Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2962
Part 1: Akamai
The novel opens on a May afternoon in Paris, France. Jonathan Marshall, a graduate student in physics, has met an attractive young woman named Marisa at a cafe and has taken her back to the wave mechanics laboratory that he is working at for the summer. Marisa pretends to be very interested in Marshall and his work, asking seemingly naive questions about the lab equipment and the security cameras in the lab. Marisa then takes Marshal back to her apartment where she seduces him. Soon after, three men burst into the apartment. The men hold the naked Marshall down on his stomach and inject something into his arm. They quickly leave and Marisa claims that they are merely friends of her boyfriend Jimmy, playing a cruel trick on them. Marshall soon begins to feel ill and decides to leave for home. Marisa agrees to drive him home, but on the way to her car, Marshall's condition deteriorates until he is eventually unable to move at all. After Marshall becomes completely paralyzed, Marisa throws him into the Seine River, where he drowns.
The narrative next shifts to a rain forest in Malaysia. Charles Ling has flown in from Hong Kong the night before to pick up a potential customer who identifies himself as Allan Peterson and claims to be a geologist from Canada. Ling sells cavitation machines that are able to create pits or cavities in solid substances by means of focused sound waves. He takes Peterson into the rain forest where he demonstrates the operation of one of his machines, leveling two sections of cliff. Peterson quickly agrees to buy three cavitation units and has Ling take him back to the airport.
In London, an American man has come to the office of Richard Mallory to pick up a secret package. The package is a box of wire. As the box weighs some seven hundred pounds, Mallory helps the American load the wire into his delivery van. After they load the wire into the van, the van's driver, a woman dressed in military attire, attacks the American and pierces his neck with something that she has hidden behind her back. He curses and runs away from the van toward the street outside. Mallory is shocked by the woman's actions, but she warns him to keep quiet and go back to work and then drives away. Mallory returns to his office but soon hears sirens. He walks outside and sees that a pedestrian has been hit and fatally injured by a bus. The pedestrian is the American man who just fled from the delivery van.
The next scene takes place in Tokyo at the offices of the IDEC (International Data Environmental Consortium). Akira Hitomi, the IDEC director, presents information to John Kenner and Sanjong Thapa about the results of his company's latest research. The IDEC is the world leader in accumulating and manipulating electronic data. Hitomi summarizes the data collected from the last twenty-one days. He reports increased cellular traffic and heavily encrypted e-mail transmissions pointing to a large secretive project in the works that is "global in scope, immensely complicated, extremely expensive."
In Vancouver one week later, Nat Damon, who works for Canada Marine RS Technologies, signs a nondisclosure agreement with a new client, Seismic Services. Damon's company rents research and remote submarines to energy companies. While discussing the client's needs, Damon becomes suspicious when the men answer his questions vaguely. They tell him they want to place external devices on the ocean floor. The men pay the expensive fee for renting the submarine up-front, and Damon feels as though there is more to their story than they are letting on.
The next scene takes place in Iceland. Philanthropist George Morton, NERF (National Environmental Resource Fund) director Nicholas Drake, and lawyer Peter Evans have flown into Reykjavik and driven out to a remote glacial research site. Morton has personally funded this particular research project and the group has come to analyze the progress of the research. While Morton and Evans are distracted by the presence of two beautiful local graduate students, Drake gets into a confrontation with Dr. Per Einarsson, the lead scientist on the research project, about what specific findings he will publish concerning the research.
After returning from Iceland to Los Angeles, Evans and Morton meet with Thapa and Kenner, who advise Morton to hold off any further contributions to Drake and NERF. At Morton's insistence, Evans visits the offices of NERF's Vanutu litigation team; they are planning to sue the United States over rising sea levels caused by global warming, which is threatening the low-lying atolls of Vanutu. He meets the famous litigator John Balder, who is in charge of the team, and his assistant, Jennifer Haynes, who the reader later learns is Kenner's niece.
Drake has planned a well-publicized charity event in which he gives Morton NERF's Citizen of the Year award. However, upon accepting the award, a drunken Morton mysteriously and publicly lambastes Drake and NERF before driving off in his Ferrari. Evans attempts to follow Morton and comes upon the scene of Morton's wrecked Ferrari, and although there is no body, pieces of Morton's clothing are found. It is assumed that he has been swept away by the ocean.
After the accident, there are a series of unexplained break-ins and mysterious attacks. Recalling Morton's last words to him, Evans uncovers a hidden piece of paper with a set of coordinates. Kenner and Thapa realize the coordinates represent geographical locations, and the first one on the list is Mt. Terror, Antarctica.
Part 2: Terror
Part 2 opens with Kenner, Evans, Sarah Jones, and Thapa on a long flight to Antarctica. During the flight, Kenner explains to Jones and Evans that intelligence has uncovered information that members of ELF (Environmental Liberation Front) have been purchasing some very expensive equipment, including military equipment and experimental technology to enact an as-yet-unknown plan. The four on the plane are traveling to Antarctica to try to find out more about what ELF has in the works.
After landing on the runway at Marso del Mar, the team is transported to Weddell Station, the base nearest Mount Terror. Kenner has learned of a scientist who has recently arrived and set up a camp south of Mount Terror, calling himself James Brewster. After investigating his credentials, Kenner finds the man to be an impostor. The team sets out to investigate his camp, traveling over the dangerous Antarctic shear zone in snowtracks, a special kind of treaded automobile designed to cross the rugged, icy landscape. A local researcher calling himself Jimmy Bolden leads the way. Upon arriving and inspecting the camp, the team finds that Brewster has set a number of PTB (precision-timed blast) cones at regular intervals along an Antarctic shelf, and Kenner explains, "I think there's no question of what he intends. Our friend Brewster is hoping to fracture the ice for a hundred miles, and break off the biggest iceberg in the history of the planet."
Kenner directs the team to split up, and he follows Brewster's tracks in his snowtrack while Jones and Evans follow Bolden back to Weddell Station in their snowtrack. Along the drive back to camp, Bolden tells Jones and Evans that they will take a short cut. Traveling down this new route, a transmission comes across the radio from Weddell Station that Jimmy Bolden has been found unconscious in a maintenance room. Evans and Jones realize that their guide is actually an ELF operative in disguise. The impostor calling himself Bolden has led them out to a dangerous ice shelf. When they try to escape, the ice cracks and the two tumble down a crevasse along with their vehicle.
Evans and Jones manage to climb out of the crevasse and attempt to walk back to camp in the freezing temperatures. Just before the two succumb to the elements, they come across a small NASA vehicle with a transmitter, through which Evans is able to relay their location back to Weddell Station. The two are rescued and brought back to the station. Through computer investigation, Kenner and Thapa determine that the man who identified himself as Brewster is actually David R. Kane, a graduate student from the University of Michigan. Upon going through Kane's belongings the team finds a photograph with coordinates and containing the caption "Scorpion B." They determine that it shows the site of another ELF operation in a place called Resolution Bay in the Solomon Islands. The team boards a plane back to Los Angeles.
Part 3: Angel
On the flight back to Los Angeles, Kenner informs Evans that he needs him to plant a bugged listening device in Drake's office in order to further monitor the NERF/ELF communications. Evans is reluctant at first, but finally agrees at Kenner's insistence.
After arriving in Los Angeles, Evans returns to his apartment, where he meets a private investigator who claims he was hired by George Morton. He tells Evans that he will return later that morning with "something important," and asks Evans to leave his apartment door unlocked when he leaves.
Kenner and Jones go to a military surplus store. Kenner has learned that ELF purchased a large number of rockets from the store. When questioning a store employee, Jones spots the man known as "Brewster" and chases after him. Jones and Kenner tail Brewster until a man driving a blue pickuptruck picks him up. It turns out the man driving the truck is the Bolden impostor. Kenner and Jones follow the truck to a private airfield. In a building near the airfield, Kenner and Jones discover a kind of testing facility in which an engine is repeatedly struck by lightning. While they are inspecting the testing machinery, Bolden and Brewster lock them in the test chamber and restart the testing sequence, intending to electrocute Kenner and Jones. Bolden asks how long they can survive, and Brewster answers, "One bolt, maybe two, but by the third one, they're definitely dead. And probably on fire."
Part 4: Flash
Finding themselves locked in the testing room with only seconds before the lightning starts striking, Kenner quickly tells Jones to strip off all of her clothes, especially anything containing metal. Kenner likewise strips and piles all of their cast-off clothing on the engine where the lighting will strike. Next, he tells Jones to lie flat on the floor, close her eyes, and not get up. Soon the next "test" begins and lightning starts blasting the engine. Their clothes catch fire, which in turn creates smoke, activating the emergency sprinkler system. Though Jones suffers singed hair and some body burns, the two survive the near-death experience relatively unharmed.
Evans returns to his apartment to find the private investigator whom he had been expecting sitting on his couch. However, Evans soon realizes that something is terribly wrong, as the investigator does not respond and cannot move or even blink his eyes. Evans calls an ambulance. After talking to a detective about the man's condition and denying any knowledge of what happened to him, Evans discovers a DVD left behind by the investigator. He inserts the DVD into his player and views a recording apparently made with a hidden camera in a NERF conference room. The tape shows Drake and NERF PR director John Henley arguing about the organization, funding, the upcoming conference, and how they can manipulate the public.
Evans removes the DVD and goes to Drake's office. He visits with Drake and purposefully leaves behind a bugged cell phone. Evans then goes back to his apartment and watches more footage on the DVD before he is interrupted by a phone call from Thapa informing him that they must leave immediately.
Part 5: Snake
As Thapa and Evans fly over the Arizona desert in a helicopter, Thapa explains to Evans the latest data that has come in concerning the ELF/NERF operation in Arizona. Intelligence has learned that operatives are planning to launch about one hundred and fifty rockets in the air to an altitude of about one thousand feet; however, Thapa, in the presence of the helicopter pilot, will not reveal what the operatives are trying to accomplish.
In a Flagstaff restaurant, Kenner explains the Arizona operation that ELF/NERF is planning: they will shoot the rockets into a developing thunderstorm in an attempt to strengthen it, creating a devastating flash-flood that will engulf campers in nearby national and state parks.
The next day, near McKinley State Park, Evans and Jones are driving in an SUV when they see the same battered blue truck that Bolden picked up Brewster in. The pickup truck rams the SUV once and then drops back. Soon after, lightning begins striking the SUV directly, as if something on the vehicle is attracting all the lightning in the area. As the lightning strikes to the SUV become more frequent and damaging, Evans and Jones abandon the vehicle and seek shelter first in the forest and then in an old building. Despite their efforts to avoid the lightning, it continues to strike around them and eventually Jones is struck directly, knocking her unconscious.
Kenner, in his own SUV, finds himself attracting lightning strikes just as Evans and Jones did, but he soon realizes what is causing the unnatural strikes. The radios that the team is using to communicate with each other have been tampered with and implanted with a mechanism that attracts the lightning strikes. Upon realizing this, Kenner tells the others and orders them to throw their radios away. Evans discards his radio and administers mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Jones, bringing her back to consciousness. Though Jones and Evans never reach their intended rocket array, both Thapa and Kenner reach their respective arrays. They get into gunfights with the ELF/NERF operatives, and have limited success in stopping the rocket launches. The park begins to flood; Jones and Evans, having returned to their SUV, find themselves being swept away in the rushing water. Just before their SUV topples over an overpass, the two manage to climb out and safely transfer to Thapa's SUV. Thanks to the efforts of Kenner, Jones, Evans, and Thapa, as well as a local state trooper, all the innocent campers escape the flood safely.
Jones is treated for her lightning strike at a Flagstaff hospital and the group returns home to Los Angeles. Back in Los Angeles, Evans meets with Jennifer Haynes, who shows him several sets of environmental and temperature data to explain the complexities of the Vanutu litigation. Haynes reveals to Evans that NERF cannot possibly win the case in court, and that the whole set up and press conference that is about to take place announcing the lawsuit is merely for publicity. NERF never actually intended to take the case to trial. During the press conference, Drake reports from loudspeaker, "I have an extremely sad announcement to make. I have just been handed a note that says the body of my dear friend George Morton has been found."
Evans is summoned to identify the body of Morton, but the report is that the body has been partially devoured by sharks. When inspecting the body, Evans looks for familiar identifying signs. Though he has some doubts, he concedes that it is most likely Morton's body. After arriving back at his apartment, someone attacks Evans, hitting him on the head with a blunt object. He is held as his assailants produce a small octopus that bites Evans on the arm. As the assailants flee, Evans struggles to a chair and his condition rapidly deteriorates:
He could not lift his head. He could not move his arms. He could not even move his eyes. He stared and the fabric of the chair and the carpet on the floor and he thought, This is the last thing I will see before I die.
Part 6: Blue
Evans's sometimes-girlfriend Janis arrives at his apartment to find him in an unresponsive state; soon after, Jones arrives and calls an ambulance. Under hospital care at UCLA medical center, Evans survives; he is told that he was bitten by a blue-ringed octopus, whose potentially deadly poison has no known antidote. Once recovered, he is able to attend Drake's much publicized conference on abrupt climate change. Among the audience members of the conference is the notorious Dr. Norman Hoffman, who attempts to disrupt the proceedings by defaming Drake and the other promoters of the conference, whom he calls "fearmongers." Evans is charged with keeping Hoffman occupied to avoid further disruption of the proceedings; he takes Hoffman aside and talks with the scientist about his various theories and views.
During the conference, Kenner deduces that ELF/NERF operatives are planning to create a massive tsunami originating in the Solomon Islands off the coast of Resolution Bay. Shortly after learning this new information, Kenner, Thapa, Evans, Jones, Haynes, and Ted Bradley depart by plane to Resolution Bay.
Part 7: Resolution
The team is transported by helicopter to a landing site near Resolution Bay, but they soon realize that they have been double-crossed by their pilot as soldiers emerge from the jungle shooting at them. While attempting to hike into the operation site, all of the team except for Thapa is captured by local rebels. A grisly scene ensues in which Bradley is bound with ropes and beaten by a frenzied crowd before being eaten alive in a cannibalistic ceremony. Kenner and Evans manage to escape with the help of Morton, who, the reader learns, faked his death and has been working to thwart ELF/NERF's efforts since he first went missing. Together, the team sabotages the creation of the massive tsunami. The novel ends on the flight back to California, during which Morton excitedly spells out his vision for the future of environmental activism and research.
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