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Chapter 31 Operation Guzheng

Novel:The Three-Bodyauthor:Cinxin Liu pubdate:2019-02-14 15:07

Chapter 31 Operation Guzheng
"Don't worry," Shi Qiang said to Wang, as he sat down next to him at the meeting table. "I'm not radioactive anymore. The last couple of days they've washed me inside and outside like a flour sack. They didn't originally think you needed to attend this meeting, but I insisted. Heh. I bet the two of us are going to be important this time."
As Da Shi spoke, he picked a cigar butt out of the ashtray, lit it, and took a long drag. He nodded, and, in a slow, relaxed manner, blew the smoke into the faces of the attendees sitting on the other side of the table. One of the people sitting opposite him was the original owner of the cigar, Colonel Stanton of the U.S. Marine Corps. He gave Da Shi a contemptuous look.
Many more foreign military officers were at this meeting than the last. They were all in uniform. For the first time in human history, the armed forces of the world's nations faced the same enemy.
General Chang said, "Comrades, everyone at this meeting now has the same basic understanding of the situation. Or, as Da Shi here would put it, we have information parity. The war between alien invaders and humanity has begun. Our descendants won't face the Trisolarans for another four and a half centuries. For now, our opponents are still human. Yet, in essence, these traitors to the human race can also be seen as enemies from outside human civilization. We have never faced an enemy like this. The next war objective is very clear: We must capture the intercepted Trisolaran messages stored on Judgment Day. These messages may have great significance for our survival.
"We haven't yet done anything to draw the suspicion of Judgment Day. The ship still sails the Atlantic freely. It has already submitted plans to the Panama Canal Authority to pass through the canal in four days. This is a great opportunity for us. As the situation develops, such an opportunity may never arise again. Right now, all the Battle Command Centers around the globe are drafting up operation plans, and Central will select one within ten hours and begin implementation. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss possible plans of operation, and then report one to three of our best suggestions to Central. Time is of the essence, and we must work efficiently.
"Note that any plan must guarantee one thing: the secure capture of the Trisolaran messages. Judgment Day was rebuilt from an old tanker, and both the superstructure and the interior have been extensively renovated with complex structures to contain many new rooms and passageways. Supposedly even the crew relies on a map when entering unfamiliar areas. We, of course, know even less about the ships layout. Right now, we cannot even be certain of the location of the computing center on Judgment Day, and we don't know whether the intercepted Trisolaran messages are stored in servers located in the computing center, or how many copies they have. The only way to achieve our objective is to completely capture and control Judgment Day.
"The most difficult part is preventing the enemy from erasing Trisolaran data during our attack. Destroying the data would be very easy. The enemy would not use conventional methods to erase the data during an attack, because it's easy to recover the data using known technology. But if they just emptied a cartridge clip at the server hard drive or other storage media, it would all be over, and doing so would take no more than ten seconds. So we must disable all enemies near the storage equipment within ten seconds of their detecting an attack. Since we don t know the exact location of the data storage or the number of copies, we must eliminate all enemies on Judgment Day within a very brief period of time, before the target has been alerted. At the same time, we can't heavily damage the facilities within, especially computer equipment. Thus, this is a very difficult task. Some think it's impossible."
A Japanese Self-Defense Forces officer said, "We believe that the only chance for success is to rely on spies on judgment Day. If they're familiar with where the Trisolaran information is stored, they can control the area or move the storage equipment elsewhere right before our operation."
Someone asked, "Reconnaissance and monitoring of Judgment Day have always been the responsibility of NATO military intelligence and the CIA. Do we have such spies?"
"No," the NATO liaison said.
"Then we have nothing more to discuss except bullshit," said Da Shi. He was met with annoyed looks.
Colonel Stanton said, "Since the objective is eliminating all personnel within an enclosed structure without harming other equipment within, our first thought was to use a ball lightning weapon."
Ding Yi shook his head. "The existence of this kind of weapon is now public knowledge. We don't know if the ship has been equipped with magnetic walls to shield against ball lightning. Even if it hasn't, a ball lightning weapon can indeed kill all personnel within the ship, but it cannot do so simultaneously. Also, after the ball lightning enters the ship, it may hover in the air for some time before releasing its energy. This wait time can last from a dozen seconds to a minute or longer. They will have enough time to realize they've been attacked and destroy the data."
Colonel Stanton asked, "What about a neutron bomb?"
"Colonel, you should know that's not going to work." The speaker was a Russian officer. "The radiation from a neutron bomb cannot kill right away. After a neutron bomb attack, the amount of time left to the enemy would be more than enough for them to have a meeting just like this one."
"Another thought was to use nerve gas," a NATO officer said. But releasing it and having it spread throughout the ship would take time so it still doesn't achieve General Chang's requirements."
"Then the only choices left are concussion bombs and infrasonic waves," Colonel Stanton said. Others waited for him to finish his thought, but he said nothing more.
Da Shi said, "I use concussion bombs in police work, but they're toys. They're indeed capable of stunning people inside a building into unconsciousness, but they're only good for a room or two. Do you have any concussion bombs big enough to stun a whole oil tanker full of people?''
Stanton shook his head. "No. Even if we did, such a large explosive device would certainly damage equipment inside the ship."
"So what about infrasonic weapons?" someone asked.
"They're still experimental and cannot be used in live combat. Also, the ship is very large. At the power level available to current experimental prototypes, the most that a full assault on Judgment Day could do is to make the people inside feel dizzy and nauseous."
"Ha!" Da Shi extinguished the cigar butt, now as tiny as a peanut. "I told you all we have left to discuss is bullshit. We've been at it for a while now. Let's remember what the general said: 'Time is of the essence!"' He gave a sly grin to the translator, a female first lieutenant who looked unhappy with his language. "Not easy to translate, eh, comrade? Just get the approximate meaning across."
But Stanton seemed to understand what he was saying. He pointed at Shi Qiang with a fresh cigar that he had just taken out. "Who does this policeman think he is, that he can talk to us this way?"
 "Who do you think you are?" Da Shi asked.
"Colonel Stanton is an expert in special ops," a NATO officer said. "He has been a part of every major military operation since the Vietnam War."
Then let me tell you who I am. More than thirty years ago, my reconnaissance squad managed to sneak dozens of kilometers behind Vietnamese lines and capture a hydroelectric station under heavy guard. We prevented the Vietnamese plan to demolish the dam with explosives, which would have flooded the attack route for our army. That's who I am. I defeated an enemy who once defeated you."
"That's enough!" General Chang slammed the table. "Don't bring up irrelevant matters. If you have a plan, say what it is."
"I don't think we need to waste time on this policeman." Colonel Stanton said contemptuously, as he lit his cigar.
Without waiting for a translation, Da Shi jumped up. "'Pao-Li-Si'—I heard that word twice. What? You look down on the police? If you're talking about dropping some bombs and turning that ship into smithereens, yeah, you military are the experts. But if you're talking about retrieving something out of it without damage, I don't care how many stars are on your shoulder, you aren't even as good as a thief. For this kind of thing, you have to think outside the box. OUT. OF. THE. BOX! You will never be as good at it as criminals, masters of out-of-the-box thinking.
"You know how good they are? I once handled a robbery where the criminals managed to steal one car out of a moving train. They reconnected the cars before and after the one they were interested in so that the train got all the way to its destination without anyone noticing. The only tools they used were a length of wire cable and a few steel hooks. Those are the real special ops experts. And someone like me, a criminal cop who has been playing cat and mouse with them for more than a decade, has received the best education and training from them."
"Tell us your plan, then," General Chang said. "Otherwise, shut up!" "There are so many important people here that I didn't think it was my place to speak. And I was afraid that you, General, would say I was being rude again."
"You're already the definition of rudeness. Enough! Tell me what your out-of-the-box plan is."
Da Shi picked up a pen and drew two parallel curves on the table. "That's the canal." He put the ashtray between the two lines. "This is judgment Day" Then he reached across the table and pulled Colonel Stanton's just-lit cigar out of his mouth.
"I can no longer tolerate this idiot!" the colonel shouted, standing up.
"Da Shi, get out of here!" General Chang said.
"Give me one minute. I'll be done soon." Da Shi extended a hand in front of Colonel Stanton.
"What do you want?" the colonel asked, puzzled.
"Give me another one."
Stanton hesitated for a second before taking another cigar out of a beautiful wooden box and handing it to Da Shi. Da Shi took the smoking end of the first cigar and pressed it against the table so that it stood on the shore of the Panama Canal that he'd drawn on the table. He flattened the end of the other cigar and erected it on the other shore of the canal.
"We set up two pillars on the shores of the canal, and then between them we string many parallel, thin filaments, about half a meter apart. The filaments should be made from the nanomaterial called 'Flying Blade,' developed by Professor Wang. A very appropriate name, in this case."
After Shi Qiang finished speaking, he stood and waited a few seconds. Then he raised his hands, said to the stunned crowd, "That's it," turned, and left.
The air seemed frozen. Everyone present stayed still like stone statues. Even the droning from the computers all around them seemed more careful.
After a long while, someone timidly broke the silence, "Professor Wang, is 'Flying Blade' really in the form of filaments?"
Wang nodded. "Given our current molecular construction technique, the only form we can make is a filament. The thickness is about one-hundredth the thickness of human hair... Officer Shi got this information from me before the meeting."
"Do you have enough material?"
"How wide is the canal? And how tall is the ship?"
"The narrowest point of the canal is one hundred fifty meters wide. judgment Day is thirty-one meters tall, with a draft of eight meters or so.
Wang stared at the cigars on the table and did some mental calculations. "I think I should have enough."
Another long silence. Everyone was trying to recover from their astonishment.
"What if the equipment storing Trisolaran data, such as hard drives and optical disks, is also sliced?"
"That doesn't seem likely."
"Even if they were sliced," a computer expert said, "it's not a big deal. The filaments are extremely sharp, and the cut surfaces would be very smooth. Given that premise, whether it's hard drives, optical disks, or integrated circuit storage, we could recover the vast majority of the data."
"Anyone got a Better idea?" Chang looked around the table. No one spoke. "All right. Then let's focus on this and work out the details." Colonel Stanton, who had been silent the whole time, stood up. "I will go and ask Officer Shi to come back."
General Chang indicated that he should remain seated. Then he I called out, "Da Shi!"
Da Shi returned, grinning at everyone. He picked up the cigars on the table. The one that had been lit he put into his mouth, and the other he stuffed into his pocket.
Someone asked, "When Judgment Day passes, can those two pillars bear the force applied against the Flying Blade filaments? Maybe the pillars would be sliced apart first."
Wang said, "That's easy to solve. We have some small amounts of Flying Blade material that are flat sheets. We can use them to protect the parts of the column where the filaments are attached."
The discussion after that was mainly between the naval officers and navigation experts.
"Judgment Day is at the upper limit in terms of tonnage that can pass through the Panama Canal. It has a deep draft, so we have to consider installing filaments below the waterline."
"That will be very difficult. If there's not enough time, I don't think we should worry about it. The parts of the ship below the waterline are used for engines, fuel, and ballast, causing a lot of noise, vibration, and interference. The conditions are too poor for computing centers and other similar facilities to be located there. But for the parts above water, a tighter nanofilament net will give better results."
"Then it's best to set the trap at one of the locks along the canal. Judgment Day is built to Panamax specifications, just enough to fill the thirty-two-meter locks. Then we would only need to make the Flying Blade filaments thirty-two meters long. This will also make it easier to erect the pillars and string the filaments between them, especially for the underwater parts."
"No. The situation around the locks is too unpredictable. Also, a ship inside the lock must be pulled forward by four 'mules,' electric locomotives on rails. They move slowly, and the time inside the locks will also be when the crew is most alert. An attempt to slice through the ship during that time would most likely be discovered."
"What about the Bridge of the Americas, right outside the Miraflores Locks? The abutments at the two ends of the bridge can serve as the pillars for stringing the filaments."
"No. The distance between the abutments is too great. We don't have enough Flying Blade material."
"Then it's decided: The site of operation should be the narrowest point of the Gaillard Cut, a hundred and fifty meters across. Add in some slack for the pillars... let's call it a hundred seventy meters." Wang said, "If that's the plan, then the smallest distance between the filaments will be fifty centimeters. I don't have enough material for a tighter net."
"In other words, we have to make sure the ship crosses during the day," Da Shi said, blowing out another mouthful of smoke.
At night the crew will be sleeping, which means they'll all be lying down. Fifty centimeters between filaments leaves too much of a gap- But during the day, even if they're sitting or crouching, the distance is sufficient."
A few scattered laughs. The attendees, all under heavy stress, felt a bit of release tinged with the smell of blood.
"You're truly a demon," a female UN official said to Da Shi.
"Will innocent bystanders be hurt?" Wang asked, his voice trembling.
A naval officer replied, "When the ship goes through the locks, more than a dozen cable workers will come onboard, but they'll all get off after the ship passes. The Panama Canal pilot will have to accompany the ship the entire eighty-two kilometers, so the pilot will have to be sacrificed."
A CIA officer said, "And some of the crew aboard Judgment Day probably don't know the real purpose of the ship."
"Professor," General Chang said, "do not concern yourself with these thoughts. The information we need to obtain has to do with the very survival of human civilization. Someone else will make the call." As the meeting ended, Colonel Stanton pushed the beautiful cigar box in front of Shi Qiang. "Captain, the best Havana has to offer.
They're yours."
Four days later, Gaillard Cut, Panama Canal
Wang could not even tell that he was in a foreign country. He knew that to the west, not too far away, was beautiful Gatun Lake. To the east was the magnificent Bridge of the Americas and Panama City. But he had had no chance to see either of them.
Two days earlier, he had arrived by direct flight from China to Tocumen International Airport near Panama City and then rode a helicopter here. The sight before him was very common: The construction work under way to widen the canal caused the tropical forest on both slopes to be quite sparse, revealing large patches of yellow earth. The color felt familiar to Wang. The canal didn't seem very special, probably because it was so narrow here, but a hundred thousand people had dug out this part of the canal in the previous century, one hoe at a time.
Wang and Colonel Stanton sat on lounge chairs under an awning halfway up the slope. Both wore loose, colorful shirts, with their Panama hats tossed to the side, looking like two tourists.
Below, on each shore of the canal, a twenty-four-meter steel pillar lay flat against the ground, parallel to the shore. Fifty ultrastrong nano-filaments, each 160 meters long, were strung between the pillars. At the end on the eastern shore, every filament was connected to a length of regular steel wire. This was to give the filaments enough slack so that they could sink to the bottom of the canal, aided by attached weights. The setup permitted other ships safe passage. Luckily, traffic along the canal wasn't quite as busy as Wang had imagined. On average, only about forty large ships passed through each day.
The operation's code name was "Guzheng," based on the similarity between the structure and the ancient Chinese zither by that name. The slicing net of nanofilaments was thus called the "zither."
An hour earlier, Judgment Day had entered the Gaillard Cut from Gatun Lake.
Stanton asked Wang whether he had ever been to Panama before. Wang said no.
"I came here in 1989 the colonel said."
"Because of that war?"
"Yes, that was one of those wars that left me with no impression. I only remember being in front of the Vatican embassy as 'Nowhere to Run' by Martha and the Vandellas played for the holed-up Noriega. That was my idea, by the way."
In the canal below them, a pure white French cruise ship slowly sailed past. Several passengers in colorful clothing strolled leisurely on the green-carpeted deck.
"Second Observation Post reporting: There are no more ships in front of the target." Stanton's walkie-talkie squawked.
Stanton gave the order. "Raise the zither."
Several men wearing hard hats appeared on both shores, looking like maintenance workers. Wang stood up, but the colonel pulled him down. "Professor, don't worry. They know what to do." Wang watched as those on the eastern shore rapidly winched back the steel wires attached to the nanofilaments and secured the tightened nanofilaments to the pillar. Then, slowly, the two pillars were stood upright using their mechanical hinges. As a disguise, the pillars were decorated with some navigational markings and water depth indicators. The workers proceeded leisurely, as though they were simply carrying out their boring jobs. Wang gazed at the space between the pillars. There seemed to be nothing there, but the deadly zither was already in place.
"Target is four kilometers from the zither," the voice in the walkie- talkie said.
Stanton put the walkie-talkie down. He continued the conversation with Wang. "The second time I came to Panama was in 1999, to attend the ceremony for the handover of the canal to Panama. Oddly, by the time we got to the Authority's building, the Stars and Stripes were already gone. Supposedly the U.S. government had requested that the flag be lowered a day early to avoid the embarrassment of lowering the flag in front of a crowd... Back then, I thought I was witnessing history. But now that seems so insignificant."
"Target is three kilometers from the zither."
"Yes, insignificant," Wang mumbled. He wasn't listening to Stanton at all. The rest of the world had ceased to exist for him. All of his attention was focused on the spot where Judgment Day would appear. By now the sun that had risen over the Atlantic was falling toward the Pacific. The canal sparkled with golden light. Close by, the deadly zither stood quietly. The two steel pillars were dark and reflected no sunlight, looking even older than the canal that flowed between them.
"Target is two kilometers from the zither."
Stanton seemed to not have heard the voice from the walkie-talkie. He continued, "After learning that the alien fleet is coming toward the Earth, I've been suffering from amnesia. It's so strange. I can't recall many things from the past. I don't remember the details of the wars I experienced. Like I just said, those wars all seem so insignificant. After learning this truth, everyone becomes a new person spiritually, and sees the world anew. I've been thinking: Suppose two thousand years ago, or even earlier, humanity learned that an alien invasion fleet would arrive a few thousand years later. What would human civilization be like now? Professor, can you imagine it?"
"Ah, no ... Wang answered perfunctorily, his mind elsewhere. "Target is one point five kilometers from the zither."
"Professor, I think you will be the Gaillard of this new era. Were waiting for your new Panama Canal to be built. Indeed, the space elevator is a canal. Just as the Panama Canal connected two oceans, the space elevator will connect space with the Earth."
Wang knew that the colonel's babbling was meant to help him through this very difficult time. He was grateful, but it wasn't working. "Target is one kilometer from the zither."
Judgment Day appeared. In the light from the setting sun coming over the hills to the side, it was a dark silhouette against the golden waves of the canal. The sixty-thousand-ton ship was much larger than Wang had imagined. Its appearance was like another peak abruptly inserted among the hills. Even though Wang knew that the canal was capable of accommodating ships as large as seventy thousand tons, witnessing such a large ship in such a narrow waterway was a strange feeling. Given its immensity, the canal below seemed to no longer exist. The ship was a mountain gliding across solid earth. After he grew used to the sunlight, Wang saw that Judgment Days hull was pitch black, and the superstructure was painted pure white. The giant antenna was gone. They heard the roar from the ship's engines, accompanied by the churning sound of waves that had been generated by the round prow slapping against the shores of the canal.
As the distance between Judgment Day and the deadly zither closed, Wang's heart began to beat faster, and his breath became short. He had a desire to run away, but he felt so weak that he could no longer control his body. All at once, he was overwhelmed by a deep hatred for Shi Qiang. How could the bastard have come up with such an idea? Like that UN official said, he is a demon! But the feeling passed. He thought that if Da Shi were by his side, he would probably feel better. Colonel  Stanton had invited Shi Qiang to come, but General Chang refused to give permission because he said that Da Shi was needed where he was. Wang felt the colonels hand on his back.
"Professor, all this will pass."
Judgment Day was below them now, passing through the deadly zither. When its prow first contacted the plane between the two steel pillars, the space that seemed empty, Wang's scalp tightened. But nothing happened. The immense hull of the ship continued to slowly sail past the two steel pillars. When half the ship had passed, Wang began to doubt whether the nanofilaments between the steel pillars really existed.
But a small sign soon negated his doubt. He noticed a thin antenna located at the very top of the superstructure breaking at its base, and the antenna tumbling down.
Soon, there was a second sign indicating the presence of the nano-filaments, a sign that almost made Wang break down. Judgment Days wide deck was empty save for one man standing near the stern hosing down the ship's bollards. From his vantage point, Wang saw everything clearly. The moment that that section of the ship passed between the pillars, the hose broke into two pieces not too far from the man, and water spilled out. The man's body stiffened, and the nozzle tumbled from his hand. He remained standing for a few seconds, then fell. As his body contacted the deck, it came apart in two halves. The top half crawled through the expanding pool of blood, but had to use two arms that were bloody stumps. The hands had been cleanly sliced off.
After the stern of the ship went between the two pillars, Judgment Day continued to sail forward at the same speed, and everything seemed normal. But then Wang heard the sound of the engine shift into a strange whine, before turning into chaotic noise. It sounded like a wrench being thrown into the rotor of a large motor—no, many, many wrenches. He knew this was the result of the rotating parts of the engine having been cut. After a piercing, tearing sound, a hole appeared in the side of the stern of Judgment Day, made by a large metallic piece punching through the hull. A broken component flew out of the hole and fell into the water, causing a large column of water to shoot up. As it briefly flew past, Wang recognized it as a section of the engine crankshaft.
A thick column of smoke poured out of the hole. Judgment Day, which had been sailing along the right shore, now began to turn, dragging this smoky tail. Soon it crossed over the canal and smashed into the left shore. As Wang looked, the giant prow deformed as it collided into the slope, slicing open the hill like water, causing waves of earth to spill in all directions. At the same time, Judgment Day began to separate into more than forty slices, each slice half a meter thick. The slices near the top moved faster than the slices near the bottom, and the ship spread open like a deck of cards. As the forty-some metal slices moved past each other, the piercing noise was like countless giant fingernails scratching against glass.
By the time the intolerable noise ended, Judgment Day was spilled on the shore like a stack of plates carried by a stumbling waiter, the plates near the top having traveled the farthest. The slices looked as soft as cloth, and rapidly deformed into complicated shapes impossible to imagine as having once belonged to a ship.
Soldiers rushed toward the shore from the slope. Wang was surprised to find so many men hidden nearby. A fleet of helicopters arrived along the canal with their engines roaring; crossed the canal surface, which was now covered by an iridescent oil slick; hovered over the wreckage of Judgment Day; and began to drop large quantities of fire suppression foam and powder. Shortly, the fire in the wreckage was under control, and three other helicopters began to drop searchers into the wreckage with cables.
Colonel Stanton had already left. Wang picked up the binoculars he'd left on top of his hat. Overcoming his trembling hands, he observed Judgment Day. By this time, the wreckage was mostly covered by fire-extinguishing foam and powder, but the edges of some of the slices were left exposed. Wang saw the cut surfaces, smooth as mirrors.
They reflected the fiery red light of dusk perfectly. He also saw a deep red spot on the mirror surface. He wasn't sure if it was blood.
Three days later
INTERROGATOR: Do you understand Trisolaran civilization?
YE WENJIE: No. We received only very limited information. No one has real, detailed knowledge of Trisolaran civilization except Mike Evans and other core members of the Adventists who intercepted their messages.
INTERROGATOR: Then why do you have such hope for it, thinking that it can reform and perfect human society?
YE: If they can cross the distance between the stars to come to our world, their science must have developed to a very advanced stage. A society with such advanced science must also have more advanced moral standards.
INTERROGATOR: Do you think this conclusion you drew is scientific?
YE:. . .
INTERROGATOR: Let me presume to guess: Your father was deeply influenced by your grandfather's belief that only science could save China. And you were deeply influenced by your father.
YE: (sighing quietly) I don't know.
INTERROGATOR: We have already obtained all the Trisolaran messages intercepted by the Adventists.
YE: Oh . . . what happened to Evans?
INTERROGATOR: He died during the operation to capture Judgment Day. But the posture of his body pointed us to the computers holding copies of the Trisolaran messages. Thankfully, they were all encoded with the same self-interpreting code used by Red Coast.
YE: Was there a lot of data?
INTERROGATOR: Yes, about twenty-eight gigabytes.
YE: That's impossible. Interstellar communication is very inefficient. How can so much data have been transmitted? 
INTERROGATOR: We thought so at first, too. But things were not at all as we had imagined—not even in our boldest, most fantastic imaginations. How about this? Please read this section of the preliminary analysis of the captured data, and you can see the reality of the Trisolaran civilization, compared with your beautiful fantasies.
Chapter 31 Vocabulary Note
radioactive - dangerous because it contains radiation (a form of energy that can harm living things)
flour sack - a big cloth bag for holding flour (a powder that is used for making bread and cakes)
parity - the state of being equal, of having the equal right or power
cartridge clip - a container for bullets, loaded into an automatic weapon
reconnaissance - the military activity of sending soldiers and aircraft to find out about the enemy's forces
liaison - someone whose job is to talk to different departments or groups and to tell each of them about what the others are doing
concussion - a violent shaking movement, caused by the very loud sound of something such as an explosion
a sly smile - a smile that shows you know something secret
lieutenant - an officer with a low rank in military
turn something into smithereens - to destroy something by breaking it into very small pieces
filament - a very thin thread or wire
droning - the continuous low dull sound made by the computer
draft - the distance between the water line of a ship and the lowest part of its hull (= ship body), which is the minimum depth of water it requires in order to float
abutment - the part of a bridge at either end which touches the shores
hoe - a garden tool with a long handle, used for removing unwanted plants from the surface of the soil
awning - a sheet of material outside a shop or tent to keep off the sun or the rain
strung - the past tense of string (=to hang things in a line, usually high in the air)
Vatican - the independent state within Italy in the city of Rome
holed-up - to stay in a hole to hide
squawk - if a bird squawks, it makes a loud sharp angry sound
hinge - a piece of metal fastened to a door that allows it to swing open and shut
perfunctorily - quickly as people expect it
Gaillard - the engineer who designed Panama Canal 
babble - to speak quickly in a way that is difficult to understand
silhouette - a dark image or shape that you see against a light background
pitch black - as black as pitch (= a black sticky substance)
prow - the front part of a ship
churn - if water churns, it moves about violently
negate - to show that something is not true
stern - the back of a ship
bollard - a thick stone or metal post used for tying ships to when they are in port
stump - the short part of someone's leg or arm that remains after the rest of has been cut off
whine - if a machine whines, it makes a continuous high sound
crankshaft - a long piece of metal in a vehicle that is connected to the engine and helps to turn the wheels
iridescent - showing colors that seem to change in different lights
oil slick - an area of oil on the surface of water or on a road


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