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Valhalla rising, p.51
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       Valhalla Rising, p.51

           Clive Cussler
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  She leaned out and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Thank you," she said softly.

  He smiled and waved as Giordino pulled the car from the curb into traffic.

  Pitt went directly to Sandecker's office, where he found the admiral and Rudi Gunn waiting for him. Sandecker was back in one of his good moods, puffing contentedly on one of his big personally wrapped cigars. He stepped over and shook Pitt's hand vigorously. "Great job, great job," he repeated. "Brilliant concept, using a spar with underwater explosives contained in magnetic canisters. You blew half the stern off the ship without endangering the propane tanks."

  "We were lucky it worked," said Pitt modestly.

  Gunn also shook Pitt's hand. "You left us with quite a mess to clean up."

  "It could have been worse."

  "We're already working out contracts with salvage companies to remove the ship. Don't want it to be a menace to navigation," said Gunn.

  "What about the propane?"

  "The tops of the tanks are only thirty feet below the surface," explained Sandecker. "The divers shouldn't have a problem hooking up pipes and pumps to other LNG tankers to remove the gas."

  "The Coast Guard has already set buoys around the wreck, and stationed a lightship as a warning to incoming and outgoing ship traffic," Gunn added.

  Sandecker moved back behind his desk and blew a large cloud of blue smoke toward the ceiling. "How did Loren's hearing go?"

  "Not good for Curtis Merlin Zale."

  The admiral's face took on a contented look. "Do I hear the sound of a jail door closing?"

  Pitt's lips raised in a slight grin. "I believe that after he's convicted and sentenced, Curtis Merlin Zale will spend the rest of his days on death row."

  Gunn nodded. "A fitting conclusion for a man who murdered hundreds of innocent people in the name of money and power."

  "It won't be the last time we'll see the likes of Zale," said Pitt morbidly. "It's only a matter of time before another sociopath comes along."

  "You'd better go on home and get some rest," said Sandecker charitably. "Then take a few days off for your research project on Elmore Egan."

  "Which reminds me," Gunn said, "Hiram Yaeger wants to see you."

  Pitt went down to the computer floor of NUMA and found Yaeger sitting in a small storeroom, staring at Egan's leather briefcase. He looked up as Pitt entered, held up his hand and pointed to the interior of the open case.

  "Good timing. It should begin filling with oil in another thirty seconds."

  "You have a timetable?" inquired Pitt.

  "The fill goes in sequence. Every inflow takes place precisely fourteen hours after the last one."

  "Any idea why it's always fourteen hours?"

  "Max is working on it," answered Yaeger, closing a heavy, steel door that looked like one on a bank vault. "That's why I wanted you in the storeroom. It's a secure area with steel walls for the protection of important data in the event of fire. Radio waves, microwaves, sound, light-nothing can penetrate these walls."

  "And it still fills with oil?"

  "Watch and see." Yaeger studied his watch, then began to count down with his index finger. "Now!" he exclaimed.

  Before Pitt's eyes, the interior of Egan's leather case began filling with oil as if poured by an unseen hand. "It has to be some kind of trick."

  "No trick," said Yaeger, closing the lid.

  "But how?"

  "Max and I finally found the answer. Egan's case is a receiver."

  "I'm drawing a blank," said Pitt, confused.

  Yaeger opened the heavy steel door and led the way back to his sophisticated computer system. Max stood on her stage and smiled at their arrival. "Hello, Dirk. I missed you."

  Pitt laughed. "I would have brought flowers, but you can't hold them."

  "It's no fun not having substance, let me tell you."

  "Max," said Yaeger, "tell Dirk what we've discovered about Dr. Egan's leather case."

  "The solution took me less than an hour, once I put my circuit boards on the problem." Max gazed at Pitt as though she had feelings toward him. "Did Hiram tell you the case is a receiver?"

  "Yes, but what kind of a receiver?"

  "Quantum teleportation."

  Pitt stared at Max. "That's not possible. Teleportation is beyond the realm of current physics."

  "That's what Hiram and I thought when we began our analysis. But it's a fact. The oil that appears in the case is originally placed in a chamber somewhere that measures every atom and molecule. The oil is then altered to a quantum state that is sent and reconstructed in the receiving unit, down to the exact number of atoms and molecules, according to the measurements from the sending chamber. I have, of course, way oversimplified the process. What still mystifies me is how the oil can be sent through solid objects, and with the speed of light. I hope I can find the answer with time."

  "Do you know what you're saying?" said Pitt, totally incredulous.

  "Indeed we do," said Max confidently. "Though it presents an incredible scientific breakthrough, don't get your hopes up. There is no way a human could be teleported anytime in the future. Even if it were possible to send and receive a person thousands of miles away and then re-create his body, we wouldn't be able to teleport his mind and the data he has accumulated in a lifetime. He would step out of the receiving chamber with the brain pattern of a newborn baby. Oil, on the other hand, is made up of liquid hydrocarbons and other minerals. Compared with a human, its molecular makeup is far less complicated."

  Pitt sat down, trying desperately to put the pieces together. "It seems fantastic that Dr. Egan created a revolutionary dynamic engine in almost the same time span that he designed a working teleporter."

  "The man was a genius," said Max. "No doubt about it. What makes him even more extraordinary is that he did it without an army of assistants or a huge government-sponsored laboratory."

  "That's true," Pitt agreed. "He did it alone in a hidden lab ... the location of which we've yet to ferret out."

  "I hope you find it," said Yaeger. "The significance of Egan's discovery has mind-boggling possibilities. Substances with basic molecular structures, such as oil, coal, iron or copper ore, and a great variety of other minerals, could be transported without the use of ships, trains and trucks. His teleportation system can rewrite the entire world of product transportation."

  Pitt considered the immense potential for a few moments before staring at Max. "Tell me, Max, do you have enough data from Dr. Egan's case to re-create a teleporter device?"

  Max shook her wraithlike head sadly. "No, I'm sorry to say. I do not have enough input to place me in the ballpark. Though I have Dr. Egan's receiving chamber as a model, the primary part of the system lies with the sending unit. I could work on the problem for years and not find a solution."

  Yaeger laid a hand on Pitt's shoulder. "I wish Max and I could have given you a more detailed picture."

  "You both did a remarkable job, and I'm grateful," said Pitt sincerely. "Now it's my turn to supply the answers."

  Pitt stopped by his office before heading to the hangar to clear his desk, read his mail and answer voice messages. After an hour, he found himself fighting to stay awake, so he decided to call it a day. At that moment, his phone rang.

  "Hello."

  "Dirk!" thundered St. Julien Perlmutter's voice. "I'm glad I caught you."

  "St. Julien. Where are you?"

  "In Amiens, France. Dr. Hereoux has graciously allowed me to remain in Jules Verne's house and work through the night studying a notebook Hugo and I found hidden by Verne almost a hundred years ago."

  "Did it supply you with answers?" asked Pitt, his curiosity kindled.

  "You were on the right track. Captain Nemo truly existed, except his true name was Cameron Amherst. He was a captain in the Royal Navy."

  "Not Dakar the Indian prince?"

  "No," replied Perlmutter. "Apparently, Verne had a hatred against the British and changed Cameron's name and native country from En
gland to India."

  "What was his story?"

  "Amherst came from a wealthy family of shipbuilders and shipowners. He joined the Royal Navy and rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming a captain at age twenty-nine. Born in eighteen thirty and blessed with a brilliant mind, he was a child prodigy and became an engineering genius. He constandy came up with all sorts of inventive designs for ships and their propulsion systems. Unfortunately, he was a bit of a firebrand. When the old mossbacks in the admiralty refused to consider his proposals, he went to the newspapers and vilified them as ignorant men afraid of the future. He was then unceremoniously kicked out of the Navy for insubordination."

  "Much like Billy Mitchell eighty years later."

  "A fair comparison." Perlmutter continued, "Verne met Amherst on a voyage across the Adantic on the passenger liner Great Eastern. It was Amherst who regaled Verne with stories of his desire to build an underwater vessel capable of going anywhere beneath the oceans. He drew designs on Verne's notebook paper and described in detail the revolutionary propulsion system he had devised to power his radical submarine. Needless to say, Verne was enthralled. He kept up heavy correspondence with Amherst for four years. Then suddenly, the letters stopped coming. Verne went on to write imaginative tales and became famous, and put Amherst from his mind.

  "Verne loved the sea, as you know, and he owned several yachts, which he sailed around Europe. It was on one of these voyages off Denmark that a great whalelike vessel rose out of the sea and drifted alongside Verne's sailboat. A stunned Verne, along with his son, Michel, who'd accompanied him, watched as Captain Amherst rose from a forward hatch tower and hailed him, inviting the writer to come aboard. Leaving his boat in Michel's command, Verne went aboard Amherst's astounding underwater vessel."

  "So the Nautilus did exist."

  Perlmutter nodded almost reverentiy on his end of the phone. "Verne learned that Amherst had secretly built his submarine in a great underwater cavern beneath the cliffs under his family estate in Scodand. When the vessel was completed and had successfully passed its trials, Amherst put together a crew of professional seamen who were unmarried and not bound to families. He then sailed the seas for thirty years."

  "How long was Verne on board?" asked Pitt.

  "Verne ordered his son to sail the yacht back to port and wait in the hotel there. He was flattered that his old friend had sought him out. He stayed on board the Nautilus, which was the actual name given the sub by Amherst, for nearly two weeks."

  "Not two years, like the people in the novel?"

  "It was more than ample time for Verne to study every inch of the vessel, which he exactingly recorded in his book, with a few writer's liberties here and there. A few years later, he produced Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea."

  "What finally happened to Amherst?"

  "According to an account in Verne's notebook, a mysterious messenger came to his house in 1895 and gave him a letter from Amherst. Most of the captain's crew had died and he had intended to return to his ancestral home in Scotland, but it had been destroyed in a fire that killed his remaining relatives. In addition, the cavern in the cliffs where he had built the Nautilus had suffered a cave-in, so there wasn't even that to return to."

  "So he sailed to the Mysterious Island?"

  "No," stated Perlmutter. "Verne made that up so the final resting place of Amherst and his Nautilus would not be found. Not, at least, for a long, long time. The letter went on to say that Amherst had found a similar underwater cavern on the Hudson River in New York, which would serve as the tomb for him and the Nautilus."

  Pitt stiffened, unable to suppress a shout of euphoria. "The Hudson River?"

  "That's what was written in the notebook."

  "St.Julien."

  "Yes."

  "I love you to death."

  Perlmutter gave out with a chuckle. "My dear boy, with my colossal body, you could never get near enough to do that."

  56

  The early-morning mist hung poised over the blue water of the river just as it had nearly a thousand years ago when the Norsemen arrived. Visibility was less than a hundred yards, and the fleet of small sailing yachts and powerboats that usually crowded the river on most summer Sundays had yet to leave their docks. The mist was like the touch of a young woman, soft and gentle, as it curled around the little boat that cruised along the shore beneath the rocky palisades. She was not a graceful craft, nor did her bow and stern rise into the mist with intricately carved dragons like those that had come so many centuries before. She was a twenty-six-foot NUMA work boat, efficient, functional and designed for a close-to-shore survey.

  The speed was kept to a meticulous four knots as it dragged the long, narrow, yellow sensor below the water in its wake. Signals from the sensor were sent into the recording unit of the side-scan sonar, and Giordino stood and stared intently at the colored three-dimensional display that revealed the bottom of the river and the submerged rock at the base of the palisades. There was no beach, only a brief bit of sand and rock that quickly dropped off again once it reached the water.

  Kelly stood at the helm, steering cautiously and keeping her sapphire blue eyes darting between the shoreline to her left and the waters ahead, respectful and wary of any underwater rocks that might carve up the bottom of the boat. The small craft seemed to be barely crawling through the water. The throtde of the big Yamaha 250-horsepower outboard motor on the stern was barely set a notch above idle.

  She wore only basic makeup, and her honey maple hair was braided down her back, the mist building on the woven strands, droplets glistening like pearls. Her brief shorts were white, accented by a sea-foam green sleeveless sweater worn under a lightweight jersey cotton jacket. Her feet, nicely shaped, were inserted into open sandals whose color matched her sweater. The long, sculptured legs were spread with feet firmly planted on the deck to compensate for any roll caused by the wake of a passing boat unseen in the mist.

  As focused as he was on the sonar recording, Giordino could not resist an occasional quick glance at Kelly's firmly encased stern. Pitt did not have the opportunity. He was comfortably laid back in a lawn chair plopped on the bow of the survey boat. Not one to put up a front to impress anyone, he often carried his favorite lawn chair and a thick soft pad on expeditions such as this one, when he saw no reason to stand for hours at a stretch. He reached down and raised a cup with a flared base for stability and sipped at the black coffee inside. Then he resumed peering at the palisades through wide-angle binoculars whose lenses were ground for detailed close viewing.

  Except for sections where the ridges of volcanic rock rose in sheer vertical formation, the steep slopes were covered with brush and small trees. Part of the Newark Basin rift system that had become inactive during the Jurassic Age, the palisades contained characteristic sedimentary sandstones and mud rocks, which had a reddish-brown color and were used to build the brownstone homes and town houses of New York City. The steeper escarpments were composed of igneous rock that was highly resistant to erosion, giving it a great natural beauty.

  "Another two hundred yards before we pass beneath Dad's farm," announced Kelly.

  "Any readings, Al?" Pitt asked through the windshield that was propped open.

  "Rocks and silt," Giordino answered briefly. "Silt and rocks."

  "Keep an eye out for any indication of a rock slide."

  "You think the entrance to the cavern might have been sealed by nature?"

  "I'm guessing it was by man."

  "If Cameron took his sub inside the cliffs, there must have been an underwater cavity."

  Pitt talked without lowering the glasses. "The question is whether it still exists."

  "You'd think sport divers would have stumbled onto it by now," said Kelly.

  "It could only happen by chance. There are no wrecks to dive on near here and there are better spots in the river to spearfish."

  "One hundred yards," warned Kelly.

  Pitt aimed the glasses at the top of the
cliff three hundred and fifty feet above and saw the roofs of Egan's house and study rising over the edge. He leaned forward in anticipation and carefully studied the face of the palisade. "I see signs of a fall," he said, pointing at the scattered mass of rock that had slid and tumbled down the side of the steep cliff.

  Giordino took a swift glance out his side window to see what Pitt was pointing toward and then quickly refocused on the images on the recording paper. "Nothing yet," he reported.

  "Steer another twenty feet from shore," Pitt ordered Kelly. "That will give the sonar a better angle to read the slope underwater."

 
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