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In the twentieth century, an international cabal of scientists launches the Chrysalis Project, the development of an artificially enhanced breed of humans, while Gary Seven, an undercover operative for an advanced alient species struggles to neutralize the threat while watching the children of Chrysalis, including the brilliant Khan Noonien Singh, grow to adulthood. Reprint.
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Greg Cox is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels and short stories. He has written the official movie novelizations of Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Death Defying Acts, and the first three Underworld movies, as well as books and stories based on such popular series as Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CSI, Farscape, The 4400, The Green Hornet, The Phantom, Roswell, Star Trek, Terminator, Warehouse 13, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Zorro. He has received two Scribe Awards from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Visit him at www.gregcox-author.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
MARCH 14, 1974
Roberta Lincoln paced nervously outside the Russian Embassy, hugging herself against the chill of the cold night air. The monumental stone edifice, built in a stolid, neoclassical style, loomed behind the young blond woman, silent and dark. Roberta peered at her wristwatch; it was ten past two in the morning, only ninety seconds later than the last time she'd checked her watch. What's keeping Seven and that darn cat? she wondered anxiously. They should be back by now.
Restless and apprehensive, she strolled down the sidewalk, wincing at the sound of her own heels clicking against the pavement. The echo of her footsteps rang out far too loudly for Roberta's peace of mind. The last thing she wanted to do was attract the attention of the local cops or, worse yet, one of the innumerable informants working for the Stasi, the dreaded East German secret police.
Fortunately, Unter den Linden, the wide city boulevard running north past the embassy, seemed deserted at this ridiculously late hour. The only traffic she heard was an elevated train rattling by a few streets over. Roberta clung to the shadow cast by the huge building, keeping a safe distance from the streetlamps at either end of the block, while also maintaining a careful lookout for any sign of trouble. "C'mon, c'mon," she muttered impatiently, wishing Seven could hear her. You'd think I'd be used to this sort of thing by now, she thought; after all, she'd been working with Gary Seven, alias Supervisor 194, for nearly six years now, ever since that unforgettable afternoon in 1968 when she'd shown up for what she'd thought was an ordinary secretarial job, only to find herself caught up in a bizarre happening involving nuclear missiles, talking computers, and a starship from the future.
Heck, she mused, what's a little East German espionage compared to some of the spacey shenanigans Seven has dragged me into over the last few years? Nevertheless, she shivered beneath a heavy gray overcoat, and not just from the cold. The thick wool garment she wore was neither flattering nor fashionable, but it helped to preserve her anonymity while simultaneously warding off at least some of the winter's chill. A black beret and matching kerchief, the latter tied below her chin, concealed most of her tinted honey-blond hair, while her gloved hands were thrust deeply into the pockets of her coat for warmth. Her fidgety fingers toyed with a thin silver device, snugly stowed away in the right pocket, that looked and felt like a common fountain pen. A mere pen, however, wouldn't have reassured Roberta nearly as much as this particular mechanism, even as she prayed devoutly that she wouldn't have need to use the servo before this night was over.
A pair of headlights approached from the north and Roberta turned her back on the empty street. Probably just a delivery truck making a late-night run, she guessed, stepping deeper into the gloomy shadow of the embassy, but her heart raced a little faster anyway. Roberta held her breath, while casting a wistful glance southward toward the lights of the Brandenburg Gate, only a block and a half away. The imposing marble arches, along with their attendant armed border guards and vigilant watchdogs, marked the frontier between East and West Berlin, making the safety of the Allied Sectors seem tantalizingly close by.
Granted, those brown-uniformed guards were under orders to shoot any would-be escapees on sight, but Roberta couldn't help experiencing an irrational urge to make a run for it. Don't be silly, she scolded herself. It's not going to come to that. Seven will be back any second now...I hope.
A covered truck rumbled past her, and she breathed a sigh of relief as the unassuming vehicle rounded the corner two blocks farther up the boulevard, disappearing down the adjacent cross-street. That would be Friedrichstrasse, she remembered, mentally calling up the maps she'd memorized for this mission. Her briefing had been exhaustively thorough, but no amount of preparation was going to help her, she realized, if she got caught on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.
A rueful smile lifted the corners of her lips. She could just imagine trying to explain her situation to a stone-faced Stasi interrogator: No, no, I'm not affiliated with the CIA or the U.S. government at all. I'm actually working for an independent operator trained by a bunch of secretive extraterrestrials who want to keep humanity from nuking itself into extinction...Boy, wouldn't that go over great with the Commies! She's probably end up in a Soviet asylum, if she wasn't simply shot at dawn.
"Guten abend, fraulein," a voice whispered in her ear.
Gasping out loud, Roberta spun around to find a stranger standing beside her. Where the heck had he come from? In her effort to evade detection from the passing truck, she had completely overlooked the newcomer's arrival. Sloppy, sloppy, she castigated herself for her carelessness. Some spy girl I am. Emma Peel would never let someone sneak up on her like this.
Thankfully, the speaker did not look like much of a threat, at least not on the surface. To Roberta's vast relief, the man wore neither a police nor an army uniform; instead he looked like a middle-aged accountant or shopkeeper, out for a post-midnight stroll. The man was short and jowly, his balding head exposed to the frigid night air and a pair of plain, black spectacles perched upon his bulbous, somewhat florid nose. Like Roberta's, his hands had sought the warmth of his coat pockets, but, despite the cold, his face was flushed and red. Germany's the beer-drinking capital of the world, Roberta recalled. Maybe the stranger was just heading home after an especially long night at his favorite bar?
"Er, hello," Roberta replied uncertainly. She spoke in English, but her automatic translator, ingeniously disguised as a silver pendant shaped like a peace symbol, converted her awkward greeting into perfect German, just as her matching earrings conveniently translated the stranger's every utterance into English. Beats a Berlitz course any day, she thought, grateful for Seven's advanced alien technology.
"You shouldn't be out so late, pretty girl," the man warned her ominously. The avid gleam in his eyes, as well as a sinister smile, belied the cautionary nature of his words. Peering past the stranger's spectacles, Roberta flinched at the sight of the German's glazed, bloodshot eyes. I haven't seen eyes that crazy since the last time Charlie Manson was on TV, she thought, stepping backward and away from her unwelcome visitor. "Don't you know it's not safe?" he taunted her. His left hand emerged from his pocket, clutching the ivory handle of something that looked alarmingly like a closed switchblade.
Just my luck! Roberta lamented silently. You try to do a little innocent night's spying and what do you get? Attacked by some sort of psycho/mugger/ rapist! "Stay back!" she whispered hoarsely, afraid even now to raise her voice so near the soldiers guarding the gate. "I'll scream, I swear it!"
She was bluffing, of course. She didn't dare raise an alarm. That could compromise the entire mission, putting Seven in danger as well, not to mention the cat.
"Go ahead," the German said, licking his fleshy lips in anticipation. With a click, a silver blade sprang from the ivory handle, catching the light of the streetlamps. "Old Jack likes screams, especially from pretty young things who know they're about to die."
Roberta fumbled in her pocket for her servo, briefly losing track of the pen-shaped weapon amid a clutter of loose change and wadded-up Kleenex. Before she could seize hold of it again, her assailant's knife slashed across the outside of her coat, slicing through the fabric and sending the contents of her pocket spilling onto the sidewalk. Roberta's eyes widened as the slender silver instrument bounced twice upon the cracked, uneven pavement, then rolled to a stop only a few inches away from the slasher's feet.
The man caught the hopeless yearning in her gaze and glanced downward. "Hah!" he laughed at the sight of Roberta's errant servo. Saliva sprayed from his mouth as he mocked her. "What were you planning to do, fraulein? Write Old Jack a nasty letter?"
"Hey, the pen is mightier than the sword, or the switchblade, or whatever," Roberta answered defiantly, yanking her hand free from the perforated pocket and assuming a defensive stance. "Or haven't you heard?"
Her glib response elicited an angry scowl from the knife-wielding German. His ruddy features took on a bestial appearance as he advanced on Roberta with premeditated slowness, waving his blade back and forth before her watchful eyes. The yellow radiance of a distant lamp glinted off the shining, sharpened metal. "You ought to be more afraid, harlot. You should scream, scream for your life!"
Nothing doing, Roberta resolved, guessing that the psycho probably got off on his victims' fear. Struggling to maintain a confident expression, she raised her hands before her, karate-style. "Watch who you're calling names, you cornball creep. Who do you think you are, Jack the Rip-Off?" That was a good one, she thought, the wisecrack bolstering her courage. Too bad the gag's probably lost in translation...
The German smirked, as though at a private joke of his own. "You have no idea who you're dealing with, you stupid trollop, but I'll slice the impertinence from your bones, bit by bloody bit!" He lunged at Roberta, stabbing at her wildly while growling like a rabid beast. A string of drool trailed down his chin while his blood-streaked eyes bugged from their sockets. "Die, harlot, die!"
If he expected Roberta to shriek or run away, he was to be severely disappointed. Six years of covert missions alongside Gary Seven, facing everything from radioactive mutants to cyborg zombies, had taught the twenty-four-year-old woman how to take care of herself.
As her assailant stabbed his knife at her belly, she pivoted to the left, dodging the thrust, while parrying the blow with her right arm. Then she used her left to block and trap Jack's own arm long enough for her to grab on to his knife hand and steer it away from her body. As the German snarled in frustration, Roberta pressed her left arm against his elbow, forcing him to the pavement with a flawless forearm takedown. Dropping her knee onto his hyperextended arm freed her left hand, allowing her to wrestle the knife from his grip. Guess all those jujitsu classes finally paid off, she thought triumphantly.
Jack suddenly found himself facedown upon the asphalt, unarmed and at her mercy. Her knee kept his arm pinned to the ground, while both hands held on to his captured arm. She could have broken the limb easily from this position, but settled for pulling back on it painfully. Twisting his head, the crazed German stared back over his shoulder at Roberta, blinking in confusion. Clearly, he had not anticipated that his attractive young prey would offer such stiff resistance, let alone refuse to be intimidated by his threats and vicious attacks. "How -- ?" he murmured, breathing heavily from his exertions. His spectacles dangled precipitously upon the tip of his nose. "Who -- ?"
"I am woman, hear me roar," she stated, après Helen Reddy. Had that song been a hit in East Germany, too? Roberta wasn't sure, but she hoped that her twisted adversary had gotten the message. That'll teach this lunatic to underestimate us liberated American chicks!
A rustle from above caught their attention. Still sprawled upon the sidewalk, Jack looked upward, past Roberta. His jaw dropped at the sight of a man in a business suit rappelling down the front of the embassy.
About time, Roberta thought.
The bottom end of a black nylon cable struck the sidewalk only seconds before the man himself touched down on the pavement. A tall, slender individual in a conservative gray suit, he looked to be in his late thirties, with touches of gray streaking his neatly trimmed brown hair. Shrewd gray eyes coolly assessed the situation: Roberta's torn coat, the knife-wielding stranger on the ground.
"Trouble, Ms. Lincoln?" Gary Seven asked calmly, arching a nearly invisible, faint-brown eyebrow. As if his dramatic entrance were not incongruous enough, a sleek black cat was draped over his shoulders. A white collar studded with sparkling transparent gems glittered against the feline's glossy fur.
"You might say that," Roberta conceded. The cat squawked at her indignantly, as if criticizing the human female for her carelessness in attracting the likes of Old Jack. And hello again to you, too, Roberta thought peevishly, glaring back at her four-legged nemesis, who sprang from Seven's shoulders onto the pavement, looking grateful to be back on solid ground. Mrraow, the feline squawked once more.
"Quiet, Isis," Seven addressed the cat. "I'm sure this wasn't Ms. Lincoln's fault at all."
All of this was much too weird for the dumbfounded slasher; with a burst of unexpected strength, he threw Roberta off him and scrambled to his feet. Abandoning his knife, he darted away, eager to make a hasty exit. No way! Roberta thought angrily. You're not getting away from me that easily. Snatching up her servo from where it had fallen, she set the weapon on Subdue and fired at the fleeing bad guy.
Despite his frantic haste, Jack was still in range. Watching his scurrying figure slow down, then collapse onto Unter den Linden, Roberta started to take off toward the tranquilized maniac, only to feel Seven lay a restraining hand upon her shoulder. "Not now, Ms. Lincoln," he advised. "We have no time for this."
"But -- ?" she blurted. The man was a menace to women everywhere. She couldn't just let him off with a warning.
"Leave him to the local authorities," Seven instructed firmly, no doubt anticipating her outraged arguments.
As if to prove his point, a shrill whistle suddenly blared from the vicinity of the gate. "Achtung!" a harsh voice cried out, followed by the sound of boots pounding on asphalt. "Put your hands up and stay where you are!"
Oh, no! Roberta realized that her altercation with Jack had finally drawn the attention of the border guards. Lights came on in the previously darkened windows of the embassy. Voices inside shouted in Russian, even as an enormous searchlight, mounted atop a sentry tower just before the Brandenburg Gate, swung in their direction, exposing all three of them -- Roberta, Seven, and Isis -- to a blinding glare that lit up the entire block. The spotlight stretched the trio's shadows out like taffy behind them.
"This way," Seven instructed. Leaving his rappelling gear behind, he scooped up Isis and began running up the boulevard, away from the onrushing soldiers. Deciding that maybe Old Jack had hit on the right idea after all, Roberta needed no further urging to sprint after Seven, servo in hand.
"Halt!" she heard someone yell less...
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