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At last, we will learn the truth about humankind’s origins...
But do we really want to know?
The Ark of the Covenant...Excalibur...The Holy Grail... Finally, the world’s legendary artifacts have been unearthed, their secret powers revealed. Now, as the fate of Earth hangs in the balance, humans and aliens race for control of the final secret: the location of the alien mothership--our last best chance for survival. For Area 51 commander Mike Turcotte, the stakes are higher than ever...because the secret lies buried in the repressed memory of his former love, Lisa Duncan.
Still battle-weary from alien wars that killed most of his Area 51 team, Mike is thrust into a final showdown--up against an alien army bent on total domination. With aliens in possession of the Final Option Missile codes, nuclear holocaust is a chilling possibility. The only bargaining chip is the mothership. For Mike, the questions mount: Can Lisa be trusted in a high-stakes swap to save the Earth from nuclear meltdown? Is he battling the real enemy? Or is the real enemy within? As the countdown begins, another shocking secret is revealed. At stake: our species, our future, our Earth.
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Bob Mayer is a New York Times bestselling author, a graduate of West Point, a former Special Operations soldier, and the feeder of the infamous yellow Lab, Cool Gus. Writing under his own name as well as a number of pen names, including Robert Doherty and Greg Donegan, he’s had more than seventy books published, including the #1 bestselling series Area 51, Atlantis, and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, Bob has traveled the world and now lives peacefully with his wife and his Labs. Visit his Amazon Author Page for information about his books and to read his blog. To download free e-books, short stories, and audiobooks, visit www.bobmayer.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
CHAPTER 1: The Present
Mike Turcotte muttered irritably, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. He was wrapped in a warm blanket and felt very comfortable. A Sunday morning in Maine, the one day of the week he was home from the logging camp and didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn. He was wrapped in his mother's handmade comforters. He so badly just wanted to continue sleeping. A dream kept intruding, an insistent, irritating buzz in his subconscious. A woman with dark hair, dressed in a white robe, standing on a beach. Looking at him. Her mouth was moving, saying something, but he heard nothing. There was something wrong about the place though. The shadows, the water. All wrong.
He focused on her lips and he knew he had tasted them many times. They were thin and pale, her face angular. He had known her--
He didn't hear as much as knew that's what she was yelling at him.
Turcotte didn't want to. He could never remember feeling as secure and comfortable as he did right now. He'd been so tired, he knew that, and however long he had rested, it wasn't near enough.
"I need you."
She had saved him; he knew that, although he could not recall details. Beyond that, he knew they had done much together, and been many places. And he had loved her fiercely. That emotion roared through him, shaking him out of his stupor.
Turcotte opened his eyes but all he could see was white. He blinked, feeling something wet on his face. He shook his head, slowly realizing it was snow on his skin. Panicking, he sat up abruptly, six inches of snow falling off the upper half of his body.
He looked about. Open air directly in front. Rock behind.
He was flanked by bodies. Frozen solid. One dressed in a black robe with silver fringe. Another in ancient leather armor. And a third in early-twentieth-century climbing gear--Sandy Irvine, who had disappeared in 1924 while attempting to summit with George Mallory. With a smile frozen forever on his face. That shook Turcotte. He knew he'd have died with a smile on his face also if he hadn't woken. He could feel the cold throughout his body now. It was excruciatingly painful as his nerve endings came awake.
He looked down and could just make out the sword across his knees.
The key to the Master Guardian that he had freed from its scabbard, activating it.
Reality came rushing back to him. Yakov had to be in the mothership with the Master Guardian. Duncan was missing. And he was high on Mount Everest.
Next to the sword was a SATPhone, its surface frozen and covered with ice. With stiff hands he reached out and picked up the phone, shoving it inside his parka. The cold made even the slightest act extremely difficult.
Mike Turcotte forced himself to get to his feet, Excalibur gripped tightly in his right hand, an ice ax in his left. He knew he had passed the peak of power the amphetamines had given him and that the oxygen richness of the blood doping was fading. How long had he sat there, he wondered. It couldn't have been too long because he still had some feeling in his hands and feet. He checked his mask, but there was no oxygen flowing. The tank on his back had to be empty by now.
He knew, as surely as he could feel the sword in his hands, that he could not make his way along the ledge or down the mountain in the same manner he had climbed up. He glanced down once more at the three bodies frozen next to him. They had known the same thing. And they had never woken from whatever their last pleasant dreams had been.
He closed his eyes and tried to force his oxygen-starved brain to think through the overwhelming exhaustion and pain. He'd trained in high altitude and the cold many times in his Special Forces career and he tried to recall what he had learned. He was higher than he had ever been. His instructors had beaten one thing into him about working in the mountains--gravity could be your friend or your enemy, depending on which direction you were heading and how fast. He considered those words of wisdom. He needed to go down, and do it quickly. He looked below at the Kanshung Face on the north side of Everest. Gravity could be his friend, but one slip and he would fall for a very, very long time.
There was one option. In a way Turcotte was glad he couldn't really think it through and figure the odds of success, because he had no doubt they would be very low.
He hooked the ice ax onto his harness and grabbed the nylon strap attached to the front of it. He clipped the snap link on the end of the strap to the safety rope. He paused for a moment, amazed that he had succeeded against the other groups that had raced to this spot to try to claim the sword. The corrupt SEALs from Aspasia's Shadow; the Chinese and the Ones Who Wait, sent by Artad; and his climbing partner and former watcher, Professor Mualama, who had been corrupted by a Swarm tentacle--all were now dead, their bodies scattered about the mountain.
Turcotte took the end of the rope, where the one SEAL had cut it, and laboriously tried to make a knot, thick enough so that it would not fit through the snap link. It took him several attempts and almost ten minutes of work before he achieved this simple task.
Taking the ice ax in his free hand again, Turcotte put his back to the mountain and faced outward, staring out over the Himalayas below him. It was dark, dawn still hours off. The stars glittered overhead and the moon was low to the west, its beams reflecting off the snow-covered peaks. Other than the nearby bodies, there was no sign of mankind as far as he could see. The silence was overwhelming, not even the wind, which had been his constant companion on his way up the mountain, was blowing. It was the most peaceful scene Turcotte had ever witnessed. It was serene and it was deadly.
Turcotte jumped outward with all his might.
The first piece of climbing protection--a piton--already weakened by Mualama's fall, tore free of the mountain. Like stitching being ripped apart, the rope popped succeeding pieces of protection from their perch and Turcotte fell, swinging to the west as each piece held for just a moment, the effect jarring him slightly and curving his trajectory before free-falling again. His climbing harness dug into his thighs and waist, but the pain was barely noticeable.
Turcotte slammed against the side of Everest, on the sheer Kanshung Face, still falling, still being swung to the west. The impact knocked what little breath he had out of his lungs and he gasped for air. He came to a halt for a moment as a piton held for a few seconds. He twisted and looked about, mouth open, lungs straining. The northwest ridge was twenty meters away. So close, yet so out of reach.
Then Turcotte dropped abruptly as the next piton holding him pulled free. The pendulum effect swung him toward the ridge and he reached the last piece of protection, where the ridge met the face. It held for the slightest of moments. Enough for Turcotte to get his bearings--he was less than two meters from the ridge. Very close, yet still too far. He braced his feet against the Kanshung Face and as the last piton gave way, he pushed off, leaping to the side, swinging his ice ax, arm fully extended.
The tip of the ax caught for a moment in the ice at the very edge of the ridge, holding him in place as the rope hurtled by. Then the ax gave way and he slid, desperately slamming it at the ridge time and time again. It caught once more and he hung there, dangling from the ax. He twisted his body to face the rock.
Dully, he realized the rope would now be heading down and when it reached its fullest extension, the weight would pull him off the mountain and he would follow the equipment to his death.
Maintaining a one-hand grip on the ax handle, most of his weight on the strap from it stretched taut around his wrist, with the other hand he swung Excalibur. The blade severed the rope a second before it was fully extended. Turcotte followed through the swing and jabbed Excalibur at the ice and rock of the ridgeline. The sword cut through the ice and into the rock, penetrating a few inches. Using the leverage of sword and ice ax, Turcotte slowly maneuvered himself off the sheer face and onto the ridge. He pulled the sword out and held it against his chest.
He rolled onto the almost knife edge of the ridge and lay on his back, gasping for air and staring up at the stars. Only twenty-nine thousand feet to go.
THE GULF OF MEXICO
Three hundred feet under the water, an undersea habitat was joined to the leg of an abandoned oil rig platform. Inside the habitat, strapped to a steel gurney, was Lisa Duncan, former presidential science adviser and the one who had initiated the investigation into Majestic-12 and Area 51. She'd been kidnapped from Area 51 and brought here where she met Dr. Garlin, who claimed to be a member of a new Majestic-12 committee. This had occurred after it was discovered that Lisa was not who she appeared to be. Who she really was, however, remained a mystery. While under the control of Aspasia's Shadow she had partaken of the Grail, and was now immortal, something that was doing her little good in her present predicament.
She was a slender, dark-haired woman, covered with a white robe. On her head was a crown made of three bands of metal, an ancient artifact that had been carried out of Egypt by the high priest during the Exodus. Leads from the crown went to an object on a gurney next to her, something else that had been carried across the desert millennia ago: the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark was three feet high and wide by four feet long. Gold plating covered the surface. On the open lid were two sphinxlike objects with glowing red eyes. The wires from the crown ran into the inner lid of the Ark. A thin, previously hidden screen had been pulled down, revealing a slightly curving, black surface. Just below it was a series of two dozen small hexagonal buttons ...
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