Paris is a lovely city, full of romance, culture, and exotic diversions enough to satisfy even the most jaded of tastes, attracting millions of tourists a year from all over the world. It is a city accustomed to fun, gaiety, and tranquility, and it is not a city that is used to the terror practiced by the man calling himself Odin.
The French government had been warned by email to have the Eiffel Tower evacuated by 10 AM Paris time. Odin did not want loss of life. He wanted only to demonstrate the power of his Voice once more. He made it very clear that he did not want anyone to be hurt or killed. This time. The purpose of this demonstration was to prove that he could strike wherever he wished with his Voice. The French government decided to take the madman at his word, and not only made sure that the Eiffel Tower was evacuated, they evacuated every single building for a square mile around the world-famous landmark, and cordoned off the perimeter.
By this time, a veritable army of news people had invaded Paris and set up positions wherever they could in order to be able to get the best possible shot of the Eiffel Tower. Live feeds went out all across the world on all the major news channels: CNN, MSNBC, GlobalNet; they were all there, cameras ready to record whatever might happen. Representatives from every major law enforcement and espionage agency were on hand as well, with their own equipment to monitor the event.
The first sound was heard at exactly 10AM. A high pitched, shivering sound that did in fact sound unpleasantly like a human voice striving to hit notes that a human voice was never designed to touch. It seemed as if the keening cry rose higher and higher and that was all. Nothing appeared to be happening to the Eiffel Tower itself.
The Voice changed pitch and tone suddenly, as if trying to find the right reverberation to cause the tower’s destruction, and indeed, shortly after the change, the Eiffel Tower began to visibly quiver and tremble, like a plucked banjo string.
The Voice deepened, and the shivering quality became more pronounced as the Eiffel Tower thrummed and vibrated like the world’s largest tuning fork, and then, incredibly, simply burst into tons upon tons of powder.
The world watched in incredulous horror as the Eiffel Tower, reduced to a mountain of pulverized, powdered metal, began to blow away. Once the crowning glory of the magnificent City of Light, it was now nothing more than fine particles that were being carried away on the wind.
Deep in some hidden sanctum, Odin laughed in mad, delighted glee, satisfied in his hideous power, reveling in the delicious black fear that he was spreading over an entire planet as he contemplated the next step in his insidious plan…
Yolanda Merrydew heard Dillon out completely without interruption; fascinated, and more than a little captivated, by this strange man with the compelling, vibrant voice and bright copper eyes that seemed to radiate trust. She pointed at her unconscious colleague. “You didn’t hurt him, did you?”
“Certainly not. I just wanted to talk to you alone. You appear to be the only person sympathetic toward me on this entire island.”
Yolanda leaned forward slightly and placed a hand on Dillon’s cheek. “When I was interrogating you inside the White Room, there was a memory of your mother. She died a horrible, lonely death to save you. And I don’t think she sacrificed herself for an evil purpose. No. Whatever it is she was saving you for, it couldn’t be anything evil…”
“Then you’ll help me get out of here? All I need for you to do is to get me to the airfield.”
Yolanda’s pretty face darkened. “May I ask why?”
“So I can steal a plane, of course.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
“Well, it’s not like boosting a ’67 Chevy from a 7-11 parking lot, but I have had some experience at this sort of thing. We’ll need to pick up Kris Quinlan as well.”
“You’re not going to take her with you, are you? I think she’d be safer here.”
Dillon shook his head in a firm negative. “Once I blow this pop stand, Tipp’s not going to be a very happy man. I wouldn’t want him taking out his anger at me on her.”
Yolanda reluctantly nodded in agreement. “I just hope I’m doing the right thing here.”
Dillon flashed his easy grin. “Trust me. Helping to save the world ranks up there pretty high on my to-do list.”
Kris was just emerging from a restless sleep in which she was being chased by a Lady Thelma with turkey feet and great crimson batwings when the door of her room opened and Dillon stuck his head inside.
“Loooocie! You got some ‘splainin’ ta do!” he said, in a flawless Desi Arnaz voice.
“Dillon!” Kris squealed, and raced across the room to embrace him fiercely. Dillon grinned and impulsively kissed her warmly on the lips. Kris kissed him back, and hugged him as tight as she could.
“Hey, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were happy to see me, kid,” Dillon said. He motioned for Yolanda to enter the room, and she closed the door behind her. “This is Dr. Merrydew. She’s on our side, and she’s going to help us get out of here.”
Kris pushed back her mane of hair and looked confused. “But it’s okay! I took care of everything!”
Dillon’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What exactly do you mean that you took care of everything? Have you been talking to anybody?”
Kris’s head bobbed up and down in the affirmative. “I talked to this wonderfully nice man named Tipp who said that he’s going to talk to his superiors about us. I told him the whole story and he was ever so nice and—”
Kris stopped as she saw the dismayed expressions on the faces of Dillon and Yolanda. Both of them looked as if they’d just heard some truly awful news indeed. “But what’s the matter?”
“You told Gregory Tipp everything?” Dillon said in a somewhat strangled, strained voice.
“Well… yes . . . He said that he was just a go-between, but if I trusted him and told him everything, he’d report back to his superiors and he’d…” Kris trailed off as she watched Dillon and Yolanda trade dismayed glances. “Will one of you tell me what the hell you’re so worried about?”
“My dear, Gregory Tipp is in charge of Project: 65,” Yolanda explained, “as well as quite a few other divisions and operations of the British Secret Service. In fact, there’s not too many higher than him.”
Kris’s eyes opened so wide that it would have almost been comical if the situation hadn’t been so desperate. “But he seemed so nice and understanding…”
Yolanda gestured at Dillon. “That nice and understanding man ordered me to subject your friend to a highly dangerous form of technological torture in an effort to find out what he knew, and I assure you that if you hadn’t talked as freely as you did, you would have been next.”
Kris looked at the older woman with a slightly dazed expression, as if she’d been rabbit punched. “Torture? What do you mean?”
“That’s what I do, my dear. I’m an interrogator by profession.”
“And that reminds me of another favor I’ve got to ask of you.” Dillon gently laid his hands on Yolanda’s shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. “Whatever records you have of my interrogation needs to be destroyed.”
“Has it got something to do with those strange people I saw?”
Dillon nodded. “After my mother was killed, those people became my family. And they only allowed me to leave once I promised I would keep their secrets safe from the rest of the world. Please. If you trust me this far, then trust me a little further and destroy whatever you have.”
“Of course I will. You have my word on it.”
Kris had listened to this exchange, which was just a meaningless babble to her. The only thing she was concerned about was getting as far away from here as possible. “Dr. Merrydew, is there anything you can do to get us out of here?”
“I think so.”
“What about your equipment?” Kris said.
“I’ll have to leave it. We’ve pushed our luck enough as it is. I don’t know where Tipp is, but it’s a sure bet that he’s going to—”
The blare of an alarm cut off the rest of his sentence. Yolanda finished it for him. “Find out that you’re gone any minute now, correct?”
Dillon jerked his head toward the door. “Come along, Kris. I do believe it’s time for us to be going.”
Gregory Tipp was livid with rage as he stormed into the main control center housed in the administrative wing. “How did he escape? How?”
A security officer was speaking into a walkie-talkie, coordinating the search effort. He turned to Tipp. “We think he’s got Dr. Merrydew as a hostage, sir. I’m having a search done now.”
“Search my arse! Shut down the entire island and shut it down now! I want Dillon brought to me in the next half hour or the lot of you will be in the Arctic searching icebergs for militant penguins! Now move!”
Dillon and Kris abandoned all pretense of trying to sneak to the hangar, and ran across the tarmac. Guards yelled at them to halt, and fired warning shots in the air as they spotted them. Dillon ordered Kris to ignore them, and they dashed inside the hangar where a number of airplanes were lined up. Dillon ran an expert eye over the eight or so aircraft and pointed at a small fighter jet. He helped Kris up the ladder into the rear seat, and he tumbled into the pilot seat.
He’d flown this model before, the small but lethal Artemis fighter, that in a pinch, could do in the neighborhood of Mach 4 for a short amount of time. The armament was pretty standard, but able to keep bigger and more powerful planes at bay. The canopy closed just in time as small machine gun fire spanged off the armored glass. Kris screamed and scrunched down in the cramped seat as far as she could.
“Don’t worry! They’d have to bring up something a lot heavier than what they’ve got now to blast us out of this crate.”
“Could you just get us the hell out of here and save the dissertation for later?” Kris screamed back.
“Strap in!” Dillon scanned the board quickly. It had been a while since he’d flown an Artemis, but things were quickly coming back to him, thanks to the rapidly mounting pressure. Men were ringing the aircraft, demanding that they come out and surrender. Dillon ignored them and began the pre-flight sequence. The turbines boomed into life and soldiers scattered as the fighter began to move, taxiing out of the hangar doors smoothly and easily, if a bit too slowly for Kris’s liking.
Dillon threw a cheery wave at her over his shoulder. “Piece of cake! We’ll be airborne in no time.”
The Artemis stopped dead, some one hundred feet out of the hangar. Dillon looked at the computer screen, which was displaying a truly depressing bit of information:
PRE-FLIGHT ABORTED. COMMAND OVERRIDE ENABLED.
Now jeeps were racing toward them as well as more soldiers on foot, brandishing heavier weapons that Dillon was fairly positive could pierce the armor of the fighter with no problem whatsoever.
“What are you doing?” Kris screamed.
“Fucking up,” Dillon muttered as his fingers flew over the small keyboard, trying to remember how to override the override and regain control of the plane. The message changed abruptly and now read:
MISSILE CLUSTER ONE ENABLED.
From the plane’s belly, a sphere was deployed, popped downward and fired thirty pineapple sized missiles in all directions around and away from the Artemis. The resulting chaotic destruction was nothing short of spectacular. A pair of jeeps were hit in their engines and were blown into the air, flipping over and over, throwing men in all directions, before crashing back onto the tarmac. Other jeeps collided as the drivers cursed and turned the steering wheels frantically to evade the missiles.
Tires screamed in protest and blew. One jeep was hit dead bang in the gas tank and it leaped into the air on a trail of orange fire, spewing ribbons of blazing gasoline that struck several men. They immediately forgot all about trying to capture Dillon, and ran about, screaming, until their comrades could grab them, throw them to the tarmac, and extinguish the fires before their spare ammo clips got hot enough to explode.
Five of the missiles streaked into the hangar, struck oil drums, a helicopter, and two other planes as the hangar exploded in an orange fireball that threw burning debris all over the airfield. Men were knocked flat by the sheer force of the hellish detonation, and more than a few of the soldiers got on their radios, screaming for assistance, convinced they were not trying to capture one man but rather they were under a full scale air strike.
The airfield was quickly covered by a thick, choking cloud of black, sooty smoke that made it impossible to see anything more than three feet in any direction. Men were firing wildly, hitting their own comrades in their panic. Never had any of them seen anything like this. Carnage like this simply wasn’t supposed to happen at Project: 65.
A couple of the soldiers had the discipline to remember what they were supposed to be doing and they ran to the plane, weapons at the ready. One man pulled down the ladder and another scampered up, gun at the ready, his eyes murderous and hate-filled.
The canopy was open and the plane empty. Dillon and Kris were gone.
Dillon and Kris were watching all this from the relative safety of a smaller hangar they were now taking refuge in. Kris peered over Dillon’s shoulder timidly. “Is this going according to plan?”
Dillon’s answer was uncharacteristically short and to the point: “No.”
“Then how are we going to get out of here?”
“We start by giving ourselves up.”
“You must be joking. You just blew up their airfield and now you want to surrender?”
“Just follow my lead and whatever you do, say absolutely nothing, no matter what.”
Dillon placed his hands on top of his head and walked out of the hangar boldly. Kris sighed, offered up a short prayer, and followed his example. In seconds, they were surrounded by a mob of angry soldiers, all pointing their weapons at them and looking as if they wished mightily for a chance to use them.
Dillon looked as innocent as dear old Santa Claus himself. “Take me to your leader.”
Dillon sipped from a bottle of spring water and watched as Gregory Tipp entered the bare interrogation room, which looked pretty much the same as every other interrogation room Dillon had ever been in. Four gunmetal gray walls. A single, harsh light in the ceiling protected by a wire mesh covering. A square table. Two chairs. A one-way window in the wall facing Dillon.
Tipp sat down across the table and extended his hand. “I’m Gregory Tipp.”
Dillon nodded. “Dillon. It’s a pleasure to meet you at last.” The two men shook hands firmly.
“I must say, it’s strange to be sitting face to face with you like this after chasing you for so long.”
Dillon sat back easily in the chair, interlaced fingers on top of his head. “And doing an excellent job of it, I might add. Now I know how the Roadrunner feels. You and Wile E. Coyote must have trained together.”
Tipp frowned. “Who? Is he an American agent?”
Dillon sighed. “Never mind. Shall we get down to business?”
“I’d say it’s past time. Odin’s busy destroying the world while we’re playing games with each other.”
“You got most of the story from the Quinlan girl.”
“Yes. And it may surprise you to hear that I’ve come to be convinced that even if you’re not on our side, then at least you’re not working for Odin.”
“Well, thank you very much. You said something about Odin destroying the world. What’s been going on?”
Tipp informed him, ending with the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. Dillon listened with his sparkling copper eyes half-closed, rocking back on the rear legs of his chair. When Tipp was finished, Dillon spoke quietly. “How familiar are you with vibratory wave pattern theory?”
Tipp shrugged. “I may know a thing or two. Tell me what you know and then I’ll tell you what I know. Fair enough?”
“Sounds like Odin has got his hands on some kind of sonic weapon. Which is a very dangerous thing to have, and even more dangerous, not to mention downright stupid, to use.”
“Sonic weapons disrupt the vibratory wave patterns of solid matter. But like throwing a pebble into a still lake of water, it creates ripples that spread outward, always outward, until coming into contact with something that causes still more ripples. It’s like that old wheeze about the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil causing a hurricane in China.”
Tipp nodded. “You’re talking side effects. Odin’s not only disrupting the wave patterns of his targets, but of everything else on some level.”
“If I were you, I’d start tracking abnormal weather patterns. It’s my guess that there’s some truly funky weather starting to form in parts of the world it has no place being. The more Odin uses his Voice, the more disruptions of weather patterns will occur. This will continue until we have tidal waves, tsunamis, and eventually, earthquakes. Odin thinks he’s got the perfect weapon, but what he’s really got is Pandora’s Box. And he just keeps opening and closing the lid. Sound is a fundamental force of nature, and he’s a barking mad asshole if he thinks he can control it by flipping a switch on and off.”
Tipp was stroking his chin and looking at Dillon curiously. “And just exactly how do you know all this?”
“I read a lot. There’s a vault in the United States, located in Colorado, buried two miles straight down. Inside this vault are literally tons of secret files that won’t be released to the public until the year 2197. I was bored one day and broke in just to have something to do, and then I spent the next fifteen days going back and forth reading the good stuff. Want me to tell you what really happened to Amelia Earhart?”
“Don’t be flip with me!”
Dillon shrugged. “Suit yourself. Anyway, some of those documents detailed an experiment done back in 1986, I think it was. Somebody built a sonic bomb and tested it on a mountain in Australia. The bomb reduced a seventy thousand foot high mountain to dust in twenty minutes, and the resultant ‘ripple effect’ was felt for some one hundred square miles from the detonation point. After that, NATO and the World Security Council forbade any more experimentation or testing of sonic weapons. It scared the pure dee piss outta ‘em.”
Tipp was sitting with his hands splayed out on the table, each and every finger neatly spread out. His eyes were hard and remote. He seemed as if he were having an internal conversation.
“Greg? You want some of my water?”
“I would prefer you call me Tipp. But if you insist on being familiar, then call me Gregory.”
“Sure, Greg.” Dillon grinned insolently. “How about that water?”
“Have you ever heard the name Leopold Gynt?”
Dillon thought for a minute, and then shook his head in a negative.
“Leopold Gynt was a brilliant scientist who devoted his life to the field of harmonics and wave pattern theory. Back in 1981, he demonstrated a sonic weapon for representatives of many of the world intelligence agencies. I wasn’t there, but two people were whom you know. John Velvet, who at that time was Deputy Director of the Machine and Lady Thelma Sharpe, who was working for us at the time.”
“By us, you mean the Secret Service.”
“Exactly. Leopold Gynt’s weapon was a spectacular success, and it was he who built the sonic bomb and tested it.”
Dillon’s eyes opened wider in sudden realization. “Then this Gynt… he’s Odin, I take it?”
“Yes. Yes he is. And I think I know where he is. Are you up to taking him on?”
Dillon’s copper eyes darkened into molten gold. “Sounds like you’re talking a deal, Gregory.”
“Indeed I am.”
“Then let’s get down to it. As I told Dr. Merrydew, saving the world is pretty high on my to-do list.”