Tom Clancy's Power Plays #2:
  • Tom Clancy's Power Plays #2:
  • Tom Clancy's Power Plays #2:

Tom Clancy's Power Plays #2:

by Tom Clancy, Martin H. Greenberg, Jerome Preisler

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Encryption technology keeps the codes for the world's security and communication systems top secret. Deregulating this state-of-the-art technology for export could put a back-door key in the pockets of spies and terrorists around the world. So when American businessman Roger Gordian refuses to put his sophisticated encryption program on the market, he finds his…  See more details below


Encryption technology keeps the codes for the world's security and communication systems top secret. Deregulating this state-of-the-art technology for export could put a back-door key in the pockets of spies and terrorists around the world. So when American businessman Roger Gordian refuses to put his sophisticated encryption program on the market, he finds his company the object of a corporate takeover--and to say it's hostile doesn't even come close.Only Gordian stands between the nation's military software and political extremists who want to put the leadership of the free world out of business--for good...

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Tom Clancy's Power Plays

Tom Clancy's Power Plays series, launched with last year's Politika, is one of the guilty-pleasure reads for Clancy addicts and all who crave action, technothrills, and the magnificent Clancy touch. Created by Tom Clancy and Martin H. Greenberg, the Power Plays series has made a fetish of fast-paced narrative and larger-than-life heroes. You can't get much larger-than-life than Clancy's Power Plays hero Roger Gordian, a strong but tender giant of a man whose warfare usually involves business and the executive halls of corporate piracy — and his belief in playing fair-and-square, and keeping America number one.

In the future, keeping secrets will be the final frontier of power — information brokering will be the gold, and a brilliant and resilient human mind will be the best tool for mining that ore.

It's the year 2000, and the pirates of the new future not only deal in computer chips and stock trading, but also in human life. When a Chinese freighter called Kuan Yin departs Malaysia with a cargo of spices and oils meant for trading in Singapore, the crew on board has no idea what doom will soon befall them. Shortly after setting sail, a renegade bunch of brigands boards the ship, and soon the smell of death and destruction permeates the sea around it. Now, the vessel and its precious cargo are under pirate control.

Zoom over to Roger Gordian, who is reminiscing about his childhood with his old friends. Once when they were young, they built tree forts to keep an eye on the bad guys of the neighborhood;nowthey're into more high-tech forms of surveillance, and nothing as innocuous as spying on the neighbors, either. Gordian possesses an ultrasophisticated encryption coding system developed for high-tech military machines. He's an all-American boy in his 40s and has no desire to pass this precious secret on to the foreign markets where it one day may be used against the U.S. But Gordian's encryption-tech company is getting extreme pressure from outside forces, and it's up to him and his crew to find out who wants this technological breakthrough and why — and what it all means to the future security of the free world.

The threat is coming from Malaysia and other Asian countries that are also on top of the information business community — essentially corporately held dictatorships in this near-future dystopia. As Gordian tries to protect his software for the U.S. military, the international drug cartels and political monsters of the world are out to get a hold of it in a vicious attempt to wrest world power into their own malicious hands.

Tom Clancy's Power Plays: is a rocket-ride of a book, shooting off past the speed of light as Gordian races to keep the world safe — and to make sure that military knowledge stays in the right hands. Clancy knows how to make the implausible seem very real; he's also a master of mixing solid character development with a napalm of action, which explodes in this wild ride of a story. is an aggressive, deftly plotted superhighway thriller — better fasten your seatbelt before you take this one for a spin.
— Douglas Clegg,
— Douglas Clegg, is the author of numerous horror and suspense novels, including The Halloween Man and Bad Karma, written under his pseudonym, Andrew Harper. His recent Bram Stoker-nominated short story "I Am Infinite, I Contain Multitudes" can be found in the anthology The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Volume 11.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Tom Clancy's Power Plays Series , #2
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Penguin Group
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577 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Chapter One

SEPTEMBER 15, 2000

The freighter had been christened the Kuan Yin, after the Chinese goddess of mercy, but what doubt can there be that its crew felt abandoned by their guardian spirit at the end?

    They had set out from the city of Kuching in Eastern Malaysia at eight P.M., the cargo deck of their fifty-foot-long, half-century-old steamship loaded with palm oil and spices tagged for distribution in the wholesale markets of Singapore. Despite intermittent rain, gusting winds, and reduced visibility, the chop was moderate and the pilot had maintained a steady speed of fifteen knots almost from the time he got under way. He expected an uneventful run followed by a night of drinking in a dockside bar; even now in the wet season, the main sea lane was short and direct, taking just less than four hours to cross the strait and then swing up the coast to Sembawang Wharf, on the north side of the island.

    With little to do until they reached port, the four members of the loading crew were playing cards in the vessel' s boxy hold by nine o'clock, leaving the upper deck to the pilot and boatswain. The former, of course, had no choice but to remain at the helm, although any sympathy his shipmates might have felt for him was blunted by their resentment of his superior attitude, higher salary, and relatively spacious bridge, with its soft leather chair and posters of nude women tacked up among the charts.

    On the other hand, the boatswain was extremely well regarded by his fellows, and had been invited to join in the gambling. A man named Chien Lo, he ordinarily would have accepted with enthusiasm, but tonight had chosen instead to remain on deck with the freight. Given the bad weather conditions and his conscientious nature, he was understandably concerned that the lashings might come loose in the strong ocean winds.

    Around ten o'clock the tropical downpour eased off a little. It was in all likelihood only a brief lull, and Chien resisted the urge to go below with the others. Trouble waited with the greatest of patience, his wife was fond of saying. Still, he decided it would be a good time to break for a smoke.

    As his dear, loving spouse had also told him--she was quite full of advice--it was best to enjoy life's small pleasures while one could.

Even as Chien Lo put his match to the tip of his cigarette, two Zodiac inflatable watercraft had glided from the rushes and mangrove roots rimming a tiny islet some forty degrees east of the freighter's bow. Fitted with stabilizing fin rails and powered by sound-baffled ninety-horsepower outboards, they planed across the water at close to fifty knots, fast enough to eat up the Kuan Yin's lead in minutes, cutting parallel wakes that roiled out behind them like the contrails of jet fighters. Soon the blot of land from which they had launched was swallowed up in darkness and distance.

    There were twelve men in the pirate gang, its leader an Iban tribesman of huge proportions, the rest natives of the southern islands, their number divided evenly between the fast-moving inflatables. The designated thrower in each group wore leather gloves and had a coiled nylon rope ladder snaplinked to his belt like a mountain climber. All had concealed their features, some with plain canvas sacks that had holes cut out for the eyes, nose, and mouth, others with old rags and T-shirts they had simply tied over the lower halves of their faces. They had identical kris knife tattoos on the backs of their hands as symbols of their criminal brotherhood. They wore swim vests over their dingy, tattered clothes. They were equipped with assault rifles and carried daggers in scabbards at their waists. And they were ready to put their weapons to lethal use without compunction, as the expressions of cold malignity under their face masks might have shown.

    While the seizure of a freighter was an act they had committed scores of times, their present job was unusual in that it would not involve theft of the ship's cargo, nor robbing the crew of personal valuables that could be fenced on the black market--except perhaps as fringe benefits. Yes, the bars, whorehouses, and cockfight parlors of Sibu would have to do without their patronage for a while. Tonight they would be taking the ship into Singapore, and once there would have other things to keep them busy.

    As the silent-running Zodiacs approached the stern of the Kuan Yin, they veered off in separate directions, the headman's craft swinging toward its port side, the other angling to starboard, both of them slowing to match the larger vessel's speed.

    For perhaps two minutes after pulling abreast of it, the pirate boss stared measuringly at his objective, sweeping his gaze over its rust-scabbed metal hull. He wore a denim jacket, a scarf around his forehead to keep his long, rain-drenched black hair from whipping into his eyes, and a bandanna over his mouth and chin. Reaching into his breast pocket for a small flask of tuak, he tugged the bandanna down below his lips and swigged back some of the potent alcoholic drink. He took a second deep pull and swished it around his mouth, his face tilted skyward, drizzle sprinkling his exposed, windburned cheeks. Then he swallowed again, slipped his mask back in place, jerked his head toward the short, wiry man with the rope ladder on his belt. "Amir," he said, and sliced his hand through the air, signaling him to proceed with the raid.

    The thrower nodded, reached down between his knees, and snapped open the lid of a stowage compartment between the bottom of his seat and the Zodiac's aluminum floorboard. From this compartment he extracted a second rope, this one a twenty-foot single rope with a "bear-claw" grappling hook at its end. He let out a measure of slack, and then began laying up half the coils in his left hand, taking the half attached to the metal hook into his right. Finally he stood and moved to the side of the craft that had edged up to the freighter, his feet planted wide against the undulant rocking and swaying of the current.

    Stepping down on the rope's bitter end, Amir turned toward the cargo ship and heaved the grappling hook up at it, letting the weight of the hook carry the line on, the rest of the line paying out of his left hand.

    The iron hook clamped onto its gunwale with a solid thump.

    An instant later the thrower heard a similar noise from the opposite side of the freighter, and exchanged an anticipatory look with his four companions. All of them knew that sound meant the other raiding party had also been successful in mooring their Zodiac to the Kuan Yin.

Chien was standing with his elbows on the starboard rail and the cigarette dangling from his lips when he heard a thumping sound off the quarter. Then, moments later, a second thump from the same general area.

    He frowned, thinking the peace and quiet had been too perfect to last. The Kuan Yin was now twenty nautical miles southeast of its destination, chugging along amid the scattered outcroppings of rock, soil, and lush tropical vegetation that were some of the Raiu chain's smallest islands. Spread in clusters across a vast expanse of the South China sea, they were mostly nameless and undeveloped, and Chien always found the passage between them to be a welcome interlude before reaching the congested harbor of Singapore.

    He stared out at the water and considered ignoring the noise until he'd finished his cigarette, but could not stop fretting. What if there were drums of unfastened cargo rolling and crashing about the deck?

    Chien shrugged and flicked his still-burning cigarette stub into the water.

    Responsibility had its burdens, he thought, and then turned to walk aft and check things out, unaware of the murderous presence about to slip aboard the vessel.

A moment after hooking on to the gunwale, Amir secured his end of the rope to a mounting ring on the Zodiac's floor. Smoothing his gloves over his fingers, he turned to face the cargo vessel. Then he straddled the line, grasped it firmly in both hands, and jumped off toward the freighter, his legs spread, the line pressed against his body for maximum tension.

    His cleated boots braced against the freighter's hull, he climbed with a kind of rhythmic shimmy, and was on deck in less than a minute. Once aboard, he unfastened the rope ladder from his belt, tightly fixed the upper part of it to the handrail, and pitched the remainder of its length over the side of the ship to the inflatable craft below.

    The man who caught it quickly began his ascent, placing his foot on the nylon sling ropes that served as spreaders between the vertical mainlines. He knew the others would follow one at a time to avoid putting too much strain on the ladder.

    Scrambling to the top of the ladder, he reached up toward the first man's waiting hand so he could be helped over the gunwale.

    His upper body and elbows were already on the freighter's deck when Chien Lo, coming aft to investigate the mysterious thumps he had heard moments earlier, discovered to his horror that his ship was under siege.

Crouched on deck, the first pirate heard the boatswain's footsteps a split second before he actually pivoted on his haunches to see him approaching. By then he'd decided what to do. He didn't know how many other crewmen would be on deck, but would not wait for them to be alerted. The man had to be taken out right away.

    Chien Lo had halted several yards toward the fore of the deck, staring at the invaders in shock and dismay, his legs turned to brittle shafts of ice. He had perceived the intention of the man already on board even without being able to see his face. The dark, narrow eyes peering through slits in his hood told him everything he needed to know. There was murder in them, pure and simple.

    Chien Lo broke suddenly from his paralysis, spun around, and ran for the vessel's bow, where he knew the pilot would be manning the bridge. But the smallish pirate's swiftness and agility were good for more than just climbing. He sprang to his feet and streaked after Chien, whipping his knife from its scabbard, moving almost silently despite the thick-soled boots he had worn to provide traction while boarding the freighter.

    He overtook the boatswain in a flash, lunging at him, grabbing him from behind, locking his arms around his chest, the force of his tackle throwing him belly-down onto the deck.

    Chien produced a little bleat of pain and fear as a hand twisted itself into his hair and yanked his head up and back. Then the hard, cold edge of the pirate's knife met the soft, warm flesh of his throat and sliced it open from ear to ear.

    Chien felt no real pain, only something that shook through his nerves like raw voltage. Then the pirate released him and his face hit the deck again and he died with a long, spasmodic shudder, his nose, mouth, and eyes in a pool of his own blood.

    The pirate rose to his feet, dragged Chien's body to the edge of the deck, and kicked it overboard. In the vastness of the open sea it seemed there was hardly a splash as it hit the water and was swallowed up.

    When the pirate returned to where he'd tied the ladder to the handrail, he found that the second pirate had managed to haul himself aboard. The rest of their team and five of the men in the other raiding party were also on deck, waiting for the last pirate to complete his climb.

    A moment later he was up and they were all racing toward the forward part of the ship.

The pilot sank beneath the wheel in a lifeless heap, his blood pattering from his maps and Playboy pin-ups like falling rain. His killer had made fast work of him after entering the bridge, stealing up from behind, and slicing open his throat just as the first man aboard had done to Chien Lo. Caught completely by surprise, he hadn't even known what hit him, let alone gotten a chance to hail for assistance.

    Now a second pirate came in, sidestepped the corpse, and took the wheel. His eyes roaming over the instrument panel in front of him, he nodded to the first man, who clapped him on the back, sheathed his dripping blade, and then rushed outside to give the others the good news.

    They had taken full control of the vessel. Next they would deal with its remaining crew.

"Get on you knees, hands behind you heads!" the Iban shouted from the stairwell. Although every one of the ship's hands looked like Malays, he'd barked his orders through his bandanna in a serviceable if unpolished English. The national language had many variations in dialect, and he wanted to avoid confusion.

    The crewmen gaped up at him from the card table, faces stunned, playing cards spilling from their fingers in a fluttery welter. Footsteps clattered behind the pirate leader as the rest of his band followed him down the metal risers from the deck.

    "Do it now or I kill you all!" the Iban grunted, noting the crew's frozen hesitation and motioning them away from the table with the snout of his Beretta 70/90.

    The four men complied, making no attempt at resistance, getting up in such a rush they clumsily knocked over several chairs.

    They knelt in the middle of the cramped little hold and looked at the raiders in silence.

    The Iban noticed that one of the captives had slipped off his wristwatch and was holding it out in his hand, offering up the timepiece as if to get done with the affair as quickly as possible. He knew what the man was thinking, and almost pitied him. None of the recent anti-piracy operations by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Phillippines, and China had done anything to decrease the high incidence of attacks in local waters. With thousands of jungled islands and vast stretches of ocean to patrol, the naval authorities could not hope to keep pace with their quarry, let alone ferret out their hidden land bases. Regional shipping companies were well aware of this, and simply figured losses to theft and hijacking into the overall cost of their operations.

    The pirate chief's eyes moved over the faces of the sailors. While they looked tense and anxious in the cast of an overhead light fixture, none of those faces seemed especially fearful. And why should they be? The men were seasoned hands. They would have been through hijacks before, and expected to be robbed and sent off safely in dinghies and lifeboats. That was how it usually went.

    The poor, stupid bastards hadn't any idea what had happened to their mates up above.

    The Iban waved over one of the pirates who had come rushing down the stairs at his heels. The man stepped up to him and leaned in close for his orders.

    "I don't want their papers messed up, Juara," the Iban warned in a coarse whisper, this time speaking his native tongue, Behasa Malayu. "That happens, all this is for shit, you understand?"

    Juara's affirmative grunt was muffled by the dirty white towel shrouding his mouth and chin. A blockish, thick-necked man with a shaved head and lot of surplus weight around the middle, he gestured briskly to a couple of the other hijackers, who moved toward the kneeling seamen and ordered them to toss everything in their pockets onto the floor.

    The ship's hands again did as they were told without challenge. Juara covered them with his rifle while his two companions went and gathered up their surrendered possessions, depositing them in a small heap on the table. When the hands had finished emptying their pockets, the pirates frisked them down to make sure they hadn't withheld anything.

    Satisfied they'd gotten what they wanted, they nodded to Juara.

    Juara motioned the pair back to his side, then turned to look at the Iban headman.

    "Get it over with," the Iban said.

    He tried to keep his voice hushed, but it was deep enough to seem almost booming in the constricted silence of the hold. A terrible understanding dawned on the crewmen's features as their captors swung up their rifle barrels.

    Now they finally know, the pirate thought. And they fear.

    One of the ship's hands opened his mouth to scream and started to his feet, but then the raiders triggered their weapons and he fell backwards, his clothes riddled with bullet holes, most of his head blown away. Swept by the hail of gunfire, the rest of the Kuan Yin's crew also went down in a cloud of blood, bone, and tissue, their arms and legs sprawling out wildly in their final throes.

    The big Iban waited for the guns to stop their racket, then stepped over to the card table and randomly lifted a wallet from the pile of items that had been taken from the crewmen. He was eager to finish this last bit of business and return to the open deck; his ears rang from the shooting, and the air down here stank of burnt primer, blood, and the voided bowels of the dead.

    He opened the wallet and found a driver's license in a transparent plastic sleeve. There was more identification in the other compartments. The slain crewman to whom the wallet had belonged was named Sang Ye.

    The Iban made a low, pleased sound in his throat. He hoped the sailor had lived his life fully and spent his money well. At any rate, his wallet and identity now belonged to someone who would make good use of them.

    There were big things in the works, very big, and the Iban was eager to reach Singapore and get cracking.

    He thought of the sheet of paper folded in his breast pocket, thought of the instructions that were written on it, thought of everything they were worth to him. Surely more than he'd made in any dozen hijacks.

    The American, Max Blackburn, didn't stand a chance.

    No more than the crew of the ship had stood one. ...

    Not the slightest chance in the world.

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