Authors: Michael C. Grumley
LEAP is the second
book in the Breakthrough story line and, while it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, reading
first will provide a richer story.
From the back jacket:
ONE OF MANKIND’S GREATEST LEGENDS HAS BEEN DISCOVERED
. A FIND THAT ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WOULD KILL TO POSSESS…AND IT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE EVERYTHING.
One year ago, a remarkable breakthrough changed what it means to be human. Now, from a new research center in Puerto Rico, Alison Shaw and her team are about to stun the world…again.
At the same time, less than a thousand miles away, a mysterious vessel is spotted off the quiet coast of Guyana. Strange circumstances attract the attention of the U.S. Navy, including naval investigators John Clay and Steve Caesare. They soon learn that someone has made a surprising discovery beneath the dark, shrouded canopies of South America. A discovery thousands of years old.
As they race to piece the puzzle together, Clay and Caesare uncover a string of facts with frightening consequences…and a revelation that may change the very definition of life on Earth.
The discovery of the century has been made…and someone is prepared to fight for it.
Michael C. Grumley
Copyright © 2014 Michael Grumley
All rights reserved.
To Andrea. My wife and partner in everything. Including writing. If people only knew what my stories look like before she gets a hold of them.
Special thanks to Autumn, Julie, Liz, Richele, Susan, Tony, Frank, Bojan, Rob, Luke, and Shawn, for their expert advice and proofing help.
And to Jill Weinstein, a great proofreader and editor if there ever was one ([email protected]).
“I think you’d better get down here. We’ve got company.”
Her eyes opened wide with the phone receiver still gripped tightly in her hand. She immediately hung up and jumped out of her chair, rounding the desk and running for the door. After flinging it open and sprinting down the carpeted hallway, she approached the wide stairs and descended as quickly as she could without tripping.
The layout of the new building was strikingly similar to the old one, but here the air conditioning system was barely able to stave off Puerto Rico’s brutal humidity. By the time she’d made it to the large double doors, the familiar flush through her body told her that her sweat glands were kicking into gear. She lowered her head and leaned into the doors, pushing them both open.
The familiar computerized voice sounded almost immediately.
Alison smiled broadly toward the giant seawater tank. “Hello, Sally,” she replied, partially out of breath. “You’re back.”
Sally wiggled her tail happily.
Alison raised an eyebrow, scanning the rest of the tank’s bright blue water. “Where’s Dirk?”
Before she could answer, Dirk plunged into the top of the tank with a giant splash and performed a barrel roll as he skirted past Sally.
Alison laughed. He loved making a grand entrance. Of course, they really needed to change the part of the tank that allowed him to do that.
Dirk continued to the bottom where he swung up and around before coasting in next to Sally.
Hello Alison. Hello Chris.
Alison smirked and tilted her head slightly. “Hello, Dirk.”
We happy see you.
“We’re happy to see you too.” Chris Ramirez joined Alison in front of the tank, holding his perpetual cup of coffee. How he could drink coffee all day in this heat, she would never know.
Their new facility was smaller than the aquarium in Miami, but this one was strictly a research center, which meant fewer unplanned distractions. Gutted from an old cannery, the building was refurbished and expanded to include a large indoor-outdoor tank for Dirk and Sally. Now they could come and go as they pleased. No more bars.
It was, of course, the least she and the team could do after what they’d all been through. And true to their word, the dolphins returned regularly. It also helped that Dirk was fed like a king.
Behind Alison and Chris, and against the far wall, stood an immense computer system with hundreds of blinking lights. IMIS, short for Inter Mammal Interpretive System, was the same system that made their first communications with Dirk and Sally possible. But now IMIS was over twice its original size. After her team relocated to Puerto Rico and closer to the dolphins’ natural breeding ground, the IMIS system had gone through a major upgrade. It was almost quaint to think about its abilities before, compared to its computing power now. It made Lee Kenwood, their head of technology, absolutely giddy. In fact, Alison and Chris had both joked to Lee that it looked as though he were trying to show up the engineers at NASA.
Alison didn’t fully understand the specifications of the newly upgraded IMIS, but she did know it had a lot to do with what Lee called
. But to her, it was simply bigger and faster. And even though it had doubled in size, Lee claimed it was almost eight times more powerful. The amount of data that IMIS could process before in a day, it could now do in a couple hours.
Sally swam close to the underwater microphone.
How you Alison?
“I am very well,” she smiled. “How are you?”
We good. You ready now
“Not yet, but soon.”
Smiling, Chris took a sip from his cup. “I guess we have some calls to make.”
“We sure do.”
Alison glanced back at Dirk as he thrust his tail up and down, excitedly. She folded her arms in front and shook her head.
If the world had been surprised at their breakthrough before, this time they were going to be absolutely stunned.
“The Cradle of Naval Aviation” was the unofficial name of the Naval Air Base near Pensacola, Florida. It was built as the country’s first Naval Air Station and remained so even well into the First World War. In present day, it was known for being the primary training facility for all Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviators and flight officers. It was also home to the Blue Angels, the Navy’s famed flight demonstration squadron.
Spanning an area of well over eight thousand acres, the Pensacola Naval Complex employed twenty-three thousand military and seventy-four hundred civilians. Not surprisingly, it was a major hub for modern hi-tech naval research and testing.
It was also where Commanders John Clay and Steve Caesare, from Naval Investigations, had been living for the past two weeks.
Both men briskly made their way down the long, polished hallway of the Naval Education and Training Command building’s third floor. When they reached the end, the pair stopped before a large white door. John Clay knocked and the door was promptly opened from the inside. Stepping into the room, Clay and Caesare recognized Rear Admiral David Einhorn, the commander of the NETC. Einhorn was sitting behind his desk with his Force Master Chief standing next to him, both of whom ceased their conversation and looked up expectantly when Clay and Caesare entered. Almost unnoticed, the lieutenant who had opened the door then silently stepped out behind them and closed it again.
Einhorn nodded. “Gentlemen, I understand you have something for me.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Clay. They both approached the desk, but Clay took an extra step forward and handed Admiral Einhorn a thin folder. “We’ve finished the investigation, sir. Here is the signed report.”
Einhorn took the folder and flipped it open, glancing over the first page. “A power failure? Are you kidding?”
Clay shook his head. “No, sir.”
“How the hell does a power failure cause a drone to go rogue?”
They’d been expecting this reaction, especially from Einhorn. After all, they’d already uploaded their report online and forwarded copies to both Einhorn and their own boss, Admiral Langford, a half hour ago. Their hand delivered copy was merely a formality. Judging from his reaction, Einhorn had read the online version already.
Einhorn hadn’t wanted them there from the beginning. The failure with the drone was a fluke as far as he was concerned. Hell, as far as his entire staff was concerned. But it did happen. A new drone lost connection with its remote pilot for twelve seconds. It may not have seemed like a big deal to everyone else, especially since the connection was reestablished successfully, but it required an investigation. Not because the Navy necessarily worried about the connection, but because of what might have happened during those twelve seconds.
A few years before, a Predator Drone had been captured in Iran by blocking the aircraft’s satellite connection back to its remote pilot in Arizona. Worse, Iran never had to hack the drone. They only had to keep the connection blocked long enough to force it into an emergency mode, which compelled the drone to get itself to the ground safely. It was a bug in the software: a mistake.
Nevertheless, having the world watch their televisions and see Iranian soldiers dancing up and down on one of the Unites States’ four million dollar secret weapons was not something the Pentagon was willing to endure again.
Clay cleared his throat and answered Einhorn. “Well, sir, the failure was caused by a power fluctuation on one of the drone’s motherboards. It’s the same board that controls the transceivers and antennas. We think it’s a design flaw with the hardware since we’ve been able to reproduce the problem several times.”
Einhorn dropped the file on his desk and leaned back in his chair, clearly irritated. “So, was it hacked?”
“I didn’t think so,” the Admiral scoffed. “I told them they were sending you boys out for nothing.”
This time Clay and Caesare looked at each other. “Well,” replied Caesare, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that it
Einhorn furrowed his brow at Caesare. He didn’t care for either one of them. He had a department to run, one of the most important in the Navy, and he didn’t like these guys from investigations poking their noses wherever they liked. Yet, while Einhorn was not happy, he certainly wasn’t stupid either.
It wasn’t clear why, but he knew both of the commanders standing before him reported directly to Admiral Langford, the President’s new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Langford had replaced General Griffith, who moved to fill the role of National Security Advisor after that position was unexpectedly vacated. Now Langford had the President’s ear, so Einhorn wasn’t about to do or say anything stupid.
“So, what’s your recommendation then?” asked Einhorn, with heavy sarcasm.
Clay paid no attention to the Admiral’s tone. “A full analysis, which includes an audit of the hardware design and software computer code.”
“And how long will that take?”
“I’m not sure, sir. It would depend on the resources available.” Clay knew Einhorn wasn’t going to like any estimate he offered, so he simply left it at that.
Einhorn grunted and picked up the folder again. “Well, I trust Langford will let us know how to proceed. I suppose that’s all, gentlemen. Thank you for your time.”
Clay and Caesare both gave slight nods and spun around. They walked back to the door and exited without a sound.
After Caesare pulled the door closed behind him, he looked at Clay. “Have we ever discussed how thankless this job is?”
“Almost weekly,” smiled Clay. He turned to fall into step with Caesare when his cell phone rang. Stopping, he pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the displayed number. “It’s Langford.”
He held the phone to his ear. “This is Clay.” After a long pause, he replied with a simple, “Yes, sir.”
Caesare raised his eyebrows, curiously. “That was quick.”
“We need to find a conference room.”
Truth be told, Admiral Langford never wanted the chairman job. But in the end, he was an officer and the President asked him to do it. And frankly, he was leery of who else would have been asked had he declined. Although he originally had his doubts, Langford decided that Carr actually had the fortitude and ethics to be a solid President. And that was something most military leaders longed for.
Langford’s weathered face appeared on the video screen in front of Clay and Caesare. “I see you’ve uploaded your report on the drone. Have you talked to Einhorn yet?”
“Yes, sir,” Clay nodded. “We just dropped off the signed hard copy.”
“How’d he take it?”
Caesare smiled. “He loved it!”
“I bet.” Langford couldn’t decide whether to scoff or roll his eyes. “I guess as long as he didn’t physically throw you out of his office, we can consider it a success. You’re probably aware that he’s not a big fan of Investigations.”
“We picked up on that.”
“Good,” Langford continued, glancing at his watch. “I’m sure I’ll be hearing from him shortly.” He looked back into the camera. “In the meantime, I’m sending a plane for you. I need you on it ASAP.”
“Where are we going?”
“Brazil. We have a bit of a situation. Call it a surprise.”
“I hate surprises,” Caesare chortled.
Clay looked at Caesare. “That’s true, sir. His second marriage was largely a surprise.”
The corner of Langford’s lip curled at the joke. “Relax. It’s not an engagement party. It appears we are the proud owners of a new sub.”
Clay and Caesare peered with anticipation at the screen.
“Last night the Brazilian Navy captured a submarine off the coast of French Giana. It’s Russian. November class.”
Both men’s expressions changed from curious to confused. “November class? I thought those were decommissioned.”
“So did we.” The admiral leaned forward onto his elbows. “It appears at least one was not. It was first detected three days ago and a Brazilian Tikuna was dispatched.”
it?” Clay asked. A single submarine catching another was quite a feat.
Langford smiled, reading Clay’s face. “Well, they asked for a little help. We had two of our boats behind the Tikuna. Unofficially, of course.”
“What’s a November doing in Brazilian waters?” asked Caesare. “Something that old wouldn’t simply be out on patrol.”
“No, it wouldn’t. Unfortunately, we don’t know why. The crew isn’t talking. All twenty-seven of them.”
“A skeleton crew,” confirmed Langford.
Caesare raised an eyebrow. “Is that even possible?”
“What did the Russians say?”
“We haven’t asked them yet,” Langford replied, with a smile.
“You’re not suggesting
talk to the crew, sir?”
“No, I want you two to get down there and take a look at that Russian sub. The pictures we got back suggest it has something important on board, and we want to know what it is.”