Shadow tyrants, p.1
TITLES BY CLIVE CUSSLER
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Titles by Clive Cussler
Cast of Characters
About the Authors
Cast of Characters
The Kalinga War
Ashoka the Terrible Mauryan Emperor.
Kathar Mauryan general.
Vit Ashoka’s younger brother.
Juan Cabrillo Chairman of the Corporation and captain of the Oregon.
Max Hanley President of the Corporation, Juan’s second-in-command, and chief engineer of the Oregon.
Linda Ross Vice president of operations for the Corporation and U.S. Navy veteran.
Eddie Seng Director of shore operations for the Corporation and former CIA agent.
Eric Stone Chief helmsman on the Oregon and U.S. Navy veteran.
Mark “Murph” Murphy Chief weapons officer on the Oregon and former U.S. military weapons designer.
Franklin “Linc” Lincoln Corporation operative and former U.S. Navy SEAL.
Marion MacDougal “MacD” Lawless Corporation operative and former U.S. Army Ranger.
Raven Malloy Corporation operative and former U.S. Army Military Police investigator.
George “Gomez” Adams Helicopter pilot and drone operator on the Oregon.
Hali Kasim Chief communications officer on the Oregon.
Dr. Julia Huxley Chief medical officer on the Oregon.
Kevin Nixon Chief of the Oregon’s Magic Shop.
Maurice Chief steward on the Oregon.
Chuck “Tiny” Gunderson Chief fixed-wing pilot for the Corporation.
The Nine Unknown and Associates
Romir Mallik CEO of Orbital Ocean and descendant gifted with the cosmogony scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Xavier Carlton CEO of Unlimited News International and descendant gifted with the propaganda scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Jason Wakefield CEO of Vedor Telecom and descendant gifted with the communication scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Lionel Gupta CEO of OreDyne Systems and descendant gifted with the alchemy scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Melissa Valentine Internet search firm founder and descendant gifted with the scroll about the mysteries of light from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Daniel Saidon CEO of Saidon Heavy Industries and descendant gifted with the gravity scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Pedro Neves Biotech executive and descendant gifted with the scroll on diseases from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Boris Volanski Head of military contracting firm and descendant gifted with the physiology scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Hans Schultz Swiss banker and descendant gifted with the sociology scroll from the Scrolls of Knowledge.
Asad Torkan Brother-in-law of Romir Mallik.
Rasul Torkan Asad Torkan’s twin.
Natalie Taylor Assistant to Xavier Carlton.
Missing plane victims
Lyla Dhawan Chief technology officer of Singular Solutions.
Adam Carlton Son of Xavier Carlton.
Central Intelligence Agency
Langston Overholt IV The Corporation’s CIA liaison.
Diego Garcia incident
Keith Tao Leader of Triton Star hijackers.
Major Jay Petkunas B-1B bomber pilot.
Captain Hank Larsson B-1B bomber copilot.
Lieutenant Colonel Barbara Goodman Air Force Global Positioning System commander.
Sergeant Joseph Brandt Camp Thunder Cove communications operator.
Fyodor Yudin Warden.
Chen Min Chief scientist.
General Arnav Ghosh Head of the Indian military’s weapons procurement.
Kiara Jain Bollywood actress.
Gautam Puri Kiara’s boyfriend.
Prisha Naidu Bollywood actress and friend of Kiara’s.
Samar Naidu Prisha’s husband.
THE KINGDOM OF KALINGA
THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
The air reeked of smoke and burnt flesh. The army’s main encampment was on the other side of the destroyed city. The only sound was the restless shuffling of hooves from the Imperial Guard’s horses and the snapping of the Royal Lion banner in the breeze.
“How many dead?” Mauryan Emperor Ashoka the Terrible asked his top general, Kathar, who sat astride an ebony stallion that contrasted with Ashoka’s brilliant white steed.
“It is a glorious victory, Excellency,” Kathar said. “We have lost only ten thousand men during the entire campaign.”
For a week Ashoka rode through the nation he had conquered and saw nothing but death and destruction. Now as they crested the heavily forested hill overlooking the remains of Tosali, Kalinga’s capital, he finally saw the true extent of his war to crush the last kingdom on the subcontinent that refused to bow to his rule. The entire city had been incinerated, and the fields were littered with corpses as far as the eye could see.
His army’s ten thousand casualties meant that one out of every seven soldiers had been killed or wounded in battle. Despite the staggering numbers, it was still the mightiest force south of the Himalayas, possibly in the whole world. No army known could stand against him. But that was not his concern right now.
Ashoka turned from the vast scene of carnage and stared at his general. “I mean, how many have we slain?”
Kathar smiled, cruel and unremorseful about the savage annihilation he had caused of a proud people. “My officers tell me that we have wiped out one hundred thousand Kalingan soldiers. None were spared. An equal number of civilians were either killed or deported in the plunder after the battles. We have taught the world a lesson. No one will dare defy us again.”
Ashoka did not return the smile. Instead of pride over his great triumph, he felt a deep shame that had been festering for days. Unwilling to become his subjects, the citizens of Kalinga had fought to the last man, woman, and child. He’d heard tales of entire villages committing suicide rather than suffer brutalization by his rampaging army.
His empire now stretched from Persia to the Ganges Delta. This ride was supposed to have been a survey of his monumental achievement. Instead, it had become a trail of infamy, a testament to his viciousness, and it was changing his view of the world in profound ways. Ashoka knew he couldn’t let this be his lasting legacy.
He deserved his title Ashoka the Terrible. He had done hideous things to secure his reign as emperor. He’d killed ninety-nine of his one hundred half brothers to prevent them from overthrowing him, sparing only his younger brother Vit, his most trusted adviser. He’d created a prison known as Ashoka’s Hell, where his enemies endured every kind of torture imaginable. No inmate had ever come out alive.
But all of that paled in comparison to the suffering he’d seen over the past week’s ride. These were not betrayers and criminals. The dead and exiled of Kalinga were noble soldiers fighting for their homeland and its innocent civilians who only wanted to live their lives in peace.
Vit and his forces were scheduled to meet Ashoka today at Kalinga’s capital to bring news from the rest of the country. But what he’d seen already was enough to convince him to turn away from further conquest and focus on improving the lives of his subjects.
The rustle of leaves in the forest caused his guards to draw their swords. Ashoka turned to see a filthy young woman in ragged clothing emerge from the tree line. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she took in the holocaust her people had endured. Then she turn
“Kill this vermin,” Kathar casually said to one of the guards.
The guard raised his sword and readied to charge at her.
“Sheathe your weapons!” Ashoka ordered. “All of you!”
The guards instantly obeyed his command and put away their swords.
Kathar narrowed his eyes at the Emperor. “Excellency?”
“No one will harm this woman.”
She staggered to a stop in front of him without a hint of fear. Ashoka could see only sadness and defiance on her face. She glanced at the Royal Lion on his banner and then stared at him.
“Are you the Emperor Ashoka the Terrible? Are you the butcher who has done this to my people?” She gestured with a weak and trembling arm at the devastation below them.
“How dare you speak to His Excellency with such disrepect!” Kathar yelled. “You will—”
Ashoka put up his hand and looked at the general. “Quiet. I want to hear what she has to say.” He turned back to the woman. “I am Ashoka. Are you from this city?”
She nodded. “Tosali was my home.”
“Are you alone?”
“You should know. Your armies murdered my father, my husband, and my three brothers in battle.”
Kathar shouted at her, “They were not murdered! They died because they refused our gracious offer to surrender and become subjects of the Mauryan Empire! They were nothing more than pathetic vermin to be wiped off the face of the—”
“Enough!” Ashoka dismounted to the surprise of his guards, who immediately surrounded him and the woman as he approached her.
Ashoka took her hand. “Do you not have any family left?”
She shook her head. “My only son died of disease, and my sisters and two daughters were violated before they were sent away to become slaves. I escaped into the woods hoping to find more of my people, but there are none. I am all that is left.” The woman dropped to her knees and clutched at the Emperor’s hand. “Please kill me.”
“Why should I do that? You are no threat to me or my men.”
“You have taken everything from me. I have nothing left to live for. If I don’t starve first, I will suffer the fate of the other women.”