Authors: Patrick Robinson
The black Cadillac stretch limousine moved swiftly around the…
The trouble with Le Chasseur was he had essentially vanished into…
Lt. Cdr. Jimmy Ramshawe, personal assistant to the director of the…
There were five men, each of them sworn to secrecy, each of them…
General Rashood, Major Marot, and their two senior French explosives…
The last two Zodiacs were heading east now, back toward the…
The world oil crisis hit home very hard. Immediately after the…
President Paul Bedford had been in his office for most of the…
Kathy Morgan, sitting at the wheel of their new Hummer, swung…
Lt. Commander Ramshawe was on the encrypted line to Charlie…
Adm. Alan Dickson, the fifty-six-year-old former Commander in…
Gaston Savary could not believe what he was hearing. He leaned…
They prayed at sunset, out on the edge of the desert, southwest of…
Because my principal publishers are in New York and London, I have chosen to work, essentially, in miles, yards, and feet. In terms of weight I have stuck with pounds and tons, except where military and naval protocol requires something different in the area of missile warheads.
However, in instances where serving French Naval officers and Special Forces are quoted directly, I use the correct metric measurements of their native language, the actual words they would have spoken.
Anyone mildly confused by all of this needs only to know that a meter is roughly a yard—the Olympic metric mile, 1,500 meters, is about 130 yards short of a proper mile. And a kilometer is roughly two-thirds of a mile.
I would also like to point out I have no wish to portray the French nation as cunning and unscrupulous. I am merely selecting one single nation to suit the purposes of this fictional work, in the year 2010, five years into the future from the date of publication.
I could have chosen Great Britain, but they are too close and loyal to the United States. I suppose I could have chosen Germany or Spain, or even Ireland. But none of them has quite the naval muscle and know-how of France.
Hopefully I have treated the French fairly and reasonably, despite casting them sometimes as heroes and sometimes as villains. It’s one of the hazards of writing “techno-thrillers”—the villains are all fictional, but I write on a pretty broad canvas, and occasionally entire nations are scorched by the white-hot lance of my keyboard! No hard feelings (I hope).
United States Senior Command
Paul Bedford (President of the United States)
Adm. Arnold Morgan (Supreme Commander, Operation Tanker)
Gen. Tim Scannell (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs)
Adm. Alan Dickson (Chief of Naval Operations)
Adm. Frank Doran (C-in-C, Atlantic Fleet)
Adm. George Morris (Director, National Security Agency)
Lt. Cdr. Jimmy Ramshawe (Personal Assistant, Director NSA)
Adm. John Bergstrom (SPECWARCOM)
United States Foreign Services
Charlie Brooks (Envoy US Embassy, Riyadh)
Agent Tom Kelly (CIA Field Officer, Marseille)
Agent Ray Sharpe (CIA Brazzaville, Congo)
Agent Andy Campese (CIA Chief, Toulouse)
Agent Guy Roland (CIA, Toulouse)
Agent Jack Mitchell (CIA Field Officer, North Africa, Rabat, Morocco)
United States Navy
Capt. Bat Stimpson (Submarine Commanding Officer,
USS North Carolina
Capt. David Schnider (Submarine Commanding Officer,
Capt. Tony Pickard (Commanding Officer,
Lt. Billy Fallon (Helicopter aircrew,
Lt. Cdr. Brad Taylor (SEAL Team Leader)
French Senior Command
President of France
Pierre St. Martin (Foreign Minister)
Gaston Savary (Head of the Secret Service, DGSE)
Gen. Michel Jobert (C-in-C, Special Operations)
Adm. Georges Pires (Commandant Fusiliers Marine Commandos, COMFUSCO)
Adm. Marc Romanet (Flag Officer, Submarines)
Capt. Alain Roudy (Commanding Officer, hunter-killer submarine
Cdr. Louis Dreyfus (Commanding Officer, hunter-killer submarine
Lt. Garth Dupont (Commander Frogmen,
Cdr. Jules Ventura (Commander, Special Forces in Gulf,
Lt. Reme Doumen (Leader, Assault Team Two, Saudi Loading Docks)
Seaman Vincent Lefevre (assistant to Commander Ventura)
French Special Forces Commanders, Saudi Arabia
Maj. Etienne Marot (2/IC Team Three, Khamis Mushayt)
Maj. Paul Spanier (Commanding Officer Team One, Air Base Assault)
Maj. Henri Gilbert (Team Two, Air Base Assault)
French-appointed Military Commanders, Saudi Arabia
Col. Jacques Gamoudi (ex–Foreign Legion, C-in-C Saudi Revolutionary Army, Riyadh, aka Hooks)
General Ravi Rashood, C-in-C Hamas, C-in-C Southern Assault Force, Saudi Arabia (aka Maj. Ray Kerman)
French Foreign Services
Agent Yves Zilber (DGSE, Toulouse)
Michel Phillipes (DGSE Field Chief, Riyadh)
Maj. Raul Foy (DGSE, Riyadh)
Envoy Claude Chopin (French Embassy, Brazzaville, Congo)
Members of the Kingdom’s Royal Family
Prince Khalid bin Mohammed al-Saud (playboy)
King of Saudi Arabia
Prince Nasir Ibn Mohammed al-Saud (Crown Prince)
Saudi Military Personnel
Col. Sa’ad Kabeer (Commander, Eighth Armored Brigade, Diversionary Assault Air Base)
Capt. Faisal Rahman (al Queda battalion, Riyadh)
Maj. Abdul Majeed (Tank Commander, Airport Assault)
Colonel Bandar (Tank Commander, Revolutionary Army, Riyadh)
Ambassador David Gavron (Washington)
Agent David Schwab (Mossad, Marseille)
Agent Robert Jazy (Mossad, Marseille)
Daniel Mostel (
, Air Traffic Control, Damascus)
Key International Personnel
Cpl. Shane Collins (British Army electronics intercept operator, JSSU, Cyprus)
Sir David Norris (Chairman, International Petroleum Exchange, London)
Abdul Gamoudi (father of Col. Jacques Gamoudi)
Giselle Hooks, aka Giselle Gamoudi
Princess Adele (South London)
Prince Khalid bin Mohammed al-Saud, aged twenty-six, was enduring a night of fluctuating fortunes. On the credit side, he had just befriended a spectacular-looking Gucci-clad blonde named Adele, who said she was a European princess and was currently clinging to his left arm. On the debit side he had just dropped $247,000 playing blackjack in one of the private gaming rooms.
The casino in Monte Carlo was costing Khalid’s great-great-uncle, the King, around the same amount per month as the first-line combat air strength of the Royal Saudi Air Force. There were almost thirty-five thousand Saudi royal princes bestowing a brand-new dimension upon the word
Like young Prince Khalid, many of them loved Monte Carlo, especially the casino. And blackjack. And baccarat. And craps. And roulette. And expensive women. And champagne. And caviar. And high-speed motor yachts. Oh boy, did those princes ever love motor yachts.
Prince Khalid pushed another $10,000 worth of chips to his new princess and contemplated the sexual pleasures that most certainly stood before him. Plus the fact that she was royal, like him. The King would approve of that. Khalid was so inflamed by her beauty he never even considered the fact that European royalty did not usually speak with a south London accent.
Adele played on, with gushing laughter, fueled by vintage Krug champagne. She played blackjack as thoughtfully as a fire hydrant and as subtly as a train crash. It took her nine minutes and forty-three seconds precisely to lose the $10,000. When this happened, even Prince Khalid, a young man with no financial brakes whatsoever, somehow groped for the anchors as well as Adele’s superbly turned backside.
“I think we shall seek further pleasures elsewhere.” He smiled, beckoning a champagne waitress with a nod of his head and requesting a floor manager to settle his evening’s account.
Adele’s laughter carried across the room. But no one turned a head as the young Saudi prince blithely signed a gambling chit for something in excess of $260,000.
It was a bill he would never see. It would be added to his losses of other evenings that month, totaling more than a million dollars. And it would be forwarded directly to the King of Saudi Arabia, who would send a check, sooner or later. These days, later rather than sooner.
Prince Khalid was a direct descendant of the mighty Bedouin warrior Abdul Aziz, “Ibn Saud,” founder of modern Saudi Arabia and progenitor of more than forty sons and God knows how many daughters before his death in 1953. The young Prince Khalid was of the ruling line of the House of Saud. But there were literally thousands of cousins, uncles, brothers, and close relatives. And the King treated them all with unquestioning generosity.
So much generosity that the great oil kingdom of the Arabian Peninsula now stood teetering on a financial precipice, because millions and millions of barrels of oil needed to be pumped out of the desert every day purely to feed the colossal financial requirements of young princes like Khalid bin Mohammed al-Saud.
He was one of literally dozens who owned huge motor yachts in the harbors along the French Riviera. His boat,
Shades of Arabia
, was a growling 107-foot-long, sleek white Godzilla of a powerboat that could not make up its mind whether to remain on the sea or become a guided missile. Built in Florida by the renowned West Bay Son Ship corporation, it boasted five state-rooms and was just about the last word in luxury yachts. At least for its size it was.
The Captain of
Shades of Arabia
, Hank Reynolds, out of Seattle, Washington, nearly had a heart attack every time Prince Khalid insisted on taking the helm. And this was a reaction that did not abate even on a calm, open sea. Prince Khalid had two speeds. Flat out or stopped. He had five times been arrested for speeding in various French harbors along the Riviera. Each time he was fined heavily, twice he ended up in jail for a few hours, and each time the King’s lawyers bailed him out, on the last occasion paying a fine of $100,000. Prince Khalid was an expensive luxury for any family, by any standards, but he could not have cared less. And, anyway, he was certainly no different from all the other young scions of the House of Saud.
Slipping his hand deftly around the waist of Adele, he nodded to the other ten people in his entourage, who were gathered around the roulette wheel, playing for rather smaller stakes. They included his two “minders,” Rashid and Ahmed, both Saudis, three friends from Riyadh, and five young women, two of them Arabian from Dubai and wearing Western dress, three of them of European royal lineage similar to that of Adele.
Outside the imposing white portals of the casino, three automobiles—two Rolls-Royces and one Bentley—slid immediately to the forecourt, attended by a uniformed doorman from the world’s most venerable gaming house. Prince Khalid handed him a hundred-dollar bill—the equivalent of more than two barrels of oil on the world market—and slipped into the backseat of the lead car with Adele. Rashid and Ahmed, each of them highly paid servants of the King himself, also boarded the gleaming, dark blue
both of them in the wide front seat.
The other eight distributed themselves evenly among the other two cars, and Prince Khalid instructed his driver. “Sultan, we will not be returning to the Hermitage for a while. Please take us down to the boat.”
“Of course, Your Highness,” replied Sultan, and moved off toward the harbor, followed, line astern, by the other two cars.
Three minutes later they pulled up alongside
Shades of Arabia
, which rode gently on her lines in a flat, calm harbor.
“Good evening, Your Highness,” called the watchman, switching on the gangway light. “Will we be sailing tonight?”
“Just a short trip, two or three miles offshore to see the lights of Monaco, then back in by one
.,” replied the Prince.
“Very good, sir,” said the watchman, a young Saudi naval officer who had navigated one of the King’s Corvettes in the Gulf Fleet headquarters in Al Jubayl. His name was Bandar and he had been specifically selected by the C-in-C to serve as First Officer on
Shades of Arabia,
with special responsibilities for the well-being of Prince Khalid.
Capt. Hank Reynolds liked Bandar, and they worked well together, which was just as well for Reynolds, because one word of criticism about him from young Bandar would have ended his career. The Saudis paid exorbitantly for top personnel from the West, but tolerated no insubordination directed at the royal presence.
Gathered in the magnificently presented stateroom, which contained a bar and a dining area for at least twelve, Prince Khalid’s party was served vintage Krug champagne from dewy magnums that cost around $250 each. On the dining room table there were two large crystal bowls, one containing prime Beluga caviar from Iran, about three pounds of it, never mind $100 an ounce. The other contained white powder in a similar quantity, and was placed next to a polished teak stand upon which were set a dozen small, hand-blown crystal tubes, each one four and a half inches long and as exquisitely turned as Adele’s rear end. The contents of the second bowl were approximately twice as expensive as the Beluga. It was also in equal demand among the party.
Including the cost of the two stewards in attendance, the refreshments in that particular stateroom represented the sale of around six hundred barrels of Saudi crude on the International Petroleum Exchange in London. That was 6,600 gallons. Prince Khalid’s lifestyle swallowed up gas faster than a Concorde.
Right now he was blasting the white powder up his nostrils with his regular abandon. He really liked cocaine. It made him feel that he was the right-hand man of the King of Saudi Arabia, the only country in all the world that bore the name of the family that ruled it. His name.
Prince Khalid tried never to face the undeniable fact that he was close to useless. His bachelor of arts degree from a truly expensive California university was, so far, his only true achievement. But his father had to persuade the King to build a vast new library for the school,
furnish it with thousands of books, in order for that degree to be awarded.
These days the Prince wandered the glorious seaports of the Mediterranean all summer, reclining in the opulence of
Shades of Arabia
. It was only when he took his nightly burst of cocaine that he felt he could face the world on equal terms. Indeed, on the right evening, with the precise correct combination of Krug and coke, Prince Khalid felt he could do anything. Tonight was one of those evenings.
The moment his head cleared from the initial rush, he ordered Bandar to the bridge to tell Captain Reynolds that he, Khalid, would be taking the helm as soon as the great motor yacht had cast her lines and was facing more or less in the right direction. “Have the Captain call me as soon as we’re ready,” he added, making absolutely certain that Adele could hear his stern words of command.
Ten minutes later he took Adele up to the enclosed bridge area with its panoramic views of the harbor, and assumed command of the yacht. Captain Reynolds, a great burly northwesterner who had spent most of his life on freighters on Puget Sound, moved over to the raised chair of First Officer Bandar, who stood directly behind him. Adele slipped into the navigator’s spot, next to Prince Khalid.
“She’s ready, sir,” said Reynolds, a worried frown already on his face. “Steer zero-eight-five, straight past the harbor wall up ahead, then come right to one-three-five for the run offshore…and watch your speed,
, Your Highness…that’s a harbor master’s patrol boat right off your starboard bow…”
“No problem, Hank,” replied the Prince. “I feel good tonight. We’ll have a nice run.”
And with that he rammed open both throttles, driving the twin 1,800-horsepower DDC-MTU 16V2000s to maximum revs, and literally thundered off the start-blocks. Princess Adele, whose only previous experience with water transport had been an economy day trip on the ferry from Gravesend to Tilbury in southeast London, squealed with delight. Hank Reynolds, as usual, nearly went into cardiac arrest.
Shades of Arabia
, now with a great white bow wave nearly five feet above the calm surface, charged through Monte Carlo harbor at a speed building to twenty-five knots. Her wake shot both crystal bowls clean off the dining room table, and the white dust from the billowing cloud of cocaine caused even the ship’s purebred Persian cat to believe that it could probably achieve anything. Its purring could be heard in the galley, fifty feet away, like a third diesel engine.
Meanwhile, ships and yachts moored in the harbor rocked violently as the massive wake from
Shades of Arabia
rolled into them, causing glasses and crockery to crash to the floor and even people to lose their footing and slam into walls. In that briefest of scenarios anyone could understand the reason for the draconian French laws about speeding that were enforced in every Riviera harbor.
Prince Khalid never gave them a thought. He hurtled past the harbor walls, missing the flashing light on the wall to his portside by about ten feet, and roared out into the open sea. With all care cast aside by the Krug–coke combo, he hammered those big diesels straight toward the deep water, less than a mile offshore.
And out there, with over sixty fathoms beneath his keel, the Prince began a long, swerving course through the light swell, which delighted his guests, who were all by now on the top deck aft viewing area, marveling at the speed and smoothness of this fabulous seagoing craft.
No one took the slightest notice of the big searchlight a mile astern, which belonged to the coast guard patrol launch, summoned by the harbor master and now in hot pursuit, making almost forty knots through the water.
The night was warm, but there were heavy rain clouds overhead, and it was extremely dark. Too dark to see the massive, dark shape of the ocean liner that rode her gigantic anchor one mile up ahead. In fact there was a light sea mist, not quite fog, lying in waxen banks over the surface of the sea.
One way or another the 150,000-ton Cunarder, the
Queen Mary 2,
was extremely difficult to see that night, even with all her night lights burning. Any approaching vessel might not have locked on to her, even five hundred yards out, unless the afterguard were watching the radar sweeps very carefully, which Prince Khalid was most certainly not doing. Captain Reynolds was so busy staring at the blackness ahead that he, too, was negligent of the screen. But at least he had an excuse—mainly that he was frozen in fear for his life.
At length he snapped to the Prince, “Steady, sir. Come off fifteen knots. We just can’t see well enough out here…this is too fast…”
“Don’t worry, Hank,” replied Prince Khalid. “I’m feeling very good. This is fun…just for a few minutes I can cast aside the cares of my country and my responsibilities.”
Captain Reynolds’s eyes rolled heavenward as his boss tried to coax every last ounce of speed out of the yacht, despite the fact they were in another fog bank and visibility at sea level was very poor.
The watchmen on the largest, longest, tallest, and widest passenger ship ever built did however spot the fast-approaching
Shades of Arabia,
from a height close to that of a twenty-one-story building. They sounded a deafening blast on the horn, which could be heard for ten miles, and at the last minute ordered a starboard-side reverse thrust in order to swing around and present their narrower bow to the oncoming motor yacht rather than their 1,132-foot hull. But it was too late. Way too late.
Shades of Arabia
came knifing through the mist, throttles wide open, everyone laughing and drinking up on the aft deck, Prince Khalid tenderly kissing Adele, one hand on the controls, one on her backside. Hank Reynolds, who had heard the
’s horn echo across the water, yelled at the last moment, “JESUS CHRIST!” He dived for the throttles, but not in time.
The 107-foot motor yacht smashed into the great ocean liner’s port bow. The pointed bow of
Shades of Arabia
buried itself twenty feet into the
’s steel plating. The colossal impact caused a huge explosion in the engine room of the Prince’s pride and joy, and the entire yacht burst into flames. No one got out, save for bodyguard Rashid, who had seen the oncoming steel cliff and hurled himself off the top deck twenty feet into the water. Like Ishmael, he alone lived to tell the tale.