Labyrinthby Mark T. Sullivan
In the ancient darkness of a mammoth cave, a cosmic secret lies buried
Working late in a deserted lab, a researcher named Gregor makes the discovery of the century. Within the dingy mottled surface of a stone named “moon rock 66095” lies unparalleled superconductive property—a power which, if harnessed correctly, could solve the world&rsquo/b>… See more details below
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In the ancient darkness of a mammoth cave, a cosmic secret lies buried
Working late in a deserted lab, a researcher named Gregor makes the discovery of the century. Within the dingy mottled surface of a stone named “moon rock 66095” lies unparalleled superconductive property—a power which, if harnessed correctly, could solve the world’s energy problem once and for all. But when his supervisor tries to take credit for the breakthrough, Gregor murders him and hides the rock safely inside Kentucky’s Labyrinth Cave. And his supervisor will not be the last man to die before Earth learns the secrets of moon rock 66095. When NASA organizes a team to retrieve the magnificent rock, world-class cavers Tom and Whitney Burke are the natural choices to lead the expedition. But Whitney is still shaken from a terrible caving accident, and lets her husband and daughter go without her. When tragedy strikes the expedition, however, she must overcome her fears in order to rescue her family, plunging into a cave so deep that she may never see daylight again.
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Read an Excerpt
April 22, 1972
12:03 P.M., Houston Time
6 days, 0 hours, 9 minutes mission elapsed time
Descartes Highlands, The Moon
During their second foray outside the lunar module, James Elder and Howard Kennedy were jolted about as their moon rover lurched across a jagged landscape of boulders and minicraters.
Great view. Kennedy's familiar midwestern accent came crystal clear over the radio headset Elder wore under his helmet.
Elder nodded, mesmerized by the scene unfolding outside his tinted visor. The sun at their backs was as brilliant as a bomb blast. Stone Mountain rose before them in a series of shadowed ridges while Earth hung overhead in a sky of speckled black.
Elder parked the rover, then called into his microphone, Houston, we're five hundred feet above the Cayley Plains. Highest point ever reached by man on the moon.
Fantastic, said a voice from Mission Control. The crackling transmission was solid. Now you boys better get to work.
Kennedy got out and immediately began to gather samples. Elder climbed farther up the mountain, looking for rocks known as basalts, which would indicate that volcanic activity had formed the Highlands. But all he was seeing were "breccias," stones created by the impacts of asteroids and meteors.
Four billion years ago, the theory went, the moon was pummeled by giant chunks of rock hurled through space by the Big Bang detonation that created the universe. One huge impact created the South Ray Crater on the side of Stone Mountain, five times the size of a football field, more than a hundred feet deep, and covered with coal- and pearl-colored rocks. As Elder approached the rim of the chasm, he was looking at matter forms from the beginning of time. When studied under a microscope, he thought, these stones might well seem a universe unto themselves.
Elder paused, aware of the suck and whoosh of his breath inside his helmet, then called into his microphone, Houston, I'm gonna dig a trench up here, see what really made these old highlands.
Roger...keep...The radio link with Houston broke up under waves of static.
Come back, Houston?
Elder turned and looked downslope eighty yards toward Kennedy, who worked with his back to him.
You catch that, Howie?
Must be a solar storm choking communications.
Damn big one, Elder agreed, holding his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun.
If we lose Houston more than fifteen minutes, we'll head back to the module.
Elder used his rake to dig into the chalk-white dust on the crater's rim. After several minutes of work, he felt as if he might not find anything. Then the rake turned over a stone roughly the size and shape of a child's soccer ball. He photographed and gave a number to the find: moon rock 66095, a shock-melted breccia, eleven hundred grams in weight.
Elder used a scooper to lift moon rock 66095 and transfer it to his left hand. Shaking the stone so the dust would fall away, the astronaut held it up to his visor. At first glance, except for its shape, it seemed rather plain, a gray rock composed of concave planes and a few minor extrusions. But closer examination revealed a ragged web of dark crystals embedded in the surface of the stone. Elder shook more dust off the rock, then tilted it so the sun shone directly on the crystals. The sunlight invaded the black glass, made it flash like a rushing stream. Then it began to vibrate. The crystals' sparkling flared into a welder's blinding arc of light. The astronaut heard the hollow, oscillating roar of something deep and primitive.
A gale of energy, strong and electric, gusted through Elder and he doubled over as if punched. A flare of razored pain seared through his head. For a moment the astronaut could see nothing but that glaring light, hear nothing but that insistent, hushed roar, feel nothing but pulse after bolt of hot, insistent energy passing through him. Elder went to one knee, still clutching the rock in his hand, sure he was about to collapse.
Howie! Elder gasped.
Downslope, Kennedy spun around to see Elder force his hand open and drop something. The second astronaut saw it free of his commander's fingers for only a split second. But it was enough. He stood dumbfounded as Elder collapsed to one side.
Jim! Kennedy cried, dropping his equipment and climbing as fast as he could, bellowing into his headset, Houston, Houston, Elder's down! Houston, do you read me? Elder's down!
Nothing came back but heavy static.
By the time Kennedy reached Elder, the mission commander had gotten himself up into a sitting position. The searing, deafening pain that had all but crippled him had eased. His vision and hearing were returning, but he was nauseated, dizzy, and panting.
Kennedy crouched by his partner. You okay? What happened?
Elder gestured dully behind Kennedy. Like I was plugged into something, like grabbing a live wire, Jim. But not in the shocking way you'd expect. More like waves of...stuff...going through you, shaking you all up, deep, like in your cells, like...
Elder could not go on; he just shook his head in bewilderment. For a moment, Kennedy gaped at his partner, normally such a strong, even-keeled man. Then again, he himself had seen something from down the slope; it had appeared in his field of vision for a fraction of an instant, but that flashed image had been retained; it looked for all the world like heavily filtered photographs Kennedy had seen of solar eclipses -- a dense mass surrounded by a shimmering corona of light.
Now Kennedy followed the line of Elder's gesture to a rock behind his left foot. He picked it up, turned it over, and examined it, a gray stone seemingly no different in appearance from any of the ten thousand others strewn about them.
Yeah. I think. I...I don't know.
Jim...Howard? Do you copy, over? The radio link with Houston had returned.
Houston, Kennedy began, we have a prob -- Elder reached out and put his hand on Kennedy's arm, stopping him from finishing his sentence. Their eyes met through their visors in silent understanding. They'd been exposed to something. Kennedy had caught a glimpse of it. Elder had been all but overwhelmed by it. But the event was not ongoing and that was the problem.
NASA had cut short several space walks during the earlier Gemini missions because astronauts floating in the void had exhibited symptoms similar to those of anoxia, what deep-sea divers call "the rapture of the deep": disorientation, a feeling of detached well-being, hallucinations. Without evidence to support what they'd seen, the boys back in Houston might cut short their stay on the moon. Both men had spent their entire adult lives preparing for this single endeavor. They did not want to be accused of bugging out.
Come back? the mission commander called.
Jim's feeling a little out of sorts, Kennedy said.
Jim? What's going on?
I'm all right, Elder insisted, forcing himself to his feet. Just got a little...queasy there for a second.
There was a long pause, during which both astronauts stared down at moon rock 66095 in Kennedy's glove.
Well, that was one heck of a solar gust that just blew through up there. The docs down here say you could have gotten hit with some radiation, or the rapid change in light could have triggered the nausea.
Elder hesitated. Kennedy nodded. Rapid change in light, Elder said. Must be it.
We're going to want to run a full check on you when you get back to the module.
Roger, Elder said. But I'm good to go now.
Elder took one last long look at moon rock 66095 before holding out his collection bag to Kennedy. He had already photographed and given the rock a number. The stone had to return to Earth or they would face intense questioning about its absence. Kennedy nodded, then dropped the rock into the bag.
Positive, Houston, Elder said. Absolutely positive.
Three months after his return to Earth, however, James Elder's behavior turned erratic. He sank into depression, suffered bouts of insomnia, and began to drink. One night he tried to break into the Lunar Sample Laboratory, where all rocks brought back from the moon are kept. He was drunk and belligerent and told NASA security officials that he alone had the right to possess the moon rocks he'd brought back from the Descartes Highlands. In response to the incident, NASA quietly placed Elder on administrative leave and demanded he seek psychiatric help if he wished to rejoin the space agency. He admitted in therapy that he was obsessed by the moon rocks he'd brought back to Earth and that he was haunted by nightmares that all took place on the dark side of the moon. A psychiatrist put Elder on antidepressants and then antipsychotic drugs, but they did not help. In early 1974, despondent and suffering from delusions, Elder committed suicide. An autopsy showed an inexplicable concentration of heavy metals in the cortex of the astronaut's brain.
Copyright © 2002 by Suspense, Inc. Thirty-two years Later...
Meet the Author
Mark T. Sullivan (b. 1958) is an author of thrillers. Born in a Boston suburb, he joined the Peace Corp after college, traveling to West Africa to live with a tribe of Saharan nomads. Upon returning to the United States, he took a job at Reuters, beginning a decade-long career in journalism that would eventually lead to a job as an investigative reporter for the San Diego Tribune. Sullivan spent the winter of 1990 living with a group of skiers in Utah and Wyoming, and used the experience as the foundation for his first novel, The Fall Line (1994). In 1995 he published Hard News, a thriller based on his work as a reporter, and a year later he released The Purification Ceremony, which won the WH Smith Award for Best New Talent. His most recent work is Private Games (2012), which he co-authored with James Patterson. Sullivan lives with his family in Montana, where he skis, hunts, and practices martial arts.
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In 2004 at the University of Tennessee, internationally renowned physicist Dr. MacPherson notices the findings that an assistant Gregor obtains with a moon rock specimen. An elated MacPherson claims the results that show rock 66095 contains strong superconductivity traits as his own. He boasts how he will receive the Novel prize for the work. A stunned Gregor kills the professor. Gregor is convicted of the crime, but not before he hides the rock inside Labyrinth Cave, Kentucky. Three years later NASA hires Tom Burke and his daughter Cricket to escort them into Labyrinth Cave to find the missing rock. His wife Whitney suffers nightmares and though internationally famous refuses to enter the cave where last year her assistant died while she barely escaped. However, Gregor escapes with some fellow prisoners and heads to Labyrinth Cave to collect the rock that will make him rich and famous. He and his associates capture the Burkes and the NASA team inside the cave. Only Whitney can lead a rescue party, but she has not entered any cavern since the nightmare occurred, but the stakes are the two people she loves most. At times LABYRINTH seems more like a Hollywood thriller than a novel, but Mark T. Sullivan cleverly augments the plot with a personal crisis and an incredible underworld panorama. The story line is loaded with action on a global scale and on an individual level as the world is in trouble if Gregor regains the rock while Whitney battles herself. Mr. Sullivan provides a powerful tale that winks at the movie industry, which works fine for this novel. Harriet Klausner
What a fantastic book! I enjoyed it more than anything I have read in a long time. I raced through it in record time and it was a big mistake to start reading at night because I stayed up way too late hooked on this fabulous story. It starts out with an astronaut's amazing experience on the moon, zips you into the life of a woman who has been traumatimzed by the horrible death of her dear friend while they were caving together, then introduces you to her husband and teenage daughter and their problems as a family since the friend's death. This family plays a major role throughout the book and the teenage daughter turns out to be quite a gal. There is a prison breakout, more caving, more about the moon rock and it all is tied together beautifully. There's a semi-mad scientist, incredible adventures in the cave as the criminals force hostages to lead them through the underground labyrinth in search of the moon rock which has wonderous powers. There's some very interesting science in the book as well as great stuff about caving. This review may make the book sound too convoluted but the novel does not come across that way at all. The ending is exciting and clever. I cant wait for this author to write again!