Wednesday, August 6, 2014

BRAINSTORM - a Thriller Novel by Gordon Kessler Excerpt

BRAINSTORM - a Thriller Novel by Gordon Kessler
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BRAINSTORM: What if a small American town is secretly replicated, populated with kidnapped scientists and psychically talented civilians, and then used as a proving ground while training psychic assassins? Political and military leaders of the Free World are the targets of these psychic warriors, and Project Brainstorm's goal is world domination.

Gold Rush seems to be just another sleepy little Colorado community full of friendly, caring citizens, quaint cottages, and a sort of quiet peace, held gently by the picturesque mountains that surround it. However, something isn't right in Gold Rush, and early on a Monday morning Robert Weller awakens with a cautioning and insuppressible voice inside his head. He soon finds a secret behind every door, a motive with every glance, and a lie beneath every spoken word. After meeting a strange but beautiful woman named Sunny who insists they were once lovers, people begin dropping dead around him without apparent cause. The world he thought he knew twists upside down as paramilitary teams hunt him, and his own wife and the people he considers friends turn against him.

Weller is thrown into the middle of a military mission to rescue thousands of the town's citizens from a plot to destroy the free world. In time, Weller discovers he was once the CIA's top remote viewer, and it's not just the bad guys who will lose if he survives another day.
* * * * *
BRAINSTORM goes beyond the bounds of ordinary reason. It blends the past (the CIA's "Project Stargate," a twenty-year exploration into remote viewing and psychic powers as background) with the present (incredible new developments in nonlethal weapons such as acoustic cannons, sticky foam, anti-traction substances, electromagnetic pulse devices, and infrared lasers). And it throws in a very sobering reminder; that there are still thousands of American MIAs from the Korean and Vietnam Wars.


It’s time,” Major Lionel Jackson said and patted the back of Sunny McMaster’s hand. In the red night lighting inside their armored vehicle, her slender ivory hand seemed to glow, appearing remarkably delicate in his dark palm. But he knew it wasn’t fragile. “Ready?”
God, yes,” she said, her voice determined and confident.
Jackson released Sunny’s hand, then turned to the forward viewfinder and pulled down the microphone attached to his helmet. “Lion Team, move out,” he said evenly, and the driver in front of Jackson cocked his head back and repeated the order over his shoulder.
The mission to rescue Sunny’s husband and several dozen other missing elite citizens thought to be held in Gold Rush, Colorado, began under presidential directive — regardless that the latest reconnaissance reports indicated it was a ghost town.
Their six Stryker vehicles set out quickly and without faltering like dark, single-minded ants on a sugar trail, churning down the gravel roadway leading to the small town ten miles away. A blue-white full moon hugged the ridge behind their boulder-littered staging area, its frosty radiance washing over the rocky cliff sides and the snaking passage before them.
Inside the leading personnel carrier, the man known to his military peers as the Black Lion once again turned in his seat toward Sunny. Major Jackson never dreamed he’d see this woman dressed in black fatigues and combat boots, her fiery-red hair pinned back and hidden under a helmet. What she’d worn the first time they met in Maui was quite different — a wedding dress. Jackson had been best man, and the ceremony was in his garden. That was fifteen years ago.
Sunny asked, “How ‘bout you, Jax? You ready?”
He knew she meant emotionally, not militarily. As he pushed his small microphone out of the way, he returned a thin smile. “We’re going to find Dan, Sunny,” he said. “I’m sure of it. We’re going to find him, and he’s going to be . . .” He hesitated, knowing okay or even alive was a promise he couldn’t keep. Instead, he simply repeated, “We’re going to find him.”
His words seemed to cause a tear to trickle from her eyes, and he grimaced, realizing she’d understood his indecisive pause.
Sunny looked away and wiped the moisture from her cheek. When she turned back with her jaw clenched, her eyes set hard on Jackson. Through the crimson glow inside the armored vehicle, she stared — face stone-like and expressionless — and Jackson did his best to hide his anxiety. She seemed to look through him, gazing at something just out of reach in the past. Her tears were gone, any redness in her eyes imperceptible in the red night lighting. In her face was a grittiness Jackson had seen in only a handful of men, the ones sure to become great soldiers. But the major wanted no part in making the beautiful redhead before him into a Kevlar-tough warrior. He wished he had another choice, but today Sunny could play an important role in bringing in her husband and saving dozens of lives.
People were disappearing. Scientists, surgeons and men and women of special abilities were vanishing from all over the world, particularly from the United States. Jackson hoped that at least one of those presumed abducted, Daniel McMaster, hadn’t become a traitor — that he wouldn’t have to kill his best friend.
Behind them in the cramped steel carrier, eight of Major Jackson’s soldiers sat nearly motionless, breathing lightly through parted lips, their faces blank. Occasionally, the rough road jostled them — their shoulders meeting forcibly, helmets clacking together, assault rifles tapping. But they showed no sign of discomfort. They were ready — for hell, for death, for anything, and that was what they were to expect today.
After nearly twenty minutes of driving, the digital mission clock on the console in front of the major changed to 05:42 a.m., and he took an anxious breath. Once again, he leaned into the forward-looking periscope of the commander’s cupola as an abandoned guard shack and barricade came into view several hundred yards ahead. After turning back to his men, he held up two fingers and called out only loud enough to be heard, “Two minutes.”
The next one hundred and twenty seconds elapsed too slowly — and too quickly. Jackson had hoped he’d never have to see another of his men die — prayed this rescue operation would unfold quickly and without casualties. But he didn’t expect his prayer to be answered.
At thirty seconds before zero hour, the sun crested a saddle in the butte. Its brilliant rays illuminated the numerous periscope viewfinders surrounding the driver and commander’s cupolas, overpowering the red night lighting. When Jackson turned the lock above him and threw back the hatch, the inside of their vehicle brightened like an operating room.
After a sideways glance at Sunny, he stood up in the opening, brought his high-power Bushnell rangefinder binoculars up from his chest and placed his elbows on the steel roof of the moving vehicle. Nestled below a cobalt-blue ridge a half mile in front of them was Gold Rush.
Major Jackson’s breathing and pulse quickened, and his eyes grew wide as he repositioned the microphone. While holding onto the hatchway coaming, he commanded, “Eagle and Lion, Eagle and Lion — Go, go, go!”
Dampened by thrumming helicopter rotors, the instant reply came over his headset. “Eagle Force ‘Go!’ Roger, Black Lion.”
Again, the young sergeant driving Jackson’s vehicle acknowledged over his shoulder, “Roger, ‘Go,’ Lion!”
The six armored vehicles accelerated, lunging from cruising speed to an all-out sprint. They crashed through the barricade and crushed the vacant guard shack, leaving it as a pile of loose, splintered boards.
In the following seconds, Apache helicopter gunships rose above the spruce trees and jagged ridges surrounding the small town. They hovered there as vigilant sentries, buffeting the evergreen boughs and raising dust along the crags. The four gunships carried enough firepower to level the entire town; however, that wasn’t an option with hundreds of innocents likely to be in the mix.
As the troop carriers sped closer, three much larger helicopters roared overhead, their beating rotors saturating the air like the war drums of a thousand angry warriors. Their bellies full of heavily armed and anxious young soldiers in black body armor, these Pave Low IV rotorcraft dashed toward the middle of the village, then paused abruptly fifty feet above the business district.
After rounding a slight curve, the major reached inside and tapped his driver’s shoulder, indicating to Staff Sergeant Chambers to apply the brakes. The wheels of the five vehicles behind them screeched lightly, their engines quieting to a low hum as they pulled to the shoulder within clear sight of the mountainside town.
In the same instant that the debarkation ramps on the back of the armored vehicles fell open, the soldiers spilled out and scrambled for cover along the roadway. With paternal care, Major Jackson visually inspected each of his men’s position as he climbed from the commander’s hatch and dropped to the ground. Satisfied his soldiers had taken sufficient cover, he took up his binoculars and scanned the area before them.
They’d met no opposition thus far, which was surprising. The town appeared totally lifeless, seeming to confirm the earlier reconnaissance reports that Jackson had discounted as erroneous. Still, he held his breath as he watched the operation through swirling dust clouds whipped up by the big helicopters’ rotor blades — the proverbial all hell could erupt at any time dominating his thoughts.
In the town, the major’s airborne element fast-roped from the choppers and onto the roofs and streets, then rushed to safe vantage points. Jackson watched until the emptied helicopters banked in unison and sped back toward the safety of the ridge.
Anticipation electrified the air. Tension and angst seemed tangible. But as Major Jackson watched the insertion, time passed monotonously, uneventfully, and the minutes ticked by allowing dark despair to settle in, frustration laying heavily against him like some kind of medieval torture device.
Jackson swung his glasses in the direction of the homes spread along the wooded mountainside. But he saw no lights from the houses. He spied no armed adversaries, no curious citizens on the sidewalks, in any of the yards or even peeking from behind their doors while still in their bathrobes. No cars drove on the streets or were parked in the narrow, gravel driveways. No morning newspapers lay on the porches — not even a single dog barked at their intrusion.
The houses were old, saltbox style, the newest of which had most likely been built in the thirties and forties. Some were obviously dilapidated, gaping holes in their weathered and warped roofs, shutters hanging at odd angles from graying wood lap siding, windows busted. Tall, brown weeds had overgrown the small yards. Garages, many leaning awkwardly from years of wind abuse and snow load, rested wearily aside a few of the homes, but they were too narrow to accommodate anything more modern than Model Ts.
Jackson’s breathing slowed and deepened with dread. If today’s mission failed, there’d be little hope of finding Dan McMaster. Sunny would be devastated.
Less than ten minutes passed before a half-dozen of the hostage rescue squads returned to the center of town, trotting in from the deserted residential area. Meanwhile, Jackson watched through his binoculars as several of his men stepped from the buildings and shops along the main drag and into the open. One man slung his assault rifle over his shoulder and moved out from the rest. He looked toward Jackson and the column of Stryker armored vehicles on the road five hundred yards away and shrugged his shoulders.
A voice crackled in the major’s radio headset that he recognized as Lieutenant Carpenter’s. “Eagle Blue Team to Black Lion, come in.”
Major Jackson acknowledged, “Black Lion. Go ahead, Eagle Blue.”
Sir, we’ve finished sweeping. No one’s home. Thick dust on everything. Hasn’t been anyone here in years.”
The major watched as Carpenter glanced up the street at his returning comrades.
A different voice came over the headset. “Sergeant Dixon, sir. Eagle Red didn’t have any luck, either.”
Roger,” the major said into his microphone. “Wrap it up, Eagle.” He turned with a frown as Sunny dropped from the short hood of their armored vehicle. She stepped next to him, and he handed her the binoculars. “Not one bastard soul in the whole damn town.”
How?” Sunny’s voice now sounded desperate. “They must be here.” She focused the binoculars, scanning the empty, dust-hazed streets. After a moment, she said, “It’s like a ghost town, an old movie set. Where else can they be, Dan and the others — an entire town, hundreds of people? They couldn’t have just vanished.” She pulled the binoculars away from her face, turned to Jackson and raised her voice in frustration. “It’s been two years, Jax. Where is he?”
Jax looked down at her and narrowed his eyes in consternation. “There is another possibility. However, it’s nearly too incredible to believe.”
Wait a minute!” Sunny slammed the side of her fist against the thick steel fender. “This isn’t going to be more of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s hocus pocus, is it?”
Easy, Sunny. Don’t forget who your friends are.” He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring and sympathetic smile, but he doubted it was. “There are some other aspects to this thing we were reluctant to believe. Now it looks as though we have to consider them. For the most part, our intel is probably correct. But there is, let’s say . . . a twist.”
A twist?” Sunny threw her helmet to the ground, and it spun briefly at Jackson’s feet. She shook her head, and her hair fell over her shoulders. “You’d better do some quick explaining, or it’ll be me who does the twisting when I spill my guts to the media.” Her hands went to her hips, and she continued, “And don’t think I won’t do it. How do I explain to my daughter that her daddy isn’t coming home, that I still don’t know where he is, that he’s just up and disappeared? How do I convince her that wherever he is, he still loves her?” She shook her head again. “A twist! What caliber of remote viewers does the Department of Defense have working for them these days? ‘High probability,’ they said. They told you where to look, bragged about their accuracy. Bullshit! They were wrong.”
Jackson nodded. “Maybe.” He looked to Staff Sergeant Chambers, who watched the operation from the driver’s hatch of their vehicle. “Chambers, hand me my case, please.”
As the young sergeant ducked back inside, Sunny’s eyes pooled, and she spoke through her gritted teeth. “What now? They’re underground? They’re invisible? They’ve been changed into cockroaches?”
Jackson placed his hand gently on the side of her shoulder. He tried to look her in the eyes, but she glared past him, instead seeming to focus on a point in the small town.
Finally, she took a deep breath and leaned back against the Stryker vehicle. Her voice had softened. “I know, Jax. We go back a long way.” After a silent moment, she met his gaze and her voice elevated once again. “But you’d better understand this: I’m not going to believe any more crap — from the U.S. government or from you. Be straight with me. I want to know the truth — everything.”
It was the stress talking, not Sunny, Jackson reminded himself. He’d known this woman and had been best friends with her husband for such a long time. Her mistrust cut like a serrated bayonet, but how could he blame her?
He spoke slowly, emphasizing his sincerity. “Sunny, our remote viewers gave us two scenarios. We’d hoped this venue was the correct one. The RVs’ majority opinion, five of six, said this was the most likely locale. The minority opinion had a much more complicated and challenging scenario — a different Gold Rush. If that single RV is correct, the scope of this plot is incredible. Dozens of people we thought were dead for years, even decades, might still be alive. But for this new mission, the difficulty level will be daunting, and I’m sure the government won’t be willing to risk it.”
Sunny shook her head again. “You’re saying it’s hopeless?”
No. I’m only a major, Sunny, but I’ve made a lot of contacts over the past twenty years. A whole bunch of people owe me. I’ve called in all my markers for this one. We have equipment already staged at the alternate objective and we will be ready to go as soon as we get there.” He paused, knowing what he was about to say would give her a glint of hope. “Since we can’t count on our own government footing the bill or authorizing our mission, Gunny Sampson is backing us with money and logistics.”
Sunny’s face only hinted a reminiscent smile. Jax knew that several years had passed since she’d seen their friend The Gunny.
Staff Sergeant Chambers reemerged arm first from the driver’s hatchway, his hand gripping the handle of a thin, black attaché case. “Sir.”
Jackson took it and glanced into the redhead’s vibrant green eyes. “Dan’s like a brother to me, Sunny, you know that. And I owe him — I owe him my life. I’ll search in every corner of this Earth for him, if that’s what it takes — spend each hour of every waking day. I promise you that I will find Daniel, or I’ll die trying.”
He supported the case against the sloped front of the armored vehicle and opened it. As he took out an inch-thick file folder and handed it to her, he said, “I have some satellite photos I’d like you to see.”

1 comment:

  1. Awesome excerpt.. thanks for another great free recommendation :)


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