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Tom Clancy Firing Point (A Jack Ryan Jr. Novel) Hardcover – June 9, 2020

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About the Author

Tom Clancy was the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of more than eighteen books. He died in October 2013.

Mike Maden is the author of the critically acclaimed Drone series. He holds both a master's and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Davis, specializing in international relations and comparative politics. He has lectured and consulted on the topics of war and the Middle East, among others. Maden has served as a political consultant and campaign manager in state and national elections, and hosted his own local weekly radio show for a year.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

 

Aboard the container ship Jade Star

 

Second Officer Luis Loyola stood outside on the starboard bridge wing, vaping a sweet menthol Juulpod. He admired the blanket of stars shimmering across the black velvet sky.

 

His seaman's eye suddenly caught the breaking wake of what was probably a dolphin's fin racing toward the hull far down below, then watched it dip beneath the blue-black water, night feeding. He smiled. Amazing animals. And always a good luck charm.

 

The ship's bow surged toward a waxing moon blazing like a searchlight, illuminating the dark Pacific waters in every direction, all the way to the horizon, or so it seemed. Out here in the South Pacific, he couldn't see the lights of any nearby ships of any size; his radar had indicated the nearest fishing vessel was some 140 kilometers away. He might as well have been on the surface of Mars for the solitude he craved tonight.

 

The ship was sailing on a smooth sea at fifteen knots-a little more than half its rated speed-to save expensive bunker fuel. The 102,000-ton (deadweight) vessel was powered by a 93,000-

horsepower, two-stroke diesel engine thrumming far belowdecks. It was burning 90 tons of fuel a day at current speed as it drove the ship's thirty-foot-diameter copper alloy, six-bladed propeller.

 

He cast a quick glance at the deck, stacked with red, blue, and green shipping containers. In fact, the Jade Star was fully loaded with 8,465 twenty- and forty-foot shipping containers, including South Korean industrial pipe and fittings, washing machines, refrigerators, car parts, rubber tires, X-ray machines, and, strangely, seven hundred liters of human blood.

 

The ship was also illegally carrying three hundred tons of ethylene and other combustible chemicals, used in a variety of manufacturing applications. The legal restrictions for recommended storage and transportation precautions were ridiculous and prohibitively expensive relative to the cost of the chemicals themselves. He wasn't worried about their safety. As the ship's administrative officer, he was duty bound to be aware of such things. But if stopped and searched, he alone would be the person charged with the crime.

 

But all of that was of little concern at the moment. He was off the clock now, and couldn't give a damn about what they were hauling. His only concern was that his son's birthday was yesterday, and as far as he knew, his puta ex-wife hadn't bothered to give the boy the quadcopter drone he had sent him last week.

 

Loyola loved his life at sea, but he loved his six-year-old son even more. He was torn. It was the sea that had cost him his marriage, or so his wife said, blaming her whoring with every swinging dick in Lima on him not being around to satisfy her womanly desires.

 

ÁHija de puta!

 

He took a long drag on his Juul, then watched the breeze sweep the vapor cloud away into the darkness. If he didn't quit the sea, he might lose his son altogether. Besides, he hadn't had a pay raise in three years, let alone a promotion, and neither was on the horizon. He had thought about quitting many times, but as shitty as the non-union wages were, they were still better than anything else he could manage from a desk job back home in Peru. At least this way he could save up money for his son's future, even if he missed his son growing up.

 

He felt a dark despair falling back over him again and thought about the bottle of Golden Blue Korean whiskey he had stowed away in his cabin. His drinking had gotten worse this trip, and it was probably time to back off. His last fitness report by that maric—n captain had warned him about his drinking but that asshole didn't understand the pain he was feeling.

 

Loyola took another deep breath of salt air, and forced his mind to forget his troubles. For all of the pain of being a sailor, there was nothing like standing out on the bridge on a night like this. He'd sailed around the world a dozen times, and seen things on land and at sea that no civilian would ever see. Not bad for a street kid who used to hustle cigarettes and lottery tickets in the filthy Lima slums.

 

Loyola took another long, thoughtful pull. Yes, perhaps he would try to find some kind of job at the port, nearer the boy. Maybe even teach him how to play fœtbol, as his father had taught him. And with the money he'd already saved up, perhaps a house out in the country where the boy-

 

A thundering blast deep beneath the vessel threw Loyola to the deck, slamming his skull against the steel bulkhead. Stunned, Loyola crawled to his knees as the breaking hull tore apart with a scream of shattering metal. He was tossed against the rails of the bridge wing, cracking his ribs, but his desperate hands wrapped around the nearest post to keep from falling several stories into the ocean. The air filled with the wail of alarms and klaxons.

 

He tried to blink away the blood pouring into his eyes from the wound in his broken scalp. He watched in horror as the bow and six hundred feet of ship behind it broke away and plunged headlong into the sea. The rear section where he lay surged ahead, still under power, and crashed into the upended hull in front. Steel containers spilled out of their holds and into the water, and a dozen screaming crewmen along with them.

 

Secondary explosions ignited the incendiary chemicals, enveloping the shuddering wreckage in unquenchable fire. Within minutes the entire ship and its cargo were lost, sent plunging into the depths of the warm Pacific.

 

There were no survivors.

 

OCTOBER 24

 

2

 

Barcelona, Spain

 

Jack stood at the bar of L'avi, his favorite restaurant in Barcelona. It was located in the El Born district of the old city, called the Ciutat Vella in Catalˆ, the language of Catalonia, the semi-autonomous region of Spain. It was also a locals' favorite, which was saying something, because catalanes really knew how to eat and drink, and did so quite often, late into the night.

 

Jack took another sip of sweet, red Spanish vermut. Van Delden's suicide was a distant memory, thanks to his time in Spain. It had been a week since Jack woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night reliving it. Now numbed to the horror of the Dutchman's excruciating death, Jack still couldn't help but wonder what kind of organization inspired that kind of fearsome loyalty.

 

Jack had loved his time in Madrid but he was utterly captivated by Barcelona. He could see himself living in this city, despite recent events. Spontaneous mass protests of hundreds of thousands of people had shut Barcelona down several times in the days before he arrived but lately all was quiet. Jack sensed there was still something in the air.

 

Most protesters favored Catalonian independence from Madrid, but not all. Independence wasn't the only issue. The rage that had driven freedom-loving people into the streets was the recent sentencing of Catalonian independence politicians to long prison terms by Madrid. Spain still lived under the long shadow of Franco's Fascist dictatorship. Though Spain was now a democratic republic, heavily armed riot police battling barricades of unarmed Catalonian civilians elicited hard memories from the earlier times. It was an emotional response, not a rational one, Jack thought, but modern politics was only about emotions in the Western world these days, including here.

 

The protests changed nothing. Madrid still held all the cards because it held the monopoly of force. Barcelona was a city on the edge of another eruption, which made it all the more interesting as a place to be.

 

At six-one, Jack's broad-shouldered frame towered over most of the locals who crowded the place at lunchtime, which throughout Spain lasted until at least three o'clock. The energy level in here was somewhere between a late-night disco and a rock concert.

 

Jack could hardly hear himself think above the din of excited diners jabbering away in a half-dozen languages, particularly Catalˆ-its own unique mix of Spanish, Italian, and French. Catalˆ was one of the many things that made Catalonia separate and distinct, which was why Franco had outlawed the language during his regime.

 

Jack had little more of the language than si us plau or grˆcies in his vocabulary, but even using those few words was enough to elicit a smile from appreciative locals, particularly those favoring independence from Madrid. If all else failed, Jack knew the words for the tapas he loved best-especially bombas and pa amb tomˆquet. In a worst-case scenario, a finger jabbed onto a menu item along with a smile would always do the trick.

 

Today was Jack's last day in Spain. Despite the highly social atmosphere, he was by himself. The life he lived as a covert operative wasn't amenable to long-term relationships, at least, not for him.

 

He'd seen the pretty blonde at the other end of the bar when he first came in, and saw her check him out. She wore no wedding ring and appeared to be by herself. She had a Bluetooth stuck in her ear and engaged in a very occasional conversation with someone on the other end of the call. Between shots of bubbly cava and bites of crispy croquetas de jam—n, she tossed subtle, sidelong glances at him in the mirror that stood behind the counter.

 

Even if she was interested in him, he was already packed for his American Airlines flight back home tomorrow. He only traveled with a laptop and a buffalo leather satchel crammed with a few days' worth of clothes. He preferred washing his things to throwing them out and buying new ones, unlike a famous fictional character he admired.

 

The only thing he needed to remember to grab in the morning was his dog-eared copy of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, which was the reason for his stop in Barcelona. He'd first read the book in college and its last, prophetic pages had haunted him for years. When Gerry Hendley told him to take a few weeks off after his last mission with The Campus in South Korea, he decided to revisit the idea of Spain, and in particular, the Spanish Civil War. He loved being an off-the-books operator for The Campus-the "black side" operations of the financial firm Hendley Associates, carrying out missions for the American government that otherwise couldn't be handled through normal channels.

 

But lately, Jack had been considering the words of an old Jesuit professor he'd bumped into in London a few years back. His subconscious was nibbling on the edges of an idea to go back to school and get his doctorate in history, just like his dad.

 

Maybe.

 

Nothing on this trip persuaded him to quit The Campus. The work was too important and too damned exciting. But he also had to admit he had been utterly captivated by his time in Spain and experiencing it through a historian's eyes, rather than through the green glow of night-vision optics while chasing tangos. It was one thing to read about a great historical city like Barcelona but something else altogether to stand inside a nine-hundred-year-old church with the bones of Crusader knights entombed beneath the stones at your feet.

 

He plopped the last of the glistening pimientos de Padr—n into his mouth. The small green peppers fried in olive oil and dusted with sea salt practically melted on his tongue. He seriously considered ordering another vermut but decided to just finish the one he had and pay the bill. The clock was ticking and he had a timed entrance ticket to the Picasso Museum, which was just up the narrow, medieval street of Carrer de Montcada. It was the last item on his list before leaving tomorrow.

 

He raised a finger to the passing server who set his check on the bar in front of him. Jack counted out the bills he needed to cover the tab along with a generous tip. He noticed he still had a few euros left in his wallet and decided to toss those into the tray as well. He didn't need euros in Virginia and the young server was working her ass off. God bless her.

 

AdŽu, Barcelona.

 

3

 

His bill paid, Jack polished off the last swallow of his drink when he happened to catch a glimpse of a striking young African American woman as she edged her way into the restaurant, clearly looking for someone.

 

RenŽe Moore?

 

Jack couldn't believe it was her, after all these years.

 

They'd had a few senior finance classes together at Georgetown and, as often happened when two smart, attractive people spent a lot of time together, fell into an intense but brief relationship. RenŽe Moore was the most career-minded woman he'd ever met, and that was saying something coming from a household of highly accomplished Ryan women. But her mind was set on conquering Wall Street. She was perfectly gentle but crystal clear when she broke up with him: She wasn't looking to get married. Ever.

 

Jack hadn't seen RenŽe since they'd both graduated seven years ago. He had often wondered if she could have been the one who got away because she had so many of the qualities he most admired in women. But then again, her top priority was earning a Wall Street fortune. His wasn't. Jack believed in living for things worth dying for, and money wasn't one of them.

 

He'd actually thought of reaching out to her a couple of years ago for a Costa Rican banking project he was tackling as a "white side" analyst at Hendley Associates. Moore had a first-rate mind and an incredible work ethic. She would have been perfect for the gig. He'd even thought he might be able to convince her that things like duty, honor, and country were just as significant as making a billion dollars by the time she was thirty. But every time he thought about picking up the phone, he didn't. Most people's loyalties were only to their own ambitions. That didn't necessarily make them bad people. But if his dad taught Jack anything, it was that the only life worth living was a life of service to others.

 

And like the Man said, you can't serve two masters.

 

Above the din of happy diners, Jack shouted her name. She began searching the crowd until she spotted him, which wasn't hard, given his height. A luminous smile lit her up for a moment, then it turned to confusion as she made her way over to him, squeezing her five-foot-six frame next to him at the crowded bar. She reached up and gave him a hug.


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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Printing edition (June 9, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 480 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0593188063
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593188064
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.52 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.31 x 1.46 x 9.26 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,181 ratings

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