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It is 1826 and distrust between Captain Jefferson and his Chinese trading partner leads to the theft of an unusual object desired by a Beijing astronomer. The loss of the object at sea, creates one of the most devastating natural disasters in the nineteenth century. Paul, who is a recently out-of-work physicist, joins a research team who specialise in looking for signs of primitive life in space. He teams up with Claire, a rather attractive biochemist, who has discovered bizarre characteristics in an extraterrestrial DNA sample. As they search for an explanation, they realise that they have stumbled on a far larger conundrum that leads them back to the events in the Japanese Pacific over one hundred and eighty years before. As they investigate further, their colleagues' and their own lives become more interesting and dangerous.