Mount Dragon: an enigmatic research complex hidden in the vast desert of New Mexico. Guy Carson and Susana Cabeza de Vaca have come to Mount Dragon to work shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest scientific minds on the planet. Led by visionary genius Brent Scopes, their secret goal is a medical breakthrough that promises to bring incalculable benefits to the human race. But while Scopes believes he is leading the way to a new world order, he may in fact be opening the door to mass human extinction. And when Guy and Susana attempt to stop him they find themselves locked in a frightening battle with Scopes, his henchmen, and the apocalyptic nightmare that science has unleashed . . . in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Mount Dragon.
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Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are the co-authors of the Pendergast series of thrillers, including such best-selling titles as Fever Dream, The Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, and Relic, which became a number one box office hit movie.
Douglas Preston's solo novels include the New York Times bestsellers Impact, Blasphemy, The Codex, and Tyrannosaur Canyon. His nonfiction book The Monster of Florence is being made into a film starring George Clooney. Preston is an expert long-distance horseman, a member of the elite Long Riders Guild, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He has travelled to remote parts of the world as an archaeological correspondent for The New Yorker. He also worked as an editor and writer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. Preston is the Co-president of International Thriller Writers, and serves on the Governing Council of the Authors Guild.
Lincoln Child is the author of Utopia, Death Match, Deep Storm, and Terminal Freeze. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Guy Carson, stuck at yet another traffic light, glanced at the clock on his dashboard. He was already late for work, second time this week. Ahead, U.S. Route 1 ran like a bad dream through Edison, New Jersey. The light turned green, but by the time he had edged up it was red again.
“Son of a bitch” he muttered, slamming the dashboard with the fat part of his palm. He watched as the rain splattered across the windshield, listened to the slap and whine of the wipers. The serried ranks of brake lights rippled back toward him as the traffic slowed yet again. He knew he’d never get used to this congestion any more than he’d get used to all the damn rain.
Creeping painfully over a rise, Carson could see, a mere half mile down the highway, the crisp white facade of the GeneDyne Edison complex, a postmodern masterpiece rising above green lawns and artificial ponds. Somewhere inside, Fred Peck lay in wait.
Carson turned on the radio, and the throbbing sound of the Gangsta Muthas filled the air. As he fiddled with the dial, Michael Jackson’s shrill voice separated itself from the static. Carson punched it off in disgust. Some things were even worse than the thought of Peck. Why couldn’t they have a decent country station in this hole?
* * *
The lab was bustling when he arrived, Peck nowhere in sight. Carson drew the lab coat over his lanky frame and sat down at his terminal, knowing his log-on time would automatically go into his personnel file. If by some miracle Peck was out sick, he’d be sure to notice when he came in. Unless he had died, of course. Now, that was something to think about. The man did look like a walking heart attack.
“Ah, Mr. Carson,” came the mocking voice behind him. “How kind of you to grace us with your presence this morning.” Carson closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then turned around.
The soft form of his supervisor was haloed by the fluorescent light. Peck’s brown tie still bore testament to that morning’s scrambled eggs, and his generous jowls were mottled with razor burn. Carson exhaled through his nose, fighting a losing battle with the heavy aroma of Old Spice.
It had been a shock on Carson’s first day at GeneDyne, one of the world’s premier biotechnology companies, to find a man like Fred Peck there waiting for him. In the eighteen months since, Peck had gone out of his way to keep Carson busy with menial lab work. Carson guessed it had something to do with Peck’s lowly M.S. from Syracuse University and his own Ph.D. from MIT. Or maybe Peck just didn’t like Southwestern hicks.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said with what he hoped would pass for sincerity. “Got caught in traffic.”
“Traffic,” said Peck, as if the word was new to him.
“Yes,” said Carson, “they’ve been rerouting—”
“Reroutin’,” Peck repeated, imitating Carson’s Western twang.
“—detouring, I mean, the traffic from the Jersey Turn-pike—”
“Ah, the Turnpike,” Peck said.
Carson fell silent.
Peck cleared his throat. “traffic in New Jersey at rush hour. What an unexpected shock it must have been for you, Carson.” He crossed his arms. “You almost missed your meeting.”
“Meeting?” Carson said. “What meeting? I didn’t know—”
“Of course you didn’t know. I just heard about it myself. That’s one of the many reasons you have to be here on time, Carson.”
“Yes, Mr. Peck,” Carson said, getting up and following Peck past a maze of identical cubicles. Mr. Fred Peckerwood. Sir Frederick Peckerfat. He was itching to deck the oily bastard. But that wasn’t the way they did business around here. If Peck had been a ranch boss, the man would’ve been on his ass in the dirt long ago.
Peck opened a door marked videoconferencing room ii and waved Carson inside. It was only as Carson looked around the large, empty table within that he realized he was still wearing his filthy lab coat.
“Take a seat,” Peck said.
“Where is everybody?” Carson asked.
“It’s just you,” Peck replied. He started to back out the door.
“You’re not staying?” Carson felt a rising uncertainty, wondering if he’d missed an important piece of e-mail, if he should have prepared something. “What’s this about, anyway?”
“I have no idea,” Peck replied. “Carson, when you’re finished here, come straight down to my office. We need to talk about your attitude.”
The door shut with the solid click of oak engaging steel. Carson gingerly took a seat at the cherrywood table and looked around. It was a beautiful room, finished in hand-rubbed blond wood. A wall of windows looked out over the meadows and ponds of the GeneDyne complex. Beyond lay endless urban waste. Carson tried to compose himself for whatever ordeal was coming. Probably Peck had sent in enough negative ratings on him to merit a stem lecture from personnel, or worse.
In a way, he supposed, Peck was right his attitude could certainly be improved. He had to rid himself of the stubborn bad-ass outlook that did in his father. Carson would never forget that day on the ranch when his father sucker-punched a banker. That incident had been the start of the foreclosure proceedings. His father had been his own worst enemy, and Carson was determined not to repeat his mistakes. There were a lot of Pecks in the world.
But it was a goddamn shame, the way the last year and a half of his life had been flushed virtually down the toilet. When he was first offered the job at GeneDyne, it had seemed the pivotal moment of his life, the one thing he’d left home and worked so hard for. And still, more than anything, GeneDyne stood out as one place where he could really make a difference, maybe do something important. But each day that he woke up in hateful Jersey—to the cramped, unfamiliar apartment, the gray industrial sky, and Peck—it seemed less and less likely.
The lights of the conference room dimmed and went out. Window shades were automatically drawn, and a large panel slid back from the wall, revealing a bank of keyboards and a large video-projection screen.
The screen flickered on, and a face swam into focus. Carson froze. There they were: the jug ears, the sandy hair, the unrepentant cowlick, the thick glasses, the trademark black T-shirt, the sleepy, cynical expression. All the features that together made up the face of Brentwood Scopes, founder of GeneDyne. The Timeissue with the cover article on Scopes still lay next to Carson’s living-room couch. The CEO who ruled his company from cyberspace. Lionized on Wall Street, worshipped by his employees, feared by his rivals. What was this, some kind of motivational film for hard cases?
“Hi,” said the image of Scopes. “How’re you doing, Guy?”
For a moment Carson was speechless. Jesus, he thought, this isn’t a film at all. “Uh, hello, Mr. Scopes. Sir. Fine. Sorry, I’m not really dressed—”
“Please call me Brent. And face the screen when you talk. I can see you better that way.”
“Not sir. Brent.”
“Right. Thanks, Brent.” Just calling the supreme leader of GeneDyne by his first name was painfully difficult.
“I like to think of my employees as colleagues,” Scopes said. “After all, when you joined the company, you became a principal in the business, like everyone else. You own stock in this company, which means we all rise and fall together.”
“Yes, Brent.” In the background, behind the image of Scopes, Carson could make out the dim outlines of what looked like a massive, many-sided vault.
Scopes smiled, as if unashamedly pleased at the sound of his name, and as he smiled it seemed to Carson that he looked almost like a teenager, despite being thirty-nine. He watched Scopes’s image with a growing sense of unreality. Why would Scopes, the boy genius, the man who built a four-billion-dollar company out of a few kernels of ancient corn, want to talk to him? Shit, I must have screwed up worse than I thought.
Scopes glanced down for a moment, and Carson could hear the tapping of keys. “I’ve been looking into your background, Guy,” he said. “Very impressive. I can see why we hired you.” More tapping. “Although I can’t quite understand why you’re working as, let’s see, a Lab Technician Three.”
Scopes looked up again. “Guy, you’ll forgive me if I get right to the point. There’s an important post in this company that’s currently vacant. 1 think you’re the person for it.”
“What is it?” Carson blurted, instantly regretting his own excitement.
Scopes smiled again. “I wish I could give you specifics, but it’s a highly confidential project. I’m sure you’ll understand if 1 only describe the assignment in general terms.”
“Do I look like a ‘sir’ to you, Guy? It wasn’t so long ago that I was just the nerdy kid being picked on in the schoolyard. What I cantell you is that this assignment involves the most important product GeneDyne has ever produced. One that will be of incalculable value to the human race.”
Scopes saw the look on Carson’s face and grinned. “It’s great,” he said, “when you can help people and get rich at the same time.” He brought his face closer to the camera. “What we’re offering you is a six-month reassignment to the GeneDyne Remote Desert Testing Facility. The Mount Dragon laboratory. You’ll be working w...
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