Sao Paulo Airport, Brazil, 1991 icon

Sao Paulo Airport, Brazil, 1991



НазваниеSao Paulo Airport, Brazil, 1991
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1. /Cussler.BlueandGold.docSao Paulo Airport, Brazil, 1991
Superheated smoke reared up the elevator shafts, along the tram tunnel, and into the complex, where it filled every passage way, then into the Great Hall. The smoke burst into billowing flames that boiled the air, touched off the banners hanging on the walls. The smoldering gray ashes of the Gogstad ship in the heart of Valhalla vanished in a final firestorm.


Chapter 41

The Boston whaler streaked across the lake with its bow up on plane, Austin pushing the twin Overdue 150 outboard motors for all they were worth. His face was a bronze mask of anger and frustration. He had tried to go back to the lab, but the elevator had gone dead after it delivered them to the boathouse. The freight elevator wasn't working, either. He had started down a staircase only to have Gamay pull him back. "It's no use," she said. "There isn't time."


"Listen to Gamay," Zavala agreed. "We've got less than four minutes."


Austin knew they were right. He would die and jeopardize their lives if he attempted a futile rescue. He led the way out of the boathouse onto the pier. The guard sat outside dozing in the sun. He got up and tried to unsling his gun. Austin, who was in no mood for Marquis of Queensberry rules, rushed the terrified guard. He slammed his shoulder into the man's midsection and knocked him off the pier.


They piled into the boat. The key was in the ignition, and the gas tanks were full. The motors started right away. They cast off, and Austin gunned the throttle and steered the boat on a direct line for the Nevada shore. He heard a shout from Zavala and turned his head. Joe and Gamay were looking back toward the pier, where the lake bubbled like water boiling in a pot.


There was a muffled roar, and a blood-red geyser shot hundreds of feet into the air like a water spout. They covered their faces with their hands against the scalding rainfall and the cloud of steam that followed. When they dared to look they saw that the pier had completely vanished.


A wave at least ten feet tall was rolling in their direction.


"These boats are supposed to be unsinkable," Zavala said tensely.


"That's what they said about Titanic," Gamay reminded him.


Austin brought the boat around so the bow was facing into the wave. They braced themselves, expecting to be swamped, but the surge simply lifted them high in the air and rolled beneath them. Austin remembered that even a tsunami doesn't amount to much until it hits the shore. He hoped the power of the wave would ease before it hit the Nevada side.


Things were happening on land as well. A plume of smoke rose from the forest where Austin had seen the turrets of the building complex from his parasail. As they watched, the smoke changed in character, becoming thicker and darker. Austin reduced their speed and stared at the great black billows streaked with red and yellow flames that were rising high above the trees.


"Gotterdammerung," he murmured.


Gamay overheard him. "Twilight of the Gods?"


"I was thinking more of a goddess. "


They were all silent, the only sound the drone of the motors and the hiss of the bow through water. Then they heard a hooting like a deranged owl and turned to see a red, white, and blue confection steaming in their direction. The Tahoe Queen blew its whistle again. Paul's tall figure could be seen waving from the top deck. Austin waved back, goosed the throttle, and pointed the Whaler toward the oncoming riverboat.


Epilogue

Libyan Desert, six months later


The village elder was as thin as a stork and his leathery face so creased by decades of desert sun that it would have been impossible to find room for one more wrinkle. Years of malnutrition had reduced his inventory of teeth down to two, one up and one down, but the lack of dentures didn't keep him from smiling with pride. As he stood in the center of his domain, a cluster of yellow clay hovels and a few palm trees marking a muddy oasis, he could have been any big city mayor presiding over the ribbon cutting at a public works project.


The village was located far to the west of the Great Pyramids at Giza in one of the most inhospitable regions in the world. Between Egypt and Libya lie thousands of square miles of hot, dry sand broken here and there by the bones of panzers left over from World War II. A few scattered settlements cling precariously to life around oases of unpredictable reliability. Sometimes the oases dry up, and when that happens the crops die and famine stalks the villages. The cycle between subsistence and starvation had been a way of life for centuries, but all that was about to change.


In recognition of good things to come the village was decked out with colorful banners. Strips of fabric were braided into the tail of every camel. A large pavilion tent striped in blue and white, the colors of the United Nations, had been set up in the square, actually no more than a dusty open space in the center of the settlement. Lined up on the edge of the village were several helicopters. Diplomats from the UN and several Middle Eastern and African countries stood in the shade of the tent.


The village elder stood next to a structure unlikely to be found in the middle of the desert. It was a circular fountain made of marble and consisting of a large basin enclosing a smaller one surmounted by a statue of a winged woman. The fountain was made so that the water flowed from the out stretched palms of the figure.


The elder was ready. With great ceremony he removed a tin cup from around his neck, scooped it full of water, and took a sip. His toothless grin became even wider, and in a frail, reedy voice he called out in Arabic, "Elhamdelillah lilmayya. "


He was joined by the other village men who took turns drinking from the cup as if it, and not the fountain, were the magical source of water. The women who had been waiting rushed in to fill their clay water jugs. The children hovering around the fountain took their mothers' action as a signal to cool off. Before long the basin was full of laughing and splashing naked children. The diplomats and government officials left the protection of their tent and gathered around the fountain.


Watching with amusement from the shade of a palm tree was the NUMA Special Assignments Team and the skipper of the Sea Robin.


"Does anyone know what the old man said?" Zavala said.


"My Arabic is pretty limited," Gamay said, "but I believe he is saying big thanks to Allah for water, the wonderful gift of life."


Paul put his good right arm around his wife's shoulders. "Too bad Francesca isn't here to see herself carved in marble. It re minds me of her old white goddess days."


Austin nodded. "From my impression of Francesca, she wouldn't give it a second glance. She'd check out the water tower and the irrigation setup, make sure the pipeline from the desalting plant didn't leak, then she'd be off to get more plants going."


"I think you're right," Paul replied. "Once the other countries see how well the Cabral process works for the Mediterranean pilot plant, they'll all come running with their tin cups out. Bahrain and Saudi have said they're ready to finance something. But the UN has promised to abide by the request Francesca en closed with the plans she gave you and will make the big push in the sub-Saharan African countries."


"I heard the Southwest states and Mexico are taking the initiative to build plants on the California coast," Austin said. "That should relieve the stress on the Colorado River."


Gamay said, "I think Francesca would be pleased to see some of those who have been fighting over water working together to bring it to places hit by the drought. There's a whole new spirit of cooperation. Maybe there is hope for the species yet."


"I'm optimistic," Austin said. "The UN has promised to speed up its usual bureaucratic pace. They did a good job setting up a refining plant for that new anasazium site in Canada. Francesca's plans are amazingly simple. From what we've seen of how fast and cheap this plant went up, any country is going to be able to bring in low-cost fresh water."


"Ironic, isn't it?" Gamay said. "Anasazium came out of Los Alamos where they were working on weapons of mass destruction."


"It came close to being just that in the hands of Gogstad," Austin said.


Gamay shivered although the temperature was in the nineties. "Sometimes that giant woman, her two dreadful henchmen, and her horrible lair seem like a dream."


"Unfortunately they were very real, and that wasn't the Emerald City of Oz we barely escaped from."


"I just hope some malignant cell didn't lodge somewhere where it can grow like a cancer."


"Not much chance of that," Austin said. "Gogstad no longer has its leader, its scientific expertise, and the powerful men who were the engine powering this thing. People around the world have realized what they almost lost and are reclaiming their sovereignty over their water rights."


Jim Contos had been listening to the exchange with interest

"Thanks for inviting me along. At least I know that my two submersibles were deep-sixed for a worthy cause." "Glad you brought that up. Joe?"


Zavala smiled, extracted a sheet of paper from his shirt pocket, and unfolded it. "This is only a preliminary sketch," he said, "but it will give you an idea of what we've got in the works."


Contos's eyes widened in astonishment. "Hell, it's beautiful."


Zavala grimaced. "I wouldn't go that far. It looks like a de formed guppy, but it will go deeper and faster and carry more instrumentation and mechanical functions than any submersible in the sea. It's going to require extensive testing."


"When do we start?" Contos replied.


"The preliminary work has already begun. I've got a date with the Smithsonian. They're planning a memorial to the last pilots of the flying wing, and they've asked me to do a few fly-bys to publicize the campaign. But after that I'll be free to help plan the tests."


"What are we waiting for?" Gamay said.


"That's a good question," Austin said. "Francesca's process is going to turn this sand pit into a garden, but it's no place for a bunch of ocean scientists." He started walking toward a turquoise blue helicopter with "NUMA" printed in black on its side.


"Hey, Kurt, where are you headed?" Zavala said.


Austin turned. "C'mon," he said with a wide grin on his bronzed features. "Let's go someplace where we can get our feet wet."



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