Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars #1: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh [NOOK Book]

Overview

"The most critical period in Earth's history." -- Gary Seven, Supervisor 194
Even centuries later, the final decades of the twentieth century are still regarded -- by those who know the truth of what really happened -- as one of the darkest and most perilous chapters in the history of humanity. Now, as an ancient and forbidden technology tempts mankind once more, Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise™ must probe deep into the secrets of the past, to discover the true...
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Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars #1: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh

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Overview

"The most critical period in Earth's history." -- Gary Seven, Supervisor 194
Even centuries later, the final decades of the twentieth century are still regarded -- by those who know the truth of what really happened -- as one of the darkest and most perilous chapters in the history of humanity. Now, as an ancient and forbidden technology tempts mankind once more, Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise™ must probe deep into the secrets of the past, to discover the true origins of the dreaded Eugenics Wars -- and of perhaps the greatest foe he has ever faced.
1974 A.D. An international consortium of the world's top scientists have conspired to create the Chrysalis Project, a top-secret experiment in human genetic engineering. The project's goal is nothing less than the creation of a new, artificially improved breed of men and women: smarter, faster, stronger than ordinary human beings, a super-race to take command of the entire planet.
Gary Seven, an undercover operative for an advanced alien species, is alarmed by the project's objectives; he knows too well the apocalyptic consequences of genetic manipulation. With his trusted agents, Roberta Lincoln and the mysterious Isis, he will risk life and limb to uncover Chrysalis' insidious designs and neutralize the awesome threat that the Project poses to the future.
But he may already be too late. One generation of super-humans has already been conceived. As the years go by, Seven watches with growing concern as the children of Chrysalis -- in particular, a brilliant youth named Khan Noonien Singh -- grow to adulthood. Can Khan's dark destiny be averted -- or is Earth doomed to fight a global battle for supremacy?
THE EUGENICS WARS: Volume One is an engrossing and fast-paced thriller that explores the secret history of the twentieth century -- and the rise of the conqueror known as Khan.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Reading this novel was like watching the prequel to one of my favorite movies, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (In my opinion, the part where Khan puts the slimy Ceti Eels in Chekov's ear is classic sci-fi cinema!) Greg Cox, author of the bestselling Q Continuum trilogy (Q-Space, Q-Zone and Q-Strike), takes us back in (Star Trek) time to 1974, to the years leading up to the Eugenics Wars -- back to when the evil Khan was a four-year-old prodigy known as Noon.

Just like the classic television episodes, Cox effortlessly pulls readers in within seconds: "Captain's log, Stardate 7004.1. Under top-secret orders from Starfleet Command, the Enterprise is en route to the Paragon Colony on the planet Sycorax, to evaluate that colony's recent request to join the United Federation of Planets. At issue is one of the Federation's fundamental principles, a centuries-old taboo perhaps second only to the Prime Directive in its scope and sanity..."

Captain James T. Kirk and his crew don't know exactly what they'll find on Sycorax -- a planet that has had little or no contact with outsiders for more than 300 years, but they do know that the colony has been allegedly genetically modifying their children's DNA for generations. Before arriving at Sycorax, Kirk takes a crash course in eugenics by researching the very beginning of the Eugenics Wars -- specifically information concerning a top-secret operation known as the Chrysalis Project. The goal of the project was to create a society of super humans and then wipe out everyone else with bacteria that was harmless to the genetically modified.

Kirk's history lesson revolves around Gary Seven, a genetically enhanced undercover operative working for an advanced alien species; his "pet" black cat Isis; and his assistant, Roberta Lincoln. Their mission was to uncover the Chrysalis Project and make sure the genetic manipulation was stopped before humankind inevitably destroyed itself.

Although I highly recommend this book to all Star Trek fans, be warned of the torturously frustrating cliffhanger. The novel ends abruptly at a major turning point in the story. Cox has positioned the action to literally explode in the first pages of the second volume, and has left me dying to find out what happens to Kirk, Khan, and the Klingons. (Paul Goat Allen)

KLIATT
The main tale is framed with an incident in which Captain James Kirk and the Enterprise are sent to evaluate the Federation application of a human colony practicing eugenic biological enhancement. The story of Khan emerges as Kirk reviews the little-known history of the late 20th-century Eugenics War. Cox weaves the action around real and real-sounding events of the late 20th century and brings in many references to later Star Trek adventures. The result is an interesting blend of history and fiction that concludes with Khan being sent off in a secret sleeper ship to his future rendezvous with Captain Kirk, as seen in the second Star Trek movie. (Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, vol. 2). KLIATT Codes: JSA;Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Pocket Books, 435p.,
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743422598
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek
  • Publication date: 12/12/2001
  • Series: Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars Series , #1
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 161,116
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Greg Cox is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous Star Trek novels and short stories. He has also written the official movie novelizations of Godzilla, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and the first three Underworld movies, as well as books and stories based on such popular series as Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CSI, Farscape, The 4400, Leverage, The Green Hornet, The Phantom, Roswell, Star Trek, Terminator, Warehouse 13Xena: Warrior Princess, and Zorro. He has received two Scribe Awards from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Visit him at GregCox-author.com.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

EAST BERLIN

GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC

MARCH 14, 1974

Roberta Lincoln paced nervously outside the Russian Embassy, hugging herself against the chill of the cold night air. The monumental stone edifice, built in a stolid, neoclassical style, loomed behind the young blond woman, silent and dark. Roberta peered at her wristwatch; it was ten past two in the morning, only ninety seconds later than the last time she'd checked her watch. What's keeping Seven and that darn cat? she wondered anxiously. They should be back by now.

Restless and apprehensive, she strolled down the sidewalk, wincing at the sound of her own heels clicking against the pavement. The echo of her footsteps rang out far too loudly for Roberta's peace of mind. The last thing she wanted to do was attract the attention of the local cops or, worse yet, one of the innumerable informants working for the Stasi, the dreaded East German secret police.

Fortunately, Unter den Linden, the wide city boulevard running north past the embassy, seemed deserted at this ridiculously late hour. The only traffic she heard was an elevated train rattling by a few streets over. Roberta clung to the shadow cast by the huge building, keeping a safe distance from the streetlamps at either end of the block, while also maintaining a careful lookout for any sign of trouble. "C'mon, c'mon," she muttered impatiently, wishing Seven could hear her. You'd think I'd be used to this sort of thing by now, she thought; after all, she'd been working with Gary Seven, alias Supervisor 194, for nearly six years now, ever since that unforgettable afternoon in 1968 when she'd shown up for what she'd thought was an ordinary secretarial job, only to find herself caught up in a bizarre happening involving nuclear missiles, talking computers, and a starship from the future.

Heck, she mused, what's a little East German espionage compared to some of the spacey shenanigans Seven has dragged me into over the last few years? Nevertheless, she shivered beneath a heavy gray overcoat, and not just from the cold. The thick wool garment she wore was neither flattering nor fashionable, but it helped to preserve her anonymity while simultaneously warding off at least some of the winter's chill. A black beret and matching kerchief, the latter tied below her chin, concealed most of her tinted honey-blond hair, while her gloved hands were thrust deeply into the pockets of her coat for warmth. Her fidgety fingers toyed with a thin silver device, snugly stowed away in the right pocket, that looked and felt like a common fountain pen. A mere pen, however, wouldn't have reassured Roberta nearly as much as this particular mechanism, even as she prayed devoutly that she wouldn't have need to use the servo before this night was over.

A pair of headlights approached from the north and Roberta turned her back on the empty street. Probably just a delivery truck making a late-night run, she guessed, stepping deeper into the gloomy shadow of the embassy, but her heart raced a little faster anyway. Roberta held her breath, while casting a wistful glance southward toward the lights of the Brandenburg Gate, only a block and a half away. The imposing marble arches, along with their attendant armed border guards and vigilant watchdogs, marked the frontier between East and West Berlin, making the safety of the Allied Sectors seem tantalizingly close by.

Granted, those brown-uniformed guards were under orders to shoot any would-be escapees on sight, but Roberta couldn't help experiencing an irrational urge to make a run for it. Don't be silly, she scolded herself. It's not going to come to that. Seven will be back any second now...I hope.

A covered truck rumbled past her, and she breathed a sigh of relief as the unassuming vehicle rounded the corner two blocks farther up the boulevard, disappearing down the adjacent cross-street. That would be Friedrichstrasse, she remembered, mentally calling up the maps she'd memorized for this mission. Her briefing had been exhaustively thorough, but no amount of preparation was going to help her, she realized, if she got caught on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

A rueful smile lifted the corners of her lips. She could just imagine trying to explain her situation to a stone-faced Stasi interrogator: No, no, I'm not affiliated with the CIA or the U.S. government at all. I'm actually working for an independent operator trained by a bunch of secretive extraterrestrials who want to keep humanity from nuking itself into extinction...Boy, wouldn't that go over great with the Commies! She's probably end up in a Soviet asylum, if she wasn't simply shot at dawn.

"Guten abend, fraulein," a voice whispered in her ear.

Gasping out loud, Roberta spun around to find a stranger standing beside her. Where the heck had he come from? In her effort to evade detection from the passing truck, she had completely overlooked the newcomer's arrival. Sloppy, sloppy, she castigated herself for her carelessness. Some spy girl I am. Emma Peel would never let someone sneak up on her like this.

Thankfully, the speaker did not look like much of a threat, at least not on the surface. To Roberta's vast relief, the man wore neither a police nor an army uniform; instead he looked like a middle-aged accountant or shopkeeper, out for a post-midnight stroll. The man was short and jowly, his balding head exposed to the frigid night air and a pair of plain, black spectacles perched upon his bulbous, somewhat florid nose. Like Roberta's, his hands had sought the warmth of his coat pockets, but, despite the cold, his face was flushed and red. Germany's the beer-drinking capital of the world, Roberta recalled. Maybe the stranger was just heading home after an especially long night at his favorite bar?

"Er, hello," Roberta replied uncertainly. She spoke in English, but her automatic translator, ingeniously disguised as a silver pendant shaped like a peace symbol, converted her awkward greeting into perfect German, just as her matching earrings conveniently translated the stranger's every utterance into English. Beats a Berlitz course any day, she thought, grateful for Seven's advanced alien technology.

"You shouldn't be out so late, pretty girl," the man warned her ominously. The avid gleam in his eyes, as well as a sinister smile, belied the cautionary nature of his words. Peering past the stranger's spectacles, Roberta flinched at the sight of the German's glazed, bloodshot eyes. I haven't seen eyes that crazy since the last time Charlie Manson was on TV, she thought, stepping backward and away from her unwelcome visitor. "Don't you know it's not safe?" he taunted her. His left hand emerged from his pocket, clutching the ivory handle of something that looked alarmingly like a closed switchblade.

Just my luck! Roberta lamented silently. You try to do a little innocent night's spying and what do you get? Attacked by some sort of psycho/mugger/ rapist! "Stay back!" she whispered hoarsely, afraid even now to raise her voice so near the soldiers guarding the gate. "I'll scream, I swear it!"

She was bluffing, of course. She didn't dare raise an alarm. That could compromise the entire mission, putting Seven in danger as well, not to mention the cat.

"Go ahead," the German said, licking his fleshy lips in anticipation. With a click, a silver blade sprang from the ivory handle, catching the light of the streetlamps. "Old Jack likes screams, especially from pretty young things who know they're about to die."

Roberta fumbled in her pocket for her servo, briefly losing track of the pen-shaped weapon amid a clutter of loose change and wadded-up Kleenex. Before she could seize hold of it again, her assailant's knife slashed across the outside of her coat, slicing through the fabric and sending the contents of her pocket spilling onto the sidewalk. Roberta's eyes widened as the slender silver instrument bounced twice upon the cracked, uneven pavement, then rolled to a stop only a few inches away from the slasher's feet.

The man caught the hopeless yearning in her gaze and glanced downward. "Hah!" he laughed at the sight of Roberta's errant servo. Saliva sprayed from his mouth as he mocked her. "What were you planning to do, fraulein? Write Old Jack a nasty letter?"

"Hey, the pen is mightier than the sword, or the switchblade, or whatever," Roberta answered defiantly, yanking her hand free from the perforated pocket and assuming a defensive stance. "Or haven't you heard?"

Her glib response elicited an angry scowl from the knife-wielding German. His ruddy features took on a bestial appearance as he advanced on Roberta with premeditated slowness, waving his blade back and forth before her watchful eyes. The yellow radiance of a distant lamp glinted off the shining, sharpened metal. "You ought to be more afraid, harlot. You should scream, scream for your life!"

Nothing doing, Roberta resolved, guessing that the psycho probably got off on his victims' fear. Struggling to maintain a confident expression, she raised her hands before her, karate-style. "Watch who you're calling names, you cornball creep. Who do you think you are, Jack the Rip-Off?" That was a good one, she thought, the wisecrack bolstering her courage. Too bad the gag's probably lost in translation...

The German smirked, as though at a private joke of his own. "You have no idea who you're dealing with, you stupid trollop, but I'll slice the impertinence from your bones, bit by bloody bit!" He lunged at Roberta, stabbing at her wildly while growling like a rabid beast. A string of drool trailed down his chin while his blood-streaked eyes bugged from their sockets. "Die, harlot, die!"

If he expected Roberta to shriek or run away, he was to be severely disappointed. Six years of covert missions alongside Gary Seven, facing everything from radioactive mutants to cyborg zombies, had taught the twenty-four-year-old woman how to take care of herself.

As her assailant stabbed his knife at her belly, she pivoted to the left, dodging the thrust, while parrying the blow with her right arm. Then she used her left to block and trap Jack's own arm long enough for her to grab on to his knife hand and steer it away from her body. As the German snarled in frustration, Roberta pressed her left arm against his elbow, forcing him to the pavement with a flawless forearm takedown. Dropping her knee onto his hyperextended arm freed her left hand, allowing her to wrestle the knife from his grip. Guess all those jujitsu classes finally paid off, she thought triumphantly.

Jack suddenly found himself facedown upon the asphalt, unarmed and at her mercy. Her knee kept his arm pinned to the ground, while both hands held on to his captured arm. She could have broken the limb easily from this position, but settled for pulling back on it painfully. Twisting his head, the crazed German stared back over his shoulder at Roberta, blinking in confusion. Clearly, he had not anticipated that his attractive young prey would offer such stiff resistance, let alone refuse to be intimidated by his threats and vicious attacks. "How -- ?" he murmured, breathing heavily from his exertions. His spectacles dangled precipitously upon the tip of his nose. "Who -- ?"

"I am woman, hear me roar," she stated, après Helen Reddy. Had that song been a hit in East Germany, too? Roberta wasn't sure, but she hoped that her twisted adversary had gotten the message. That'll teach this lunatic to underestimate us liberated American chicks!

A rustle from above caught their attention. Still sprawled upon the sidewalk, Jack looked upward, past Roberta. His jaw dropped at the sight of a man in a business suit rappelling down the front of the embassy.

About time, Roberta thought.

The bottom end of a black nylon cable struck the sidewalk only seconds before the man himself touched down on the pavement. A tall, slender individual in a conservative gray suit, he looked to be in his late thirties, with touches of gray streaking his neatly trimmed brown hair. Shrewd gray eyes coolly assessed the situation: Roberta's torn coat, the knife-wielding stranger on the ground.

"Trouble, Ms. Lincoln?" Gary Seven asked calmly, arching a nearly invisible, faint-brown eyebrow. As if his dramatic entrance were not incongruous enough, a sleek black cat was draped over his shoulders. A white collar studded with sparkling transparent gems glittered against the feline's glossy fur.

"You might say that," Roberta conceded. The cat squawked at her indignantly, as if criticizing the human female for her carelessness in attracting the likes of Old Jack. And hello again to you, too, Roberta thought peevishly, glaring back at her four-legged nemesis, who sprang from Seven's shoulders onto the pavement, looking grateful to be back on solid ground. Mrraow, the feline squawked once more.

"Quiet, Isis," Seven addressed the cat. "I'm sure this wasn't Ms. Lincoln's fault at all."

All of this was much too weird for the dumbfounded slasher; with a burst of unexpected strength, he threw Roberta off him and scrambled to his feet. Abandoning his knife, he darted away, eager to make a hasty exit. No way! Roberta thought angrily. You're not getting away from me that easily. Snatching up her servo from where it had fallen, she set the weapon on Subdue and fired at the fleeing bad guy.

Despite his frantic haste, Jack was still in range. Watching his scurrying figure slow down, then collapse onto Unter den Linden, Roberta started to take off toward the tranquilized maniac, only to feel Seven lay a restraining hand upon her shoulder. "Not now, Ms. Lincoln," he advised. "We have no time for this."

"But -- ?" she blurted. The man was a menace to women everywhere. She couldn't just let him off with a warning.

"Leave him to the local authorities," Seven instructed firmly, no doubt anticipating her outraged arguments.

As if to prove his point, a shrill whistle suddenly blared from the vicinity of the gate. "Achtung!" a harsh voice cried out, followed by the sound of boots pounding on asphalt. "Put your hands up and stay where you are!"

Oh, no! Roberta realized that her altercation with Jack had finally drawn the attention of the border guards. Lights came on in the previously darkened windows of the embassy. Voices inside shouted in Russian, even as an enormous searchlight, mounted atop a sentry tower just before the Brandenburg Gate, swung in their direction, exposing all three of them -- Roberta, Seven, and Isis -- to a blinding glare that lit up the entire block. The spotlight stretched the trio's shadows out like taffy behind them.

"This way," Seven instructed. Leaving his rappelling gear behind, he scooped up Isis and began running up the boulevard, away from the onrushing soldiers. Deciding that maybe Old Jack had hit on the right idea after all, Roberta needed no further urging to sprint after Seven, servo in hand.

"Halt!" she heard someone yell less than a hundred yards behind her, accompanied by barking dogs and running feet. More whistles shrieked in her ears, summoning reinforcements? "Stop or we'll fire!"

Time to make like Secretariat, Roberta realized. Knowing that surrender was not an option, Roberta galloped north as fast as her well-exercised legs could carry her. Seconds later, a shot rang out and a bullet whizzed by her skull, nearly winging her beret. A warning shot, she wondered anxiously, or just lousy aim? A welcome surge of adrenaline gave her an extra burst of speed, so that she nearly caught up with Seven and Isis. How come the kitty gets a free ride, she thought resentfully, and I have to run my butt off to keep from becoming an international incident?

More bullets whirred past her, making her flinch with every near miss. No matter how many times it had happened to her over the last few years, she'd never gotten used to being fired upon. The rat-at-tat report of machine guns echoed across the spacious boulevard as she hurried desperately toward the sheltering darkness beyond the incandescent reach of the searchlight. That's it, she thought in well-deserved exasperation, staring balefully at the retreating back of her employer. I definitely have to talk to Seven about hazard pay...!

"After them! Don't let them get away!"

Corporal Erich Kilheffer of the East German army ran alongside his fellow soldiers as they pursued the fleeing suspects. His heart pounded in excitement even as an acute sense of responsibility gnawed at his already taut nerves. The incriminating cables dangling outside the Russian Embassy had not escaped his notice; the fleeing man and woman must have been engaged in an act of espionage or worse, which made their capture absolutely imperative. He knew that his superiors, not to mention their Soviet bosses, would not look kindly on him if he permitted known spies to escape under his watch. These days border guards could be court-martialed simply on suspicion of having deliberately missed while firing upon anyone making a dash past the gate; Kilheffer didn't want to think about what might happen to him if even one of the two suspects got away.

That's not going to happen, he vowed, clutching his Makarov pistol as he charged down the middle of the street. A few yards ahead of him, a trio of barking German shepards strained at their leashes, literally dragging their handlers behind them in their eagerness to chase after the fugitives. "Release the dogs!" he ordered on the run. "Try not to shoot the hounds!" he added to the rest of his men. Given a choice, he'd rather take one or both of the suspects alive, but, one way or another, he was going to present their bodies to his commander.

Running up the boulevard, past the austere gray facades of the adjoining buildings, Corporal Kilheffer tried to anticipate the fugitives' escape route. To the left, only a few blocks away, were both the British and U.S. embassies. Might the exposed spies make for the foreign consulates, in a brazen attempt to claim political asylum? Not while I'm on the case, Kilheffer resolved; he'd gun the miscreants down on the embassy steps if had to.

To his surprise, however, first the man, then the woman, turned right on Glinkastrasse instead. "Idiots," he muttered under his breath; didn't they know they were heading straight for the Berlin Wall? A knowing smirk signaled Kilheffer's mounting confidence in the outcome of this nocturnal chase. Even if the fugitives made it to the border crossing popularly known as Checkpoint Charlie, a couple of blocks southeast, there was absolutely no way they could make it past the East German forces stationed there. We've got them trapped, he thought smugly, regretting only that he might have to share the credit for the capture with his counterpart at the checkpoint.

As he jogged around the corner, however, slowing his pace somewhat now that he knew his prey was hemmed in, he was surprised to find the swiftest of his troopers milling about in confusion, as were the resourceful guard dogs, who only moments before had been intent on running down their prey. Quizzical yelps escaped the bewildered hounds as they pawed the asphalt and turned agitated brown eyes toward their handlers. "What is it?" Kilheffer demanded. "Where are they?"

Shrugs and silence greeted his urgent queries. The corporal scanned the narrow street ahead of him, searching for some sign of the missing fugitives. Unlike Unter den Linden, this particular avenue was no major thoroughfare. Darkened storefronts faced each other across an unremarkable strip of asphalt, interrupted here and there by vacant lots strewn with rubble left over from the Allied bombing nearly two decades ago. Several Trabis, the ubiquitous state-produced automobile, were parked against the curb on both sides of the street, still and driverless, but of the elusive suspects there was no trace at all, only an odd blue mist that seemed to glow with its own faint luminosity. Kilheffer watched the strange, phosphorescent smoke dissipate as he struggled fruitlessly to figure out where in the name of the people's government his quarry had disappeared to.

In the distance, at the far end of the street, barbed wire and concrete testified to the utter impassability of the Wall. A no-man's land of mines and crossed steel girders preceded the Wall by several meters, carving out a zone of death that two suspicious fugitives could not possibly traverse with impunity.

But where else could they have gone? Despite his desire to maintain a stoic expression before his men, Kilheffer gulped involuntarily. His superiors were not going to be happy, and neither would the Stasi. He eyed the looming Wall, suddenly calculating his own chances of slipping past the security at Checkpoint Charlie. However the mysterious spies had vanished, and wherever they had vanished to, Corporal Kilheffer found himself fervently wishing he could join them.

"Corporal!" Two of his men caught up with him, huffing from exertion. Between them, they supported the limp body of a homely little man in a rumpled brown coat. His hairless head lolled flaccidly above his shoulders, as though he were badly intoxicated, and his droopy eyes and insipid grin belied his current predicament. His flushed, red face still bore the cracked imprint of the pavement. "We found this drunk lying on the street near the embassy," Sergeant Gempp reported. "What do you want us to do with him?"

Kilheffer suddenly glimpsed a chance to salvage his career. "Drunk? What drunk?" He snapped a pair of handcuffs on the unlucky inebriate's wrists. "This man is clearly the leader of the spy ring, and a dangerous enemy of the state. Place him in custody at once, and let no one else interrogate him. I intend to personally extract his confession."

The poor sot continued to grin idiotically, completely oblivious of the hot water he had mistakenly landed into. Probably completely harmless, Kilheffer thought, with just a twinge of regret, but what did that matter? Someone had to take the blame for tonight's fiasco.

Chances were, this innocent dupe would not see the light of day for a long, long time.

Copyright © 2001 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

MUROROA ATOLL

TUAMOTO ISLANDS

FRENCH POLYNESIA

JUNE 14, 1992


One hundred and seventy feet above the concrete launch pad, Roberta Lincoln crawled out onto one of the horizontal swing arms of the towering rocket gantry. A small green gecko scurried out of her way as the fortyish American woman clambered on her hands and knees across the steel bridge toward her target: an Ariane rocket primed for takeoff.

The more things change, the more they really do stay the same, Roberta thought wryly. Twenty-five years ago, her longtime friend and supervisor, Gary Seven, had crept across a similar elevated platform to sabotage another rocket launch. His mission then had been to prevent a weapon of mass destruction from being launched into orbit, initiating a full-scale outer space arms race. A quarter century later, Roberta's agenda was pretty much the same. The only difference is that this time I'm the one performing without a net.

Just to play it safe, however, she clipped one end of a safety cord to the metal grating beneath her, keeping the other end securely attached to her belt. A cool, dry wind rustled her honey-blond hair as she came within reach of the powerful European booster rocket, designed to place commercial satellites in orbit high above the Earth. Roberta briefly wondered what kind of bribes and/or extortion Khan had employed to get his hands on the Ariane, let alone transport it to this remote launch site in the South Pacific, previously occupied by the French government's now-defunct nuclear testing program.

From her lofty perch uponthe gantry, Roberta could look out over the entire atoll: a circular ring of greenery surrounding a large moonlit lagoon. Leafy palm trees and mangroves covered much of the island, although she could also spot the lights of the Mission Control center, nestled amidst the lush tropical flora.

"Let's just hope they don't spot me," she whispered to herself, acutely aware that her green camouflage shorts and tank top, which had blended perfectly with the tropical shrubbery on her way here, now clashed alarmingly with the industrial-red paint job on the rocket gantry. According to their most recent intel, Khan himself intended to be present for this launch, and Roberta sincerely hoped to get in and out of Muroroa without actually running into the man himself.

The last thing I need right now is a reunion with that smug, so-called superman, she thought. She and Seven had their hands full these days, coping with the crisis in Bosnia, not to mention all the other international mischief stirred up by Khan and his genetically engineered siblings. In their eagerness to assert their self-proclaimed destinies as rulers of the Earth, the Children of Chrysalis, as Roberta still thought of them, had sparked civil wars and unrest all over the globe, in Eastern Europe, Liberia, Somalia, Peru, and elsewhere. This had not made her and Seven's primary mission -- preventing World War III -- any easier. And to think that, after the Cold War ended, I had briefly thought that Seven and I could retire! If anything, their job had gotten even more complicated since the Berlin Wall came down.

And now Khan had to up the ante with this stunt! Roberta scowled and glanced toward the horizon, glimpsing a faint rosy tint where the night sky met the Pacific. The Ariane was scheduled to launch at dawn, so Roberta knew she had to act soon; the sun rose very quickly this close to the equator.

Her all-purpose servo device, cunningly disguised as a silver fountain pen, projected a beam of white light onto the outer casing of the Ariane's main rocket, which was flanked by two solid-fuel boosters, intended to provide the initial thrust upon lift-off. According to the diagrams she'd memorized earlier, the rocket's primary guidance system was just behind the metal panel directly in front of her, bearing the snazzy blue logo of Arianespace, the French manufacturer of the rocket. Roberta's plan was to tweak the controls so that the rocket would self-destruct harmlessly in the upper atmosphere, taking its insidious cargo with it. With any luck, Khan's latest scheme would be over before it even began.

That was the plan, at least. Trying hard not to think about the twenty-five tons of liquid hydrogen stored beneath her, just waiting to be ignited, she switched the servo to laser mode and began cutting a hole in the side of the rocket with what she hoped was surgical precision. The ruby-red beam traced a charred black line around the company logo, quickly forming a complete loop. Roberta gave the melted metal a few minutes to cool, then carefully lifted the newly created circular segment away from the rest of the rocket, revealing the intricate circuitry beneath.

Pretty smooth, she congratulated herself. A few deft moves and -- voilà -- Khan's high-tech hardware was more exposed than Sharon Stone. Grinning triumphantly, she cautiously laid the displaced metal disk aside, making sure it wouldn't topple off the edge of the gantry, and turned her servo back into a flashlight. She gripped the slender silver instrument between her teeth, to keep the incandescent beam focused in front of her, then reached carefully into the electronic innards of the Ariane satellite launcher.

A high-voltage jolt caused her entire body to stiffen in shock. A moment before she lost consciousness, she thanked heaven for the safety cord binding her to the steel platform. At least she wasn't going to fall to her death!...

"She's waking up, Your Excellency," a gruff male voice intoned, penetrating the fog receding from her brain. Roberta struggled to lift her eyelids, half-surprised to find herself alive and not electrocuted.

She suspected the good news ended there.

"Thank you, Joaquin," a familiar voice replied, confirming Roberta's worst expectations. Oh no! she thought, genuine apprehension sending a chill through her recently dormant body. As far as she could tell she seemed to be lying sideways on some sort of couch or cushion. Not him!

Blinking, she opened her eyes to see a tall Indian man looking down at her with an amused expression on his strong, handsome features. Piercing brown eyes inspected her as they might an exotic animal securely caged in a zoo; that is, with total confidence and an unchallenged sense of superiority. He was clean-shaven, with thick black hair tied neatly behind his head, and wore a spotless white Nehru jacket with matching cotton slacks. "Ah, Ms. Lincoln," he greeted her with a mocking pretense of warmth. "How good of you to rejoin us!"

"Hello, Khan," she said icily. Raising herself to a seated position, she tried to stand up, but found her legs still a little too wobbly. A quick glance around revealed that she was in a luxuriously appointed office decorated with traditional Polynesian art. An original Gauguin hung on one wall, while an authentic Melanesian wood carving of a cruising shark sat atop an executive-size desk. A colorful mat, woven from dyed pandanus fibers, carpeted the floor. Roberta did her best to meet Khan's gaze defiantly, despite a profusion of tropical butterflies in her stomach. "Long time, no smirk."

Looming a few feet behind Khan, a large, muscular brute with a sullen expression and light-brown hair glowered at Roberta. A plain black T-shirt was stretched tautly over a Schwarzenegger-size torso, above a pair of simple gray slacks. Compared to Khan's crisp, snow-white suit, the scowling bruiser's attire was dull and unremarkable, except for a large brass belt buckle that bore the visage of a snarling grizzly bear. "You will address His Excellency with more respect!" he warned her balefully, raising a meaty hand as he stepped toward her ominously. She flinched in anticipation of the blow, which would no doubt carry the full force of genetically augmented bones and sinews.

But Khan shook his head, dismissing his henchman's concerns with an airy gesture. "No need to stand on formality," he insisted. "Ms. Lincoln and I are old friends." He smiled coldly at her. "Isn't that so?"

In a manner of speaking, Roberta admitted silently. She had first met Khan Noonien Singh eighteen years ago, in a vast underground laboratory hidden beneath the scorched sands of India's desolate Great Thar Desert. Khan had only been four years old then, one of hundreds of genetically engineered children produced by the top-secret Chrysalis Project, but he had already possessed the confidence and charisma of a born (or, in his case, manufactured) leader. Even after she and Gary Seven had shut down the Chrysalis Project, they had kept careful track of Khan and the other superkids, now scattered throughout the world.

Impressed by Khan's obvious brilliance and potential for good, Seven had even made a determined effort to recruit the teenage Khan into their own covert peacekeeping operation, but that bright idea had backfired spectacularly; in the end, Khan proved too ambitious to keep under control, and he had turned against her and Seven, stealing all their information on the Chrysalis Kids in the process. That was three years ago, and Khan had already rounded up several dozen of his supersmart and superstrong siblings, including Joaquin here, and enlisted them in his grandiose campaign to "save" the world by placing it under his complete and total control. Unfortunately, Roberta had the sneaking suspicion that Khan was just warming up....

"What's up with the close shave?" she asked him glibly, stalling for time while she recovered from her shock-induced trip to dreamland. "The last time I saw you, back in eighty-nine, you were sporting a respectable-looking beard. I thought that was mandatory for all male Sikhs?"

Khan nodded, smiling appreciatively. "Very good, Ms. Lincoln. I applaud your cross-cultural erudition." He thoughtfully stroked his smooth and stubble-free chin. "With all due respect to my heroic Sikh ancestors, however, I eventually came to the conclusion that I should not be bound by the traditions of the past. I am a new breed of human being, after all. A new and superior kind of warrior. Thus, on my twenty-first birthday, I shaved off my beard, in recognition of the revolutionary turning point that I, and the others like me, represent in the history of human evolution. Henceforth, I resolved, I would make my own traditions, chart a new path for mankind."

"I see you're still as humble as ever," Roberta observed dryly. As discreetly as possible, she searched her pockets for her servo, but the versatile device eluded her fingers. Had she dropped it back on the gantry, or had Khan and his people confiscated it? "Frankly, I always kind of hoped that your delusions of grandeur were just a phase you were going through, something you'd outgrow eventually." She stopped fishing for the servo and started looking for an escape route; from what she could see, the office had only a single exit. "I guess that was wishful thinking."

Khan scowled, his bogus bonhomie slipping. "Hardly delusions, Ms. Lincoln," he said curtly. "Or have you forgotten how easily I have eluded you and the enigmatic Mr. Seven these past few years, despite the considerable resources at your command?"

True enough, Roberta conceded. Using data stolen from Seven's advanced Beta 5 computer, Khan had even found a way to protect his strongholds against transporter technology, forcing her and Seven to use far more primitive techniques in their periodic attempts to infiltrate Khan's hideouts and headquarters. Just to reach Muroroa, in fact, Roberta had needed to teleport to another island, several miles south of this one, then brave the treacherous currents and coral reefs in an outrigger canoe until she came close enough to the forbidden atoll to jump overboard and scuba-dive the rest of the way, dodging sharks, moray eels, and poisonous jellyfish as she swam to shore not far from the rocket launch pad. A damp wet suit, along with a set of oxygen tanks, were presumably still hidden amidst the sword-shaped leaves of the bushes at the edge of the shore. Sadly, the scuba gear was too far away to do her much good at the moment. Some South Seas vacation this is turning out to be, she thought sarcastically.

"Maybe we've been keeping our eyes on you all along," she challenged Khan, then wondered if she had said too much. What if Khan demanded to know the name of her chief informant? "Imagine our disappointment when we found out what you were up to here. Even Seven never thought you'd go this far...."

Khan's face hardened. "Seven has always lacked vision," he said scornfully. "That is why he is content to skulk in the margins of history, when he possesses the means to do so much more. And why I broke with him years ago. The problems of the world require bold, decisive action, not timid, cautious half-measures of the sort you and Seven specialize in."

Roberta didn't back down. "We put out fires. You start them. That's a big difference, as far as I am concerned."

"Fire can be a transforming force, Ms. Lincoln," he stated, "clearing away the rotting debris of the past and making room for new growth." He lifted the carved wooden shark from his desk, crushed it to splinters within his fist, then wiped the dusty residue from his palms. "But enough philosophical debate. Your presence raises crucial questions: Where exactly is Gary Seven at this moment? Can we anticipate his arrival as well, in an attempt to rescue you, or perhaps complete your mission?"

I wish, Roberta thought. In fact, Seven was currently attending a key environmental summit in Rio, while recovering from injuries sustained during the fall of Kabul a few months back. Despite his own superhuman physique, the result of years of selective breeding on a planet light-years away, Seven was in no shape to stage a commando raid on the secluded and well-protected island.

"For someone with a superior brain," she told Khan, "your math needs work. Seven is in his sixties now; he lets me handle all the house calls."

This was a slight exaggeration, but close enough to the truth that she hoped Khan would buy it. Over the years, she had indeed taken over more and more of the field work, leaving Seven to concentrate on the big picture. One of these days, we really do need to bring in a new junior operative, she mused. Heaven knows I could use some backup right now.

"So Seven is finally feeling his years, is he?" Khan's voice assumed a magnanimous tone, leading Roberta to suspect that he had taken her protestations at face value. "In a way, this saddens me. In his own fashion, he was a worthy adversary."

A buzzer sounded behind Khan and he strode across the spacious office to answer the intercom on the desk. "Khan here," he declared crisply. "What is our status?"

"We're about ten minutes from launching, sir," a disembodied voice spoke from the intercom. Roberta thought she detected a trace of a Scottish accent, along with the distinctly deferential tone. Her heart sank at the implications of the announcement. She hadn't prevented the launch at all; the Ariane was still ready to deliver its obscene payload into orbit. I've failed, she realized.

"Excellent," Khan pronounced, switching off the intercom without waiting for a reply. "I'm happy to say, Ms. Lincoln, that your feeble attempt at sabotage cost us merely half an hour, not nearly enough time to cause us to miss our launch window." Stepping away from the desk, he stared down at her like an adult scolding a wayward child. "You should have remembered that you were dealing with an intelligence deliberately engineered to exceed your own; anticipating sabotage, I had the foresight to install a fail-safe advice into the Ariane's guidance systems against any such interference." He smiled condescendingly, pleased by his own remarkable foresight. "My apologies if my countermeasures came as something of, well, a shock to your system."

Very funny, Roberta thought acidly. "Well, as surprises go, it wasn't exactly up there with The Crying Game." She'd be damned if she was going to feed Khan's already gargantuan ego. "But, yeah, I suppose it caught me a little off guard."

Too bad my informant failed to mention Khan's sneaky little safety precaution, she lamented. Guess that was one secret Khan was keeping under even tighter wraps than usual....

"Your spirit is admirable," he acknowledged, annoyingly unshaken by Roberta's faint praise, "even if your accomplishments are not." He marched toward the office's only exit. "Bring her," he instructed Joaquin, who grabbed her roughly by the arm and yanked her to her feet. His bruising grip reminded her of Carlos, the hulking guardian of the old Chrysalis Project -- and one of the project's earliest genetic experiments. She wondered if Joaquin's muscles had been souped-up with gorilla DNA, too.

Following Khan, Joaquin dragged her out the door. A short flight of steps later, they arrived on the roof of the Mission Control building. The sun was newly risen, Roberta noted, providing her with a panoramic view of the picturesque island and its enclosed lagoon. Rising high above the swaying palm trees, on the opposite side of the tranquil blue waters, the Ariane and its attached launch tower looked incongruous amidst the idyllic South Seas scenery. Observing her gaze, Khan threw out his arms expansively. His pristine white suit reflected the bright morning sunshine. "Welcome, Ms. Lincoln, to Chrysalis Island!"

Roberta refused to concede even the loveliness of the setting. "I thought the whole place belonged to the French," she retorted.

As a matter of fact, as she well knew, the French government had established the Centre d'Experimentation du Pacifique (CEP) on Muroroa back in 1963, as a testing site for atomic weapons, many of which had been exploded underground in artificial caverns carved out of the island's basalt core. Less than three months ago, however, France had suspended its nuclear testing program indefinitely, much to the relief of most of the world. Little did that world know, Roberta mused, that Muroroa was now playing host to something just as nasty -- and possibly even more dangerous -- -than underground nuclear explosions.

And she didn't just mean Khan.

"Our Gallic friends were under enormous international pressure to close this facility," he explained. Roberta recalled seeing news footage of anti-nuke protests on Fiji and the other islands. "Thus, I managed to 'persuade' certain French authorities to let me take it off their hands -- discreetly, of course." Roberta could just imagine what kind of "persuasion" Khan had employed. Extortion? Blackmail? Assassination? It wouldn't be the first time, she thought; although she and Seven never uncovered definitive proof of Khan's involvement, they had their suspicions regarding a number of recent tragic events, such as the explosive death of that big-name Indian politician last spring.

"Indeed," Khan continued, "this entire complex is perfectly suited to my needs, being equipped with its own electrical generators, desalination plant, airfield, communications center, and so forth, while its location near the equator makes it an ideal site for launching satellites into orbit." He looked out over the sprawling compound, which was guarded on all sides by a high, fully electrified fence. "We have, of course, made key renovations, improving on what the French left behind."

"I can't wait for the guided tour," Roberta said, not entirely sarcastic. With any luck, she would get a chance to scope out Khan's new real estate, before or after she attempted to escape.

A small cluster of people had gathered atop the roof to witness the launch of the rocket. Loudspeakers mounted at the rear of the roof provided a countdown toward the rapidly approaching lift-off: "Launch minus two minutes." Khan toyed with his wristwatch, synchronizing it with the countdown, before strolling across the whitewashed rooftop to join the others. He gestured for Joaquin to bring Roberta along.

"Okay, okay, I'm coming!" she muttered irritably as the thuggish henchman hustled her across the rooftop. Looking away from the distant gantry, Khan's associates eyed her with varying degrees of curiosity, seemingly none too concerned by her status as an unwilling captive.

"Launch minus one minute, thirty seconds."

Khan ignored Roberta's protests as well. "Permit me to introduce a few of the brilliant minds that I have assembled, at great effort and expense, on this island. This is Dr. Liam MacPherson," he began, indicating a lanky, red-haired man in a white lab jacket, "a superlative astrophysicist and the head of launch operations. Doctor, meet Ms. Roberta Lincoln, an uninvited guest at today's event."

MacPherson gave Roberta a cursory examination before turning his attention back to the prepped and pregnant rocket on the launch pad. A compact headset kept him in touch with Mission Control and he stroked his beard, a tuft of coppery bristles, absentmindedly as he whispered instructions into his mike. Roberta didn't take the snub personally, figuring that MacPherson was naturally preoccupied with the Ariane's imminent departure. "Pleased to meet you, sort of," Roberta murmured, even though the carrot-topped astrophysicist was clearly not listening. "Let's do this again sometime."

"And this," Khan continued, moving onto an exotically beautiful woman strikingly clad in a silk indigo sarong and matching top, "is the most exquisite Ament, one of my wisest and most trusted advisors." Gleaming black pearls, native to the Tuamoto Islands, shimmered upon her earlobes, the nacreous beads as dark and lustrous as her shoulder-length black hair. Cool, amber eyes looked Roberta over silently, conveying an air of haughty amusement. Her lithe, languid body seemed both youthful and timeless.

Roberta disliked her on principle. "Nice pearls," she stated flatly, figuring that if you can't say something nice about a person, you can always compliment their jewelry.

"Thank you," Ament said coolly. Her low, husky voice had a faintly Arabic accent. "They were a gift from Khan."

He nodded, his hands clasped behind his back. "I wrested them myself from the giant black-lipped oysters found only in these islands. Did you know, Ms. Lincoln," he expounded, "that a Polynesian pearl diver can descend up to forty meters in search of treasure? A remarkable feat, for an ordinary human, although, of course, easily within my own abilities."

"Everybody needs a hobby," Roberta said dryly. A little more pearl diving, a little less geopolitical powermongering, she reflected, and the whole world would be a happier place.

"More like an invigorating diversion," Khan stated by way of clarification. He walked to the edge of the rooftop, the better to observe the rocket on its launch pad. "Not that today requires any stimulation beyond what we are about to witness."

"Launch minus sixty seconds," the loudspeaker announced, calling an end to the introductions. A hush of anticipation fell over the small grouping on the roof. On the launch pad across the turquoise lagoon, the massive metal structure of the gantry retreated from the Ariane, leaving the slender rocket alone upon the launch, pointed up at the sky like a gigantic blue-and-white hypodermic. An appropriate image, Roberta thought, given the high-tech poison carried in its payload.

"Launch minus forty-five seconds." Plumes of white steam billowed from the base of the Ariane as its twin booster rockets fired. A deafening roar assaulted Roberta's eardrums, like a dozen jumbo jets taking off at once, and she fought an urge to clamp her hands over her ears, unwilling to show any weakness in front of Khan and his fellow Übermenschen. Instead, she crossed her fingers, hoping in vain that something would still go wrong with the launch, that the Ariane would blow up on the launch pad. I'm sorry, Gary. She was barely able to hear her own thoughts over the volcanic fury of the unleashed engines, which were straining mightily at the bolts still holding the rocket to the concrete pad. I tried to stop him.

"Launch minus thirty seconds." The roar increased as the Ariane's main engines kicked in. Twenty-five tons of liquid hydrogen ignited, sending a rush of superheated gases through the engine nozzles, propelling the massive spacecraft against the pull of gravity.

"Look, Ms. Lincoln!" Khan shouted in her ear, striving to be heard even over the thunderous din. Roberta tried to pull away from him, but Joaquin's heavy hands clamped down on her shoulders, holding her in place. "How fortunate you recovered just in time to behold my greatest triumph to date!"

Lucky me, she thought, unable to look away from the fiery spectacle.

"Launch minus one second..." The towering rocket rose from the launch pad, borne aloft by a blazing pillar of fire. Gigantic clouds of steam, produced by the explosive union of the Ariane's red-hot exhaust with a flood of cooling water released in conjunction with the blast-off, swelled outward, hiding the launch site behind a churning, turbulent curtain of vapor. "Lift-off!" the loudspeaker exulted. "We have lift-off!"

Almost against her will, Roberta tipped her head back to follow the rocket's meteoric ascent. She held her breath, still praying that, somehow, someway, the Ariane, along with its malignant cargo, would go the way of the Challenger, spiraling out of control to a catastrophic end. Please, she prayed, let Khan's diabolical plan blow up in his face!

But nothing of the sort occurred. The lift-off was flawless, with the Ariane's upward trajectory achieving escape velocity within less than a minute. As the rocket disappeared from sight, leaving only a snow-white trail of vapor behind, Liam MacPherson breathed a sigh of relief. Beneath his lab coat, his shoulders slumped as the weight of his worries evaporated in the cool trade winds. Ament led the rest of the onlookers, excepting Roberta, in a round of polite applause.

Khan's flawless profile remained turned to the sky, toward the apex of the vapor trail. Roberta wondered if the Indian prodigy's superior vision had allowed him to follow the rocket's soaring climb longer than she had. "Ah, Lucifer, child of the morning," he declaimed proudly, twisting the Old Testament to his own vainglorious purposes. "How thou art risen!" Lowering his gaze at last, he savored Roberta's crestfallen expression, his dark mahogany eyes gleaming in triumph. "I trust, Ms. Lincoln, that you appreciate the full purpose and potential of my Morning Star, my bringer of light?"

More than I'd like to, Roberta thought unhappily, knowing that her job had just gotten a lot more difficult. "You stole the technology from us, remember?" Her voice hardened at the memory. "The day you raided our office and murdered our computer?"

Images of a younger Khan firing a hail of bullets into the good old Beta 5 flashed before her mind's eye. She could still hear the gunshots....

"Technology," he reminded her, holding up a finger in correction, "that Seven and I personally acquired from the ageless Dr. Evergreen, and not without considerable effort and hardship. I am as much entitled to the fruits of that enterprise as your unbearably self-righteous superior."

Roberta knew what Khan was referring to, even though she had not taken part in those events. It had been that ill-fated mission, back in the winter of 1984, that had finally convinced Gary Seven that the precocious Sikh youth was too reckless (and ruthless) to be trusted. Just like his mother, she thought, recalling the late Dr. Sarina Kaur, founder and driving force of the Chrysalis Project. Kaur had been utterly ruthless, too, and fanatical enough to choose death rather than abandon Chrysalis, which had ultimately been consumed by a fierce thermonuclear conflagration beneath the deserts of Rajasthan. Roberta couldn't help wondering if Khan had ever figured out that she and Seven had been indirectly responsible for his mother's tragic demise. Probably not a good time to bring that up, she decided.

"Excuse me, sir," MacPherson broke in, "but the rocket has achieved a low polar orbit. We're ready to deploy the satellite." He tugged on his beard nervously. "Perhaps you'd care to join me in Mission Control?"

Khan must be a tough boss, Roberta guessed from the scientist's apprehensive manner. Even for another superman. She'd recognized MacPherson's name, of course, from Seven's database on the Chrysalis children. She pretty much knew the entire list by heart.

Khan scowled momentarily, unhappy to be interrupted while fencing verbally with Roberta. Larger aims took precedence, however, and he nodded curtly. "Of course, Doctor, I will be with you shortly." He gave Roberta a parting bow. "We will have to continue our reunion later, Ms. Lincoln. The Bard once wrote that, 'Unbidden guests are often welcomest when they are gone,' but in your case I'm inclined to enjoy your company a while longer." He reached into the pocket of his immaculately pressed white slacks and retrieved a familiar silver instrument.

My servo! Roberta thought, dismayed to see the device in Khan's possession.

"I look forward to chatting with you," he stated, "about the many singular technologies at your superior's disposal; in particular, your miraculous means of teleportation." He deftly rolled the servo between his fingers and across the back of his hand. "I confess that, while I have developed ways to block your ingenious matter-transmission beams, I have not yet succeeded in duplicating them." After tantalizing Roberta with its proximity, he returned the captured servo to his pocket. "Perhaps, with your assistance, I can remedy the situation."

Not if I can help it, Roberta thought fervently. She could barely imagine a worse scenario than Khan Noonien Singh adding teleportation to his arsenal. "You've got the wrong girl," she insisted. "I have no idea how the darn thing works. As far as I'm concerned, it's magic."

This wasn't entirely true; after nearly a quarter-century of broadcasting her atoms around the planet (and elsewhere), she'd learned her way around a transporter coil or two. There was no reason Khan needed to know that, though. With luck, a little old-fashioned sexism would add a veneer of plausibility to her protests. Girls never look under the hood, right?

Khan did not challenge her proclamations of ignorance, but his menacing tone made it clear that she was hardly off the hook. "Perhaps, then, your superior, the ever-manipulative Mr. Seven, will be willing to share his secrets -- in exchange for your continued good health."

Stepping away from Roberta, apparently content to let his implied threat linger in her mind, Khan addressed Joaquin: "Put her in one of the holding cells on Level M-2. I will interrogate her later, at my leisure."

Yippee, Roberta thought acidly. I can hardly wait.

"But, Your Excellency!" Joaquin blurted, looking chagrined at the prospect of leaving Khan unguarded. His basso profundo voice emanated from somewhere deep within his cavernous chest. The bear's-head belt buckle snarled silently. "Your safety..."

"Will not be endangered by your brief absence," Khan assured him. He laid a fraternal hand on the bodyguard's broad shoulder. "My friend, while I appreciate your devotion to duty, I am quite capable of defending myself, especially on my own island." He released Joaquin's shoulder and turned to follow MacPherson. "Go. You shall find me in Mission Control, overseeing the next stage of today's historic accomplishment."

Placated, Khan's looming flunky grunted in assent and took hold of Roberta's arm. "Hey, watch the grip!" she yelped, unable to resist being pulled toward the stairs. "I've still got bruises from the last time you manhandled me!"

Despite her loud objections, plus a great deal of squirming, Roberta paid close attention to her surroundings as Joaquin forcibly escorted her down several flights of stairs, into the lower regions of the former atomic test base. Sealed white doors, labeled in French, hid much from her view, but she took what mental notes she could on the facility's layout and capacities. A little extra reconnaissance could make all the difference later on, she reminded herself.

In particular, she kept her eyes peeled for any sign of biological research. According to their best informant, Khan intended to use Muroroa as more than a launch site for his incipient space program; he was also reputedly converting much of the complex, Khan's looming flunky grunted in assent and took hold of Roberta's arm. "Hey, watch the grip!" she yelped, unable to resist being pulled toward the stairs. "I've still got bruises from the last time you manhandled me!"

Despite her loud objections, plus a great deal of squirming, Roberta paid close attention to her surroundings as Joaquin forcibly escorted her down several flights of stairs, into the lower regions of the former atomic test base. Sealed white doors, labeled in French, hid much from her view, but she took what mental notes she could on the facility's layout and capacities. A little extra reconnaissance could make all the difference later on, she reminded herself.

In particular, she kept her eyes peeled for any sign of biological research. According to their best informant, Khan intended to use Muroroa as more than a launch site for his incipient space program; he was also reputedly converting much of the complex into a laboratory capable of advanced biogenetic experimentation. Seven feared that Khan was deliberately trying to re-create the Chrysalis Project in order to duplicate his mother's success at human genetic engineering.

Just what we need, Roberta thought tartly. A second generation of Chrysalis kids. Like the first batch hasn't been trouble enough....

Seven's fears, not to mention hers, seemed confirmed when, precisely four floors beneath the sunlit rooftop, they passed what looked like a sturdy metal airlock, bearing the universal symbol for biohazardous material.

Genetic Testing And Development, read the heavy block letters on the airlock's exterior, printed in both English and Punjabi. authorized personnel only.

Clearly, the signs had been posted after the French cleared out. Roberta couldn't help wondering, and worrying, what sort of genes were being developed on the other side of the sealed metal door. Nothing warm and fuzzy, I bet.

The sudden whoosh of air escaping from the doorway announced that someone was preparing to exit the bio-lab. Stalling in order to see who it might be, Roberta deliberately tripped over her own feet. "Oops!" she declared, throwing out her free arm in hopes of breaking her fall, but Joaquin halted her clumsy descent by yanking hard on her other arm, nearly dislocating her shoulder. Unlike her stumble, the resulting cry of pain was totally sincere and spontaneous.

"Up," he grunted, easily pulling her back onto her feet with just one hand. Roberta felt like a side of beef hanging on a grumpy, unfeeling meat hook.

"I'm sorry," she stammered, milking the moment for all it was worth. "I guess I'm still a little woozy from that high-voltage hello your boss arranged for me."

A few feet away, the airlock door swung open, disgorging a statuesque Indian woman in a stained white lab coat. Clearly surprised by what she saw, the woman stared at Joaquin and his blond-haired captive with a baffled look on her face. She protectively clutched a three-inch floppy disk to her chest. "What is this?" she murmured. "Who -- ?"

"An intruder," Joaquin explained gruffly, while Roberta compared the woman's well-made features to the photos in her own memory. Their eyes briefly met, and a shudder ran through Roberta as she saw the horizontal black lines bisecting both of the woman's dark eyes. The inky streaks across her corneas were, Roberta knew, twin legacies of the disastrous chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, many years ago, created when the other woman had squinted to see her way through the clouds of poisonous gas. Seven and Khan were both at Bhopal, Roberta recalled, although they had managed to avoid being scarred in this manner. Numerous survivors, however, had been permanently marked, including one of the Chrysalis children.

There could be no doubt: This was Dr. Phoolan Dhasal, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist, who, like Khan, was also a product of Sarina Kaur's illicit experiments back in the seventies. Roberta was familiar with Dhasal's work, having once forced herself to wade through the precocious Ph.D.'s groundbreaking paper on the introduction of transgenic exons during late-stage RNA processing. Dhasal had also been one of the youngest contributors to the Human Genome Project, before mysteriously disappearing several months ago; her presence on Muroroa provided the final proof that Khan was up to hard-core genetic hanky-panky here in the South Seas. I need to report this to Seven, pronto.

Joaquin did not prolong their chance encounter with Dhasal. Within moments, they had left the entrance to the bio-lab behind, descending even farther into the bowels of Khan's new outpost. By Roberta's calculations, they were well beneath the island's surface, in some sort of sub-sub-basement, far from waving palms and fragrant trade winds.

They finally stopped in front of a door marked Detention. Joaquin placed his sizable palm against a sensor plate mounted beside the door. A thick steel door slid open with a whoosh and they entered a stark white hallway lined on both sides with detention cells, perfect for confining, say, any pushy anti-nuke demonstrators who might have sneaked onto the island during the good old days of atomic testing. Nice of the French to leave these for Khan, she thought somewhat less than sincerely.

Bulletproof plastic doors, four inches thick and reinforced with thick metal struts, barred the entrance of each cell. Joaquin tugged open the door of the nearest cell and unceremoniously thrust Roberta inside. "Stay," he ordered redundantly before locking the door back into place. To Roberta's relief, he did not stay to keep her company, but quickly departed, no doubt anxious to resume his post watching over Khan. Thank my lucky stars, she thought.

Rubbing her injured shoulder, she took a minute to inspect the latest stop on her Pacific excursion. The accommodations were spartan -- a stool, a cot, a toilet -- but clean and comfortable as jail cells go. Frankly, she'd been imprisoned in worse places during her two decades-plus as an alien-sponsored secret agent babe. The first Chrysalis, she recalled, had not been equipped with detention facilities at all, so she and Seven had ended up locked in straw-carpeted cages with a menagerie of test animals. This, by contrast, was a definite step up.

Not that she intended to stay all that long. Pressing her face against the transparent plastic door, she checked out the scene beyond her cell. As far as she could tell, she was currently the only prisoner. (But not the first; to her amusement, she noticed a Greenpeace logo carved into the seat of the wooden stool.) There were no flesh-and-blood guards in sight, either, only security cameras mounted opposite every cell door, where no prisoner could reach them. "Hello! Anybody there?"

No answer. Welcome to solitary confinement, she thought.

Roberta languished in the cell for half an hour or so. Time enough, she lamented, for MacPherson and his staff to place Khan's so-called Morning Star into a low polar orbit, where it could do the most harm. "No use crying over launched satellites," she muttered, trying to maintain a positive attitude. Gary and I will just have to keep Khan from ever activating the damn thing, one way or another.

Only because she was listening for them did Roberta hear the stealthy footprints in the corridor outside her cell. A low hum stirred the air and the unblinking red lights atop the security cameras went dead. Moments later, a solitary figure appeared on the other side of the thick plastic door.

"About time you got here," Roberta said.

Copyright © 2002 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    Enter Khan

    After a slow first half this novel really takes off. It is very enjoyable as the author weaves in many ST charaters and historical events into the story.

    Like many poeple, I really like the Khan character and think that this is a great start to his backstory. Look forward to reading more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Both books are awesome

    Can't believe that I almost missed this story line. Terrific writing. Well done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Startark

    Goood to the best reader

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2013

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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    Posted October 4, 2010

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    Posted November 4, 2010

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    Posted May 31, 2013

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    Posted December 24, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 10 Customer Reviews

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