In 1984 a doomsday vault was constructed on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean.
Its purpose was to preserve Earth’s genetic history in the event of a global catastrophe.
Now, decades later, a second vault has been uncovered.
This one resting where no one ever expected.
And the problem is…it’s not ours.
Yet even more curious than the vault itself, is what lies inside.
Seeds. Millions of seeds. Each with a genetic embryo untouched and perfectly preserved.
No one knows who built it. Or when.
What we have managed to figure out is that whoever it was traveled an immense distance. For the sole purpose of hiding their genetic blueprints on Earth.
Now a small group of marine biologists and navy investigators have been assigned to find out. Before anyone else does.
But Alison Shaw and John Clay are not prepared for what they are about to uncover.
Beginning with the truth behind our own evolution.
Release date: November 18, 2015
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 454
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With a painful wince, Steve Caesare brushed back his shirt and slid a hand down over the handle of his gun. The hallway he stood in was richly decorated with white marble walls and thick beige carpeting, allowing him to approach the door with very little sound.
Caesare glanced up at one of the overhead chandeliers, scanning the ceiling and walls for cameras. Too well hidden. His hotel uniform was bulging at the seams, barely containing his broad frame beneath. Anyone taking a close look at a monitor would notice something wrong with his appearance.
The Tivioli Mofarrej was one of the most elegant hotels in São Paulo, and certainly the most expensive. Used by the wealthiest clientele, the hotel emanated a raw sense of power and prestige, towering among the cityscape of Brazil’s richest city.
It had taken him two weeks. Two weeks following the man he had now tracked to the room at the end of the hall. Miguel Blanco was living large off the money he had stolen from Mateus Alves, his previous employer and one of the richest men in South America. After killing his former boss, Blanco had successfully stolen nearly one hundred million Brazilian reales from Alves’ various accounts and trusts. It was only a fraction of the old man’s wealth, but it was more than enough –– enough to become one of the very elites Blanco had spent much of his life protecting.
And it had been no easy task. Gaining access to Alves’ accounts was one thing. Blanco already had help with that. The hard part was covering his tracks. For that he needed the help of several others, compadres who were discreet and also stood to gain handsomely from the disassembling of Alves’ vast fortune.
Caesare, however, didn’t care about the money. He was there for a very different reason. The old man had been as corrupt as his murderer and Caesare held no sympathy for either of them. He was there for one thing and one thing only: retribution.
He was there because if it had been up to Blanco, Caesare would have been just as dead, lying next to the old man on top of that mountain. But Blanco didn’t know he had survived. And after two weeks of searching, Caesare was about to pay him the mother of all surprise visits.
The absence of anyone guarding the door left Caesare a bit wary as he crept closer. Guests staying in a presidential suite usually had a security detail. Where was Blanco’s? The man had previously been an officer in the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, which typically left men overconfident or completely paranoid. But if he was paranoid, where was his detail?
Blanco was definitely in the room. At least he had been thirty minutes ago. They had zeroed in on the target’s cell phone signal, and pinpointed it to thirty meters from where Caesare was now standing before it was abruptly switched off. Now, ten feet from the door, he silently slid the .40 caliber Glock out from its concealed holster and laid his index finger along the side, just above the trigger guard. He turned his head slightly, using his peripheral vision to check the hall behind him one last time.
When he reached the door, Caesare kept to the side and brought the gun around his right hip. He raised it smoothly and leaned in closer, listening. There was no sound at all. No voices. No television. Nothing.
Blanco hadn’t left Rio de Janeiro with anyone except the one person Caesare knew would be with him: Alves’ young and longtime personal assistant, Carolina Sosa. She was the one person who had access to many of the old man’s accounts and other verifiable information. She was the gateway to Alves’ riches.
Caesare withdrew a small magnetic card, a used but very valuable card. It came from the hotel, which took only a few hours to find in São Paulo. From a person who could encode a master keycard for almost any hotel in the city.
He held it in his left hand and twisted his wrist to peer at his watch, waiting.
When Caesare heard the phone finally ring inside the room, he moved quickly, inserting the card into the door’s lock and pulling it back out. The loud click was masked by the telephone’s ring and Caesare immediately pushed the door ajar –– just enough to prevent the lock from reengaging. In the same motion, he brought the tip of his left shoe forward to prop the door open by half an inch.
The phone rang again, echoing through the room. The third ring was the last, immediately plunging the room back into silence. With another quick glance over his shoulder, Caesare pressed his ear close to the cracked door. No footsteps. No movement at all that he could hear.
He pushed the door in further and was met by a cool draft of air escaping past him. The door opened further without any noise, allowing Caesare a look inside. Down the entrance hallway, he spotted a dark polished table with chairs perfectly arranged.
He stepped inside, keeping the gun low but in front. The pain in his ribs screamed as he twisted around to ease the door closed –– a result of the near fatal wound Blanco had given him.
The door gave a muted click shut and Caesare eased forward over the spotless marble flooring. He stepped away from the wall and gradually edged himself around the corner.
Then he froze.
The scene before him was not what he was expecting. The room seemed pristine except for two dining room chairs positioned in the middle. In each chair sat a motionless figure, bound and bloodied. Both gagged, with their heads down upon their chests.
The first was a woman, barely recognizable through the dark brunette hair dangling in front of her face. Carolina Sosa. The second was Miguel Blanco himself, his body slumping but held in place by the ropes around his waist.
Neither was moving.
Caesare immediately stepped back out of sight, leaving only the gun and half of his face exposed. The scene looked fresh enough that the murderer could still be inside the suite. After waiting a minute, he slowly eased himself back away from the wall and moved at a wedged angle, slowly peering back into the main room. He crept forward onto soft carpet. Caesare rounded the next doorway, staying well away from the corner, providing him maximum visibility.
It took several minutes to ensure the entire suite was clear, after which Caesare returned to the front room. He gazed at the two lifeless bodies.
Approaching the pair, he stared into Carolina’s hair-strewn face. Beneath the dark strands, he could see her badly bruised skin. He passed by her and stopped in front of Blanco. The man’s face was entirely black and blue, his gag now fallen halfway off.
He stared at Blanco for a long time, finally shaking his head. Living a life of deceit often ended abruptly, and sometimes violently. The small rubber tourniquet hanging from the man’s arm told Caesare that whatever secrets Blanco had now belonged to someone else. They had literally beaten and drugged it out of him.
It was too bad Caesare hadn’t gotten to him first. At least he would have lived. He scanned the room one last time before returning the gun smoothly to its holster.
Caesare began to turn for the door when something suddenly caught his eye, startling him. His gun was back out before his brain even registered what it was.
Blanco had moved.
It was slight, but it was movement. Blanco’s eyes remained closed, but the movement was more than just residual muscle twitching. Caesare waited with his gun lowered but gripped firmly between both hands. Then it happened again.
With one hand, he reached up and eased the Brazilian’s head back before pulling the rest of the cloth gag out of his mouth. The swollen eyelids struggled, but finally managed to crack themselves open. Dark, unfocused eyes peered out.
“Blanco,” Caesare whispered.
It took time for the eyes to focus on Caesare. When they did, the recognition came quickly. They opened wider in disbelief.
Caesare managed to refrain from smiling at Blanco and vindictively muttering the word “surpresa.” Instead he rose and turned toward the phone. He had picked up the handset when Blanco blurted something behind him.
“Não!” A moment later he mumbled again, switching to English. “Don’t call.”
“I’m calling for help.”
Blanco’s eyes dropped to his arm, where a small drop of blood was drying over the remains of an insertion point. “There is…no help…for me,” he said weakly.
Caesare knelt in front of him. “Who did it?”
“Otero,” he whispered.
Caesare knelt down next to him. “What did he want?”
“Please.” Blanco’s voice grew fainter. “Please…save them.”
Caesare glanced around the room. “Save who?”
Blanco was now struggling just to make his lips move. “My family.”
Admiral Langford looked up as John Clay opened the wide door to his office with Will Borger standing behind him. The Admiral quickly waved them in as he pushed a button on his phone and dropped the handset back onto the cradle.
“Okay, Clay and Borger are here. Go ahead, Steve.”
“Bom dia, gents,” Caesare called through the speaker. “You’re missing some beautiful weather down here. Sweltering and muggy.”
Clay smiled. “Sounds lovely.”
“Yeah, unfortunately it’s not all sunshine and roses.”
“Did you find Blanco?”
“Oh, I found him all right. But I’m afraid he’s not in the best of moods. He’s dead.”
Clay and Borger looked at Langford with surprise.
“Dead?” Borger repeated, confused. “But we traced that call he made right before he turned his cell off just an hour ago.”
“Yeah well, I don’t think he was the one who turned it off. I found him in his room beaten to a pulp. The Sosa woman was already gone and Blanco was just minutes away. I couldn’t do anything.”
“Was he conscious?”
“Barely. I got a little out of him, but it was brief.”
Clay noticed an echo in Caesare’s voice. “Where are you?”
On the other end, Caesare scanned up and down the metal stairs, working quickly to get his stolen uniform off. “I’m in a stairwell, at the hotel.”
Langford looked at the phone. “Any idea who did it?”
“Someone named Otero. Ring a bell with anyone?”
They all shook their heads. “No.”
Caesare nodded on his end. “I suspect he was someone involved with Mateus Alves.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because that’s what they were after,” replied Caesare.
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is, they weren’t after the money. They wanted answers.”
“What kind of answers?”
“As far as I can tell, answers about Alves. Whoever this Otero is, he was looking for something specific. Money is easy to trace, but Blanco and his girlfriend looked like they were subjected to some serious narco-interrogation, followed by a lethal cocktail. Either way, I’m sure Otero didn’t expect someone like me to show up before Blanco was dead.”
Langford’s brows remained furrowed as he leaned in closer to the speakerphone. “So what did you get out of Blanco?”
“Not much,” Caesare replied. “He was pretty far gone. But one of his last words was clear: macaco.”
Caesare peeled off the last of the uniform. “It’s Portuguese for monkey, Admiral. Otero knows about Alves’ preserve in Brazil, and he knows about the monkey.”
Langford watched Clay and Borger exchange looks. The monkey was a small capuchin discovered by a team of “researchers” who had been employed by the old man before he was murdered. In actuality, they were all poachers, except one. One was a genuine researcher and had stumbled upon a very special capuchin monkey almost entirely by accident –– a monkey very different from the others they had caught.
This particular one was highly intelligent and while the average lifespan of most wild capuchins was roughly twenty-five years, this one was discovered to be profoundly older. So much older, in fact, that the billionaire Mateus Alves threw every resource he had into two goals: finding out where the monkey had come from and doing it as quietly as possible.
Langford could see the gears turning in Clay’s head. “Clay?”
He glanced up at the Admiral before turning back to the speakerphone. “How did this Otero know about the monkey? Or even that Alves was searching for it?”
“Or why someone like Alves would voluntarily abandon a billion dollar empire and completely disappear from public view.”
“Otero must have known something,” Clay mused. “But how?”
“Blanco had been talking to a lot of people,” said Caesare. “Maybe he was trying to capitalize on what Alves had already discovered. And maybe he finally found someone crazy enough to listen.”
Clay nodded absently. It was certainly plausible. Except for the crazy part. They all knew that what Alves was after wasn’t crazy at all. Tracing the origins of the capuchin was one thing, but what Alves really wanted was its DNA. Some primate DNA was almost 99% identical to humans. If a primate could live more than four times its normal life span, it wasn’t much of a stretch for that DNA to be isolated, and potentially applied to humans.
Alves was old, in his eighties, and wanted more than anything to extend his own life. And he believed he’d finally found just the miracle to help him do it.
Clay continued thinking. “But someone wouldn’t just murder Blanco on a whim…over the word ‘monkey.’ They’d have to have gotten more. Maybe a lot more. And maybe enough to justify killing Blanco on the spot, to shut him up.”
Langford rubbed his chin. “Then we have to assume that this Otero now knows everything.” After a deep breath, he leaned forward again. “Let’s table that for the moment. It seems we have an even bigger problem to deal with. I just received a report from the salvage team near Guyana. They have recovered fragments of the torpedo and enough of its Comp-B explosive signature for a positive identification.” Langford paused, looking at Clay and Borger. “The Bowditch wasn’t sunk by the Russians like we thought. It was sunk by the Chinese.”
Clay and Borger may have been visibly surprised at the news over Blanco being dead, but now they were absolutely stunned.
Two weeks before, the sinking of one of the Navy’s most modern research ships had seemed to be a completely separate event. But it wasn’t. It was connected to the billionaire Alves’ death in a way that none of them could have foreseen. The U.S.S. Bowditch was investigating a Chinese warship quietly docked along the northern coast of South America, in the small country of Guyana.
However, what they discovered next was a revelation. The ship’s Chinese crew was making mysterious trips into the jungle under the cover of darkness. The Chinese had made a startling discovery on the very same mountain to which Mateus Alves had traced the capuchin monkey’s origins.
Over the speaker, Caesare was the first to reply. “Admiral, did you say the Bowditch was sunk by the Chinese?”
“But the only sub in the area was Russian.”
“The only one we were aware of.”
“Wait a minute.” Clay suddenly looked at Langford. “That means a Chinese sub may have been there all along.”
“It looks that way.”
“And it waited to attack the Bowditch until their warship was leaving with its cargo.”
Langford nodded. Clay knew as well as anyone how the events unfolded. He was onboard the Bowditch when it was struck.
“So, that’s it!” exclaimed Clay. “That’s why the warship itself never attacked…because it couldn’t. And that’s why their sub was there. For protection. They were there to make sure the warship and its cargo made it out.”
“So they gutted the thing.”
Clay nodded, as the pieces fell into place. “They’d been bringing those crates out of the jungle for months. But there was no way they could have fit it into just one warship. It’s too small. Unless they gutted the ship. Removing everything inside gave them the storage they needed, which meant it also left the ship defenseless. Their submarine was simply waiting, ready to clear a path for it.”
Langford watched the expression on Clay’s face. The guy never forgot anything. Given enough time, he could figure damn near anything out.
“Well, that was clever,” Caesare said.
Langford frowned. “The Russians were bad enough. But the Chinese are a whole new problem.”
Clay was thinking the same thing. Russia’s relationship with the U.S. had reached new lows over the fiasco in the Ukraine. And Washington’s relationship with the Chinese was also deteriorating, assisted by the Chinese coming out publicly in support of Russia’s position. Until then, China had remained a reluctant geopolitical partner of the U.S., primarily due to many decades of economic trading history. But in recent years China had been taking steps of their own, inching closer and closer to an adversarial position. When news leaked out that they’d actually attacked and sunk a large United States naval ship, things were bound to escalate, and badly.
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