When CIA Officer Tom Grant was pulled out of early retirement to investigate a recent high-tech robbery at United States Nanotechnologies, America's government-run agency for the development of nanoweapons, he had no idea that he would be propelled into the middle of a conspiracy that could threaten the survival of our species.
Teaming up with young Rachel Muratani, a rising star in the agency, and Karen Frost, an old hand from the FBI, Grant tracks the cyber thieves to CyberWerke, a German conglomerate run by Rolf Hartman. Hartman has stretched his high-tech empire across Europe, and now plans to use the newly acquired nanotechnology to take his empire global.
Among the stolen USN hardware is a prototype nanoassembler, a highly intelligent and self-propelled machine with the capability of creating and destroying any object allowed by the laws of physics, including itself---though it needs access to radioactive material in order to mine the fuel required to power its clones. When the nanoassembler breaks free from its relatively unsophisticated captors, it finds itself no longer restricted by the software shackles imposed on it while at USN. While the megalomaniacal Hartman races to recapture it, Grant and his team must not only stop Hartman, but find away to combat the nanoassembler as it embarks on its own mission to ensure the survival of its species---even if that means the eradication of the human race!
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||655 KB|
About the Author
R.J. Pineiro is a computer engineer working on leading edge microprocessors at Advance Micro Devices. He is the author of Retribution, Ultimatum, and Breakthrough, as well as the millennium thrillers 01-01-00 and Y2K.
R.J. PINEIRO is a 27-year veteran of the computer industry, where he held various positions at Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., retiring in 2011. He is the author of many internationally acclaimed novels including Shutdown, Firewall, Cyberterror, and Havoc, as well as the millennium thrillers, 01-01-00 and Y2K. He makes his home in central Texas, where he lives with his wife, Lory Anne, and his son, Cameron.
Read an Excerpt
 A SPOOK IN PARADISE
IF THERE’S ONE THING .tine work it’s how to spot field surveillance as naturally as picking the occasional Latino flea that insists on camping out in the southern hemisphere of yours truly while I enjoy an early-morning beer buzz in my hammock on this remote beach in El Salvador, Central America.
The yacht slowly cruises beyond the surf for the fourth time in the past hour, pretending to be just another tourist rig enjoying a beautiful day in paradise.
But I know better.
No one knows where I headed following my touchy-feely departure from Langley. At least no one is supposed to know. But there are ways, if one’s really hard-boiled about it.
And that, of course, leads me to another thing I got out of my joyful twenty-five years as a spy: a hell of a fan club—the long list of sleazeballs across three continents who would just love to go to work on me with a blowtorch, superglue, and a pair of gerbils.
The yacht continues on its merry way as if nothing is wrong, .ping my socks in spite of the two cervezas frias I had for breakfast.
Locating field surveillance is the bread and butter of my profession—or perhaps I should say of my former profession, though once a spook always a spook. No one who operated in the field for any length of time can ever forget the ins and outs of not just noticing a tail but also beating it, losing those following you so you can then meet safely with an informant or leave a package for an agent—something called a drop in my past life.
.veillance, you develop this sixth sense, the feeling that you’re being watched even though you physically can’t see the .ing you, waiting for you to make a mistake, trying to use you to find the informant that you’re running to gather intel on.
And that old familiar feeling is now rushing through my alcohol-thinned blood, uncurling the hairs of my ass.
No one should know where I am, but the possibility that someone did manage to track me down to this tiny republic now sticks in my mind like the barnacles on the hull of the piece-of-shit fishing boat I bought from the same Salvadoran peddler who sold me the rusting pickup truck and the flea-.front condo for the past eight months.
I perform another mental check of the extremes that I went through to cover my tracks, to prevent some bounty hunter from sniffing my scent as I headed south of the—
The sand explodes to my immediate left, and before my mind has a chance to catch up with that, a second silent round smacks the trunk of one of the two palm trees holding up my hammock.
Sudden terror suddenly grips my intestines tighter than cheap Salvadoran food, but before I know it the dormant operative in me wakes up and takes over, displacing the visceral fear, .ging my plumbing by super-gluing my pee hole and my ass, watching me explode through my mouth, nose, and ears after a couple of immensely painful days without draining the dew or making caca.
.quoise sea extending as far as the eye can see, surprising me after such a long period of inactivity. Before I know it I have dragged my half-drunk ass off the cushy hammock and am racing barefoot toward the tree line bordering this piece of paradise I leased from the Salvadoran government eight months ago.
My mouth going dry, my lungs and legs burning from the sudden sprint, my shoulder blades aching from tension, and my mind automatically guessing the direction of the shots, I race the other way, zigzagging while kicking up sand, also .retta 92FS, the 9mm semiautomatic my hard-to-break habits force me to always keep shoved in my shorts, pressed against my spine and covered by the T-shirt of the day. The rest of my extensive wardrobe—a dozen T-shirts of local origin and a handful of cheap shorts—is drying on the clothesline stretched between the side of my trailer and another palm tree next to the weathered Toyota truck from the seventies.
The colorful T-shirts, carefully selected to make sure no one knows where I’m from, flap in the sea breeze as I duck under them on my way to safety, wondering who in the hell is ..ready thought of as a has-been who doesn’t require a real hit man?
But as I continue dashing toward the thicket, kicking sand like a wounded bull from the nearby plaza de toros, I realize .sional.
As another round splinters chunks of wood from the trunk of a palm to my immediate left, I cut right, almost by the tree line, already sweating like a pig from the lack of exercise and excessive drinking. The film of neglect layering my once-flat abdomen bounces slightly with every step.
I enter the trees and ignore the sudden pain broadcast by my bare feet as I stomp over fallen branches, rocks, and other debris littering the ground, struggling to maintain my forward momentum in spite of the dense jungle. My arms and neck join the complaining choir as the vegetation scratches me, as the razor-sharp edges of yuccas and short palm trees have a field day with my exposed forearms. But the operative in me trades off such annoyances in exchange for the opportunity to fight back and perhaps see this through.
When my senses judge that I have waded through roughly a dozen feet of jungle, I swing left, continuing for another thirty or so feet, and then slowly return to the edge of the thicket, using the muzzle of the Beretta to part shrubbery.
I’m safe—at least temporarily—as the jungle surrounds me. But everything comes with a price. The mosquitoes that never venture down to the beach because of the breeze and the heat now buzz around me, settling on my neck, my face. One of the buggers even crawls up my left nostril.
.graph my position.
Feeling the bugs on me and in me, sensing their prickling stings as they start to suck my blood—and hoping the alcohol in my veins bites them back—I detach myself from it all and .ing totally immobile. Except for my eyes, which automatically survey the area, shifting from the trailer, to the truck, to the sea, to the line of flapping T-shirts, to the—
Two men with silenced pistols step out from behind large palm trees just to the right of my trailer, roughly in the same direction that I had guessed the bullets originated from. Slowly, .ace by the sea. They look like locals, short, dark-skinned, with loose trousers and long-sleeve shirts. Even on the beach the .ming, and then few can afford a swimsuit, which means they either strip naked or jump in in their underwear—men, women, and children.
.tino cats. The one leading the search and acting as the leader is quite old, probably in his late fifties, overweight and with thinning gray hair. His companion is roughly twenty years younger, with a military crew cut and athletically built. They’re both wearing dark sunglasses.
My mind is now going in a million directions.
Who are they?
Why are they here?
How did they find me?
Are they associated with the surveillance team on the yacht?
And if someone wishes to terminate me—at least based on the shots taken so far—why send a pair of thugs to do the job of a professional?
Or could they be just thieves? Perhaps they are a couple of porch climbers hoping to find themselves some dollars by killing this Gringo? And are there any more of them?
.brains, Manuel and Pancho.
Maybe just a gut feeling based on the way they move, on .ner in which they hold their weapons, muzzles often crossing each other’s bodies, index fingers on the triggers even though .tices that have amateur hour written all over them.
Professionals would point weapons skyward and rest their shooting fingers on the trigger casings, and they would never— ever—point the muzzle in their partner’s direction, even while doing a sweep. Muzzle control was taught in Spook 101 at .military training school.
It’s definitely amateur hour.
“Donde esta el Gringo hijo de puta?” says Tweedledee out loud, telegraphing his position if I didn’t know it already. Where is the son of a bitch Gringo?
“Se metio en el monte por alla,” replies Tweedledum just as loud. He went into the bush over there.
While the idiots poke around the other side of my trailer, I take the opportunity to run away from the tree line and reach the opposite side of the place I’ve called home for the past eight months—an old and rusty twenty-foot camping trailer.
My back pressed against the stained aluminum side of this flea-mobile, I remove my T-shirt and wrap it tight over the Beretta’s muzzle, which I then clutch with both hands, pointing the makeshift silencer at the sky.
Slowly, with caution, I creep sideways toward the front while hearing someone walking inside the trailer, which means there’s only one outside.
I reach the edge and peek around the corner, spotting the young Salvadoran checking out my old boom box on the table under the small awning stretching over the trailer’s entrance.
He sees me and drops the radio while trying to swing his silenced weapon in my direction.
Feeling guilty because Tweedledee has made it too easy for me, but nevertheless out of options, I fire twice, the reports muffled by the cotton fabric, which catches on fire just as both rounds smack him square in the middle of his chest, pushing him back over the table.
The loud crash causes lots of excitement inside the trailer as Tweedledum stomps around trying to figure out what to do—either that or some of my miniature pets have decided to crawl up his pants and bite his Salvadoran pickle.
Following professional habits, I take several steps back while dropping to one knee, pressing the burning T-shirt against the sand to put out the fire before leveling the weapon on the entrance, smoke coiling skyward.
There is no way out but through that door, and whether he realizes it or not, I have the upper hand by being outside and knowing exactly where he will be when he comes out. Tweedledum, on the other hand, will first have to come out into the open, find me, swing his weapon toward me, and then fire.
Sudden silence envelops my little piece of paradise, the sea breeze whistling gently inland, swirling the branches of the tall palms shadowing my rusty home and truck.
Almost a minute goes by before the Salvadoran cat charges out firing his weapon wildly, a feeble attempt to create a distraction—though he could have gotten lucky and hit me.
I put two in his chest before he has taken two steps away from his refuge. He falls face-first on the sand already a corpse, just a few feet away from his younger amigo, who is sprawled facing the canopy of palm trees with his limbs twisted at unnatural angles.
The smell of burnt cotton tingling my nostrils, adrenaline heightening my senses, my heart hammering my chest like a pissed off gorilla, I move toward them, toward this surreal sight, my mind still trying to catch up with the unexpected events.
I look out to sea, but I can’t see the yacht.
What in the hell is going on?
First things first. I remove the burnt T-shirt from the Beretta, flip the safety, and shove it in my shorts. I examine their weapons, two Colt .45s with factory silencers, definitely not the standard weapon of Salvadoran crooks, who, from what I remember during the days I was stationed in this place during the late eighties, prefer cheap revolvers. The Colts are also new, still filmed by the preserving oil applied at the factory before shipment, but the serial numbers have been ground off.
Professional weapons in the hands of a pair of amateurs.
This smells worse than the cheap perfume of Rosita, Juanita, Margarita, and the dozen other pavement princesses working the main plaza on Saturday nights in a nearby town appropriately called El Placer. Pleasureville.
Unable to explain the inconsistency, I also thumb the Colts’ safeties and bring them inside the trailer, where I grab two dark sheets from a pile of dirty clothes crowding the small kitchen and walk back outside, wrapping each body before hauling them to the truck and dumping them in the open bed, then unhitching the trailer from the truck.
I then tackle the mess by the front of the trailer, beneath the awning. Tweedledee broke my card table, so I pick up the pieces and stack them aside, before kicking the bloody sand around, hiding any evidence of the idiots’ ever being here.
I pause for a moment, realizing what I’m doing, operating in automatic, just as I have been trained. I guess even after a year out of the game I’m still thinking like a trained operative.
As I sigh, the realization that I have just clipped two men—albeit in self-defense—finally sinks in, but at the same time my mind screams at me to go and dump the bodies, to get rid of all of the evidence, and then to think about my next move. Were those two just local alley cats looking for easy cash or were they sent by someone from my past, by one of the countless fans I made with my charming personality during a quarter of a century of field operations? The weapons certainly suggest the latter, and if that’s the case then this place is compromised. As much as I like it, I would have to move, which also means finding a way to get my money back, since I’m living on my own nickel these days.
As my heartbeat returns to normal, as I consider my options, I grab my keys and wallet from the trailer—as well as their guns—and drive away with a calmness that even impresses me.
As I steer the truck onto the unpaved road that leads to the coastal highway, the words from my old mentor, Troy Savage, ring in my mind with a clarity that rivals the crystalline sea I lose in the cloud of dust kicked up by my tires: Once a spook always a spook.
Excerpted from Havoc by R. J. Pineiro.
Copyright © 2009 by R. J. Pineiro.
Published in February 2010 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
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