Authors: Andy McDermott
The Shadow Protocol
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.
A Dell eBook Edition
Copyright © 2013 by Andy McDermott
The Valhalla Prophecy
by Andy McDermott copyright © 2014 by Andy McDermott
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Dell, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
and the H
colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Originally published in the United Kingdom by Headline Publishing Group, an Hachette UK Company, in 2013 as
The Persona Protocol
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
The Valhalla Prophecy
by Andy McDermott. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
eBook ISBN 978-0-345-53707-2
Cover design: Marc J. Cohen
The voices in Adam Gray’s head were being controlling, as always.
“There’s an intersection on your left, thirty meters ahead,” said Holly Jo Voss through the tiny transceiver implanted in the American’s right ear. “Go down it.”
“Okay,” he said under his breath, lips ventriloquist-still. He raised the brim of his heavy black umbrella to check the street. The torrential downpour had scoured the thoroughfare of its populace, those few Pakistanis not taking shelter scurrying along with coats shrugged up over their heads. A narrow side road was visible through the spray where Holly Jo had said. “I see it. How far to the rendezvous?”
“Less than sixty meters, at the far end.”
“Anyone waiting for me?”
Another voice came through the earwig: male, young, cocky.
“I see two assholes chilling on the corner,” Kyle Falconetti told him. Somewhere above, a compact remotely controlled quadrotor was tracking Adam’s progress through the city. Even without the rain, he doubted he could have spotted the little drone; it was designed to be stealthy, and the New Jersey native was a skilled pilot. “Either they don’t got the brains to come in out of the rain, or they’re your new buddies.”
This was it: first contact with the targets. He swelled his chest with borrowed confidence as he rounded the corner, shifting the weight of the large, heavy black case in his right hand. “Here we go.”
Let’s do the deal
, said a third voice.
This one was not in his ear.
Giorgi Toradze: age forty, Georgian, a former mercenary who had discovered more profit in selling weapons to those who wanted to fight wars than participating in the conflicts himself. The case contained samples of his deadly trade. However, the arms dealer was small fry, of limited interest to American intelligence.
The same was not true of his potential clients.
Toradze had been intercepted en route to Pakistan. Adam had replaced him, his dark hair dyed fully black and a fake mustache painstakingly applied, contact lenses turning his gray eyes blue. He was slightly taller and in much better physical shape than the Georgian, and a full decade younger, but with an overcoat concealing his build and Toradze’s gold jewelry on conspicuous display, he would superficially match the description the Pakistanis had been given.
The deception would instantly collapse if any of them had previously met the real arms dealer. But Toradze knew that was unlikely.
And everything Toradze knew, now Adam did too.
He made his way along the side street, rain pattering loudly off his umbrella’s strong fabric. Ahead, a man leaned against a wall. Early twenties, scraggly beard, a grubby sky-blue nylon jacket open despite the deluge. Right hand held pressed against his chest, fingertips edging under the zipper as he saw the approaching figure.
Look at this cretin. Could he make it any more obvious that he’s got a gun?
Toradze’s assessment, but Adam shared it. The man waiting for him was doubtless a recent recruit to the terrorist group, eager to prove his worth. Adam looked him
in the eye as he got closer, challenging without being aggressive.
The Pakistani met his gaze with a twitch of belligerence. In the highlands of the country’s northwestern provinces, where his organization operated in the open, such provocation would have met with an angry, even violent response. But here in the city he had to tread carefully. He regarded Adam for another moment, then said a single word in Pashto over one shoulder.
A second man, a few years older, came around the corner. He looked the new arrival up and down, comparing what he saw with what he had been told to expect. Black hair, mustache, about 180 centimeters tall. Gold watch.
Toradze had specifically mentioned the Rolex in his self-description, being very proud of the ostentatious timepiece. Adam made sure it was clearly visible on his wrist as he lifted the umbrella higher. “Is there a dentist near here?” he said, the English heavy with Toradze’s native accent.
The second of the pair replied. “Do you have a toothache?”
It was a simple pass code. Adam gave the agreed response. “I have a delivery.”
The man nodded. “You are Toradze?”
Adam gave him a cheery smile. “Call me Giorgi. And you?”
“Umar. This is Marwat.”
“Good to meet you. Okay, I think we better get out of this rain! Let’s go, hey?”
“This way.” Umar set off down the street, Adam following. Marwat took up the rear, right hand still poised across his chest.
“They’re moving,” said Kyle. One of the large flat-screen monitors before him showed the three men walking down the road, viewed from overhead. The drone he controlled was hovering some eighty meters up, well clear of the surrounding buildings. He adjusted a dial, and the view
zoomed out to provide a wider view of the street maze. “Heading north.”
“Don’t lose them.” Tony Carpenter, the team’s field commander, was watching the scene on his own monitor.
“Wasn’t planning on doing, brah,” Kyle replied, with a little sarcasm. He nudged a joystick to send the UAV after its targets.
The fair-haired man ignored the mild insubordination. He was used to Kyle, and there were more important concerns. He regarded the aerial view intently, then looked across at another of the room’s occupants. “Holly Jo, check his tracker. We might lose line of sight.”
The willowy blonde tapped a command into her computer. A few seconds later, a hollow green square was superimposed on the street scene—directly over the black dodecagon of the umbrella. As Adam moved, so did the vivid symbol. “Tracker is on, good signal.”
“Great.” Tony spoke into his headset. “John, he’s made contact and is on his way to the meet. We’ll give you its location the second we have it.”
John Baxter, a former captain in the US Marines, was waiting in a van a few streets from the rendezvous point with a small team of armed men. “Remember, the kill option is still available once we know where these bastards are.”
“Syed is more valuable to us alive than dead,” said Tony, reminding Baxter of the mission’s objective—and who was in charge. On the monitor, the three figures were still heading for what might prove a very dangerous destination. “If the plan works,” he added quietly.
“It’ll work.” The fourth person in the dirty room was also one of the main reasons it was so cramped. Dr. Roger Albion was a hulking bear of a man, college quarterback build still solid despite his last game being forty years earlier. “Adam’s not just imitating Toradze—he
Toradze. You of all people should know that. He can do this.”
“I hope so.” The umbrella disappeared from sight as
the trio turned into a narrow alley, the green square still moving. “For his sake.”
Adam followed Umar through the urban labyrinth. The deluge was beginning to ease off, some braver souls emerging from shelter. “So, is it much farther, hey?” he said. “If I’d known we were going to walk in the rain, I would have paid for a taxi!”
“It is not far,” said Umar. He gestured ahead. “Up there.”
The building he indicated was a disorderly five-story block of brick and concrete. Adam assessed it. One door at the front, probably another to an alley at the back. Flat roof, the railings along its edge suggesting it was easily accessible. The building to its left was higher, hard to climb, but to the right was a lower rooftop that could act as an escape route.