In many metropolitan areas of the world, the destitute and forgotten claim the night as their own. Living on the fringes of society, they eke an existence from the leftovers of their more fortunate brethren. It was no different in Bangkok, a city 12 million people called home.
Near the Wat Chana Songkram Buddhist temple, the old man was looking through a rubbish heap left over from the restaurants and clubs nearby. Finding several half-empty beer bottles, he quickly drained their contents and stored the bottles in a tattered sack. He had reached a large dumpster and was looking to climb inside when something shiny caught his eye. Walking around to the brick wall, he peered in the gap between it and the metal container.
A figure lay crumpled in a heap, the lone streetlamp reflecting off a silver and bronze bangled bracelet on one unmoving wrist, brown eyes staring up, unseeing, framed by curly short hair, now matted and dull. Like a necklace of death, a thin wire still was tangled around her neck.
With a yell, the man leapt back, turned towards the direction he came from, and hobbled quickly away. He turned back only once, glancing where darkness had already swallowed up his gruesome find as he melted back into the background of the night.
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Less than 100 nautical miles from shore, the sinuous curve of the Milky Way and the waxing moon supply the only natural light; the inky darkness of the water the only way to identify the Earth from the heavens. Far from shore and lit up by man-made light, the gas rig squatted above the gentle waves like a steel spider, the sounds of machinery and the occasional yell rolling across the waters.
On the helipad, a man and a woman stood and looked out over the drilling platform, assured of privacy by their location.
"The subsea drilling template has been cemented to the seafloor," John commented, "and the blowout preventer installation completes tomorrow. We are on schedule to have the marine riser in place by next weekend. And then, my dear, the real fun begins."
The woman shivered, from the cool breeze or from anticipation, it was impossible to tell. He handed her a missive from a Malay newspaper.
[Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu, stated, "China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea. China's stand is based on historical facts and international law. China's sovereign rights and positions are formed in the course of history and this position has been held by Chinese Government for long.]
["On the basis of this China is ready to engage in peaceful negotiations and friendly consultations to peacefully solve the disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights so as to positively contribute to peace and tranquility in the South China Sea area. We hope that the relevant countries respect China's position and refrain from taking unilateral action to complicate and expand the issue.]
["We hope they will respect and support countries in the region to solve the bilateral disputes through bilateral channels.]
["As for oil and gas exploration activities, our consistent position is that we are opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration and development activities in waters under China's jurisdiction. We hope the foreign countries do not get involved in South China Sea dispute."]
Ani snorted. "Stupid politicians, using words when actions are needed. After next week, no one will question our ownership of these waters." She tore the paper into small pieces and threw it up into the wind.
John draped a companionable arm across her shoulders as they continued to gaze past the gas rig towards the north.