Tom Clancy Flash Point432
Tom Clancy Flash Point432
Jack Ryan Jr. is in a world of trouble. When a benign surveillance operation takes a deadly turn, Jack finds himself locked in a struggle with an unseen enemy bent on destroying the Campus. The chase leads Jack to the South China Sea where a midair collision between aircraft from rival nations threatens to serve as a flash point for the entire region. As Jack frantically tries to put the pieces of the conspiracy together, the Campus is hit with a crippling attack. When the dust settles, Jack is one of the few operators still standing and the Campus’s de facto leader. But the fight is just beginning.
As tensions escalate, Jack’s mysterious adversary executes a brilliant campaign to paralyze the American government even as China inches closer to invading Taiwan. With the odds stacked against him and no help in sight, Jack and his shattered team must stop the world’s two remaining super powers from stumbling into war even as the noose around the Campus grows ever tighter.
Every operation has a cost.
This time the bill might just be too much to pay.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Series:||Jack Ryan Jr. Series , #10|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Don Bentley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Matt Drake series (Forgotten War, Hostile Intent, The Outside Man, Without Sanction) and three Tom Clancy novels. Bentley spent a decade as an Army Apache helicopter pilot and deployed to Afghanistan as an Air Cavalry Troop Commander. Following his time in the military, Bentley worked as an FBI special agent and was a SWAT team member. Bentley is also a graduate of the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. He resides in Austin, Texas with his family. Learn more at www.donbentleybooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
University of Regensburg
"Entschuldigung-wo ist die Fakultät für Mathematik?"
Jack Ryan, Jr., did in fact know the way to the mathematics department, but not because he was an aficionado of the Pythagorean theorem. In fact, Jack's last math class had been under the tutelage of Father O'Neil, whose love of equations and variables was rivaled only by his adoration for the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Jack had escaped the class with a C-plus, much to the chagrin of his surgeon mother, who took a dim view of any mark less than a B.
Jack's familiarity with the University of Regensburg's quaint campus was not the result of a newfound thirst for knowledge or a desire to right his past collegiate wrongs characterized by too much time on the football field and not enough in the library. Neither had Jack's familiarity come from strolling along the campus's network of pedestrian paths under the azure sky and brilliant German sunshine. No, Jack knew where the math building was for the same reason he was seated at a section of tables in the cobblestone-paved common area that formed the university's heart.
Jack was running a surveillance operation.
But he couldn't say this to the cute blonde dressed in a white half-shirt, black Lululemon leggings, and white cross-trainers. While Jack hadn't thought much of college math, there were certainly some aspects of the higher-education experience he'd found enjoyable.
"Sorry," Jack said with a smile. "I'm not a student."
The girl smiled back, and Jack's grin widened.
At six foot two and two hundred twenty pounds, Jack was a big boy. Now that he was closer to forty than twenty, he had to hit the gym harder to maintain his athletic build. But his blue eyes were still bright, his face unwrinkled, and his brown hair thick and curly.
Judging by the coed's reaction, Jack must not be aging too terribly.
He still had it.
"Of course not," the girl said, laughing, as she switched to German-accented English. "You are much too old to be a student. I thought you might be visiting your child for parents' weekend?"
Or perhaps not.
"Nope, no child," Jack said, fighting to keep his grin from withering. "Just here for a conference."
"Oh," the girl said, her face reddening. "Sorry. Could you tell me where the mathematics building is located?"
"Sure," Jack said. "Quickest way is through there." He turned in his chair to point to the doors of the University Student Office behind him. "It'll be the first building you see on the other side."
"Danke," the girl said.
She offered Jack a final smile that reeked of pity before heading into the building.
Jack gritted his teeth as he waited for the other shoe to drop. As jolting as it had been to learn that he could no longer pass as a college student, he knew the worst was still to come. As if on cue, a feminine voice echoed from a Bluetooth-equipped combination transmitter/receiver lodged deep in the canal of his right ear.
"Do we have a med kit?"
"Why?" Jack said, instantly alert.
"Thought you might need something for your bruised ego."
The raspy tone engendered images of raven hair and vanilla-scented olive-toned skin. Unlike Jack, who was seated at a flimsy metal table with a doner kebab wrapped in aluminum foil for company, his coworker and girlfriend, Lisanne Robertson, was lounging in the grass on the south side of the University Student Office. In fact, if they'd been the only two operatives on the net, Jack might have broken protocol long enough to tell the Lebanese American woman how he'd accidentally mixed salt into his coffee after seeing her in "college attire."
This was partly because he was still trying to navigate the pitfalls of working clandestinely with someone who was also a love interest and partly because he and Lisanne weren't alone on the net.
Not by a long shot.
"Don't sweat it, Jack. We all get old."
The high-pitched voice belonged to Gavin Biery.
Like Jack and Lisanne, Gavin was an employee of The Campus, an off-the-books intelligence agency. Unlike Jack and Lisanne, who were paramilitary officers, Gavin was The Campus's director of information technology, and its resident hacker. As such, he was perched in his comfortable chair at The Campus's Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters rather than in Germany.
Since the operation the three operatives were currently running had been billed as surveillance only, Gavin had asked to accompany his teammates. Jack had turned down the portly keyboard warrior. Gavin brought more to the fight ensconced in his climate-controlled IT labyrinth than he would deployed to the field.
Not to mention that he looked far less appealing in summer wear.
"First of all, I'm not old," Jack said. "Second, I need everyone focused on the task at hand. Coffee break is coming up."
"Whatever you say, pops," Lisanne said, her husky voice raising goose bumps across Jack's skin.
Before catching his flight to Munich, Jack had been called in for a sit-down with his boss and The Campus's director of operations, John T. Clark. Clark's operational history was both long and distinguished, beginning with his time as a SOG veteran and Vietnam-era Navy SEAL. In the ensuing years, Clark had worked as a CIA paramilitary officer and served as the original Rainbow Six. He and Jack's father had met in the jungles of Colombia during a CIA-helmed counter-drug operation gone wrong.
Now Jack's father was the President of the United States, and Clark was Jack's boss. When John Clark talked, Jack listened, even on the rare occasions when he didn't agree with what his boss had to say.
This had been one of those times.
Jack and Lisanne had been honest with their brothers- and sisters-in-arms when their relationship had firmly left platonic territory. While this wasn't a surprise to most of their compatriots, Clark had counseled the pair on what this meant from an operational sense. In short, it changed things. Contrary to the movies, operating with someone with whom you were romantically involved was difficult.
Serving objectively as that person's team leader was nearly impossible.
Jack hadn't disagreed with Clark's assessment. Who was he to argue with someone who'd been hunting his nation's adversaries while Jack had still been in diapers? Still, this was not an operation, per se, as much as a tactical test-drive. A test-drive of Isabel Yang's utility as well as a demonstration for a rather unique bit of software Gavin had been tinkering with for the last several months. It would also serve as a trial run for Jack's ability to operate with Lisanne in the field. As Campus work went, you couldn't get much more vanilla than an academic conference held in the sleepy German town of Regensburg.
Milk run were the exact words Jack had used with Clark.
"I've got movement on Socrates's phone," Gavin said.
Socrates was Isabel Yang's call sign.
Yang was a twenty-six-year-old Ph.D. student who was being groomed as a Campus helper. The Campus's black side numbered less than twelve people, and the flat organizational chart and lack of bureaucracy was one of the organization's selling points. Unlike traditional members of the intelligence community, Campus operatives were not limited by findings, statutes, or authorities. Jack Ryan, Sr., and his friend and Campus founder, Gerry Hendley, were the North Stars when it came to deciding what was in and out of bounds as it pertained to sanctioned operations. Though not a history professor like his father, Jack Junior was an adept enough student of the antiquities to know that this arrangement was not a recipe for success.
But that was a problem for another day.
Jack's near-term concern lay with The Campus's manpower, or lack thereof. Nimble organizations were great at the type of missions that required a scalpel, but more and more often, Campus work tended toward the sledgehammer variety. With multiple teams operating simultaneously around the globe, the lack of depth in nonoperational departments like logistics, recruiting, and human resources was beginning to show. Even among the door-kickers, Campus personnel were stretched painfully thin. To make matters worse, the entity had no formal accessions process. This meant The Campus had no standardized way to vet and onboard potential new talent.
Enter Jack's thought on helpers.
The Mossad was a shining example of how to do more with less. As a country of only about nine million people, Israel was constantly required to punch above its weight. The tiny nation's intelligence service was no exception. As a way to even the scales against its much-better-funded and -manned counterparts, the Mossad had developed a network of helpers that spanned the globe. These men and women weren't operatives as much as they were people in unique positions or with unique skill sets who could fill logistical or intelligence gaps for active Mossad operations.
People like Isabel Yang.
In addition to her qualifications as a female academic who spoke three languages and could pass for half a dozen nationalities, Isabel was an Army brat. Her Chinese American father had been a Green Beret assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group when he'd been killed in Afghanistan. Isabel's patriotism ran deep. Jack had first made her acquaintance during an operation in South Korea, and he'd been impressed with her mettle. Now they were taking the next step in the agent/handler relationship.
Isabel was attending the academic conference hosted by the University of Regensburg at The Campus's behest. A conference also attended by three influential Chinese scientists whose work spanned both military and civilian applications. The conference was now entering its second day, and while Isabel had confirmed the presence of the Chinese scientists, she had yet to meet them.
Jack was hoping this would change today.
"Roger that, Gavin," Jack said. "Can you confirm she's heading toward the break area, over?"
"Stand by," Gavin said.
Geolocating someone with their phone was old news. What once took the power of the NSA's supercomputers could now be done with one of the many publicly available apps. But the utility of this capability vanished once someone was inside a structure.
Gavin had been toying with the idea of using the accelerometer in a target's phone to judge the direction and distance of their movement, but he'd struggled with how to baseline the algorithms. Everyone's stride was different, and this made it difficult to judge how fast and far someone was moving once the accelerometer triggered.
Then Gavin had had one of his famous breakthroughs.
Rather than attempting to baseline a target independently, he would use the phones surrounding the target phone to measure the distance it covered. He'd developed an app that would allow him to use phones connected to a single Wi-Fi server as a miniature GPS constellation. Code-named PARSEC, the invention worked pretty well in the shakeout exercise Jack had run at a mall near Alexandria.
This was its first operational test.
"Confirmed," Gavin said, sounding like a kid on Christmas morning. "Socrates is moving with the targets toward the break area."
"Roger that," Jack said. "Lisanne, you ready?"
"You bet," Lisanne said. "Video and audio feeds are great."
The tobacco-cessation efforts that were all the rage in America had yet to take hold in much of the rest of the world. The Chinese scientists were no exception. Thus, the common area outside the mathematics building had proven to be a popular hangout for those who preferred nicotine to caffeine for their afternoon pick-me-up. The courtyard offered a breath of fresh air along with the all-important receptacle for cigarette butts.
After watching the targets eschew the conveniently located coffee shop for the smoking area on day one, Jack had adjusted his plan in two ways. One, he'd repositioned Lisanne and her goodies. Two, he'd suggested to Isabel that she take up smoking.
Unsurprisingly, the first directive had been much better received than the second.
Isabel was a fitness fanatic who viewed smoking as only slightly less risky than taking a dip in the cooling reservoir for Chernobyl's reactor. Even so, by the second day of the conference, the scientist had come around to Jack's way of thinking. The trio of Chinese scientists kept to themselves in the auditorium and hadn't attended any of the socials scheduled by the university's faculty for the visiting scholars.
It was the smoke pit or nothing.
As a backstopped member of academia, Isabel's legend was perfect. She was not an intelligence operative, and nothing in her background would suggest otherwise. As such, her assignment was simple-engage her Chinese counterparts in small talk. Jack hadn't even wanted Isabel to attempt to garner an email address or contact method-that would be too obvious. Instead, he'd told her to be who she was-an accomplished academic at a conference. This strategy was designed to account for Isabel's inexperience and Jack's desire to use a nonthreatening environment to get the scientist's feet wet.
Unless Jack missed his guess, he wasn't the only shark circling the conference. Other intelligence operatives were probably likewise prowling for interesting contacts, and as a bona fide scientist, Isabel was the perfect dangle to identify other intelligence officers and their interests.
But Jack hadn't explained this part of the plan to Isabel.
Though the scientist had acquitted herself well during their first interaction in South Korea, she was a novice operative and Jack wanted her to behave as such. Intelligence officers were adept at spotting people who were something other than what they claimed to be. Isabel would be most effective if she didn't know she was being used.
At least that's what Jack told himself.
"Okay," Lisanne said, breaking into Jack's thoughts. "I've got eyes on three Chinese scientists plus two minders and a couple other members of the tobacco club. Waiting for face shots."
With her outfit, Lisanne should have no trouble enticing the men to look her way. Dressed in what passed for college casual, Lisanne was wearing a cream-colored tank top, cut-off jean shorts, and flip-flops. Though she was almost a decade older than most of the college students, Lisanne wore her age well. She'd pulled her raven hair into a ponytail, added oversized aviator sunglasses to mask her face, and mimicked the short shorts, tight tops, and painted toes that seemed to be the university's female uniform.
Jack thought Lisanne beautiful in operator garb, but when she was dressed to impress, his girlfriend truly was a heart-stopper. Today her outfit of choice showcased miles of tan skin, and her long, brown legs looked especially appealing against the white blanket she'd spread across the grass. Normally an operative's job was to vanish in plain sight. To assume the Gray Man persona. For Lisanne, this was impossible. Pretty could be downplayed and attractive figures could be hidden beneath layers of bulky clothes, but Lisanne's most noticeable feature couldn't be masked.
Her missing left arm.
In a Campus operation gone wrong in mainland China, Lisanne had sustained a grievous gunshot wound that had required the amputation of her arm and almost cost her her life. In any intelligence organization but the Campus, this would have spelled the end of Lisanne’s operational career.
The Campus wasn’t just another intelligence apparatus.
Knowing that she needed them far more than the Campus needed her, John Clark had given Lisanne the time and space to determine how she could still contribute. While her time as a gunfighter was over, she and Jack both believed that there were ways in which she could still contribute.
Today was a good example.
Lisanne would have turned heads with both arms. With one missing, everyone noticed her. Jack intended to use this to the team’s advantage. With her iced coffee, laptop, collection of books, and notebook, Lisanne looked like any of the other students lounging on the grass. Except that her messenger bag contained a combined camera and parabolic mic wirelessly linked to her laptop. If people were going to look at Lisanne anyway, Jack intended to leverage their curiosity to obtain more facial and voice prints for the Campus’s biometric database.
So far, his idea had paid off nicely.
Male scientists stared at Lisanne for obvious reasons. Their female counterparts gave her missing limb a second, and usually sustained, glance.
All the while Lisanne captured valuable intelligence.
Lisanne Robertson took the notion of a dangle to the next level.
“Say cheese, boys,” Lisanne said.
Jack unwrapped his doner and took a monster bite. He was farther removed from the action than he would have liked, but his earlier encounter with the inquisitive student had proven that Jack did not look as if he belonged. At least not in Lisanne’s easy manner. As such, he was running command and control of the operation, not a job he relished. Then again, he was enjoying the sunshine between bites of the world’s best doner with a half empty glass of Pilsner to keep him company.
There were certainly worse ways to earn a living.
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