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IT’S NOT JUST HER LIFE THAT’S ON THE LINE...
THIS TIME IT’S HER DAUGHTER’S.
An instant felt like a lifetime. The view from the ground was agonizing. A fully loaded passenger plane, plummeting lifelessly toward the sea. From the cockpit of her nearby plane, Captain Kate Gallagher had another view and another concern: her six-year-old daughter had just stopped breathing in the cabin behind her.
The crash of an Atlas Airways jet is now a matter for the investigators—until bodies are secretly pulled from the sea. Evidence is hidden, then destroyed. A witness to the accident, Kate cannot guess that her daughter, recuperating in a Florida hospital, holds the key both to the crash and a sinister conspiracy reaching all the way to the oil-rich jungles of South America. For in one last, desperate moment, a doomed man sent Molly Gallagher his final gift: an instantaneous vision of a horrific crime. Now people are dying for what a child knows. And Kate Gallagher—and the only man she can trust—are on a frantic cross-country run for one shot at the truth...and one chance of survival.
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The caravan kicked up a cloud of dust as it crawled up the mountain under the hot afternoon sun. The dirt road carved out of the hillside was barely ten feet wide and cut a clean line through foliage so thick the earth at its base never saw the light. Banyan trees, wild ferns, and birds of paradise rose into the blue sky undisturbed. Except for the hum of a passing vehicle, the only sounds echoing through the high Andes were the calls and screeches of wild birds and monkeys that made the Callejas Mountain Range their home.
Six open-top-Jeeps made up the convoy today. Each vehicle carried four soldiers dressed in camouflage with full combat gear, their M16 assault rifles held erect at their side.
The outline of a village came steadily into view, but the convoy didn't slow down. It moved through, splashing the puddles of muddy water left from the daily rains and forcing a flock of chickens to flee in an explosion of feathers and squawking. Children kicking a soccer ball on a muddy field stopped to watch the vehicles, as did the women balancing pails on their heads.
Hovering high above them all in an old gray Huey, Alec Hawkins took off his reflective sunglasses, exposing his near-black eyes and thick eyebrows that almost formed a straight line. He lifted a pair of binoculars and looked through the lens. With the narrow dirt road winding out of the village in his sight, he carefully combed the area.
"I've got nothing here," he yelled into his headset, his eyes fixed on the second Huey hovering nearby.
"Same here" came the cracked response over his headset speakers. "We passed the bridge about two miles ago, but the equipment didn't pick up anything. The map doesn't show any other bridges within fifty miles, and this little village is the only sign of civilization for a hundred miles around. Are you sure we're in the right area?"
Hawkins shook his head in frustration. "Keep looking."
He reached into his side pocket and pulled out a sheaf of folded papers. Holding them tight so they didn't blow away, he surveyed each one. The sketches were crude, almost as if they had been done by children, but there were similarities between them: hills, huts, a cross, and a road.
This was the right place; he was sure of it. Besides, the data had been physically verified by an advance team of scouts not eight hours earlier--standard operating procedure. Where the hell was the target?
Hawkins lifted the receiver from a small black box beside him, the word SATCOM printed across the side. He punched in a series of numbers and waited.
"How can it not be there?" Douglas Bradley yelled as he hurriedly pulled his jacket on.
Marching down the corridor on the eighteenth floor of a glass tower in Bethesda, Maryland, Jim Udell, trying to keep stride, replied, "I don't know. But a new session has been called. They're already in."
Bradley checked his watch: 11:48 a.m. "They can't pull a session this quick. How about the cooldown period; how about protocol? This is a High Impact target. They have to take every precaution."
"Mission Commander is aware of this. I've made sure."
"I don't see how the hell we're gonna do this," Bradley said, stopping at the elevator. "I just don't."
He pressed the Down button, and the door opened instantly. Inside, Bradley pulled out a key and inserted it in a slot on the panel to the left of the door. Turning the key clockwise, he pressed a button on the lower side. The doors began to close, and he immediately felt overwhelmed with anxiety. The thought of what he was about to do shot waves of panic through him. He needed air--he felt like he was suffocating.
The elevator passed the ground floor but continued to go down three more floors. When the doors finally opened, the men were greeted by two armed security guards who sat erect behind a console. Even though the CEO's face was instantly recognizable, one of the men leaned over and closely examined the badge pinned to Bradley's lapel as the other did the same to Udell. Satisfied, they allowed them through.
The men marched down the long hallway to a door at the end, where another guard sat behind a panel of monitors. He nodded at the CEO, who walked to a single vault door, removed his badge, and inserted it into a slot in the wall. It took a brief moment for the machine to compare retinal patterns from his eye to a chip embedded in his security badge. The door clicked open.
The room was the size of a basketball court, well lit and active, particularly the area around the five jet-black titanium enclosures that were spaced evenly throughout. The enclosures, each the size of a small room, were raised two feet above the floor by hydraulic lifts, and beside each, three technicians wearing white lab coats stood at a control panel.
Four generations of Bradleys, eight years of planning, and six months of preparation, and it had all come down to the five people in these five chambers.
Bradley recalled the first time Hawkins had shown him the website--psiquest.net. He had seen all the proof he wanted, including Ted Koppel's Nightline on ABC News. He even remembered the date: November 28, 1995. As he reclined in the thick leather chair of his office with the shades drawn, Douglas Bradley, a complete skeptic, had watched Robert Gates, director of the CIA, admit to Ted Koppel and the world the Agency's decades-long research in Remote Viewing and its use of anomalous cognition.
He had laughed about it, but Hawkins had been insistent, showing Bradley reports from the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and the New York Times; television programs like Good Morning, America, CBS Evening News, and CNN's Larry King Live; even studies from Princeton and Duke, along with dozens of other credible publications, all supporting the facts.
Call it sixth sense, Hawkins has said. Call it intuition or a hunch--call it whatever you want, but Remote Viewing wasn't magic, he had explained. It was a bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind; an advanced communication skill between a human being and his environment. It was a delicate balance of methodology and protocol, which, with the right tools and training, was more than effective, and, best of all, to Bradley's skeptical way of thinking, scientifically proven.
The program was being declassified because it was being discontinued. With the Soviet Union no longer a threat and the Cold War over, the cost was difficult to justify--at least that was what the Agency had publicly stated. What they hadn't said was that the program was continuing, albeit on a smaller scale. Still, that left many of the experts--people with knowledge and skill and years of experience--looking for a home in the private sector. Homes they found in companies with a need for information and, more importantly, discretion. After all, if their work was good enough for the CIA, Hawkins had explained, why wouldn't it be good enough for Continental Petroleum?
Douglas wasn't convinced, but Hawkins's experience with Remote Viewing had been a personal one during his years of military service in South and Central America, working in Special Operations Detachment. So Bradley went along. It was the best decision he had made during his four years at the helm.
He walked over to the center of the room, where Mick Casey, the Watch Commander, sat behind a console.
Looking toward the chambers, Bradley asked, "How far along are they?"
"They're on target," Casey said, then pointed to five sets of needles vibrating across graph paper, drawing a line behind them. "Daniel and Anna are in a low Alpha, high Theta level on their EEG's. Susan and Chris aren't far behind. Normally I don't like to do things this fast, but I think we're going to have a good session."
"How the hell could the target have moved?" Bradley blurted. "Its location was physically verified less than eight hours ago."
Casey looked up, confused. "I'm not sure, Mr. Bradley. The target is classified as High Impact. That's why we stop the process before the viewers engage in deep target contact. No one here's privy to any information about the target, so I really can't tell you--"
Bradley dismissed him, unnerved that he had vented his frustration, saying more than he should. "I'm sorry. Go ahead with your work."
In front of Casey, five monitors displayed dark, indistinct images of the interior of the chambers, but the outline of a recumbent person in each chamber was discernible.
Casey leaned into the microphone on his desk. "Mission manager for Unit Four. Anna's Beta levels are dropping. Repeat the target."
A moment later, a synthesized voice over the speaker said, "Target code 342C-218P. Tell us what you see."
All this technology, all this effort. Can they do it now? Bradley wondered. Will it work?
He remembered the first time Casey had explained it to him almost four years before. "The voices are synthesized, so they hold no emotion that can disrupt or distract the viewer. The chambers are kept almost fully dark to limit the amount of sensory noise that the viewer has to contend with. They are raised above the ground, because the chambers themselves are freestanding faraday cages. No electromagnetic signals can penetrate the hull and interfere with the viewer or the special equipment. The chambers are cooled to sixty-eight degrees to induce relaxation so the viewers will remain at their maximum capability."
He had understood some of it, ignored the rest, and eventually signed on the dotted line.
"Unit Five has a Theta condition that could go dominant." Casey sounded alarmed. "Pull him back out to Alpha. Send eighteen volts to his GSR. Pull him out of there before he has full target acquisition."
"Evan, what is six times fourteen? Wh...
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