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|Publisher:||St. Martins Press-3PL|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.15(d)|
About the Author
Brian Lumley joined the British Army's Royal Military Police and wrote stories in his spare time before retiring and becoming a professional writer. He is the author of the bestselling Necroscope series of vampire novels, featuring Harry Keogh. An acknowledged master of Lovecraft-style horror, his works have been published in more than a dozen countries and have inspired comic books, role-playing games, and sculpture. They have also been adapted for television, with a movie in development.
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Necroscope III: The Source
By Brian Lumley
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1989 Brian Lumley
All rights reserved.
THE AGENT LAY ON A PATCH OF SNOW IN A JUMBLE OF white boulders on the eastern crest of what had once been the Perchorsk Pass in the mid-Ural'skiy Khrebet. He gazed down through nite-lite binoculars on almost two acres of curved, silvery-grey surface covering the floor of the ravine. By the light of the moon that surface might easily be mistaken for ice, but Mikhail Simonov knew that it was no glacier or frozen river; it was a mass of metal some four hundred feet long by something less than two hundred wide. Along the irregular edges of its length, where its gently curving dome met the rocky walls of the gorge, and at both ends, where the arcing metal came up flush against massive concrete barriers or dams, the stuff was "only" six inches thick, but at its centre the moulded mass was all of twenty-four inches through. That was what had registered on the instruments of the American spy-satellites, anyway, and also the fact that this was the biggest man-made accumulation of lead anywhere in the world.
It was like looking down on the three-quarters buried, lead-wrapped neck of some giant bottle, thought Mikhail Simonov. A magic bottle—except that in this case the cork had already been pulled and the genie flown, and Simonov was here to discover the nature of that very dubious fugitive. He gave a quiet snort, pushed his flight of fancy to the back of his mind, focused his eyes and concentrated his attention on the scene below.
The bottom of the ravine had been a watercourse subject to severe seasonal flooding. Up-river, above the "wet" dam wall, an artificial lake was now full, its surface flat and likewise leaden—but only its surface. Channelled under the great roof of lead through unseen sluices, the water reappeared in four great shining spouts issuing from conduits in the lower wall. Spray rose up from that deluge, froze, fell or drifted back to coat the lower ravine in snow and ice, where for all the apparent volume of water only a stream now followed the ancient course. Under the shield of lead, four great turbines lay idle, bypassed by the hurtling waters bled off from the lake. They'd been at rest like that for two years now, since the day the Russians had tested their weapon for the first—and the last—time.
Despite all the USSR's technological camouflaging countermeasures, that test, too, had been "seen" by the American spy-satellites. What exactly they saw had never been made public or even hinted at outside of higher-echelon and correspondingly low-profile government departments, but it had been sufficient to jolt America's SDI or "Star Wars" concept into real being. In very small, very powerful and highly secretive defence circles throughout the Western World there had been worried discussions about APB (Accelerated Particle Beam) "shields," about nuclear- or plasma-powered lasers, even about something called a "Magma Motor" which might theoretically tap the energy of the small black hole believed by some scientists to lie at Earth's core, simultaneously feeding upon and fuelling the planet; but all such discussions had been purely conjectural. Certainly nothing substantial—other than the evidence provided by the satellites—had leaked out of Russia herself; nothing, that is, in the way of normal intelligence reporting. No, for the Ural Mountains in the region of Perchorsk had been for some time far more security-sensitive than even the Baikonur Space Centre in the days of the Sputniks. And it was a sensitivity which, in the aftermath of that single, frightful test, had suddenly increased fourfold.
Simonov shivered in his white, fur-lined anorak, carefully demisted his binoculars, flattened himself more rigidly to the frozen ground between the boulders as scudding clouds parted and a nearly full moon blazed treacherously down on him. It was cold in the so-called "summer" up here, but in the late autumn it was a kind of frozen hell. It was autumn now; with a bit of luck Simonov would escape suffering through another winter. No, he mentally corrected himself, that would take a lot of luck. A hell of a lot!
The scene below turned silver in the flooding moonlight, but the special lenses of Simonov's binoculars made automatic adjustment. Now he turned those lenses on the pass proper, or what had been the pass until the Perchorsk Projekt had got underway some five years ago.
Here on the eastern side of the ravine, the pass had been eroded through the mountain's flank by one of the sources of the Sosva River on its way down to Berezov; on the western side, it had been dynamited through a deep saddle. Falling steeply from the mountains, its road roughly paralleled the course of the Kama River for two hundred and fifty miles to Berezniki and Perm on the Kirov-Sverdlovsk rail link.
In the forty years prior to the Projekt, the pass had been used chiefly by loggers, trappers and prospectors, and for the transportation of agricultural implements and produce both ways across the range. In those days its narrow road had been literally carved and blasted from the solid rock, and so it had remained until recently: a rough and ready route through the mountains. But the Perchorsk Projekt had brought about drastic changes.
With the construction of the Zapadno rail link to Serinskaja in the east, and the extension of the railway from Ukhta to Vorkuta in the north, the high pass had long since fallen out of favour as a route through the mountains; it had only remained important to a handful of local farmers and the like, whose livelihoods hardly mattered in the greater scheme of things. They had simply been "relocated." That had taken place four and a half years ago; then, with all the speed, ingenuity and muscle that a superpower can muster, the pass had been re-opened, widened, improved and given a two-lane system of good metalled roads. But not as a public highway, and certainly not for the use of the far-scattered "local" communities. Indeed, their use of the pass had been strictly forbidden.
In all the project had taken almost three years to complete, during which time the Soviet intelligence services had leaked innocuous details of "a pass in the Urals which is undergoing repair and improvement." That had been the official line, to forestall or confuse the piecing together of the true picture as seen by the USA from space. And if additional proofs of the innocence of the Perchorsk Projekt were required, it could also be seen that gas and oil pipelines had been laid in the pass between Ukhta and the Ob gasfields. What the Russians couldn't conceal or misrepresent was the construction of dams and the movement of heavy machinery, the incredibly massive lead shield built up in layers over the erstwhile bed of a powerful ravine torrent, and perhaps most important, the gradual build-up of troop movement into the area to a permanent military presence. There had been a deal of blasting, excavation and/or tunnelling, too, with many thousands of tons of rock moved out by truck or simply dumped into local ravines, plus the installation of large quantities of sophisticated electrical equipment and other apparatus. Most of which had been seen from space, and all of which had intrigued and irritated the West's intelligence and security services almost unendurably. As usual, the Soviets were making life very difficult. Whatever they were up to, they were doing it in an almost inaccessible, steep-sided ravine nine hundred feet deep, which meant that a satellite had to be almost directly overhead to get anything at all.
Conjecture in the West had gone on unabated. The alternatives were many. Perhaps the Russians were attempting to carry out a covert mining operation? It could be that they'd discovered large deposits of high-grade uranium ore in the Urals. On the other hand, maybe they were concerned with the construction of experimental nuclear installations under the very mountains themselves. Or could it be that they were building and making ready to test something quite new and radically different? As it happened—when it happened, at that time just two years ago—advocates of the third alternative were seen to have guessed correctly.
Once again Mikhail Simonov was drawn back to the present, this time by the low rumble of diesel-engined transports that echoed up hollowly from the gorge to drown out the wind's thin keening. Just as the moon slipped back behind the clouds, so the headlight beams of a convoy of lumbering trucks cut a swath of white light in the darkness where they stabbed out from the gash of the pass in the deep V of the western saddle. The huge, square-looking trucks were just under a mile away across the ravine and some five hundred feet below the level of Simonov's vantage point, but still he flattened himself more yet and squirmed back a little into his nest of gaunt boulders. It was a controlled, automatic, almost instinctive reaction to possible danger, in no way a panicked retreat. Simonov had been very well trained, with no expense spared.
As the convoy came through the pass and turned its nose down the steeply descending ramp of a road cut from the face of the ravine, so a battery of spotlights burst into brilliant life, shining down from the sheer wall and lending the well-gritted road excellent illumination. Fascinated, Simonov listened to the great diesels snarling into low gear, watched the routine of a well organized reception.
Without taking the nite-lite from his eyes, he reached into a pocket and drew out a tiny camera, snapping it into position in the lower casing of the binoculars. Then he pressed a button on the camera and continued watching. Whatever he saw would now be recorded automatically, one frame every six seconds for a total of four and a half minutes, forty-five tiny stills of near-crystal clarity. Not that he expected to see anything of any real importance: he already knew what the trucks contained and the camera shots were simply to certify that this was indeed their destination—for the satisfaction of others back in the West.
Four trucks: one of them containing all the makings of a ten-foot electrified fence, two more carrying the component parts and ammo for three twin-mounted, armour-piercing, 13mm. Katushev cannons, and the fourth and last loaded with a battery of diesel-powered generators. No, what was being hauled wasn't the question. The question was this: if the Russians were going to defend the Perchorsk Projekt, who were they defending it against?
Who ... or what?
Simonov's camera clicked almost inaudibly away; his eyes took in all that was happening below; he was aware that he mustn't stay here more than another ten or fifteen minutes at the most, because of the high radiation count, but part of his mind was already somewhere else. It was back in London just two months short of two years ago. Shooting the arrival of the trucks had done it, set Simonov's mind working on that other film he'd been shown by MI6 and the Americans in London. A real film, however short, and not just stills. He relaxed just a fraction. He was doing all that was expected of him, could afford a little mental meandering. And actually, once you'd seen that film, it was difficult not to keep going back to it.
The film was of something that had happened just seven weeks after the Perchorsk Incident (called "pi") and had earned itself the acronym "pi II" or "Pill." But it had been one hell of a pill to swallow. It had come about like this.
... Early morning of a bright mid-October day along the eastern seaboard of the USA; but along the "obsolete" Canadian DEW-line things have been stirring for some three hours, since a pair of spysats with overlapping windows on the Barents and Kara seas, and from Arkhangel'sk across the Urals to Igarka, flashed intruder reports down across the Pole to listeners in Canada and the USAF bases in Maine and New Hampshire. Washington has been informed, and low-key alert status has already been notified to the missile bases in Greenland and the Foxe Peninsula base on Baffin Island. Other DEW-line subscribers have been notified; Great Britain has shown mild interest and asked for updates, Denmark is typically nervous (because of Greenland), Iceland has shrugged and France has failed to acknowledge.
But now things begin to speed up a little. The original spies-in-the-sky have lost the intruder (an "intruder" being any aerial object passing east to west across the Arctic Ocean) out of their windows, but at the same time it's been picked up by DEW-line proper crossing the Arctic Circle on a somewhat irregular course but generally in the direction of Queen Elizabeth Island. What's more, the Russians have scrambled a pair of Mig interceptors from their military airfield in Kirovsk, south of Murmansk. Norway and Sweden join Denmark in an attack of the jitters. The USA is hugely curious but not yet narrow-eyed (the object is too slow to be a serious threat) but nevertheless an AWACS reconnaissance aircraft has been diverted from routine duties to a line of interception and two fighters are scrambled up from a strip near Fort Fairfield, Maine.
It is now four hours since the—UFO?—was first sighted over Novaya Zemlya, and so far it has covered a little more than nine hundred miles, having passed west of Franz Josef Land on what now seems a beeline for Ellesmere Island. Which is where the Migs draw level with it, except that doesn't quite show the whole picture. Geographically they've caught up with it, but they're at max. headroom and the UFO is two miles higher! Then ... apparently they see it—and at the same time it sees them.
What happens then isn't known for a certainty, for the Kirovsk base has ordered radio silence, but on the basis of what will be seen to happen later we can take a broad stab at it. The object descends, puts on speed, attacks! The Migs probably open fire on it in the seconds before they are reduced to so much confetti. Their debris is lost in snow and ice some six hundred miles from the Pole and a like distance short of Ellesmere ...
And now the intruder really is intruding! Its speed has accelerated to around three hundred and fifty miles per hour and its course is straight as an arrow. The AWACS has reported the Migs lost from its screens, presumed down, but a hotline call from Washington to Moscow fails to produce anything but the usual ambiguities: "What Migs? What intruder?"
The USA is a little peeved: "This aircraft came out of your airspace into ours. It has no right being there. If it sticks to its present course it will be intercepted, forced to land. If it fails to comply or acts in any way hostile, there's a chance it will be shot down, destroyed ..."
And unexpectedly: "Good!" from the Russians. "Whatever it is you have on your screens, it is nothing of ours. We renounce it utterly. Do with it as you see fit!"
Far more detailed Norwegian reports are now in from the Hammerfest listening station: the object is believed to originate from a region in the Urals near Labytnangi right on the Arctic Circle, give or take a hundred miles or so. If they had given or taken three hundred miles south, then the reports would have been more nearly correct; for the Perchorsk Pass was just that far away from the source they'd quoted. Alas, in the other direction, north of Labytnangi, lay Vorkuta, the USSR's most northerly missile site, supplied by rail from Ukhta. And now the Americans go from mildly irritated to extremely narrow-eyed. Just what in hell are the Reds up to? Have they loosed some sort of experimental missile from Vorkuta and lost it? If so, does it have a warhead?
How many warheads?
Alert classifications go up two notches and Moscow comes under fire in some very heated hotline exchanges. Still the Soviets deny all knowledge, however nervously.
Better, clearer reports are coming in. We now have the thing on satellite, on ground radar, on AWACS. No physical, human sightings as yet but everything else. The spysats say it could be a dense flock of birds—but what sort of birds fly in excess of three hundred mph five miles high across the Arctic Circle? Collision with birds could have taken out the Migs, of course, but ... The top-secret high-tech radar sites along the older DEW-line say it's either a large airplane or ... a space-platform fallen out of orbit? Also that it's impossibly low on metal content—namely, it doesn't have any! But intelligence won't admit of any aircraft (not to mention space-stations) two hundred and some feet long and constructed of canvas. AWACS says that the thing is flying in a series of spurts or jets, like some vast aerial octopus. And AWACS is more or less right.
It is now one hour since the American interceptors scrambled. Flying at close to Mach II, they have crossed the Hudson Bay from the Belcher Islands to a point about two hundred miles north of Churchill. In so doing they've just overtaken the AWACS and left it a few minutes behind. The AWACS has told them that their target is dead ahead, and that he's come down to 10,000 feet. And now, finally, just like the Migs before them, they spot the intruder.
Excerpted from Necroscope III: The Source by Brian Lumley. Copyright © 1989 Brian Lumley. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One - Simonov,
Chapter Two - Debrief,
Chapter Three - The Perchorsk Projekt,
Chapter Four - The Gate To ...?,
Chapter Five - Wamphyri!,
Chapter Six - Harry Keogh: Necroscope,
Chapter Seven - Möbius Trippers!,
Chapter Eight - Through the Gate,
Chapter Nine - Beyond the Gate,
Chapter Ten - Zek,
Chapter Eleven - Castles—Travellers—The Projekt,
Chapter Twelve - Deal with the Devil,
Chapter Thirteen - Lardis Lidesci,
Chapter Fourteen - Taschenka—Harry's Quest—The Trek Begins,
Chapter Fifteen - Zek's Story,
Chapter Sixteen - Karen's Aerie—Harry at Perchorsk,
Chapter Seventeen - Intruder,
Chapter Eighteen - Zek Continues Her Story,
Chapter Nineteen - The End of Zek's Story—Trouble at Sanctuary Rock—Events at Perchorsk,
Chapter Twenty - Harry and "Friends"—The Second Gate,
Chapter Twenty-One - The Dweller—The Problem at Perchorsk—In the Garden,
Chapter Twenty-Two - The Dweller's Secret—Karen Defects—War!,
Chapter Twenty-Three - The Last Warrior—The Horror at Perchorsk!,
Chapter Twenty-Four - Inferno—Harry and Karen,
TOR BOOKS BY BRIAN LUMLEY,
The Thing in the Tank,