LATEST VERSION IN #13
RIVER PLATE BASIN
As the War of the Triple Alliance draws to a close, a rogue Brazilian army brigade goes on a scorched-earth rampage through rural Paraguay. MARIA ISABEL SAMPAIO saves her only living children in a miraculous act of courage.
Six generations later, PEDRO PABLO SAMPAIO and his family are suffocating, just like their ancestors and their country before them for the past one hundred fifty years. Every initiative to break out of his black hole is smacked down. If it wasn't the Brazilians knocking him back, then it was the Argentines. He might be just a humble maintenance worker at the Itaipu hydroelectric plant, but he can code with the best of the best. He has the brains. What he needs is an opportunity.
The young man's chance arrives when he wins a hackathon for the second month running. While collecting his winnings, the event's sponsor calls him to a private meeting, introducing himself as ALMAN MALUF. Over the course of several meetings and a couple of weeks, Alman proposes a deal. In exchange for more money than Pedro Pablo could earn in a dozen lifetimes he would prepare a software program to override the security system where he worked.
Pedro Pablo is not sophisticated, but he is bright. He knows full well how such a code could be used. He also knows that he is unlikely ever to see another opportunity like this one. The money was more than enough to change the lives of everyone in his family. The moral dilemma wracks him for days. In the end, he decides he can have it both ways. He builds the software but includes deep in the code features that allow him to record its use and locate the user. It is not enough to alleviate his conscience, but it is a start. The rest he would have to figure out as he went along.
Rio-based journalist LARISSA COSTA lives in a country mired in corruption. When one of her stories implicates the Brazilian National Development Bank, her husband's employer, she senses that she is on to something big. When he turns whistle-blower, she has the facts to prove that the Brazilian government is using the BNDES to buy influence in Argentina's upcoming presidential elections.
Larissa is ecstatic. Not only is the story major news, it would be a body blow to the web of social parasites sucking the life from her country, most importantly, the president. This could bring him down.
The reaction to her articles is horrifying. There are massive protests in both countries. The Argentinian government calls Brazilian meddling an act of war. As diplomacy fails, tensions rise and the two countries stumble toward the precipice of armed conflict. All they need is a push.
Alman is that push. He is a fugitive from every counter-terrorist organization in the world, hiding in the Paraguayan countryside. The nearby chaos presents an opportunity he can't resist. A south American war would draw in the Americans, hopefully diverting their resources from the Islamic Maghreb, his homeland. He bombs a Brazilian supertanker in the port of Buenos Aires, framing Argentina.
In response, Brazil mobilizes its troops. Argentina panics and reaches out to China, its largest trading partner. A military alliance is hammered out.
Alman's ruse fools almost everyone, but Captain DAVID REICH, of US Naval Intelligence, doesn't buy the notion that the bombing was Argentinian handiwork. He sees signs of a familiar tradecraft and suspects the culprit is Alman, the man he has been hunting since the ambush on his SEAL team years earlier.
Through contacts at the FBI, David also learns of a threat against the Itaipu hydroelectric plant. The threat is deemed credible based on a detailed information package sent anonymously from Paraguay. It includes hundreds of lines of software code and the location of the people using it. A strike on Itaipu would trigger war. If David is right about Alman's role, then that is exactly his plan.
When a Chinese aircraft carrier battle group enters the south Atlantic, the US president orders the navy to deny them access to the River Plate basin. If a shooting war breaks out between Brazil and Argentina, that is where it will happen. He did not want any outside interference in America's backyard. The problem is that the Chinese are closer than any comparable US force. They will arrive first. If that happens, convincing them to leave would have to be backed up with firepower and the willingness to use it.
As the stakes rise, David hatches a plan to stop the war before it starts and to settle the score with his nemesis. Away from the front lines for the first time in his career, he must engage from behind a desk and with an unfamiliar arsenal.
He dispatches the only naval asset in a position to intercept the Chinese fleet, a lone submarine armed with an experimental weapon. Its mission is to delay the Chinese by at least six hours, the time required for a US carrier battle group to position itself in the mouth of the River Plate. The new weapon is used to great effect. The Chinese aircraft carrier and the two most powerful ships in its entourage are disabled, without the loss of a single life.
David arranges for an FBI forensics team to investigate the bombed supertanker. The evidence proves that it was the work of terrorists and identifies the weapon they used.
From a command room in the Pentagon, David runs a SEAL team that closes in on Alman and his team. One of the terrorists is killed and two are captured as they execute a diversionary tactic that allows Alman to detonate bombs that he has planted at Itaipu and then escape.
The dam breaches, causing floods and blackouts throughout southern Brazil. The Brazilian population is enraged and rallies behind their president, who orders the troops to invade Uruguay on route to the River Plate and then Argentina.
Larissa is in Sao Paulo when Alman's attack cuts the power. The city descends into darkness and chaos – stores are looted, cars are burned and predators stalk the weak. She rescues a couple and their three young daughters from a drunken gang that turns on her instead. For twelve hours Larissa fights for her life, eventually finding her way to safety on a police horse that had lost his mount.
David sends the FBI forensics team from the supertanker to the just captured terrorist cell in Paraguay. They find evidence that Alman was behind the Itaipu bombing.
A US carrier battle group projects its awesome power over the whole of the River Plate basin, enforcing a no-fly zone. The commanding officer then calls a two-part meeting with his counterpart from the invading Brazilian army. The first part is a closed door demonstration of the futility of any attempt on the part of the Brazilians to press on to Buenos Aires. The American commander's orders are to stop the Brazilians at the River Plate and the firepower at his disposal is overwhelming. The second part is open to the press. Few are in attendance due to the short notice and remote location, but Larissa is among them. They hear testimony and see evidence from the FBI forensics team regarding Alman's role in the recent bombings.
Larissa gets the word out. Soon the world knows. After a brief period of denial, the Brazilian public accepts the truth. In the following weeks, the belligerent parties accept the terms of a US-sponsored peace treaty.
Several months later
Larissa is awarded the Pulitzer prize for her work in covering the story.
Alman escapes and joins his father, the Caliph of the Islamic Maghreb.
David is frustrated. Not only did Alman escape, he won another round. The US Navy stations a carrier group in the south Atlantic on a permanent basis for the first time and is stretched more thinly than ever. Resources would have to be shifted from other theaters of operation. To David's astonishment, the president appoints him to be the CIA's director of military affairs.
Pedro Pablo invests his fortune in land, catching the war-torn bottom of the market. He becomes the largest landowner in southern Paraguay and resettles his family in their ancestral home.