In the frozen wastes of Antarctica the Lance, an ancient weapon of unthinkable power--once lost and legendary--has been recovered.
In the terrorized streets of Jerusalem, devastation is unleashed upon the eve of international peace.
In the halls of power of Washington, D.C. a desperate plot set in motion during the final days of World War II has begun to unfold.
Now Nick Carter and his team of deep black operatives from the PROJECT must race against time to stop events that will lead to the next World War. But to do that they must first stop those who already wield the Lance.
What readers are saying...
This book has everything that an action/adventure/thriller fan could ever ask for! 5 Stars is not enough for this author or this series. Buckle up and hang on tight - this book is a roller coaster ride of thrills, action and suspense!!
Lukeman is an extremely talented author who has the ability through his style and meticulous details to draw a reader into the centre of the action. Combining historical conspiracies with modern day action will have readers hooked within the first chapter.
This is a action packed book that I had trouble putting down. Right from the start the action begins.
I was surprised to find that this was part 2 of a series, it stands on its own with no help from the other books.
A great read with lots of historical references and non-stop action. Makes you believe in the premise, even though it is definitely fantasy, not sci-fi. A bloody glimpse into true evil and good people trying to stop it!
February 19, 1945
The Fenris Mountains reared like black fangs against the dazzling white of the Antarctic plain. SS General Dieter Reinhardt watched two crewmen from U-886 clear ice and snow from steel doors set into the side of one of the nameless peaks. A motorized sled waited nearby. Reinhardt’s face mirrored the death’s head emblem on his high, peaked hat. He was tall and thin. In his long greatcoat and dark, round snow goggles he looked like a malevolent insect.
The doors swung inward. The crewmen picked up a wooden crate from the sled, then followed Reinhardt down a dark corridor into the heart of the mountain. The corridor ended at a steel vault with a numbered dial. Reinhardt worked the combination, turned a large, spoked wheel and pulled open the heavy door.
Numbered metal boxes lined one wall. On the opposite side, gold bars stamped with the eagle and swastika of the Riechsbank shone in the bright light of Reinhardt’s electric torch.
“Put it there, against the back.” His breath formed clouds of condensation in the frigid air.
The crewmen set the box down. Reinhardt drew his pistol in a fluid, practiced movement. He placed the muzzle at the base of one man’s skull and fired. The report echoed in the steel space. His mate turned, eyes wide in shock. Reinhardt fired again. Blood sprayed across the wall behind.
Reinhardt holstered the pistol, stepped around the bodies and went back into the corridor. He closed the vault door and locked it in place, retraced his steps and emerged into the polar glare. Charges around the entrance to the bunker brought down an avalanche of ice and snow over the doors.
No one would ever find it again, unless they knew exactly where it was.
Reinhardt started the sled and headed back for the distant edge of the ice shelf, where U-886 waited for his return. He felt for the journal sealed in a waterproof pouch under his shirt. He’d bring it up to date once they were underway. Some day it would be a proud chapter in the history of the Fourth Reich.
He remembered the night he'd been summoned from Berlin.
SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler’s private train waited, blacked out on a side spur of the main line near the Western Front. On the other side of the Rhine, flashes of light and the distant rumble of artillery signaled the advance of the Allied armies.
Himmler was at his desk. He looked up as Reinhardt entered the command car. The lamps shone off his round, flat glasses. In civilian clothes he might have been mistaken for a clerk in a small town butcher shop. In his SS uniform, with the silver wreath and oak leaves embroidered on his collar, he looked like what he was; the most dangerous man in Nazi Germany. Only Hitler had more power. Reinhardt raised his arm in salute and snapped his heels together.
“Come with me, General.”
Himmler rose. Reinhardt followed him into the baggage car. In the center of the car was a square, polished box. On the lid of the box, a large golden swastika and victory wreath set with diamonds glittered in the lamplight.
Himmler lifted the lid.
The spear lay within on a bed of blood red silk.
Reinhardt laid his hand on the ancient blade. It felt warm to the touch, even in the chill of the unheated railroad car.
The legend was clear: Whoever possesses the Lance controls the destiny of the world.
Some thought the power of the Lance came from the Antichrist. Himmler didn't care where it came from. The power was real. That was all that was important.
Only the Knights of the Grand Council knew Himmler had the Holy Spear. Only the Council knew it was the Lance that had brought victory after victory in the early years of the war.
Himmler handed Reinhardt a thick packet.
“Your orders. Take the Lance to Antarctica and conceal it.”
Himmler nodded. Most of the people who knew of the abandoned research complex in the Antarctic wastes were dead. No one had been there since late in '42.
Reinhardt looked at Himmler.
“It is possible I will not survive this war.” He held up his hand to silence Reinhardt’s protest. “If I fall, there will be a new Grand Master. Aid him in every way you can.”
“As you command, Reichsfuhrer.”
And that Grand Master will be me.
Both men looked down at the Holy Lance. It glowed with a faint blood light, perhaps a reflection from the red silk where it lay.
“The war is almost over. We have lost for now. But as long as the Lance is ours, we will never be defeated,” said Himmler.
A patch of rough ice under the sled jolted Reinhardt back to the present.
He would tell the Captain of U-886 his crewmen had been killed under a fall of ice. It was of no importance. When they reached Argentina the Captain and the others would join their dead comrades. It was all arranged.
Three days later, U-886 was ripped apart by British depth charges as she approached the Argentine coast. She breached the surface long enough for the officer of the watch to record her badge and type before she vanished beneath the waves.
In the lightless vault under the mountain, the Lance waited beneath the diamond swastika. One day, someone would come. It was only a matter of time.
Nicholas Carter looked at Elizabeth Harker and thought if there were any elves in the world, they probably looked like her. She was small boned and slim. She had milk white skin and small ears tucked under raven black hair. She had wide, green eyes. She was dressed in a black pants suit and white blouse with a Mao collar. In two years working for her he'd never seen her wear anything but black and white.
Harker ran the Project, the Presidential Official Joint Exercise in Counter Terrorism. She was Nick's boss. Her boss was the President.
On Harker's desk were a silver pen, a picture of the Twin Towers burning and a manila folder. The pen had belonged to FDR. The picture was a reminder. The folder was likely going to shape his day. Working for Harker meant he never knew if the day might leave him hanging out on the edge and wondering if he could pull himself back in.
He heard Harker say, "Someone's thinking about making trouble in the Middle East."
"Someone's always thinking about making trouble in the Middle East. What's different now?"
He fumbled in his pocket, found a crumbly antacid tablet and popped it in his mouth. Carter felt the tremor of a headache starting. Harker picked up her silver pen and began tapping it on the polished surface of her desk. Each tap vibrated inside his skull.
"The President is speaking in Jerusalem on Thursday. We have a source who says there's going to be trouble. He wants a face to face meet."
Carter tugged on the mutilated lobe of his left ear, where a Chinese bullet had taken off the lobe a few months ago. The bandage was off. It had looked better with it on.
It was the same ear that itched whenever things were about to get dicey. It itched now. A gift or a curse he'd inherited from his Irish Grandmother, along with dreams he didn't want to have.
"Have you passed this to Langley? What do they say?"
"I'm supposed to back off and leave things up to the 'professionals'." There was an edge to her voice. "Lodge says there's no need for concern."
Wendell Lodge, Acting Director CIA.
"He says he and his Israeli counterparts have everything under control."
"And Shin Bet."
"What's Shin Bet?" said Selena.
Selena Connor sat next to Carter on Harker's leather couch. The ceiling lights caught the reddish blond color of her hair and turned her eyes violet. She wore a tan silk outfit and a pale blouse that went with her eyes. She was the first woman Nick had let get close since Megan died. He didn't know where it was going. Or if he wanted it to go anywhere. She was new to the team, which meant she had a lot to learn, which worried the hell out of him.
Selena brushed a stray wisp of hair from her forehead.
Harker said, "Shin Bet is Israel's version of the FBI, on steroids. They handle internal security and counter-terrorism. Mossad is foreign intelligence and ops, like MI6 or CIA."
Carter looked down at his hands and picked at a broken fingernail. "Lodge is a devious bastard and a narcissist."
"Whatever he is, he's not going to brush us off. You're going to Israel. You find something that threatens Rice's security, give it to Shin Bet and the Secret Service. They've got the manpower, let them handle it. You leave today."
"I always wanted to see Jerusalem. Maybe I'll get a little sightseeing in."
She set the pen down and folded her hands. "It's not a vacation, Nick. You're booked into the same hotel as the President as part of his party, right outside the Old City. The Israelis may not let you keep your weapon. They're sensitive about guns and you're not Secret Service."
"Who's the source over there?"
"His name is Arshak Arslanian. He has a shop in the Armenian Quarter." She slid the manila folder across her desk. "His photo and info is in there."
Harker turned to Selena. "Selena, you continue with Ronnie this afternoon."
Ronnie was the third member of Nick's team. He was just back from visiting his family on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He'd been coaching Selena. Physical training, weapons, codes, the tricks of personal survival. All the things that might give her a chance to make it through the next year.
Harker tapped her pen and looked at Nick. "You'll need a lot of time to clear security. You'd better get going."
The sweet scent of Jasmine vines wafted through the open window of a crumbling tenement in the Old City of Damascus. A man bent over a wooden table with a soldering iron. He wiped sweat away from his forehead with the frayed sleeve of his shirt and concentrated on his task.
Another man watched from a sagging couch pushed against one of the stained yellow walls. He wore a dark suit of European cut. His crisp, white shirt was open at the collar.
The man on the couch had a face that was blank, forgettable. His features were smooth and calm, as if life had never quite reached the surface. It was hot in the apartment, but the man was not sweating. His eyebrows were unnoticeable above his colorless eyes. His nose seemed to disappear into the vagueness of his features. His lips were a thin, invisible line.
The man at the table was called Ibrahim. The man on the couch was called the Visitor, but Ibrahim didn't know that. It was better that way.
The bomb was almost finished. It was a very fine bomb, perhaps the best Ibrahim had ever made, and he had made many. He was well known throughout the terrorist network. If you wanted something unusual, reliable and easily concealed, with the most destructive result, you sought out the Syrian.
Anyone with a simple knowledge of electronics could build a suicide vest or a roadside device, but few could do what Ibrahim did. The truth of his skill was easy to see. He still owned almost all of his fingers and both eyes, no mean feat for an old bomb maker.
He soldered the final connection. He set the iron down and allowed himself to relax.
"It is ready?"
The man in the suit spoke in Arabic, his voice quiet, pleasant. He got off the couch, looked over the bomb maker's shoulder. Ibrahim tried to place the accent. German, perhaps.
Ibrahim took an unfiltered cigarette from a crumpled yellow pack, held it in nicotine stained fingers and lit it. The harsh tobacco smoke formed a blue cloud as he exhaled. The man in the suit concealed his disapproval.
"Yes, ready. When you place the charge, set and activate the timer. There is a twenty-four hour window."
Ibrahim showed his guest the arming device, small like a woman's wrist watch. A red arrow was etched on the bezel surrounding the dial. The face was marked for twenty four hours. A second, smaller ring within the first was divided into twelve five minute increments.
"Set the hour by rotating the outer ring clockwise. Then, set the inner ring counter clockwise for fine adjustment. You can reset until you press this button. After that, no. The timer will run until your mark is reached. The bomb is safe until the time chosen. Then, boom."
The Visitor nodded.
"Give me the pack."
The Visitor handed Ibrahim a backpack. Bright yellow letters over a yellow and green ram's head imprint spelled out Colorado State University on the flap. Inside were socks, two tee shirts, a teaspoon or two of beach sand, a pair of hiking shorts, postcards, dirty underwear, a pair of Dockers, a package of condoms, sandals and a water bottle.
There were also two books. One was a popular paperback listing hostels and restaurants in Israel. The other was a hardbound travel guide to the holy sites of Jerusalem.
Ibrahim opened the guide to a hollowed out space where the bomb would be concealed. The new compound his guest had provided was a marvel of technology, fifty times more powerful than conventional Semtex or C-4. It had a color like sand or old, yellowed limestone and could be molded and shaped as needed. It seemed small, but the explosive force it yielded was devastating. It was also undetectable by current methods. Even the dogs would never sense it.
The book was well thumbed, innocent in appearance. The pages concealed shielding that blocked detection by the most sophisticated electronic equipment. Of course there was always a chance of discovery. The Jews and the Americans were good at counter terrorism. Ibrahim assumed the bomb was meant for one or the other.
Success was not Ibrahim's concern, nor was he concerned about where or how the bomb would be used. He knew it was good. His work was done. He placed the bomb in the book. He locked the pages in place that would keep a casual observer from noticing anything. He closed the cover and put the book back in the pack.
The haunting sound of the call to prayer echoed through the ancient city from speakers atop the Umayyad Mosque. Ibrahim would go to the mosque and refresh his relationship with God. The other could do as he pleased.
"You have done well, my brother." His client's voice was quiet, toneless. "Allah will reward you in the afterlife."
"There is still this life, no? You have brought payment?"
"Of course. I have it here."
The Visitor reached under his jacket and took out a silenced .22 Ruger automatic pistol and shot Ibrahim in the forehead. The bomb maker's mouth formed a soft oh. His eyes opened wide and rolled upward. The Visitor fired another round into the Syrian's left ear, a whisper soft as a baby's breath. The body toppled sideways from the chair to the floor. A trickle of blood ran out onto the worn, scarred linoleum.
The Visitor bent down and wiped a few spatters of blood from the end of one of his shiny black shoes. He took the backpack and placed it in a cloth shopping bag. He turned on a small radio set on the table. The rhythmic notes of an oud and drums filled the room with sounds of life. Ibrahim's neighbors would not notice anything amiss for some time.
The Syrian had been a good asset, but all possible trails to what was going to happen, any loose ends, must be eliminated. Ibrahim had been a loose end.
The so-called nation of Israel would soon cease to exist. All it would take to start the process was this one, small bomb. The Visitor closed the apartment door behind him and walked down the stairs to the cobbled alley below, whistling to himself.
Carter sat with his back against the wall at a café in the New City, drinking espresso, watching the crowd. The night was warm. The pedestrian mall where King George and Ben-Yahuda streets and the Jaffa Road came together in Jerusalem was packed with people.
For the Jewish people, Jerusalem was the center of the world. It was where the Messiah would some day appear. It was the place where God had commanded the building of His Temple, where every stone, pebble and grain of dust on the Temple Mount was sacred ground. Devout Jews all over the world recited prayers each day for the restoration of the Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
The most important shrines of Christianity were here. The tomb of Christ, the room of the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ received the Judas kiss. The place where Pontius Pilate passed sentence. The place of crucifixion. Every Christian denomination in the world had a church or shrine somewhere in the Old City.
For Muslims, the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount was one of the holiest sites in Islam. The Mosque faced the Dome of the Rock, where they believed Muhammad had ascended to heaven on a winged horse to receive instruction from God. The Muslims had lost Jerusalem to the Israelis in the 1967 war. They wanted it back.
Armies had fought over Jerusalem for three thousand years. The narrow streets of the Old City had run ankle deep in blood more than once. Unless someone found a path to peace in the region, Carter figured the streets would run with blood again.
He'd thought he was done with all that, with the blood, when he left the Marines. Now he worked for the Project. Even though he was a civilian, he was still waking up in war zones. He did his best not to think about it. Best thing, focus on the mission. It was why he was in Jerusalem on a perfect October evening. Someone had to do it.
Carter drank his coffee and watched the crowd, tracking, reading expressions, looking for anything unusual. His eyes never stayed still. It was an old habit and it was why he was still alive. He never assumed he was safe. He never trusted appearances.
A young woman in a red dress played an accordion nearby. She had long, dark tresses and she laughed while she played. A small group of smiling people stood in front of her, tapping their feet in time to the music. Children ran through the throng. Carter smiled.
The night disappeared in violent white light.
The blast sent Nick backward into the wall and down to the pavement. Pain shot up his spine.
Everything went white. He was back in Afghanistan. He could smell the dust, hear the AKs firing, the explosions all around him. Then the white faded. The flashback faded. He could still hear the echoes of the AKs and smell the dry dust of the street. For a moment he didn't know where he was. A pall of black smoke hung over torn bodies spread in a red smear across the plaza. A flat, dead silence filled his ears. Then the screaming started.
A heavy café table lay on top of him. He pushed it to the side and got to his feet. The woman in the red dress lay crumpled and torn nearby, her accordion shattered and silent.
Broken glass and smashed furniture littered the plaza. There was blood on him, but it wasn't his. Carter took a step and tripped. He looked down at a child's foot in a blue shoe. It was just a small foot. A piece of white bone stuck out of a pink sock.
He bent over and threw up the espresso in a yellow brown stream. The acrid, coppery stench of blood poisoned the clean night air. He straightened up and wiped his lips. Something caught his eye across the way.
A man stood off to the side of the plaza. He was of medium height, with close set dark eyes, black hair, a thin black mustache and neat beard. He wore a shapeless brown jacket, baggy brown pants and a dirty yellow shirt. He was talking on a cell phone.
He was smiling.
The smile vanished when he saw Carter looking at him. He turned and walked away, holding the phone to his ear.
Who smiles at a slaughterhouse? Carter started after him.
Brown Jacket picked up his pace. He glanced back and turned into a wide alley between two buildings. Nick wished he had his .45. The Israelis had refused to let him carry it. He began running. Shouts sounded behind him as he sprinted into the alley.
The alley crossed between the buildings to the next street over. Brown Jacket and two others stood halfway down. At the far end of the passage a white Volvo waited, motor running, one man inside. Brown Jacket said something to the two men and walked toward the car. The others started toward Nick.
The larger man wore a loose blue jacket over a dingy white shirt and jeans. His head was bullet shaped and shaven. His face was dissolute, with ridges of old scar tissue over eyes that looked dead. His ears were crumpled cauliflowers and his hands were broad clubs, scarred with swollen and broken knuckles. A street fighter, a boxer.
The other man was the leader. He was small, mean looking and dark, with shiny, squinty eyes, a scruffy beard and a nasty smile that showed gaps in his teeth. The two separated, a few feet apart, Squinty to Nick's right, Boxer to his left. A flash of steel appeared in each man's hand.
Knives. He hated knives.
Words echoed inside his head.
You've got two choices in an alley fight. Run or attack. If you attack, if there's more than one man, go for the leader. Always take out the leader first.
He walked straight at them. Not what they expected. Then he sprinted at Squinty and shouted from deep in his gut, a harsh, primal scream that vibrated off the alley walls. It froze both men, just long enough.
Squinty lunged forward, the knife held straight out and low, coming up for a classic strike under the rib cage to rip the diaphragm and the aorta. Carter grasped his wrist and reached over with his left hand, levered up and out and broke Squinty's elbow, using momentum to fling him to the side. He side kicked and took out Boxer's knee.
The knee folded sideways at an impossible angle. It crunched and broke, an unmistakable sound of terrible injury and unbearable pain. Boxer screamed and slashed out as he went down. A cut cold as ice opened along Nick's thigh.
Boxer tried to sit up. Carter kicked him in the throat. He clutched his neck and fell back choking. His eyes opened wide in terror as he tried to breathe. At the other end of the alley, Brown Jacket got into the Volvo. As the car drove off, he threw Nick a look of venomous hatred.
Squinty reached for his knife with his left hand. Nick kicked him hard in the head, a kick that could have got him into the NFL. Back at the entrance of the alley two cops appeared, guns drawn, shouting. Carter raised his hands, fingers spread wide.
He guessed he was about to find out what the inside of an Israeli police station looked like.