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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Lee Patrick
 

«Ghost Country», Patrick Lee

EYES ONLY-DO NOT REPRODUCE

 

SPECIAL CLEARANCE REQUIRED-ATOLL 6

 

[a] US Code 403 / Article 2.1.1 [b] White House Special Directive 3 August 1978

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER 1978-AU3

 

Legal titles and definitions established in this document shall be binding on all signatories to the TANGENT SPECIAL AUTHORITY AGREEMENT (hereafter TSAA): "BREACH" shall refer to the physical anomaly located at the former site of the Very Large Ion Collider at Wind Creek, Wyoming. The total systemic failure of the VLIC on 7 March 1978 created the BREACH by unknown means. The BREACH may be an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or wormhole (ref: VLIC Accident Investigation Report). "ENTITY" shall refer to any object that emerges from the BREACH. To date, ENTITIES have been observed to emerge at the rate of 3 to 4 per day (ref: VLIC Accident Object Survey). ENTITIES are technological in nature and suggest design origins far beyond human capability. In most cases their functions are not readily apparent to researchers on site at Wind Creek. "BORDER TOWN" shall refer to the subsurface research complex being constructed at the VLIC accident site, to serve the housing and working needs of scientific and security personnel studying the BREACH. All signatories to TSAA hereby agree that BORDER TOWN, along with its surrounding territory (ref: Border Town Exclusion Zone Charter), is a sovereign state unto itself, solely governed by the organization TANGENT. This document is legally binding and enforceable effective immediately, 3 August 1978.

 

EYES ONLY-DO NOT REPRODUCE

Part I Iris

 

Chapter One

Fifty seconds before the first shots hit the motorcade, Paige Campbell was thinking about the fall of Rome. The city, not the empire. The empire had gone in stages, with any number of dates that historians could argue over and call endpoints, but there was no disagreement as to when the city itself had been sacked. August 24, 410. Sixteen hundred and one years ago to the week. Paige didn't know the details beyond the date. Though she'd once planned to be an historian herself, before ending up in a very different line of work, she'd never studied that region or period in much depth. She only remembered the date from European history in high school. But she wondered. She wondered if the city's inhabitants had known, even a few months before the fact, that they would see it all come to its end. She thought about that and then turned in her seat and watched Washington, D.C., slide away behind her into the night. She could see the Washington Monument and the Capitol Dome lit up in the darkness. The winking lights of an airliner coming up out of Reagan National. The headlamps of cars behind her and on surrounding streets. Billboards and storefronts and arc lights, the glow of it all cast up onto the low cloud cover that lay over the city like a blanket. The infrastructure of the modern world. It looked like it would stand forever.

She turned forward again. The motorcade was heading east on Suitland Parkway, back toward Andrews Air Force Base, where she and the others had landed only a few hours earlier. It was seven minutes past midnight. The road was wet from the rain that had been falling steadily since their arrival. The pavement caught and scattered the glow of taillights ahead. Paige was in the rear vehicle of the procession. Martin Crawford was sitting next to her.

Behind them on the back bench seat, locked in its carrying case, was the object that'd prompted this visit to Washington. The Breach entity they'd just demonstrated for an audience of one.

"He was calmer than I thought he'd be," Paige said. "I thought he'd have a harder time believing it."

"He saw it with his own eyes," Crawford said. "Hard to dismiss that kind of evidence."

"Still, he's new on the job. He's never seen an entity before, much less one like this."

"He's the president. He's seen a lot of things."

Paige watched the traffic skimming by across the median, tires spinning up long ragged clouds of moisture from the roadbed.

"I thought he'd be scared," she said. "I thought, once we showed it to him, he'd be as scared as we are."

"Maybe he hides it well."

"Do you think he can help us figure this out?" Paige said. "How to stop whatever's coming?"

"We don't know what's coming yet."

"We know it's nothing good. And that we don't have a hell of a lot of time before it gets here."

Crawford nodded, staring forward. He was seventy-four and looked it, except in his eyes, which probably hadn't changed in decades. They looked troubled at the moment.

Paige glanced ahead and caught her own eyes in the rearview mirror up front. No lines around them yet-she was only thirty-one-but this job would put them there soon enough.

She turned and looked back at the entity's case, just visible in the rain-refracted city light. She thought of what she'd said to the president: that this entity could be considered an investigative tool. It offered a unique way of seeing the world-and a way of looking for things that could be found by no other means.

They were on their way to look for things now: the answers to the questions that had plagued them for not quite two days. Paige thought of Yuma, Arizona, the first stage of the search. The first place they would put the entity to use. Maybe the evidence they needed would be right there, obvious enough to trip over.

And maybe it wouldn't be. Maybe it wouldn't be there at all. Or anywhere else.

Paige tried not to think about that. She turned and stared forward through the beaded windshield. In the corner of her eye she saw Crawford turn toward her to speak, but then he stopped and cocked his head at a sound. Paige heard it too. Somewhere ahead of them. Through the reinforced windows of the armored SUV it sounded like a playing card in bicycle spokes. Paige knew better. She felt her pulse quicken. She leaned to look past the driver's seat, and in the next second everything happened.

The SUV directly ahead braked and tried to swerve. Too late. It clipped the rear fender of the vehicle in front of it and spun hard, and an instant later its headlight beams were in Paige's eyes and the driver of her own vehicle was hauling left on the steering wheel. Also too late. The impact was like nothing she'd ever felt. Like someone had picked up a telephone pole and swung it as hard as a baseball bat into the front of the vehicle. Her seat belt slammed tight across her chest and the air surged out of her lungs and for a moment she couldn't get them full again. While she was trying, she felt the world shift beneath her. She looked up and saw the view through the windshield tilting impossibly. Forty-five degrees. Then steeper. The SUV rocked past the limit of its balance and came down on its roof. The struts collapsed and the windows, strong as they were, buckled and separated from their frames.

Just like that, the world of sound outside came in. The heavy rattle of the automatic weapon-maybe more than one-filled up the night. Some kind of monstrous caliber. Sure as hell not a light machine gun. Not even something firing 7.62mm. This sounded as big as a Browning M2. Fifty-caliber bullets, the size of human fingers, coming in at three times the speed of sound. Paige hung upside down in the seat belt, her chest still compressed and unable to expand. Over the gunfire she heard another sound, closer, like the patter of rain on sheet metal but amplified a hundredfold. It was the sound of the bullet impacts against the vehicles, and it was getting louder as she listened. She understood why. The shooters were methodically walking their fire back along the length of the immobilized convoy. Being thorough.


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