Flood Tide (Dirk Pitt Series #14)

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Overview

Dirk Pitt's nemesis is a wealthy Chinese smuggler who has made a fortune in human slavery. Tracking his nefarious activities leads Pitt from Washington State to Louisiana, where the Chinese slaves are constructing a shipping port in the middle of nowhere. The trail Pitt follows leads to the mysterious sinking of a ship that Chiang Kai-shek filled with treasure when he fled China in 1949. As Pitt prepares for a final showdown, he finds himself face-to-face with his most ...
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1998 Mass-market paperback First edition. New. No dust jacket as issued. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 560 p. Dirk Pitt Adventures (Paperback). Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Dirk Pitt's nemesis is a wealthy Chinese smuggler who has made a fortune in human slavery. Tracking his nefarious activities leads Pitt from Washington State to Louisiana, where the Chinese slaves are constructing a shipping port in the middle of nowhere. The trail Pitt follows leads to the mysterious sinking of a ship that Chiang Kai-shek filled with treasure when he fled China in 1949. As Pitt prepares for a final showdown, he finds himself face-to-face with his most formidable opponent ever.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fresh from battling an evil diamond merchant in Shock Wave, Dirk Pitt, Cussler's perennial hero, and his sidekick, Al Giordino, are out to catch a Chinese shipping magnate who smuggles illegal Chinese immigrants into countries around the world to be worked as indentured slaves. On a lake near Seattle, Pitt stumbles across Qin Shang's heavily guarded compound. Pitt is the special projects director for the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA, the non-profit organization Cussler founded in real life to explore underwater sites). Searching the lake with a robotic observation device, Pitt finds heaps of mass-executed Chinese bodies. He then rescues a dozen still-living captives, including beautiful Immigration and Naturalization Services agent Julia Lee. It's revealed that Qin Shang's hefty campaign contributions have led the White House to block INS action against the wealthy manipulator. NUMA and INS bosses join to set up a secret task force spearheaded by Pitt, Girodino and Lee and supported by an ex-CIA mercenary naval vessel to launch clandestine sorties against Qin Shang's strongholds. They narrowly squash a plot that would cause ecological and economic destruction from New Orleans to eastern Texas, but Qin Shang remains untouched, perhaps to surface in a sequel. Some readers will wince at the way Cussler heightens the drama by tapping into right-wing fears of a flood tide of nonwhite immigrants. Still, series fans will delight in the well-executed plot twists and revel in Cussler's portrayal of a shipwreck laden with tons of Chinese antiquities.
School Library Journal
Once again, the indestructible Dirk Pitt saves the country from possible economic collapse, while at the same time destroying an evil villain, finding a lost treasure, and saving a woman's life. The vividly described action takes readers from the ports of Hong Kong to picturesque Washington State and to the final showdown on the Mississippi River in Louisiana. As each problem seems to be solved, larger and more dangerous events occur, such as the seemingly unexplainable smuggling of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants. Our hero finds himself trapped with these poor, abused refugees who are about to be murdered. Each turn and twist continues to build anxiety and heighten suspense. The eye-catching cover of this novel should entice readers to open its pages, where they will soon find themselves engrossed in this enthralling adventure.
— Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, Virginia
Kirkus Reviews
Dirk Pitt returns for his 11th undersea adventure (Shock Wave), still as far out and full of derring-do as ever. Along with arms and drugs, Qui Shang, the fourth richest man in the world, smuggles Chinese by the millions into the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In the near future, the U.S. population is edging toward 360 million, and it begins to seem likely that Chinese will control the West Coast from San Francisco to Alaska. A divided America looms — but, then, no civilization lasts forever. Unless, of course, it has a steady succession of Dirk Pitts to call on for help. Here, Pitt, vacationing on Orion Lake near Seattle, discovers that the frigid lake is a warehouse for thousands of dead Chinese, those who were too infirm to be sold as slaves by Qui Shang or used as prostitutes. Qui Shang has bought much of the U.S. government, including the President, as well as top men in the People's Republic of China. And now, just as Pitt begins to pick up his trail, it turns out he's working on his biggest operation yet. He has built a multibillion-dollar port above New Orleans for no visible economic reason, though in fact he uses it to unload illegals — and also has far more ambitious plans for it. He and his henchmen have devised a plan to divert the Mississippi back into its former bed, thus creating a catastrophe that will give his company a gigantic shipping advantage by sending New Orleans the way of Atlantis. Pitt and his friends at the National Underwater and Marine Agency all but single-handedly uncover Qui Shang's plots by spying on him with submersibles, and little by little they begin to unravel his conspiracy, even recovering some sunken Chinese art treasures (sentabroad by Chiang Kai-shek), essential to the master criminal's plans, before Qui Shang can get them. Speedy storytelling and great fun.
From the Publisher
San Francisco Examiner Pure Cussler, pure fun....The action just keeps accelerating.

San Antonio Express-News Marvelously entertaining....Full of action, intrigue and beautiful women.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671000318
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Series: Dirk Pitt Series , #14
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 560
  • Lexile: 1040L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive  Cussler

Clive Cussler is the author or coauthor of twenty-nine books, which have been published in more than forty languages in more than 100 countries. In his life away from the written word, Cussler has searched for lost aircraft, led expeditions to find famous shipwrecks, and garnered an amazing record of success. With his own NUMA crew of volunteers, Cussler has discovered more than sixty lost ships of historic significance, including the long-lost Confederate submarine Hunley. A world-class collector of classic automobiles, Cussler lives in the mountains of Colorado.

Biography

Cussler began writing novels in 1965 and published his first work featuring his continuous series hero, Dirk Pitt, in 1973. His first non-fiction, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered The Sea Hunters in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in May, 1997. It was the first time since the College was founded in 1874 that such a degree was bestowed.

Cussler is an internationally recognized authority on shipwrecks and the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, (NUMA) a 501C3 non-profit organization (named after the fictional Federal agency in his novels) that dedicates itself to preserving American maritime and naval history. He and his crew of marine experts and NUMA volunteers have discovered more than 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites including the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, the Confederacy's Hunley, and its victim, the Union's Housatonic; the U-20, the U-boat that sank the Lusitania; the Cumberland, which was sunk by the famous ironclad, Merrimack; the renowned Confederate raider Florida; the Navy airship, Akron, the Republic of Texas Navy warship, Zavala, found under a parking lot in Galveston, and the Carpathia, which sank almost six years to-the-day after plucking Titanic's survivors from the sea.

In September, 1998, NUMA - which turns over all artifacts to state and Federal authorities, or donates them to museums and universities - launched its own web site for those wishing more information about maritime history or wishing to make donations to the organization. (www.numa.net).

In addition to being the Chairman of NUMA, Cussler is also a fellow in both the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London. He has been honored with the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration.

Cussler's books have been published in more than 40 languages in more than 100 countries. The author lives in Arizona.

Biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA)

Good To Know

Cussler worked for many years in advertising and was responsible for coming up with Ajax's "White Knight" commercial catchphrase, "It's stronger than dirt."

The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered Cussler's 1996 nonfiction book, The Sea Hunters, equivalent to a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997.

Cussler is a fellow in the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London, and has been granted the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration.

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    1. Hometown:
      Phoenix, Arizona
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 15, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Aurora, Illinois
    1. Education:
      Pasadena City College; Ph.D., Maritime College, State University of New York, 1997

Read an Excerpt

1

April 14, 2000

Pacific Ocean off Washington

As if she were struggling out of a bottomless pit, consciousness slowly returned to Ling T'ai. Her whole upper body swam in pain. She groaned through clenched teeth, wanting to scream out in agony. She lifted a hand that was badly bruised and tenderly touched her fingertips to her face. One coffee brown eye was swollen closed, the other puffed but partially open. Her nose was broken, with blood still trickling from the nostrils. Thankfully, she could feel her teeth still in their gums, but her arms and shoulders were turning black-and-blue. She could not begin to count the bruises.

Ling T'ai was not sure at first why she was singled out for interrogation. The explanation came later, just before she was brutally beaten. There were others, to be sure, who were pulled from the mass of illegal Chinese immigrants on board the ship, tormented and thrown into a dark compartment in the cargo hold. Nothing was very clear to her, everything seemed confused and obscure. She felt as if she was about to lose her grip on consciousness and fall back into the pit.

The ship she had traveled on from the Chinese port of Qing-dao across the Pacific looked to all appearances like a typical cruise ship. Named the Indigo Star, her hull was painted white from waterline to the funnel. Comparable in size to most smaller cruise ships that carried between one hundred and one hundred fifty passengers in luxurious comfort, the Indigo Star crammed nearly twelve hundred illegal Chinese immigrants into huge open bays within the hull and superstructure. She was a facade, innocent on the outside, a human hellhole on the inside.

Ling T'ai could not have envisioned the insufferable conditions that she and over a thousand others had to endure. The food was minimal and hardly enough to exist on. Sanitary conditions were nonexistent and toilet facilities deplorable. Some had died, mostly young children and the elderly, their bodies removed and never seen again. It seemed likely to Ling T'ai that they were simply thrown into the sea as if they were garbage.

The day before the Indigo Star was scheduled to reach the northwestern coast of the United States, a team of sadistic guards called enforcers, who maintained a climate of fear and intimidation on board the ship, had rounded up thirty or forty passengers and forced them to undergo an unexplained interrogation. When her turn finally came, she was ushered into a small, dark compartment and commanded to sit in a chair in front of four enforcers of the smuggling operation who were seated behind a table. Ling was then asked a series of questions.

"Your name!" demanded a thin man neatly attired in a gray pinstripe business suit. His smooth, brown face was intelligent but expressionless. The other three enforcers sat silently and glared malevolently. To the initiated, it was a classic act of interrogative coercion.

"My name is Ling T'ai."

"What province were you born?"

"Jiangsu."

"You lived there?" asked the thin man.

"Until I was twenty and finished my studies. Then I went to Canton, where I became a schoolteacher."

The questions came dispassionately and devoid of inflection. "Why do you want to go to the United States?"

"I knew the voyage would be extremely hazardous, but the promise of opportunity and a better life was too great," answered Ling T'ai. "I decided to leave my family and become an American."

"Where did you obtain the money for your passage?"

"I saved most of it from my teacher's pay over ten years. The rest I borrowed from my father."

"What is his occupation?"

"He is a professor of chemistry at the university in Beijing."

"Do you have friends or family in the United States?"

She shook her head. "I have no one."

The thin man looked at her in long, slow speculation, then pointed his finger at her. "You are a spy, sent to report on our smuggling operation."

The accusation came so abruptly, she sat frozen for a few moments before stammering, "I do not know what you mean. I am a schoolteacher. Why do you call me a spy?"

"You do not have the appearance of one born in China."

"Not true!" she cried in panic. "My mother and father are Chinese. So were my grandparents."

"Then explain why your height is at least four inches above average for a Chinese woman and your facial features have the faint touch of European ancestry."

"Who are you?" she demanded. "Why are you so cruel?"

"Not that it matters, my name is Ki Wong. I am the chief enforcer for the Indigo Star. Now please answer my last question."

Acting frightened, Ling explained that her great-grandfather had been a Dutch missionary who headed up a mission in the city of Longyan. He took a local peasant girl as a wife. "That is the only Western blood in me, I swear."

The inquisitors acted as if they did not credit her story. "You are lying."

"Please, you must believe me!"

"Do you speak English?"

"I know only a few words and phrases."

Then Wong got down to the real issue. "According to our records, you did not pay enough for your passage. You owe us another ten thousand dollars American."

Ling T'ai leaped to her feet and cried out. "But I have no more money!"

Wong shrugged indifferently. "Then you will have to be transported back to China."

"No, please, I can't go back, not now!" She wrung her hands until the knuckles went white.

The chief enforcer glanced smugly at the three other men, who sat like stone sculptures. Then his voice changed subtly. "There may be another way for you to enter the States."

"I will do anything," Ling T'ai pleaded.

"If we put you ashore, you will have to work off the rest of your passage fee. Since you can hardly speak English it will be impossible for you to find employment as a schoolteacher. Without friends or family you'll have no means of support. Therefore, we will take it upon ourselves to generously provide you with food, a place to live and an opportunity for work until such time as you can subsist on your own."

"What kind of work do you mean?" asked Ling T'ai hesitantly.

Wong paused, then grinned evilly. "You will engage in the art of satisfying men."

This then was what it was all about. Ling T'ai and most of the other smuggled aliens were never intended to be allowed to roam free in the United States. Once they landed on foreign soil, they were to become indentured slaves subject to torture and extortion.

"Prostitution?" Horrified, Ling T'ai shouted angrily, "I will never degrade myself!"

"A pity," said Wong impassively. "You are an attractive woman and could demand a good price."

He rose to his feet, stepped around the table and stood in front of her. The smirk on his face suddenly vanished and was replaced with a look of malice. Then he pulled what looked like a stiff rubber hose from his coat pocket and began lashing at her face and body. He stopped only when he began to break out in sweat, pausing to grip her chin with one hand, staring into her battered face. She moaned and pleaded with him to stop.

"Perhaps you've had a change of mind."

"Never," she muttered through a split and bleeding lip. "I will die first."

Then Wong's narrow lips curled into a cold smile. His arm was raised and then came down in a vicious swing as the hose caught her on the base of the skull. Ling T'ai was enveloped in blackness.

Her tormentor returned to the table and seated himself. He picked up a phone and spoke into the mouthpiece. "You may remove the woman and place her with those going to Orion Lake."

"You do not think she can be converted into a profitable piece of property?" said a heavy-bodied man at the end of the table.

Wong shook his head as he looked down on Ling T'ai, lying bleeding on the floor. "There is something about this woman I do not trust. It is best to play safe. None of us dare to incur the wrath of our esteemed superior by jeopardizing the enterprise. Ling T'ai will get her wish to die."

An elderly woman, who said she was a nurse, tenderly dabbed a wet cloth on Ling T'ai's face, cleaning away the caked blood and applying disinfectant from a small first-aid kit. After the old nurse finished tending the injuries, she moved off to console a young boy who was whimpering in his mother's arms. Ling T'ai half opened the eye that was only mildly swollen and fought off a sudden wave of nausea. Though suffering agonizing pain that erupted from every nerve ending, her mind was unmistakenly clear on every aspect of how she came to be in this predicament.

Her name was not Ling T'ai. The name on her American birth certificate read Julia Marie Lee, born in San Francisco, California. Her father had been an American financial analyst based in Hong Kong when he met and married the daughter of a wealthy Chinese banker. Except for dove-gray eyes under the brown contact lenses, she had favored her mother, who passed on beautiful blue-black hair and Asian facial features. Nor was she a schoolteacher from Jiangsu Province in China.

Julia Marie Lee was a special undercover agent for the International Affairs Investigations Division of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. By posing as Ling T'ai, she had paid a representative of an alien-smuggling syndicate in Beijing the equivalent of $30,000 in Chinese currency. Becoming part of the human cargo with its built-in misery, she compiled a wealth of information on the syndicate's activities and methods of operation.

Once she was smuggled on shore, her plan was to contact the field office of the assistant district director of investigations in Seattle, who was prepared and waiting for information to arrest the smugglers within territorial limits and break up the syndicate's pipeline into North America. Now her fate was uncertain, and she saw no avenue of escape.

Through some untapped reservoir of fortitude she did not know she possessed, Julia had somehow survived the torture. Months of hard training had never prepared her for a brutal beating. She cursed herself for choosing the wrong course. If she had meekly accepted her fate, her plan to escape would have most likely been achieved. But she thought that by playing the role of a frightened but proud Chinese woman she could have deceived the smugglers. As it turned out, it was a mistake. She realized now that any sign of resistance was shown no mercy. Many of the men and women, she began to see in the dim light, were also badly beaten.

The more Julia thought about her situation, the more she became certain she and everyone in the cargo hold around her were going to be murdered.

Copyright © 1997 by Sandecker, RLLLP

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First Chapter

Requiem for a Pr

THE WAVES TURNED VICIOUS and worsened with every rush of wind. The calm weather of the morning transformed from Dr. Jekyll into a vehement Mr. Hyde by late evening. Whitecaps on the crests of towering waves were lashed into sheets of spray. The violent water and black clouds merged under the onslaught of a driving snowstorm. It was impossible to tell where water ended and sky began. As the passenger liner Princess Dou Wan fought through waves that rose like mountains before spilling over the ship, the men on board were unaware of the imminent disaster that was only minutes away.

The crazed waters were driven by northeast and northwest gales that simultaneously caused ferocious currents to smash against the ship from two sides. Winds soon reached a hundred miles an hour with waves that crested at thirty feet or more. Caught in the maelstrom, the Princess Dou Wan had no place to hide. Her bow pitched and drove under waves that swept over her open decks and flowed aft and then forward when her stern rose, throwing her wildly spinning propellers free of the water. Struck from all directions, she rolled thirty degrees, her starboard rail along the promenade deck disappearing in a torrent of water. Slowly, too slowly, she sluggishly righted herself and plunged on, steaming through the worst storm in recent history.

Freezing and unable to see through the blinding snowstorm, Second Mate Li Po, who stood watch, ducked back inside the wheelhouse and slammed the door. In all his days of sailing the China Sea, he had never seen swirling snow in the middle of a violent storm. Po did not think the gods were fair to hurl such devastating winds at the Princess after a voyage halfway around the world with less than two hundred miles to go before reaching port. In the past sixteen hours, she had only made forty miles.

Except for Captain Leigh Hunt and his chief engineer down below in the engine room, the entire crew were Nationalist Chinese. An old salt with twelve years in the Royal Navy and eighteen as an officer for three different shipping-company fleets, Hunt had served fifteen of those years as captain. As a boy he went fishing with his father out of Bridlington, a small city on the east coast of England, before shipping out as an ordinary seaman on a freighter to South Africa. A thin man with graying hair and sad, vacant eyes, he was deeply pessimistic about his ship's ability to weather the storm.

Two days earlier, one of the crewmen had called his attention to a crack in the starboard outer hull aft of the single smokestack. He would have given a month's pay to inspect the crack now that his ship was enduring incredible stress. He reluctantly brushed the thought aside. It would have been suicide to attempt an inspection under hundred-mile-an-hour winds and the raging water that spilled across the decks. He felt in his bones the Princess was in mortal danger, and accepted the fact that her fate was out of his hands.

Hunt stared into the blanket of snow that pelted the wheelhouse windows and spoke to his second mate without turning. "How bad is the ice, Mr. Po?"

"Building rapidly, Captain."

"Do you believe we're in danger of capsizing?"

Li Po shook his head slowly. "Not yet, sir, but by morning the load on the superstructure and decks could prove critical if we take on a heavy list."

Hunt thought for a moment, then spoke to the helmsman. "Stay on course, Mr. Tsung. Keep our bow into the wind and waves."

"Aye, sir," the Chinese helmsman replied, feet braced wide apart, hands tightly gripping the brass wheel.

Hunt's thoughts returned to the crack in the hull. He couldn't remember when the Princess Dou Wan had a proper marine inspection in dry dock. Strangely, the crew's uneasiness about leaks, badly rusted hull plates, and weakened and missing rivets was totally lacking. They appeared to ignore the corrosion and the constantly running bilge pumps that strained to carry off the heavy leakage during the voyage.

If the Princess had an Achilles' heel, it was her tired and worn hull. A ship that sails the oceans is considered old after twenty years. She had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles scathed by rough seas and typhoons during her thirty-five years since leaving the shipyards. It was little short of a miracle that she was still afloat.

Launched in 1913 as the Lanai by shipbuilders Harland and Wolff for Singapore Pacific Steamship Lines, her tonnage grossed out at 10,758. Her overall length was 497 feet from straight-up-and-down stem to champagne glass-shaped stern with a sixty-foot beam. Her triple-expansion steam engines put out five thousand horsepower and turned twin screws. In her prime she could cut the waves at a respectable seventeen knots. She went into service between Singapore and Honolulu until 1931, when she was sold to the Canton Lines and renamed Princess Dou Wan. After a refit, she was employed running passengers and cargo throughout Southeast Asian ports.

During World War II, she was taken over and fitted out by the Australian government as a troop transport. Heavily damaged after surviving attacks by Japanese aircraft during convoy duty, she was returned to the Canton Lines after the war and served briefly on short runs from Shanghai to Hong Kong, until the spring of 1948, when she was to be sold to the scrappers in Singapore.

Her accommodations were designed to carry fifty-five first-class passengers, eighty-five secondclass, and 370 third-class. Normally she carried a crew of 190, but on what was to be her final voyage, she was manned by only thirty-eight.

Hunt thought of his ancient command as a tiny island on a turbulent sea engulfed in a drama without an audience. His attitude was fatalistic. He was ready for the beach and the Princess was ready for the scrap yard. Hunt felt compassion for his battle-scarred ship as she wrestled with the full brunt of the storm. She twisted and groaned when inundated by the titanic waves, but she always broke free and punched her bow into the next one. Hunt's only consolation was that her worn-out engines never missed a beat.

Down in the engine room the creaking and groaning of the hull were uncommonly clamorous. Rust danced and flaked off the bulkheads as water began to rise through the walkway gratings. Rivets holding the steel plates were sheering off. They popped out of the plates and shot through the air like missiles. Usually, the crew was apathetic. It was a common occurrence on ships built before the days of welding. But there was one man who was touched by the tentacles of fear.

Chief Engineer Ian "Hong Kong" Gallagher was an ox-shouldered, red-faced, hard-drinking, heavily mustached Irishman who knew a ship in the throes of breaking up when he saw and heard one. Yet fear was pushed from his mind as he calmly turned his thoughts to survival.

An orphan at the age of eleven, Ian Gallagher ran away from the slums of Belfast and went to sea as a cabin boy. Nurturing a natural talent for maintaining steam engines, he became a wiper and then a third assistant engineer. By the time he was twenty-seven, he had his papers as chief engineer and served on tramp freighters plying the waters between the islands of the South Pacific. The name Hong Kong was given to him after he fought an epic battle in one of the port city's saloons against eight Chinese dockworkers who tried to roll him. When he turned thirty, he signed on board the Princess Dou Wan in the summer of 1945.

Grim-faced, Gallagher turned to his second engineer, Chu Wen. "Get topside, put on a life vest and be ready to abandon ship when the captain gives the order."

The Chinese engineer pulled the stub of a cigar from his mouth and stared at Gallagher appraisingly. "You think we're going down?"

"I know we're going down," Gallagher replied firmly. "This old rust bucket won't last another hour."

"Did you tell the captain?"

"He'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to figure it out himself."

"You coming?" asked Chu Wen.

"I'll be right behind you," answered Gallagher.

Chu Wen wiped his oily hands on a rag, nodded at the chief engineer and made his way up a ladder to a hatch leading to the upper decks.

Gallagher took one final look at his beloved engines, certain they would soon be lying in the deep. He stiffened as an unusually loud screech echoed throughout the hull. The aged Princess Dou Wan was tormented by metal fatigue, a scourge suffered by aircraft as well as ships. Extremely difficult to distinguish in calm waters, it only becomes evident in a vessel pounded by vicious seas. Even when new, the Princess would have been hard-pressed to bear up under the onslaught of the waves that pounded her hull with a force of twenty thousand pounds per square inch.

Gallagher's heart froze when he saw a crack appear in a bulkhead that spread downward and then sideways across the hull plates. Starting on the port side, it widened as it progressed to starboard. He snatched up the ship's phone and rang the bridge.

Li Po answered. "Bridge."

"Put the captain on!" Gallagher snapped.

A second's pause, and then, "This is the captain."

"Sir, we've got a hell of a crack in the engine room, and it's getting worse by the minute."

Hunt was stunned. He had hoped against hope that they could make port before the damage turned critical. "Are we taking on water?"

"The pumps are fighting a losing battle."

"Thank you, Mr. Gallagher. Can you keep the engines turning until we reach land?"

"What time frame do you have in mind?"

"Another hour should put us in calmer waters."

"Doubtful," said Gallagher. "I give her ten minutes, no more."

"Thank you, Chief," Hunt said heavily. "You'd better leave the engine room while you still can."

Hunt wearily replaced the receiver, turned and looked out the aft wheelhouse windows. The ship had taken on a noticeable list and was rolling heavily. Two of her boats had already been smashed and swept overboard. Making for the nearest shore and running the ship safely aground was now out of the question. To reach the smoother waters, he would have to make a turn to starboard. The Princess would never survive if she was caught broadside in the maddened waves. She could easily be plunged into a trough without any hope of getting out. Whatever the circumstance, breaking up or the ice building on her superstructure and capsizing her, the ship was doomed.

His mind briefly traveled back sixty days in time and ten thousand miles in distance to the dock on the Yangtze River at Shanghai, where the furnishings from the Princess Dou Wan's staterooms were being stripped in preparation for her final voyage to the scrap yard in Singapore. The departure had been interrupted when General Kung Hui of the Nationalist Chinese Army arrived on the dock in a Packard limousine and ordered Captain Hunt to converse with him inside the car.

"Please excuse my intrusion, Captain, but I am acting under the personal directive of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek." General Kung Hui, skin and hands as smooth and white as a sheet of paper, sat fastidious and immaculate in a tailored uniform that showed no sign of a crease. He took up the entire rear seat in the passengers' compartment as he spoke, while Captain Hunt was forced to sit uncomfortably twisted sideways on a jump seat. "You are hearby ordered to place your ship and crew in a state of readiness for a long voyage."

"I believe there has been a mistake," said Hunt. "The Princess is not in a state of readiness for an extended cruise. She is about to depart with barely enough men, fuel and supplies to make the scrap yard in Singapore."

"You can forget about Singapore," said Hui with an airy wave of one hand. "Ample fuel and food will be provided along with twenty men from our Nationalist Navy. Once your cargo is on board . . ." Hui paused to insert a cigarette in a long holder and light it. ". . . I should say in about ten days, you will be given your sailing orders."

"I must clear this with my company directors," argued Hunt.

"The directors of Canton Lines have been notified the Princess Dou Wan will be temporarily appropriated by the government."

"They agreed to it?"

Hui nodded. "Considering they were generously offered payment in gold by the generalissimo, they were most happy to cooperate."

"After we reach our, or should I say, your destination, what then?"

"Once the cargo is safely delivered ashore, you may continue on to Singapore."

"May I ask where we're bound for?"

"You may not."

"And the cargo?"

"Secrecy will dominate the entire mission. From this minute on, you and your crew will remain on board your ship. No one steps ashore. You will have no contact with friends or family. My men will guard the ship day and night to guarantee strict security."

"I see," said Hunt, but obviously he didn't. He could not recall seeing such shifty eyes.

"As we speak," Hui continued, "all your communications equipment is being either removed or destroyed."

Hunt was stunned. "Surely you can't expect me to attempt a voyage at sea without a radio. What if we encounter difficulties and have to send out a call for assistance?"

Hui idly held up his cigarette holder and studied it. "I foresee no difficulties."

"You are an optimist, General," said Hunt slowly. "The Princess is a tired ship far beyond her prime. She is ill-prepared to cope with heavy seas and violent storms."

"I cannot impress upon you the importance and great rewards if this mission is carried out successfully. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek will generously compensate you and your crew in gold after you successfully reach port."

Hunt stared out the window of the limousine at the rusting hull of his ship. "A fortune in gold won't do me much good when I'm lying on the bottom of the sea."

"Then we will rest together for eternity." General Hui smiled without humor. "I will be coming along as your passenger."

Copyright© 1997 by Clive Cussler

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2003

    Are you kidding? This was Cussler's WORST

    I only finished this book because I forced myself to, not being a quitter by nature. It was difficult let me tell you! It was trite, predictable, silly, and ridiculous. I've enjoyed many Dirk Pitt adventures but this one made me cringe many times.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    What does your remarkable insight see in our bon vivant driver? 

    What does your remarkable insight see in our bon vivant driver? 
    This is only the second Cussler novel I’ve read, following the excellent Sahara which I sought out after I saw the film. This story is just as well told and in my mind, cements Clive Cussler as an excellent adventure novelist. His stories seem to be a good mix of mystery and action, with just enough humor and romance to keep things spicy, perfect movie making material. It’s too bad the film version came so late, or perhaps at the wrong time, and performed underwhelmingly, despite my enthusiastic support.
    The only problem I have with this book is the bad guy’s plan in general. I’m all for some Bond villain outlandishness, but this plan, even if it were completely successful, would have pointed all kinds of fingers right at the guy. How could he have gotten away with it? Well, I won’t let it bother me. This is an enjoyable book and Cussler excels at the many and varied action scenes he peppers throughout. The buddy-cop dynamic between Dirk and Al always brings a smile to my face and the various twists and reveals seldom disappoint. This will not be the last of this series that I add to my shelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2010

    I love Clive Cussler !

    I have read most of Cussler's books and this is one of the best....the Dirk Pit books are my favorite....

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Vacation Read

    I love to read Clive Cussler on a vacation, especially if it's a Dirk Pitt adventure. What can I say - I spend most of my time doing research reading and it's just great to lose yourself if a good old-fashioned adventure!

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    floodtide

    Excellent book. All 21 of the dirk pitt adventures are great reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2008

    The Best Dirk Pitt Novel

    This is arguably Cussler's finest Pitt novel, with the most intricate plot and best execution. Please disregard the Publishers Weekly review, as this reviewer clearly stopped reading several chapters before the end of the book. This is a thriller among thrillers, and I highly recommmend it to anyone, fans and newcomers alike.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2007

    Not deserving of a one star rating!

    Sure Flood Tide had its flaws but for a Cussler novel it was mighty entertaining, and I should know, I've read them all. It is Filled with action and intrigue just like any Cussler novel. I actually preferred the plot to this story to the more highly recommended 'Treasure' or 'Cyclops'. If you're a fan or Cussler novels of for that matter just an adventure novel fan then this will most likely satisfy your cravings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2002

    One of Clive Cussler's Many Triumphs

    The book really captured you and pulled you into it. Cussler is the master of fiction, without a doubt. He can send the book in so many different directions, but he always sends it the way that you least expect it. His characters are easy to identify with atleast in the stuborness part. All in all I really liked this book and recommended it to my friensd.

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