He shifted the throttle and shot toward where Kane struggled.
Sliding next to the dog, Gray lunged out and grabbed Kane by his waterproof vest. He struggled to get the sodden, sixty-pound dog into the boat. Recognizing it would take both arms, he let go of the wheel. Unpiloted, the craft got pulled closer to the tower. The churning water growled hungrily, the undertow sucking everything down.
Finally, with a heave of his body, he hauled Kane aboard. The shepherd shook his heavy pelt, tail wagging, and bumped him affectionately.
“Thanks!” Tucker called over to Gray.
“Hey, what about us?” Kowalski complained.
By now, water flooded the lower deck of their balcony, churning hungrily. Gray’s three teammates clung to the railing.
Manning the wheel again, Gray opened the throttle and gunned his way over to the balcony. He brought the boat alongside them and worked the throttle to hold the craft steady. They climbed over the balcony and dropped on board. Tucker helped Kowalski with Amanda. She stirred enough to lift an arm and swat at the bigger of the two.
Kowalski pushed her arm down. “Sheesh. That’s the thanks I get for hauling your butt up ten flights of stairs.”
With everyone settled, Gray swung away from the sinking tower.
The jet boat was only a four-seater. With six on board, counting Kane, the boat drafted deeper than it should, making it sluggish and slow.
But they were afloat.
The same could not be said for Utopia.
The currents shifted under the boat, dragging the craft strongly to port. Gray corrected against that pull—but it only grew worse.
What the hell?
“Pierce!” Kowalski hollered, drawing his attention away from the currents to the skies above.
He craned his neck in shock.
The tower of the Burj Abaadi leaned precariously over the boat.
Gray searched outward. Across the rest of the island, towers and spires all canted in the same direction, as if blown over by a stiff wind.
Oh, hell …
Seichan recognized the danger, too. “The island is tipping.”
Gray jammed the throttle forward, picturing the island capsizing.
They needed to get to open water.
Off in the distance, a spire broke from its foundation. It toppled and slowly crashed into a neighboring building.
Closer at hand, a mighty moan vibrated through the waters. It was the deep groan of concrete and steel under stress. No one doubted the source.
All eyes turned to the Burj Abaadi.
It seemed the Eternal Tower was not living up to its name.
Aboard a large patrol boat, Edward bore witness to the island’s slow destruction. A quarter-mile away, Utopia upended, breaking apart, sliding back into the sea, a modern Atlantis. At its center, the Burj Abaadi toppled, the upper levels breaking and sliding off the central axis, like plates toppling from a tall stack.
Word had reached him that the patrols sent to the tower had gone missing. Attempts to raise them on the radio had failed.
It had to be the work of the group that attacked the base.
Measures would have to be taken.
But not without guidance.
Petra stepped through a nearby hatch, carrying a satellite phone in her hand. Her eyes locked with his, warning him it wasn’t good news.
She held out the phone.
He lifted it to his ear and heard the computerized voice greet him. “IS THE CHILD SECURED?”
“AND THE MOTHER?”
Surely she had to be.
“THEN COORDINATE ALL FORCES ON-SITE, ESTABLISH A NOOSE AROUND THAT ISLAND. HUNT FOR THOSE WHO ASSAULTED THE STATION.”
“And if they’re found?”
He was given very specific instructions, ending with, “PETRA WILL TAKE MATTERS IN HAND FROM THERE. SHE KNOWS WHAT IS NEEDED.”
He swallowed hard, feeling demoted—but he dared not complain.
And in the end, maybe it was better not to know.
July 3, 4:44 A.M. Gulf Standard Time
Off the coast of Dubai
Gray raced the jet boat as the island tore itself apart around him.
The sinking platform, twisted by tidal currents and punched from below by partially intact pylons, broke into smaller sections. Suddenly unmoored and top-heavy, those pieces began to topple and capsize, dropping buildings, spires, and scaffolding all around them.
Gray tried to avoid the worst of that roiling gristmill, flying at full throttle.
Still, more towers fell. Walls tore apart with explosive retorts. Windows shattered in showering bursts.
Floating debris choked their path, growing more treacherous by the minute. Gray jigged and jagged his way through the worst of it. The boat’s resilient carbon-fiber hull took care of the rest.
He needed a way out to open water, but rubble and ruin seemed to block him at every turn.
“Gray!” Seichan clutched harder to a brace.
“I see it.”
Ahead, a huge cross-section of a spire under construction—nothing more than a frame of iron—broke loose, hit a condominium tower, then rolled in their direction. Like some coin in a pachinko machine, it bounced and crashed toward them.
Kowalski swore coarsely.
A sentiment shared by all.
There was no way past it, and Gray had only seconds to act.
He sought the only cover available—but it would be tight.
He swung the jet boat to the right, spun the craft 180 degrees, and slammed it sideways under the protruding upper-story balcony of a sunken building. The tumbling monstrosity of iron clattered over them—then bounced away.
“Nice job parallel-parking,” Kowalski commented.
With a blast of the jets, Gray blew the boat back out of the shelter.
He turned, dug in, and sped for the distant glimmer of open water.
But even that path was closing.
Ahead, two residential towers leaned drunkenly against each other. The one to the right crumbled against its partner, dropping slowly, raining broken glass and debris.
“Go for it,” Seichan said.
Gray had no choice. He gunned the engine, firing the jets behind him into a roar. The boat blasted away like a rocket, striving to duck under that lowering guillotine of steel, concrete, and glass.
Kowalski curled over Amanda, whom he cradled on his lap. “I can’t watch.”
Seichan reached over and gripped Gray’s forearm.
Tucker braced his legs against the back of the captain’s seat.
Only one crew member had a different assessment.
Kane came forward, tucked under Seichan’s arm, and jumped up to bring his nose into the wind. His tail wagged fiercely, striking Gray in the shoulder.