The Chaos Agent (Gray Man Series #13)

The Chaos Agent (Gray Man Series #13)

by Mark Greaney
The Chaos Agent (Gray Man Series #13)

The Chaos Agent (Gray Man Series #13)

by Mark Greaney

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Overview

vThe Gray Man series presses on with the titular character called out of his cozy retirement to hunt down a mysterious killer. Thankfully, no one is deadlier than the Gray Man himself. Get ready for all the action and all the thrills!

Artificial intelligence leads to shockingly real danger for the Gray Man in this latest entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

A car accident in Japan.

A drowning in Seoul.

A home invasion in Boston.

Someone is killing the world’s leading experts on robotics and artificial intelligence. Is it a tech company trying to eliminate the competition or is it something even more sinister?

After all, artificial intelligence may be the deadliest battlefield gamechanger since the creation of gunpowder. The first nation to field weapons that can act at the speed of computer commands will rule the battlefield.

It’s an irresistible lure for most, but not for the Gray Man. His quest for a quiet life has led him to Central America where he and his lover, Zoya Zakharova, have assumed new identities. With a list of enemies that  includes billionaires, terrorists, and governments, they need to keep a low profile, but the world’s deadliest assassin can’t expect to hide out forever.

Eventually, they’re tracked down and offered a job by an old acquaintance of Zoya’s. He needs their help extracting a Russian scientist who is on the kill list. They reject the offer, but just being seen with him is enough to put assassins on their trail.

Now, they’re back on the run, but no matter which way they turn, it's clear that whoever's tracking them is always going to be one step ahead. Since flight’s no longer possible, fight is the only option left, and no one fights dirtier than the Gray Man.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593548158
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/20/2024
Series: Gray Man Series , #13
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 123
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

About The Author
Mark Greaney's research for the Gray Man novels, including Burner, Sierra Six, Relentless, One Minute Out, Mission Critical, Agent in Place, Gunmetal Gray, Back Blast, Dead Eye, Ballistic, On Target, and The Gray Man, has taken him to more than thirty-five countries, and he has trained alongside military and law enforcement in the use of firearms, battlefield medicine, and close-range combative tactics. With Marine LtCol Rip Rawlings, he wrote the New York Times bestseller Red Metal. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tom Clancy Support and Defend, Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect, Tom Clancy Commander in Chief, and Tom Clancy True Faith and Allegiance. With Tom Clancy, he coauthored Locked On, Threat Vector, and Command Authority.

Hometown:

Memphis, Tennessee

Date of Birth:

1967

Read an Excerpt

One

Morning sun warmed the rain-slick tin roofs, forming blankets of steam that rose in perceptible waves as they buffeted the sixteen-ounce quadcopter drone buzzing over the little town. Panajachel, Guatemala, stood at 5,200 feet of elevation, so the four tiny plastic rotors spun furiously in thin, moist air, the machine moving southeast at a steady pace, its camera taking in everything below.

The town lies on the northern shore of Lake Atitlán, a fifty-square-mile body of water in an immense volcanic crater in the Guatemalan Highlands. A strikingly beautiful place in the middle of a bitterly impoverished country, the town is a way-off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction for budget travelers from all over the globe. Cool in the mornings this time of year, even despite the sunshine, its air is many orders of magnitude cleaner and clearer than smoggy Guatemala City, a three-hour drive to the east.

Few people walked the cobblestone streets at seven in the morning on a Saturday-most visitors were sleeping off Friday night's bar bill-but the drone's camera locked on to a trio of young women pounding thick tortillas by a smoky kettle fire next to a tienda, registering their faces in a fraction of a second and then dismissing them as non-targets in a fraction more.

An old man pushing a vending cart took longer to evaluate, his cowboy hat obstructing the periocular region of his face where most biometric identification data was acquired, but in under a second and a half the man turned his head and then his features were registered by the eye in the sky. Almost instantly the drone's onboard artificial intelligence image classifiers told the machine that he was not the subject it was hunting for.

The device then whirred over a small two-story red apartment building on Callejon Santa Elena, and here a blond woman in a green tank top and jean shorts stepped out onto a balcony and began hanging laundry over a clothesline.

The camera caught the movement, but it did not have the right angle to scan the face because the wet towels she hung to dry were in the way.

Drone Reconnaissance Nineteen, or RC19, kept going; there was no need for it to stop, because five identical airships crisscrossed the sky above Panajachel in search of their collective target, each on a coverage route determined by a pilot working in the back of a rented van below, and augmented by artificial intelligence. Sooner or later, RC23, RC29, or one of the others would pass by this street from a different trajectory and assess the face of the blond woman, just as they had been doing with everyone else in town this morning.

The target was here, the pilot knew it; it was just a matter of pinning down the target's location.

RC19 flew on down Callejon Santa Elena, heading off in the direction of Calle Principal and the center of town, systematically scrutinizing unsuspecting faces from three hundred feet in the air.


The blonde on the balcony never saw or heard the copter. She finished hanging her towels and then took a moment more to look out over the town and sniff the fresh air. The smell of cooking fires, baking bread, and wet jungle flora were all pleasantly jumbled together.

She closed her eyes and turned her face to the sun. A cooler breeze drifting up from the lake caused goose bumps to form on her bare arms. She smiled a little. She liked it here. No, she loved it here. She could see herself staying a few weeks or more, although she knew that wasn't the plan.

The plan was to keep moving. She didn't like the plan, but the plan had kept her alive for four months, so she guessed she'd stick to it.

With a wistful sigh, Russian national Zoya Fyodorova Zakharova stepped back inside the second-story apartment, walking on bare feet through a small bedroom, past a pair of messy twin beds, each set up with blankets and backpacks under the covers to give the appearance of bodies at rest.

She stopped at the open closet door.

A dark-complected bearded man with tousled brown hair lay on the floor under a well-worn but still colorful poncho. He opened his eyes and looked up at her, his legs slightly bent to fit in the small space they both had shared the night before.

Zoya lowered herself down and lay with him, curling up to fit in the closet, tucking herself under the poncho. She rested her head on a pillow taken from one of the beds and faced the man lying there.

"Sleeping in?" she asked, sounding like an American from the Midwest, with no hint of Russia in her voice.

The man rubbed his bleary eyes before speaking. "What time is it?"

"Seven fifteen."

"I was up for a . . . couple hours in the night."

"Again?" The woman propped her head up on an elbow as she looked at him, no attempt to hide her concern. "How many is 'a couple'?"

"Two a.m. till five."

"Shit, Court."

Courtland Gentry rubbed his eyes again. "I'm fine."

"The insomnia is getting worse, isn't it?"

"It's not insomnia. Just having some trouble sleeping."

"That's literally the definition of insomnia. The last couple of months . . . it's more and more."

Still smiling, but more emphatically than before, he said, "I'm okay. Really. Just need some coffee."

Zoya held his gaze. "What's going on?"

Court sat up now, and she did the same. They put their backs to the wall of the otherwise empty closet, their feet sticking out into the bedroom. He said, "I don't know. It's just . . . everything's great . . ."

"But?"

"But . . . doesn't it kind of feel like the clock is running out on all this?"

"All what?"

"Peace and quiet. The walls are closing in. I can feel it."

While Court seemed unsure, Zoya was resolute. "Well, I can't. We've been smart. We've kept mobile. We've stayed off the radar." Pointing a finger towards the balcony and the town beyond, she said, "We hunker down here a few more days, then we move on. Same as before. I was thinking we could head overland towards Honduras next. We'll stay lost."

Court nodded a little, but he seemed unconvinced.

"No?" she asked.

"Yeah, sure. But . . . but the enemy gets a vote, too. I'm not worried about our strategy, I'm worried about the adaptability of our adversaries."

"Christ," Zoya said with a little laugh. "You just woke up two minutes ago and you're already talking about the adaptability of our adversaries. You remain one dialed-in son of a bitch."

"It kind of seemed like you started this conversation."

She put a hand on the side of his face. "We're solid. We're running nonstop countersurveillance, and we've had no problems. Not here, not in Bolivia, not in Ecuador. In Peru we spooked, we'll never know if we were being overly cautious or not, but we got out of there, and since then we haven't sensed anything. We've got nothing to worry about."

"We have everything to worry about."

She ignored the comment. "We'll keep up the vigil, and if we do smell anything we don't like, anything at all, even if the hairs on the back of one of our necks stand up like they did in Cusco . . . then we bolt." She added, "What else can we do?"

Court nodded. "Okay."

She eyed him another long moment. "There's something else going on with you, isn't there?" she asked.

His eyebrows furrowed. "No. Nothing." He brightened suddenly and looked into her eyes. "I love you."

She didn't return the smile. Still, she replied, "I love you."

They kissed, and then he asked, "What's on the agenda?"

"There's an agenda?" She said it jokingly, but she knew when Court was trying to change the subject. After a moment she let it go. "I have to run to the market. We should grab lunch after at that place by the lake we saw yesterday." When he didn't reply, she said, "It's fine. They have a courtyard, masonry construction. We put our backs to the wall facing the entrance, we scan for trouble, we eat our lunch and enjoy our day."

"Backs to the wall. Sounds like a plan."

"Enjoying our day is the plan. 'Backs to the wall' is just a tactic."

Court climbed to his feet, helped Zoya up, and kissed her again. His right hand brushed her left forearm, and she felt him run his fingers over a ragged gunshot wound there. He traced his fingers up to another scar on her arm and then felt around to two more small scars on the left side of her back.

"Four months ago tomorrow," he said softly.

"Still get that nerve tingle in my elbow every now and then, but that's to be expected. Doesn't hurt. When I caught an AK round to my hip a few years ago, that sucked much worse."

"Yeah." He raised her forearm and looked at the wound there, then kissed it. "You really need to stop getting shot."

She shrugged. "I've made it four months in a row. Shooting for five."

"As long as no one is shooting back." He brushed her hair back behind her left ear. Holding a strand and looking at it, he said, "I'm still not used to you as a blonde."

"I'll dye it purple next. See how that strikes you."

Court smiled as he headed for the bathroom. He was shirtless and Zoya registered his lean but muscular back and arms, well pocked with scars-he had more blemishes than she did, but the way things had been going in the past couple of years, she wondered if she'd someday catch up.

He flashed a look back her way, gave a last little smile, then stepped into the bathroom. As he disappeared behind the closing door, the smile on Zoya's face faded.

She felt absolutely certain he was keeping something from her, and almost certain that she knew what it was.

Two

Between them, the foursome preparing to tee off at the eighth hole of Baylands Golf Links had a combined net worth of over six billion dollars, which necessitated the presence of three of the five bodyguards in the two carts parked near the eighth tee.

The other pair of bodyguards were Department of Defense employees, and while their protectee was a pauper when compared to the rest of the foursome, a meager government employee on a meager government salary, he was no less worthy of protection.

The weather in Palo Alto this May Saturday morning was characteristically exquisite, and the players had enjoyed nearly an hour of golf and conversation on the course within sight of the South Bay without any business creeping in.

And this was exactly the way Rick Watt liked it. The oldest of the players by nearly two decades, he'd invited the other three out for a relaxing morning, free of business. After golf, all four, plus their security, would head back to his office for a Saturday afternoon of meetings, and only then would he get down to the reasons he'd asked for this get-together.

And after work, the men and their wives would go to dinner at Taurus Steakhouse on the taxpayers' dime, and here, again, no business would be discussed.

Richard Watt served as the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, a DOD initiative charged with obtaining and optimizing existing commercial technology for use by the military. Reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, Watt had offices at the Pentagon, in Boston, in Austin, and here in Silicon Valley, and he had built a reputation in his tenure for being anywhere he needed to be to achieve the stated aims of his organization.

Today he found himself jovially golfing with the three young businessmen, not one of them yet forty, and all with advanced engineering or computer information degrees. The three also shared another trait: they ran companies racing up the ranks in the high-tech sector, specializing in the fields of automation, digital mapping, and videoconferencing.

And the director of the Defense Innovation Unit wanted their collaboration on multiple projects the DOD was undertaking.

But again, work would be this afternoon. Now it was play.

Rick Watt stepped up to the teeing area and placed his ball, and then he laughed off the digital mapping mogul when he asked if he wanted to put a grand on whether or not he'd keep it out of the nearby South Bay a few hundred yards away.

Everyone laughed, the security officers on the cart path included, and then Rick cleared his mind, took a moment to settle his stance, and raised into his backswing. At the apex he paused a moment, and then the club began arcing back down towards the ball.

The face of the driver made contact with a satisfying crack, the ball rocketed high and straight, and then Rick Watt's golf club left his hands, spinning off to his left. The digital mapping mogul leapt to the side to avoid being struck by the twirling driver, and then Watt himself spun around in the same direction as his club.

He dropped hard to his knees, and then his body slammed face-first into the tee box.

"What the fuck?" the videoconferencing CEO shouted in surprise.

A low report broke the still air over the golf course. None of the three men in the tee box understood what was happening, but all five security men on the cart path did, and they raced onto the green, handguns drawn and sweeping all around.

Three of them shuffled their principals back to two of the golf carts and sped off.

The pair of security officers left behind were the DOD men charged with protecting Watt, so they were now committed to covering the lifeless man with their bodies as they searched for the origin of fire.

A suburban neighborhood sat to the west, office buildings behind it; shimmering San Francisco Bay was to the north, and Palo Alto airport to the east and south. Neither of the men saw any boats on the water, so they concentrated on the other compass points, but only for a moment, because then they saw what looked like a fat exit wound on their protectee's back. They rolled Watt over and saw a small entry wound right in the center of his chest.

He'd been facing west as he teed off, so the shot had come from that direction.

The two security men were young and fit, but hefting the obviously dead protectee and moving him off the greens and back to a golf cart, all while potentially under the gun of a skilled assassin, proved to be an exceptionally stressful chore.

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