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Jayapura by Wallace F. Brown (Thriller)

Jayapura by Wallace F. Brown (Thriller)
 
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During a routine assignment in Singapore, freelance intelligence operative, Jack Lawrence, stumbles upon a terrorist plot that could change the world. Suddenly, everyone wants him dead. Even his own government.

What follows is a desperate pursuit through the jungles, gritty villages and teeming cities of Indonesia, as he struggles to stay alive. Along the way, he meets Annie Blake, a beautiful but abrasive British agent who is running from her own demons. As events force them to work together for their survival, the sparks begin to fly.

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Jayapura by Wallace F. Brown (Thriller)
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Sample Chapter

Prologue

The captain of the North Korean freighter watched the barometer with growing concern. The wind was already gusting to thirty knots, driving a hard rain against the bridge. His ship rode restlessly in the choppy waters of the Yellow Sea and he ordered the helmsman to bring the bow closer to the wind. The fishing vessel was three hours overdue and there was still no sign of her. He could see nothing through the deteriorating weather but he knew that soon the seas would begin to roll and their mission would be in peril.

He would have abandoned the mission two hours earlier, had it not been for the security officer who stood behind him, watching his every move. He was a mindless, political hack who knew nothing of the sea and cared nothing for his men or his ship, but the captain knew a bad report could cost him his command and, perhaps, his freedom. To transfer cargo in this weather, in these seas, was insanity but the choice was not his. He also knew full well, that if the cargo were damaged or lost, it would be better for him to follow it into the sea. And so he stood and watched, and waited.

There was a stillness among the crewmen. They were an experienced crew and they did not voice their fear, but he could see it in their faces. They did not like being dead in the water with a storm coming in. The wind, moaning through the steel winch cables was like the howl of a Kraken, waiting for them in the dark. As if things were not bad enough, they were blind. Their ancient radar equipment had failed only an hour out of port and the technician did not have the parts to fix it.

The captain rechecked the ship's position. He knew that the storm closing in on them was not their biggest problem. His real concern lay to the south where a typhoon was steadily working its way across the Pacific. He had calculated there would be ample time to reach port before it hit, but that had been three hours ago. The radio operator stepped onto the bridge and handed him a printout. The typhoon was moving west-northwest and was now tracking directly for Manila. It would be a close thing. If the typhoon held its forward speed they would avoid the worst of it. When it crossed Luzon it would lose some of its strength, at least for a while. Once it entered the warm waters of the South China Sea, there would be hell to pay for any ship in its path.

Suddenly, a cry came up from the aft watch. Lights off the port quarter. The captain turned to the first mate and told him to prepare to take on cargo. The captain watched warily from the bridge as the fishing vessel came alongside. There was nothing he could do but keep his bow into the wind and hold his ship steady against the storm. Everything else depended on the skills of another captain, and the vagaries of the sea. He did not envy the task.

The smaller vessel came alongside and the hawsers were cast. His men rotated the davits out over the rail and the sound of the winches filled the ship as the lifting hooks were lowered. On the smaller vessel a hatch cover was lifted and, inch-by-inch, a pallet rose out of its hold. It held a rectangular shape, about the size of a refrigerator lying on its side, and was covered with a green canvas tarp. As soon as the pallet cleared the deck of the fishing vessel it was manhandled aft.

The crewmen struggled to secure the twin hooks, which were slamming against the hull of the freighter as it rocked unevenly beside them in the turbid water - an ominous drumming in the dark night that gripped the hearts of the seamen like an icy claw. The rain and wind tore at them and it was all they could do to keep their footing. Suddenly the ship lurched and one of the hooks slammed into the group of waiting men, sending two of them sprawling across the deck, and casting them into the sea.

The deck crew scrambled to save them as the pallet slipped precariously along the wet deck. The captain of the fishing vessel shouted orders above the din. The men looked up at him angrily, but they did not disobey. They threw a flotation ring over the side and returned to their work. One of the crewmen had been helped back on board. The other was surrendered to his fortune. The men knew the danger they were facing. They knew delaying to save one man's life in these seas could cost them their ship. They cursed the weather and returned to their task. There was no time to think about it.

Finally, the hooks were secured and the men guided the pallet as it inched its way upward toward the deck of the freighter. As soon as it had cleared their heads, they ran to release the hawsers, anxious to get free of the hulking vessel that loomed over them like a leviathan.

Without warning, an enormous wave hit the small vessel broadside. Had they been on the open sea they would have rode over it like a cork, but they were only a few feet from the hull of the freighter and the wave lifted them and slammed them into the side of the larger ship like a toy. The wooden hull strakes cracked and the air was filled with the ominous sound of groaning metal, and the cries of terrified men. Seawater began to spray through the cracked hull of the fishing vessel and below decks, the engine crew struggled to wedge timbers against the damaged strakes. Above them, the pallet slammed into the hull of the freighter and the cargo shifted as the restraints started to give way. The men on the freighter had no time to worry about the fate of the fishing boat, as they struggled to keep from losing their cargo to the sea. It took every ounce of their strength, but they finally managed to swing the pallet on board and lash it to the deck.

Below them, the smaller vessel rolled violently sideways and the sea washed over the gunwales and began pouring into the open hatch. The small vessel tried to right itself but she was pinched against the hull of the freighter and too much water had run into her hold, disrupting her center of gravity. She was listing badly. Another wave hit and she was slammed again into the hull of the larger vessel, this time crushing the deckhouse and spilling the captain onto the deck below.

With no one at the wheel, the small vessel began to lurch and buck. The deck hands succeeded in releasing the aft ropes, but before they could move forward, another wave washed over the deck and threw them into the sea. The stern swung itself away from the freighter and lifted violently, sending its bow into the side of the freighter's hull. The freighter shuddered, as if staggered by a blow. The fate of the fishing boat was now sealed. The forward lines snapped and she rolled slowly over onto her side.

The men on the freighter stared in horror at the inverted hull of the fishing vessel, staining their ears against the moaning of the wind for the cries of the crew. They heard a few screams, and then nothing. A searchlight snapped on and swept over the debris floating below them, but there was not a man to be seen. Slowly, the stricken vessel slipped into the deep. The captain ordered a boat to be lowered but the political officer countermanded the order. He insisted the captain get underway immediately.

The captain delayed as long as he could, claiming he feared the wreck could still be lodged under his hull. They threw an inflatable life boat over the side and remained in place for another ten minutes, searching the dark waters with their powerful light, but they could do no more.

At last, the captain gave orders to get underway. He stepped out onto the deck and looked down at his cargo. A dark shape, that appeared to grow out of the steel deck like a malignant tumor. What was this thing that moved through the world in the darkness and killed the men and ships that bore it? Something evil. Something that would bring no good to the world. He ordered it stowed below, so he would not have to see it again. The mate asked if the incident should be entered into the ship's log, but the captain just shook his head and stared out into the darkness and the gathering storm. He whispered a quiet prayer for the crew and their captain, and then he called below and told them to give him everything the engines could take.

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