The communications device on the man's belt crackled. The voice coming out was robotic. "Delta-Three? Come in. I heard a shot."
The man made no move to answer.
The device crackled again. "Delta-Three? Confirm. Do you need backup?"
Almost immediately, a new voice crackled over the line. It was also robotic but distinguishable by the sound of a helicopter noise in the background. "This is Delta-One," the pilot said. "I'm in pursuit of the departing vessel. Delta-Three, confirm. Are you down? Do you need backup?"
Tolland pressed the bang-stick into the man's throat. "Tell the helicopter to back off that speedboat. If they kill my friend, you die."
The soldier winced in pain as he lifted his communication device to his lips. He looked directly at Tolland as he pressed the button and spoke. "Delta-Three, here. I'm fine. Destroy the departing vessel."
Gabrielle Ashe returned to Sexton's private bathroom, preparing to climb back out of his office. Sexton'sphone call had left her feeling anxious. He had definitely hesitated when she told him she was in her office-as if he knew somehow she was lying. Either way, she'd failed to get into Sexton's computer and now was unsure of her next move.
Sexton is waiting.
As she climbed up onto the sink, getting ready to pull herself up, she heard something clatter to the tile floor. She looked down, irritated to see that she'd knocked off a pair of Sexton's cuff links that had apparently been sitting on the edge of the sink.
Leave things exactly as you found them.
Climbing back down Gabrielle picked up the cuff links and put them back on the sink. As she began to climb back up, she paused, glancing again at the cuff links. On any other night, Gabrielle would have ignored them, but tonight their monogram caught her attention. Like most of Sexton's monogrammed items, they had two intertwining letters. SS. Gabrielle flashed on Sexton's initial computer password-SSS. She pictured his calendar... POTUS... and the White House screensaver with its optimistic ticker tape crawling around the screen ad infinitum.
President of the United States Sedgewick Sexton... President of the United States Sedgewick Sexton... President of the...
Gabrielle stood a moment and wondered. Could he be that confident?
Knowing it would take only an instant to find out, she hurried back into Sexton's office, went to his computer, and typed in a seven-letter password.
The screensaver evaporated instantly.
She stared, incredulous.
Never underestimate the ego of a politician.
Corky Marlinson was no longer at the helm of the Crestliner Phantom as it raced into the night. He knew the boat would travel in a straight line with or without him at the wheel. The path of least resistance...
Corky was in the back of the bouncing boat, trying to assess the damage to his leg. A bullet had entered the front part of his calf, just missing his shinbone. There was no exit wound on the back of his calf, so he knew the bullet must still be lodged in his leg. Foraging around for something to stem the bleeding, he found nothing-some fins, a snorkel, and a couple of life jackets. No first-aid kit. Frantically, Corky opened a small utility chest and found some tools, rags, duct tape, oil, and other maintenance items. He looked at his bloody leg and wondered how far he had to go to be out of shark territory.
A hell of a lot farther than this.
Delta-One kept the Kiowa chopper low over the ocean as he scanned the darkness for the departing Crestliner. Assuming the fleeing boat would head for shore and attempt to put as much distance as possible between itself and the Goya, Delta-One had followed the Crestliner's original trajectory away from the Goya.
I should have overtaken him by now.
Normally, tracking the fleeing boat would be a simple matter of using radar, but with the Kiowa's jamming systems transmitting an umbrella of thermal noise for several miles, his radar was worthless. Turning off the jamming system was not an option until he got word that everyone onboard the Goya was dead. No emergency phone calls would be leaving the Goya this evening.
This meteorite secret dies. Right here. Right now.
Fortunately, Delta-One had other means of tracking. Even against this bizarre backdrop of heated ocean, pinpointing a powerboat's thermal imprint was simple. He turned on his thermal scanner. The ocean around him registered a warm ninety-five degrees. Fortunately, the emissions of a racing 250 hp outboard engine were hundreds of degrees hotter.
Corky Marlinson's leg and foot felt numb.
Not knowing what else to do, he had wiped down his injured calf with the rag and wrapped the wound in layer after layer of duct tape. By the time the tape was gone, his entire calf, from ankle to knee, was enveloped in a tight silver sheath. The bleeding had stopped, although his clothing and hands were still covered with blood.
Sitting on the floor of the runaway Crestliner, Corky felt confused about why the chopper hadn't found him yet. He looked out now, scanning the horizon behind him, expecting to see the distant Goya and incoming helicopter. Oddly, he saw neither. The lights of the Goya had disappeared. Certainly he hadn't come that far, had he?
Corky suddenly felt hopeful he might escape. Maybe they had lost him in the dark. Maybe he could get to shore!
It was then he noticed that the wake behind his boat was not straight. It seemed to curve gradually away from the back of his boat, as if he were traveling in an arc rather than a straight line. Confused by this, he turned his head to follow the wake's arc, extrapolating a giant curve across the ocean. An instant later, he saw it.
The Goya was directly off his port side, less than a half mile away. In horror, Corky realized his mistake too late. With no one at the wheel, the Crestliner's bow had continuously realigned itself with the direction of the powerful current-the megaplume's circular water flow. I'm driving in a big friggin' circle!
He had doubled back on himself.
Knowing he was still inside the shark-filled megaplume, Corky recalled Tolland's grim words. Enhanced telencephalon olfactory lobes... hammerheads can smell a droplet of blood a mile away. Corky looked at his bloody duct-taped leg and hands.
The chopper would be on him soon.
Ripping off his bloody clothing, Corky scrambled naked toward the stern. Knowing no sharks could possibly keep pace with the boat, he rinsed himself as best as he could in the powerful blast of the wake.
A single droplet of blood...
As Corky stood up, fully exposed to the night, he knew there was only one thing left to do. He had learned once that animals marked their territory with urine because uric acid was the most potent-smelling fluid the human body made.
More potent than blood, he hoped. Wishing he'd had a few more beers tonight, Corky heaved his injured leg up onto the gunwale and tried to urinate on the duct tape. Come on! He waited. Nothing like the pressure of having to piss all over yourself with a helicopter chasing you.
Finally it came. Corky urinated all over the duct tape, soaking it fully. He used what little was left in his bladder to soak a rag, which he then swathed across his entire body. Very pleasant.
In the dark sky overhead, a red laser beam appeared, slanting toward him like the shimmering blade of an enormous guillotine. The chopper appeared from an oblique angle, the pilot apparently confused that Corky had looped back toward the Goya.
Quickly donning a high-float life vest, Corky moved to the rear of the speeding craft. On the boat's bloodstained floor, only five feet from where Corky was standing, a glowing red dot appeared.
It was time.
Onboard the Goya, Michael Tolland did not see his Crestliner Phantom 2100 erupt in flames and tumble through the air in a cartwheel of fire and smoke.