The X-Files: Ground Zeroby Kevin J. Anderson
A renowned nuclear weapons researcher is not only dead - he's been charred to a radioactive cinder. The incinerated remnants of Dr. Gregory are found curled in the corner of his laboratory at the Edward Teller Nuclear Research Facility near Oakland, California. Since this is a death on Federal property, Mulder and Scully are hastily called in. As FBI agents who… See more details below
A renowned nuclear weapons researcher is not only dead - he's been charred to a radioactive cinder. The incinerated remnants of Dr. Gregory are found curled in the corner of his laboratory at the Edward Teller Nuclear Research Facility near Oakland, California. Since this is a death on Federal property, Mulder and Scully are hastily called in. As FBI agents who specialize in unexplained phenomena, they are the investigators of the X-Files, strange and inexplicable cases which are also mysteries that the FBI doesn't want solved. Dr. Gregory's unique death quickly and clearly becomes an X-File. As Mulder and Scully begin their frustrating work, unearthing the top secret project that Dr. Gregory was working on, they confront a tight-lipped Federal bureaucracy whose job it is to stop questions before they are asked. One by one, Mulder and Scully hit dead ends, closed security clearances, and classified documents that no one wants them to see. But that doesn't stop Mulder and Scully from ripping the lid off Dr. Gregory's illegal project - "Bright Anvil" - a new type of flash nuclear explosive that has all the destructive power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, but with a new design that leaves virtually no radioactive fallout. The implications for the modern world are deadly, and some radical protest groups will stop at nothing to prevent the test from happening. When a second victim, completely unrelated to nuclear science or Dr. Gregory is obliterated in the New Mexico desert, and then a third dies the same way in Washington, D.C., Mulder and Scully begin to focus on the frightening dimensions of their task. The bizarre deaths cannot be a coincidence. And as they work to uncover the secret unifying element that unites these deaths, it becomes clear that this twisted puzzle has fatal consequences for the entire world.
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The X-Files: Ground Zero
Teller Nuclear Research Facility,
Monday, 4:03 P.M.
Even through the thick windows of his laboratory building, the old man could hear the antinuke protesters outside. Chanting, singing, shouting—always fighting against the future, trying to stall progress. It baffled him more than it angered him. The slogans hadn't changed from decade to decade. He didn't think the radicals would ever learn.
He fingered the laminated badge dangling from his lab coat. The five-year-old picture, showing him with an awkward expression, was worse than a driver's license photo. The Badge Office didn't like to retake snapshots—but then, ID photos never really looked like the subject in question, anyway. At least not in the past five decades. Not since his days as a minor technician for the Manhattan Project. In half a century his face had grown more gaunt, more seamed, especially over the past few years. His steel-gray hair had turned an unhealthy yellowish-white, where it hadn't fallen out in patches. But his eyes remained bright and inquisitive, fascinated by the mysteries hidden in dim corners of the universe.
The badge identified him as Emil Gregory. He wasn't like many of his younger colleagues who insisted on proper titles: Dr. Emil Gregory, or Emil Gregory, Ph.D., or even Emil Gregory, Project Director. He had spent too much time in laid-back New Mexico and California to worry about such formalities. Only scientists whose jobs were in question concerned themselves with trivialities like that. Dr. Gregory was at the end of a longand highly successful career. His colleagues knew his name.
Since much of his work had been classified, he was not assured of a place in the history books. But he had certainly made his place in history, whether or not anybody had heard about it.
His former assistant and prize student, Miriel Bremen, knew about his research—but she had turned her back on him. In fact, she was probably standing outside right now, waving her signs and chanting slogans with the other protesters. She had organized them all. Mind had always been good at organizing unruly groups of people.
Outside, three more Protective Services cars drove up for an uneasy showdown with the protesters who paced back and forth in front of the gate, blocking traffic. Uniformed security guards emerged from the squad cars, slamming doors. They stood with shoulders squared and tried to look intimidating. But they couldn't really take action, since the protesters had carefully remained within the law. In the back of one of the white official cars, a trained German shepherd barked through the screen mesh of the window; it was a drug- and explosive-sniffing dog, not an attack animal, but its loud growls no doubt made the protesters nervous.
Dr. Gregory finally decided to ignore the distractions outside the lab building. Moving slowly and painfully in his seventy-two-year-old body—whose warranty had recently run out, he liked to say—he went back to his computer simulations. The protesters and guards could keep up their antics for the rest of the afternoon and into the night, for all he cared. He turned up his radio to cover the noise from outside so he could concentrate, though he didn't have to worry about his calculations. The supercomputers actually did most of the work.
The portable boom box tucked among books and technical papers on his shelf had never succeeded in picking up more than one station through the thick concrete walls, despite the jury-rigged antenna of chained paper clips he had hooked to the metal window frame. The lone AM station, thank goodness, played primarily Oldies, songs he associated with happier days. Right now, Simon and Garfunkel were singing about Mrs. Robinson, and Dr. Gregory sang along with them.
The color monitors on his four supercomputer work-stations displayed the progress of his simultaneous hydro-code simulations. The computers chugged through numerous virtual experiments in their integrated-circuit imaginations, sorting through billions of iterations without requiring him to throw a single switch or hook up a single generator.
But Dr. Gregory still insisted on wearing his lab coat; he didn't feel like a real scientist without it. If he wore comfortable street clothes and simply pounded on computer keyboards all day long, he might as well be an accountant instead of a well-respected weapons researcher at one of the largest nuclear-design laboratories in the country.
Off in a separate building on the fenced-in lab site, powerful Cray-III supercomputers crunched data for complex simulations of a major upcoming nuclear test. They were studying intricate nuclear hydrodynamic models—imaginary atomic explosions—of the radical new warhead concept to which he had devoted the last four years of his career.
Because of cost limitations and the on-again/off-again political treaties regarding nuclear testing, these hydrodynamic simulations were now the only way to study certain secondary effects, to analyze shock-front formations and fallout patterns. Aboveground atomic detonations had been banned by international treaty since 1963 . . . but Dr. Gregory and his superiors believed they could succeed with the Bright Anvil Project—if all conditions turned out right.
The Department of Energy was eager to see that all conditions turned out right.
He moved to the next simulation screen, watching the dance of contours, pressure waves, temperature graphs on a nanosecond-by-nanosecond scale. Already he could see that it would be a lovely explosion.
Classified reports and memos littered his desk, buried under sheafs of printouts spewed from the laser printer he shared with the rest of his Bright Anvil team members down the hall. His deputy project head, "Bear" Dooley, posted regular weather reports and satellite photos, circling the interesting areas with a red felt-tip marker. The most recent picture showed a large circular depression gathered over the central Pacific, like spoiled milk swirling down a drain—eliciting a great deal of excitement from Dooley.
"Storm brewing!" the deputy had scrawled on a Post-it note stuck to the satellite photo. "Our best candidate so far!"The X-Files: Ground Zero. Copyright � by Kevin Anderson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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