"The most destructive natural disaster in history isn't "natural...."THE PLACE Antarctica. The Ross Ice Shelf. A floating slab of solid ice the size of France, more than 3,000 feet thick.THE EVENTOn Thanksgiving weekend, six precisely placed nuclear warheads buried 2,000 feet beneath the ice detonate in sequence, shearing the Ross Shelf from the underwater rises that anchor it.The nuclear shock wave drives the shelf into the Pacific at 500 miles per hour, creating an initial wall of water 1,400 feel high. Unseen, unsuspected, unstoppable, the displacement wave formed by the wall's collapse radiates northward. In thirty-five hours, it will lay waste to Hawaii. In thirty-eight hours, the southeastern regions of Japan will become little more than swampland. And in forty hours, the entire Los Angeles Basin will be flooded to a depth of twenty feet. By then, the death toll will be measured in the millions.Set against a split-second race to prevent global devastation, and based on the astounding cutting-edge technologies that will take the U.S. military into the next century, "Icefire" is the story of Navy SEAL Captain Mitch Webber and oceanographer Cory Rey. Once lovers, now enemies, they're plunged into a maelstrom of international intrigue and betrayal reaching from Beijing to the highest levels of the Pentagon.Critically acclaimed for their earlier works of speculative fiction and suspense, with "Icefire" Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens have become an exciting new voice in contemporary thrillers.
Die Inhaltsangabe kann sich auf eine andere Ausgabe dieses Titels beziehen.
Chapter One: The Ice
Three minutes from Gentle Two Five's point of no return, Antarctica disappeared.
With it also vanished any chance for Operation SHADOW FORGE to succeed. Only once before in his naval career had Mitch Webber faced certain failure at such an extreme level. And, as before, he refused to accept it.
The high-visibility-orange UH-1N Iroquois carrying Webber and four others thundered through the frigid air above the Ross Ice Shelf. The large 25 painted on the twin-engine helicopter's fuselage gave its call number. The call-sign prefix "Gentle" hadn't been heard in Antarctica for years, not since the U.S. Naval aviation unit, Development Squadron 6, had transferred its peacetime support mission to the New York Air National Guard 109th Air Wing. But this was no longer peacetime, and the Navy had returned to the Ice.
As of 1715 Global Positioning Satellite time, Gentle Two Five was 800 miles from the South Pole, 3,000 miles from Christchurch, New Zealand, and 500 feet above nothing. The wind-smeared, early-summer blizzard of loose snow and ice dust below shrouded all detail of what lay beneath. Three hundred feet above Gentle Two Five, the disorienting visual effect was repeated in clouds so violently churned by gale-force winds they had become little more than a featureless gray haze. Only the eastern horizon showed variation. There, an unnaturally thin and precise crease of almost painfully blue sky confirmed that at least a division between up and down still existed. But only the artificial horizon on the aircraft's instrument console could distinguish which of the two surfaces was above, and which below, as if when the seventh continent had vanished, it had taken the rest of the world with it.
Mitch Webber had flown helicopters through worse -- over the Iraqi desert, the Colombian rain forest; he'd even dodged through the office towers of San Francisco. But unlike those other active Forge alerts, this time no one fired up at him.
He was a fifteen-year veteran of the Navy, and if he had to sum up his recent career in one word, it would be thief -- government-approved and sanctioned. Until he'd received the invitation from NAVSPECWARCOM -- Naval Special Warfare Command -- to join a new Development Unit, he had been a flight engineer and pilot by education and default. That invitation transformed him into a Special Operations SEAL by choice and determination. Now he was one of a handful of uniquely trained specialists on detached service to an intentionally low-key civilian agency -- the otherwise nondescript Department of Energy. Webber's new uniform consisted of a briefcase, a tie, and an office cubicle in Arlington, Virginia. Except during a Forge operation. Then Webber was Team Leader, Nuclear Emergency Search Team One, and his uniform was combat gear.
He stood in the center of the helicopter's cabin, one hand loosely twisted in a cargo net stowed overhead, easily keeping his footing as the deck bucked in the random buffeting of the winds. The helo's pair of 1,290-hp Pratt & Whitney twin turboshaft engines shook off the assault of the Antarctic storm as easily as Webber did. The craft was the offspring of the venerable UH-1H, the "Huey" of Vietnam, but it was generations more advanced than its war-fighting ancestor. With the redundant safety factor of two engines, auxiliary fuel tanks, GPS navigation, and Doppler ranging, the Iroquois, Bell Helicopter Model 212, ruled the Ice as easily as the first Hueys had ruled the Asian jungles.
On almost any other mission before joining the DOE, Webber might have been in the pilot's seat himself, taking control of his own life and safety, and those of his team. But his NEST function on a Forge alert, like that of Lieutenant "Ox" Bregoli behind him, near the starboard window, was defined by the clothing he wore. The pilot, the copilot, and NEST One's weapons specialist were dressed in bulky and colorful Extreme Cold Weather gear -- the pilots in flight green, the engineer in red. Even their flight helmets were painted with Day-Glo orange panels. All three were dressed for survival on the Ice.
But Webber and Bregoli wore the white parka and leggings of PolarOps camouflage, their name badges, rank insignia, and the flags on their shoulders concealed by Velcro-secured white Goretex panels. In polar camouflage gear, even the massively built Bregoli would be unseen against ice and snow. Unlike the pilots and the engineer, Webber and Bregoli were dressed for combat -- on a continent in which weapons were outlawed and there was nothing to fight over.
"Captain Webber. Coming up on final grid position." The pilot's voice crackled in Webber's helmet speaker, for a moment drowning out the hollow roar that filled the helicopter's cabin. Webber peered ahead, past the pilot and copilot, just able to look down through the lower nose windows at the gray haze streaming below at 120 miles an hour. He knew the Antarctic storm layer was no more than ten feet thick, yet it was opaque enough to completely obscure the startling flat expanse beneath them. It was, however, no barrier to the helo's radar. The pale amber glow of the radar display clearly revealed the Ross Ice Shelf, solid and eternal, beneath its stormy shroud.
Webber glanced back at his team's weapons specialist strapped into the unpadded, fold-down jump seat on the aft bulkhead. He was Hadrian Gowers, forty-something, overweight, uncomfortable, and one of the most important members of NEST One. Awkwardly balanced on the engineer's lap was a NEC Gladiator laptop computer, built to Department of Defense specifications for combat applications. The almost indestructible laptop was housed in a magnesium case, its hard drive encapsulated by a gelatin sleeve. Through the Iroquois's wiring harness, Gowers's deceptively compact computer was directly connected to the BO-105 gamma detector pod bolted onto the helo's starboard strut, and to the matching neutron detector on the port strut. Almost comical in his ECW gear, Gowers swayed back and forth in his seat as the headwinds struck the helo. He wasn't smiling. Unused to the rough ride, the weapons specialist had vomited twice in the past hour. But he was still the DOE's ranking expert on nuclear-trigger mechanisms, improvised or manufactured. If what the Defense Intelligence Agency feared was on the Ice was really there, Webber knew that Gowers was the man to have on the mission that found it, no matter how much the pudgy civilian hated fieldwork.
Webber pressed his fingers to his throat mike. "Gowers -- status."
"No gamma detections," the engineer said. Webber knew that much. He waited for him to continue. "Not even random background fluctuations. It might be an equipment fault."
Lieutenant Bregoli shifted on his makeshift seat of bright yellow carryall bags -- emergency shelter and food supplies, a necessity on any polar flight. "We're flying over shelf ice," he shouted back at Gowers. Bregoli kept his balance by bracing himself with the white-painted stock of his CAR-15. In his huge gloved hands, the already compact rifle looked childishly small.
Webber understood his lieutenant's assessment of the situation. On any military mission, knowing the terrain was essential. Directly below them was the Ross Ice Shelf, a single, solid sheet of ice, thirty percent of Antarctica's total shelf ice, roughly the same surface area as France -- 210,000 square miles. Directly under the Shelf was the Ross Sea. The thickness of the Shelf ranged from 600 feet at sea's edge to more than 2,000 feet hundreds of miles closer to land. Shelf ice meant there were no rocks or stony strata to provide the minor gamma sources that might naturally occur in ordinary terrain.
Gowers was clearly annoyed with Bregoli, impatient with Webber, much more tired than three hours in a helicopter should have made him. "I know," he said. "But even in a completely clean environment, we should be picking up random noise, spurious signals. Something. There's nothing."
Webber knew about spurious signals. The still-classified 1995 RAINBOW FORGE alert in San Francisco, in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency had come within three minutes of activating the Emergency Broadcast System and ordering an evacuation of the city, had bogged down precisely because of spurious signals. The coastal city contained hundreds of benign radiation sources, from hospital storerooms of medical isotopes, to university physics labs, engineering firms, mineralogical collections, and even fresh asphalt used for road repairs. NEST's desperate race to detect an IND -- Improvised Nuclear Device -- against that background clutter of legitimate point sources had been a nightmare of logistics.
In a jagged white lightning bolt down the left side of his chest, Webber still bore the scar from the last-minute, desperate shootout on the rooftop helicopter pad of the Bank of America building where the device had been recovered. One lucky round had struck him from behind, penetrating his left triceps, then angled inward to hit his ceramic body armor from the inside. Ricocheting down his ribs, the bullet had halted just above his belt, where it had burned an inch-deep hole in his flesh. He had remained unaware of his wound until three mercenaries lay dead beside a tied-down executive helicopter. Hadrian Gowers had been there to defuse the device -- a lethally simple chemical bomb employing fifty pounds of homemade TNT and a wax-sealed Gatorade bottle filled with just over one pound of powdered plutonium that had been catalogued as "misdirected" more than two years earlier in Japan. The explosion would not have been nuclear, but the resultant spread of the toxic, radioactive metal would have given cancer to 400,000 civilians over the next ten years and rendered parts of San Francisco and Oakland uninhabitable for more than a century.
But at least during RAINBOW FORGE, NEST had known what the perpetrators had wanted, and that intelligence had enabled NEST operatives, working with the DOD's Joint Special Operations Forces, to anticipate the timing and the location of the threatened detonation.
NEST and Webber did not have the advantage of such knowledge now. Nor even any strong theories. The mission-background assessments Webber had been given when he and his team had arrived at McMurdo Station one week ago, only told him that as of November 15 the total population of Antarctica was less than three thousand, spread among sixty-six scientific and meteorological stations operated by fourteen different countries. There were no official national boundaries in Antarctica, no natural resources that could be exploited with currently available technology, and no clear reason why anyone would want to smuggle nuclear weapons to the continent.
But a twelve-month-long joint investigation by the Departments of Energy and justice, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Special Operations Command had concluded, strongly, that someone had or was smuggling one or more of those weapons onto the Ice. It was Mitch Webber's mission to find those weapons, no matter how unlikely or illogical their presence.
The helo abruptly dropped ten feet in a downdraft. If there had been anything left in Gowers's stomach, the weapons specialist would have vomited again. Instead, he just moaned.
"What about neutron hits?" Webber asked.
Gowers's voice was uneven but determined. "Normal readings across the board."
Webber automatically consulted the operational flowchart he had constructed in his mind. With its inboard auxiliary tanks, the helo had just enough fuel to complete one more search grid on its way back to McMurdo, one hundred miles away, northwest. Was the possible malfunction of the helo's gamma detector reason enough to cancel that last grid?
Webber considered his options. It was unlikely the gamma detector had been tampered with. Who would do that without also sabotaging the matching neutron detector? Perhaps not in a city, but here on the Ice, where any radiation source should stand out like a flare at midnight, Webber reckoned the neutron pod would provide minimal, but acceptable, support for the mission.
Then again, minimal but acceptable took on a different meaning measured against the devastation of a nuclear explosion.
But devastation of what? Webber asked himself.
Then he saw the punctuated flash of a red running light, circling five miles ahead. Typical, Webber thought with a flash of irritation. "Patch me through," he told the pilot, and the helo banked toward the light.
"Gentle Three Zero," the pilot intoned, "this is Gentle Two Five. Over."
The pilot of the distant, second helicopter, already on station at the rendezvous coordinates, responded at once. She was followed by another, more familiar voice, rising and falling in the frequency distortion common to Antarctic radio communications. "Look who's last at the party again. What did you bring me? Over."
Webber noted Bregoli's start of surprise at hearing his commander addressed so informally. But Webber forced a smile. It was either that or admit he'd been outmaneuvered. Once again, Nick Young had reached the objective before him.
"NEST Two, this is NEST One," Webber replied. "What is your fuel status? Over."
"I'm at a big seven five zero pounds," Young radioed back. By now, Webber's helo had come within a quarter mile of Young's, and the two orange craft circled each other like belligerent dragonflies deciding whether they should engage in battle or go their separate ways. The columnar holes their downdrafts punched through the storm layer reached down to the ice, not directly beneath them, but almost 200 yards due west, attesting to the strength of the wind. "Plenty for one more grid on retrograde," Young continued. "Over."
Webber leaned forward between the pilot and copilot to check his own fuel status. Six hundred and seventy pounds. Even in the confusion of an Antarctic storm, Young had been able to find a tailwind to exploit. "Copy that," he said, suppressing any outward sign of emotional response to Young's challenge. A Forge alert was not the time to indulge in their usual sparring. "How are your detectors functioning? Over."
Young's response was not immediate. Apparently he had to confer with Glendon Morris, the DOE weapons specialist assigned to NEST Two.
"Glen says the neutron counter's nominal. But she's getting no background on the gamma. She thinks there might be a fault. Over."
Webber doubted both his and Young's gamma detectors could develop the same fault at the same time. If two gamma detectors on two different aircraft were reporting similar readings, or lack of readings, Webber was inclined to look for an exterior and natural cause. The Antarctic radio-spectrum environment was subject to a myriad violent electromagnetic events. A minor solar flare that might have no measurable effect on the rest of the planet could result in a Polar-Cap Absorption event, heavily ionizing the polar ionosphere and causing complete blackouts of HF and VHF communications. In addition to PCAs, disappearing solar filaments, coronal mass ejections, and coronal holes could all create geomagnetic storms with varying and unpredictable effects over the entire frequency spectrum.
"NEST Two," Webber transmitted, "are you goo...From Kirkus Reviews:
Absorbing disaster novel that offers everything but asteroid impact and superblooming viruses, by the Canadian authors of Nighteyes (1989) andthe publisher tells us--William Shatners Star Trek novels (sorry, Bill). As in earlier Reeves-Stevens fiction, Clancyitis causes the characters to petrify under hardware description that amplifies oscillations until seismic fault lines fissure with ambient stress the solid-strata prose, while paragraphs burst like rock assaulted by shock-waves of subsonic horror. In other words, when some Chinese army generals decide to overthrow the current government and revert to even more hardline ways, they choose to plant a half-dozen nuclear bombs under the Antarctic permafrostand then explode them to raise a gigantic wave that will roll up the Pacific at 500 miles an hour, knocking out New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan, and the American West Coast (as well as other places), while during the global turmoil, the generals take over China. Among those who might save some of the world in this scenario are Navy SEAL Captain Mitch Weber and his former lover, oceanographer Corry Rey--except that theyre now at each other's throats (a plot device similar to James Camerons in Abyss, which featured snarling ex-marrieds battling several gigantic tsunamis). The authors have a ripping good time measuring the hydraulics of ocean water being sucked up into the monstrous wave, the cyclonic, tree-popping wind, extraordinary airborne debris, and Hawaii dissolving into one large volcanic soup, while the wave also scoops up oilfields that sparks set afire. . . turning the San Diegobound wave into ICEFIRE! Can it be stopped? Weber and Rey come up with an idea for dropping the ocean floor, but various world intrigues work against them. The Reeves-Stevenses feel duty-bound to present every thrilling ergometric fraction of their maelstrom--and that's okay for folks who can hack such projectile detail. Meanwhile, the publisher, arming its publicity missiles, says the movie is due in 1998 or 1999, with its basic plastic humans fighting a gale-force soundtrack. (First printing of 75,000; author tour) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
„Über diesen Titel“ kann sich auf eine andere Ausgabe dieses Titels beziehen.
Buchbeschreibung Pocket, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Buchzustand: Very Good. 067101403X Used book. Very good, some creasing. Quality, Value, Experience. Media Shipped in New Boxes. Artikel-Nr. BING7341600
Buchbeschreibung Pocket, US, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Buchzustand: Very Good. 067101403X Very good. Some creasing. Quality, Value, Experience. Media Shipped in New Boxes. Artikel-Nr. LOWER1KR605