pay every penny plus fines for shortcutting the safety measures. This never should have happened. Ok, we're supposed to dump this shit right into the middle of the plume. Let's fly past it then turn around and fly from west to east and dump our load. I don't like the size of those cumulus clouds building to the west."
Excerpted from The Primordial Tide by Jeffrey Stettler Copyright © 2011 by Jeffrey Stettler. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an entertaining suspense novel. The characters were defined to the point you could picture them in your head. The storying was gripping and imagining that something like this could happen was frightening. If you like Dan Brown / Michael Chriton books, you'll enjoy this one!
I highly recommend this book. It is filled with suspense & is very difficult to put down after reading the first page. I will be looking forward to a sequel.