CHAPTER 10

‘Fuck a duck!’

Hammerson’s screen flared red as the emergency alert banner passed across it. They had just leapt from DEFCON 5 — Normal Readiness, to DEFCON 2 — War Readiness, in the space of an instant.

A one-megaton fusion device had detonated in Dubna. The seismic activity indicated that the blast had occurred on or below ground — a low-altitude earth-buster, and the fusion meant a lot of heat and power, but little fallout — a giant super-heated hammer blow to the Russian landscape. Hammerson could almost feel the earth shift under his feet.

An accident at the physics research lab? With that class of hi-tech, precision blast, it was more likely someone was cleaning house. And there was only one leader in the world who’d nuke his own soil — Vladimir Volkov.

Hammerson’s heart pounded in his chest. Another thing he knew about Volkov: he would love to have a captured American Special Forces team as his scapegoat. Blame would shift from Russia to the United States. Isn’t gonna happen on my watch. He reached for his phone.

‘Secure line.’ He waited. ‘Dark Bird One, this is Overlord.’

The pilot of the chopper stationed at the Georgian border answered immediately.

‘Acknowledged.’

‘Immediate Valkeryn retrieval.’

‘Acknowledged.’

He hung up the phone.

The mission was terminated, accomplished or not. He had been ordered to obtain the power cell. That brief did not include starting World War III.

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