Authors: Sam Fisher
Tags: #Thriller, #Fiction/General
Sam Fisher is the pseudonym of thriller writer Michael White, author of the acclaimed international bestsellers
Equinox, The Medici Secret
The Borgia Ring.
He lives in Sydney.
is the second novel in the high-octane E-Force series following State of Emergency, the team's first mission.
Visit his website at
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âThe world needs an organisation that can go into disaster zones and save lives, superfast,' declared Colonel Mark Harrison. And he was a man who made things happen.
It took him a year to get anyone to listen to his plan and then a further three years before his dream became reality. But when it did, he found himself leader of a team that could go into any emergency situation anywhere in the world and save lives. He called his team E-Force.
E-Force is fronted by the six key members: Mark Harrison, Peter Sherringham, Stephanie Jacobs, Maiko Buchanan, Josh Thompson, and Tom Erickson, but they are backed up by 1300 others â techs, engineers, maintenance, medical and comms people. Their main base (Base One) is the tiny Pacific island of Tintara, a little under 2000 kilometres south-south-west of San Diego, but there are several other bases dotted around the globe at secret locations.
Although Mark, Steph, Josh, Pete and Mai are at the sharp end of any mission, they could not operate without Tom, the team's cyberguru. Wheelchair-bound after a childhood road accident, he is a world-class hacker and has an intimate relationship with the âseventh member' of E-Force, Sybil, the world's only quantum computer. Sybil operates all the E-Force systems from Tintara and is the computer nerve centre of the operation.
During the team's first mission, they were called in to rescue Senator Kyle Foreman who was trapped in a
bombed-out building in Los Angeles. The team had not yet completed their training, but were catapulted into action regardless. Since that first operation, E-Force have conducted more than a dozen separate missions and become globally famous. The world now knows the faces of the team members, but the locations of Base One and the other E-Force hubs remain a closely guarded secret.
It is now almost six months since E-Force's first mission. The team have gained a great deal of experience since that excursion to rescue Senator Foreman. They are as ready as ever, and waiting for action.
âSure as hell hope this ain't no wild goose chase,' Robbie Valentine said, swinging a length of electrical cable in his right hand.
âI wouldn't be too surprised, my friend,' Mario Alves replied. âWe've had two false alarms this week.'
Valentine, an American night-shift tech, led the way along a low-ceilinged tunnel lined with heavy duty electrical cabling. After 20 metres the two men came to a hatch. It swung open onto a broader, higher tunnel. They could just about walk upright. At the end, they reached the main power conduit. Valentine dropped the cable to the floor and tapped in an alphanumeric to unlock the inspection cover. The metal door levered outwards and the tech shone a torch into the opening.
At first, everything seemed fine, then Valentine noticed the copper contact on one of the main cables had slipped from its socket. He flicked off the power to the circuit and leaned forward to grasp the cable. As he stretched into the box of electronics, his right elbow nudged the main power switch he had just flicked off. For a second the switch hovered between âon' and âoff', then slipped a centimetre downwards. Two hundred amps of electricity with a potential difference of 50,000 volts shot through the American's body. It travelled the length of his spine in under a microsecond, frying his nervous system, killing him faster than a bullet through the brain. Valentine's body flew out of the junction cupboard, through the air and landed in a smoking heap 5 metres along the tunnel. En route, the dead man knocked his partner off balance. Alves stumbled backwards over the electrical cabling Valentine had been carrying, and landed badly, his right arm fracturing under the weight of his body.
One hundred and 27 metres away from the charred remains of Robbie Valentine, the main operations room of the St Maria Nuclear Power Station was quiet. Of the three nightshift engineers on duty in Main Control, two had gone off for a coffee, leaving behind the new boy on the job, Fernando Guitica, who had only qualified from the University of AsunciÃ³n a month earlier. The master controls were entirely automated and had a German-designed self-diagnosis back up system in case any faults occurred in the complex network of computers and electronics that monitored the power station. The job of the engineers was really just to babysit the machines, unless, that is, something went very badly wrong.
At the precise moment technician Robbie Valentine was barbecued in the maintenance tunnels, Fernando Guitica was engrossed in a thrilling game of
on his new DS. He failed to see the red warning light flashing on the electrical systems monitor. By unfortunate coincidence, the cable that Valentine and Alves were supposed to repair was a multifunction conduit. Its main purpose was to send electricity to a digital thermocouple that regulated the temperature of the main pumps keeping the reactor cores cooled with water. A subsidiary cable in the conduit powered the audio alarm systems for Main Control. So, as Guitica entered the final lap of a nail-biting race on the DS and moved up from third to second place, he was blissfully unaware the internal temperature of Pump Number 4 on the east side of the power station had already gone critical. As a consequence, the first warning he had that something very bad was happening was when the sound of a massive explosion reverberated through Main Control.
The shock of the blast threw Guitica from his swivel chair. He went sprawling across the highly polished floor and only stopped when his head made contact with a leg of one of the computer cabinets. Dazed, he shook away the pain surging through his head and scrambled to his feet, searching for the nearest computer screen. What he saw sent a wave of panic through him. The monitor displayed a schematic of the power station, and he could see immediately a flashing red symbol. One of the four enormous pumps cooling the radioactive core had been obliterated.
His body froze, his mind racing. There was an acid taste in his mouth and his right hand was clenched so hard his nails cut into the flesh of his palm. He span around as the other two engineers, Dominic Xanando and Kurt Fritzer, dashed into the room from the corridor, their faces ashen.
âWhat the fuck's happened?' Fritzer screamed as he rushed over to the console. Guitica stepped aside as his boss surveyed the monitors, looking on dumbly as the man stabbed at a series of buttons. âHoly Mother of God!' Fritzer exclaimed.
A second loud explosion shook the room and instinctively the three men dived for the floor. Xanando got up, shoved Guitica aside and found Fritzer scanning the controls, his breath coming in loud gasps. âIt's going critical. Fuck! How can this happen? How come we had no warning?'
âThat's what the techs were sent in for,' Guitica managed to reply. âA fault in the cabling, they thought.'
âThis is in a different league, Guitica,' Fritzer yelled, his face lathered in sweat. âWe thought everything was okay, but the whole fucking warning system must've been down for hours. Christ ... the station could go critical. It'd make Chernobyl look like a fart in a jacuzzi.' He ran his hands through his hair and stared, slack-jawed, at the computer screen.
Smoke began to rise from the console. âWhat the...?' Xanando began. Then came a fizzing sound followed by a brief flash of light from inside one of the monitors. All three men sprang back from the desk and a second later the computer screen died. They turned in unison as a grating sound came from the other side of the room and the main door slid shut. A red light above the door started to flash.
âContainment,' Fritzer announced. And they heard a heavy, lead-lined radiation door slam into place a few metres along the corridor. Without waiting a second, Fritzer ran over to a second computer console, stabbing at a red button â the emergency alarm. Before he had lifted his finger from the control they heard the alarms kick in outside Main Control. Their own audio systems were still down, but alarms on a different circuit were blasting out around the station. In all main corridors, containment doors were slamming down, secondary coolant surged through pipes around the massive pumps and through backup tubing around the gigantic coils of the pumps. But the damage to the reactor had already been done. There was nothing they could do ... except pray.