Frozen Fireby Bill Evans, Marianna Jameson
Scientists in a secret underwater habitat are mining the solid methane beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. An eco-terrorist's sabotage floods the ocean and atmosphere with toxic methane. The billionaire, his brilliant and beautiful security chief, and a pessimistic scientist who has engineered a methane-eating microbe are the world's only hope.See more details below
Scientists in a secret underwater habitat are mining the solid methane beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. An eco-terrorist's sabotage floods the ocean and atmosphere with toxic methane. The billionaire, his brilliant and beautiful security chief, and a pessimistic scientist who has engineered a methane-eating microbe are the world's only hope.
Praise for Category 7:
“A superb thriller of a disaster untold until now.”—Clive Cussler, New York Times bestselling author, on Category 7
“If there ever was a Category 7, I'd trust Bill Evans to get me through it! It's a great read!”—Sam Champion, Good Morning America Weather Anchor and Weather Editor, ABC News
“Just sit back and let the action wash over you. A fast-paced action-adventure that promises a rousing finale and delivers it.”—Booklist
“Take a healthy dose of the paranoid scenarios from 24 and governmental intrigues from The West Wing, then spike them liberally with the atmospheric minutiae that armchair meteorologists know and love. What emerges might be strikingly similar to this clever debut. Fast-paced storytelling . . . a satisfying thriller about fooling with Mother Nature.”—Kirkus Reviews
“What would happen if a massive super-storm hit New York City? And what if the storm's ferocity were enhanced by human activity? This is the premise of this debut thriller.”—Library Journal
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By Bill Evans, Marianna Jameson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 William H. Evans and Marianna Jameson
All rights reserved.
4:30 A.M., Saturday, October 25, Miami, Florida
Dennis Cavendish became aware that he was drifting toward consciousness and forced himself to open his eyes, demanded his brain kick into high gear. Too much was going to happen today for him to allow himself the luxury of a slow awakening, or even another round with the pair of warm, lush redheads flanking him. He pulled himself to a sitting position, then gave the woman on his left a light slap on her well-shaped behind.
"Time to go."
He shook the other woman's shoulder, and both began to make small murmurs, indicating that waking them would not be an easy task. He climbed over one of them, took a moment to stretch his pleasantly aching muscles, then ripped the covers off both women. The chill in the air-conditioned room sent them into fetal crouches.
He flipped on one of the lamps next to the bed. "I said it's time to go."
One of the women pushed herself upright on one elbow, brushing hair out of her eyes with her other hand. "Is something wrong? What time is it?" She looked at him blearily, her eye makeup smudged.
"It's four-thirty and you have to go. I've got work to do," Dennis lied smoothly. "Get your friend to wake up. You have to be out of here in five minutes. There will be a car waiting for you when you get downstairs."
Still confused and squinting, the woman nevertheless pushed her companion until she woke up. With barely a word spoken between them, the women threw on most of their clothes, and Dennis escorted them to the elevator door in the living room of his condo. They departed with wary, friendly waves. The moment the door slid shut, Dennis went to the shower to brace himself for the day ahead.
Forty-five minutes later Dennis was airborne, the engines of his Lear jet screaming as his pilot executed a steep takeoff from Miami International Airport. He would be on the ground on his island, Taino, in twenty minutes. Not long after that he would be in a small submarine headed four thousand feet to the bottom of his slice of the Caribbean. It wouldn't be a joy ride; it would be the last trip to see the dream of his lifetime while it still belonged just to him: Atlantis, the first fully staffed habitat ever built at that depth — and the operations center for the newest and best means of changing the way the world worked.
In a few hours, Atlantis would begin to retrieve methane hydrate crystals from beneath the seafloor and introduce the world to the next, arguably the only, clean fuel that the planet had to offer.
From entertaining the first glimmer of a thought to watching the last beams being sunk into place, Dennis had known that this was what life was about. This was the brass ring, the golden goose; attaining this kind of power was what every hackneyed cliché referred to, what every fairy tale was about, what every emperor and despot had ever dreamed of — the power to make the world change at one person's command. He was that person.
He picked up his phone and punched a single number. Less than a minute later, he heard a sleepy female voice, that of Victoria Clark, his secretary of national security and chief paranoiac. The woman whose job it was to keep him safe and happy.
"Hi, Vic. I'm on my way to the island. Meet me at my office in half an hour."
"Is something wrong? Is everyone with you?"
The thought of dragging the senior executives of some of the world's major corporations out of bed and onto a plane before dawn made him smile. "No, I'm alone. I want to get the day going. It's going to be unforgettable, Vic. Let's get 'em, tiger. See you in thirty."
"Wait. Don't hang up."
Dennis could tell by the soft noises in the background that she was pushing herself to sitting position, getting focused. It rarely took Vic this long to focus on anything, but then, he didn't usually get her up in the middle of the night.
Vic was his workhorse, his closest confidante, and the person who knew more of his secrets than anyone. She was the person he trusted the most — at least that's what he told people. The reality was that Dennis trusted no one but himself.
He had to let people into his circle, but he knew the closer he let them get, the more they had on him, the more he was worth to them. The market price of betrayal was something that never lost value, and Vic was the one person who could command the highest fee for betraying him.
Betrayal was a lesson he'd learned the hard way and, as such lessons do, it had altered his thinking in an instant. Since the first time Dennis had been stabbed in the back by someone he trusted, the degree of closeness and his level of real trust in a person had moved along opposing axes. As one went up, the other went down. Treating betrayal as a "when" rather than an "if" made life much easier.
It was his only gospel, and it worked.
"Dennis, you need to fly with your guests. You need to be there with them —"
"I've been with them for two days nonstop. I'll see them when they get in, in a few hours. Look, I want to go straight down to the habitat when I get there, okay? With you."
"Not interested in all the many reasons you can't or won't go there, Vic," he interrupted. "You're going."
Dennis disconnected before she could reply and sat back to sip his coffee.
In less than twenty-four hours, the world would be a different place. Victoria Clark was one of the few people who knew just how different it would be, and she was going to be at his side today. All day. Today of all days the risk was inordinately high.
4:30 A.M., Saturday, October 25, Miami, Florida
Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Watson lay naked on the rough sheets, staring at the shifting patterns of light playing on the cheap popcorn ceiling of an apartment that wasn't hers. Being there, next to a man she'd only met three months ago, a man who had changed her life and its purpose, was an atypical move for her. And that was a word she'd rarely — make that never — known to be applied to herself. If there was one word that she'd heard used to describe her more than any other, despite all the obstacles she'd overcome in her life, despite everything she'd accomplished, that word was "typical."
It wasn't a fair description nor was it an accurate one. That didn't matter to the many people who had uttered it, under their breath derisively or more loudly with intimations of expectations met, upon hearing what Wendy Watson had done, was doing, or was intending to do. She'd heard it when she'd graduated at the top of her class from the most prestigious public high school in Connecticut. When she'd graduated at the top of her class from the United States Air Force Academy. When she'd been selected to train for the elite Combat Search and Rescue force. When it was announced she'd received enough commendations to make her the most highly decorated female air force officer serving in Afghanistan.
She hadn't heard it when she refused the offer to become a flight instructor in favor of resigning from the military. But the hated word had quickly resumed its place as a staple in her life when she became the chief pilot for the Climate Research Institute.
The institute was a small, quiet, privately funded think tank and the plaything of the occasionally flamboyant and perpetually eccentric Dennis Cavendish, a telecommunications wunderkind who had retired at forty to take on the challenges of climate change. In his spare time, he served as president for life of The Paradise of Taino, his own private tropical nation-state snugly situated between the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.
Wendy loved her job; it paid well, provided her with lots of perks, and allowed her to have her say in what sort of planes Dennis bought. That had been enough when she'd been hired and for the four years that had passed since then. It had been enough until she'd met Garner Blaylock, a beautiful, earthy man who was lit from within with passions and understanding Wendy could only marvel at. He'd swept her into a world she'd never known existed and had reframed her life, banishing from it forever the association with anything remotely "typical."
And in a few hours from now, to cement her commitment to Garner, to her new way of thinking, to the cause he had introduced her to and which they now shared, Wendy would do something that was anything but typical by anyone's standards. The event was going to be spectacular and meaningful; if her actions were ever to become public knowledge, they would be called crazy by many, but adjudged heroic by the people she cared about most. By the person she cared about most. By Garner.
"What are you thinking about?"
Wendy rolled over and looked into the deep brown, soulful eyes of her lover, her mentor, the man for whom she was about to make the biggest sacrifice in her life.
She reached up and smoothed his tousled golden curls, threaded her fingers through them. "What do you think I'm thinking about?"
He cupped her cheek as he eased his thumb along her bottom lip. "Well, I hope you're thinking about how we spent the last few hours, but I imagine you're thinking of what you'll be doing in the next few." His deep, cultured British voice was husky with sleep and sex.
She didn't allow herself to respond with anything other than a smile.
"Are you afraid?" he asked gently.
Garner watched her, peering into her soul with eyes that were soft and loving. "Were you afraid every time you flew into a battle zone? Or is it just this task that has you worried?" he asked, his voice low.
She hesitated, not wanting him to mistake her fear for doubt. "I was afraid every time, every mission. We all were. The fear helped us keep our edge. If you weren't scared, you weren't focused. But you had to subdue the fear by keeping foremost in your mind the knowledge that you'd be coming back." She paused. "This time, that knowledge, that assurance isn't there, Garner. It's an odd feeling to know I won't be coming back."
"When you flew for them —" He never uttered the name of any of the groups he fought, so deep was his loathing of all things political.
"When you flew for them, you would have died for them, wouldn't you? It's what they expected you to do, if necessary. Am I right?"
"Yes, but —"
He drew his thumb across her lips again, silencing her. "The oath you lived by then was an oath to a political body, Wendy, a myopic, human-centric organization that survives by cannibalizing its allies if they don't support its warped economic ideals." His hand slid to hers, brought her palm to his lips. "You're different now, darling. You operate at a different level of understanding, at a different harmonic frequency as it were. You've learned how badly the Earth needs us. It's left to us — to you — to send the rest of humanity a wake-up call. There's no other way to save Her and all Her creatures from senseless destruction at the hands of shortsighted, parasitic mercenaries." His grip tightened slightly as his voice became more intense. "You're no longer bound to the empty words they made you believe in, Wendy, nor to the desperate actions they made you carry out. You're bound to the true reality now, my love. To the tangible. To the eternal." He looked into her eyes with a passion that stopped just short of ferocity.
The energy radiating from him made her light-headed.
She took in a shaky breath, her eyes never leaving his beautiful face.
"My darling Wendy, the war we're fighting is bigger than all of us. It's so, so much greater. It's the battle for ultimate justice and you, my love, you're our warrior. Our lovely golden warrior," he whispered, trailing his fingers down the front of her body.
She caught her breath as a rush of cool air followed the warmth of his hand, leaving her skin tingling with the cold burn of sparks and desire.
"Only you can do this for me, for us, Wendy. It's your destiny and your debt. Tell me again that you won't fail us. Let me know the depth of your commitment, my love."
Wendy closed her eyes against the tears welling in them. With every pulse of life beating inside her, she knew that what she was going to do today was the right thing, a necessary and noble action undertaken for the good of the Earth. She'd known it since the day three months ago when she'd met Garner purely by chance and had fallen in love with him as if guided by Fate. It never failed to astonish her that he'd felt the same passion for her before that first week's end.
The heady rush of desire she'd felt when she met him was one she'd never expected to feel, and therefore undeserved — until he convinced her otherwise. And when he'd asked her to help him a few weeks later, she hadn't hesitated. She'd known before he'd told her that she was the only person in the entire organization who could execute his plan.
And she would. She had never failed at anything and she would not fail now. It was not in her to fail.
Wendy slid her arms around his hard, muscular body and reveled in his heat and power.
"You don't have to persuade me, Garner," she said in a voice as strong as she could muster, her gaze unwavering as she looked into his endless eyes. "I've made my decision. I accepted the assignment and I'll complete the mission. But there is a part of me —"
"No 'buts,' Wendy," he whispered, his lips warm and soft against hers. "There is no weakness in you. You are my fearless warrior princess and for the rest of my life, if ever I falter, it will be you who will inspire me to continue the fight for justice. Let's stop talking, love. Let me live within you in this moment, and forever."
As he finished speaking, he moved on top of her. His hands, his mouth offered an escape she seized without hesitation. But even his lovemaking, so sure, so tender, could not alter her reality, could not obliterate the knowledge humming in her brain.
In six hours, she was going to die. Horribly.
5:30 A.M., Saturday, October 25, Gainesville, Florida
Sam Briscoe smiled as he made the transition from sleep to wakefulness with a little help from a pair of warm, feminine lips pressed against the back of his neck. He smiled into the pillow and a moment later lifted his head. Slowly, so as not to dislodge the lips.
"I'm leaving." Cynthia's voice was soft, barely a whisper against his skin.
He rolled over as he blinked his way to a clear focus on her face, fully made up and ready to meet the day. Even though day hadn't broken yet.
"It's five-thirty," he mumbled, coherency coming slowly. "What in God's name are you doin'?"
She smiled. "If I'd told you last night what time I had to get up, you wouldn't have let me stay. And I didn't want to miss out on that goodbye ..." Her voice trailed off, bringing a bigger smile to his face and greater clarity to his brain.
"You wouldn't have anyway," he replied, returning her smile although his voice was still hoarse with sleep. "I thought your flight was at nine."
"I lied. We fly out of here at seven and I still have to pick up Stephanie and Grace." She placed a small kiss on the end of his nose.
"Here" was Gainesville, Florida, a vibrant, bustling town when the University of Florida was in session, and a hot, humid, laid-back town when it wasn't. Right now, the university was bracing for a day of football, which should have meant that Professor Briscoe could sleep in for a few more hours before deciding whether to put on his blue and orange fanwear and head into the madness on campus. But today his long-term girlfriend was heading off for a week-long Caribbean sailing cruise with some girlfriends, and that required wakefulness, at least until her car was backing down the driveway.
Sam didn't bother to stifle a yawn. "Shoot, Cyn, you can get to the airport in fifteen minutes. Come back to bed for a spell." He backed up his offer with a grin.
"I can't get there that fast when I have to pick up Stephanie and Grace," she repeated, pulling away and straightening up just as some of his more primitive mechanical parts were waking up. "You know how disorganized they are."
"I'll make it worth your while," he drawled as he led the hand he held toward the newly erected tent of sheets.
"I'll take a rain check." She stood up with a laugh and stepped away from the bed, slipping her hand out of his grip. Then she reached over and brushed some hair out of his eyes. Like a mother would.
Annoyance flickered within him. They were going to be apart for seven days. No way should picking up her girlfriends take precedence over some last-minute grab-and-tickle.
"So why did you get me up?" he asked mildly, not betraying the shift in his mood. Much.
"To say goodbye."
She cocked her head at him with a look that should have been accompanied by her hands thumping onto her hips. But that might wrinkle the pants she was wearing. He knew that too well. Backwater Georgia boys, even ones with Ph.D.s, learned a lot of new things when they dated princesses from Washington, D.C.
Excerpted from Frozen Fire by Bill Evans, Marianna Jameson. Copyright © 2009 William H. Evans and Marianna Jameson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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