Pandora's Legion: Harold Coyle's Strategic Solutions, Inc.by Harold Coyle, Barrett Tillman, William Dufris
In this explosive new series from New York Times bestseller Harold Coyle and noted military author Barrett Tillman, a new type of war is being fought by private paramilitary companies at the beck and call of the highest bidder. With the military and intelligence agencies spread thin, the US is constantly calling upon the services of these organizations-and… See more details below
In this explosive new series from New York Times bestseller Harold Coyle and noted military author Barrett Tillman, a new type of war is being fought by private paramilitary companies at the beck and call of the highest bidder. With the military and intelligence agencies spread thin, the US is constantly calling upon the services of these organizations-and Strategic Solutions Inc. is among the best.
Members of Al-Qaida have set in place a vicious biological attack. Men and women infected with the highly communicable and deadly Marburg virus have been sent to major cities and sensitive locations throughout the world in hopes of creating a deadly, global epidemic.
The dedicated men and women of SSI, led by former Rear Admiral Michael Derringer, are consummate professionals, nearly all ex-police or military, and are the among the best in the world at what they do. But the mastermind behind the living bio-weapons, Dr. Saeed Sharif, is more deadly than anyone could have possibly imagined. Spread throughout the globe and thwarting attacks on their home facilities the staff at SSI soon find themselves engaged in a frontline game of ground warfare. And to make matters worse, two infected Marburg carriers are heading straight for the United States. Using every resource it has, SSI launches an all-out search for the walking plague carriers before thousands more become infected and die.Posing a frightening scenario that could become all too real in the near future, and filled with the details of the military world that have made Coyle's books bestsellers, Pandora's Legion hits the front lines of the new war against terrorism in this engrossing, high-stakes novel.
"The Tom Clancy of ground warfare."W.E.B. Griffin on Harold Coyle
"Coyle is best when he's depicting soldiers facing death . . . He knows soldiers and and he understands the brotherhood of arms mystique and transcends national boundaries."The New York Times
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- Harold Coyle's Strategic Solutions, Inc. (Paperback) Series
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Read an Excerpt
By Harold Coyle, Barrett Tillman
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 Harold Coyle and Barrett Tillman
All rights reserved.
HEATHROW AIRPORT, LONDON
The traveler had a secret.
He was a young man with an American passport; one of 155,000 travelers who passed through Heathrow Airport west of the city that day. The British customs official in Terminal Three personally dealt with scores of them at a time, and she had become expert at sizing up people. Patrice Assamba was Jamaican by birth and British by her first marriage. She was also the senior agent on her shift by virtue of thirteen years' experience.
Assamba accepted the youngster's dark blue passport and began her initial examination. Another screwed-up American, she told herself. His appearance was unremarkable: early to mid-twenties, slight build, close-cropped dark beard, blue eyes turning watery behind John Lennon glasses. He wore the headgear common to many Islamic males—a brimless cloth cap of nondescript shape, vaguely khaki in color, pushed back on his head.
The traveler standing before Agent Assamba held the passport of one Youssef Ibrahim, but he certainly had been born with another name. Apparently a convert to Islam, his hometown was listed as Berkeley, California. That figures, Assamba sneered. She had been through the "People's Republic" several years before, helping a friend guiding a U.K. tour group. Free airfare and accommodations in the San Francisco area for four days and three nights. Hell of a deal. The scenery was marvelous, and Fisherman's Wharf alone was worth the effort.
Young Mr. Ibrahim's hand trembled when passing his documents, but Patrice Assamba attributed that to initial nervousness. Gauging by the stamps in the passport, he was new to international travel. Apparently he had gone from California to Saudi Arabia, via Frankfurt, thence to Pakistan for two months. Evidently the boy was on some sort of personal pilgrimage.
Assamba looked closer at the supplicant. She noted his pale, clammy skin and the watery eyes that seldom fixed on her. She read the signs: He's trying to appear relaxed by body posture but he won't look directly at me. Keeps glancing away.
Youssef Ibrahim probably was hiding something.
Assamba's accent bore the carefree lilt of the Caribbean. "Welcome to Heathrow, sir." She gave him a gleaming smile and perky tilt of the head. "Are you staying in England for long?"
Ibrahim shifted his weight, placing his hands in his jacket pockets. "Uh, no. Ma'am. No, ma'am. I'll just be here a few days." He glanced away again.
Agent Assamba decided to play this strange fish before reeling him in. "After Pakistan, you must be glad to be going home."
A brisk nod. "Yes, ma'am. You bet." Mentally he excoriated himself. You bet. The slangy residual of a wasted California youth.
In fact, Youssef Ibrahim loathed the very existence of Berkeley, California. After all, that's where his parents lived. He felt an onset of queasiness, uncertain whether it was caused by parental disdain or the effects of his secret. He swallowed hard, keeping the saliva down only by conscious effort. His mouth now was drier than ever before. He damned himself for shivering visibly. The headache that had begun as merely annoying hours before was a growing, insistent pressure behind his eyes.
Now the customs agent was examining him more closely. She suspects something. Well, let her look. They can't find what I'm hiding. No way, man.
"Sir, you don't look well. Would you like to sit down? Could we get you some water?"
Ibrahim opened his mouth, intending to decline the offer, when he felt the sudden rumbling in his bowels. He contracted his sphincter, desperately needful of a lavatory. He turned away, not sure where to go, realizing it was already too late. He turned back to Agent Assamba, beyond embarrassment at confiding his crisis to a strange woman. An infidel woman. He felt the first liquid tracking down the back of his legs, squeezed harder, and failed. The eruption announced itself to everyone within twenty feet.
ST. EDMUND'S HOSPITAL, LONDON
Dr. Carolyn Padgett-Smith resembled a practitioner of neither medicine nor immunology, though she possessed a master's degree in the latter. Tall and slender, at forty-one she could have passed for thirty-five, and it took most of her male colleagues a while to get their egos around the fact that a woman with large, violet eyes and high cheekbones knew more about infectious diseases than most Ph.D.s. None would have been surprised to learn that she had paid much of her college tuition by modeling; few realized that beneath her stylish clothes she had the muscular agility of a passionate rock climber.
"CPS" had planned on grading some postgraduate papers but the call from the Home Office changed all that. Because she had been on the short list for notification in the event of a communicable disease crisis, she was summoned to St. Edmund's, a well-equipped teaching hospital of 1960s vintage.
Padgett-Smith was met by a security officer she knew slightly, Richard Eversole Carruthers. She knew him to be professionally competent but, like too many coppers of her acquaintance, prone to situational ethics. "Hullo, Mr. Carruthers. What've we got?"
"Nice to see you, too, Padgers." Carruthers had long since abandoned hope of getting anywhere with Carolyn Padgett-Smith, burdened as she was with conventional morality and an attentive husband. Forsaking all others, that sort of thing. Pity. "The boy arrived yesterday on the PIA flight from Islamabad. He collapsed at the customs station and was brought here because it's closest to the M4 access to Heathrow."
"Likely that or Marburg, I'm told."
CPS muttered some fervent Anglo-Saxon monosyllables, none encumbered with a fifth letter. Then she focused her attention. "I shall need to see a blood sample to confirm the virus."
Carruthers nodded in his curt fashion. "Right. They're ready for you in the lab."
Padgett-Smith pulled on a gown, mask, and rubber gloves before stepping to the microscope with the blood in the high-quality plastic tube. She appreciated the caution: Glass could shatter if dropped, possibly spreading a deadly virus.
CPS focused the eyepiece more sharply and looked into the microscopic world. She felt a slight chill run down her spine, as if she had locked eyes with a cobra.
A layman would have seen a riot of cells, hardly recognizable one from another, though the sick ones outnumbered the healthy. But Dr. Padgett-Smith immediately discerned the dying cells: discolored, pale, swollen. Some had already burst apart.
Something had caused them to explode.
Padgett-Smith looked up at the lab director. "Filovirus?"
The man nodded. "I'll show you the microphotographs. We're also running tests to see if the patient's blood reacts positively in other samples. We should know before long."
Padgett-Smith returned to the lobby, ordering her priorities to coordinate with Carruthers's.
"Who had contact with the patient?" she asked.
"Well, the customs agents of course. And the ambulance attendants; probably some others."
"I shall like to see all of them."
"Of course. You can start with the point of contact, Agent Patrice Assamba."
"Give me the short version first."
"She seems a reliable observer. At first she suspected this so-called Ibrahim fellow was merely nervous because he was hiding something. Then with the sweating and chills, she thought he had malaria or a bad fever."
CPS nodded slowly. "Yes, that's the trouble with Marburg and Ebola. The onset is similar to far lesser illnesses with comparable incubation periods." Then she focused those violet eyes on his hazel orbs, two inches lower than hers. "You said 'so-called Ibrahim.' Is that an alias?"
"Well, it's the name on the passport, for what that's worth. We're checking with the Americans." CPS suspected that when drinking with his mates at the Hare and Hounds, Detective Carruthers said "Americans" with the same sneering tone as "wogs."
"He's been in Africa? Exposure to monkeys?" she asked.
"Arabia and Pakistan. About two months, apparently." The dick shrugged his sloped shoulders. "Don't know about any bloody apes."
Dr. Carolyn Padgett-Smith extended a manicured hand and patted Carruthers's cheek. "Why, I'd expect you'd know all about the great bloody apes, dear. Friends of the family."
Jason Scott Lamunyon knew the end would be bad. Dr. Ali had warned him, but "bad" was a vast understatement. The Californian remembered collapsing in a pool of his own excrement, blood, and vomit, regaining consciousness hours later in the isolation ward. Nobody came near him without a biohazard suit and respirator. He realized that he was dying a putrid death: the kind of blight he sought to inflict upon arrogant, decadent Western Civilization.
A nurse approached the bed to replenish the IV drip. He wanted to raise an arm, beckoning her—or him—to bend closer. So weak. Can't lift much. He barely nodded his head, and the attendant leaned down. The patient's lips were moving; apparently he wanted to say something. Dr. Padgett-Smith would need to know about it; the American had been unconscious when she first looked in.
Through the morphine haze, which only dulled the soaring pain, Jason Scott Lamunyon tried to speak. It was doubly hard since the virus had attacked his tongue, which was shedding skin at an alarming rate. He croaked something almost unintelligible: "Sorry. So sorry."
With an exertion of will, he moved his right hand to his left forearm and flexed his right thumb. Then he raised two fingers.
The attendant had no idea what the pantomime signified, but she hastened to find Carolyn Padgett-Smith.
OFF THE MARYLAND COAST
"My God, this fish is a fighter!"
Rear Admiral Michael Derringer, USN(Ret) loved the sea. But now, after nearly seven hours strapped into HMS Bounty 's fighting chair, he was beginning to think fondly of a warm, dry place ashore. Preferably someplace where marlin fishing was unknown.
The 130-pound test line unreeled again as the big blue sprinted away. At Bounty 's helm, "Cap'n Bob" Bligh glanced back over his shoulder while the skipper's son Bobby shouted directions and lent encouragement.
With his feet braced against the strain, Derringer waited for his prey to broach again. When it leapt into the sunlight once more, he used the opportunity to reel in several more precious inches. Cap'n Bob had already pegged the blue at perhaps nine hundred pounds, and Derringer was glad that he had accepted the skipper's advice. Blue marlin had been landed on far lighter lines, but mainly in shallow water. Here at Poor Man's Canyon, fifty miles off the Maryland coast, the bottom was 1,200 fathoms. A big, strong fish like the one Derringer had hooked could use some depth to gain momentum and snap a lighter line.
This time the marlin changed tactics. Instead of running astern, tiring itself against the tension of the line, it abruptly turned and charged the boat. Bobby gave the "full power" signal and Cap'n Bob ran the throttle forward. Derringer appreciated the wisdom of themove: he did not want to give this very capable fish too much time at the end of a slack line. As Bounty nosed into the swells, the distance between fish and boat stabilized, then began opening. Derringer cranked furiously on his reel, taking advantage of the opportunity. When the line snugged up again, he pulled with both hands, relishing the physicality of the contest even as he felt the strain in his back and arms.
Bobby patted the client on his aching shoulders. "We're gettin' him, Adm'ral. Keep him comin'."
A couple of years before, Derringer had landed a 680-pounder in barely two hours. But that was in the Gulf of Mexico. This would be his biggest catch yet, maybe even a "grander." That would put Michael Derringer in elite company: thousand-pound marlins were getting rare these days.
"Adm'ral, there's a message for you." The scratchy voice belonged to Miz Alice, Cap'n Bob's "able-bodied first mate." In fact, her insubordinate actions late one night—declared mutinous by Cap'n Bob—inspired the name of his next boat. For a moment, Derringer could not imagine who could possibly reach him. He had left his cell phone turned off—it was a curse more than a help.
Miz Alice emerged from the cockpit with a thermos of vegetable soup. "We just got a radio call from the Coast Guard," she advised. "ComFifth says you need to talk to them right away."
Derringer tugged on his pole again. He could sense that at length the marlin was tiring. "Damn it! I've got my hands full here ..."
"They're still on the horn, Admiral. Shall I tell 'em to stand by?"
Derringer nodded, then focused on the tactical battle. "Cap'n, you better back down a little and I'll switch with Bobby."
"Aye sir!" Bounty's captain maneuvered to take some of the tension off the line while Derringer quickly unstrapped from the chair. Bobby, a muscular twenty-four, would have little problem keeping the fish occupied.
In the cockpit, Derringer keyed the microphone. He could not imagine why the Fifth Coast Guard District needed to talk to him. "ComFifth, this is Derringer in Bounty. Over."
"Ah, roger, Bounty. Sir, this is Captain Deevers, chief of staff. We have an urgent message relayed from headquarters in Washington.You need to call your office immediately. Apparently they couldn't get you by cell phone."
"Hell no they couldn't get me by cell phone! I turned the damned thing off so I could go fishing."
Captain Deevers permitted himself a polite chuckle. "Understood, Admiral. All we know is that the Secretary contacted SSI and apparently some important people want to talk to you soonest."
Derringer thought for a moment. If the Secretary of Transportation had contacted SSI, something unusual was afoot. Unusual and likely unpleasant. "Thank you, Captain. I wish those people were as important as the blue marlin I've hooked out here."
The founder and CEO of Strategic Solutions, Inc. shouted back to Bobby. "Cast him loose, son. We're headed in."
HMS Bounty turned her stern to an exhausted blue marlin that happily dived on the continental shelf.
Dr. Phillip Catterly was accustomed to urgent calls at fearsome hours. This was the one he had always dreaded.
The clipped, upper-class tones of Carolyn Padgett-Smith snapped Catterly wide awake. Without bothering to apologize for the time, she said, "Phillip, check your email. When you've read my message and seen the attachments, get back to me straightaway."
Catterly blinked away the crusty feeling behind his eyes. "What is it, Carolyn?"
"It's awful, Phillip. Just awful."
"Well, it's about as bad as it gets." Catterly spoke bluntly to the short-notice meeting of the Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Committee. Normally few of the attendees would have left home yet, but much of the federal alphabet was represented: DoD, DoT, FBI, FEMA, INS, and TSA, as well as delegates from science, industry, and academia.
DHS Secretary Bruce Burridge stifled a yawn. It was barely 8:00 A.M. "We have some time, Phil. Please give us the medical background. I've already explained the carrier's travels and likely intentions."
"It's Marburg virus, similar to Ebola." The conference members stirred in their padded chairs; one or two uttered exclamations. The FBI representative emitted a low whistle. Catterly continued, "To give it its proper name, it's a family of negative-stranded RNA viruses, called Filoviridae. It's a hemorrhagic fever identified in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, after researchers were exposed to African green monkeys or their tissues. The first two Ebola outbreaks were reported in Zaire and the Sudan in 1976, with mortality rates between fifty and ninety percent depending on conditions and locale. With Marburg we expect twenty to twenty-five percent fatalities."
FEMA and TSA exchanged glances. FEMA asked HSD, "Should we increase the national threat level?"
Burridge shook his head. "No, at least not yet. The fact is, most people don't pay any attention, even at the elevated level." He turned back to Catterly. "Phil, how is the virus passed along?"
Catterly seemed to bite his lip. "Frankly, we don't know much about Marburg's origins or mechanics of transmission. Other than dealing with infected monkeys, most documented cases are based on close contact with the carrier, including sexual transmission, exposure to small amounts of body fluids, or handling of contaminated objects. There is also evidence of respiratory transmission among monkeys, dating from 1983. Of course, that's what we fear the most."
"How do we prevent it?" Burridge asked.
Catterly glanced around the room. "I wish to God I knew." He allowed the sentiment to sink in. "There's a CDC manual for treating hospitalized patients, basically the same as other hemorrhagic fevers. Sterilization and isolation. But the long-term effects can be grim. Patients who recover still are susceptible to recurrent hepatitis, transverse myelitis, or uveitis. There is ..."
Excerpted from Pandora's Legion by Harold Coyle, Barrett Tillman. Copyright © 2007 Harold Coyle and Barrett Tillman. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Harold Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of The Ten Thousand and More Than Courage. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.
Barrett Tillman is the author of forty books, including the bestseller Warriors and Clash of the Carriers.
William Dufris has been nominated nine times as a finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award and has garnered tweny-one Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which also named him one of the Best Voices at the End of the Century.
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