Read Ark Online

Authors: Charles McCarry

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage


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Charles McCarry


No copyright 
 2013 by MadMaxAU eBooks



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Scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have found that the Earth’s inner core is rotating faster than the planet itself. The Earth’s solid iron inner core ... is surrounded by a much larger liquid outer core, and together the two form a giant electrical motor.... About a billion amps of current is flowing ... across the boundary between the inner and outer cores.... ‘The really surprising thing is how fast the core is moving,’ said seismologist Paul Richards, who along with fellow seismologist Xiaodong Song made the discovery.... Over the past 100 years that extra speed has given the core a quarter turn on the planet as a whole. ... [T]he motion is about 100,000 times faster than the drift of continents.... [Each] year, the inner core rotates about one longitudinal degree more than the Earth’s mantle and crust.... Pressure at the inner core surface is millions of times higher than the atmospheric pressure at Earth’s surface.... The mass of the inner core is about one hundred million million million tons—which is about 30 per cent greater than the mass of the moon.


—Excerpt from a Columbia University

press release dated July 18, 1996.


The foregoing results were confirmed by subsequent research at Columbia University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as described in an article in the August 26, 2005, issue of





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the most famous men in the world, Henry Peel was a will-o’-the-wisp. Paparazzi could not plague him because they didn’t know what he looked like. Hardly anyone did. The only known photograph of him was the one on his student ID at Caltech. He was fifteen years old when the picture was taken. The image was blurred. He never posed for a yearbook picture because, working alone during the summer between his junior and senior years, he solved the problem of the room temperature superconductor and shortly thereafter dropped out of college. Not long after that he patented a feasible design for a fusion reactor. His discoveries earned him a large fortune before he was twenty-five. As time went by, he perfected other inventions that had been regarded as unachievable and made more money—a lot more.
magazine, estimating that he was richer than all the billionaires on its annual list of the filthy rich, called him a trillionaire. He was the only one in the world.


Henry Peel could not explain how he did what he did. Like Leonardo or Newton or Einstein, he worked by flashes of intuition and did the math afterward. Answers that had eluded the best scientific minds for decades or sometimes for centuries simply came to him—an apple bounced off his head, and suddenly he knew everything about gravity


One summer’s day, someone purporting to be Henry Peel called me out of the blue and asked if we could get together. The caller had a pleasant tenor voice. He was polite but made no special effort to be ingratiating. I thought the call was a joke. I was busy. I said goodbye in a not-nice voice and started to hang up.


“Wait,” the caller said.


He gave me the name of a mutual friend who could certify that he was who he said he was. I have to admit that I thought it was pretty cool that Henry Peel wanted to prove his identity to me. Melissa had been my college roommate and was still my best friend. I hadn’t known that she knew Henry Peel, but when I called her, seconds later, she admitted that she did. In fact, she was his lawyer. She refused to answer any questions about him—what he looked like, whether he lived in New York, whether he was married or single. Was he a regular person or was he going to show up in an armored limousine inside a ring of bodyguards? Had I been invited out on a date, or was there some other reason for Henry’s call?


“I’m not at liberty to answer those questions,” Melissa said. “But trust me, the caller was Henry. I’m the one who gave him your phone number.”


“What other information did you give him?”


“I told him no secrets.”


“Can I be sure of that?” I asked.


A moment of silence. An exhalation. Melissa was telling herself to be patient, a losing proposition. She hung up.


Henry and I met two days later on a bench in Central Park at noon exactly. He turned out to be a lean, forty-something fellow with a few strands of gray in his close-cropped dark hair and brown eyes whose whites were so perfectly white that my first thought was,
This guy has never had a drink or a sick day in his life.
He wore a Yankees cap, a plain black T-shirt, blue jeans without a belt, Nikes, no socks. Slung over his shoulder by one strap was a daypack.


“Hi, I’m Henry,” he said. Piercing blue stare, no smile. “I hope you like Chinese food.”


I don’t especially. He rummaged in the daypack and handed me a Styrofoam container of sweet and sour soup, a plastic spoon, and a paper napkin. The soup was excellent. The entree, also delicious, was a vegetable dish I did not enjoy.


Henry made no conversation. Neither did I, though I studied him in stealthy, sidelong glances. He detected every single glance but did not react to any of them. When we finished eating, he gathered up the debris and threw it into a trash basket. Then he sat down again.


He said, “Let me ask you something. What, in your opinion, is the prime attribute of genius?”


As it happened, I had thought about this, in connection with Henry, on the way to this rendezvous, so I had an answer on the tip of my tongue.


I said, “The ability to see the obvious.”


At last, a reaction, but so slight a reaction that I wondered if he had heard me. The hubbub of the city enveloped us—taxi horns, sirens, music, shouts, guffaws, shrieking brakes, breaking glass— all of it. Henry looked as though he heard nothing. His mind was working. This was almost a visible thing, as if inside his head, gears and balance wheel were spinning, springs were tightening, and a tiny Henry was walking around inside the mechanism, looking for a squeak, with a minuscule oilcan in his hand.


He said, “Let me ask you another question.”


“Be my guest.”


“Suppose an archeological expedition to Antarctica discovers a sphere, an artificial object, in a cave in the highest mountain on the continent....”


“Mount Vinson?”




This geographical showing-off did not please him. He went on after the briefest of pauses.


“The archeologists pick up the sphere in their mittened hands and take it back to their laboratory in California,” he continued. “They place it in an air-conditioned room, inside a transparent case at a temperature equal to the temperature in the cave in which it was found. The scientists touch it only with instruments. The sphere is made of a material that resembles Lucite, but is not Lucite. It is inert. It does nothing, teaches nothing, issues no warning. So what’s the point of it? Clearly it comes from another world. Does it contain a message? If so, why doesn’t it deliver it? Why would it have been left where we could find it, but in the last place on Earth we would look for it? Who left it?”


He paused. I waited for him to go on.


He said, “A genius is called in as a consultant. What does he do?”


“This object is untouched by human hands, right?”


Henry nodded.


I said, “The genius walks into the lab and picks up the sphere in his bare hands. For maybe thirty seconds, nothing happens. Then the sphere activates. It lights up. Data—pictures and what seem to be numbers—stream across the surface of the super-Lucite.”




“Because the sphere is programmed to switch on when touched by something or someone who has opposable thumbs and a body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words,
Homo sapiens
and nothing else that lives on this planet.”

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