Arctic Gold (Deep Black Series #7)by Stephen Coonts
OUT OF THE COLD In the Arctic, two American intelligence operatives are kidnapped while investigating Russian submarines—a constant, covert presence beneath the ice caps. In Washington, ex-Marine Charlie Dean and his team at Desk Three trace the abduction back to the Russian mafiya, who have their sights set on the massive reserves of oil that lie thousands of feet below the ocean’s floor.
INTO THE LINE OF FIRE While Dean is sent to the Arctic to rescue the hostages, the beautiful Lia DeFrancesca penetrates a heavily guarded dacha on the shores of the Black Sea. Here she learns the explosive truth about Russia and its Arctic oil—one that could cost Dean and his Deep Black team their lives…and drive the world’s superpowers to the brink of war.
“Coonts knows how to write and build suspense. . . a natural storyteller.” — The New York Times Book Review
“The master of the techno-thriller.” — Publishers Weekly
“Coonts knows how to write and build suspense. . . a natural storyteller.” The New York Times Book Review
“The master of the techno-thriller.” Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
Stephen Coonts' Deep Black: Arctic Gold
By Stephen Coonts, William H. Keith
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Stephen P. Coonts and Deborah B. Coonts
All rights reserved.
British Airways Flight 2112
JFK International Airport
1015 hours EDT
"SO, DOC, IS IT TRUE WHAT THEY SAY?" Kjartan Magnor-Karr said with a breezy insouciance as the two men strode down the boarding tunnel. "About you and Big Oil, I mean?"
Dr. Earnest Spencer scowled. "Young man, I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about."
"This solar theory thing of yours," Karr said. They reached the entryway of the British Airways 747 and he grinned and winked at the welcoming flight attendant.
"Welcome aboard, sir," she said. She had the most gloriously pale blond hair. "May I see —"
Instead of his ticket, he flashed an ID at her, together with his special clearance. The ID, of course, was a fake. Despite what it said, he was not a special agent of the FBI, though the lie, the legend, as it was known in intelligence circles, occasionally was a useful fiction. Everyone had heard of the FBI; very few even knew there was such an organization as the National Security Agency. The clearance was real enough, however. It gave Karr permission to carry a firearm on the flight.
"Thank you, sir," she said. "I'll inform the captain."
"You do that, sweetheart," Karr told her.
He and Spencer filed aft and found their seats, located toward the rear of first class. For a few moments, the two men were preoccupied with putting their carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment and getting themselves settled in. Spencer had the window seat, Karr the aisle. As planned.
Spencer appeared ready to ignore the topic Karr had just raised, but the younger man persisted. "Aw, c'mon, you know, Doc. Everyone says the oil companies pay you to tell everybody that global warming is nonsense."
"Young man ...," Spencer began.
"Call me Tommy. All my friends do."
Spencer frowned at him in a way suggesting that he most assuredly did not consider Karr to be a friend. "Young man," he repeated. "If the oil companies were paying me, perhaps I could afford to buy their product. Secondly, global warming is not nonsense. It is real. All too real. My solar model simply demonstrates that human activities have little effect on the world's climate."
"Sure," Karr agreed. "So people can drive gas-guzzling SUVs all they want and not melt the ice caps, right?"
"Tell me," Spencer said, glaring at him over the top of his glasses. "Are allFBI agents as irritating as you?"
But Spencer had produced a copy of American Scientist he'd purchased at a kiosk inside the JFK terminal, and made a production of opening it and beginning to read.
"Jeez, Tommy!" a voice boomed inside his head. "Lay off the poor guy, how 'bout it?"
Karr chuckled in answer but didn't say anything out loud. Spencer glanced at him suspiciously, then returned to his magazine. Like all Deep Black field operatives, Karr had a minute speaker surgically implanted in his skull just behind his left ear, and he also had a microphone sewn into the collar of his pastel blue shirt. The transmitter hidden inside his belt linked him via satellite with the Deep Black nerve center deep beneath Fort Meade, Maryland, the Deep Black command center within OPS 2 known as the Art Room, to be precise.
"Everything look okay at your end?" the voice continued.
Karr glanced around the first-class cabin. Three other men in plain, dark suits had taken their seats, along with the other first-class passengers. FBI, all three of them, though all were taking care not to meet one another's eyes. The economy-class passengers were filing past, now. The agents surreptitiously watched each as he or she entered the plane and walked down the aisle.
"Mm-mm," Karr grunted the affirmative. It wouldn't do to have Spencer or the other passengers hearing him talk to himself.
"I'll take that as a 'yes,'" the voice said. The speaker was Jeff Rockman.
The last of the passengers, a frazzled-looking woman with two small and screaming children, herded her charges past Karr and into the aft section of the plane. The attractive blond flight attendant Karr had flirted with stood at the front, preparing to go into her spiel about oxygen masks and flotation cushions. She began with the usual admonition to turn off all electronic devices during the takeoff portion of the flight.
"Okay, we're gonna sign off for a while," Rockman told him. "Wouldn't do to get in trouble with the FAA."
"And for the love of God, stop annoying Doc Spencer! He's not the enemy!"
Karr didn't reply, of course, but the statement brought a renewal of recurring questions. Just who was the enemy? Why would anyone want to kill Earnest Spencer and, perhaps more to the point, why was the threat serious enough that the NSA and Desk Three were involved? It was a waste of time, money, and vital personnel assets, having him here, pretending to be an FBI agent while babysitting an Ivy League professor type from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Well, at least he was off the Art Room's radar for a precious few moments. Aircraft navigation systems could be thrown off by signals from a field op's comm unit, hence the injunction to turn off all electronic gear during takeoff and landing. If anyone was going to try something stupid, this would be the time to try it, with the Art Room effectively out of the picture.
But save for the somewhat too-obvious watchfulness of the FBI guys, everyone in first class appeared to be acting with complete indifference both to him and to Spencer.
Karr caught the pretty attendant's glance as she chattered on into her microphone about wing exits and emergency landings, and winked.
He wondered if he would be able to get a phone number from her before they reached London.
Waterfront, St. Petersburg
Lia DeFrancesca took a moment to run the palm-sized lock scanner along the entire perimeter of the door and around the lock itself, its powerful magnetic field probing for wiring or other signs of hidden electronic devices. The digital readout remained unchanging, indicating the presence of iron and steel but not of electric currents.
Slipping the scanner into a thigh pocket in her black field ops suit, she produced a set of lock picks and began to work at the ancient padlock securing the door's hasp.
"Hurry; hurry," her partner whispered with fierce urgency. "If we're found ..."
"Patience, Sergei," she replied. "We don't want to rush this."
She was having more trouble with the rust than with the padlock's mechanism. With a click, the lock snapped open, and she pulled it off the hasp.
A foghorn mourned in the damp night air. The warehouse loomed above the waterfront, overlooking Kozhevennaya Liniya to one side, the oily black waters of the southern mouth of the Lena River on the other. A chill and dripping fog shrouded their surroundings, muffling sound. Carefully she edged the sliding door open, but stopped after moving it only a couple of inches.
"What is it?" her companion asked. "What's wrong?"
She didn't answer immediately, but pocketing the lock tools, she pulled out a cell phone and a length of flexible tubing, as thick as a soda straw. One end of the tubing attached to the cell phone; the other she inserted into the partly opened door to the warehouse, turning the fiber-optic cable this way and that to let her peer around the corners. On the phone's screen, an image painted in blacks, greens, and yellows shifted and slid with the movements of her hand, giving her an infrared image of what lay beyond the door. She saw large open spaces ... piles of crates ... a trash can near the door ... discarded junk ... but no glow from warm-blooded humans lying in wait.
"Okay," Lia said at last. "It's clear."
Sergei Alekseev rolled the door far enough aside that they could enter. He was scared. Lia could almost smell his fear, could feel it in the way he stared and started at shadows, the way he moved, hunched over and rigid. Replacing the IR viewer, on the ground beside the door she placed a motion sensor, like several dozen button-sized devices she'd already dropped around the area. Only then did she extract a small flashlight and switch it on. "Which way?"
"Over here," Alekseev said, pointing. "I think."
"You'd better know."
"Da. This way."
Before moving deeper into the darkness, Lia tried her communicator again. "Verona," she said aloud. "This is Juliet."
A burst of static sounded in her ear, loud enough to make her wince. She thought she heard a voice somewhere behind the audio snow, but couldn't make out the words.
It would help if Romeo were here. Where the hell was he, anyway? With a small satellite dish on top of one of the surrounding buildings, they might have a chance of punching through this interference.
"Verona," she said again. "Juliet. Initiating Magpie!"
The Art Room
Fort Meade, Maryland
1624 hours EDT
"What do you mean, we've lost her?" William Rubens demanded.
"We're just getting fragments, sir," Sarah Cassidy replied from her console. "Her signal is intermittent. It might be the sunspots."
Rubens bit back a most unprofessional word. Sunspots. ...
Desk Three's communications system depended upon a necklace of military comm satellites parked in geosynchronous orbit twenty-two thousand miles above the equator. Lia currently was working pretty far north — at sixty degrees north, in fact, the same latitude as the southern tip of Greenland. That meant that in the city of St. Petersburg, the comsats hung low in the southern sky, subject to interference from buildings, transmission lines, and any other horizon-blocking obstacles.
Add to that the fact that the sun was approaching the most active phase of its regular eleven-year cycle. Increased sunspot activity, solar flares, auroras in the highly charged upper atmosphere in the far north and south ... it all meant that communications with field operatives could be a bit ragged at times.
But damn it all! He looked around the huge high-tech chamber known within the NSA as the Art Room, scowling at communications consoles and computer displays and satellite feeds. Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of technology. What good was it all if it didn't work? ...
"What about her backup?" he demanded.
"Romeo's not in position yet," Sarah told him. She indicated the big screen dominating one wall of the Art Room. It showed a highly detailed intelligence satellite photo of St. Petersburg's waterfront district, the southern shore of Vasilyevsky Island close against the southern estuary of the Neva River. A winking white point of light marked one of a line of warehouses along the wharf, together with the name "DeFrancesca" in white letters. A second white marker blinked several blocks away, on the Kosaya Liniya, accompanied by the legend "Akulinin."
"It's these buildings, sir," Jeff Rockman said. He used a laser pointer on the screen, indicating several tall warehouses and skyscrapers across the river on the south bank of the Neva. "They must be blocking her signal."
Rubens picked up a microphone. "Romeo. This is Shakespeare."
"Copy," a voice said from an overhead speaker, harsh with static.
"Where are you?"
"If you're in the Art Room, I assume that's a rhetorical question, sir," Akulinin replied. But he added, "I'm driving southwest on Kosaya. Just passing Detskaya."
Rubens glared at the satellite map on the wall above him, which mirrored Akulinin's description. Damn it, Lia should have clapped a hold on things until her partner could get into position. Alekseev, their Russian contact, had been too anxious, however, too skittish, and Lia had told the Art Room that she was going in, whether she had backup or not.
"We think Lia is inside the building. We're not getting a clear signal. We need you in place to relay her transmissions ... and to watch for the opposition."
"Yes, sir." Akulinin's voice was momentarily garbled by static. Then, "I should be there in five minutes."
"Make it faster. I don't like the way this one is playing out."
Operation Magpie had been running rough since its inception. A good intelligence op flowed, like a carefully orchestrated ballet. Every operative had a place and a task, a precise and meticulously choreographed passage of a ballet. Of course, many of the dancers didn't even know they were performing — the local contacts, the informers, the marks, the opposition. The only way to keep them in the dance was for the operatives to stay in complete control of the situation ... meaning each of them was where he or she was supposed to be when he or she was supposed to be there, leading the unwilling and hopefully clueless participants in the drama through their steps and turns without their ever knowing they were onstage.
Of course things were bound to go wrong from time to time, but good operators could ad lib until things were back in control, back in the flow.
This time around, Rubens thought, someone had lost the beat, and now the situation was fast slipping into chaos.
The ballet, he thought, was fast on its way to becoming a brawl.
"What is the current position of Ghost Blue?" Rubens demanded. He didn't want to use that option, but ...
Ghost Blue was an F-22 Raptor deployed hours ago out of Lakenheath. Stealthier than the F-117 Nighthawk, which it was currently in the process of replacing, more reliable than the smaller, robotic F-47C UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), the F-22 had sophisticated avionics and onboard computer gear that allowed it to serve as an advance platform for ELINT, electronics intelligence, enabling it to pick up transmissions from the ground and relay them back to Fort Meade via the constellation of military comsats.
"Ninety-six miles west-northwest of St. Petersburg, sir," James Higgins replied from another console. "Over the Gulf of Finland, tucked in close by the Finnish-Russian border."
"Send him in."
"Yes, sir." Higgins hesitated. "Uh, that requires special —"
"I know what it requires. Send him in."
Ninety-six miles. Ghost Blue would be staying subsonic to maintain his stealth signature, so that was seven and a half minutes' flight time ... or a bit less to a point where he would be able to intercept Magpie's transmissions. Call it seven minutes.
Of course, this was a flagrant violation of Russian airspace and territorial sovereignty. At the moment, the Raptor was loitering unseen within Finnish airspace, also a violation of territorial boundaries, but not so deadly a sin as moving into Russian territory. St. Petersburg sat like a spider within a far-flung web of radar installations and surface-to-air missile sites, protecting dozens of high-value military installations in and around the city.
And if anyone could defeat U.S. stealth technology, it was the Russians. In 1999, Yugoslav forces had scored a kill, probably with Russian help, shooting down an F-117 with an SA-3 missile. The pilot had been rescued, but Yugoslav forces had grabbed the wreckage — and almost certainly turned it over to the Russians for study. The Russians, it was well known, were very interested in learning how to defeat American stealth technology.
Rubens had just kicked up the ante in an already dangerous game.
He reached for a telephone on the console beside him.
Waterfront, St. Petersburg
Well, they'd warned her she might find herself out of communications with the Art Room. There was nothing Lia could do about it now, however.
Like all Desk Three field operatives, Lia had a tiny speaker unit implanted in her skull just behind her left ear. The microphone was attached to her black utilities, while the antenna was coiled up in her belt. The system provided safe, clear, secure communications ... usually. It was a bitch, though, when the technology failed.
Still, the satellite dish receivers at Fort Meade were a lot better as antennas than the wire in her belt. It was possible that they were receiving her back in the Art Room even if she couldn't hear them.
Excerpted from Stephen Coonts' Deep Black: Arctic Gold by Stephen Coonts, William H. Keith. Copyright © 2009 Stephen P. Coonts and Deborah B. Coonts. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
STEPHEN COONTS is the author of sixteen New York Times bestselling books that have been translated and published around the world. A former naval aviator and Vietnam combat veteran, he is a graduate of West Virginia University and the University of Colorado School of Law. He lives in Colorado.
- Date of Birth:
- July 19, 1946
- Place of Birth:
- Morgantown, West Virginia
- B.A., West Virginia University, 1968; J.D., University of Colorado, 1979
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I haven't read a Stephen Coonts' book in years, and after reading this one I have no doubt I will go back and read several I have missed. While the story and setting is nothing original or new, the writing is excellent for this genre. Treatement of the various environmental activist groups and a nefarious connection to the Russian mob is something I hadn't previous read, but for the most part it's a standard spy espionage thriller. Characters are developed well and multi-dimensional, the plot is interesting, and the speed at which things move keeps the reader engaged.
Did not want to stop reading
Enjoyed all the Deep Black series so far. This was the first one with few editorial oversights. Stephen Coonts makes an enjoyable read always.
I have enjoyed the other books in this series. However, this one is not worth paying full price for. It is poorly written and very poorly edited. Without giving anything away, plot details are carelessly dropped or changed several times. I found myself going back and checking explanations when I remembered things differently, and I was right that they had changed. Examples. One character is traveling. Another character is in a meeting. Yet after it is established that the character is in the meeting, the character who is traveling is named as the one at the meeting. Also, the name of the environmental organization is changed midway through the book to that of an actual organization. I usually read these books in about two days, but it took me a week to get through. I am not sure if they were trying to end the series or not. I am not sure if there is a next book in the series I will read it.
Very enjoyable, I could hardly put it down. I have read all Cussler's books and still enjoy them as much as the first one I read.
Topical content and fast paced
excellent book. fast paced, easy to follow!
Poorly concieved and poorly written. A rip-off designed to make the reader think that Coonts had a part in writing it.
I have wings. I didnt want them. I was just born with them. I got kicked out of my other clan when i accidentally streached them. Please dont tell anyone!