Deep storm, p.1
Deep Storm, p.1Lincoln Child
TWENTY MONTHS LATER
Also by Lincoln Child
At Doubleday, I’d like to thank my editor, Jason Kaufman, for his friendship as well as his tireless assistance in countless matters. For their consistent enthusiasm since the beginning, thanks to Bill Thomas and Adrienne Sparks. And thanks to Jenny Choi and the rest of the gang for their dedication, hard work, and support. Eric Simonoff at Janklow & Nesbit and Matthew Snyder of the Creative Artists Agency were, as always, indispensable and irreplaceable.
Thanks also to my wife, Luchie, and my daughter, Veronica, without whom this book could not have been written.
Doug Preston—writing partner, “brother from another mother”—was right there with me in the trenches during the creation of the novel. He made literally dozens of contributions, both large and small, to my conception. His importance to the story can’t be overstated.
And to the many others who helped Deep Storm become the book it is—especially Claudia Rülke; Voelker Knapperz, M.D.; Lee Suckno, M.D.; and Ed Buchwald—my deep appreciation.
It goes without saying that Deep Storm is a work of fiction. All persons, places, locales, incidents, corporations, government institutions, or facilities are either fictitious or used fictitiously.
• PROLOGUE •
STORM KING OIL PLATFORM
Off the Coast of Greenland
It took a certain kind of man, Kevin Lindengood decided, to work an oil rig. A certain screwed-up kind of man.
He sat morosely before his console in the Drilling Control Center. Outside, beyond the reinforced windows, the North Atlantic was a blizzard of black and white. Spindrift frothed above its surface, churning, angry.
But then again, the North Atlantic always seemed angry. It didn’t matter that the Storm King oil platform towered more than a thousand feet over the surface: the ocean’s vastness made the platform seem tiny, a child’s toy that might be swept away at any moment.
“Pig status?” asked John Wherry, the offshore installation manager.
Lindengood glanced down at his console. “Seventy-one negative and rising.”
“All readings nominal. Everything looks good.”
His gaze rose once again to the dark, dripping windows. The Storm King platform was the northernmost rig in the Maury oil field. Somewhere out there, forty-odd miles to the north, was land, or what passed for it around here: Angmagssalik, Greenland. Although on a day like this, it was hard to believe there was anything on the surface of the planet but ocean.
Yes: it took a screwed-up kind of man to work an oil rig (and they were always men, unfortunately—the only women ever “on platform” were company relations flaks and morale officers who came by helicopter, made sure everybody was well adjusted, then left as quickly as possible). Every man seemed to bring his own portion of unfinished business, personality tic, or lovingly tended neurosis. Because what drove a person to work inside a metal box suspended over a freezing sea by steel toothpicks? Never knowing when a monster storm might come along, pick him up, and fling him into oblivion? Everybody liked to claim it was the high pay, but there were plenty of jobs on dry land that paid almost as much. No: the truth was that everybody came here to escape something or—more frightening—escape to something.
His terminal gave a low beep. “The pig’s cleared number two.”
“Understood,” said Wherry.
At the terminal next to Lindengood, Fred Hicks cracked his knuckles, then grasped a joystick built into his console. “Positioning pig over well slot three.”
Lindengood glanced at him. Hicks, the on-duty process engineer, was a perfect example. Hicks had a first-generation iPod on which he had stored nothing but Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas. He played them constantly, day and night, on shift and off, over and over and over. And he hummed them while he listened. Lindengood had heard them all, and had in fact memorized them all—as had just about everybody on Storm King—through Hicks’s breathy humming.
It was not a tutelage likely to foster music appreciation.
“Pig in position over number three,” Hicks said. He adjusted his earbuds and resumed humming the Waldstein sonata.
“Lower away,” said Wherry.
“Roger.” And Lindengood turned back to his terminal.
There were just the three of them in the Drilling Control Center. In fact, the entire massive rig was like a ghost city this morning. The pumps were silent; the riggers, drillers, and derrick men were lounging in their quarters, watching satellite TV in the crew’s mess, or playing Ping-Pong or pinball. It was the last day of the month, and that meant everything had to come to a complete stop while electromagnetic pigs were sent down to clean the drilling pipes.
All ten drilling pipes.
Ten minutes passed, then twenty. Hicks’s humming changed in tempo, acquired a kind of nasal urgency: clearly, the Waldstein sonata had ended and the Hammerklavier had begun.
As he watched his screen, Lindengood did a mental calculation. It was over ten thousand feet to the ocean floor. Another thousand or more to the oil field itself. One hundred and ten thousand feet of pipe to clean. And as production engineer, it was his job to run the pig up and down again and again, under the watchful eye of the rig boss.
Life was wonderful.
As if on cue, Wherry spoke up. “Pig status?”
“Eight thousand seven hundred feet and descending.” Once the pig got to the bottom of pipe three—the deepest of the bores into the ocean bed—it would pause, then begin crawling upward again, as the slow, tedious process of cleaning and inspecting began.
Lindengood shot a glance at Wherry. The offshore installation manager was validation of his certain-kind-of-man theory. The guy must have been beat up one too many times on the school playground, because he had a serious authority problem. Usually, chiefs were low-key, laid-back. They realized life on the plat
Suddenly, Hicks’s console began beeping. As Lindengood looked on uninterestedly, Hicks leaned forward, scanning the readings.
“We’ve got a problem with the pig,” he said, plucking out his earbuds and frowning. “It’s tripped out.”
“What?” Wherry walked over to examine the monitoring screen. “High pressure discharge?”
“No. The feedback’s all garbled, never seen anything like it.”
“Reset,” said Wherry.
“You got it.” Hicks made a few adjustments on his console. “There it goes. Tripped out again.”
“Again? Already? Shit.” Wherry turned abruptly to Lindengood. “Cut power to the electromagnet and do a system inventory.”
Lindengood complied with a heavy sigh. There were still seven pipes to go, and if the pig was acting screwy already, Wherry was going to have a fit…
Lindengood froze. That can’t be. It’s impossible.
Without taking his eyes from the screen, he reached over and plucked Wherry’s sleeve. “John.”
“What is it?”
“Look at the sensors.”
The manager stepped over, glanced at the sensor readout. “What the hell? Didn’t I just tell you to turn off the electromagnet?”
“I did. It’s off.”
“Look for yourself,” Lindengood said. His mouth had gone dry, and a funny feeling was growing in the pit of his stomach.
The manager peered more closely at the controls. “Then what’s making those—”
Suddenly, he stopped. Then, very slowly, he straightened, face going pale in the blue wash of the cold-cathode display. “Oh, my God…”
• TWENTY MONTHS LATER •
It looked, Peter Crane thought, like a stork: a huge white stork, rising out of the ocean on ridiculously delicate legs. But as the helicopter drew closer and the outline sharpened against the sea horizon, this resemblance gradually fell away. The legs grew sturdier, became tubular pylons of steel and pre-stressed concrete. The central body became a multilevel superstructure, studded with flare stacks and turbines, festooned with spars and girders. And the thin, necklike object above resolved into a complex crane-and-derrick assembly, rising several hundred feet above the superstructure.
The pilot pointed at the approaching platform, held up two fingers. Crane nodded.
It was a brilliant, cloudless day, and Crane squinted against the bright ocean stretching away on all sides. He felt tired and disoriented by travel: commercial flight from Miami to New York, private Gulfstream G150 charter to Reykjavik, and now helicopter. But the weariness hadn’t blunted his deep—and growing—curiosity.
It wasn’t so much that Amalgamated Shale was interested in his particular expertise: that he understood. It was the hurry with which they’d wanted him to drop everything and rush out to the Storm King platform that surprised him. Then there was the fact that AmShale’s forward headquarters in Iceland had, rather oddly, been bustling with technicians and engineers rather than the usual drillers and roughnecks.
And then there was the other thing. The helicopter pilot wasn’t an AmShale employee. He wore a Navy uniform—and a sidearm.
As the chopper banked sharply around the side of the platform, heading for the landing zone, Crane realized for the first time just how large the oil rig was. The jacket structure alone had to be eight stories high. Its upper deck was covered with a bewildering maze of modular units. Here and there, men in yellow safety uniforms checked couplings and worked pump equipment, dwarfed by the machinery that surrounded them. Far below, the ocean frothed around the pillars of the substructure, where it vanished beneath the surface to run the thousands of feet to the sea floor itself.
The chopper slowed, turned, and settled down within the green hexagon of the landing zone. As Crane reached back for his bags, he noticed someone was standing at the edge, waiting: a tall, thin woman in an oilskin jacket. He thanked the pilot, opened the passenger door, and stepped out into bracing air, instinctively ducking under the whirring blades.
The woman held out her hand at his approach. “Dr. Crane?”
Crane shook the hand. “Yes.”
“This way, please.” The woman led the way off the landing platform, down a short set of stairs, and along a metal catwalk to a closed, submarine-style hatch. She did not give her name.
A uniformed seaman stood guard outside the hatch, rifle at his side. He nodded as they approached, opened the hatch, then closed and secured it behind them.
Beyond lay a brightly lit corridor, studded along both sides with open doors. There was no frantic hum of turbines, no deep throbbing of drilling equipment. The smell of oil, though detectable, was faint, almost as if efforts had been made to remove it.
Crane followed the woman, bags slung over his shoulder, glancing curiously into the rooms as he passed. There were laboratories full of whiteboards and workstations; computer centers; communications suites. Topside had been quiet, but there was plenty of activity here.
Crane decided he’d venture some questions. “Are the divers in a hyperbaric chamber? Can I see them now?”
“This way, please,” the woman repeated.
They turned a corner, descended a staircase, and entered another hallway, wider and longer than the first. The rooms they passed were larger: machine shops, storage bays for high-tech equipment Crane didn’t recognize. He frowned. Although Storm King resembled an oil rig in all outward appearances, it was clearly no longer in the business of pumping crude.
What the hell is going on here?
“Have any vascular specialists or pulmonologists been flown in from Iceland?” he asked.
The woman didn’t answer, and Crane shrugged. He’d come this far—he could stand to wait another couple of minutes.
The woman stopped before a closed gray metal door. “Mr. Lassiter is waiting for you.”
Lassiter? That wasn’t a name he recognized. The person who’d spoken to him over the phone, briefed him about the problem at the rig, had been named Simon. He glanced at the door. There was the nameplate, white letters on black plastic, spelling out E. LASSITER, EX-TERNAL LIAISON.
Crane turned back to the woman in the oilskin jacket, but she was already moving back down the corridor. He shifted his bags, knocked on the door.
“Enter,” came the crisp voice from within.
Lassiter was a tall, thin man with closely cropped blond hair. He stood up as Crane entered, came around his desk, shook hands. He wasn’t wearing a military uniform, but with his haircut and his brisk, economical movements he might as well have been. The office was small and just as efficient looking as its tenant. The desk was almost studiously bare: there was a single manila envelope on it, sealed, and a digital recorder.
“You can stow your gear there,” Lassiter said, indicating a far corner. “Please sit down.”
“Thanks.” Crane took the proffered seat. “I’m eager to learn just what the emergency is. My escort here didn’t have much to say on the subject.”
“Actually, neither will I.” Lassiter gave a smile, which disappeared as quickly as it came. “My job is to ask you a few questions.”
Crane digested this. “Go ahead,” he said after a moment.
Lassiter pressed a button on the recorder. “This recording is taking place on June second. Present are myself—Edward Lassiter—and Dr. Peter Crane. Location is the ERF Support and Supply Station.” Lassiter glanced over the desk at Crane. “Dr. Crane, you are aware that your tour of service here cannot be fixed to a specific length?”
“And you understand that you must never divulge anything you witness here, or recount your actions while at the Facility?”
“And are you willing to sign an affidavit to that effect?”
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“Were you born a citizen of the United States, or are you naturalized?”
“I was born in New York City.”
“Are you taking medication for any ongoing physical condition?”
“Do you abuse alcohol or drugs with any regularity?”
Crane had fielded the questions with growing surprise. “Unless you call the occasional weekend six-pack ‘abuse,’ then no.”
Lassiter didn’t smile. “Are you claustrophobic, Dr. Crane?”
Lassiter put the recorder on pause. Then he picked up the manila envelope, tore it open with a finger, pulled out half a dozen sheets of paper, and passed them across the table. “If you could please read and sign each of these,” he said, plucking a pen from a pocket and placing it beside the sheets.
Crane picked them up and began to read. As he did so, his surprise turned to disbelief. There were three separate nondisclosure agreements, an Official Secrets Act affidavit, and something called a Binding Cooperation Initiative. All were branded documents of the U.S. government, all required signature, and all threatened dire consequences if any of their articles were breached.
Crane put the documents down, aware of Lassiter’s gaze upon him. This was too much. Maybe he should thank Lassiter politely, then excuse himself and head back to Florida.
But how, exactly, was he going to do that? AmShale had paid a great deal of money to get him here. The helicopter had already left. He was having trouble deciding between two research projects at the moment. And besides, he had never been one to turn down a challenge, especially one as mysterious as this.
He picked up the pen and, without giving himself time to reconsider, signed all the documents.
“Thank you,” Lassiter said. He started the recorder again. “Let the transcript show that Dr. Crane has signed the requisite forms.” Then, snapping off the recorder, he stood. “If you’ll follow me, Doctor, I think you’ll get your answers.”
Deep Storm by Lincoln Child / Thrillers & Crime / Mystery & Detective / Science Fiction / Actions & Adventure / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes