Excerpt: 'Frozen Fire' by Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson

Hands shaking from both excitement and a sliver of fear, she set the controls to pick up speed as she resumed her dark descent, moving past the craggy outcropping of the abyssal walls. Turning on the external floodlights was an option that she refused to exercise. Part of the thrill, part of the delicious risk was slicing through the silent, lethal, dimensionless darkness guided only by the ghostly glow of the head-up display in front of her.

As she approached a depth of eighteen hundred feet, the small radar screen at the left of her field of view showed her first destination coming into range. Now she flipped on the vessel's powerful outside lights and the stark, forbidding face wall became clearly visible as she continued to descend parallel to it.

Moments later, she brought the vehicle to a stop opposite a small cave two thousand vertical feet above the habitat and approximately two hundred feet north of it. Setting the gyroscopes to stabilize her position and maintain pitch and attitude, Micki began initiating the sequences needed to extend the small robotic arm from its sheltered tube at the front of the pod.

Carefully, she maneuvered the arm to allow one of its pincers to open and slide beneath the handle at the top of the first ceramic box. The pincer firmly locked in place, Micki released the clamps that had held the box secure for the descent, and delicately negotiated the box out of its "nest" on the platform. Once clear of the diving unit's structure, she gently rotated the arm holding the deadly, precious cargo and extended its reach deep into the stygian depths beyond the cave's narrow opening.

Her gaze glued to the small screen on the dashboard, Micki worked as hard at keeping her breathing even and her hands dry and steady on the controls as she did at maneuvering the bomb past the random outcroppings and occasional creatures in the cave. She was operating practically blind. Her only guidance came from the small light mounted on the end of the arm and the live video feed from the even smaller camera next to it. She moved the box forward at a painstakingly slow pace.

Fully extended, the mechanical arm had a range of twelve feet. When it had reached that distance into the cave, Micki set the ceramic box carefully onto a clear space on the floor, released it from the pincers, and began retracting the arm as slowly and carefully as she'd inserted it. Being set so far into the cave, would preclude the box from being seen by anyone who might be sent to these coordinates to investigate her actions--which would only happen if Simon disobeyed her orders and tracked her movements. Not that it really mattered. Even if Simon could convince Victoria to send an investigative team to find out what she'd been doing, it would be too late. Investigators would not be facing an abyssal wall. They would be facing a blank expanse of ocean, still turbid with the debris of a catastrophic submarine landslide.

The arm fully retracted, Micki moved forward three hundred feet along the wall and repeated the procedure with the second box. Her mission accomplished, she aimed the pod upward and moved in a slow arc back toward the tender ship. When she broke the surface, she reactivated the communications channel and announced to the dive master that she was ready to be retrieved. It wasn't easy keeping the triumph out of her voice.

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