Read Hostage Online

Authors: Chris Ryan

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #General, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Juvenile Nonfiction, #Science & Nature, #Environmental Conservation & Protection


BOOK: Hostage
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Meet the team:

lex – A quiet lad from Northumbria, Alex leads the team in survival skills. His dad is in the SAS and Alex is determined to follow in his footsteps, whatever it takes- He who dares . . .

i – Expert in martial arts and free-climbing, Li can get to grips with most situations . . .

aulo – The laid-back Argentinian is a mechanical genius, and with his medical skills he can patch up injuries as well as motors ...

ex – An ace hacker, Hex is first rate at code-breaking and can bypass most security systems . . .

mber – Her top navigational skills mean the team are rarely lost. Rarely lost for words either, rich-girl Amber can show some serious attitude . . .

With plenty of hard work and training, together they are Alpha Force – an elite squad of young people dedicated to combating injustice throughout the world.

an extremely frosty reception awaits Alpha Force when they fly into Northern Canada . . .

Also available in the Alpha Force series:


Chris Ryan


This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

ISBN 9781407049809

Version 1.0


ISBN: 9781407049809

Version 1.0

First published in Great Britain by Red Fox,
an imprint of Random House Children's Books, 2003

This edition published 2004

7 9 10 8 6

Copyright © Chris Ryan, 2003

The right of Chris Ryan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Art 1988

This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

Typeset in Sabon by Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Polmont, Stirlingshire

Red Fox Books are published by Random House Children's Books,
61–63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA,
a division of The Random House Group Ltd

Addresses for Random House Group Ltd companies outside the UK
can be found at:

THE RANDOM HOUSE GROUP Limited Reg. No. 954009

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.


The polar bear floated in the dark water just under the ice-scattered surface of Hudson Bay. It was an old, one-eyed male with a set of four deep, jagged scars cutting through the empty eye socket and across its snout. The bear hung limply, swaying with the current. Its huge paws dangled lifelessly and loose folds of fur hung from its thin frame. It appeared to be dead, but an occasional silvery bubble rose from the corner of its jaw and its one eye was alert and watchful. Half-blinded and past its prime, this bear had learned how to be sly when stalking its prey.

Just ahead of the bear, a seaweed forest rose from the sea bed. A small group of arctic ringed seals was feeding and playing amongst the tall, swaying kelp stems and none of them had noticed the ghost-like shape floating on the edge of darkness. The bear was lean and hungry after a summer trapped on land and seals were its favourite food. They were sleek and fat with a thick, insulating layer of blubber that would help build up the bear's own fat reserves for the winter ahead. The bear watched the seals for a long time, carefully raising its snout above water every two minutes to take another lungful of air. It was choosing its target, looking for any sign of injury or slowness. Polar bears were strong swimmers but seals were much faster in the water and a surprise attack on the weakest individual was the bear's only chance.

The bear was not the only one watching the seals. Amber and Hex hung side by side in the icy water, totally unaware of the deadly hunter hovering behind them. It was late October in Hudson Bay and already temperatures in this north Canadian outpost on the edge of the Arctic Circle were well below freezing. Above their heads, irregular, ten-centimetre-thick sheets of sea ice were floating on the surface of the bay like scattered jigsaw pieces. By mid-winter, the jigsaw would be complete and a solid crust of ice up to three metres thick would cover the whole of Hudson Bay and the ocean beyond.

Even in October, an unprotected person diving beneath the ice would be dead from hypothermia within minutes, but Amber and Hex were each encased in three layers to insulate them against the killer cold. The outermost layer was a loose-fitting dry suit with moulded boots and latex wrist and neck seals. Under the suit, a second insulating layer of air was maintained by a low-pressure air hose attached at the chest. Finally, next to the skin, they each wore a complete covering of Thinsulate undergarments for extra warmth.

Amber's smile was wide behind her full face mask as she trained the beam of her underwater torch on the kelp forest. The seals were putting on a dazzling display of aquatics. At first the group had been wary, but Amber and Hex had left their underwater scooters on the sea bed and then waited patiently, treading water. Gradually, the seals had grown used to the torch beams lighting up their dim underwater world and had begun to hunt fish again. Now they were shooting back and forth through the beams of light like small, fat torpedoes, sometimes skimming past Amber and Hex with only centimetres to spare.

Amber looked over at Hex and he lowered his underwater camcorder and grinned back at her, his green eyes shining behind his mask. Hex was a Londoner and an expert hacker, a combination which meant that his natural habitat was most definitely indoors. When he was at home, he spent most of his free time surfing the Net or training at his local gym and the closest he got to nature was the occasional jog across Hampstead Heath. He had not been looking forward to this trip to the frozen wastes of northern Canada and the activity he had been dreading most was diving in sub-zero temperatures. To his surprise, he had discovered that he loved it.

Hex glanced down at his watch, checking the dive-time they had left. Alex, Li and Paulo, the other three members of Alpha Force, were waiting for them on the shores of Hudson Bay and Hex knew what would happen if he and Amber failed to return to base on time. He did not want the embarrassment of setting off a full search-and-rescue procedure simply because he had not kept an eye on the clock. The illuminated dial of his watch told him they could stay under for another ten minutes. Satisfied, Hex turned his attention back to Amber. He wriggled his gloved fingers and pointed down at his flippered feet, looking at her questioningly. She rolled her eyes at him. She knew what he was asking. Amber was a diabetic and diabetics can suffer from poor circulation, so it was particularly important that she did not allow her fingers and toes to get cold. Hex was her dive-buddy and dive-buddies were supposed to look out for each other, but in her opinion he was taking it a bit too far. This was the fourth time he had checked up on her. She tried ignoring him, but he simply stared, waiting for her answer. Finally, Amber scowled horribly and gave him a reluctant thumbs-up sign. Hex merely nodded an acknowledgement and turned back to filming the show. Amber tried to keep scowling but her wide smile returned as two seals whirled round her head once, twice, in a high-speed chase.

Anyone back at Amber's exclusive girls' boarding school in Boston, Massachusetts, would have been very surprised to see that smile. Since her parents had been killed in a plane crash a few years back, the tall, beautiful black American girl rarely smiled in a semester and preferred to be left alone. She had inherited billions of dollars from the software empire that her parents had built up, but the money did not ease her sadness. For a year after the death of her parents, Amber had stopped caring about her own life and that was a dangerous frame of mind for a diabetic. Several times that first year, her uncle, John Middleton, had been called out from New York when Amber had ended up in the hospital emergency ward after not bothering to check her blood sugar levels or inject her twice-daily dose of insulin.

Finally, a worried John Middleton had sent his niece to spend a few weeks on a sail-training ship as one of a crew of young people from all over the world. He was hoping that the experience might change Amber's outlook. What it did was force her into a life-or-death situation as she and the other four members of her watch team became marooned on an uninhabited island. As they struggled to survive, Amber, Li, Paulo, Hex and Alex, the five feuding members of A-Watch, had been forced to work together. By the time rescue arrived, they had formed themselves into a tight-knit team.

The team became Alpha Force after Amber discovered the truth about the death of her parents. The plane crash that killed her mother and father had not been an accident. It was deliberate sabotage. At first, Amber could not understand why anyone would want to murder her parents, but her uncle explained that they had become involved in some very dangerous undercover work after they started trying to put something back into a world that had given them so much. Posing as wealthy tourists, they had travelled to some of the world's poorest and most trouble-torn spots. There, they had slipped across borders into no-go areas such as war-zones or refugee camps, giving what help they could in situations where governments, aid agencies and environmental organizations were unable to intervene. Amber's uncle, John Middleton, had become their anchor man, organizing funds and equipment from his New York office, and together they had made a small difference. Medical supplies suddenly appeared in blockaded towns, secretly filmed footage exposing corrupt businesses or governments arrived at international news agencies, and war orphans were quietly smuggled across closed borders to start new lives elsewhere. As they became more effective, Amber's parents began to build up a list of powerful enemies and, somewhere along the line, one of those enemies disposed of them.

When Amber decided that she wanted to carry on the work of her parents, Alex, Li, Paulo and Hex had been right behind her and, with John Middleton as their anchor man, Alpha Force was born. Each of them had a special skill to bring to the team. Alex's father was in the SAS and had taught him how to stay alive in the most hostile environments. Li was a free climber and a martial arts expert. Paulo could drive just about anything and was also a skilled mechanic. Hex was a master hacker and code-breaker and Amber was their navigation expert.

Alpha Force had been working as an undercover unit for two years now, meeting up regularly for missions or training sessions. This time, the team had gathered in northern Canada for an exercise in cold-climate survival, and that was partly why Amber found it difficult to stop smiling. She was at her happiest when they were all together. Although she would never dream of telling the others, the fact was that Alpha Force, and Hex in particular, were now the people she loved most in the world.

Hex tapped her on the shoulder, making her jump. Amber wiped the smile from her face and scowled at him through her mask. It was a truly ferocious scowl, fierce enough to strip paint, but Hex did not even flinch. He was used to Amber. He stared back calmly, then pointed to his watch to show her that it was time to go. Reluctantly, Amber nodded.

Hex clipped the underwater camcorder to the belt at his waist, then turned slowly in the water until he was pointing towards the sea bed. He had learned early on that trying to do anything too quickly in a dry suit was not a good idea. Buoyancy control was the key to dry suit diving. The chest unit pumped air into the suit and an exhaust valve on the shoulder, which automatically let out any excess air, balanced this, but the remaining insulating layer could still cause problems to a novice diver. In two of his early dives, Hex had made the mistake of turning upside down too quickly. The air inside his suit had all migrated into his boots and he had suffered the indignity of floating helplessly up to the surface, feet first, with a laughing Amber waving goodbye from the sea bed.

Once Hex was sure he was not going to repeat his earlier performances, he grinned at Amber and kicked off with his flippers. To his relief, he glided gracefully down to the sea bed, where his underwater scooter was parked. Privately, he thought scooter was the wrong word for it. There were no handlebars or saddle, just a bright blue, propeller-driven cartridge that looked like a cartoon bomb. At least it was easy to control. Hex pointed it the way he wanted to go and then pressed down the two switches, one on each side of the handle. The scooter moved off, lighting up a cone-shaped slice of water ahead of it with its powerful headlights.

Amber started to follow Hex but could not resist turning back for one more look at the seals. A few seconds later she was once again absorbed in watching their antics. Hex had disappeared into the darkness, thinking she was right behind him. In the hostile waters of Hudson Bay, Amber had just made two deadly mistakes. She had lost sight of her dive-buddy and had stopped keeping a regular check on her surroundings.

The bear chose this moment to move in for the kill.

Amber blinked and stared hard at the kelp forest. The seals had disappeared. An instant earlier they had been right in front of her. Now the spaces between the seaweed strands were suddenly empty. Where had they gone? For three vital seconds, as the bear swam up behind her with steady strokes of its huge front paws, Amber stared stupidly at the kelp forest where the seals had been. When she finally realized that something must have scared them, it was too late. She turned in the water and came face to face with the bear.

BOOK: Hostage
13.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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