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Other titles in the Clive Cussler series:

Deep Six (Clive Cussler)

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Excerpt

From Chapter One

The hum of the engines below his feet seemed to take on a feverish pitch. Like an unleashed hound, the Catawba seemed to pick up the scent of her quarry. Anticipation gripped all hands. Ignoring the rain, they lined the decks and bridge wings.

"Four hundred meters," the radar operator sang out.

Then a seaman clutching the bow staff began pointing vigorously into the rain.

Dover leaned out the wheelhouse door and shouted through a bullhorn. "Is she afloat?"

"Buoyant as a rubber duck in a bathtub," the seaman bellowed back through cupped hands.

Dover nodded to the lieutenant on watch. "Slow engines."

"Engines one third," the watch lieutenant acknowledged as he moved a series of levers on the ship's automated console.

The Amie Marie slowly emerged through the precipitation. They expected to find her half awash, in a sinking condition. But she sat proud in the water, drifting in the light swells without a hint of dis- tress. There was a silence about her that seemed unnatural, almost ghostly. Her decks were deserted, and Dover's hail over the bullhorn went unanswered.

"A crabber by the look of her," Dover mutter to no one in particular. "Steel hull, about a hundred and ten feet. Probably out of a shipyard in New Orleans."

The radio operator leaned out of the communications room and motioned to Dover. "From the Board of Register, sir. The Amie Marie's owner and skipper is Carl Keating. Home port is Kodiak."

Again Dover hailed the strangely quiet crab boat, this time addressing Keating by name. There was still no response.

The Catawba slowly circled and hove to a hundred meters away, then stopped her engines and drifted alongside.

The steel-cage crab pots were neatly stacked on the deserted deck, and a wisp of exhaust smoke puffed from the funnel, suggesting that her diesel engines were idling in neutral. No human movement could be detected tough the ports or the windows of the wheelhouse.

The boarding party consisted of two officers, Ensign Pat Murphy and Lieutenant Marty Lawrence. Without the usual small talk they donned their exposure suits, which would protect them from the frigid waters if they accidentally fell into the sea. They had lost count of the times they had conducted routine examinations of foreign fishing vessels that strayed inside the Alaskan 200-mile fishing limit, yet there was nothing routine about this investigation. No flesh-and-blood crew lined the rails to greet them. They climbed into a small rubber Zodiac propelled by an outboard motor and cast off.

Darkness was only a few hours away. The rain had eased to a drizzle but the wind had increased, and the sea was rising. An eerie quiet gripped the Catawba. No one spoke; it was as though they were afraid to, at least until the spell produced by the unknown was broken.

They watched as Murphy and Lawrence tied their tiny craft to the crab boat, hoisted themselves to the deck and disappeared through a doorway into the main cabin.

Several minutes dragged by. Occasionally one of the searchers would appear on the deck only to vanish again down a hatchway. The only sound in the Catawba's wheelhouse came from the static over the ship's open radiophone loudspeaker, turned up to high volume and tuned to an emergency frequency.

Suddenly, with such unexpected abruptness that even Dover twitched in surprise, Murphy's voice loudly reverberated inside the wheelhouse. "Go ahead, Amie Marie," Dover answered into a microphone.

"They're all dead."

The words were so cold, so terse, nobody absorbed them at first.

"Repeat."

"No sign of a pulse in any of them. Even the cat bought it."

What the boarding party found was a ship of the dead. Skipper Keating's body rested on the deck, his head leaning against a bulkhead beneath the radio. Scattered throughout the boat in the galley, the messroom and the sleeping quarters were the corpses of the Amie Marie's crew. Their facial expressions were frozen in twisted agony and their limbs contorted in grotesque positions, as though they had violently thrashed away their final moments of life. Their skin had turned an odd black color, and they had gushed blood from every orifice. The ship's Siamese cat lay beside a thick wool blanket it had shredded in its death throes.

Dover's face reflected puzzlement rather than shock at Murphy's description. "Can you determine a cause?" he asked.

"Not even a good guess," Murphy came back. "No indication of struggle. No marks on the bodies, yet they bled like slaughtered pigs. Looks like whatever killed them struck everyone at the same time."

"Stand by."

Dover turned and surveyed the faces around him until he spotted the ship's surgeon, Lieutenant Commander Isaac Thayer.

Doc Thayer was the most popular man aboard the ship. An oldtimer in the Coast Guard service, he had long ago given up the plush offices and high income of shore medicine for the rigors of sea rescue.

"What do you make of it, Doc?" Dover asked.

Thayer shrugged and smiled. "Looks as though I better make a house call."

Dover paced the bridge impatiently while Doc Thayer entered a second Zodiac and motored across the gap dividing the two vessels. Dover ordered the helmsman to position the Catawba to take the crab boat in tow. He was concentrating on the maneuver and didn't notice the radio operator standing at his elbow.

"A signal just in, sir, from a bush pilot airlifting supplies to a team of scientists on Augustine Island."

"Not now," Dover said brusquely.

"It's urgent, Captain," the radio operator persisted.

"Okay, read the guts of it."

" 'Scientific party all dead.' Then something unintelligible and what sounds like 'Save me.'"

Dover stared at him blankly. "That's all?"

"Yes, sir. I tried to raise him again, but there was no reply."

Dover didn't have to study a chart to know Augustine was an uninhabited volcanic island only thirty miles northeast of his present position. A sudden, sickening realization coursed through his mind. He snatched the microphone and shouted into the mouthpiece.

"Murphy! You there?"

Nothing.

"Murphy... Lawrence... do you read me?"

Again no answer.

He looked through the bridge window and saw Doc Thayer climb over the rail of the Amie Marie. Dover could move fast for a man of his mountainous proportions. He snatched a bullhorn and ran outside.

"Doc! Come back, get off that boat!" his amplified voice boomed over the water.

He was too late. Thayer had already ducked into a hatchway and was gone.

The men on the bridge stared at their captain, incomprehension written in their eyes. His facial muscles tensed and there was a look of desperation about him as he rushed back into the wheelhouse and clutched the microphone.

"Doc, this is Dover, can you hear me?"

Two minutes passed, two endless minutes while Dover tried to raise his men on the Amie Marie. Even the earsplitting scream of the Catawba's siren failed to draw a response.

At last Thayer's voice came over the bridge with a strange icy calm.

"I regret to report that Ensign Murphy and Lieutenant Lawrence are dead. I can find no life signs. Whatever the cause it will strike me before I can escape. You must quarantine this boat. Do you un- derstand, Amos?"

Dover found it impossible to grasp that he was suddenly about to lose his old friend. "Do not understand, but will comply."

"Good. I'll describe the symptoms as they come. Beginning to feel light-headed already. Pulse increasing to one fifty. May have contracted the cause by skin absorption. Pulse one seventy."

Thayer paused. His next words came haltingly.

"Growing nausea. Legs... can no longer... support. Intense burning sensation...in sinus region. Internal organs feel like they're exploding."

As one, everybody on the bridge of the Catawba leaned closer to the speaker, unable to comprehend that a man they all knew and respected was dying a short distance away.

"Pulse... over two hundred. Pain... excruciating. Blackness closing vision." There was an audible moan. "Tell... tell my wife..."

The speaker went silent.

You could smell the shock, see it in the widened eyes of the crew standing in stricken horror.

Dover stared numbly at the tomb named the Amie Marie, his hands clenched in helplessness and despair.

"What's happening?" he murmured tonelessly. "What in God's name is killing everyone?"

Copyright © 1984 by Clive Cussler Enterprises, Inc.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780671709457
Editor:
McCarthy, Paul
Author:
McCarthy, Paul
Author:
Kemprecos, Paul
Author:
Cussler, Clive
Publisher:
Pocket
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Espionage/Intrigue
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Adventure
Subject:
Pitt, Dirk (Fictitious character)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
B101
Series:
Clive Cussler
Series Volume:
1987-1
Publication Date:
19900201
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
6.75 x 4.1875 in 7.840 oz

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Adventure
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Nautical Fiction
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Technothrillers

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