A shocking disaster threatens to trigger a new Cold War . . .
Deep beneath the ice-covered Arctic Ocean, a massive oil spill threatens destruction on an untold scale. Yuri Kirov, a former operative for the Russian Navy and an expert in state-of-the-art underwater vessels, is pressed into duty—America’s only hope at limiting the damage. When Yuri’s past is exposed by a turncoat spy, he is blackmailed into taking on a risky subsea espionage mission. With the future of his newly adopted country at risk—and his loved ones in the line of fire—Yuri must lead his crew into the iciest depths before tensions boil over—while an unseen enemy pushes both superpowers one step closer to the brink . . .
Praise for the first Yuri Kirov thriller, The Good Spy
“The excitement never stops . . . high adventure at its very best.”—Gayle Lynds
“An explosive, high-stakes thriller that keeps you guessing.” —Leo J. Maloney
“A page-turner with as much heart as brains.” —Dana Haynes
“A fast-paced adventure that will take readers on a thrilling journey.” —Diana Chambers
“Breathless entertainment.” —Tim Tigner
About the Author
Jeffrey Layton is the author of the acclaimed thrillers The Good Spy as well as Blowout, Warhead, and Vortex One. He is a professional engineer who specializes in coastal engineering. Jeff uses his knowledge of diving, yachting, offshore engineering, and underwater warfare in the novels he writes. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. Please visit him at www.jeffreylayton.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Forever Spy
A Yuri Kirov Thriller
By Jeffrey Layton
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Jeffrey Layton
All rights reserved.
It was an ideal time to work on the ice — no wind, clear skies, and just minus fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. The two researchers from the University of Alaska stood on the frozen sea. Alaska's Icy Cape was about a hundred nautical miles to the southeast. The international boundary with the Russian Federation lay forty-eight miles to the west.
The sheer white slab supporting the men appeared to extend to infinity in all directions. To the north, the Arctic Ocean stretched to its polar cap. To the south, the Chukchi Sea connected to the Bering Sea, which abutted the immense North Pacific Ocean.
The staff physical oceanographer and the moorings technician from the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences had just over two hours to install the equipment before returning to Barrow. Their ride sat on the ice twenty yards to the east. The helo pilot dozed inside the cockpit. Although it was 1:20 P.M., the early February sun barely rose above the southern horizon. In a few hours, it would disappear entirely. The charter pilot refused to fly during Arctic dark.
Designed to measure and record the speed and direction of currents flowing under the ice sheet, the array when deployed would extend 130 feet down, terminating twenty feet above the seabed. Real-time data from the current meters along with the GPS coordinates of the drifting ice pack supporting the array would be transmitted to a satellite and relayed to the chief scientist's office at the Fairbanks campus.
Although not expected to survive more than a week due to shifting ice floes, the instruments would provide data that would be used to help verify a mathematical model of late-winter water exchange between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. The study was part of a larger effort to document climate change. The polar ice cap was in an unprecedented retreat. By the end of the coming summer, sea-ice extent would likely shrink to a new record minimum.
The investigators were dressed to battle the cold. Each wore a base layer of thermal long johns and vest, a fleece tracksuit for a mid-layer, and an outer layer consisting of an arctic parka and insulated leggings. Wool hats and thin micro-fleece balaclavas covered their heads. Large mittens with thin inner gloves protected their hands. Long arctic boots with removable liners encased their feet.
It took the two men an hour to assemble the current meter array, laying it out in a straight line along the ice. Their next task called for boring an eighteen-inch-diameter hole through the seven-foot-thick ice sheet.
The technician fired up the heavy-duty gasoline-powered auger, referred to as "Icenado" for its tendency to toss operators pell-mell when concrete-hard multiyear sea ice jammed the bit. As the tech let the engine warm up, the racket of the auger's top-mounted engine polluted the otherwise tranquil environment.
Half a minute passed when the technician shouted, "All set, boss."
The oceanographer grabbed the handle on the opposite side of the auger and the tech goosed the throttle. The bit tore into the first-year ice, advancing three feet in about half a minute. A cone of splintered ice mounded around the borehole.
As the auger continued to penetrate the ice, the operator backed off the throttle, expecting the bit to break through in seconds. That's when he spotted the change.
"What's that?" he said, peering down at the black material disgorging from the hole.
Just then, the bit pierced the ice keel and a torrent of blackish seawater erupted, pumped onto the ice surface by the still spinning auger. The tech switched off the engine and both men extracted the auger from the borehole. More black fluid surged inside the puncture.
The scientist dropped to his knees and removed a mitten. He reached into the hole with his right forearm. When he pulled up his hand, the fingertips of the inner glove were blackened. He raised them to his nose.
"Son of a bitch!"
"What?" asked the technician.
"How can that be? We're out in the middle of frigging nowhere."
"I don't know — something's not right."
The oceanographer stood. Dismayed, he wiped the soiled glove on the side of his leggings and said, "I've got to report this right now."
He reached into his parka and removed an Iridium satellite phone. Forty seconds later, he connected with the chief scientist in Fairbanks.
Within an hour, a transcript of the field report would reach the desk of the president of the United States.CHAPTER 2
Day 1 — Monday
Laura Newman cradled the coffee mug, embracing the warmth radiating from the porcelain. She stood on the spacious deck of her home, overlooking the serene waters of Lake Sammamish. It was a few minutes before eight o'clock in the morning. She'd already run for half an hour, following her usual route of narrow lanes and streets that snaked up and down and across the hillside of her affluent suburban neighborhood. Downtown Seattle was a dozen miles to the west.
A snow-white terrycloth robe concealed her slender frame from neck to ankles; she'd just showered and shampooed. Her damp hair remained bundled in a towel, turban-style. Clogs housed her feet.
An exotic blend of Scandinavia and equatorial Africa, Laura had inherited her Nordic mother's high cheekbones, full ripe lips, azure eyes, and russet hair. Her father's tall willowy frame, broad nose, and cocoa skin, all linked to his distant Bantu ancestors, complemented her mother's genes.
In her early thirties, she had little need for makeup. Nevertheless, she would complete the ritual before heading to work, touching up her chocolate complexion.
Always a morning person, Laura prized the solitude of the early hours. She used the quiet time to think and plan. Once she stepped into her office building, it would be a whirlwind for the next eight to ten hours.
Laura sipped from the mug, savoring the gourmet blend. Yuri ground the premium beans and brewed a pot, something he did every morning.
They had been together for over a year — lovers, best friends, and recently business partners.
Leaning against the guardrail, Laura spent the next few minutes strategizing, preparing for a teleconference she would lead at ten this morning with at least a dozen participants from Palo Alto, Denver, and Boston. She would serve as ringmaster for the launch of a new project that she hoped would further enrich her company.
Laura drained the mug — she limited herself to just half a cup a day. She turned and walked back into the living room. Half a dozen steps later, she entered the nursery; it was just off the master bedroom. Madelyn remained fast asleep in her crib.
Laura beamed as she gazed at her divine daughter. Born eight months earlier, Maddy had finally started sleeping through the night, which was a relief to both Laura and Yuri. Several days earlier, however, Maddy's first tooth had erupted through her lower gum, reinstating the nightly disorder. Awakened around three o'clock this morning, Yuri held Madelyn for half an hour as she chewed on the teething ring before falling back asleep.
Laura reached down and gently stroked Maddy's angel-soft ash-blond hair. She stirred but did not wake. Laura's ex was the biological father, but Yuri treated Madelyn as his own — a blessing Laura cherished.
"See you in a little while, sweetie," Laura whispered. Before driving to work, she would nurse Madelyn.
Laura walked into the kitchen.
Yuri stood at the island, his lean six-foot-plus frame propped against the granite countertop and his arms crossed across his chest. A couple of years younger than Laura, he wore a trim beard that accentuated his slate gray eyes and jet-black hair. As he stared at a nearby wall-mounted television, his forehead contorted. Laura had observed that look before and was instantly on alert.
"What's going on, honey?" she asked.
Yuri pointed to the TV — a Fox News Channel logo hovered in the lower left corner of the screen. "Oil spill in Alaska. A big one." Just a trace of his Russian accent remained.
"Oh no — isn't that near where you're supposed to work?"
Laura focused on the television screen. A ringed seal encased in thick gooey oil lay lifeless on a sheet of ice.
"Do they know what happened?"
"No, just that some researchers found the first oil far offshore over the weekend. Then someone else found the seal near Barrow."
"How many wells did Aurora drill?"
"This is going to change everything."
"Yes, it is."CHAPTER 3
Yuri Kirov sat behind a desk in the office section of a twelve-year-old concrete tilt-up building in Redmond, Washington. It was a quarter past two in the afternoon at Northwest Subsea Dynamics. Yuri had just finished a twenty-minute call with an airfreight company, arranging for a charter flight.
Yuri stood, walked out of his office and passed through NSD's engineering division — a collection of four cubicles each equipped with the latest CAD/CAM computer systems. He greeted one of the engineers, a twenty-something East Indian woman with a freshly minted master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. Yuri opened a door and stepped into the warehouse section of the building — the heart of NSD's operations.
Along the nearest wall were three computer-aided manufacturing workstations. Two 3-D printer units, a lathe, and a laser-cutting table occupied floor space along the far wall. Shelving lined another wall, the bins filled with hundreds of assorted electronic and mechanical devices. The assembly area, about three thousand square feet, took up the center of the warehouse.
Yuri approached the three men standing beside a canary yellow cylinder that was twenty feet long and three feet in diameter. The autonomous underwater vehicle was mounted on a steel cradle, its crown chest high.
The men loitered near the AUV's bow, its bullet-shaped fiberglass hull covering removed. They stared at the exposed internal steel pressure casing that housed the AI computer system — Deep Explorer's brain.
NSD's senior engineer and eldest employee at forty-eight turned to face Yuri. "What did they have to say?" he asked.
"You're all set, Bill. Wheels up at eight tomorrow morning at Boeing Field. You guys are on the same flight. The freighter has half a dozen passenger seats behind the cockpit — so you'll have it to yourselves."
"Awesome," Bill Winters said. He turned and with a beaming smile fist-bumped his two assistant engineers, both in their mid-twenties. Winters was the shortest of those assembled, a hair over five and a half feet, and rotund.
"Is she ready?" Yuri asked.
"Yep. We just ran a system check, she's perfect."
"Okay, let's get her crated up along with the support gear. I've got a truck on its way. It should be here by four o'clock." Yuri gazed at his charges. "A few words of advice. It's the end of the world up there, so take everything that you might conceivably need — tools, extra parts, spare batteries ... even duct tape."
The men chuckled.
"Got it, boss," Winters said. He ran a hand through his thick graying-blond hair. "When are you coming to Barrow?"
"Probably in a couple of days, but don't worry about me. You're in charge. Just make Aurora happy and I'll be happy."
* * *
Yuri returned to his office and again sat behind the desk. He leaned back in his chair and stared at a nearby wall. A color map depicting the top of the world filled most of the wall's surface. He focused on the offshore waters near Alaska's North Slope. Bill Winters and his crew were bound for Barrow.
Yuri reached for his desk phone, dialed, and waited.
The receptionist on the other end of the line in Anchorage routed Yuri's call to NSD's most important customer.
"Good afternoon," Jim Bauer said.
Bauer was the Alaska operations manager for Aurora Offshore Systems.
"Hi, Jim," Yuri said. "I just wanted to let you know we're on schedule down here. Barring weather issues, Deep Explorer and my crew will be in Barrow tomorrow afternoon."
"That's great news."
They had communicated numerous times by phone and email but had not yet met in person.
"We're really counting on you guys," Bauer continued. "Houston is already getting bombarded by the media and attacked online by every environmental whack job out there."
"How about you?"
"Nothing here yet, but it will come. The greens hate us."
Houston-based AOS cut its teeth drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, having accumulated enormous cash reserves from over a dozen spectacularly successful well fields developed offshore of Texas and Louisiana. After Shell Oil retreated from its Chukchi Sea exploration program due to poor test well results, the federal government banned future Arctic offshore leases. But new trouble in the Middle East and Russia's stranglehold over Western Europe's natural gas supply prompted the White House to reverse policy. Alaska's northern continental shelf was reopened for development. Aurora elected to expand into Alaska, submitting the winning bid for a lease of ten thousand acres east of the Shell site.
"Have you been able to get a crew out to the field to check for oil?" Yuri asked.
"No. Weather turned shitty. Too dangerous for a chopper that far offshore. Maybe tomorrow."
In spite of fierce out-of-state environmental opposition, AOS won approval to drill four exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. The State of Alaska welcomed Aurora warmly and the feds were unusually cooperative; they played strictly by the rules, minimizing regulatory politics as directed by the president. All four bores hit commercial quantities of oil and gas — an unprecedented accomplishment. Aurora planned to drill additional test wells the coming summer in preparation for development of the field.
"Were there any problems cementing in the wells?" Yuri asked, referring to the safety measure of filling the test bores with cement to temporarily plug the drill casing.
"None. It was all textbook. The feds signed off on everything."
"It must be coming from a seep or an abandoned well."
"That's our take on it, too."
Northwest Subsea Dynamic's original assignment for Aurora was for a second Chukchi Sea venture. AOS had recently leased an additional twenty thousand acres from the federal government. NSD was under contract to provide precision bathymetry for the new tract.
Preliminary geophysical surveys hinted that the Chukchi Plateau, located in deep waters near the limit of the United States' Arctic Ocean continental shelf claim, held enormous hydrocarbon reserves — several times those of Prudhoe Bay. Deep Explorer's innovative sonar and photographic systems coupled with its speed and extended under-ice endurance capability were all well suited for surveying the site. But that work was now on hold. Deep Explorer had a new mission.
"How long do you think the survey will take?" Bauer asked.
"At least forty-eight hours, maybe longer."
"You'll check the test wells first, correct?"
"Yes — that'll be our first task."
Fallout from BP's Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf required Aurora to prove its existing Chukchi Sea exploration wells were not the cause of the pollution.
Conventional survey and photographic surveillance of the seabed from ship-deployed remotely operated vehicles — ROVs — would not be possible until the summer, when the pack ice retreated. That left only one option — under-the-ice observation.
Deep Explorer's new mission was to produce HD video recordings and photographs of the bottom-mounted equipment for Aurora's Chukchi Sea wells. A companion mission was to survey and video-map the entire development field of its leasehold to search for natural oil seeps or seabed ruptures that might be the source of the oil.
"When will you be coming up?" Bauer asked.
"I'm not sure yet. I'll know more once my crew is in Barrow."
"Well, Matheson is flying in tomorrow. I'm sure he'll want to meet you."
"Okay, we'll work something out."
"Great, nice hearing from you."
Yuri hung up and again leaned back in his chair. Northwest Subsea Dynamics had a terrific opportunity ahead. He had enormous confidence in his crew, especially Bill Winters.
Winters was one of the founding partners when the company was launched five years earlier. The four partners, all former NOAA engineers and scientists, created a remarkable underwater robot — Deep Explorer. But like so many start-ups, NSD burned through its cash reserves. After exhausting personal savings and repeatedly striking out with angel investors, NSD was about to fold when rescued.
Laura Newman purchased NSD — for Yuri. Bill Winters remained, keeping his 25 percent interest while his partners cashed out. Laura appointed Yuri as general manager and Winters kept his chief engineer position.
Excerpted from The Forever Spy by Jeffrey Layton. Copyright © 2017 Jeffrey Layton. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Didn't finish. Too much detail.
Spies, Russians, Chinese, oil spills, and the intrigue that plays out to the beginning of War! This is the second in the Yuri Kirov Thrillers by Jeffrey Layton. Not having read the first in this series; felt a lot of the emotional connections of Yuri and Laura were just not there for me. Description and detailed explanations of explosives and other military espionage was elaborated by the author. This was not a subject that I favor but fans of Fox News and Military drama will be hooked. Last quarter of the book holds major action. "A copy of this book was provided to me by Kensington Books and author with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read and my comments here are my honest opinion."