Table of Contents
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Epub ISBN: 9781407050072
ALPHA FORCE: FAULT LINE
A RED FOX BOOK : 9780099480150
First published in Great Britain by Red Fox, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
This edition published 2005
5 7 9 10 8 6
Copyright © Chris Ryan, 2005
The right of Chris Ryan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
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Red Fox Books are published by Random House Children’s Books, 61–63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA, a division of The Random House Group Ltd
THE RANDOM HOUSE GROUP Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berkshire
Meet the team:
lex – A quiet lad from Northumbria, Alex leads the team in survival skills. His dad is in the SAS and Alex is determined to follow in his footsteps, whatever it takes. He who dares . . .
i – Expert in martial arts and free-climbing, Li can get to grips with most situations . . .
aulo – The laid-back Argentinian is a mechanical genius, and with his medical skills he can patch up injuries as well as motors . . .
ex – An ace hacker, Hex is first rate at code-breaking and can bypass most security systems . . .
mber – Her top navigational skills mean the team are rarely lost. Rarely lost for words either, rich-girl Amber can show some serious attitude . . .
With plenty of hard work and training, together they are Alpha Force – an elite squad of young people dedicated to combating injustice throughout the world.
Alpha Force are in Belize and an earthquake is about to hit . . .
About the Author
Chris Ryan joined the SAS in 1984 and has been involved in numerous operations with the Regiment. During the first Gulf War he was the only member of an eight-man team to escape from Iraq, three colleagues being killed and four captured. It was the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS. For this he was awarded the Military Medal. He wrote about his remarkable escape in the adult bestseller
The One Who Got Away
(1995), which was also adapted for screen.
He left the SAS in 1994 and is now the author of many bestselling thrillers for adults, as well as the
series for younger readers. His work in security takes him around the world and he has also appeared in a number of television series, including
Hunting Chris Ryan
, in which his escape and evasion skills were demonstrated to the max, and
Pushed to the Limit
, in which Chris put ordinary British families through a series of challenges. On Sky TV he also appeared in
, demonstrating his skills in a range of different scenarios.
Also available in the Alpha Force series:
ALPHA FORCE:FAULT LINE
The helicopter skimmed over the grey-green forest. Its downdraught left a wake through the treetops like a ship’s through an ocean. Jungle birds took off in flashes of blue, red and white. Occasionally a river could be seen far below, a pale silver thread; otherwise there was nothing below the 10.5-tonne Puma helicopter but endless dark jungle-green.
Belize, central America.
The heli pulled around in a wide circle, slowed and hovered. Five ropes dropped from the open cabin and unfurled down to the tree canopy. Five figures wearing abseil harnesses climbed out onto the skids, grasped the ropes and sprang off. Alpha Force were in action again.
Hex had always thought abseiling was a quiet business. When he’d done it before there had been just the sound of the wind and his feet scraping on the rock wall. It was like being in a different world – great if you wanted to have a good think. Hex liked solitary activities, but now his ears were full of the high whine of the engine and the drumming of rotor blades, so loud it made his eyes vibrate. The wind rippled his camouflage clothes, lashed his neck with the free ends of the straps on his green bergen backpack. There was nothing for his feet to walk on – just thin air. He had one hand on the rope above, one hand on the free end below, following the line into the deep green trees.
He looked at his friends, sliding down from the Puma like spiders down a thread. Amber’s bright pink abseil harness looked like a Barbie accessory next to her disruption-patterned jungle camouflage – not the kind of thing you could tell her and still be alive afterwards. Hex grinned. OK, maybe you could have useful thoughts while your ears were being drilled.
Li’s slight frame was dwarfed by her bergen. She slipped down the rope with the grace of a trapeze artist, as though it was perfectly natural to be in mid air. She was grinning at Paulo, challenging him to see who would get down faster. Li was never happier than when racing someone. Paulo, the big Argentinian, normally the most laid-back of the group, was giving her a run for her money. His natural habitat was on horseback, cantering lazily across the plains on his family’s ranch but Li never failed to get him going.
Opposite him, Alex checked the winch man in the heli above, then looked down at the green tree canopy approaching below. He did his job quietly and expertly, planning what they needed to do when they hit bottom.
Hex’s eye slid back to Amber in her Barbie harness, her sleeves rolled up and her ebony arms working the ropes briskly, as though she would take no nonsense from them.
His feet touched the topmost leaves of the trees. Time to concentrate.
During the freefall, moments before they hit the trees, Amber smiled. What could you tell about someone from the colour of harness they chose? Alex had a green one – unobtrusive, blending in. Anglo-Chinese Li wore red – the Chinese colour of luck, and fiery too. Appropriate in two ways. The other two had chosen black. Paulo, macho Latin-American, good looking – of course he’d go for black. But what about Hex? The hacker from inner-city London. He was probably more at home in the Matrix than surrounded by trees and sky. Black for a loner from planet cyberspace.
She looked at Li and Paulo. They were already shoulder-deep in the tree canopy, proceeding slowly. They were still fifteen metres above the ground and had to follow the rope where it threaded between the branches – the trickiest part of the descent. Alex was waist-deep, going down in careful stages.
Amber felt large leaves touch her feet, brush her shins. She slowed.
Slipping into the canopy was like going under water. The baking sun disappeared; wet leaves left cool trails on her skin. Even the beat of the rotor blades became muffled. The foliage swished as she descended. Next to her was a solid tree trunk more than a metre wide.
She dodged away from a protruding branch and glanced up. There were the five lines quivering like guitar strings. High above in the heli, the winch man was watching to see when they reached the ground, his yellow-gloved hands steadying the drum that held the ropes. All was well.
She saw a flash of red through the foliage below her, four metres to her right; that must be Li. She must be nearly down, but the jungle was already so dense she couldn’t see any more than the harness. The camouflage clothes were doing their job. The whereabouts of the others was betrayed only by the quivering leaves and the sound of breaking branches. Even Hex, who had been barely a metre and a half away from her when standing on the skid, was hidden by a tree trunk.
‘Come on,’ called a voice. Li. ‘Are you guys staying up there all day?’ Her rope rose through the trees, a red snake rustling vertically up as the winch man reeled it back in, becoming a black thread against the sky. She must have touched down.
‘I seem to have got the most complicated tree in the jungle.’ A Geordie accent. That was Alex. ‘I thought this was meant to be a quick way of getting down.’
‘It is,’ called Li. ‘If you get lucky with your route.’
Amber felt a gentle tug on her harness. The heli drifted above like a tethered balloon.
Then she saw something that made her heart turn a somersault.
The helicopter tilted. The winch man was thrown forwards. For a moment his arms and legs were out of the door, then his harness caught him and he scrambled back in. Was the heli in trouble?
Paulo felt something jerk him upwards violently. It stopped again just as suddenly. He grabbed a branch and clung on, then looked up.
The heli was wobbling in the air. The winch man was holding onto the doorway, his arms and legs braced. The pilot seemed to be fighting to keep control.
Paulo went cold all over. Was it about to come down? If it did, they didn’t stand a chance. He yelled to the others, ‘The heli’s in trouble. Go go go!’
He let the rope slip him further down, not being so careful now. He had about ten metres to go and he had to get down fast.
He descended a few centimetres and was jerked up again, hard. His head cracked against a branch. The blow made his head buzz. Go down, said his brain. He tried again.
Yet again he was yanked up. What was going on? He had to get away. He tried again.
He was dragged back up the rough tree like a sack on a crane.
why couldn’t he get away? It was like a bad dream.
Above him, the heli rocked in the sky. It looked like an ornament about to topple off a shelf.