John Birmingham Without Warning

ISBN 13: 9781405038126

Without Warning

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9781405038126: Without Warning
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[This is the MP3CD audiobook format in vinyl case.]

Gritty, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, Birmingham's audacious geopolitical thriller asks what would happen to the world if America suddenly disappeared.

On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Baghdad, as the world waits for war, a miles-high energy wave cordons a vast area from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In a moment, 99 percent of the U.S. population has been wiped from the face of the earth. To fill the vacuum, heroes rise to meet the unimaginable challenges of the city of Seattle: James Kipper, chief engineer of the city of Seattle and Caitlin Monroe are on the trail of a Muslim fanatic ready to take advantage of what becomes known as The Disappearance, while General Tusk Musso and Admiral James Ritchie try desperately to keep the peace in a world gone mad with fear.

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About the Author:

JOHN BIRMINGHAM is the author of the 'Axis of Time' trilogy and several other novels and nonfiction titles. He and his family live in Brisbane, Australia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris

The killer awoke, surrounded by strangers. An IV line dripped clear fluid through a long, thick needle punched into the back of her right hand. Surgical tape held the silver spike in place and tugged at the fine blond hairs growing there. The strangers—all women—leaned in, their faces knotted with anxiety, apparently for her. But she stared instead at her hands, which lay in her lap on a thin brown blanket. They looked strong, even masculine. She turned them over, examining them. The nails were cut short. Calluses disfigured her knuckles, the heels of both palms, and the sides of her hands, from the base of both little fingers down to her wrists. The more she stared, the more unsettled she became. Like the women gathered around her bed, those hands were completely alien to her. She had no idea who she was.

“Cathy? Are you all right?”

“Nurse!” somebody called out.

The strangers, three of them, seemed to launch themselves at her bed, and she felt herself tense up, but they simply wanted to comfort her.

“Doctor. She’s awake,” one of them said in French.

She felt soft hands patting her down, stroking her the way you might comfort a child who’s suffered a bad fright. Cathy—that wasn’t her name, was it?—Cathy tried not to panic or to show how much she didn’t want any of these women touching her. They looked like freaks, not the sort of people she’d want as friends. And then she remembered. They weren’t her friends.

They were her mission. And her name wasn’t Cathy. It was Caitlin.

The women were dressed in cheap clothing, layered for warmth. Falling back into the pillows, recovering from an uncontrolled moment of vertigo into which she had fallen, Caitlin Monroe composed herself. She was in a hospital bed, and in spite of the apparent poverty of her “friends,” the private room was expensively fitted out. The youngest of the women wore a brown suede jacket, frayed at the cuffs and elbows and festooned with colorful protest buttons. A stylized white bird. A rainbow. A collection of slogans: Halliburton Watch. Who Would Jesus Bomb? And Resistance Is Fertile.

Caitlin took a sip of water from a squeeze bottle by the bed.

“I’m sorry,” she croaked. “What happened to me?”

She received a pat on the leg from an older, red-haired woman wearing a white T-shirt over some sort of lumpy handmade sweater. Celia. “Auntie” Celia, although she wasn’t related to anyone in the room. Auntie Celia had very obviously chosen the strange ensemble to show off the writing on her shirt, which read If you are not outraged you are not paying attention.

“Doctor!” cried the other older woman, who had just moved to the doorway.

Maggie. An American, like Caitlin. And there the similarity ended. Maggie the American was short and barrel-chested and pushing fifty, where Caitlin was tall, athletic, and young.

She felt around under her blanket and came up with a plastic control stick for the bed.

“Try this,” she offered, passing the controller to the young girl she knew as Monique, a pretty, raven-haired Frenchwoman. “See, the red call button. That’ll bring ’em.” Then, gently touching the bandages that swaddled her head, she asked, “Where am I?”

“You’re in a private room, at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris,” explained Monique. “Paris, France,” she added self-consciously.

Caitlin smiled weakly. “’Okay. I remember that Paris is in France.” She paused. “And now I am, too, I guess. How did I get here? I don’t remember much after coming out of the Chunnel on the bus.”

The large American woman standing over by the door to her room— Maggie, try to remember her fucking name!—turned away from her post.

“Fascist asswipes, that’s how. Attacked us outside of Calais.”

“Skinheads,” explained Monique. “And you were magnifique!”

“I was?”

“Oh yes,” the French girl enthused. She looked no more than seventeen years old, but Caitlin knew her to be twenty-two. She knew a lot about Monique. The others chorused their agreement. “These National Front fascists, Le Pen’s bullyboys, they stopped the bus and began pulling us out, hitting and kicking us. You stood up to them, Cathy. You fought with them. Slowed them down long enough for the union men to reach us and drive them away.”

“Union men?”

“Workers,” Maggie informed her. “Comrades from the docks at Calais. We’ll meet up with them and the others in Berlin. For the next rally, if you’re up for it. We really gotta keep Bush on the back foot. Mobilize the fucking streets against him.”

Caitlin tried to reach for any memories of the incident, but it was like grabbing at blocks of smoke. She must have taken a real pounding in the fight.

“I see,” she said, but really she didn’t. “So I beat on these losers?”

Monique smiled brightly for the first time.

“You are one of our tough guys, no? It was your surfing. You told us you always had to fight for your place on the waves. Really fight. You once punched a man off his board for . . . what was it . . . dropping in?”

Caitlin felt as though a great iron flywheel in her mind had suddenly clunked into place. Her cover story. To these women she was Cathy Mercure. Semipro wave rider. Ranked forty-sixth in the world. Part- time organizer for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a deep green militant environmental group famous for direct and occasionally violent confrontations with any number of easily demonized ecovillains. Ocean dumpers, long-line tuna boats, Japanese whale killers. They were all good for a TV-friendly touch-up by the Sea Shepherds. But that was her cover. Her jacket.

She took another sip of cool water and closed her eyes for a moment.

Her real name was Caitlin Monroe. She was a senior field agent with Echelon, a magic box hidden within the budgets of a dozen or more intelligence agencies, only half of them American. She was a killer, and these women were—for a half second, she had no idea. And then the memory came back. Clear and hard. These women were not her targets, but they would lead her to the target.

Al-Banna.

Caitlin cursed softly under her breath. She had no idea what day it was. No idea how long she’d been out, or what had transpired in that time.

“Are you all right?”

It was the French girl, Monique. The reason she was here, with these flakes.

“I’m cool,” said Caitlin. “Do you mind?” she asked, pointing at the television that hung from the ceiling. “I feel like I’m lost or something. How’d the peace march go?”

“Brilliant!” said the redheaded woman. Auntie Celia.

She was a Londoner with a whining accent like an ice pick in the eardrums. “There was ’undreds of thousands of people,” she said. “Chirac sent a message and all. Berlin’s gonna be huge.”

“Really?” said Caitlin, feigning enthusiasm. “That’s great. Was there anything on the news about it? Or the war?” she continued, pointedly looking at the television.

“Oh sorry,” muttered Monique as she dug another controller out of the blankets on Caitlin’s bed. Or Cathy’s bed, as she would have thought of it.

A flick of the remote and the screen lit up.

“CNN?” asked Caitlin.

Monique flicked through the channels, but couldn’t find the news network. White noise and static hissed out of the television from channel 13, where it should have been. She shrugged. There was nothing on MSNBC either, just an empty studio, but all of the French- language channels were available, as was BBC World.

“Can we watch the Beeb then?” asked Celia. “Me French, you know, it’s not the best.”

Caitlin really just wanted to carve out a couple of minutes to herself, where she could get her head back in the game. Her injuries must be serious, having put her under for three days, and although her cover was still intact, she didn’t want to take any chances. She needed to reestablish contact with Echelon. They’d have maintained overwatch while she was out. They could bring her back up to . . .

“Eh up? What’s this then?” blurted Celia.

Everyone’s eyes fixed on the screen, where an impeccably groomed Eurasian woman with a perfectly modulated BBC voice was struggling to maintain her composure. “ . . . vanished. Communications links are apparently intact and fully functional, but remain unresponsive. Inbound commercial flights are either returning to their points of origin or diverting to Halifax and Quebec in Canada, or to airports throughout the West Indies, which remain unaffected so far.”

The women all began to chatter at once, much to Caitlin’s annoyance. On-screen the BBC’s flustered anchorwoman explained that the “event horizon” seemed to extend down past Mexico City, out into the Gulf, swallowing most of Cuba, encompassing all of the continental U.S. and a big chunk of southeastern Canada, including Montreal. Caitlin had no idea yet what she meant by the term “event horizon,” but it didn’t sound friendly. A hammer started pounding on the inside of her head as she watched the reporter stumble through the rest of her read.

“ . . . from a Canadian airbase have not returned. U.S. naval flights out of Guantánamo Bay at the southern tip of Cuba have likewise dropped out of contact ...

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

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