We construct an asymptotic representation for the solution $u(x,t)$ of a singularly-perturbed linear fifth-order evolution equation which accounts for the relevant exponentially-small terms in all regions of the complex $x$ plane. The particular equation that we study is chosen in part to highlight the complexities that arise in high-order examples, resulting in particular from the non-existence of a suitable (steady-state) heteroclinic connection. Key points of this calculation are the identification, location and evolution of the active (in the sense that non-zero, though exponentially-small, terms are switched on across them) Stokes lines, and of the higher-order Stokes lines across which these can be activated or inactivated. In doing so, we need in particular to analyse two ‘levels’ of higher-order Stokes lines and to present the associated mechanisms by which they can themselves be activated or inactivated. By piecing together the information concerning which Stokes lines (both ordinary and higher-order) are active, we are able to deduce systematically which of the competing exponentials that can potentially arise within the asymptotic solution are actually present in each region of the complex plane.
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