Artifactby Kevin J. Anderson, Matthew J. Costello, F. Paul Wilson, Janet Berliner
Deep in a tomblike cavern along the ocean floor lies a secret that has remained hidden from humanity. Until now. . .
An Oilstar drilling rig off the coast of Venezuela in the Dragon's Mouth channel has pierced an underwater cavern and brings to the surface four stones unlike anything on this earth. Frik Van Alman, the tough-as-nails maverick head of/b>… See more details below
Deep in a tomblike cavern along the ocean floor lies a secret that has remained hidden from humanity. Until now. . .
An Oilstar drilling rig off the coast of Venezuela in the Dragon's Mouth channel has pierced an underwater cavern and brings to the surface four stones unlike anything on this earth. Frik Van Alman, the tough-as-nails maverick head of Oilstar realizes immediately that they represent an extraordinary opportunity . . .and a terrible danger. His superstitious native crew, already uneasy working in the infamous waterway, refuse to dive in search of a fifth stone, and when Frik's lab chief tests them, the results confirm Frik's hunch: when these four stones are connected they hint at a power source that could revolutionize the world's energy production. And, Frik realizes, such a revolution would put him and all other oil companies out of business.
Before he can plot his next move, his lab chief Paul Trujold, fearing the greed and calculation in Frik's eyes, sends the stones to safer hands. One of the stones lands in the hands of Paul's daughter, Selene Trujold, the leader of an ecological action trying to halt Frik's drilling and the damage it's causing to the Caribbean ecology.
Frik and Trujold meet in the lab after Paul has sent away the stones, and an accident badly burns them both, killing Paul before Frik can find out what he's done with the find. Desperate to reclaim the stones and determined to find the fifth piece of the puzzle, Frik enlists the aid of the Daredevils Club, a select few risk-taking thrill seekers of whom Frik is one, who meet every New Year's Eve to compare bold new stories of the past year's exploits. Their members are a disparate bunch, including a doctor, Arthur Marryshow, whose greatest risk is healing those who risk their lives in political hotspots; Ray Arno, a stuntman turned demolitions expert; Simon Brousseau, an expert deep-sea diver; and Joshua Keene and Terris McKendry, a bickering best-buddies tandem experienced in undercover operations requiring strength, expertise with weapons, and nerves of steel.
At the next New Year's Eve meeting, Frik proposes a mission: collect all five stones and return them to him. Along with the rest of the daredevils is Peta Whyte, Marryshow's protegé, not officially a member, but more than qualified by her role in planning and effecting Arthur's escape from prison on her native Grenada sixteen years before, when she was but sixteen. She attends in Arthur's place, for he's been killed, victim of a terrorist bombing just blocks from their Times Square rendezvous.
The Daredevils embark on an adventure that takes them along the coast of Venezuela, from stealth jungle raids to deep-sea dives, from the haunts of Latin American power brokers to the camp of eco-terrorists. A fast-paced, thrill-a-minute hunt challenges the loyalties of the daredevils, as they become pawns in a deadly game of deceit and betrayal. After all the adrenaline rushes and spilt blood, the remaining members of the Daredevils Club gather once again on the following New Year's Eve, this time in Las Vegas, for one final confrontation, as Frik slips the five stones into place. . . as the unthinkable is created.
“A fascinating page-turner with enough spellbinding intrigue to last until the authors’ next tale. Full of action with terrific characters and a fast moving plot.”New York Times bestselling author Clive Cussler on Artifact
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Read an Excerpt
Trinidad, December 1999
After a full day on the platform observing the core samples being raised at the Dragon's Mouth test drill site, what little patience Frikkie Van Alman might have had to begin with had dissipated.
He wouldn't have been there at all, but the crew, skittish to begin with, had been downright nervous since the drill had passed through an undersea cavern. Frik was not renowned for his vast store of patience, but he could not ignore the continuing gloom among his workers. At the other sites there was always music, always someone dancing, someone hiding a joint or a bottle of beer. Here, the only sounds were the wind and the sea, the mechanical whirring of the drill, and the padding footsteps of workers who, morose and silent, moved with the speed of turtles.
"What's eating at them, Blaine? Give me your best guess."
Frik thought of Eduardo Blaine as his wholly owned subsidiary. The Venezuelan ran the only hotel in San Gabriel and managed the ferries that brought workers out to this site in the Dragon's Mouth, the northern channel into the Gulf of Paria. He was also a pretty fair diver and knew how to fly the helicopter which transported the owner of Oilstar to this jack-up drilling rig.
"They don't care for work in the Dragon's Mouth." Blaine made a weak attempt at a smile. "Tell you the truth, I'm not too crazy for it myself."
Before Frik could say any more, the drill returned to the surface and its load of sludge and rock was tipped onto the platform for examination. He had ordered a core sample of the floor of the cavern, wanting more evidence that there would be oil under it before he went to the trouble--and expense--of having another section of pipe sent down to keep any oil from flowing into this new cavern.
Lying on top of the mud were four irregularly shaped objects such as he had never before laid eyes upon. He had the immediate impression of the turquoise he'd known as a child in South Africa, but these were a bluish green color that he couldn't quite identify.
He walked over to the silt pile and stretched out to touch them.
"Don't touch, Mr. Frik! Bad stuff!"
Frik looked around to see who had spoken and saw the backs of his workers as they scattered, all except Eduardo.
"He's right, Señor Frik. Better not to touch." In a show of bravado, the Venezuelan moved to Frik's side. "See where they come from first. Make sure they're not Obeah, or the Obeahman might get us."
"Don't tell me they've got you convinced about their kaffir bogeyman." He'd dealt with enough shamanistic beliefs in his boyhood on the veldt that he was unimpressed by the men's fear that the objects might be fetishes. Besides, when he'd first been told of the local superstitions, the anthropologist he'd talked to had said that this particular myth predated the arrival of the Africans and their Obeah worship. It was probably, in fact, as old as the first Arawaks to cross the gulf from Venezuela on their migration northward.
Frik got up abruptly and strode over to the drill assembly. The bit looked like a giant apple corer, almost twenty inches in diameter. Hand on the side of the drill, he glanced through the base of the derrick to the water fifty feet below.
"I'm sending the camera down. I want to see the bottom of the bore hole."
He set up the feedback equipment, attached the underwater video camera to a cable, and lowered the assemblage down the well. As it descended, he focused on the small screen that would show what the camera found. Despite the sophistication of the equipment, the image was grainy and cloudy with silt from the drilling process. It got even worse when, about seventy feet below the seabed, the camera passed through the hole in the roof of the cavern.
The light from the camera rig vanished into the cavern, which was apparently too large for the illumination to reach the walls. A large, indistinct fish swam in front of the lens, and the floating debris drifting away from the drill hole made it look as if he had suddenly picked up White Christmas on the monitor.
Frik's frustration mounted. There was little chance on this monitor that he'd be able to distinguish any turquoiselike fragments which might have remained in the undersea cavern. The only way to be sure was for someone to dive down and enter the cave. Fortunately, the presence of the fish assured him that there was an entrance other than the hole his men had drilled.
"I'm not going down there," Blaine said, anticipating what Frik had in mind.
"You'll go where I tell you to go," Frik said, "but you're right. I need you around to fly me off this rig." He yelled out the names of the few workers he knew. "You want to be paid?" he shouted when no one appeared.
One by one, the men returned. They clustered in small, silent groups, far from the strange objects.
"All right now. Who's going down?"
Nobody moved. "You. Charles." Frik stared into the man's eyes. "You just volunteered. You, too, Abdul. Get your gear. Find the opening to that cavern. If there are any more pieces down there, bring them up. There's a bonus for each one you find."
The men did as they were told. When they had been lowered into the water, Frik said, "The rest of you bastards, no pay today. Tomorrow you work like men or--"
"They don't want to work here anymore," Blaine said.
"The hell they don't." Frik took his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed the lab.
"Trujold? Frik. Listen carefully. I want you to get the speedboat and bring your ass over here."
"I'm not going anywhere near your boats," Trujold said. "Your dogs'll eat me alive."
Frik thought for a moment. "All right. I'll send Blaine for you. It'll only take him a few minutes in the chopper, so don't mess around."
"What's the emergency?" Trujold asked.
"None yet." Frik looked at the indistinct image on the screen. "But I smell one coming on."
Copyright © 2003 by Janet Berliner, Matthew J. Costello, F. Paul Wilson, and Wordfire, Inc.
Meet the Author
Kevin J. Anderson has written twenty-six national bestsellers and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Science Fiction Chronicle Readers' Choice Award. He lives in Monument, Colorado.
Janet Berliner, author of many novels, including the Bram Stoker Award-winning Children of the Dusk (with George Guthridge), lives in Las Vegas. She has also edited many anthologies, including Peter S. Beagle's Immortal Unicorn.
F. Paul Wilson has written more than twenty novels, including the bestseller The Keep, and the Repairman Jack novels and is the winner of two Prometheus Awards for best libertarian fiction. He lives in Wall, New Jersey.
Matthew J. Costello lives north of New York City and has teamed up with Wilson on previous novels.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Artifact is a great story with well-defined characters and a twisting plot. Some of the chapters do get a little clunky and a couple of the plot lines just tend to drop off, but over all it is a worthwhile novel to spend the weekend reading.
Off the Venezuelan coast, local workers of Oilstar Drilling bore through an underwater ceiling leading to a cavern. They bring up four stones that seem not of this earth. CEO Frik Van Alman understands the ramifications of the finding once his lab concludes that the connecting of the stones along with a fifth one generates energy that will end oil dependency. Lab chief Paul Trujold worries that the avaricious Frik will do something harmful so he sends the stones to people he trusts like his daughter Selene, the leader of an ecological group protesting Oilstar's drilling that is destroying the ecosystem of Dragon's Mouth Channel. Frik is badly burned and Paul dies in a lab fire before the CEO learns what happened to the stones. Frantic to regain the missing stones and to find the fifth one, Frik secures the help of his thrill-seeking comrades of the Daredevils Club. Off of Venezuela, the risk-takers begin the adventure of a lifetime. ARTIFACT is a fast-paced, action thriller that never slows down as the story line moves faster than the speed of light. Frik is an interesting character with flaws that endanger the members of the Daredevils Club, who overall are heroic, but if readers want a deep character study they need to look elsewhere. Instead the writing quartet of Kevin J. Anderson, Janet Berliner, F. Paul Wilson, and Matthew Costello provides a one sitting, on the edge of your seat tale with critical alien elements but more a fabulous action thriller than a science fiction story. Harriet Klausner