The #1 New York Times-bestselling author and master of the modern day thriller returns with his All-Star team.
There’s a new strong man in Russia but his rise to power is based on a dark secret hidden decades in the past. The solution to that mystery lies with a most unexpected source, President Jack Ryan.
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Thirty years ago Tom Clancy was a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history. Years before, he had been an English major at Baltimore’s Loyola College and had always dreamed of writing a novel. His first effort, The Hunt for Red October, sold briskly as a result of rave reviews, then catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn.” From that day forward, Clancy established himself as an undisputed master at blending exceptional realism and authenticity, intricate plotting, and razor-sharp suspense. He passed away in October 2013. Mark Greaney has a degree in international relations and political science. He is the author of the Gray Man novels, the most recent of which is Dead Eye. In his research for those novels, he has traveled to a dozen countries and trained alongside military and law enforcement in the use of firearms, battlefield medicine, and close-range combat tactics.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics flew high above the Kremlin in a rain shower, a red-and-gold banner waving under a gray sky. The young captain took in the imagery from the backseat of the taxi as it rolled through Red Square.
The sight of the flag over the seat of power of the largest country in the world jolted the captain with pride, although Moscow would never feel like home to him. He was Russian, but he’d spent the past several years fighting in Afghanistan, and the only Soviet flags he’d seen there had been on the uniforms of the men around him.
His taxi let him out just two blocks from the square, on the north side of the massive GUM department store. He double-checked the address on the drab office building in front of him, paid his fare, and then stepped out into the afternoon rain.
The building’s lobby was small and plain; a lone security man eyed him as he tucked his hat under his arm and climbed a narrow staircase that led to an unmarked door on the first floor.
Here the captain paused, brushed wrinkles out of his uniform, and ran his hand over his rows of medals to make certain they were perfectly straight.
Only when he was ready did he knock on the door.
“Vkhodi!” Come in!
The young captain entered the small office and shut the door behind him. With his hat in his hand, he stepped in front of the one desk in the room, and he snapped to attention.
“Captain Roman Romanovich Talanov, reporting as ordered.”
The man behind the desk looked like he was still in his twenties, which greatly surprised Captain Talanov. He was here to meet a senior officer in the KGB, and he certainly did not expect someone his own age. The man wore a suit and tie, he was small and thin and not particularly fit, and he looked, to the Russian soldier, like he had never spent a day of his life in military service.
Talanov showed no hint of it, of course, but he was disappointed. For him, like every military man, officers in the KGB were divided into two classes. Sapogi and pidzhaki. Jackboots and jackets. This young man before him might have been a high-ranking state security official, but to the soldier, he was just a civilian. A jacket.
The man stood, walked around the desk, and then sat down on its edge. His slight slouch contrasted with the ramrod-straight posture of the officer standing in front of him.
The KGB man did not give his name. He said, “You just returned from Afghanistan.”
“I won’t ask you how it was, because I would not understand, and that would probably just piss you off.”
The captain stood still as stone.
The jacket said, “You are GRU Spetsnaz. Special Forces. You’ve been operating behind the lines in Afghanistan. Even over the border in Pakistan.”
It was not a question, so the captain did not reply.
With a smile, the man slouched on the desk said, “Even as a member of the most elite special operations unit in military intelligence, you stand out above the rest. Intelligence, resilience, initiative.” He winked at Talanov. “Loyalty.”
Talanov’s blue eyes were locked on a point on the wall behind the desk, so he missed the wink. With a powerful voice, he replied with a well-practiced mantra: “I serve the Soviet Union.”
The jacket half rolled his eyes, but again Talanov missed it. “Relax, Captain. Look at me, not the wall. I am not your commanding officer. I am just a comrade who wishes to have a conversation with another comrade, not a fucking robot.”
Talanov did not relax, but his eyes did shift to the KGB man.
“You were born in Ukraine. In Kherson, to Russian parents.”
“I am from Saint Petersburg myself, but I spent my summers with my grandmother in Odessa, not far from where you grew up.”
The jacket blew out a sigh, frustrated at the continued formality of the Spetsnaz man. He asked, “Are you proud of those medals on your chest?”
Talanov’s face gave away his first emotion now. It was indecision. “I . . . they are . . . I serve the—”
“You serve the Soviet Union. Da, Captain, duly noted. But what if I told you I wanted you to take off those medals and never put them back on?”
“I do not understand, comrade.”
“We have followed your career, especially the operations you have conducted behind the lines. And we have researched every aspect of your private life, what little there is of it. From this we have come to the conclusion that you are less interested in the good of the Communist Party, and more interested in the work itself. You, dear Captain, have a slavish desire to excel. But we do not detect in you any particular passion for the joys of the collective or any unique wonderment at the command economy.”
Talanov remained silent. Was this a test of his loyalty to the party?
The jacket continued. “Chairman Chernenko will be dead in months. Perhaps weeks.”
Captain Talanov blinked. What madness is this talk? If someone said such a thing in front of a KGB man on base back in Afghanistan, they would be shuffled away, never to be seen again.
The jacket said, “It’s true. They hide him from the public because he’s in a wheelchair, and he spends most of the time up in Kuntsevo at the Kremlin Clinic. Heart, lungs, liver: Nothing on that old bastard is working anymore. Gorbachev will succeed him as general secretary—surely you’ve heard he’s next in line. Even out in some cave in Afghanistan, that must be common knowledge by now.”
The young officer gave up nothing.
“You are wondering how I know this?”
Slowly, Talanov said, “Da, comrade. I am wondering that.”
“I know this because I have been told by people who are worried. Worried about the future, worried about where Gorbachev will take the Union. Worried about where Reagan is taking the West. Worried everything might come crashing down on top of us.”
There were a few seconds of complete silence in the room, and then the KGB suit said, “Seems impossible, I know. But I am assured there is reason for concern.”
Talanov couldn’t take it anymore. He needed to know what was going on. “I was ordered to come here today by General Zolotov. He told me I was being considered for recruitment into a special project for the KGB.”
“Misha Zolotov knew what he was doing when he sent you to me.”
“You do work for the KGB, yes?”
“I do, indeed. But more specifically, I work for a group of survivors. Men in KGB and GRU, men who know that the continued existence of our organizations is the survival of the nation, the survival of the people. The Kremlin does not run this nation. A certain building in Dzerzhinsky Square runs this nation.”
“The KGB building?”
“Da. And I have been tasked with protecting this building, not the Communist Party.”
“And General Zolotov?”
The jacket smiled. “Is in the club. As I said, a few in GRU are on board.”
The man in the suit came very close now, his face inches from the chiseled cheekbones of Roman Talanov. In a voice barely above a whisper he said, “If I were you I would be saying to myself, ‘What the fuck is going on? I thought I was being recruited into the KGB, but instead I’ve just met a crazy man talking about the impending death of the general secretary and the possibility of the fall of the Union.’”
Talanov turned to face him and squared his shoulders. “Every word you’ve said here, comrade, is treasonous.”
“That is true, but as there are no recording devices in this room, it would take you to stand up as a witness against me. That would not be wise, Captain Talanov, as those survivors that I mentioned are at the very top, and they would protect me. What they would do to you, I can only imagine.”
Talanov looked back to the wall. “So . . . I am being asked to join the KGB, but not to do the work of the KGB. I will, instead, do the work of this group of leaders.”
“That’s it, exactly, Roman Romanovich.”
“What will I be doing specifically?”
“The same sort of things you have been doing in Kabul and Peshawar and Kandahar and Islamabad.”
“Yes. You will help ensure the security of the operation, despite what changes the Soviet Union undergoes in the next few years. In return, you will be protected no matter what might happen in the future regarding the Union.”
“I . . . I still do not understand what you think will happen in the future.”
“Are you listening to me? It’s not what I think. How the fuck should I know? It’s like this, Talanov. The USSR is a large boat, you and I are two of the passengers. We are sitting on the deck, thinking everything is just perfect, but then”—the KGB man moved around the room dramatically, as though he was acting out a scene—“wait . . . what’s this? Some of the boat’s best officers are preparing to abandon ship!”
He moved back in front of Talanov. “I might not see the iceberg in our path, but when those in charge are looking for the fucking lifeboat, I’m smart enough to pay attention.
“Now . . . I have been asked to tend to the lifeboat, a great responsibility entrusted to me by the officers.” The jacket grinned. “Will you help me with the lifeboat?”
Captain Talanov was a straightforward man. The metaphors were starting to piss him off. “The lifeboat. What is it?”
The jacket shrugged his narrow shoulders. “It’s money. It’s just fucking money. A series of black funds will be established and maintained around the world. I will do it, and you will help me keep the funds secure from threats both inside and outside the Union. It will be a simple assignment, a few years in duration, I should think, but it will require the best efforts of us both.”
The man in the suit walked to a small refrigerator that sat against the wall between two bookshelves. He pulled out a bottle of vodka, and then he grabbed two stemmed shot glasses from a shelf. He came back to the desk and filled them both.
While he did all this, Captain Roman Talanov just looked on.
“Let’s have a drink to celebrate.”
Talanov cocked his head. “Celebrate? I haven’t agreed to anything, comrade.”
“No. You haven’t.” The man in the suit smiled and passed over one of the glasses to the bewildered military man. “Not yet. But you will come around soon enough, because you and I are the same.”
The jacket raised his glass to Talanov. “Yes. Just like the men at the top who came up with this scheme, you and I are both survivors.”
The black Bronco shot through the storm, its tires kicking up mud and water and grit as it raced along the gravel road, and rain pelted the windshield faster than the wipers could clear it.
As the truck charged along at sixty miles an hour, the back doors opened and two armed men climbed out and into the rain, one on each side. The men stood on the running boards and held on to the door frame with gloved hands. Their eyes were protected from the mud and flying rocks and water by large goggles, but their black Nomex suits and the submachine guns around their necks were wet and mud-splattered in moments along with the rest of their gear: helmets with integrated headsets, ballistic protection on their chests and backs, knee and elbow pads, and magazine pouches. Everything was soaked and caked with mud by the time the Bronco closed on a cabin in the center of a rain-swept pasture.
The vehicle decelerated quickly, skidding to a stop just twenty feet from the front door. The two men on the running boards leapt off and raced toward the building, their weapons scanning the trees all around, searching for any targets. The driver of the Bronco joined soon after; just like the others, he carried an H&K submachine gun with a fat silencer on the end of the barrel.
The three operators formed in a tight stack near the entrance, and the man in front reached forward and tried the door latch.
It was locked.
The man in the back of the stack—the driver—stepped forward now, without a word. He let his H&K drop free on his chest, and he reached behind his back and pulled a pistol-grip shotgun from his pack. The weapon was loaded with Disintegrator breaching rounds: three-inch magnum shells with fifty-gram projectiles made of a steel powder bound by plastic.
The operator placed the barrel of the shotgun six inches from the top hinge of the door, and he fired a Disintegrator directly into the hinge. With an enormous boom and a wide blast of flame, the steel powder load slammed into the wood, blowing the hinge from the door frame.
He fired a second round into the lower hinge, then kicked the door, which fell into the room beyond.
The shotgunner stepped to the side and the two men holding automatic weapons rushed into the dark room, guns up and weapon lights burning arcs in the black. The driver restowed his shotgun, grabbed his H&K, and joined up with the others in the room.
Each man had a sector to clear and did so quickly and efficiently. In three seconds they began moving toward a hallway that led to the rear of the cabin.
Two open doorways were in front of them now, one on each side of the hall, with a closed door down at the end. The first and second men in the train peeled away; number one went left through the doorway, and number two went into the room on the right. Both men found targets and fired; suppressed rounds thumped loudly in the confined space of the cabin.
While the first two men were engaging in the rooms, the lone man still in the hallway kept his weapon trained on the door ahead, knowing full well he would be exposed from behind if anyone entered the cabin from the outside.
Quickly the two men returned to the hallway and aimed their guns forward, and the man at the rear turned around to check behind them. A second later they moved on to the closed door. They stacked up again, and the first man quietly checked the latch.
It was unlocked, so he paused only long enough to lower his body a few inches while his mates did the same. Then the three men moved in as a team, and the lights under the three guns swept their sectors.
They found their precious cargo in the center of the unlit space. John Clark sat in a chair, his hands in his lap, squinting straight into the bright lights. Inches from him on both his left and his right, the tactical lights illuminated two figures standing, and a partial face of a third man was just visible behind Clark’s own head.
The three gunmen in the doorway—Domingo Chavez, Sam Driscoll, and Dominic Caruso—all fired simultaneously. Short bursts from their weapons cracked in the room, flashes erupted from their muzzles, and the scent of gun smoke replaced the dank smell of mold in the cabin.
John Clark did not move, did not even blink, as the bullets slammed into the three figures around him.
Holes appeared in the foreheads of the targets, but the figures did not fall. They were wooden stands, upon which photorealistic images of armed men had been attached.
Quickly the tactical lights scanned the rest of the room independently, and one of them centered on fourth and fifth figures, positioned next to each other in a far corner. The wooden target on the left was the image of a man with a detonator in his hand.
Ding Chavez double-tapped this target in the forehead.
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