Friday Fiction: Inferno by @frederickbrooke

Summer is in full swing, and if like me, you’re on planes, trains, and automobiles you probably need a good read to make the miles fly by in between destinations.

Inferno by Fredrick Lee Brooke who is a mystery writer who has a unique take on the genre. Check out the excerpt which is the second book in the The Drone Wars series.

In a dystopian 2021, 19-year-old Matt Carney is betrayed by those he trusts most—and is forced to make the most difficult choice of all—as he unwillingly joins the inner circle of March22, a terrorist group taking major steps to strike a new, legitimate path by eliminating the most powerful and vicious militia in the country.

Inferno_EbookCoverPrologue—November 15, 2021 at 11 p.m.

San Francisco Bay

Derrick Sims stared intently at his control screen, operating the robotic arms with swiping motions of his fingers on a pad. At this shallow depth of 260 feet, on the uneven floor of San Francisco Bay, the submarine mechanics obeyed his commands in real time. He’d trained in deeper water, up to two thousand feet, where sometimes a delay occurred between a swipe and the corresponding motion of the arms.

The training had lasted for the past twelve months without any of them knowing what their mission would be. Earning triple what Sims had taken home as an officer in the US Navy had taken the edge off the secrecy. In the Navy, you rarely knew where you were headed either. You could be cruising off Hawaii or approaching the Kola Peninsula off Severomorsk in the Barents Sea. It all looked about the same from the inside of a submarine. And you were never far from danger. The kind of danger that could mean the end of the world.

“Handle with care,” said Jack McLamore, munching on a cold cheeseburger while staring at his own screen, where he followed Sims’s manipulations.

“You’re in more danger from high cholesterol than from one of those babies going off,” Sims replied, keeping his cool. McLamore had always been the coolest head during trainings, but today only constant eating kept his nerves in check. Sims guided the robot arms till they locked on a steel box the size of a small trunk. He lifted the box out of the muck, swiveled the robot assembly, which worked like a small underwater crane, then telescoped the arms to deliver the box into the cargo hold at the back.

“It’s that moment when it’s right over our heads that freaks me out,” McLamore said. He took another bite of his cheeseburger.

“Even if I dropped it, it wouldn’t puncture the hull and it wouldn’t blow,” Sims reminded his partner as box number thirty-six locked down safely in the hold. The robot arms shrank into themselves and came around again. The submersible could carry forty of the two hundred-pound boxes.

When the cargo hold was full, they would make the twenty-mile journey out to sea to offload onto the Nemo. They could reach the Nemo in under an hour, offload in forty minutes, and run back here for the fifth load. The Nemo was loading the boxes into a container that would be brought to an unknown port. Surely one of the West Coast ports. They wouldn’t risk smuggling this cargo through Panama Canal security.

“You believe everything they tell you?” McLamore said.

“I have to think they know what they’re talking about. We’re working to make this country safer.”

“Look at the size of that thing,” McLamore said. He was pointing at a section of cable from the Golden Gate Bridge, which had been destroyed this morning in a series of timed explosions just as an army convoy was crossing. Everyone had seen it over and over on TV. The convoy had been carrying those 240 steel boxes. The team in this submersible wasn’t supposed to know what was in the boxes, but Sims knew, and he knew McLamore knew. That was what made McLamore nervous. A single box, if it blew, would level the entire city and snuff out the lives of all four million inhabitants. 

The weird object McLamore was pointing at looked more like a Greek column at the bottom of the Mediterranean than a steel cable with over five hundred strands wound together. He looked beyond the underwater drones that were giving the March22 leaders real-time information on their progress. That cable had to be three feet in diameter. It stood straight up, as if it had bored into the ground when it hit. Thousands of tons of tensile steel could very well bore a hole in bedrock, Sims figured, dropping through seawater like a pile driver. The column rose into the murky dimness about thirty feet off to their right. Cables like this, extending right up to the surface, had to be interfering with surface shipping. March22 had calculated correctly that debris from the bridge destruction would prevent the military from swooping in on the same day to recover their deadly cargo.

Sims smiled, thinking of his year of training. March22 had been prepared. March22 had gotten here first. After waiting offshore, they had guided the submersible into San Francisco Bay and gotten started less than two hours after the bridge was destroyed.

“Damn, this one’s stuck on something,” Sims said. The robot arm was trying to claw the thirty-seventh box out of a tangle of wires and ropes. He swiped left and then right again, wiggling the box to work it out of the mess. But the box fell and settled down into the tangle again.

“Let the master have a turn,” McLamore said. He had finished his cheeseburger.

Sims transferred control of the robot arms to McLamore with the touch of a button. Their orders were clear. They couldn’t leave a single one down here. After thirty seconds of skillful meaneuvering, McLamore extricated the troublesome box out of the tangle. Sims watched as McLamore manipulated the box to free it from one last thin cable that stretched over the top. The box suddenly fell free again as one of the robot arms lost its grip.

McLamore shifted in his chair, and giant sweat stains appeared under his arms in the dark green uniform shirt.

“Butterfingers,” Sims said.

“I went to my lawyer, you know. Wrote my last will and testament,” McLamore said. Beads of sweat covered his brow and upper lip as he brought the robot arms down for another try.

“I told you, they’re not going to blow,” Sims said.

He hoped to God his information was correct.

 

 

 

 

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