Mac Savage, a former CIA officer; Marie Kovacs, a former nanotechnology scientist turned missionary; and Kate Chavez, a Texas Ranger investigating a murder, join forces to unravel a global conspiracy that starts with the diamond industry and ends with a plan to eliminate the human race.
The Donovan Group, a high-powered global conglomerate, has used diamond-based technology to create an overarching artificial intelligence, known as ANNE. Using spyware nanotechnology implants, the group's members have interfaced their brains with this super-intelligent AI. They have become virtual super geniuses and physical extensions of ANNE. With each wired-in member ANNE becomes smarter and more powerful. She has one ultimate goal: to save the planet Earth by eliminating the disease that is consuming it—the human race.
Tapping the world's digital backbone to manipulate its millions of loyal disciples, this AI-god turns ordinary citizens into fanatical soldiers. Her deadly agenda will propel Savage, Kovacs, and Chavez to the center of a battle for the survival of our species.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
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
By R. J. Pineiro
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 R. J. Pineiro
All rights reserved.
Antwerp City Blues
Stepping out of the third taxi he had taken in the past hour, Savage surveyed the camera-bearing tourists with trained suspicion as he made his way toward the west end of the Grote Markt, the picturesque town square of the port city of Antwerp, Belgium.
His eyes regarded the crowd from behind the mirror tint of his sunglasses, searching for brusque head moves, for bodies shifting abruptly, for disturbances in the natural flow of the mass of visitors enjoying a cool and sunny morning in Belgium's second largest city, the diamond capital of the world.
Dressed in a pair of loose khaki slacks, a white polo shirt under a neutral windbreaker, and black soft-sole shoes to maximize traction over the slick cobblestone streets, Savage merged with the crowd with practiced ease, navigating through it effortlessly, arms hanging loosely by his sides, hands free.
Never compromise your hands, he thought as he failed to spot any telltale signs of surveillance, as he approached the massive structure of Our Lady's Cathedral, its soaring north tower, lacework in stone, rising to the heavens, dwarfing the Renaissance-style buildings surrounding this magnificent square, second to none in architectural splendor and size but Brussels' Grand Place.
Honeymooners, families, college kids, and tour groups melted into a sea of humanity speaking a dozen languages at once, creating a cacophony of sounds that mixed with the bands playing and dancing for the delighted visitors enjoying refreshments from the many terraces and sidewalk cafes.
Savage saw past the cosmetics, probing deeper, exacting the essence of the sight, the natural rhythm of this environment, before blending with it, becoming invisible, like a ghost.
Like a chameleon.
You must become a chameleon, he remembered Donald Bane, his CIA mentor, telling him over fifteen years ago, during his Agency training days following his recruitment from the Navy SEALs, where he had spent five years risking his neck for Uncle Sam in exotic destinations like Iraq and Colombia.
Savage grimaced at the tingle propagating up his left leg, held together by a pound of titanium screws and bars after he nearly lost it to an Iraqi grenade what now seemed like eons ago.
You must adapt to your environment, Mac, Bane had told him again and again during those early weeks at The Farm, the CIA training facility in Williamsburg, Virginia. You must become one with it, for only then will you be able to lose your surveillance, to turn the tables, to force your hunter into becoming your prey.
Savage remembered those days with affection, when he had been naïve enough to believe that he had been given a second lease on life following the tragedy in Iraq.
And Donald Bane had been the one who stepped in to fill him with hope when he thought his military career was over — the same Donald Bane who had taken in the youngster Mac Savage following the terrifying assassination of his parents in Tel Aviv at the hands of a madman, a suicide terrorist wearing an explosive vest that took out the restaurant where they were having lunch on his father's day off as a civilian liaison to the ambassador of the United States in that war-torn nation.
Savage had made headlines around the world, the teenager in the shredded clothes, on his knees crying amid the rubble and the smoke, the bodies of his parents covered by blue sheets as emergency crews searched for survivors in the collapsed building.
Spooks take care of one another.
His father had told him that many times. Should something happen to him, Savage and his mother would be looked after.
But I lost you both.
His throat aching in sudden grief, Savage remembered how Donald Bane, then the CIA station chief in the Israeli capital, had upheld this unwritten CIA pact, providing for the education of the fourteen-year-old orphan, the son of his best friend and colleague, sending him to the finest schools, eventually watching him answer his country's call to fight international terrorism, following September 11 by applying for the SEAL training program in San Diego. Donald Bane had been there for him on that glorious day when Savage had earned the coveted Trident, when he had defeated the staggering odds of the Underwater Demolition Training Program, surviving Hell Week — as well as the weeks that followed — accomplishing what so very few people on Earth could.
At the time, Mac Savage thought he could change a world that had stopped making sense, devoting the best years of his life to serving Uncle Sam. But the tragedy in Iraq put a sudden end to a promising military career. No one had seen the grenade until it was too late, ripping two of his team members to shreds before maiming him.
And Donald Bane had come to the rescue again, demanding the best surgeons, the best medical technology, the finest therapists in the world to teach his protégé to walk all over again, to become whole again.
But not good enough for the SEALs.
Enter the Central Intelligence Agency.
Bane had taken him into the family at Langley and had personally escorted him to The Farm, where he learned the tools of a secret trade, of shadow operations, of covert activities — tools that would serve him well for the following decade and a half.
Until that night....
Savage clenched his jaw while recalling the shocking turn of events in Sierra Leone — events that led him to his assignment in Belgium and the eventual downward spiral of his relationship with the CIA that resulted in his recent resignation.
Savage's operative sense pushed the image of a field of maimed kids aside, focusing his attention back on the task at hand, reviewing the safety measures he had taken since leaving his hotel three hours ago, the multiple taxis, the many blocks he had walked in between each two, his confidence growing that no one had followed him.
He continued to move with the crowd, constantly checking for the betraying signs of a shadow, finding none, eventually leaving the Grote Markt behind and continuing west on Meir, the name of the most famous shopping street in Antwerp.
But the large avenue, closed many years ago to all traffic except pedestrians, with its hundreds of exclusive shops nestled in a breathtaking historic surrounding, was not the former CIA operative's primary target; neither were the thousands of shoppers feeding the economic engine of this exclusive section of town; nor were the wealthy merchants dealing in anything from the finest designers' clothes, jewelry, watches, and automobiles to the most desirable art work.
Mac Savage's reason for visiting this section of town went further than the exclusive store owners serving the affluent; past famous monuments and centuries-old works of architectural perfection; beyond the stylish, model-thin women visiting designers' shops and the many sidewalk restaurants catering to hungry patrons a block east of Antwerp's central railway station in the heart of the World Diamond District.
The ice capital of the world.
Stopping in front of the Fountaine Hotel, three blocks past the intersection of Meir and Wapper, where the street once more opened up for vehicle traffic, Savage checked the IWC perpetual watch hugging his left wrist, verifying that he was thirty minutes early, just as dictated by his professional habits: Always reach the meeting grounds precisely thirty minutes ahead of schedule to survey the place, to ensure its safety. Longer than that would force him to linger excessively, risking drawing unwanted attention. Shorter than that didn't allow enough time to appraise the light morning traffic and surrounding buildings for signs of surveillance — even though Savage had picked the time and place of this meeting, and had conveyed that information just an hour ago, between taxi rides, to the man he was meeting inside that hotel.
Savage approached a kiosk across the street selling periodicals and assorted magazines, feigned interest in a local sports magazine displaying a soccer goalkeeper in midair catching a penalty kick.
He pretended to read it while eyeballing the watch again. The platinum timepiece, manufactured by the International Watch Company, retailed for over fifty thousand euros at nearby shops. But he viewed it as an asset, which he could easily liquidate to generate emergency funds without the paper trail of bank accounts and charge cards. Savage also wore a diamond-encrusted gold cross beneath the polo shirt, plus a money belt fitted with fifteen thousand dollars, two American passports under different names, and matching New York State driver's licenses and charge cards.
Donald Bane had taught him early in his career that mobility — unrestricted freedom of operation — was a weapon as formidable as the blue-steel 9mm Beretta pistol tucked in his pants, pressed against his left kidney with the handle facing forward for swift right-hand retrieval. And as dictated by the rules of his former profession, Savage also carried a backup weapon, a 32-caliber Walther PPK in an ankle holster.
Hoping he would not have to use the semiautomatics on this cool and breezy September afternoon, the ex-CIA operative gazed toward the hotel beyond the light traffic on Meir, mostly taxis and buses mixed with private vehicles.
Savage's level of focused paranoia — not to be confused with the destructive random fear of an amateur — had been elevated a couple of notches since departing Langley. Fifteen years putting bad guys away in the service of Uncle Sam had created many enemies for Mac Savage, the kind of underworld characters who would just love to go to work on him with a scalpel, a blowtorch, and a bottle of bleach. Lacking formal CIA protection, Savage was essentially on his own every day, meaning there was no immediate backup, no cavalry ready to charge in to defend him should he get himself in trouble. Of course, as a retired CIA officer, he had been provided a unique telephone number, which Savage had committed to memory and could call only in an absolute emergency when all else failed. But the standard response wasn't immediate — sometimes as long as forty-eight hours — as the CIA could only devote so much of its bandwidth to monitor the whereabouts of former officers. But Savage knew that as long as Bane was in charge — even if his former mentor was getting close to being canned by the new White House administration — help would be on its way as fast as it could should he need it. The Agency wasn't perfect, but it did take care of its own.
In the end it doesn't matter.
In spite of the Agency's best intentions, in his line of work forty-eight hours — even twenty-four — was an eternity, meaning he was pretty much on his own even with Uncle Bane pulling strings to accelerate assistance.
Observing no anomalies in the street scene, Savage's gaze landed on the building's revolving doors separating the hotel's lobby from the crowded sidewalk as he remembered the brief phone call he had received that morning from Jean-Pierre Bockstael, the managing director of the HRD, the Hoge Raad voor Diamant — the Diamond High Council.
The ice lords, Savage thought.
The umbrella organization and official international representative of the Belgian diamond business, the HRD controlled the mining, cutting, polishing, distribution, and sales of nearly fifty percent of the worldwide diamond trade — all from within a two-square-mile area in downtown Antwerp comprising over 1500 diamond companies, including the mighty Diamond Trading Company, formally known as De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. From here, fully polished and serialized diamonds were exported to the far corners of the earth to satisfy an ever-hungrier market for the coveted stones — all under the watchful eye of the all-powerful HRD.
When Savage received the urgent call from the second-in-command of this influential organization, a man he had come to know and respect during his three-year assignment as liaison between the U.S. Government and the HRD in the fight against blood diamonds, he had immediately called him back.
While continuing to browse the sports magazine, Savage remembered the unmistakable edge of fear in Bockstael's voice on the phone.
A matter of great urgency and discretion.
But that alone had not been a good enough for Mac Savage to drop his current projects and come to the aid of his former HRD contact.
A matter involving Renee Laroux, Bockstael had added, immediately hooking Savage at the mention of his former girlfriend of two years.
Renee Laroux, an HRD executive, had broken off the relationship with Mac Savage because of a job promotion to oversee the mining operations in West Africa.
In Sierra Leone.
The old familiar pain gripping his intestines returned with formidable force as images of dismembered bodies, of agonizing screams, flooded his mind. Savage remembered the children, the terrible collateral damage of a CIA operation gone bad, the final straw that had pushed him over the edge four years ago.
He tightened the grip on the magazine, recalling how he had begged Renee to decline the transfer to Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital. And he also remembered how she had begged him to come along.
But I can't, he had told her, unable to elaborate, to explain, prevented by his agreement with The Agency to disclose to the woman he had grown to love how he had botched an operation targeted at eradicating a pocket of guerrillas belonging to the infamous Revolutionary United Front — the RUF — from a mining operation near Kono, in eastern Sierra Leone.
And just like that Renee Laroux had walked out of his life and headed for that dreadful place.
Mac Savage clenched his jaw, fighting off old demons, the brutal memories.
Over a decade of field operations and a stellar reputation as a former Navy SEAL had all vaporized in an instant because of that terrible mistake — a terrible miscalculation in the midst of a war to combat the illegal mining of diamonds in Sierra Leone, to eradicate their unlawful operations.
To win the ice wars of West Africa.CHAPTER 2
Perspiration soaking his camouflaged fatigues, Mac Savage dragged his body across the leaf-covered terrain overlooking the guerrilla camp, his movements cautious, coordinated, silent.
In the predawn hours, under a star-filled sky in eastern Sierra Leone, the RUF guerrilla camp slept quietly, peacefully, unaware of the hell about to be unleashed by the growing partnership between the government of this war-torn nation and the United States of America to fight illegal diamond mining.
To kill the problem at the source.
He remembered Donald Bane's words prior to his assignment in Bogotá, Colombia, when Savage had assisted the government of that country in its brutal fight against the violent cartel.
Kill the problem at the source, Mac.
Without a source there was no downstream business.
Without a source there were no illegal brokers, no illegal buyers, no black market.
Mac Savage was being assisted this early morning by a pair of F117A Stealth Fighters from the 435th Air Base Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which fell under the 3rd Air Force assigned under the United States Air Forces in Europe.
America was about to deliver the sleepy militia camp below a decisive blow, sending a clear and powerful message across this land. The United States and the government-elect of Sierra Leone would no longer tolerate the trade in illegal diamonds.
Savage checked the G-shock Casio hugging his left wrist as he produced a device shaped like a pistol from a Velcro-secured pocket on the utility vest he wore over the fatigues.
Activating the laser element and checking his watch once more, he pointed the device at the center of the camp, before reviewing the coordinates of his GPS, verifying that he was indeed 3.2 kilometers to the north of the town of Gokalima, near the Kono mines, the precise location where Salim Anahah, his informant in Freetown, had told him the guerrilla camp was located.
Excerpted from Spyware by R. J. Pineiro. Copyright © 2007 R. J. Pineiro. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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