JUST OUT: BOOK 7 IN THE AMAZON BEST SELLER THRILLER SERIES BY ALEX LUKEMAN: THE AJAX PROTOCOL
The Project is a covert intelligence unit reporting only to the President of the United States. When an assassination attempt puts the President out of action, the Project finds itself isolated and the target of a conspiracy that threatens to lead the world into war.
Project Director Elizabeth Harker discovers a ruthless plot to turn America into a totalitarian police state. Betrayed by powerful enemies at home and forced to rely on doubtful allies abroad, Harker and her team are driven underground.
Team leader Nick Carter must face his inner demons as he struggles to commit to his lover and teammate Selena Connor. It's a dangerous world for both of them, where enemies lie in wait at every turn and failure is not an option.
The Ajax Protocol could be taken from tomorrow's headlines. It will disturb you and keep you turning pages to the end.
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What readers are saying...
"Alex Lukeman writes action adventure the likes of which should be in movies."
"As with all of The Project series, it was well written, great characters that keep developing, a fast paced plot, good subplots, descriptive settings."
"This was the most frightening book of this series. ..You have to love the team & all who help them. The scary part is this could happen..."
Nick Carter took one look at Director Elizabeth Harker and knew it was going to be a long day. Harker headed the Project, an intelligence agency few Americans knew existed. Nick ran the Project team in the field.
Nick tugged on his left ear, where a Chinese bullet had ripped off the earlobe a few years back.
"Director, why do I have the feeling you’re about to tell me something I don’t want to hear?"
Elizabeth swiveled toward him in the big executive chair she liked. The chair dwarfed her petite frame. She wore her favorite combination of a black pantsuit and simple white blouse. Nick thought her closet was probably a study in black and white. An emerald pin on her jacket picked up the color of her eyes.
"Take a look at this."
Harker touched her keyboard. A monitor on the wall of her office lit with a video of soldiers armed with assault rifles, hunched down behind concrete barricades stretched across a wide boulevard. Ominous columns of black smoke rose from a city in the background. A mob of people was running straight at the barriers, their faces distorted with rage and fear. Nick watched a young woman holding a baby trip and fall and vanish under the trampling feet of the mob. No one paid any attention.
The soldiers began firing as the mob clambered over the barriers. Then the soldiers disappeared under the sea of screaming people.
"Jesus," Nick said. "Where is this happening?"
"Novosibirsk. This is from Russian television, about a half hour ago. We picked it up before Moscow shut down the feed."
She touched another key. The picture switched to an overhead satellite. The cameras on the bird could read a newspaper from 80 miles up.
The center of Novosibirsk looked like a war zone. The streets were deserted. Hundreds of bodies lay where they had fallen. Wrecked cars littered the roads. It looked as though some of them had tried to ram each other. All the shop windows were smashed. The sidewalks and pavement were covered with broken glass.
"What happened?" Nick said.
"I don't know. Whatever it was, it happened fast. Everything was normal. Then it's as if someone flipped a switch. The time stamps on the sat transmissions show less than a half hour from normalcy to that." She gestured at the screen.
"That's impossible. It takes time for a riot to spread."
"Nonetheless, there it is. Something happened, and we need to know what it was."
"You don't think this is just a Russian problem?" Nick said.
"No. Anything that can turn a modern city into a lunatic asylum is a threat. Maybe it was something in the water. Maybe the Russians are experimenting with something and it got out of hand."
"The Vector Institute is in Novosibirsk. Vector is Russia's bio warfare center. It's possible something got loose."
"A virus that makes people go nuts? It would have to be airborne to affect everyone at once."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Elizabeth said. "Go find Ronnie and Selena and get them up here."
Ronnie Peete and Selena Connor were two of the members of Nick's team. Lamont Cameron was the third. Lamont was in Bethesda Hospital, recovering from a bullet he'd taken in Jordan. He'd been shot through the lung and had almost died.
"They're downstairs on the range." Nick rubbed his chin, where he'd nicked himself shaving that morning.
Harker looked at him. "Well? What are you waiting for?"
At the door to the lower level, Nick almost tripped over a huge orange cat lying on the floor next to a cat bed. Burps was as big as some dogs and tougher than most of them. His ears were tattered and torn. The carpet was damp where he'd drooled on it. It was typical of the cat to ignore the bed and sleep on the floor. Nick stepped over him and started down the spiral stair that led below.
Project headquarters was in the Virginia countryside, not far from the Capitol. Except for a wide cement helipad located at the end of the drive, it looked like a middle class American home, a ranch-style building surrounded by lawns and flower gardens. A low structure that might have been a garage was situated across from the house. A tool shed graced the far end of the lawn and gardens.
The appearance of normality was an illusion. The windows were proof against a .50 caliber round. The front door was made of steel and required a bio-scan and code for entry. Even the French doors leading off to the garden would resist anything short of a vehicle smashing through them.
Underneath the lawn and flowerbeds were three vaults of hardened concrete and steel that had housed a Nike squadron in the days of the Cold War. The missiles were long gone, replaced by the an operations center and emergency quarters, a large room for the computers and a fully equipped gym and firing range. There was an armory next to the range. There was even an underground swimming pool.
Nick opened the door to the range and winced at the echo of pistol fire. Ronnie and Selena stood at the firing line on the indoor range. A row of Plexiglas barriers separated each firing station. Down range, automated targets could be manipulated at will from the stations.
Selena was at the third station. She squeezed off the last round and the slide locked back on her pistol. Nick looked at her target, a man sized silhouette with a neat pattern of holes in the center. She'd put three in the forehead for good measure.
She looked up as he came in and smiled. They'd been lovers for the best part of two years but he never got tired of seeing that smile. Sometimes when Nick looked at her he wondered how someone like her had ended up with someone like him. The best anyone could say about the way Nick looked was that he was rugged. What they said about Selena was that she was beautiful. One of her cheekbones was higher than the other, keeping her face from the burden of perfect beauty. Her reddish blond hair shone under the overhead lights.
"Hey," she said.
"Nice shooting," he said.
She smiled again and took off her shooting glasses, revealing eyes the color of a field of violets.
Ronnie set his pistol down on the bench, took off his ear protectors and pressed a button to pull his target back. He studied the pattern of holes in the middle of the silhouette and then put it in a pile with the other targets he'd shot that day.
"The new vests are here," he said. "They came in this morning."
He walked down the firing line to an empty station. Lying on the bench were a half dozen dark armored vests designed to protect against anything except a neck or head shot or a bullet to one of the limbs. The vest wrapped around the sides and tucked under the groin.
Nick picked one up and hefted it. "Light," he said. "It feels a lot lighter than the ones we've been using."
Ronnie grinned at him. "It is, but it will stop everything short of a .50 with no trouble. It's made out of some kind of new nano ceramic technology that's supposed to minimize secondary damage."
"You mean like busted ribs? You ought to know about that."
"I'm still getting over the last two times," Ronnie said.
Getting hit wearing a vest was no fun. Usually you ended up with cracked ribs. Even though the vest might stop a round, the hydrostatic shock from the impact could kill you.
"I hope we don't have to test them out," Nick said. He put the armor back in the pile.
Ronnie went back to his station and began field stripping his pistol, a SIG-Sauer P229 chambered for .40 Smith and Wesson. Everyone in the project carried the Sig.
Ronnie was Navajo, born and raised, a solid, muscular man just two inches shy of Nick's six foot height. He lived alone in a small apartment on the outskirts of the city. As far as Nick knew, his only indulgence was an extensive collection of Hawaiian shirts.
"Harker wants us upstairs," Nick said.
"Where is it this time?" Ronnie said.
"I don't know. Maybe Russia."
"You don't know? How can we have a mission if you don't know where we're going?"
"I guess we'll find out. Are you two about done?"
"As soon I clean my weapon," Selena said.
"Same here," Ronnie said.
"Come up to Harker's office when you're done." He went back upstairs.
Stephanie Willits was talking with Harker when Nick walked into the office. Steph was Harker's deputy and computer guru. The project had a bank of maxed out Crays that rivaled Langley's and Steph could do things with them that bordered on magic. She wore a midnight blue skirt and blouse that set off her dark brown hair. Steph favored big, dangly earrings and gold bracelets on her left wrist. Nick liked her.
From where Elizabeth sat behind her desk, she could look out through a set of French doors at a wide patio paved with gray stone. Beyond the patio, a green lawn and flower beds blazing with summer colors stretched down a gentle slope until they met a line of trees that shielded the back of the property.
A long, leather couch flanked by two chairs faced Elizabeth's desk. Nick took a seat on one end of the couch. Stephanie took a chair. Selena and Ronnie came in and sat on the couch.
Harker began with the riots in Novosibirsk. Then she turned to Stephanie.
"Steph, what have you got for us?" Elizabeth asked.
"Langley doesn't know what happened," Stephanie said. "Moscow ordered a Spetsnaz division into the city. They're deploying through the city as we speak."
"An entire division?" Nick was surprised. "You don't send those guys in without a damn good reason. Things must be completely out of control. "
"There's something else," Stephanie said. "I decided to take a look at satellite activity over Russia and I found an anomaly. It almost slipped by me. It could be a coincidence, but I don't think so."
"I don't like coincidences. Or anomalies either," Elizabeth said. "What is it?"
"Just before the riots started, there was a very high frequency transmission centered on Novosibirsk. It may be connected to what happened. An attack of some kind."
"What sort of transmission?"
"A micro-burst of energy. A signal. It was right before things went south."
"Where did it come from?"
"Well, that's just it," Stephanie said. "There were only three satellites in range at the time. One of those was Russian. I don't think the Russians would attack their own city. One was Chinese, but it's supposed to be a communications satellite."
"You said three. What's the third?" Elizabeth asked.
"A new one of ours that went up six months ago, controlled by the Pentagon. I don't know it's purpose. Probably surveillance."
"Do you think the Pentagon zapped Russia from it?" Ronnie said.
"I didn't say that. As far as I know we don't have anything that could produce that kind of effect. But that electronic burst is a red flag," Stephanie said, "and our satellite was overhead."
"I don't believe we'd do something like this, even if we had the ability," Selena said. "It would mean war. No one wants that."
For a moment, the room was quiet as they thought about what war would mean.
Then Nick said, "No one in this room wants that. But if Steph is right, someone deliberately started those riots and somehow used a satellite to do it."
Harker sighed. "Steph, there had to be a command transmission from the ground to activate the satellite. See if you can pin down where that signal came from."
"As soon as we're done here. I'll get on the computers and see if I can track the source."
Nick said, "What do you want us to do, Director?"
"Be ready. Until we have more intel, there's not much else we can do."