State of fear michael crichton



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“Ah. Then I wish youbonne nuit. ”

“Bonne nuit,”she said.

She continued on her way, carrying him. The footsteps became fainter. Then she paused, turned to look in all directions. And now…she was moving him toward the river.

“You are heavier than I thought,” she said, in a conversational tone.

He felt a deep and profound terror. He was completely paralyzed. He could do nothing. His own feet were scraping over the stone.

Toward the river.

“I am sorry,” she said, and she dropped him into the water.

It was a short fall, and a stunning sense of cold. He plunged beneath the surface, surrounded by bubbles and green, then black. He could not move, even in the water. He could not believe this was happening to him, he could not believe that he was dying this way.

Then slowly, he felt his body rise. Green water again, and then he broke the surface, on his back, turning slowly.

He could see the bridge, and the black sky, and Marisa, standing on the embankment. She lit a cigarette and stared at him. She had one hand on her hip, one leg thrust forward, a model’s pose. She exhaled, smoke rising in the night.

Then he sank beneath the surface again, and he felt the cold and the blackness close in around him.

At three o’clock in the morning the lights snapped on in the Laboratoire Ondulatoire of the French Marine Institute, in Vissy. The control panel came to life. The wave machine began to generate waves that rolled down the tank, one after another, and crashed against the artificial shore. The control screens flashed three-dimensional images, scrolled columns of data. The data was transmitted to an unknown location somewhere in France.

At four o’clock, the control panel went dark, and the lights went out, and the hard drives erased any record of what had been done.

PAHANG


TUESDAY, MAY 11

11:55 A. M.

The twisting jungle road lay in shadow beneath the canopy of the Malay rain forest. The paved road was very narrow, and the Land Cruiser careened around the corners, tires squealing. In the passenger seat, a bearded man of forty glanced at his watch. “How much farther?”

“Just a few minutes,” the driver said, not slowing. “We’re almost there.”

The driver was Chinese but he spoke with a British accent. His name was Charles Ling and he had flown over from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur the night before. He had met his passenger at the airport that morning, and they had been driving at breakneck speed ever since.

The passenger had given Ling a card that read “Allan Peterson, Seismic Services, Calgary.” Ling didn’t believe it. He knew perfectly well that there was a company in Alberta, ELS Engineering, that sold this equipment. It wasn’t necessary to come all the way to Malaysia to see it.

Not only that, but Ling had checked the passenger manifest on the incoming flight, and there was no Allan Peterson listed. So this guy had come in on a different name.

Furthermore, he told Ling he was a field geologist doing independent consulting for energy companies in Canada, mostly evaluating potential oil sites. But Ling didn’t believe that, either. You could spot those petroleum engineers a mile off. This guy wasn’t one.

So Ling didn’t know who the guy was. It didn’t bother him. Mr. Peterson’s credit was good; the rest was none of Ling’s business. He had only one interest today, and that was to sell cavitation machines. And this looked like a big sale: Peterson was talking about three units, more than a million dollars in total.

He turned off the road abruptly, onto a muddy rut. They bounced through the jungle beneath huge trees, and suddenly came out into sunlight and a large opening. There was a huge semicircular gash in the ground, exposing a cliff of gray earth. A green lake lay below.

“What’s this?” Peterson said, wincing.

“It was open-face mine, abandoned now. Kaolin.”

“Which is…?”

Ling thought, this is no geologist. He explained that kaolin was a mineral in clay. “It’s used in paper and ceramics. Lot of industrial ceramics now. They make ceramic knives, incredibly sharp. They’ll make ceramic auto engines soon. But the quality here was too low. It was abandoned four years ago.”

Peterson nodded. “And where is the cavitator?”

Ling pointed toward a large truck parked at the edge of the cliff. “There.” He drove toward it.

“Russians make it?”

“The vehicle and the carbon-matrix frame are Russian made. The electronics come from Taiwan. We assemble ourselves, in Kuala Lumpur.”

“And is this your biggest model?”

“No, this is the intermediate. We don’t have the largest one to show you.”

They pulled alongside the truck. It was the size of a large earthmover; the cab of the Land Cruiser barely reached above the huge tires. In the center, hanging above the ground, was a large rectangular cavitation generator, looking like an oversize diesel generator, a boxy mass of pipes and wires. The curved cavitation plate was slung underneath, a few feet above the ground.

They climbed out of the car into sweltering heat. Ling’s eyeglasses clouded over. He wiped them on his shirt. Peterson walked around the truck. “Can I get the unit without the truck?”

“Yes, we make transportable units. Seagoing containers. But usually clients want them mounted on vehicles eventually.”

“I just want the units,” Peterson said. “Are you going to demonstrate?”

“Right away,” Ling said. He gestured to the operator, high up in the cab. “Perhaps we should step away.”

“Wait a minute,” Peterson said, suddenly alarmed. “I thought we were going to be alone. Who is that?”

“That’s my brother,” Ling said smoothly. “He’s very trustworthy.”

“Well…”


“Let’s step away,” Ling said. “We can see better from a distance.”

The cavitation generator fired up, chugging loudly. Soon the noise blended with another sound, a deep humming that Ling always seemed to feel in his chest, in his bones.

Peterson must have felt it, too, because he moved back hastily.

“These cavitation generators are hypersonic,” Ling explained, “producing a radially symmetric cavitation field that can be adjusted for focal point, rather like an optical lens, except we are using sound. In other words, we can focus the sound beam, and control how deep the cavitation will occur.”

He waved to the operator, who nodded. The cavitation plate came down, until it was just above the ground. The sound changed, becoming deeper and much quieter. The earth vibrated slightly where they were standing.

“Jesus,” Peterson said, stepping back.

“Not to worry,” Ling said. “This is just low-grade reflection. The main energy vector is orthogonal, directed straight down.”

About forty feet below the truck, the walls of the canyon suddenly seemed to blur, to become indistinct. Small clouds of gray smoke obscured the surface for a moment, and then a whole section of cliff gave way, and rumbled down into the lake below, like a gray avalanche. The whole area filled with smoke and dust.

As it began to clear, Ling said, “Now we will show how the beam is focused.” The rumbling began again, and this time the cliff blurred much farther down, two hundred feet or more. Once again the gray sand gave way, this time sliding rather quietly into the lake.

“And it can focus laterally as well?” Peterson said.

Ling said it could. A hundred yards north of the truck, the cliff was shaken free, and again tumbled down.

“We can aim it in any direction, and any depth.”

“Any depth?”

“Our big unit will focus at a thousand meters. Although no client has any use for such depths.”

“No, no,” Peterson said. “We don’t need anything like that. But we want beam power.” He wiped his hands on his trousers. “I’ve seen enough.”

“Really? We have quite a few other techniques to demon—”

“I’m ready to go back.” Behind his sunglasses, his eyes were unreadable.

“Very well,” Ling said. “If you are sure—”

“I’m sure.”

Driving back, Peterson said, “You ship from KL or Hong Kong?”

“From KL.”

“With what restrictions?”

Ling said, “How do you mean?”

“Hypersonic cavitation technology in the US is restricted. It can’t be exported without a license.”

“As I said, we use Taiwanese electronics.”

“Is it as reliable as the US technology?”

Ling said, “Virtually identical.” If Peterson knew his business, he would know that the US had long ago lost the capacity to manufacture such advanced chipsets. The US cavitation chipsets were manufactured in Taiwan. “Why do you ask? Are you planning to export to the US?”

“No.”


“Then there is no difficulty.”

“What’s your lead time?” Peterson said.

“We need seven months.”

“I was thinking of five.”

“It can be done. There will be a premium. For how many units?”

“Three,” Peterson said.

Ling wondered why anyone would need three cavitation units. No geological survey company in the world owned more than one.

“I can fill that order,” Ling said, “upon receipt of your deposit.”

“You will have it wired to you tomorrow.”

“And we are shipping where? Canada?”

“You will receive shipping instructions,” Peterson said, “in five months.”

Directly ahead, the curved spans of the ultra-modern airport designed by Kurokawa rose into the sky. Peterson had lapsed into silence. Driving up the ramp, Ling said, “I hope we are in time for your flight.”

“What? Oh yes. We’re fine.”

“You’re heading back to Canada?”

“Yes.”

Ling pulled up at the international terminal, got out, and shook Peterson’s hand. Peterson shouldered his day bag. It was his only luggage. “Well,” Peterson said. “I’d better go.”



“Safe flight.”

“Thank you. You, too. Back to Hong Kong?”

“No,” Ling said. “I have to go to the factory, and get them started.”

“It’s nearby?”

“Yes, in Pudu Raya. Just a few kilometers.”

“All right, then.” Peterson disappeared inside the terminal, giving a final wave. Ling got back in the car and drove away. But as he was heading down the ramp, he saw that Peterson had left behind his cell phone on the car seat. He pulled over to the curb, glancing back over his shoulder. But Peterson was gone. And the cell phone in his hand was lightweight, made of cheap plastic. It was one of those prepaid-card phones, the disposable ones. It couldn’t be Peterson’s main phone.

It occurred to Ling that he had a friend who might be able to trace the phone and the card inside it. Find out more about the purchaser. And Ling would like to know more. So he slipped the phone into his pocket and drove north, to the factory.

SHAD THAMES

FRIDAY, MAY 21

11:04 A. M.

Richard Mallory looked up from his desk and said, “Yes?”

The man standing in the doorway was pale-complected, slender, and American-looking, with a blond crew cut. His manner was casual, his dress nondescript: dirty Adidas running shoes and a faded navy tracksuit. He looked as if he might be out for a jog and had stopped by the office for a moment.

And since this was Design/Quest, a hot graphics shop located on Butler’s Wharf, a refurbished warehouse district below London’s Tower Bridge, most of the employees in the office were casually dressed. Mallory was the exception. Since he was the boss, he wore slacks and a white shirt. And wingtip shoes that hurt his feet. But they were hip.

Mallory said, “Can I help you?”

“I’ve come for the package,” the American said.

“I’m sorry. What package?” Mallory said. “If it’s a DHL pickup, the secretary has it up front.”

The American looked annoyed. “Don’t you think you’re overdoing it?” he said. “Just give me the fucking package.”

“Okay, fine,” Mallory said, getting up from behind the desk.

Apparently the American felt he had been too harsh, because in a quieter tone he said, “Nice posters,” and pointed to the wall behind Mallory. “You do ’em?”

“We did,” Mallory said. “Our firm.”

There were two posters, side by side on the wall, both stark black with a hanging globe of the Earth in space, differing only in the tag line. One said “Save the Earth” and beneath it, “It’s the Only Home We Have.” The other said “Save the Earth” and beneath that, “There’s Nowhere Else to Go.”

Then off to one side was a framed photograph of a blond model in a T-shirt: “Save the Earth” and the copy line was “And Look Good Doing It.”

“That was our ‘Save the Earth’ campaign,” Mallory said. “But they didn’t buy it.”

“Who didn’t?”

“International Conservation Fund.”

He went past the American and headed down the back stairs to the garage. The American followed.

“Why not? They didn’t like it?”

“No, they liked it,” Mallory said. “But they got Leo as a spokesman, and used him instead. Campaign went to video spots.”

At the bottom of the stairs, he swiped his card, and the door unlocked with a click. They stepped into the small garage beneath the building. It was dark except for the glare of daylight from the ramp leading to the street. Mallory noticed with annoyance that a van partly blocked the ramp. They always had trouble with delivery vans parking there.

He turned to the American. “You have a car?”

“Yes. A van.” He pointed.

“Oh good, so that’s yours. And somebody to help you?”

“No. Just me. Why?”

“It’s bloody heavy,” Mallory said. “It may just be wire, but it’s half a million feet of it. Weighs seven hundred pounds, mate.”

“I can handle it.”

Mallory went to his Rover and unlocked the boot. The American whistled, and the van rumbled down the ramp. It was driven by a tough-looking woman with spiked hair, dark makeup.

Mallory said, “I thought you were alone.”

“She doesn’t know anything,” the American said. “Forget her. She brought the van. She just drives.”

Mallory turned to the open boot. There were stacked white boxes marked “Ethernet Cable (Unshielded).” And printed specifications.

“Let’s see one,” the American said.

Mallory opened a box. Inside was a jumble of fist-sized coils of very thin wire, each in shrink-wrap plastic. “As you see,” he said, “it’s guide wire. For anti-tank missiles.”

“Is it?”


“That’s what they told me. That’s why it’s wrapped that way. One coil of wire for each missile.”

“I wouldn’t know,” the American said. “I’m just the delivery man.” He went and opened the back of his van. Then he began to transfer the boxes, one at a time. Mallory helped.

The American said, “This guy tell you anything else?”

“Actually, he did,” Mallory said. “He said somebody bought five hundred surplus Warsaw Pact rockets. Called Hotfire or Hotwire or something. No warheads or anything. Just the rocket bodies. The story is they were sold with defective guide wire.”

“I haven’t heard that.”

“That’s what he said. Missiles were bought in Sweden. Gothenburg, I think. Shipped out from there.”

“Sounds like you’re worried.”

“I’m not worried,” Mallory said.

“Like you’re afraid you’re mixed up in something.”

“Not me.”

“Sure about that?” the American said.

“Yes, of course I’m sure.”

Most of the boxes were transferred to the van. Mallory started to sweat. The American seemed to be glancing at him out of the corner of his eye. Openly skeptical. He said, “So, tell me. What’d he look like, this guy?”

Mallory knew better than to answer that. He shrugged. “Just a guy.”

“American?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know whether he was American or not?”

“I couldn’t be sure of his accent.”

“Why is that?” the American said.

“He might have been Canadian.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah.”


“Because I hear talk about some gorgeous woman. Sexy woman in high heels, tight skirt.”

“I would have noticed a woman like that,” Mallory said.

“You wouldn’t be…leaving her out?” Another skeptical glance. “Keeping her to yourself?” Mallory noticed a bulge on the American’s hip. Was it a gun? It might be.

“No. He was alone.”

“Whoever the guy was.”

“Yes.”


“You ask me,” the American said, “I’d be wondering why anybody needed half a million feet of wire for anti-tank missiles in the first place. I mean, for what?”

Mallory said, “He didn’t say.”

“And you just said, ‘Right, mate, half a million feet of wire, leave it to me,’ with never a question?”

“Seems like you’re asking all the questions,” Mallory said. Still sweating.

“And I have a reason,” the American said. His tone turned ominous. “I got to tell you, pal. I don’t like what I am hearing.”

The last of the boxes were stacked in the van. Mallory stepped back. The American slammed the first door shut, then the second. As the second door closed, Mallory saw the driver standing there. The woman. She had been standing behind the door.

“I don’t like it either,” she said. She was wearing fatigues, army surplus stuff. Baggy trousers and high-laced boots. A bulky green jacket. Heavy gloves. Dark glasses.

“Now wait a minute,” the American said.

“Give me your cell phone,” she said. Holding out her hand for it. Her other hand was behind her back. As if she had a gun.

“Why?”


“Give it to me.”

“Why?”


“I want to look at it, that’s why.”

“There’s nothing unusual—”

“Give it to me.”

The American pulled the cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to her. Instead of taking it, she grabbed his wrist and pulled him toward her. The cell phone clattered to the ground. She brought her other hand from around her back and quickly gripped the side of his neck with her gloved hand. She held him with both hands around his neck, as if she were strangling him.

For a moment he was stunned; then he began to struggle. “What the fuck are you doing?” he said. “What are you—hey!” He knocked her hands away and jumped back as if he had been burned. “What was that? What did youdo? ”

He touched his neck. A tiny trickle of blood ran down, just a few drops. There was red on his fingertips. Almost nothing.

“What did you do?” he said.

“Nothing.” She was stripping off her gloves. Mallory could see she was doing it carefully. As if something were in the glove. Something she did not want to touch.

“Nothing?” the American said. “Nothing?Son of a bitch!” Abruptly, he turned and began to run up the ramp toward the street outside.

Calmly, she watched him go. She bent over, picked up the cell phone, and put it in her pocket. Then she turned to Mallory. “Go back to work.”

He hesitated.

“You did a good job. I never saw you. You never saw me. Now go.”

Mallory turned and walked to the back-stairs door. Behind him, he heard the woman slam the van door, and when he glanced back, he saw the van racing up the ramp into the glare of the street. The van turned right, and was gone.

Back in his office, his assistant, Elizabeth, came in with a mockup for the new ultralight computer ads for Toshiba. The shoot was tomorrow. These were the finals to go over. He shuffled through the boards quickly; Mallory had trouble concentrating.

Elizabeth said, “You don’t like them?”

“No, no, they’re fine.”

“You look a little pale.”

“I just, um…my stomach.”

“Ginger tea,” she said. “That’s best. Shall I make some?”

He nodded, to get her out of the office. He looked out the window. Mallory’s office had a spectacular view of the Thames, and the Tower Bridge off to the left. The bridge had been repainted baby blue and white (was that traditional or just a bad idea?), but to see it always made him feel good. Secure somehow.

He walked closer to the window, and stood looking at the bridge. He was thinking that when his best friend had asked if he would lend a hand in a radical environmental cause, it had sounded like something fun. A bit of secrecy, a bit of dash and derring-do. He had been promised that it would not involve anything violent. Mallory had never imagined he would be frightened.

But he was frightened now. His hands were shaking. He stuck them in his pockets as he stared out the window. Five hundred rockets? he thought. Five hundred rockets. What had he gotten himself into? Then, slowly, he realized that he was hearing sirens, and there were red lights flashing on the bridge railings.

There had been an accident on the bridge. And judging from the number of police and rescue vehicles, it was a serious accident.

One in which someone had died.

He couldn’t help himself. Feeling a sense of panic, he left the office, went outside to the quay, and with his heart in his throat, hurried toward the bridge.

From the upper level of the red double-decker bus, the tourists were staring down, covering their mouths in horror. Mallory pushed through the crowd clustered near the front of the bus. He got close enough to see a half-dozen paramedics and police crouched around a body lying in the street. Above them stood the burly bus driver, in tears. He was saying that there was nothing he could have done, the man had stepped in front of the bus at the last moment. He must have been drunk, the driver said, because he was wobbling. It was almost as if he fell off the curb.

Mallory could not see the body; the policemen blocked his view. The crowd was nearly silent, just watching. Then one of the policemen stood, holding a red passport in his hands—a German passport. Thank God, Mallory thought, feeling a flood of relief that lasted until a moment later, when one of the paramedics stepped away and Mallory saw one leg of the victim—a faded black tracksuit and a dirty Adidas running shoe, now soaked with blood.

He felt a wave of nausea, and turned away, pushing back through the crowd. The faces stared past him, impassive or annoyed. But nobody even glanced at him. They were all looking at the body.

Except for one man, dressed like an executive in a dark suit and tie. He was looking directly at Mallory. Mallory met his eyes. The man nodded slightly. Mallory made no response. He just pushed through the last of the crowd and fled, hurrying back down the stairs to his office, and realizing that somehow, in some way that he did not understand, his life had changed forever.

TOKYO


TUESDAY, JUNE 1

10:01 A. M.

IDEC, the International Data Environmental Consortium, was located in a small brick building adjacent to the campus of Keio Mita University. To the casual observer, IDEC was part of the university, and even showed the coat of arms (“Calamus Gladio Fortior”), but in fact it was independent. The center of the building consisted of a small conference room with a podium and two rows of five chairs facing a screen at the front.

At ten in the morning, IDEC director Akira Hitomi stood at the podium and watched as the American came in and took a seat. The American was a large man, not so tall but thick in the shoulders and chest, like an athlete. For such a large man he moved easily, quietly. The Nepali officer entered right behind him, dark-skinned and watchful. He took a seat behind the American and off to one side. At the podium, Hitomi nodded to them and said nothing.

The wood-paneled room darkened slowly, to allow eyes to adjust. On all sides, the wood panels slid silently away, exposing huge flat-panel screens. Some of the screens moved smoothly out from the walls.

At last, the main door closed and locked with a click. Only then did Hitomi speak.

“Good morning, Kenner-san.” On the main screen it said “Hitomi Akira” in English and Japanese. “And good morning, Thapa-san.” Hitomi flipped open a very small, very thin silver laptop. “Today I will present data from the last twenty-one days, correct up to twenty minutes ago. These will be findings from our joint project, Akamai Tree.”



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