Read Subterranean Online

Authors: James Rollins

Subterranean

SUBTERRANEAN

JAMES ROLLINS

Dedication

For John Clemens

Great God! this is an awful place.
F
OUND SCRAWLED IN THE JOURNAL OF THE
FAILED
S
OUTH
P
OLE EXPLORER
R
OBERT
F. S
COTT

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

 

EPIGRAPH

PROLOGUE

Blue ice encased the continent from horizon to...

BOOK ONE: TEAMWORK

O
NE

Damned Rattlers.

T
WO

Benjamin Brust watched a brown cockroach...

T
HREE

Ashley crossed to the young Spanish gentleman...

F
OUR

For the second time in as many months, Ashley...

BOOK TWO: UNDER THE ICE

F
IVE

In a plane again, Ashley thought sourly, her nose...

S
IX

Just a minute longer. Then it will be over.

S
EVEN

Ashley watched with a smirk as Jason darted...

E
IGHT

Seven o'clock in the morning? More like midnight.

N
INE

“Mom, you should have seen the fish we caught.”...

BOOK THREE: CHUTES AND LADDERS

T
EN

The pack was heavy, the cushioned straps cutting...

E
LEVEN

Ashley pushed her board into her pack and...

T
WELVE

“C'mere,” Ben called to Ashley. “Look at this.”

T
HIRTEEN

As Ashley scooted through the exit of the...

F
OURTEEN

Jason plopped into his chair in the office, expelling...

F
IFTEEN

Silence now. Ten long heartbeats had passed since...

S
IXTEEN

“Run,” Blakely said, pushing Jason from behind.

S
EVENTEEN

“What do you mean, Linda's gone?” Ashley said,...

E
IGHTEEN

Leaning over the green pontoon, Jason watched...

N
INETEEN

Another piercing scream. It had almost reached...

T
WENTY

“Try the paddles!” Blakely called above the roar...

BOOK FOUR: DRUMS AND DEATH

T
WENTY
-O
NE

With Ashley's panicked scream, the furry grip...

T
WENTY
-T
WO

Exhaustion lulled Michaelson from his...

T
WENTY
-T
HREE

Khalid watched as Linda embraced the frightened...

T
WENTY
-F
OUR

Ashley took a step back, wondering if her ears...

T
WENTY
-F
IVE

Jason knew they were in trouble when the two...

T
WENTY
-S
IX

Ashley tugged on Harry's sleeve, noticing how...

T
WENTY
-S
EVEN

The next morning, Ashley paced the floor of the...

T
WENTY
-E
IGHT

Michaelson crouched over his arsenal, taking...

T
WENTY
-N
INE

“I can't just leave her,” Ben said to Mo'amba. The...

T
HIRTY

Ben lay awake in his cell. He knew he needed to...

BOOK FIVE: RETURN TO ALPHA

T
HIRTY
-O
NE

Linda crawled between the boulder and the...

T
HIRTY
-T
WO

The first thing that struck Jason as they got...

T
HIRTY
-T
HREE

Linda realized two things as she crouched in the...

T
HIRTY
-F
OUR

Ashley was sure her son was fine. He had to be. She...

T
HIRTY
-F
IVE

Ben sat on the leather sofa in Blakely's office,...

T
HIRTY
-S
IX

That bloody Sin'jari! It all came back in a flood....

T
HIRTY
-S
EVEN

Jason sat on a soiled chair in the demolished...

EPILOGUE

Ben crawled into bed, sighing. What a day! He...

THANKS

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BOOKS BY JAMES ROLLINS

COPYRIGHT

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

PROLOGUE

Mount Erebus, Antarctica

B
LUE ICE ENCASED THE CONTINENT FROM HORIZON TO
horizon, scoured to a gritty shine by gale-force winds ripping shards across the frozen landscape. Nothing lived on the surface, except for grimy patches of yellow lichen, far older than any of the men stationed at McMurdo Base.

Two miles below Mount Erebus, through glacier, permafrost, and granite, Private Peter Wombley wiped sweat from his eyes. He dreamed of the fridge in his bunkroom stocked with a case of Coors. “This place is insane. Damned blizzard up top and hotter than a hooker's snatch down here.”

“If you quit thinkin' about it, it wouldn't be so bad,” Lieutenant Brian Flattery replied. He loosened his hand lantern from the transport motorcycle. “Let's go. We've got three more relays to calibrate before the end of this shift.”

Peter grabbed his lantern and clicked it on, spearing the cavern with a blade of light, and followed.

“Hey, watch your step there,” Brian said, pointing his light at a crevice in the cavern floor.

Slipping past the black slit, Peter eyed it suspiciously. Since he'd arrived three months ago, he had learned a healthy respect for these honeycombed caverns. He leaned over the edge and pointed his light down the crevice. It seemed to go straight to the bottom of the world. He shivered, wondering if hell had a doorway. “Wait up!”

“I'm going to proceed to the relay,” Brian said, pulling a transport sled into position at the lip of the tunnel. “You've got a five-minute break until I return.”

Peter secretly sighed in relief. He hated those “wormholes,” as the troop had nicknamed the smooth undulating passages, with diameters so small that a man could barely crawl through them. Only the motorized sleds made transport from cavern to cavern possible through the wormholes.

Like a boy on a toboggan, Brian sprawled belly down on the sled, head pointing toward the mouth of the tunnel. He engaged the throttle, the engine's roar echoing off the walls, doubling and tripling decibel levels. With a final thumbs-up, Brian shoved the throttle forward. The sled shot into the narrow tunnel.

Peter crouched down to watch Brian's departure. The lights faded as the sled roared around a distant curve. After a few moments more, even the sound of the sled whined down to nothing. Peter was alone in the cavern.

Using his lantern, he checked the time. Brian should be back in five minutes. He smiled. Maybe even twenty minutes if he needed to disassemble the communications relay and replace some parts. That gave him more than enough time. He slipped a joint from his vest pocket.

Peter set down his lantern and rotated it for wide dispersal to illuminate the area. Then he leaned back against the cavern wall, fished a match from his pocket, and struck a flame. He inhaled sharply on the narrow joint. Ahhh! Leaning his head back, he savored the smoke deep in his chest.

Suddenly, the sound of scraping rock echoed across the cavern.

“Shit!” Peter choked on the smoke and grabbed his light. He searched the open space, sweeping his lantern back and forth. No one. Just an empty cavern. He listened, straining, but heard nothing more. The shadows kept jumping in the lantern light.

All at once, it seemed a lot colder and a lot darker.

He glanced at his watch. Four minutes had passed. Brian should be heading back by now. He stamped the joint out. It was going to be a long wait.

Brian Flattery closed the panel on the side of the communications station. The unit checked out fine. Only two more relays to check. His support staff could have handled these routine tests, but this was his baby. The minor static was a personal affront to his expertise. Just a little fine tuning and everything would be perfect.

He crossed over to the idling sled and slipped into position. He twisted the throttle into gear and ducked his head a bit as he rode into the tube. Like being swallowed by a serpent, he thought. The smooth walls flew past his head, the headlamp guiding him forward. After a minute, the sled slipped from the tunnel into the cavern where he had left Peter.

Brian cut the engine. He glanced around. The cavern was empty, but a familiar scent lingered. Marijuana. “Goddamn it!” he exclaimed. Yanking himself from the sled, he raised his voice. “Private Wombley! Get your ass back here on the double!”

His words echoed off the walls. There was no answer from Peter. Searching the cavern with his lantern, Brian turned up nothing. The two motorcycles they had used to travel here were still in place across the cave. Where was that bastard?

He marched toward the cycles. His left boot slipped in a wet patch; he flailed for a handhold on the wall—and missed. With a squawk, he slammed hard on his backside. His lantern skittered across the cavern floor, finally coming to rest with the light pointed back toward him. Warm moisture seeped through the seat of his khakis. He ground his teeth together and swore.

Back on his feet, Brian wiped the seat of his pants, grimacing. A certain private was going to find a foot planted three feet up his butt. He went to tuck in his shirt when he noticed his dripping palms. He gasped and jumped back as if he could escape from his own hands.

Warm blood coated the palms.

BOOK ONE
Teamwork
ONE

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

D
AMNED RATTLERS
.

Ashley Carter knocked trail dirt from her boots before climbing into her rusted Chevy pickup. She threw her dusty cowboy hat on the seat next to her and swiped a handkerchief across her brow. Leaning over the gear shift, she popped the glove compartment and removed the snakebite kit.

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