Polar shift, p.1
Polar Shift, page 1
DIRK PITT® ADVENTURES BY CLIVE CUSSLER
Raise the Titanic
The Mediterranean Caper
KURT AUSTIN ADVENTURES BY CLIVE CUSSLER WITH PAUL KEMPRECOS
OREGON FILES ADVENTURES BY CLIVE CUSSLER WITH CRAIG DIRGO
NONFICTION BY CLIVE CUSSLER AND CRAIG DIRGO
The Sea Hunters II
Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed
The Sea Hunters
A NOVEL FROM THE NUMA® FILES
WITH PAUL KEMPRECOS
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G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
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Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2005 by Sandecker, RLLLP
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Cussler, Clive.
Polar shift / Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos.
1. Austin, Kurt (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Underwater exploration—Fiction. 3. Marine scientists—Fiction. 4. Polar regions—Fiction I. Kemprecos, Paul. II. Title.
PS3553.U75P65 2005 2005050911
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
EAST PRUSSIA, 1944
THE MERCEDES-BENZ 770 W150 Grosser Tourenwagen weighed more than four tons and was armored like a Panzer. But the seven-passenger limousine seemed to float like a ghost over the cushion of new-fallen snow, gliding with unlit headlights past slumbering cornfields that sparkled in the blue light of the moon.
As the car neared a darkened farmhouse that lay in a gentle hollow, the driver gently touched the brakes. The car slowed to the speed of a walk and approached the low-slung, fieldstone structure with the stealth of a cat stalking a mouse.
The driver gazed thoughtfully through the frosted windshield with eyes the color of arctic ice. The building appeared to be abandoned, but he knew better than to take chances. White paint had been hastily slapped over the car’s sculpted black steel body. The crude attempt at camouflage made the automobile practically invisible to the Stormovic ground attack planes that prowled the skies like angry hawks, but the Mercedes had barely escaped the Russian patrols that materialized out of the snow like wraiths. Rifle bullets had cratered the armor in a dozen places.
So he waited.
The man stretched out on the spacious backseat of the four-door sedan had felt the car decelerate. He sat up and blinked the sleep out of his eyes.
“What is it?” he asked, speaking German with a Hungarian accent. His voice was fuzzy from sleep.
The driver hushed his passenger. “Something’s not—”
The rattle of gunfire shattered the glassy stillness of the night.
The driver mashed the brake pedal. The massive vehicle hissed to a skidding stop about fifty yards from the farmhouse. He switched off the engine and snatched the 9 mm Lugar pistol from the front seat. His fingers tightened on the Lugar’s grip as a burly figure dressed in the olive uniform and fur hat of the Red Army staggered out the front door of the farmhouse.
The soldier was clutching his arm and bellowing like a bee-stung bull.
“Damn fascist whore!” he bawled repeatedly. His voice was hoarse with rage and pain.
The Russian soldier had broken into the farmhouse only minutes before. The farm couple had been hiding in a closet, huddling under a blanket like children afraid of the dark. He had put a bullet in the husband and turned his attention to the woman, who had fled into the tiny kitchen.
Shouldering his weapon, he had crooked his finger and crooned, “Frau, komm,” the soothing prelude to rape.
The soldier’s vodka-soaked brain failed to warn him that he was in danger. The farmer’s wife hadn’t begged for mercy or burst into tears like the other women he had raped and murdered. She had glared at him with hot eyes, whipped a carving knife out from behind her back and slashed at his face. He had seen a flash of steel in the moonlight streaming through the windows and h
As he stood outside the farmhouse, the soldier examined his wound. The cut was not severe, and the blood flow was down to a trickle. He pulled a pint of homemade vodka from his pocket and drained the bottle. The fiery hundred-proof liquor trickling down his throat helped numb the searing pain in his arm. He tossed the empty bottle into the snow, wiped his mouth with the back of his glove and set off to rejoin his comrades. He would brag that he’d been wounded fighting a gang of fascists.
The soldier trudged a few steps in the snow only to stop as his sharp ears picked up the tick-tick sound of the car’s engine cooling down. He squinted at the large grayish smudge in the moon shadows. A suspicious scowl appeared on his broad peasant face. He slipped his machine gun from his shoulder and brought it to bear on the vague object. His finger tightened on the trigger.
Four headlights blazed on. The powerful in-line eight-cylinder engine roared into life and the car sprang forward, its rear end fish-tailing in the snow. The Russian tried to dodge the oncoming vehicle. The corner of the heavy bumper caught his leg, and he was thrown to the side of the road.
The car slid to a stop, the door opened and the driver got out. The tall man walked through the snow to the soldier, his black leather overcoat slapping softly against his thighs. The man had a long face and a lantern jaw. His close-cropped blond hair was uncovered even though the temperature was below zero.
He squatted next to the stricken man.
“Are you hurt, tovarich?” he said in Russian. His voice was deep and resonant, and he spoke with the detached sympathy of a physician.
The soldier groaned. He couldn’t believe his bad luck. First that German bitch with the knife, now this.
He cursed through spittle-covered lips. “Damn your mother! Of course I’m hurt.”
The tall man lit a cigarette and placed it between the Russian’s lips. “Is there anyone in the farmhouse?”
The soldier took a deep drag and exhaled through his nostrils. He assumed that the stranger was one of the political officers who infested the army like fleas.
“Two fascists,” the Russian said. “A man and a woman.”
The stranger went inside the farmhouse and emerged minutes later.
“What happened?” he said, again kneeling by the soldier’s side.
“I shot the man. The fascist witch came after me with a knife.”
“Good work.” He patted the Russian on the shoulder. “You’re here alone?”
The soldier growled like a dog with his bone. “I don’t share my loot or my women.”
“What is your unit?”
“General Galitsky’s Eleventh Guards army,” the soldier replied with pride in his voice.
“You attacked Nemmersdorf on the border?”
The soldier bared his bad teeth. “We nailed the fascists to their barns. Men, women and children. You should have heard the fascist dogs scream for mercy.”
The tall man nodded. “Well done. I can take you to your comrades. Where are they?”
“Close by. Getting ready for another push west.”
The tall man gazed toward a distant line of trees. The rumble of huge T-34 battle tanks was like distant thunder. “Where are the Germans?”
“The swine are running for their lives.” The soldier puffed on the cigarette. “Long live Mother Russia.”
“Yes,” the tall man said. “Long live Mother Russia.” He reached into his overcoat, pulled out the Lugar and placed the muzzle against the soldier’s temple. “Auf Wiedersehen, comrade.”
The pistol barked once. The stranger slid the smoking pistol into its holster and returned to the car. As he got behind the wheel, a hoarse cry came from the passenger in the backseat.
“You killed that soldier in cold blood!”
The dark-haired man was in his mid-thirties, and he had the handsome chiseled face of an actor. A thin mustache adorned a sensitive mouth. But there was nothing delicate about the way his expressive gray eyes burned with anger.
“I simply helped another Ivan sacrifice himself for the greater glory of Mother Russia,” the driver said, speaking in German.
“I understand this is war,” the passenger said, his voice tight with emotion. “But even you must admit the Russians are human, like us.”
“Yes, Professor Kovacs, we are very much alike. We have committed unspeakable atrocities against their people, and now they are taking their revenge.” He described the horrors of the Nemmersdorf massacre.
“I’m sorry for those people,” Kovacs said in a subdued tone, “but the fact that the Russians behave like animals doesn’t mean that the rest of the world must descend into savagery.”
The driver heaved a heavy sigh. “The front is beyond that ridge,” he said. “You are welcome to discuss the goodness of mankind with your Russian friends. I won’t stop you.”
The professor drew in on himself like an oyster.
The driver glanced in the rearview mirror and chuckled to himself.
“A wise decision.” He lit a cigarette, bending low to shield the light from his match. “Let me explain the situation. The Red Army has crossed the border and blown through the German front as if it were made of fog. Nearly all the inhabitants of this lovely countryside have fled their homes and fields. Our valiant army has been fighting a rearguard action as it runs for its life. The Russians have a ten-to-one advantage in men and arms, and they are cutting off all land routes west as they race toward Berlin. Millions of people are on the move to the coast, where the only escape is by sea.”
“God help us all,” the professor said.
“He seems to have evacuated East Prussia as well. Consider yourself a fortunate man,” the driver said cheerfully. He backed the car up, threw the shift into low gear and drove around the Russian’s body. “You are seeing history.”
THE CAR headed west, entering the no-man’s-land between the advancing Russian juggernaut and the retreating Germans. The Mercedes flew along the roads, skirting deserted villages and farms. The frozen countryside was surreal, as if it had been tilted on its side and emptied of all human life. The travelers stopped only to refuel from the spare gas tanks the car carried in its trunk and to relieve themselves.
Tracks began to appear in the snow. A short while later, the car caught up with the tail end of the retreat. The strategic withdrawal had become a full-fledged rout of army trucks and tanks that lumbered along through the falling snow in a slow-moving river of soldiers and refugees.
The luckier refugees rode on tractors or horse-drawn carts. Others walked, pushing wheelbarrows piled with personal possessions through the snow. Many had escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
The Mercedes rode up on the edge of the road, and its deep tire treads dug into the snow. The car kept moving until it passed the head of the retreat. Around dawn, the mud-splattered car limped into Gdynia like a wounded rhino seeking shelter in a thicket.
The Germans had occupied Gdynia in 1939, expelled fifty thousand Poles and renamed the bustling seaport Gotenhafen, after the Goths. The harbor was transformed into a navy base, primarily for submarines. A branch of the Kiel shipyard was established to turn out new U-boats that were matched with crews trained in nearby waters and sent to sink Allied ships in the Atlantic.
Under orders from Gross Admiral Karl Doenitz, an eclectic flotilla had been assembled at Gdynia in preparation for the evacuation. The fleet included some of the finest passenger liners in Germany, cargo ships, fishing boats and private vessels. Doenitz wanted his submarine and other naval personnel rescued so they could continue to fight. Eventually, more than two million civilians and military personnel would be transported west.
The Mercedes made its way through the city. A bitterly cold wind was blowing in fro
Wagons piled high with passengers and goods clogged the narrow streets. Refugees streamed from the train station to join the throngs who had arrived on foot. Muffled under layers of clothing, they resembled strange snow creatures. Children were pulled along on makeshift sleds.
The car was capable of speeds reaching 170 kilometers per hour, but it soon became bogged down in traffic. The driver cursed and leaned on the horn. The heavy steel bumper failed to nudge the refugees out of the way. Frustrated at the glacial pace, the driver brought the car to a complete halt. He got out and opened the rear door.
“Come, Professor,” he said, rousting his passenger. “Time for a stroll.”
Abandoning the Mercedes in the middle of the street, the driver bulled his way through the crowd. He kept a firm hand on the professor’s arm, yelled at people to make way and shouldered them aside when they didn’t move fast enough.
Eventually, they made their way to the waterfront where more than sixty thousand refugees had gathered, hoping to get aboard one of the vessels lined up at the piers or anchored in the harbor.
“Take a good look,” the driver said, surveying the sight with a grim smile. “The religious scholars have been all wrong. You can plainly see that it is cold, not hot, in Hell.”
by Clive Cussler / Literature & Fiction / Adventure / Nonfiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes