The bull sperm whale-a sixty-foot long behemoth-while returning
from Polar Regions makes a deep dive off the Azores, over the Mid
Atlantic Ridge, to feed off the squid that abound there. Reaching
the bottom he comes in contact with an ocean vent with its oasis of
life thriving in the warmth and nutrients below and from the food
trickling down from above. One of the life forms found here are the
sea worms which grow in clumps to lengths of six feed and more.
They harbor a unique chemistry that includes a symbiotic
relationship with billions of bacteria that are largely responsible
for sustaining life. While feeding, the whale contacts the worm's
tentacles, and in the process is invaded by a rare strain of
bacteria with pathological properties that are both subtle and
highly contagious. When by a series of seemingly random events
these pathogens reach the surface, they will begin to undermine the
social structures of the peoples who inhabit the earth in ways
never experienced before.
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