Sea of Fire
something less than a captain. And a man.
    Kannaday sat on the bed to clean and bandage the wound. He gazed into the mirror on the inside of the lid. The gash was a quarter inch long and bleeding slower now. But it went deep. Right down to his dignity.
    As Kannaday uncapped the antiseptic cream, he reasoned that he had not come from this empty-handed. If he had not confronted Hawke, there was no guarantee the man would have stood by him. Still, Kannaday promised himself this much. If John Hawke failed to back him up with Jervis Darling, honor and pride would not save him. Kannaday would take him down anywhere and any way he could.
    Even if that meant shooting him in the back.

    Washington, D.C. Thursday, 11:09 P.M.
    “I feel like I’m in Oz,” Coffey said into his cell phone.
    “You are,” Hood reminded him.
    “I mean the other one, the Emerald City one,” Coffey replied. “The one where an out-of-towner walks around with a strange collection of personalities, looking for something that’s really tough to find.”
    Hood was alone in his office. Bob Herbert and Mike Rodgers had just gone home, but their teams were still looking for intelligence. They were seeking any leads about radioactive materials missing or currently being trafficked through the region. They had not yet turned up anything new or relevant. As Herbert had reported before leaving, governments or components thereof were often involved in this trade. Unlike individuals, nations like China and the Ukraine were very good at covering their activities.
    “I’m standing down the hall from the pirate’s hospital room,” Coffey went on. “Three people just went inside. One was Brian Ellsworth. You can read about him in my files. The other two are Warrant Officer George Jelbart of the MIC and Female Naval Defence Technical Officer Monica Loh of the Singaporean Coastal Command.”
    Hood entered the names on his computer as Coffey spelled them. He forwarded the information to Bob Herbert. Hood knew that the designation female had been part of the title in Singapore for decades. The military services were fully integrated, and discrimination was not permitted. Nonetheless, high command liked to keep their combat unit leaders weighted toward men. This was an easy way to keep track of the balance.
    “Is the patient conscious?” Hood asked.
    “No, which is why I didn’t go in with them,” Coffey said. “Ellsworth said they’d notify me if he came around. Meanwhile, I’m using the secure phone I borrowed from Jelbart. Switch to code DPR1P.”
    “Hold on,” Hood said.
    He entered the code for AMIC into his desk unit. Op-Center telephones were preprogrammed to decrypt calls from over two hundred allied intelligence services around the world. The Australian Maritime Intelligence Centre was one of these. The only thing required to secure the line was an access code for the individual AMIC phone.
    “Done,” Hood said. “So what do you make of all this?”
    “I honestly don’t know yet,” Coffey admitted. “The wreckage is definitely that of a sampan, and it is definitely radioactive. It was probably destroyed by explosions that occurred on the sampan itself. Apparently, pirates have been working the Celebes Sea sporadically for years. They use explosives to hold crews hostage while the vessels are robbed.”
    “So this could have been a premature detonation,” Hood said.
    “It’s possible,” Coffey agreed.
    “But that doesn’t explain the radioactivity,” Hood added.
    “Exactly. As far as anyone knows, these pirates have never dealt in nuclear material. That’s making everyone around here pretty jumpy.”
    “Why?” Hood asked. “Nuclear trafficking has been going on for years in the region. The MIC knows that.”
    “They also know that there isn’t much they can do about it,” Coffey said quietly. “If word gets out about this, there will be pressure to do something. Only no one knows what, exactly. It’s the same problem

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