By Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2010 Johansen Publishing LLLP, and Roy Johansen
All rights reserved.
Marinth Underwater Archaeological Site Atlantic Ocean Copernicus Research Vessel 7:10 A.M.
"Hey, I didn't see you in the galley for breakfast, Hannah," Josh Carnaby said as he strolled down the deck toward her. "You okay?"
"Fine." Hannah Bryson made a face as she gestured to the satellite phone in her hand. "I'm just trying to get through to my sister-in-law before we go down in the minisub. I want to talk to my nephew, and the time difference between here and Boston usually screws everything up." Her lips tightened determinedly. "But I will get through, dammit."
She shook her head. "It's my nephew Ronnie's twelfth birthday." Her expression became shadowed. "It's the first one since my brother's death. I want to touch base with him. It's going to be tough on Ronnie. It's going to be tough on all of them."
Josh nodded soberly. "It's only been a couple months since Conner died. The wound has to be still raw." He was silent a moment. "Damn, I miss him. The entire crew misses him. Every time I see you, I expect Conner to be right beside you."
As he'd been beside her all through the years, she thought. They'd not only been brother and sister, they'd worked together on hundreds of undersea projects, traveled the world together, and been best friends. She missed his sweetness, his humor, his gentle way of opening her eyes to the good things around her when all she could see was darkness. Dear God, how she missed him. "Yeah, I know." She swallowed hard and quickly gazed out at the sun-dappled sea. Get control. She mustn't be all teary when she talked to Ronnie. "Conner would have loved this job. He was always telling me that I spent too much time involved with machines and not enough enjoying the wonders the machines could uncover." She smiled with an effort. "Here I don't have a choice. The wonders are all around me whenever I go down to that lost city that all the historians are trying to link with Atlantis."
"That city would be damn hard to uncover if you hadn't been so brilliant and designed those minisubs." He was silent a moment. "I just want you to know that I appreciate you letting me go down with you and having a part in this show. It's the chance of a lifetime, and you've always been the best boss a guy could have. I'll never be as good as Conner, and I know it probably hurts you to work with anyone else. But it's been an experience I'll never forget."
"Bullshit," she said unevenly. "If you weren't terrific at your job, I wouldn't have chosen you. We make a good team." She drew a deep breath. "Now get out of here and let me make my telephone call. We're supposed to dive in thirty minutes, and I won't go down until I've talked to Ronnie."
He grinned. "I'm on my way." He moved down the deck. "I'll even keep Ebersole away from you. He was asking for you at breakfast."
Hannah groaned. "Then I'm glad I skipped it. For the last three days, he's been cornering me and squeezing every bit of progress information out of me."
"Imagine that. But since he's chief operating officer of AquaCorp, and AquaCorp is funding our little expedition, you can understand how he'd have a slight interest in the operation."
"Moneymen," Hannah said. "The bane of my life." She made a shooing motion. "Go. Keep him off my back until I finish my call, and I'll be eternally grateful."
"Consider it done."
She smiled as she watched him stroll away from her. Yes, Josh would find a way to give her these few moments' respite. He'd been a member of her team for years, but she'd learned new respect and affection for him since she'd lost Conner.
She dialed Cathy's number again. It rang six times, but Cathy finally picked up.
"Hi, I've been trying to get through to you. Everything okay?"
"Sure, we're about to cut the cake. Ronnie's been on the phone with my mom." Cathy chuckled. "And Donna had to have her turn. She doesn't totally understand the concept of special treatment on birthdays."
"She's only five."
"And Ronnie doesn't mind. He's a very protective big brother with her." She was silent a moment. "Particularly since Conner died. He thinks I need help with her."
"He's a great kid."
"You bet he is. The best."
"How are you doing, Cathy?"
"I'm surviving. Some days are better than others. This one is not so great." She changed the subject. "We saw you on the Discovery Channel this week. Donna was very excited."
"Thoughtful. I was worried that he might be thinking about Conner. I tried to talk to him, but he closed me out," she said. "We're okay, Hannah. Stop worrying about us."
"You're my family. It goes with the territory."
"We worry about you too. We're not the one who's careening around in the depths of the ocean in that weird contraption." She paused. "You named that exploration minisub you use after Conner. It came as a shock when that announcer started talking about Conner One."
"Conner would have liked this sub. I can hear him laughing because it's so crazy-looking."
"Yeah, he always teased you about your mechanical 'creatures,'" she said. "It's kind of ... comforting to have his name on one. Thank you for doing it, Hannah."
"I'm selfish. I did it for me."
"You did it for us, too. Now I'll let you talk to the birthday boy. He's right at my elbow."
Ronnie came on the phone. "Hi, Aunt Hannah."
"Happy twelfth birthday. I wish I was there."
"Me, too. Thanks for all the new soccer equipment. It's cool."
"No, you're cool. I'm expecting stellar things from you next season."
"I'll try." He was silent a moment. "I was thinking about skipping soccer next year. Mom may need me."
"She needs you to be a normal kid." But he wasn't a kid any longer, she thought sadly. He'd always reminded her of Conner, and since her brother's death, she could see all Conner's caring and serious responsibility mirrored in the boy. "She's trying to hold everything together. Don't make her feel like a failure."
"Mom's great." He was silent a moment. "I saw the TV show about you and Marinth. It looked ... cool."
"They said there are hundreds of dolphins who live down there."
"Yes, the people of ancient Marinth had a special relationship with dolphins. That's why my friend Melis Nemid became involved in searching for the lost city. She's a marine biologist, and she loves dolphins. She has two, Pete and Susie, who are her special friends. They're absolutely amazing."
"I'd like to see them," he said haltingly. "I think I should come there, Aunt Hannah."
She had been afraid this was coming. "To see the dolphins?"
"No, to take care of you. My dad told me that you were alone, and we had to take care of you. Now that he's gone, it's my job."
So solemn, so endearing. It was breaking her heart.
She would not tell him that she didn't need him. "We all have to take care of each other. But right now you need to take care of Donna and your mom." She paused. "Maybe I could arrange for you to have a working holiday with me next summer. Sort of an apprenticeship."
"Working together?" His voice was eager. "Doing stuff like Dad did for you?"
"Exactly. I'll look forward to it, Ronnie."
"So will I." He paused. "But that's months away. Is that okay? I don't want you to be lonely, Aunt Hannah."
"It's okay. I'll keep busy, and you'll be here before I know it. Now go back and have your cake. I love you, Ronnie."
"I love you too. I'll study all the books in Dad's library that have to do with mapping and scientific —"
"You do that. I'm sure it will help. Enjoy your birthday. Good-bye, love." She hung up.
What had she gotten herself into?
Dealing with a twelve-year-old. Responsibility. Duty.
As long as there was love, she could handle the rest. In fact, she was beginning to feel excited about the prospect of having Ronnie with her on the job.
She gazed out at the sea. She hoped that Ronnie would be able to come here and see the wonders she'd viewed in the last weeks. If AquaCorp had its way, her team would be sent on their way long before next summer.
I don't want you to be lonely.
She didn't want to be lonely either, but she'd made her choice. She'd tried marriage, and it hadn't worked out. She was too driven and obsessed by her work to be able to make that kind of commitment. It would have to be an extraordinary relationship to ever tempt her to try again.
She veered away from the name that had suddenly slid into her mind like a seductive whisper. That was a promise that had never come into being. Just as well. Kirov might be extraordinary, but he was also deadly. She was better off alone than walking that path.
Stop moping, she thought impatiently. She worked with great people, and she had Cathy and the kids to love and nurture. That was a hell of a lot more than most women had going for them.
She turned and headed for the minisub at the docking station on the vessel.
And she had work that was headily exciting and filled her life. When she was in that minisub exploring those wonders she had wanted to show Ronnie, there were exhilaration and curiosity and endless possibilities.
And there was no loneliness.
Dammit, he'd missed her again, Ebersole thought with annoyance as he watched Hannah climb into the minisub. He had an impulse to go down, pull her out of that sub, and throttle her. He knew she'd probably been avoiding him again, and Josh Carnaby had been a party to it.
Yeah, sure. If he laid a hand on her, she'd very likely deck him. There was nothing fragile about Hannah Bryson. She was tall and slim but with shapely broad shoulders and beautiful long legs. Her wild curly dark hair reached her shoulders and framed a face whose deep-set brown eyes, high cheekbones, and wide lips made you want to keep on looking. The cameras loved her, and that face had been a bonus to the corporation when the Discovery Channel had been doing the interviews. Science was great, but charisma made it go down a hell of a lot smoother.
But now she was proving to be a complete pain in the ass. She didn't understand the common dollar-and-cents rules that governed expeditions like this. She wanted things her way and fought any limits they tried to put on her. She was stubborn and hardheaded and thought that the ships she built were almost human.
And some of them seemed to come very close, he had to admit. She had been a valuable asset. Past tense. He was feeling regret as well as irritation, he realized.
Because in these months aboard the research vessel, he had become caught up in the camaraderie and excitement that Hannah and her team had felt exploring the underwater city. At times he had actually thought of himself as one of them. It had been ... different.
Hannah turned, smiled, and waved at him.
Be professional. Smother the annoyance. He lifted his hand and waved.
Enjoy the trip.
I'll be waiting.
Hannah glanced away from staring out into the murky water at the minisub's forward port. "Once more around the spire, Josh."
Josh smiled as he pulled back on the control stick. "We've already photographed it from every conceivable angle."
"I don't care. Let's get it again."
"Aye, aye. And for the record, I don't blame you, Hannah. I'm going to miss this place."
Hannah took in the magnificent vista before her. Even after all these weeks, the sight still took her breath away.
In the decade since its discovery, the fabled four-thousand-year-old city had sparked a cottage industry of books, television shows, a hit IMAX documentary, and even a new-age religious movement. It could be even older than scholars estimated because mention of Marinth was made on the wall of Hepsut's tomb in Egypt. No matter how ancient the city, the glory was in the architecture and sweeping symmetry, streets laid out in perfect order. Huge white columns built to last forever, a people so advanced that universities were vying for every word of their lives and studies. There was even speculation that it might be the Lost Atlantis.
But none of the media frenzy could match seeing it with her own eyes, Hannah thought. She had designed Conner One and its almost- identical twin, Conner Two, as state-of-the-art undersea-research vessels, and she couldn't think of a better way to break them in. She had browbeaten the sub's manufacturer, AquaCorp, into financing this trip not only to evaluate their new minisubs' effectiveness, but also to demonstrate their abilities to potential customers.
Hannah aimed the digital cameras at one of the tall golden spires as they moved around it. "The lighting is better today. This looks fantastic."
"Amazing what a couple million watts of candlepower can do, isn't it?"
Hannah nodded. Dozens of movable billboard-size light towers had enabled them to map and photograph every square foot of the site with incredible clarity and detail. Finally, the world would see Marinth for the magnificent city that it was, with long boulevards, breathtaking statues, and grand buildings that were as beautiful as they were functional. Tall golden spires marked north, south, east, and west on what was once a four- hundred-square-mile island, and miraculously, three of the four spires still stood, almost a quarter mile beneath the ocean.
They circled downward around the South Spire until they found themselves cruising over what was once one of Marinth's main thoroughfares.
Josh smiled. "Get Matthew on the horn. Tell him to bring Conner Two down for a drag race."
"Not in my subs."
"Funny how AquaCorp thinks the subs belong to them."
"Not bloody likely." Like all her other creations, the subs would always be hers, no matter what company or branch of the military financed their construction. A nautical magazine had recently run a series of articles on "Hannah's Fleet," which, to her surprise, now numbered over two hundred vessels — thirty-six individual designs — not including her early sketches dating back to a drawing on the place mat at her senior prom. She stood on the deck of her first launched sub on her twenty-fourth birthday, and in the thirteen years since, she prided herself on her versatility, from large nuclear attack subs to tiny one-man exploratory vessels.
To the general public, however, she was best known as the woman who mapped and photographed the Titanic wreck like no one before, enabling armchair explorers to explore large sections of the doomed luxury liner through an interactive Web site and a 3-D software program. Although others played key roles in the expeditions, it was Hannah and her revolutionary subs that captured the lion's share of attention from the world's media outlets.
Those subs were positively conventional compared to this new design, Hannah thought. It was a round pod with winglike structures on each side. Each wing featured a retractable mechanical arm and hand that had become a trademark of her research-sub designs, manipulated by a pair of controller gloves in the pod.
She was still amazed that she had ever been able to get such a ridiculous-looking little sub built. Its wings, exotic curves, and retro lighting panels looked more like something out of Jules Verne than a product from one of the world's largest defense contractors. The design was adventurous even by her usual standards, and it had been the source of much controversy ever since she had submitted her preliminary sketches over three years before. Many within the AquaCorp company had ridiculed her concepts as impractical, but the craft's speed and maneuverability had silenced most of the critics in the past few weeks.
Josh stared in awe at a statue garden even though he had seen it a dozen times before. "This was all under a hundred feet of silt?"
"Most of it. And it would still be there if —"
"Shit!" Josh pulled back the stick, and the minisub veered hard to the right.
Hannah's gaze flew up to see that the dark superstructure of an inactive light tower, fallen on its side, now filled the entire front window. "Pull up," she yelled. "Pull up!"
Before she could brace herself, Conner One spun to the right, struck the remnants of a building, and brought down a pile of debris. A dull roar sounded in her ears, and the hull of the submersible shook as it was carried along by the debris.
Piercing alarms sounded, and Hannah heard her own voice — a temporary audio track — repeating "Collision imminent!" over and over again.
"Any thrust?" Hannah called over the rumbling and alarms. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Shadow Zone by Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen. Copyright © 2010 Johansen Publishing LLLP, and Roy Johansen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.