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Authors: Clive Cussler

Piranha

ALSO BY CLIVE CUSSLER

DIRK PITT® ADVENTURES

Havana Storm
(with Dirk Cussler)

Poseidon's Arrow
(with Dirk Cussler)

Crescent Dawn
(with Dirk Cussler)

Arctic Drift
(with Dirk Cussler)

Treasure of Khan
(with Dirk Cussler)

Black Wind
(with Dirk Cussler)

Trojan Odyssey

Valhalla Rising

Atlantis Found

Flood Tide

Shock Wave

Inca Gold

Sahara

Dragon

Treasure

Cyclops

Deep Six

Pacific Vortex!

Night Probe!

Vixen 03

Raise the Titanic!

Iceberg

The Mediterranean Caper

FARGO ADVENTURES

The Eye of Heaven
(with Russell Blake)

The Mayan Secrets
(with Thomas Perry)

The Tombs
(with Thomas Perry)

The Kingdom
(with Grant Blackwood)

Lost Empire
(with Grant Blackwood)

Spartan Gold
(with Grant Blackwood)

ISAAC BELL NOVELS

The Assassin
(with Justin Scott)

The Bootlegger
(with Justin Scott)

The Striker
(with Justin Scott)

The Thief
(with Justin Scott)

The Race
(with Justin Scott)

The Spy
(with Justin Scott)

The Wrecker
(with Justin Scott)

The Chase

KURT AUSTIN ADVENTURES

Ghost Ship
(with Graham Brown)

Zero Hour
(with Graham Brown)

The Storm
(with Graham Brown)

Devil's Gate
(with Graham Brown)

Medusa
(with Paul Kemprecos)

The Navigator
(with Paul Kemprecos)

Polar Shift
(with Paul Kemprecos)

Lost City
(with Paul Kemprecos)

White Death
(with Paul Kemprecos)

Fire Ice
(with Paul Kemprecos)

Blue Gold
(with Paul Kemprecos)

Serpent
(with Paul Kemprecos)

OREGON
FILES ADVENTURES

Mirage
(with Jack Du Brul)

The Jungle
(with Jack Du Brul)

The Silent Sea
(with Jack Du Brul)

Corsair
(with Jack Du Brul)

Plague Ship
(with Jack Du Brul)

Skeleton Coast
(with Jack Du Brul)

Dark Watch
(with Jack Du Brul)

Sacred Stone
(with Craig Dirgo)

Golden Buddha
(with Craig Dirgo)

NONFICTION

Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt

The Sea Hunters
(with Craig Dirgo)

The Sea Hunters II
(with Craig Dirgo)

Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed
(with Craig Dirgo)

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Cussler, Clive.

Piranha / Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-698-14076-9

I. Morrison, Boyd. II. Title.

PS3553.U75P54 2015 2014049852

813'.54—dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Contents

Also by Clive Cussler

Title Page

Copyright

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Epilogue

PROLOGUE

Martinique

May 8, 1902

The steamer SS
Roraima
was sailing toward the Apocalypse.

From the bridge of the Canadian cargo and passenger ship, First Officer Ellery Scott peered through a gray snowfall dirtier than anything he'd seen during a sooty London winter. Although it was 6:30 in the morning, the light from the rising sun could do little to penetrate the ash drifting over Saint-Pierre's harbor. The outline of “The Little Paris of the West Indies,” as Martinique's commercial center was known, resembled less a thriving city of thirty thousand and more a blurred Impressionist watercolor recently fashionable in the Caribbean town's namesake.

Scott absentmindedly stroked his silver whiskers as he turned toward Mont Pelée, the volcano looming above the harbor. Although he normally bore a jovial demeanor that made him well liked by officers, crew, and passengers alike, today he could manage nothing better than a wary frown. He'd been a sailor for twenty years, aboard every kind of cargo vessel, at sea through murderous gales and towering rogue waves, but the stout old sea dog had never seen anything as ominous and foreboding as the mountain only three miles to the north.

Rolling thunder pealed from beneath its depths at regular intervals, as if a great roaring beast lay within. Darkness shrouded the peak, and a sulfurous odor permeated the air. Scott could imagine the Devil himself taking up residence in such a place.

“What do you think of this weather, sir?” Scott asked with a casualness he hoped did not betray his apprehension.

Captain George Muggah, his face etched with lines carved by years of salt and sun, and his upper lip hidden by a bushy mustache, glanced up from his log and squinted at the otherworldly tableau.

“Stay the course, Mr. Scott,” he said, his voice steadfast. “Unless I hear different from the harbormaster, we're going to drop anchor.”

“This ash might foul our equipment. It could delay our sailing this evening.”

“Then I leave it to you to make sure the crew sweeps the decks and keeps our machinery clean. There are eighteen other ships at anchor. If it weren't safe, they'd be long gone.”

The thick coat of ash floating on the water made it look as though the ships to either side were moored on dry land. At the risk of seeming impertinent, Scott persisted. “What of the explosion we heard two nights ago?”

They had been at anchor off Dominica fifty miles north when a blast at four in the morning rocked the ship so vigorously that cups and dishes crashed to the deck.

Captain Muggah went back to scribbling in the log. “I'm inclined to agree with the Portsmouth telegraph operator, that it relieved the pressure inside the volcano. It may continue to belch, but I'm sure nothing will come of it.”

Scott wasn't as sure, but he kept his tongue still.

After they found their berth and dropped anchor, the harbormaster and doctor came aboard to check the ship and make sure the crew and passengers carried no contagious diseases that might infect the island. Both of them downplayed the continuing volcanic activity and bolstered Muggah's supposition that Pelée's growl wasn't dangerous. The current activity was nothing more than the mountain's last gasp.

Because it was Ascension Day, all the laborers would be at morning Mass, so Scott and Muggah headed down to the officers' mess for breakfast. They discussed the day's lading schedule—unloading lumber and potassium from New Brunswick, loading rum and sugar bound for Boston—but nary a syllable was spoken of the volcano, even though its rumblings continued to make it impossible to ignore.

After finishing breakfast, Scott went up on deck to receive the local agent who would be supervising the stevedores.

The 340-foot cargo vessel was a simple design, with holds fore and aft of the midship bridge topped with a single funnel. Masts equidistant toward each end were used for lifting heavy cargo. Every inch was dusted with Pelée's bountiful output. As Scott walked, his treads left prints on the deck.

Passengers crowded the railings for a view of Saint-Pierre's menacing backdrop. Some of them were sweeping ashes into envelopes and tobacco tins as souvenirs. Two women raised parasols to keep their dresses from being dirtied.

One man Scott recognized, a meek German named Gunther Lutzen, was even setting up a tripod so that he could photograph the scene. He'd boarded two days before in Guadeloupe, and Scott had rarely seen the man without his camera.

“A fine day for pictures, Mr. Lutzen,” Scott said.

“Yes, I am very interested,” Lutzen replied in halting English.

“Is this for your scientific expedition?”

“No, that is complete. But I will be pleased to add this photo to my . . .” He paused and pulled a German–English dictionary from his pocket. “
Ach
, what is word for
Sammlung
?” He leafed through the pages.

“‘Collection'?” Scott offered.

Lutzen smiled and nodded vigorously. “Yes, of course. ‘Collection.' English is my new language. I learn still. My sister in New York gives me child's books to read.”

Scott patted him on the shoulder. “You're doing well. It's better than my German.”

Lutzen laughed and put away the dictionary so he could jot in his ever-present notebook. Scott went on, nodding greetings to other passengers as he passed.

When he reached the forecastle, he saw Monsieur Plessoneau, the local agent, coming up the gangway that had been lowered to his boat. Plessoneau, a gaunt man dressed in a white suit and straw hat, shook hands with Scott.

“Good to see you again,
monsieur
,” Scott said. “I see that your angry mountain hasn't hurt business.” He nodded to the other ships stretched out across the crescent-shaped harbor.

The Frenchman pursed his lips and blew through them. “
Oui
, but we are hoping the worst is over.”

Scott frowned. “What's happened?”

The comment elicited a rueful chuckle from the agent. “We have been hearing from Pelée for over a month now. The ants and centipedes at the sugar mill in Usine Guérin were the start of our troubles.”

“Ants and centipedes?”

Plessoneau made a face. “I will not miss them once I return to France. We call the ants
fourmis-fous
—crazy ants. They swarm over everything, biting in a frenzy. The centipedes are even worse. One foot long and black, a few bites will kill a man. It took every mill worker to save the horses. Then the snakes arrived.”

Scott's eyes widened at the mention of snakes. Insects were one thing, but he could not bear the idea of facing a snake.

Plessoneau nodded in return. “Hundreds of
fer-de-lances
—pit vipers—suddenly appeared four days ago out of the forest in northern Saint-Pierre. Fifty people and hundreds of animals died. Then a day later a mud slide destroyed the mill. Fortunately, it happened at night, but we still lost many men.”

This was sounding more like the coming of the Apocalypse that Scott had imagined as they sailed into the harbor.

“Perhaps we should leave and stop here on our return trip instead,” he said.

Plessoneau shrugged. “I was going to suggest that since it is a holiday, many of our men won't work, and you might continue on to Fort-de-France and come back tomorrow. You will need the harbormaster to give permission, though, and he may not let you.”

“Why not?”

“Because the governor has ordered troops to keep people from fleeing the city. There is an election in three days, and he is worried that it will not happen if everyone leaves. Some got out, but peasants are coming to Saint-Pierre from farms on the mountain slopes, so it's as crowded as I've ever seen it.”

“Suppose we leave anyway?”

“Only one ship has so far, an Italian barque called
Orsolina
that had loaded only half its sugar cargo yesterday. The harbormaster refused permission to depart until they'd finished loading, and he threatened the captain, Marino Leboffe, with arrest. Supposedly, Leboffe, who is from Naples, told the harbormaster, ‘I know nothing about Mont Pelée, but if Vesuvius were acting the way your volcano is this morning, I'd get out of Naples.'”

“He might be right.”

“It is your captain's ship, but another leaving without permission may cause a panic with the others. A French cruiser just arrived in Fort-de-France, the
Suchet
. She might be called on to stop you.”

“Let's see what Captain Muggah thinks,” Scott said, and led Plessoneau to the bridge.

The captain listened to the agent's tales but was unmoved. He waved a copy of
Les Colonies
, the city's newspaper, which the doctor had left with him.

“The editorial in here says the mountain is safe. That's good enough for me. Now, prepare the ship for unloading.”

There was no arguing with the captain. His decision was final. Scott gave him a curt, “Aye, Captain,” and escorted Plessoneau back to his launch.

Scott bade him adieu and made his way back to the quarterdeck, where he found the third mate gazing at the city in rapt silence.

“Mr. Havers,” Scott said, “what's caught your eye?”

“Well, it's a peaceful sight, isn't it, Mr. Scott? Gray, but bathed in a bright sunshine.”

Scott grudgingly agreed that the sight was mesmerizing. But “peaceful” was not the word he would have chosen. To him it still seemed ominous. “We have work to do. The captain wants this deck to sparkle by the time we leave.”

“Aye, sir. But do you mind if I take just one photo before we get started? My camera is on my bunk.”

Scott took out his pocket watch. 7:49. What with the dockhands at Mass, a few minutes wouldn't hurt.

He smiled and nodded. “But hop to it.”

“Thank you, sir,” Havers said with glee, and ran toward the crew's quarters.

Scott had moved only two steps toward the bridge when it seemed as if the sun had been extinguished. With dread, he looked toward Pelée. The sight that met his eyes caused him to be rooted in place as if his feet were trapped in cement.

A massive plume of black smoke and ash shot straight up into the sky like the expulsion from a battleship's cannon. The side of the mountain blew apart, and a second mass of ash churned down the slopes of Pelée in a glowing avalanche of superheated gas. The deadly flow was aimed directly at the city of Saint-Pierre. At the rate it was going, it would engulf the town in little more than a minute.

Still, Scott couldn't move. He was mesmerized by the appalling view, which was silent until the deafening shock wave arrived and blasted him backward. He would have remained pressed against the bulkhead until he was taken by the deadly cloud if not for that unholy sound. Thrown off his mark, Scott came to his senses. His first impulse was to get the ship to safety, so he sprinted toward the bow.

As Scott came amidships, he met Captain Muggah running in the other direction. The captain must have had the same idea as Scott.

“Heave up, Mr. Scott!” the captain yelled as he raced past toward the bridge.

“Weighing anchor, aye!” Scott yelled back. The third mate who'd gone off to get his camera joined the captain on the bridge, ordering the boilers up to full steam.

Scott reached the anchor chain and engaged the steam-powered donkey engine to raise the anchor. Passengers around him screamed in terror and ran in every direction, unaware of how to protect themselves from the coming rain of fire. Most of the crew fared no better, and despite Scott's shouts for help, none came to his aid.

He counted fifteen fathoms of chain retrieved when the lethal cloud of ash rolled over the northern edge of Saint-Pierre, setting everything it touched aflame and blowing apart stone structures as if they were made of matchsticks.

The cloud continued to roll out over the harbor, where it met the cable-laying ship
Grappler
. She did not have time to catch fire before she was capsized by a wall of water. The tsunami swept toward them, smashing one ship after the other.

With fifteen fathoms of chain still to go, Scott knew getting the
Roraima
out of the harbor in time was hopeless. He scrambled to find shelter. With only seconds until the fire reached him, all he could do was snatch a large tarpaulin from one of the ventilator covers, flip it over to create multiple layers, and pull it over his head. He threw himself to the deck and huddled beneath the tarp, with only a tiny hole to see through. He could see Captain Muggah barking out orders on the bridge, defiantly trying to save his doomed ship.

Scott felt the heat before the blast wave. It rose to such a degree that he thought he would be cooler inside one of the ship's boilers. The layered tarp deflected the worst of the heat; without it, Scott was sure he would not survive. It was confirmed when he watched in horror as the captain's mustache, hair, and clothes were set on fire. The captain wailed in unbearable agony, and Scott was spared from seeing more when Muggah dropped from view.

Hot stones and mud pelted the tarp, some of them smaller than buckshot, others as big as a pigeon's egg. None of them were traveling at a speed that would injure Scott, so he simply endured the hail of stones, listening to them hiss as they splashed into the water beside the ship.

A moment later, the blast wave reached the
Roraima
, causing the tarp to be nearly ripped from Scott's hands. Both masts were sheared off two feet above the deck as cleanly as if they'd been cut by a saw, and the smokestack snapped in half. The tidal wave struck the side of the ship, initially tilting her to port before jerking her so hard to starboard that the ship's ice rail dipped into the sea.

Fearing that he'd be pitched into the water, Scott cried out and scrabbled to find a handhold. He slid down the ash-covered deck, still under the tarpaulin, until his feet slammed into a cargo latch. For a second he thought the ship would capsize like the
Grappler
, but the old girl held strong and bobbed back up, though she still carried a heavy list.

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