The concrete bunker trembled under André's feet. A muffled boom rose like a moan under the earth's limestone crust. Four thousand square miles of Chinese desert awoke early that morning.
The floor suddenly lurched sideways and the large Frenchman was thrown against a bank of consoles. "Mon Dieu," he exclaimed. My God!
The floor began to rise and fall in rapid succession. He crouched low to maintain his balance. Through a tinted window, he saw vultures spring to flight. Dust puffed skyward as if slapped from a huge cushion.
He listened to every creak and groan as the walls of the control room threatened to buckle and break.
He didn't trust Chinese technology in any form. He had insisted to the foreign ministry of the People's Republic of China on witnessing the subterranean atomic detonation firsthand. But he hadn't expected to be so close to the blast. Even if the Chinese had designed the control room to withstand the jolt, could the walls contain the more harmful effects of atomic blasts—the hellish heat, the flash burns and the poisonous radiation from neutrons and gamma rays?
"Impressed?" General Chou inquired in English.
Somewhat premature to ask, André thought. The room still rocked up and down. He checked the thick black fur on his arms. His hair hadn't fallen out. The room's temperature hadn't lost its pre-dawn chill.
Like ocean waves subsiding against a beach, the quaking dissipated against China's western Takla Makau Desert. The air cleared and the sky returned to its former deep blue. Lizards crawled back into their holes in the barren sand.
The test site occupied wasteland, a region of ephemeral, disappearing marshes and lakes. Why the Chinese bothered to hold nuclear tests below ground was a mystery.
He removed a pair of goggles and thick eyeglasses and wiped away his sweat with a large handkerchief. "Can you deliver?"
André wrote down the name of a ship. "Send it to the Alabaster. She's currently offshore in the South China Sea. She belongs to my Hong Kong partner, Johnny Ouyang."
"I know Johnny well," the general said. "The People's Liberation Army is a majority shareholder in his brokerage."
André smiled. The Chinese couldn't wait for the Hong Kong handover from the British. The entire country had bitten the apple of capitalism.
"Now for the price," André said.
"Ah yes," the general said. "The price."
Around the room, technicians picked up chairs, straightened out consoles and wiped dust off their uniforms.
Suddenly it occurred to André that he had no idea what price to pay the Chinese. What was the going rate for a weapon that had taken 1.2 billion people over twenty years to produce?
He studied the sweat that had soaked through his handkerchief.
"General, how would you like Taiwan?"
CIA operative Mick Pierce leads a humdrum, but peaceful existence at a posting in the South China Sea. Telltale signs of looming disaster that assault the periphery of his consciousness mount to a steady drumbeat. Along with his perky wife and erratic brother, he starts putting clues together. Can he react in time to stop an international calamity in the making? Can he alert a sleeping Washington to respond? The last thing policy makers are suspecting is a strike out of the blue. But all the while, the enemy is following his every move! In this beautifully written novel termed "chillingly realistic," you can experience an on-the-edge-of-your-seat international thriller, full of passion, action and nerve-wracking suspense. You won't put Thunder in Formosa down until its explosive conclusion.
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