Somewhere in the South China Sea, between Thailand and Indonesia…
Sukhon Dithakar and her crew of fellow pirates (aboard an old but fast converted fishing vessel, registered to Liberia) can see their target: a product tanker out of Singapore, loaded with computer parts. Sukhon’s younger sister Suchin had gone on ahead the night before in the pirate ship’s heavily-armed speed boat to launch a sneak attack, a tactic that has worked well in the past.
Now, however, Sukhon sees the speed boat tied up next to the tanker, empty, and no signs of life on board the tanker, either. Sukhon suspects a trap, but has no choice but to send a few of her men. Soon, looking grim, they wave her aboard from the deck of the tanker.
Sukhon comes aboard to find everyone on the tanker horribly murdered, including her men. Some heads are missing, as well as some spines. It’s not even clear how the wounds have been caused–it’s no weapon she’s familiar with, and she’s familiar with a lot of weapons. There’s no sign of Suchin above-deck. Below deck, she finally finds Suchin, dead in the same horrible way, right next to her a woman with a baby, the woman insane and babbling from the experience: “A demon. A demon came.” The woman is untouched. From the signs of struggle, Suchin put up a fight. There is a fleck of strange blood on the floor–and curled in Suchin’s left hand is a jagged piece of odd metal. Sukhon takes the metal with her. It burns her hand, but she doesn’t care.
Why my sister? she keeps thinking. And what exactly happened?
Sukhon is used to violence–it’s what she does, ripping off freighters and tankers from the coast of Thailand, to the boundary with China. But even though she has to be tougher than any male pirate captain, she’s never seen anything like this…
Back on the main deck, she looks out across the water…and sees a path of dead marine life behind the freighter. Great White sharks, manta rays, smaller fish. She remembers that the night before she and her first mate Virote had seen a strange light traveling across the sky, heading for the most remote part of the South China Sea. At the time, she’d thought nothing of it–there was always something odd in the night.
Her first mate Virote comes up beside her. “Do you see it, too?”
It’s early enough that there are still stars in the sky to orient her.
“Yes,” she says. “The trail of the dead is pointing in the same direction as the light we saw.”
“…right to the Island.”
There’s nothing else out this way except the island ruled by the Khmer Rouge veteran; the island with all of the specially stocked wild animals. Sukhot has met Rath Preap, the ex-Khmer, three or four times. He lets them resupply at the island in return for them leaving his operation alone.
“If he had anything to do with this…”
“He had nothing to do with this. This is something else. A visitation by a demon,” Virote says softly. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Sukhon knows Virote would follow her into Hell, if necessary. The question is: Will the rest of the crew?
“Yes,” Sukhon says. And then: “She was my sister, Virote.”