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“One of the best writers today.” (Johnny Olsen)
“A master storyteller.” (Betty Richard)
WILL A DESPERATE PRESIDENT RISK WAR TO SAVE HIS ONLY CHILD?
J. Robert Kennedy, author of the USA Today Bestseller The Templar’s Relic (#1 overall on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo), delivers another irresistible pulse-pounding, action-packed thriller with Kill Chain. If you love your stories filled with intrigue, suspense, a healthy dose of humor and a touch of romance, then prepare to lose sleep with this chilling torn from the headlines adventure the likes of which only Kennedy can deliver. With over 500,000 books in circulation and over 3000 Five-Star reviews, it’s time to join those who have compared him to Patterson, Clancy, Brown, Cussler and Rollins.
In Seoul, South Korea, the daughter of the President of the United States disappears aboard an automated bus carrying the spouses of the world’s most powerful nations, hacked by an unknown enemy with an unknown agenda. In order to save all that remains of his family, the widower president unleashes America’s elite Delta Force to save his daughter, yet the more they learn, the more the mystery deepens, witness upon witness declaring with certainty they never saw any kidnappers.
It’s a race against time to prevent all-out war between North and South Korea, and save the lives of the innocents aboard the bus, forcing the President to make decisions not in the best interest of his country and the world, but for the last remaining member of his family—his teenage daughter.
With over 800,000 books sold and over 3000 five-star reviews, USA Today bestselling author J. Robert Kennedy has been ranked by Amazon as the #1 Bestselling Action Adventure novelist based upon combined sales. He is the author of over thirty international bestsellers including the smash hit James Acton Thrillers. He lives with his wife and daughter and writes full-time.
"A master storyteller." — Betty Richard
"A writer who tells what we are thinking but sometimes afraid to say." — Bruce Ford
"Kennedy kicks ass in this genre." — David Mavity
"One of the best writers today." — Johnny Olsen
"If you want fast and furious, if you can cope with a high body count, most of all if you like to be hugely entertained, then you can't do much better than J Robert Kennedy." — Amazon Vine Voice Reviewer
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The Protocol Brass Monkey Broken Dove The Templar's Relic Flags of Sin The Arab Fall The Circle of Eight The Venice Code Pompeii's Ghosts Amazon Burning The Riddle Blood Relics Sins of the Titanic Saint Peter's Soldiers The Thirteenth Legion Raging Sun Wages of Sin Wrath of the Gods The Templar's Revenge
Rogue Operator Containment Failure Cold Warriors Death to America Black Widow The Agenda Retribution
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About the Author
Also by the Author
For Serge Rivard, a good friend gone, but not forgotten.
“We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion—guilt-free at last!”
Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalogue
“If the U.S. imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival...our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon—the sources of all evil.”
A military concept related to the structure of an attack; consisting of target identification, force dispatch to target, decision and order to attack the target, and finally the destruction of the target. Conversely, the idea of “breaking” an opponent’s kill chain is a method of defense or preemptive action.
All of the technologies described in this novel exist today, and most are available to the general public.
Bonggyo Industrial Bakery Seoul, Republic of Korea
“That’s strange, we weren’t expecting any deliveries today.”
Sujin signed the electronic pad, handing it back to the delivery driver.
“Someone must be,” he said, waving the device.
“But all deliveries go through me, and we’re not expecting anything through your company.”
The driver shrugged. “Well, they must not have told you because there’s no way you’d forget about something this big.”
Sujin’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?” She rose from her chair and leaned over the counter, noticing for the first time that he hadn’t come in carrying or pushing anything. “Where’s the package?”
The driver jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the door. “Outside. My partner is unloading it now.”
As if on cue, there was a large thud, the entire room shaking. She rounded the reception desk and followed the driver to the door then gasped. “What is this?” Her eyes were wide with shock as she shoved through the door and rushed down the few steps to the parking lot. A massive shipping container now occupied at least a dozen spots, the truck that had delivered it idling in front.
“Have a good day!” The driver jogged over to the truck and climbed up into the cab, immediately putting it in gear.
“Wait! This can’t be for us! We’re a bakery!” The driver waved and began pulling away. She ran after him. “Stop! You’ve made a mistake!”
He kept going but his window rolled down. “You signed for it so it’s yours now. Talk to the name on the invoice.”
She came to a stop and bent over, hands on her knees as she gasped for breath, sampling the delicious baked goods they produced a too frequent habit. She turned her head, still struggling for air, and noticed some of the workers starting to empty out of the factory and stare at the container. She turned and walked back toward their unexpected delivery, staring at the massive chunk of metal now chewing up half their parking lot.
She shook her head.
It must be a mistake.
And now I’m the one who has to fix it.
The factory floor supervisor walked over to her, hands on his hips, staring at the monstrosity. “What’s this?”
She threw her hands up. “No idea!”
He nodded toward her hand. “What’s it say?”
She stared at the forgotten shipping receipt gripped in her fist and her eyes narrowed, the owner’s name the recipient. “It says Mr. Yoo ordered it.”
“Huh. You better call him.”
“But he’s on vacation. He said not to disturb him unless we burnt the place down.”
The supervisor motioned toward the container. “I think he’ll want to know about this.”
She waved the paper. “According to this, he already does. He’s back on Monday. It can wait.”
“You mean you’re not going to open it?”
She stared at him for a moment then back at the container. “No, of course not.”
He motioned at the invoice. “But doesn’t it say it’s perishable? You can’t leave it for four days. It might need to be refrigerated.”
Sujin gripped her temples, massaging them as she squeezed her eyes shut. “I guess you’re right.”
The supervisor held out his hand and someone tossed him a crowbar used for opening their expected shipments. He and two of the other men tapped out the locking pin and swung the doors open as she joined them.
A buzzing sound started almost immediately.
Her eyes narrowed. “What’s that?”
The three men sprinted from the container as she backed away, she taught to remain calm around the insects.
But it wasn’t bees.
It didn’t sound right.
Something moved inside the dark container and her heart leaped. The humming sound was extremely loud now, as if thousands of massive winged creatures had awakened and were ready to erupt from their prison.
Something shot out toward her and she dropped to the ground, covering her head as the swarm emerged in a single mass, passing within inches of her shrinking form. She opened her eyes to see what was about to attack when she gasped.
She slowly rose as hundreds if not thousands of serving tray-sized drones rushed past her then over their humble factory and out of sight, leaving everyone in stunned silence.
What just happened!
Noksapyeong Road Seoul, Republic of Korea
This is sooo boring!
Nancy Starling leaned her head on the bus window, the gentle vibration comforting in this still strange new role thrust upon her over the past year. Her mother was dead, and her father still had a hard time letting her out of his sight, despite it a necessity most of the day. She had school, and he was busy being President of the United States. But now that she was old enough, and her mother was gone, she was his “plus one” whenever there was some affair of state that demanded his attendance.
Like this week.
A G20 conference in Seoul, South Korea.
She liked seeing the world, though now that she had a boyfriend—a secret boyfriend—she’d rather be at home where she could at least see him at school. Instead, she was stuck on the bus with a couple of dozen people, mostly spouses of other world leaders and their translators, while one of their South Korean hosts droned on about the sights they were seeing as their fully automated bus took them on a tour.
Her assistant, for lack of a better word, had been sent on ahead to finalize lunch arrangements with Nancy’s father, he sneaking out of the conference to spend some time with her. It meant she was unaccompanied at the moment, yet hardly alone. Though there were no American personnel on the bus, there were Korean security officers at the front, and there were two police vehicles escorting them with Secret Service agents in the back of both.
Her assistant, Jenn, had been disappointed to miss out on experiencing the automated vehicle, but those were the breaks when juggling the schedule of the most powerful man in the world so he could dine with his only child. Nancy had been disappointed as well, she actually liking Jenn, though it had given her an opportunity for some surreptitious texting that would have been otherwise impossible under the woman’s watchful eye.
A robot bus. That part’s cool.
Her boyfriend, Jeff, had definitely been excited about it. He was a bit of an über dork when it came to technology, he and his friends creating some sort of hacker collective recently, inspired by Anonymous. They were harmless, she was sure, otherwise the Secret Service that seemed to vet every part of her life would have had him transferred to another school. But it did make him a bit of a rebel, someone with a slightly shady side that she found oddly compelling.
And keeping the relationship secret from her dad made the whole thing even more exciting.
Though she did hate lying to him.
It’s not lying if you don’t say anything.
And she didn’t tell him anything about Jeff. He was the one thing in her life that she felt was her own. At school, the kids now seemed used to who she was, and pretty much treated her like everyone else, except for the fact she was never invited anywhere. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been to a birthday party, the security screening necessary just so much of a hassle for everyone else, that after the first time, no other family had been willing to go through it.
She closed her eyes, gripping her phone, waiting for it to vibrate with another message from the only person she could talk to on the entire planet. She used to tell her dad everything, though after her mom died, that had all stopped. He had his own problems. He had the world’s problems. He wasn’t over her mother’s death, and with his job, he had never really been given the time to mourn in private. Their family’s grief had played out for the world to see, the state funeral after the events in Mozambique large, emotional and completely impersonal.
When they had gone home, to the privacy of the West Wing, they had cried in each other’s arms for what felt like hours.
Then barely spoke of it again.
I miss you, Mom!
Her memories of that time flooded back and she felt her body tense. The plane crash, the gunmen, her mother’s suffering.
And the cute Asian Delta Force guy.
She felt her stomach flip for a moment.
He and the others had saved their lives that day, but no one could have saved her mother. She realized that now, though there was still plenty of blame she could toss around. Her mother died because of what happened in the air, not on the ground.
She opened her eyes and stared out the window.
Mom would have loved this.
Her mother had been fascinated by all things Asian, loving the trips to China and Japan, South Korea on her “bucket list”, whatever that was. Jeff said it was a list of the things you wanted to do before you died. It sounded morbid to her, though maybe when you were old like her parents, those types of things were considered normal. She wondered what else was on her mother’s bucket list that she had never had the chance to complete. She wished there actually was a list, a real list, written down somewhere, that she could try to complete for her. She believed in Heaven, that her mother was watching over her, that someday she’d see her again, and if she could see and do the things her mother had wanted to do, then that would mean her mother was also experiencing those things.
She sighed and stared at the front of the bus. A tastefully dressed Korean woman was standing there, describing in English what they were passing, several translators quietly doing their jobs, most of the dignitaries already speaking English fluently.
The only men on the bus were two Korean security personnel seated at the front, and the German Chancellor’s husband, a man her mother probably would have described as “charming”, though she wasn’t entirely clear on what that word actually meant. When she thought of someone as “charming”, she thought of someone who was trying to get in your pants.
She glanced over at him, listening attentively to the tour, he not requiring a translator, his English flawless with an interesting accent.
He is nice.
He had been particularly excited about the driverless aspect of their bus, it a prototype showing off the Korean’s technical prowess. He seemed as excited as Jeff had been when he found out. Apparently, the vehicle was bristling with sensors and computers that could react to any type of situation. Her dad’s security people had been hesitant about letting her on board, it only allowed when they promised to keep the bus under thirty.
Security wasn’t the issue, but no-driver-safety was.
Something caught her attention and she glanced out the window, her eyes widening slightly.
Is that a drone?
She watched as it slowly passed her seat at window height, it not occurring to her at first how dangerous that could be.
It could hit another car!
She frowned, slightly angered at the irresponsibility of whoever was flying it.
There ought to be a law!
I sound like Mom!
Another drone passed her window and she felt her chest tighten.
Okay, something weird is going on.
She glanced toward the security guards at the front, debating on whether she should mention something, her father’s voice echoing in her head.
No matter how trivial, if you see something, you tell your guards.
“Oh my God, something’s happening!”
She looked at the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife who had leaped from her seat, pointing ahead. Nancy stood to get a better view but was blocked by the Chinese translator. She leaned out into the aisle and gasped as she saw one of the police cars accompanying them slam into a fuel truck, a massive fireball erupting, thick black and orange smoke rushing in all directions before sucking back in on itself, the raging flames reaching toward the sky as traffic veered ahead of them and brakes screeched.
And the bus continued forward, no one at the controls.
“How do you stop this thing?” shouted someone, who she didn’t know, the sight of the second police car that had been following them distracting her as it raced by.
And slammed into the already raging fire.
Oh my God!
Everyone was out of their seats, panic setting in as the security guards got on their radios. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong.
And it was only going to get worse, the bus guiding itself through the chaos, no human to tell it to stop.
Her phone vibrated in her hand and she glanced down to see a grinning picture of Jeff. She quickly typed a reply.
Something’s wrong. Help us!
COEX Convention & Exhibition Center Seoul, Republic of Korea
This is sooo boring.
Command Sergeant Major Burt “Big Dog” Dawson stood against the wall of the large meeting room, the center occupied by an oval table with nineteen seats hosting the leaders of the G20, nations representing the most powerful economies in the world—Russia boycotting due to continued economic sanctions. To his right stood the muscled Sergeant Leon “Atlas” James, two other members of his elite Bravo Team, part of America’s secretive Delta Force—officially 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta—were outside the room, keeping an eye on things from a different vantage point.
They were supplemental security, President Starling personally requesting Dawson, a bond of trust formed in the jungles of Mozambique after the downing of Air Force One by terrorists. Dawson’s biggest regret of that mission was the loss of the First Lady. Many had died that day, it a miracle any of them had survived, today’s sedate mission something he would never trade for the more exciting horrors of last year.
The nation had all died a little, the news of the entire family’s death, followed by the startling revelation there were survivors of the crash, had kept the world on the edge of their seats.
Then word of the First Lady succumbing to her wounds tore away part of the nation’s soul, the country coming to a standstill during her funeral, as for the first time in modern history, a President grieved while the nation watched, a brave teenage girl trying to be strong for her father as the weight of the world’s problems continued to demand his attentions.
No one should have to go through such a tragedy publicly.
Time had marched on, the events pushed to the back of his mind and that of the nation, but whenever he saw Starling, there was a silent acknowledgment of that day, though no words ever said.
It’s too painful.
He had wondered why the President continued to request his unit for these assignments; it had to be a constant reminder of what had happened. If he wanted Delta, there were hundreds of other operators that could do the job, but his Commanding Officer, Colonel Clancy, had pointed out something to him that he hadn’t realized.
“Every time he takes his daughter out of the country, he requests your team.”
A father protecting his daughter with a team he could trust.
It made sense.
He and the others were playing second fiddle as usual to the Secret Service. He had no problem with that—he was a soldier, used to following orders. He wasn’t here for the glory—none of them were. They were here to serve their country, and today his country needed him here, back to a wall in a completely secure conference room, in a stable, safe country—the only real danger beyond Islamic terrorism, the barking mad dictator 35 miles to the north.
But North Korea wouldn’t dare do anything to harm the leaders of the free world—and their only real ally, China.
This was a quiet, routine assignment that allowed him to daydream a bit, and panic slightly over the wedding plans that his fiancée continued to make.
“Code Red, I repeat, Code Red!”
He sensed all the security surrounding the room become tense, even those not on his frequency. “EasterEgg and the other spouses are missing, possible kidnapping. The leaders are about to be notified. Evac Plan Charlie is a go.”
He glanced at Atlas as the doors at opposite ends opened, nineteen aides streaming in, the meeting halting almost immediately as those seated around the table sensed something was seriously wrong. He watched the White House staffer whisper into Starling’s ear, the knuckles turning white on the hand gripping a gold pen, the color in his ears draining.
The South Korean President leaped to her feet. “I assume you have all just been informed of what has happened. This meeting is adjourned.”
Starling rose from his chair, any emotion from a moment ago wiped from his face except for the eyes.
It’s hard to control the eyes.
Starling pointed at Dawson.
“You’re with me.”
Sung Household Suwon-si, Republic of Korea
“I’ve been to a lot of Korean restaurants, but my God, this is waaay better.”
Sergeant Carl “Niner” Sung looked at Sergeant Jerry “Jimmy Olsen” Hudson, his friend’s plate empty. He stabbed the air with his stainless steel chopsticks. “Did you even chew?”
Jimmy shrugged. “I find it interferes with the ingestion process. I use more of a duck method.” He tilted his head back and imitated the feathered fowl’s preferred eating method, a giggle and covered mouth elicited from Niner’s teenage cousin, Ji-yeon.
“Growing boy, must eat more!” Niner grinned at his grandmother as she quickly began filling Jimmy’s plate with another helping. He had to admit he was impressed that his friend hadn’t turned his nose up at anything, no matter how unusual or unfamiliar it was.
Jimmy had been broken in, though, with visits to the Sung household in Florida over the years. Niner’s family had immigrated to the United States before he was born, settling in Florida, his father an accountant who had fallen on hard times during the Great Recession, as had many Americans. They were slowly rebuilding, but it would be a long, hard haul, none of which he was allowed to tell the family here about.
As far as the Sung relations in South Korea knew, everything was hunky-dory with the American branch of the family.
Fortunately, the family here were simply too excited to see their relative, most for the first time, to bother asking detailed questions about what was going on back home, especially since he only had about two hours to visit. Dawson had Atlas, Jagger and Spock with him for this shift in the protection detail, he and Jimmy on Red’s team, currently enjoying some downtime.
Two hours would be more than enough to do his duty to his family, introduce his friend to what real Korean food tasted like—not the Americanized bastardizations—and keep Ji-yeon from falling too deeply in love with the handsome Jimmy.
“Here, Jimmy, have some more beef.”
Jimmy held out his plate as Ji-yeon piled more food on. “Thanks!”
She blushed, beaming a smile at him before quickly looking away when he returned it. Niner gave his friend a look, Jimmy shrugging his shoulders with a “not my fault if she finds me hot” grin.
Jimmy sat back and patted his stomach. “I thought you always said your family was starving here?”
Those who understood English erupted in protest, Niner taking a flurry of offended responses in his native Korean. Jimmy smiled and tucked back into his plate, letting the firestorm he had created continue.
“I was just joking,” replied Niner, holding up his hands. “He knows that.” He leaned toward his friend and hissed, “Tell them you know that!”
Jimmy covered his still full mouth. “Know what?” He winked at Ji-yeon, earning another giggle.
“That you knew I was joking. I think they’re really offended.”
“How do I know they didn’t just put on a big spread to impress me?”
Niner’s eyes widened as his friend dug the hole deeper. “What the hell are you doing?” he whispered in Arabic, a language no one else at the table understood.
“Paying you back for all the damned ‘my family’s starving in Korea’ jokes.”
“Dude! You’re about to create an international incident!”
Jimmy swallowed another mouthful of rice. “Of your creation.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. No more starving family jokes.”
Niner closed his eyes for a moment, nodding. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Jimmy held up his hands slightly, the table quieting. “I was just joking. Carl has never said you were starving. I was just trying to have a little fun at his expense.”
Translations were made then the room erupted in laughter, more food piled on Jimmy’s plate, Ji-yeon coyly eying the now even more interesting foreigner.
Jimmy fished his phone from his pocket, frowning at the call display.
Niner’s eyes narrowed. “Who is it?”
“BD. I better take this.” He turned to their hostess. “Excuse me for a moment.” He left the table, Niner shoveling as much food into his face as he could, there little doubt their brunch, for lack of a better word, was about to be cut short.
Jimmy returned, concern on his face.
“What is it?”
The room went silent.
“Somebody just kidnapped the G20 spouses.”
Niner’s eyes went wide and he looked at his young cousin, his thoughts turning to Starling’s daughter who had developed a bit of a crush on him in the jungles of Mozambique.
“The President’s daughter?”
Maggie Harris Residence Lake in the Pines Apartments, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Maggie Harris flipped through Brides Magazine for the umpteenth time, Shirley Belme on the opposite end of the couch, feet curled up under her, doing the same. Shirley was already married to Dawson’s best friend, Red, the product of their love, Bryson, playing with his Lego in front of the television, CNN on in the background.
Monitoring the news every time the love of her life would go on deployment had become a habit with Maggie. She had been off for a few days; some follow-up medical appointments scheduled in a cluster to examine how her head wound garnered in Paris was healing. Her fiancé had been extremely upset he couldn’t go with her to the appointments, but duty called, and she understood that.
After all, it wasn’t every woman who was engaged to a Delta Force operator.
And knew about it.
She was in the extremely fortunate position of working as the Personal Assistant to Colonel Clancy, Dawson’s Commanding Officer, which had her privy to many of her fiancé’s top-secret destinations, though she was forbidden to talk about it. This time, however, due to being out of the office, she had no idea where he had gone.
And it was fine by her.
If she knew, then she’d just worry about what she saw on the news, he rarely going somewhere safe, it seemed.
But it didn’t mean she wouldn’t remain tuned in, just in case. When shit happened, it meant Dawson and his Bravo Team were either already in the thick of it, or on their way there.
It was a difficult life, yet she wouldn’t trade it for the world.
She loved that man, more than she had loved anyone, more than she thought she could love anyone.
Shirley held out her hand. “You know, when I first got engaged to Mike, my sister laughed at my engagement ring. She said any man who couldn’t afford at least two karats wasn’t worth marrying.”
Maggie’s eyes widened in horror. “Are you kidding me?” She held out her own modest ring, a ring she absolutely adored. “I hope you kicked her ass.”
“No, I’m not going to break a nail on her account. I just poured my bottle of beer over her head and dumped her coleslaw in her lap then told her to go give her ex-husband a call and ask him how much he paid for her ring.”
“Well, at least you remained calm.”
Shirley burst into a fit of giggles, Maggie joining in, Bryson glancing up for a moment, laughing with them, hopefully not knowing why.
Maggie held out her finger. “I don’t think mine’s even a karat, let alone two, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’d be too darned worried about losing it! And besides, our men don’t make that much money, so these little things are a big sacrifice to them. All I care about is that I know he agonized over it, torturing himself for days and weeks, then finally took the plunge and put himself out there, knowing I could have said ‘no’.”
“I think he’d have rather faced ISIS alone.”
Maggie laughed. “Probably.” She flashed back to his proposal and closed her eyes, a smile spreading on her face. “I—”
Maggie’s eyes shot open and she stared at the screen, Bryson on his feet, pointing at it. A shot of the President and his daughter descending the steps of Air Force One cut away to a talking head.
“What was that, honey?”
“I saw Daddy on TV!”
Maggie grabbed the remote and hit the back button a few times then smiled, spotting Dawson and several others from the team standing at the bottom of the stairs behind dark sunglasses, their faces expressionless, their suits impeccable with slight bulges where their Glocks rested. The shot cut away to the star of the show, President Starling waving to a gathered throng. “Well, I guess we know where they are.” She smiled at Shirley. “And we know they’re going to be safe.”
Shirley agreed. “Now I can sleep tonight. Nothing’s going to happen to them in South Korea.”
South of the Crash Scene Seoul, Republic of Korea
Nancy’s eyes were wide, her breaths coming in sporadic gasps as she kept holding it then suddenly remembering to breathe. The passengers were in a panic, the automated bus continuing through the streets of Seoul, no one in control other than the computer. One of the security agents was on his radio, shouting in Korean, apparently ineffectively, as his partner was smashing on the front door, equally so.
The Italian Prime Minister’s wife suddenly occupied the seat beside her. She took Nancy’s hand and squeezed it. “Are you okay, dear?”
Nancy shook out a nod, her entire trembling body betraying the lie.
She yelped as a voice came over the speaker.
“Greetings to our honored guests. First, we would like the members of your security detail to please cease any efforts to open the doors. Any attempt to do so will result in the explosives attached to the undercarriage detonating. We would hate to see you all die so uselessly.”
Nancy watched in horror as the agent at the door continued his efforts.
“For the love of God, listen to him!” screamed someone, the Korean tour guide firing off a flurry of curt words at the man who abruptly stopped.
“Thank you. Might we suggest that next time, you make certain your security detail understands English? It just might save your lives.”
The guard glared at the speaker.
Oh, he speaks English.
“Interesting, just too stupid to listen, then.”
Nancy searched for a camera, it clear they were being watched, but found none.
“You will find that none of your phones will be able to get a signal. We are jamming everything except our own.”
Nancy glanced at her phone and noticed the No Signal indicator, an immediate sense of claustrophobia setting in as she realized how isolated from her support network she suddenly was.
“Please sit back and enjoy the ride. We will be reaching our destination shortly.”
There was a pause as Nancy peered out the window, wondering where that destination might be, the city continuing to pass, the traffic around them, the pedestrians on the street, ignorant of their plight.
“And remember, you are being watched. Constantly.”
Two drones whipped past her window. She looked behind and noticed two more. A quick glance over to the other side of the bus showed several others.
“We’re going to be okay.”
Nancy glanced at the Italian woman who was trying to comfort her, the woman’s terror obvious, her eyes wide, her cheeks flushed, her grip tight.
Then she started to hum a song.
COEX Convention & Exhibition Center Seoul, Republic of Korea
Dawson climbed into the rear of the armored limousine, Atlas slamming the door shut and getting into the front, the motorcade accelerating hard the moment the last foot cleared the cement of the conference center’s underground parking. A large contingent of motorcycle police and squad cars immediately met them as the emergency evacuation of nineteen world leaders unfolded, he having no doubt the officers on the ground had rehearsed this scenario, fully expecting it never to happen.
And yet it was.
“We’re finding that out now, Mr. President,” said Dawson as he grabbed a handhold, the driver operating under orders not to worry about comfort, speed of the essence.
“Are we going back to the hotel?”
“Negative. Protocol dictates the embassy in this situation. If they’ve managed to take your daughter and the others, we have to assume all security precautions have been compromised. The embassy is the only place we can be certain is secure since all security inside is our responsibility.”
“What do we know?”
Atlas turned from the passenger seat, just having received an update. “Not much yet, Mr. President. The security vehicles accompanying the bus were apparently hit by a fuel truck, and the bus continued on. The GPS tracker has been disabled, and the security team on board isn’t responding.”
“Do we know where the bus is?”
Dawson could hear the panic creeping into the voice of the most powerful man in the world. And he didn’t blame him. He had never liked the idea of a driverless bus ferrying so many VIPs around, yet his concerns had been overridden by the White House staff’s unwillingness to offend their South Korean hosts.
He just hoped those poor souls didn’t pay the price for political correctness.
He exchanged a glance with Atlas.
“Not yet, sir. Emergency vehicles are responding and aerial units are deploying. We’ll find them, Mr. President.”
Starling looked at Dawson. “I can’t lose my daughter too.” His voice was subdued, it almost cracking.
Dawson nodded. “I’m not going to make you any promises, Mr. President, except that if you give us free rein, we’ll do whatever it takes to get her back.”
Starling’s jaw squared as he drew in a breath, staring at Dawson.
“Consider yourselves unleashed.”
En route to the Embassy Seoul, Republic of Korea
Niner’s fingernails dug deeper into the dash as Ji-yeon weaved in and out of traffic, he beginning to question whether her Kia Morning had a brake pedal installed.
And the harrowing experience was made all the worse by her penchant for staring at Jimmy in the rearview mirror.
“Eyes on the road!”
“Calm down, I know what I’m doing!”
“I’ve been trained for this and I don’t even know what you’re doing!”
“They teach soldiers how to drive like this?”
“Some of them.”
“What is it you do?”
Niner ignored the question, his job Top Secret, his cover an honorable logistics clerk. The less his family and loved ones knew about his real life, the safer they all were. If his enemies were to know his true identity, they could kidnap his family and try to use them as leverage to get what they wanted.
That was why only spouses knew.
And he definitely didn’t have one of those.