Imagine Harrison Ford's THE FUGITIVE meets Tom Clancy's HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER.
"The best book I've read, bar none." --Ed Wiseman
Framed for murder and on the run, former Olympic biathlete Kyle Achilles is also in the crosshairs of assassins' guns. Why? He has no idea. He's fighting blind against two master strategists and one extraordinary invention--known as Brillyanc.
Achilles' only ally is the other prime suspect, a beautiful Russian mathematician who is either the best or worst person to ever enter his life. Katya was engaged to Achilles' brother -- before he died.
Chasing clues while dodging bullets, Achilles and Katya race around the globe, uncovering a conspiracy conceived in Moscow, born in Silicon Valley, and destined to demolish both the White House and the Kremlin. Along the way a lost soul finds purpose, a broken heart confronts forbidden love, and America gains a new hero.
Packed with heart-stopping surprises, paced by razor-sharp plotting, and populated with richly rendered characters, Pushing Brilliance will leave you breathless and longing for more.
Amazon named Tim Tigner an All-Star Author in December, 2017 and every month since for being one of the most popular authors in Kindle Unlimited.
His books are recommended for fans of David Baldacci, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Nelson DeMille’s John Corey, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, Mark Greaney’s Gray Man, Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon, Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan, Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath, and Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon.
Release date: July 14, 2016
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 396
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
HOW DO YOU PITCH an audacious plan to the most powerful man in the world? Grigori Barsukov was about to find out.
Technically, the President of Russia was an old friend — although the last time they’d met, his old friend had punched him in the face. That was thirty years ago, but the memory remained fresh, and Grigori’s nose still skewed to the right.
Back then, he and President Vladimir Korovin wore KGB lieutenant stars. Now both were clothed in the finest Italian suits. But his former roommate also sported the confidence of one who wielded unrivaled power, and the temper of a man ruthless enough to obtain it.
The world had spun on a different axis when they’d worked together, an east-west axis, running from Moscow to Washington. Now everything revolved around the West. America was the sole superpower.
Grigori could change that.
He could lever Russia back into a pole position.
But only if his old rival would risk joining him — way out on a limb.
As Grigori’s footfalls fell into cadence with the boots of his escorts, he coughed twice, attempting to relax the lump in his throat. It didn’t work. When the hardwood turned to red carpet, he willed his palms to stop sweating. They didn’t listen. Then the big double doors rose before him and it was too late to do anything but take a deep breath, and hope for the best.
The presidential guards each took a single step to the side, then opened their doors with crisp efficiency and a click of their heels. Across the office, a gilded double headed eagle peered down from atop the dark wood paneling, but the lone living occupant of the Kremlin’s inner sanctum did not look up.
President Vladimir Korovin was studying photographs.
Grigori stopped three steps in as the doors were closed behind him, unsure of the proper next move. He wondered if everyone felt this way the first time. Should he stand at attention until acknowledged? Take a seat by the wall?
He strolled to the nearest window, leaned his left shoulder up against the frame, and looked out at the Moscow River. Thirty seconds ticked by with nothing but the sound of shifting photos behind him. Was it possible that Korovin still held a grudge?
Desperate to break the ice without looking like a complete fool, he said, “This is much nicer than the view from our academy dorm room.”
Korovin said nothing.
Grigori felt his forehead tickle. Drops of sweat were forming, getting ready to roll. As the first broke free, he heard the stack of photos being squared, and then at long last, the familiar voice. It posed a very unfamiliar question: “Ever see a crocodile catch a rabbit?”
Grigori whirled about to meet the Russian President’s gaze. “What?”
Korovin waved the stack of photos. His eyes were the same cornflower blue Grigori remembered, but their youthful verve had yielded to something darker. “I recently returned from Venezuela. Nicolas took me crocodile hunting. Of course, we didn’t have all day to spend on sport, so our guides cheated. They put rabbits on the riverbank, on the wide strip of dried mud between the water and the tall grass. Kind of like teeing up golf balls. Spaced them out so the critters couldn’t see each other and gave each its own pile of alfalfa while we watched in silence from an electric boat.” Korovin was clearly enjoying the telling of his intriguing tale. He gestured with broad sweeps as he spoke, but kept his eyes locked on Grigori.
“Nicolas told me these rabbits were brought in special from the hill country, where they’d survived a thousand generations amidst foxes and coyotes. When you put them on the riverbank, however, they’re completely clueless. It’s not their turf, so they stay where they’re dropped, noses quivering, ears scanning, eating alfalfa and watching the wall of vegetation in front of them while crocodiles swim up silently from behind.
“The crocodiles were being fooled like the rabbits, of course. Eyes front, focused on food. Oblivious.” Korovin shook his head as though bewildered. “Evolution somehow turned a cold-blooded reptile into a warm white furball, but kept both of the creature’s brains the same. Hard to fathom. Anyway, the capture was quite a sight.
“Thing about a crocodile is, it’s a log one moment and a set of snapping jaws the next, with nothing but a furious blur in between. One second the rabbit is chewing alfalfa, the next second the rabbit is alfalfa. Not because it’s too slow or too stupid ... but because it’s out of its element.”
Grigori resisted the urge to swallow.
“When it comes to eating,” Korovin continued, “crocs are like storybook monsters. They swallow their food whole. Unlike their legless cousins, however, they want it dead first. So once they’ve trapped dinner in their maw, they drag it underwater to drown it. This means the rabbit is usually alive and uninjured in the croc’s mouth for a while — unsure what the hell just happened, but pretty damn certain it’s not good.”
The president leaned back in his chair, placing his feet on the desk and his hands behind his head. He was having fun.
Grigori felt like the rabbit.
“That’s when Nicolas had us shoot the crocs. After they clamped down around the rabbits, but before they dragged ‘em under. That became the goal, to get the rabbit back alive.”
Grigori nodded appreciatively. “Gives a new meaning to the phrase, catch and release.”
Korovin continued as if Grigori hadn’t spoken. “The trick was putting a bullet directly into the croc’s tiny brain, preferably the medulla oblongata, right there where the spine meets the skull. Otherwise the croc would thrash around or go under before you could get off the kill shot, and the rabbit was toast.
“It was good sport, and an experience worth replicating. But we don’t have crocodiles anywhere near Moscow, so I’ve been trying to come up with an equally engaging distraction for my honored guests. Any ideas?”
Grigori felt like he’d been brought in from the hills. The story hadn’t helped the lump in his throat either. He managed to say, “Let me give it some thought.”
Korovin just looked at him expectantly.
Comprehension struck after an uncomfortable silence. “What happened to the rabbits?”
Korovin returned his feet to the floor, and leaned forward in his chair. “Good question. I was curious to see that myself. I put my first survivor back on the riverbank beside a fresh pile of alfalfa. It ran for the tall grass as if I’d lit its tail on fire. That rabbit had learned life’s most important lesson.”
Grigori bit. “What’s that?”
“Doesn’t matter where you are. Doesn’t matter if you’re a crocodile or a rabbit. You best look around, because you’re never safe.
“Now, what have you brought me, Grigori?”
Grigori breathed deeply, forcing the reptiles from his mind. He pictured his future atop a corporate tower, an oligarch on a golden throne. Then he spoke with all the gravitas of a wedding vow. “I brought you a plan, Mister President.”
PRESIDENT KOROVIN REPEATED Grigori’s assertion aloud. “You brought me a plan.” He paused for a long second, as though tasting the words.
Grigori felt like he was looking up from the Colosseum floor after a gladiator fight. Would the emperor’s thumb point up, or down?
Korovin was savoring the power. Finally, the president gestured toward the chess table abutting his desk, and Grigori’s heart resumed beating.
The magnificent antique before which Grigori took a seat was handcrafted of the same highly polished hardwood as Korovin’s desk, probably by a French craftsman now centuries dead. Korovin took the opposing chair and pulled a chess clock from his drawer. Setting it on the table, he pressed the button that activated Grigori's timer. “Give me the three-minute version.”
Grigori wasn’t a competitive chess player, but like any Russian who had risen through government ranks, he was familiar with the sport.
Chess clocks have two timers controlled by seesawing buttons. When one’s up, the other’s down, and vice versa. After each move, a player slaps his button, stopping his timer and setting his opponent’s in motion. If a timer runs out, a little red plastic flag drops, and that player loses. Game over. There’s the door. Thank you for playing.
Grigori planted his elbows on the table, leaned forward, and made his opening move. “While my business is oil and gas, my hobby is investing in startups. The heads of Russia’s major research centers all know I’m a so-called angel investor, so they send me their best early-stage projects. I get everything from social media software, to solar power projects, to electric cars.
“A few years ago, I met a couple of brilliant biomedical researchers out of Kazan State Medical University. They had applied modern analytical tools to the data collected during tens of thousands of medical experiments performed on political prisoners during Stalin’s reign. They were looking for factors that accelerated the human metabolism — and they found them. Long story short, a hundred million rubles later I’ve got a drug compound whose strategic potential I think you’ll appreciate.”
Grigori slapped his button, pausing his timer and setting the president’s clock in motion. It was a risky move. If Korovin wasn’t intrigued, Grigori wouldn’t get to finish his pitch. But Grigori was confident that his old roommate was hooked. Now he would have to admit as much if he wanted to hear the rest.
The right side of the president’s mouth contracted back a couple millimeters. A crocodile smile. He slapped the clock. “Go on.”
“The human metabolism converts food and drink into the fuel and building blocks our bodies require. It’s an exceptionally complex process that varies greatly from individual to individual, and within individuals over time. Metabolic differences mean some people naturally burn more fat, build more muscle, enjoy more energy, and think more clearly than others. This is obvious from the locker room to the boardroom to the battlefield. The doctors in Kazan focused on the mental aspects of metabolism, on factors that improved clarity of thought–”
Korovin interrupted, “Are you implying that my metabolism impacts my IQ?”
“Sounds a little funny at first, I know, but think about your own experience. Don’t you think better after coffee than after vodka? After salad than fries? After a jog and a hot shower than an afternoon at a desk? All those actions impact the mental horsepower you enjoy at any given moment. What my doctors did was figure out what the body needs to optimize cognitive function.”
“Something other than healthy food and sufficient rest?”
Perceptive question, Grigori thought. “Picture your metabolism like a funnel, with raw materials such as food and rest going in the top, cognitive power coming out the bottom, and dozens of complex metabolic processes in between.”
“Okay,” Korovin said, eager to engage in a battle of wits.
“Rather than following in the footsteps of others by attempting to modify one of the many metabolic processes, the doctors in Kazan took an entirely different approach, a brilliant approach. They figured out how to widen the narrow end of the funnel.”
“So, bottom line, the brain gets more fuel?”
“Generally speaking, yes.”
“With what result? Will every day be like my best day?”
“No,” Grigori said, relishing the moment. “Every day will be better than your best day.”
Korovin cocked his head. “How much better?”
Who’s the rabbit now? “Twenty IQ points.”
“Tests show that’s the average gain, and that it applies across the scale, regardless of base IQ. But it’s most interesting at the high end.”
Another few millimeters of smile. “Why is the high end the most interesting?”
“Take a person with an IQ of 140. Give him Brillyanc — that’s the drug’s name — and he’ll score 160. May not sound like a big deal, but roughly speaking, those 20 points take his IQ from 1 in 200, to 1 in 20,000. Suddenly, instead of being the smartest guy in the room, he’s the smartest guy in his discipline.”
Korovin leaned forward and locked on Grigori’s eyes. “Every ambitious scientist, executive, lawyer ... and politician would give his left nut for that competitive advantage. Hell, his left and right.”
“And it really works?”
“It really works.”
Korovin reached out and leveled the buttons, stopping both timers and pausing to think, his left hand still resting on the clock. “So your plan is to give Russians an intelligence edge over foreign competition? Kind of analogous to what you and I used to do, all those years ago.”
Grigori shook his head. “No, that’s not my plan.”
The edges of the cornflower eyes contracted ever so slightly. “Why not?”
“Let’s just say, widening the funnel does more than raise IQ.”
Korovin frowned and leaned back, taking a moment to digest this twist. “Why have you brought this to me, Grigori?”
“As I said, Mister President, I have a plan I think you’re going to like.”
2 Years Later
WHILE THE MELODIC CLINK of a silver spoon on Waterford crystal quieted the banquet’s fifty guests and halted the jazz trio playing in the corner, Achilles leaned toward his brother and whispered, “Who’s the speaker?”
Colin swallowed his last bite of steak. “Sometimes I forget you’re from a different world. That’s Vaughn Vondreesen. He’s the venture capitalist who recruited dad to Vitalis.”
Achilles really was from a different world, Colin mused. Whereas Colin and his father were entrepreneurial physicians, Achilles was a spy. Well, he used to be a spy. Currently, he was unemployed. Funny thought, that. An unemployed spy. How did spies get jobs?
“He looks like George Clooney,” Achilles said.
“And he’s just as charming. Even has a British accent from his Oxford days.” Colin gave his younger brother one of those some-guys-have-all-the-luck nods. “They say Vondreesen is as powerful in Silicon Valley as Clooney is in Hollywood.”
The brothers were at a four-top table in the back of a stylish Santa Barbara restaurant named Bouchon. Colin was seated beside his girlfriend, Katya. Achilles sat next to an empty chair. As the honoree’s immediate family, custom would have seated them at the head table, but they’d ceded the seats to their father’s favored colleagues. The businessmen had all driven down from Silicon Valley for the night, whereas the family would be dining together for another week.
As if on cue, Vondreesen began, his regal intonation instantly silencing the crowd. “We’re here tonight in Santa Barbara’s finest restaurant, with Silicon Valley’s finest executives, to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of the finest man I’ve ever known, and alas, his retirement.”
Applause erupted, and everyone stood. After a minute of heartfelt clapping, the guests returned to their seats and Vondreesen continued. “Let me tell you a few things you might not know about John ...”
Achilles again leaned toward his brother. “What’s going on?”
“What do you mean?” Colin asked, knowing full well what he meant.
“You’re nervous about something.”
The brothers had no secrets. Achilles was just eighteen months younger, but their boyhood rivalry had long ago given way to brotherly love. As they’d grown, their careers and personalities had evolved as differently as the flower from the leaf. But with common roots and seed, they generally shared one mind. “No worries. I’ll tell you later.”
“And they say I’m the mysterious one,” Achilles replied.
“What’s mysterious?” Katya asked, more interested in their discussion than Vondreesen’s speech.
Colin flashed Achilles a warning with his eyes, possibly confirming a suspicion but figuring that was better than the alternative.
“From my perspective,” Katya continued, “The only mystery tonight is why Achilles hasn’t been flirting with Sophie.”
“Who’s Sophie?” Colin asked.
“Our waitress,” Katya said. “She’s been eying Achilles all night.”
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