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Grail Awakening: The Grail Protocol Series, #2

Grail Awakening: The Grail Protocol Series, #2

Автором Douglas W Jones

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Grail Awakening: The Grail Protocol Series, #2

Автором Douglas W Jones

Длина:
369 pages
9 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Aug 12, 2018
ISBN:
9781386871101
Формат:
Книге

Описание

A science fiction thriller with mystery, intrigue, and genetic engineering.

Dr. Simon Barstow and Dr. Julie Carston have temporarily escaped death at the hands of Gregory Noble who has stolen the Longevity Gene and seeks to keep the secret of immortality for himself. Now it's a race to expose Noble's plans to the world before Noble can find them and eliminate the last evidence of what he has done, and what he intends to do. If Noble succeeds, he will secretly sell the longevity treatment for wealth and power beyond the wildest dreams of Midas. He plans to create an elite class of immortals who will rule secretly over an unsuspecting humanity.

Grail Protocol is Book One of The Grail Protocol Medical Thriller Trilogy, which also includes Grail Awakening, and Grail's End.

PRAISE FOR THE GRAIL PROTOCOL TRILOGY

"…all the ingredients of a great fast pacing action book…" -Jacob Peled

"I was captivated by the characters and the storyline from page one. The action and suspense kept me interested to the very end." -Richard Vance

 "This is a fascinating tale with a touch of thought provoking science fiction. Mostly it is a rapid paced thriller that keeps you on edge. I am looking forward to reading the third book in this exciting trilogy." -John P. Smith

"This is an excellent read. I highly recommend it." -Mae Deel

Издатель:
Издано:
Aug 12, 2018
ISBN:
9781386871101
Формат:
Книге

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Grail Awakening - Douglas W Jones

Author

To my wife, Laura, who patiently and lovingly

listened to my story as it was written

and gave me wonderful advice.

Chapter 1

TUESDAY, AUGUST 28

People were talking. They sounded far away and she couldn’t make out the words, but the voices were familiar, very familiar. Julie let the sounds wash over her and relished the cozy and safe feeling that flowed through her body. Mom and Dad, she thought. Mom and Dad are talking. I’m home, in my bed. Then another thought occurred to her. Why am I at home? When did I go home? Julie pushed the thoughts aside. She really didn’t care to answer the random questions that floated to the surface of her sleepy mind. It just felt good to lie there and listen to her parents’ voices drift in from the living room.

She let herself sink further into the bed, thinking she would grab a few more minutes of sleep before getting up. Her peaceful reverie was interrupted when she noticed that not everything was as comfortable as she first thought. She flexed her stomach and chest muscles. An intense shot of pain punished her. Crap. She explored more and found that she couldn’t move her right side or right arm. That’s not right. Then she noticed that her parents’ voices had become much louder and more distinct. They’re not in the living room. They’re standing right here in my bedroom. What is going on? What are they talking about? Julie was suddenly feeling not at all cozy. Something was wrong.

She opened her eyes, or at least her mind willed her eyes to open, but nothing happened. She realized she could see light, that her bedroom light was on, but she couldn’t open her eyes. The cozy feeling was rapidly giving way to panic. Why can’t I see? she thought frantically. She tried to roll over, but that didn’t work. She was sluggish, and it felt like something heavy was holding down her right side. She rolled her head and tried to speak, but her mouth felt odd, like her tongue was too big. Panic was really starting to take hold when a cool hand pressed against her forehead and she heard her mother’s voice only inches from her face.

Julie, it’s okay, sweetheart. Calm down. Everything is okay. You’re having another bad dream. You were in an accident and now you’re in a hospital. You’re going to be okay.

Julie struggled to sit up, to just raise her head a little, but she felt so weak, so helpless. Hospital? Yes, an accident. That’s right...an accident. But why can’t I get up? Why can’t I see? Open your eyes. She scrunched her eyes tightly then demanded that they open. Open your eyes, dammit!

Julie’s eyes suddenly sprang open, and she stared directly into the eyes of her mother only inches above her. A flash of recognition leaped between the two women. The concern and sorrow on her mother’s face were heartbreaking. Julie didn’t know what was happening, but she knew that look.

She managed a simple, croaking question. What happened, Mama?

Instantly, her mother’s face changed; joy burst forth, pure joy. Patricia Carston collapsed beside her daughter, hugging her and sobbing uncontrollably. After a minute, she pushed up so she could stare into Julie’s deep green eyes.

Patricia put her hands on each side of her daughter’s face, leaned over to kiss her on the forehead, and whispered, Welcome back, sweetheart.

Then Julie remembered.

AGENT FRAZIER CAME to full alertness when he heard what was going on in the hospital room. Something was happening with Julie Carston and his orders were clear. He sent a priority message to Louis Compton. It was only 7:12 AM Pacific Time, but Louis would already be at the office.

The response was immediate. Louis ordered a direct feed from the hospital room. The monitored conversation was mostly one-sided, with Julie Carston’s parents doing the majority of the talking. Julie Carston would occasionally say a few words, but she seemed somewhat confused about what had happened. Louis placed a call to Noble. Julie Carston was rapidly returning to full awareness, and it was time to put the next phase of the contingency plan in motion.

BRENT LANKFORD ANSWERED the phone, the special one he kept in his briefcase. Hello.

Brent, this is James. Julie is aware of who she is and what has happened.

I’ll call you back in five minutes. Brent hung up and walked out of his office. As he passed the front desk, he told the office manager he would return shortly. Outside, he picked a direction and started to walk. It was just after eleven AM Eastern and still not too warm outside to be comfortable.

He pressed redial on the phone.

Hello.

How is your daughter?

She’s good, still weak, but good. She woke up an hour ago and was back; I mean her memory was back. She’s alert and knows who she is, who we are, and what has happened. We’ve been prepared for this ever since she first came out of the coma, so we immediately gave her a note card we wrote in advance. It simply explained that we knew what was going on and that she should not say too much because the room is bugged.

Excellent. Here’s what I need you to do. First, you and your wife have to stay with Julie round the clock. Second, get in contact with the sheriff and ask him to place a deputy outside of her room. He’s already suspicious about what went on, so just remind him that Julie is a material witness to something big and most likely criminal. Those two actions should cause our adversaries to think hard before trying anything. Meanwhile, I’ll put our plan into motion. I’ll be back in contact soon. Any questions?

No. We’re ready to do whatever it takes to get our daughter safely out of this.

I know. We’re glad you’re there.

Brent disconnected and immediately placed another call, this time to David.

Hello.

Brent launched in with no preamble. Julie’s come out of the amnesia. She is alert and aware of who she is and what happened. I just got the call.

That’s great news. You know what to do.

I’ll head to Kings Mountain to coordinate with the Carstons.

Okay. I’ll call Simon. Be careful, Brent.

DAVID WALKED INTO THE apartment, or, rather, Walter King walked in. David never came to this part of DC without first morphing into his Walter King persona.

He sat down and held up his hand before Simon could start in with a million questions. We don’t know a lot yet. But Julie is awake, and she’s okay. Brent’s on his way to Kings Mountain to help Julie’s parents get ready.

I need to get down there and help.

David gave Simon a look that said, You’re stupid. But instead, he said, You know that’s a bad idea. The one thing that absolutely cannot happen is for you to fall into Noble’s hands. I’m leaving for Kings Mountain right away. That will put four of us there by evening. If everything goes as planned, we should have Julie out of there by the end of the day. If there’re no complications, we’ll head straight back here.

David, wait. I have to tell you something. I wouldn’t have survived this if it hadn’t been for you and your brother. I’ll never be able to repay the debt I owe you. That’s what makes it so hard to tell you what I’m about to tell you.

David Lankford was taken aback by Simon’s solemn demeanor. They’d only known each other a couple of months, but David was a good judge of character, and Simon Barstow definitely was on the plus end of the scale. But his friend was clearly getting ready to tell him something he didn’t want to admit, a secret that was bothering him to his core. David had seen this before and knew it was going to be ugly. A surprise related to all of this genetic manipulation and longevity magic was likely to be unpleasant. David braced himself.

Okay, Simon, what is it?

It’s about Noble blocking our attempt to get around his confiscation of the longevity discovery.

Yeah, that was a miserable failure. It almost got you killed.

True, but that’s not what I need to talk to you about. What I didn’t tell you was that Julie and I had a backup plan.

David paused for a long time and just stared across the table at Simon. He didn’t like where this was going. This is really going to piss me off, isn’t it, Simon? David could see the beginnings of panic in Simon’s eyes.

I think it might.

David crossed his arms and settled back. So, tell me already.

Simon didn’t know how else to do it—so he just spewed it out. We took the laboratory virus, and we changed it to an airborne virus that could transmit the longevity gene human to human.

What do you mean? David asked with an icy-cold voice. Fear crawled steadily up his spine and spread as an itch over his tightening scalp. Like a cold virus?

Yes. That’s exactly what I mean. We put the longevity genetic material into a rhinovirus.

David’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. He was stunned, speechless. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was his primary mission in Section Delta, to guard against exactly this...this genetic manipulation, to stop the bad guys from creating human-to-human transmittable viruses. He recoiled from devastating images flashing through his mind—the stuff of nightmares. It was the horror beneath the veneer of the modern technological world—an airborne virus is let loose on an unsuspecting populace, passing from person to person and exploding into a worldwide pandemic.

He jumped up from the table. Mother Fu... He almost launched over the table as he pounded his fists. Do you know what you’ve done? he yelled. He stopped short, his eyes growing wide. You didn’t just develop the virus. You deployed it, didn’t you? he said accusingly.

David’s fury caught Simon completely off guard. He knew David would be angry, but his vehemence was nearing violence. David was acting like Simon had released a deadly plague.

Simon pulled back from the blast of anger, instinctively raising his hands to stop the onslaught. He rushed to explain. Yes. I didn’t want to. Julie and I knew the dangers. But yes, I released the virus. Simon could see that his words were fueling David’s anger. He frantically blurted out a defense. I took steps to stop the risks!

David froze for just a second. Risks... Risks?! Seriously? Do you hear yourself? You don’t stop risk on something like this. You just don’t do it. Period! This is insane. You released this into the wild? This thing rewrites the genetic code of a person, for God’s sake. You don’t even know how it works. You may have released the most devastating plague in all of human history.

Simon slammed both fists on the table. Stop! he demanded, refusing to be cowed any further, his own anger surging in his voice. That’s not true! I would never do that. Julie and I did not do that! Simon was red-faced and breathing heavily. We made sure that would not happen, that it absolutely could not happen. I’m not stupid, David. Simon kicked back his chair and stood. I know the risk of letting something like this out into the world. No matter how good the lab results looked, there would always be a risk of unforeseen consequences. That’s why I put the terminator gene in the virus.

David was shocked into silence—momentarily confused. The what?

The terminator gene.

I heard what you said, Simon. But I don’t know what you’re talking about.

It limits the number of replications of the virus. After a set number, the virus can no longer multiply—it dies.

David’s confusion deepened. You can do that?

I can, and I did. So can a handful of other geneticists, at least in the United States.

Ah... said David as the pieces fell into place. Of course. Your military background... Bioweapons. David’s anger subsided just slightly as he tried to process this new revelation.

That’s right. I put a limitation on the virus so it could only spread so far and then it would cease to exist.

David was slapped back. This was new, very new information. He didn’t know this was possible, but he absolutely believed Simon. He had to process. It made sense. It was in line with Simon’s character. He still thought this whole thing was very, very wrong...but suddenly less threatening than it had been just moments before.

You can instruct a virus to die?

Essentially, yes. I instructed the cold virus to die after so many replications. All the test results pointed to no complications, zero negative effects of the genetic manipulation. All the test animals remained healthy, just younger. But even with that, I would never do what I did without the terminator gene to kill the virus in the wild and limit any potential damage.

David’s eyes narrowed as he leaned farther over the table. How limited are we talking about?

Simon hesitated, clearly not wanting to answer.

"How many, Simon? David demanded.

Four hundred million people.

Holy mother of God. David raised his clenched fists to the sky. "Are you fucking kidding? You call that limited? By what convoluted math is that even close to limited? If something happens, and this turns out deadly, you’ve put more people at risk than died from the Spanish flu. The only pandemic more deadly than that was the Black Death in the fourteenth century! I’d say that’s still pretty fucking risky, Simon."

Okay, it was risky, terribly risky. I didn’t want to do it. Noble backed me into a corner. I didn’t have any other options. I was screwed up. Noble tried to kill me, and I thought he had killed Julie. I was being hunted. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

David grimaced. That’s an understatement of epic proportions. It was stupid, Simon. Risky and stupid. We could have found some other way. You didn’t have to do something bat-shit crazy like that. There are other people we could have gone to. People that Gregory Noble couldn’t get to or couldn’t control.

Simon was shaking his head more and more as David argued his point. "I know where you’re heading. We’ve both gone down this road. There has to be another way, right? Some way to get the discovery out to the world that wouldn’t blow everything to hell and gone. Some way that would stop Noble from stealing the discovery. We tried—it nearly got us killed.

But it’s not just Noble. Simon continued in a rush. There are forces that will want this discovery obliterated as if it never happened. It could be a witch’s brew of religious, economic, and political leaders—they all have a huge stake in the current status quo. Many would see this discovery as the most dangerous, most disruptive technology ever, and in many ways, they would be right.

I understand your motivations, Simon. But you did the same thing you didn’t want Noble to do. You took control of it, you used it, and you didn’t give four hundred million people any say in it.

I know. But the risk of not taking this action was even greater. Letting Noble win would condemn humanity to slavery. Oh, it wouldn’t look like slavery. Only a very select few would even know what was going on, but it would be slavery just the same. A few hundred people, very wealthy and powerful people, living hundreds, perhaps thousands of years; they would be like a different species, a hidden overlord race sitting high above their short-lived and much less fortunate brethren. It would be a shift and concentration of power like the world has never seen—and it would never end.

David sat quietly, looking at Simon as he contemplated what he had learned. The genie was truly out of the bottle and it would never go back. The shock to the world was inevitable, and it would be drastic. That was now an inescapable fact. He made a decision. The emphasis must now change to dealing with and adapting to this new reality.

We’re not through with this conversation, Simon, not by a long shot.

Simon bowed his head. I know.

All right. We focus on getting Julie. Then we’ll talk more about this insane thing you did.

I’m heading south with you, Simon declared abruptly.

What the hell. David’s eyes hardened. That’s already decided. You’re staying here.

Nothing was decided. You made it clear how you felt. I never agreed. I’m going.

You know we can’t risk that.

I have to go. Besides, it’s a greater risk if I don’t go, Simon countered.

What? That makes no sense.

What if your car breaks down?

David’s quick retort was cut off before it could form.

Ahh. I can see it on your face. You weren’t thinking about that. We can’t risk it with just one car.

But—

Simon cut him off. You know I’m right.

But...the risk. If Noble gets you, it’s over."

If we fail to rescue Julie, it’s over; whether I stay or go, it’s over for Julie and me. But I made sure the secret is out there, beyond Noble’s control. I did at least that much. Simon handed David several envelopes.

What are these? asked David.

These are a last resort. Half a dozen envelopes—they contain everything, including data chips of my research results.

Everything?

Nothing self-incriminating. I withheld our identities—just in case. But I gave the facts about Noble and Martin. I explained about the longevity gene and that it’s out in the world. I didn’t go into how it got out.

David looked at the top one. "New York Times?"

And other major news organizations, added Simon. I’ll mail these once we’re on the road and well away from DC. If we’re captured or killed, at least the truth will have a chance. We could be heading into a trap.

David didn’t respond immediately. Okay. We’ll do it your way. I think this will work. Noble shouldn’t have any idea about what we’re planning.

You’ll need a rental car.

Right. It wouldn’t be very smart to drive my own car. You can drive the Malibu.

BRENT HAD BOUGHT AN older, plain-vanilla car several weeks before as they began to develop their plan. It had been sitting in long-term parking at the airport. It now had the license plate from an old junker, and the vehicle identification data had been destroyed. He arrived in Kings Mountain right before three in the afternoon and called James Carston.

Yes.

This is Brent. If you’re in Julie’s room, just hang up and take a walk to someplace secure. I’ll call back in ten minutes. The line went dead.

Patricia looked at her husband across the bed, a quizzical look on her face.

James shook his head ever so slightly. I’m going out for a little fresh air. I’ll be back in a while.

Patricia just nodded in understanding. While you’re out, would you mind swinging by the hotel and getting me a few things? I think I’ll spend the night with Julie. I’ve already checked with her doctor and he thinks it would be a great idea for one of us to be here.

Not a problem. Anything in particular I should get?

No, just a change of clothes and some basic toiletries—oh, and the book I started. It should be on the nightstand.

You got it, James said over his shoulder as he left the room. He gave a nod to the sheriff’s deputy, who had arrived that morning shortly after James called Sheriff Grayson.

It had taken little to convince the sheriff to assign a deputy. The whole situation surrounding the crash a few weeks earlier stank to high heaven. Simon Barstow and Julie Carston had been running from someone, and that someone had a lot of muscle, based on the manhunt that was mounted.

Once James was out of the hospital, he started walking toward the hotel. Halfway there, he walked into a nearly empty Ruby Tuesday and sat in a booth towards the back.

It was only a minute until his phone rang. Hello.

Mr. Carston, can you talk?

Yes.

"Good. Is Mrs. Carston with Julie?

Yes. She’s going to stay the night. I’m heading back to the hotel to get her a few things.

All right. One of you needs to be in the room with her at all times. The people who are after her are going to grab her, soon, maybe even today. If your daughter is taken by these people, she will not survive. Do you understand what I’m saying?

You’re saying they’ll kill her?

Yes, they will. But she has information they want. They’ll get that out of her first, and they won’t care how they have to do it. Is that clear enough?

All James could muster was a whispered Yes.

We’re going to get her out. Things are already in motion. You’ve got an important role to play. I’ll call back to give you instructions. But first, Simon wants to talk to you. Just stay where you are.

HELLO, JAMES.

Oh, my God! Simon. What is going on? Brent said that Julie’s life is in danger.

The panic in James’s voice tore at Simon. James, he said in a calm and sure voice. We’re going to get Julie out of there. Trust me. We have capable people on this. You and Patricia have a big part to play, and we don’t have much time. So, when Brent calls, do exactly as he says. The people who put your daughter in the hospital will be moving fast. We need to be faster. Simon waited for a response, but there was only silence. Are you still there? Simon asked.

Yes, came the hesitant reply. I’m sorry. It’s just hard to focus. It’s like being in a TV drama that’s stuck in a loop. We got trapped and we just can’t break out. But that changed today, didn’t it? I’ve got to step up—we’ve got to step up.

Simon didn’t answer for a moment. Are you ready?

Yes.

Stay strong, James. Julie is counting on us. Brent will call. Brace yourself. Things will move fast.

ALL OF THE GRAIL PROTOCOL Group was present. Nobody had known when, or if, Julie Carston would recover her memory. Now they knew—it was time to act.

Compton looked around the table. Two things happened today that forced us to change our plans. First, there’s a sheriff’s deputy outside of Ms. Carston’s room. Second, one or both of Ms. Carston’s parents are intending to spend the night at the hospital. Silence greeted his revelations. All eyes turned toward Gregory Noble.

The plan had called for a simple extraction from the hospital. A single agent dressed as an orderly would drug Julie Carston and take her in a wheelchair to a waiting car. Any protest from the nursing station would simply be ignored until the elevator doors closed in the face of the confused nurses. Once on the ground floor, a few steps would put them out of the building and into the waiting car. The plan was simple—or it had been.

All right, Gregory said. It’s no longer going to be a simple abduction. His voice was calm and level, but his eyes told a different story. They were full of danger. Any speculation on why the Carstons suddenly decided to stay overnight at the hospital? Or why we suddenly have a sheriff’s deputy guarding her door?

There was an uncomfortable silence around the table. All eyes shifted none too subtly toward Louis Compton.

Sweat beaded on Louis Compton’s forehead. He hated being on the receiving end of Noble’s anger. Not many men could intimidate the special ops officer, but Noble was one. We have no way of knowing why these changes have occurred. Best-case scenario, the Carstons simply want to be close to their daughter now that she’s finally aware of who they are. As for the sheriff posting a deputy, it might be normal procedure for a high-profile person of interest in an ongoing investigation. We did, after all, create quite a stir in the local area when we tried to capture Barstow. Worst-case scenario, someone is orchestrating these changes to block our attempts to get at Ms. Carston.

Benton objected. There isn’t anyone else. It’s just Barstow, right? He’s on the run and cut off from his help in Homeland Security. How could he be orchestrating anything?

I’m in agreement with Benton, said Michael. "Barstow simply does not have the expertise to do this, nor does he have access to the necessary equipment. We nailed the guy at Homeland Security, so he can’t be getting any help from that direction.

Louis raised his hands in defense. Hey, I’m not saying that we have active opposition to worry about. I’m just laying out the facts. We have a changed situation on the ground. These are probably just coincidental to Ms. Carston regaining her memory. But regardless, we need to move quickly.

Michael. Gregory turned toward his security chief as he spoke. Any indications that the Carstons are cooperating with any other parties in this?

No. Nothing. We’ve kept a tight watch on them. We have surveillance in their car and their hotel room, and we’re monitoring their phone and email communications. When possible, we have them under physical observation. They have done nothing out of the ordinary.

Okay, said Gregory. We go with the revised plan.

JULIE WAS AWAKE AGAIN. She knew what was going on and that the room was bugged. The note from her mother had said to feign some lingering effects of amnesia and disorientation. Julie said very little. She mostly listened to her mother recount what had taken place over the past three weeks.

James Carston opened the door and signaled his wife to join him in the hall. Patricia squeezed Julie’s hand. I’ll be right back.

James had been busy all afternoon. He’d met with Brent and gotten instructions on his part of the rescue plan. He’d scouted the hospital and determined the best place to exit to quickly get Julie in the car that would take her away. When Patricia joined James in the hallway, he took her by the arm and gently encouraged her to walk with him. Once they were out of earshot of the deputy, he said, It’s set for this evening.

So quickly?

Yes. They worked all this out days ago. Brent said that once Julie regained her memory, they would have to act immediately. We’re the final piece of the plan. I’m supposed to call one last time to give the go-ahead.

"Julie’s been up several times over the past few days. I helped her again just over an hour ago to

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