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**Featuring JET from Russell Blake’s bestselling action-adventure thriller series and characters from Kim Cresswell’s action-packed Whitney Steel suspense series!**
After a catastrophic terrorist attack at a nuclear plant in California, JET, Mossad’s former deadliest operative, is leading a quiet life off the grid two-hundred-and-seventy miles away with her young daughter. But peace is short-lived when former FBI agent, Hal Decker, and ex-intelligence officer, Angela Donahue, track Jet down and blackmail her into helping them stop a new threat.
In a race against the clock the team must hunt down an al Qaeda terrorist cell working with the Sur del Calle cartel before a dirty bomb is smuggled out of Colombia and into the United States unleashing a deadlier attack at a second nuclear facility.
California – November 17
Umar Sarouk glanced up at the over-sized wall clock in the sterile fifty-by-fifty-foot control room and exhaled a long steady breath. It was six-thirty in the morning, and his twelve hour shift at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant would end in thirty minutes.
After twenty years of marriage, he would not be returning home to his wife and two daughters. There would be no graduations, no weddings to attend, and he wouldn’t be celebrating his forty-seventh birthday next week. Nor would he meet his first grandchild due in three months, born to his eldest daughter, Jewel.
Any apprehension for what he was about to do had disappeared months ago, replaced with deep sorrow for the many things in life he would miss. His children. His wife. His friends.
He leaned back in the chair and looked around the horseshoe-shaped room cluttered with vertical panels, bench boards and control switches used to monitor the nuclear reactor’s coolant pumps, steam generator and pressurizer levels. A lifetime of memories flashed, fast-forwarding through his mind, and he held on to each of them like a life preserver.
He knew the time would come when he would be called upon to carry out a mission and he gladly accepted his fate.
After he was gone, the experts would argue that he had been “radicalized” to an unbending ideology; that specific signs were ignored before he’d reached the final plateau. They call it the “jumping-off point to terror”. But they wouldn’t uncover any of the typical signs.
He had done everything he had been ordered to do to stay off the FBI’s radar, including keeping his thoughts to himself, not once indulging his ideation, beliefs or fears to anyone, not even to his wife. He never lived a life of isolation and never posted messages on social media. More importantly, no one was aware of his link to al Qaeda. At least, not yet.
For the first time in his life, Umar felt whole—that he was part of something greater.
He wrung his hands together and noticed how his stubby fingers trembled slightly. It was almost time. He stood and faced the clock. His legs shook. He clutched the edge of the desk and held his head high.
Six-forty-nine. The calm before the storm.
For over eight months, he had smuggled all the necessary parts he needed into the facility, hiding pieces in his locker, behind the washroom hand dryer, in his lunch, and even in plastic bags submerged in the toilet tanks. As a nuclear engineer, he had access to restricted areas that were usually off limits to many of the employees. Every free moment he had, he secretly assembled the explosive devices and placed each one where he knew they would have the most impact.
Sweat slid down his forehead and dripped onto the bridge of his nose. He swiped the wetness away with the back of his hand and thought about his wife, Afina, grateful for the many wonderful years they’d had together. She was a good woman. A good mother. She’d never forgive him.
Umar’s heart pounded.
The lights flicked off.
The electrical malfunction had originated at the power station a half mile north. He knew this because it was part of the plan to guarantee his mission was a success.
Two minutes later, the plant’s backup diesel generator fired up. The control room lights flickered twice then stayed on. Panic took over, and his breath came out in small bursts of air.
Remember why you’re doing this.
A loud boom directly below him sounded like lightning hitting a tree. He swore the tile floor shifted. The vibration from the explosion ripped up through his feet and tunneled through his body. He grabbed the edge of the desk to steady his balance.
The first bomb was meant to disrupt the backup power supply and the cooling system to the nuclear reactors.
The room went pitch black.
He felt bad for the men and women still in the plant and for the workers who had just arrived for the day shift—people he’d worked with for over a decade. They wouldn’t be returning to their families either. By now the plant’s internal emergency phone lines would be severed, leaving his friends to rely on their cell phones, if they worked at all, to communicate with their loved ones for the last time. Most would suffer thermal and radiation burns and then quickly perish from the lethal dose of radiation.
Tears filled Umar’s eyes at the thought of what would be coming next.
For a split second, survival instinct kicked in, and he wanted to run. But running wouldn’t save him. Nothing would. At least he’d be at peace, knowing his family was safe, vacationing on a Caribbean island far away from California—away from the fallout.
The floor below his feet shimmied then shook violently. The steel control room door blew outward, taking out half of the outer wall. Chunks of cement, wood, metal, wiring and sections of control panels rained down around him.
The shock wave from the second blast catapulted him backwards and slammed him into the bottom of a cabinet next to the row of alarm panels. He felt the bone in his arm crack and shatter on impact.
Dazed and in agony, Umar lumbered to his feet. Dust and choking gray smoke filled the air. He yanked the collar of his shirt up over his mouth and nose, in hopes of shielding his lungs from the thick smoke.
It won’t matter. It will be over soon.
It seemed as if a lifetime had passed before the third bomb rocked the facility.
If the explosion was successful, it would destroy the plant’s main structure, setting off a massive catastrophic fire and taking out the emergency water feeding system used to cool the reactor’s cores. Then, within minutes, one of the reactors would overheat and explode, sending a plume of radiation into the atmosphere, spreading deadly particles hundreds of miles across the United States, depending on the direction of the wind.
High-pitched emergency sirens wailed, alerting anyone within a ten-mile radius that something horrible had happened at the plant. Within minutes, the San Luis Obispo County warning system that extended from Cayucos in the north to Nipomo in the south would begin to howl.
Intense heat melted patches of skin on his face and bare arms, the pain unbearable. Umar’s throat and lungs burned, and he prayed it would be over soon.
He dropped to his knees and wheezed for a breath, scarcely able to whisper his last dying words. “Allahu Akbar.” Then he slowly raised his head and stared into the eye of the raging fire roaring toward him.
Text copyright © 2015 by the Author.
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