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ACCLAIM FOR ALEX RIDER:“Explosive, thrilling, action-packed – meet Alex Rider.”Guardian“Horowitz is pure class, stylish but action-packed beingJames Bond in miniature is way cooler than being a wizard.”Daily Mirror“Horowitz will grip you with suspense, daring and cheek –and that’s just the first page! Prepare for action scenes asfast as a movie.”The Times“Anthony Horowitz is the lion of children’s literature.”Michael Morpurgo“Fast and furious.”Telegraph“The perfect hero genuine 21st century stuff.”Daily Telegraph“Brings new meaning to the phrase ‘action-packed’.”Sunday Times“Every bored schoolboy’s fantasy, only a t housand times funnier, slicker and more exciting genius.”Independent on Sunday“Perfect escapism for all teenage boys.”“Addictive, pacey novels.”The TimesFinancial Times“Adults as well as kids will be hooked on the adventures ofAlex Rider Harry Potter with attitude.”Daily Express

Titles by Anthony HorowitzThe Alex Rider series:StormbreakerPoint BlancSkeleton KeyEagle StrikeScorpiaArk AngelSnakeheadCrocodile TearsScorpia RisingRussian RouletteNever Say DieThe Power of Five (Book One): Raven’s GateThe Power of Five (Book Two): Evil StarThe Power of Five (Book Three): NightriseThe Power of Five (Book Four): NecropolisThe Power of Five (Book Five): OblivionThe Devil and His BoyGrannyGroosham GrangeReturn to Groosham GrangeThe SwitchMore Bloody HorowitzThe Diamond Brothers books:The Falcon’s MalteserPublic Enemy Number TwoSouth by South EastThe French ConfectionThe Greek Who Stole ChristmasThe Blurred ManI Know What You Did Last Wednesday

For JW – with thanksThis is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidentsare either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, usedfictitiously. All statements, activities, stunts, descriptions, informationand material of any other kind contained herein are included forentertainment purposes only and should not be relied on foraccuracy or replicated as they may result in injury.First published 2017 by Walker Books Ltd87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1Text 2017 Stormbreaker Productions LtdCover illustration 2017 Walker Books LtdTrademarks Alex Rider ; Boy with Torch Logo 2017 Stormbreaker Productions LtdThe right of Anthony Horowitz to be identified as authorof this work has been asserted by him in accordance withthe Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988This book has been typeset in Officina SansPrinted and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plcAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,transmitted or stored in an information retrieval system inany form or by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical,including photocopying, taping and recording, withoutprior written permission from the publisher.British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data:a catalogue record for this book is available from the British LibraryISBN 978-1-4063-7705-7ISBN

CONTENTS1Thin Air92One of the Family283From Lima with Love?414Back to Siwa565Nightmare Land736Freeze-frame937The Onion Route1108Peppermint Tea1229Quicksilver13510Fire and Water14911Two Red Roses16312Cement Shoes18013Needle Point19614Back Home21515Under Surveillance23116Steel Claw24617Into the Dark26518Smoke City28019Never Say Die30220Break-out31721Downhill All the Way33322The Midnight Flyer35423Nightshade368

THIN AIRFifty thousand people had come to the Suffolk AirShow on the east coast of England. But only one ofthem was there to commit murder.It was the end of August, the last week of thesummer holiday. The schools were closed and wholefamilies had taken advantage of the fine weatherto arrive at the old airbase, less than a mile fromthe sea. They had strolled around vintage planesfrom the First and Second World Wars: single-seatbiplanes parked next to Spitfires and Hurricanes.That morning, the Red Arrows had put on a d azzlingdisplay, twisting and criss-crossing each other inthe sky before swooping down, trailing plumes ofred, white and blue. There had been fly-pasts by theTornado GR4, the two-seat attack aircraft that hadbeen used in Iraq and Libya and by the LightningII Joint Strike Fighter, one of the most sophisticated and – at one hundred million pounds – oneof the most expensive aircrafts in the world.The grounds were packed with simulator rides,9

NEVER SAY DIEmotorbike displays, drones, face-painting and fair ground stalls. Everyone was having a good time.As with every public event in the UK, an extensive, almost invisible security net had been put inplace. It was impossible to stop and search all thecars but CCTV cameras recorded every arrival andevery number plate was instantly checked. Peoplemight notice police and even a few sniffer dogsmoving among them. These were a common sight.But they would be unaware of the plain-clothespolicemen, many of them with concealed weapons, mingling with the crowd. In fact the JointTerrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) had met in theiroffices close to the Houses of Parliament just a fewdays before and had agreed that the threat level atthe Suffolk Air Show would remain at MODERATE.They weren’t expecting any trouble.And so nobody paid very much attention to thewoman who arrived just after three o’clock. Shehad driven into the car park in a Ford Transit vanwhich, according to the Automatic Number PlateRecognition system, belonged to the St JohnAmbulance service. This is the country’s leading first-aid charity and, indeed, the woman wasdressed in the green and black uniform of a localvolunteer. She was carrying a nylon bag markedwith a white cross which, if opened, would revealmedicine and bandages.She was short and round-shouldered with darkred hair that had been cut so badly that it stuck10

Thin Airout straight on one side of her head and curled inon the other. There was something quite aggressive about the way she walked, like a boxer aboutto enter the ring. She was overweight, b reathingheavily, with beads of sweat on her upper lip.She had a lot of make-up on but it did nothing tomake her more attractive, sitting uselessly on herleathery skin. As she walked, she put on a pair ofcheap sunglasses. They concealed the smouldering violence in her eyes.There was a separate entrance leading into theairbase, reserved for paramedics, technicians,organizers anyone working at the event. Shestopped and showed a pass which identified heras Jane Smith but this was not her real name. Norhad she ever worked for the St John Ambulanceservice. The security man at the gate might havewondered why she had arrived so late in the day,when the Air Show was almost over. He might haveasked her why she was alone. But he was tiredand he was looking forward to getting home. Heglanced at her pass and waved her through.He didn’t even look inside the bag.The woman’s real name was Dragana Novak. Shewas forty-six years old and until recently she hadbeen a lieutenant colonel in the Serbian Air Force;a high-flyer in every sense of the word. Her careerhad ended following a drunken fight with anotherpilot. He had been twice her size, but even so, shehad put him in hospital. In fact he was still there.11

NEVER SAY DIEInevitably, there had been a court martial and shehad been looking at an uncertain future – perhapsreturning to the turnip farm where she had beenbrought up. That was when she had received thetelephone call. There was a unique job opportunity. It would pay two hundred thousand poundsfor two days’ work. Was she interested?Dragana didn’t need to think for a minute. Shehad met her contact in a local tavern in Belgradewhere she had tucked into her favourite dish ofsarma – spicy beef wrapped in cabbage leaves– washed down with a large glass of rakija, thelocal plum brandy. The man, who had never givenher his name, had told her what was needed. Itwas a tricky operation that would demand all herskills. Dragana hadn’t asked any questions. All shecared about was the money. It was more thanshe had been paid in her life.She was still dreaming about jewellery, fastcars and expensive chocolates as she made herway past the various exhibition stands, the bars,the fast-food outlets. People were already driftingtowards the seats for the last flying display of theafternoon. For many of them it was the high pointof the entire show. The aircraft was sitting out onthe tarmac, patiently waiting for the pilot to walkover and take the controls. Dragana stopped atthe barrier that ran the full length of the runwayand took out a pair of binoculars. Without removing her dark glasses, she raised them to her eyes.12

Thin AirSlowly, unable to help herself, she smiled.This was what she had come to steal.The American-built Sikorsky CH-53E is alsoknown as the Super Stallion and there’s reallyno helicopter in the world that’s quite like it. Tolook at, it’s hard to believe that it can fly at all.For a start, it’s huge: as tall as a three-storeybuilding and longer than three London busesstanding end to end. It’s also surprisingly ugly,bolted together as if the designers had neveractually had any plans.The Super Stallion can fly – at two-hundredmiles an hour – and what makes it special is that itcan carry an enormous load. It is the workhorse forthe United States military, capable of lifting sixteen tonnes of cargo. When the Americans mountan assault, it can transport a platoon with enoughweapons to obliterate an entire army. How doesit even get off the ground? Part of the answer isthe fact that it has no fewer than three hugelypowerful turboshaft engines. It also has g igantictitanium-fibreglass rotor blades, twenty-four metres in diameter. Most helicopters have just fourblades. The Super Stallion has seven.Dragana Novak examined it, running her eyesover the grey-painted fuselage, the cockpit, thetail rotor. The Serbian Air Force couldn’t possiblyafford a machine like this, but Dragana had brieflyflown one when she was on a training exercisewith the United Nations and still remembered the13

NEVER SAY DIEthrill it had given her. In less than thirty minutes’time, it would be hers. She had no children. Shehad never married. But right now, looking at thehelicopter, she felt its power reaching out to herand knew that she was completely in love.It was time to move. Everything had been plan ned down to the last second and she had beenshown exactly where to go. There were severalhangars on the other side of the runway but twobuildings dominated the airfield closer by, both ofthem left over from the last war. One was the control tower. The other was a low, red-brick buildingwith about twenty evenly-spaced windows andseveral doors. This had been an office complex butit was being used to house the pilots and technicians during the show, with changing rooms, restareas and a cafeteria at the far end.Hoisting her medicine bag over her shoulder,Dragana strolled towards the entrance where twomore uniformed officials were standing behind aconveyor belt that fed into an X-ray machine –exactly the same sort of device that could be foundat any airport. First, visitors would have their casesand carrier bags scanned. Then there was a metaldetector which everyone had to pass through.“Hello,” she said. “I’m here to see SergeantPerkins.” She had spent five years studying inLondon before qualifying as a pilot and spoke goodEnglish, but with a heavy accent that made herseem as if she disliked everything she was saying.14

Thin Air“Why?” The officials glanced at each other, puzzled. They had been here all day and this was thefirst time they had seen her.Dragana smiled, showing grey teeth, discolouredby wine and cigarettes. Her right hand slippedinto the pocket of her jacket. “He has a headache.I have some aspirin for him.”Of course the story was ridiculous. The two menshould have rung the control tower to get confirmation. But just like the guard at the eventsgate, they came to all the wrong conclusions. Thiswas a single woman. She was wearing a St JohnAmbulance uniform. It was the end of the day,almost the end of the entire event. What p ossibleharm could there be? “All right,” one of themsaid. “Your bag has to go through the machineand remove any metal objects from your pockets.”“Of course.” Dragana placed the medicine bagon the belt and watched as it was carried slowlyinto the machine. She knew that there was nothing inside to cause any alarm. Next, she steppedthrough the metal detector and smiled to herselfas the light flashed green. She collected her thingsand continued on her way. This was going to beeven easier than she had thought.She made her way down a long corridor with awooden floor and old-fashioned hanging lights.A few people passed her but didn’t give her asecond glance. Again, the uniform saw to that. Shecame to a door at the end and knocked politely.15

NEVER SAY DIE“Come in!” With just two words, she coulddetect the American accent.There were two men sitting in the room, bothwearing flight suits. Sergeant Brad Perkins was inhis early thirties but looked much younger: cleanshaven, fair-haired, with blue eyes. He had recentlygraduated as a pilot from the US Army AviationCenter at Fort Rucker in Alabama and this was oneof his first deployments. He was a little annoyed tofind himself not just in England but in some placehe’d never heard of. Suffolk? Where the hell wasthat? There was a co-pilot sitting with him, alsoAmerican, about the same age, drinking Coke.Dragana didn’t know his name. Nor did she care.“How can we help you?” Perkins asked.“Well, actually, you can die.” Dragana hadtaken an unusual-looking gun out of her jacketpocket. It was white and made of ceramic, whichwas why it had passed unnoticed through themetal detector. She squeezed the trigger twice.The gun used a small chamber of compressed airto fire not bullets but plastic needles, each onetipped with tetrodotoxin, one of the deadliestpoisons on the planet. Tetrodotoxin, or TTX asit’s known, is a neurotoxin found in certain fishand octopuses and is extremely fast-acting, shutting down a person’s nervous system in minutes.Perkins struggled to his feet but died before hewas halfway there. His partner tried to say something, then collapsed.16

Thin AirDragana put the gun away and went over to thetwo men. Sergeant Brad Perkins stared up at herwith empty eyes. He was the smaller of the two,about her height. She reached down and unbuttoned his uniform.Ten minutes later, she walked out of the building, now dressed in a flight suit and carrying aleather folder. Nobody stopped her as she reachedthe Super Stallion and climbed inside. The groundstaff had been expecting two men, not a lonewoman. And she was a few minutes early. But stillnobody challenged her. After all, she looked as ifshe knew what she was doing. She was dressed forthe part. And the very idea that somebody mightbe about to steal a gigantic helicopter in broaddaylight was so bizarre, so outrageous that nobodyeven considered it.And so Dragana was completely relaxed as sheslipped on a set of headphones and strapped herself in. Quickly, she ran her eye over the variousgauges, checking the fuel levels. She flicked onthe master battery, the avionics and the fuel valvemaster, then watched as the seven huge bladesbegan to turn, picking up speed until they wereno more than a blur. Even with the headphones,she was deafened by the engines. She rested herleft hand on the collective control, then leanedover and adjusted the throttle. She could feel thedowndraught underneath her, beating down ontothe tarmac at ninety miles an hour.17

NEVER SAY DIE“Stallion One. You are clear for take-off ”The voice came from the control tower; a youngman, very English, stupidly cheerful.A final check. She had reached proper operatingrpm (revs per minute). Using the throttle and thefoot pedals, she steered the Super Stallion alongthe runway, gently guiding it. This was the momentshe loved, when this huge machine belonged onlyto her. She found herself whispering to it in herown language, urging it to obey her command.As they left the ground she thought briefly ofthe two men she had killed. She had no pity forthem. After all, she was a military officer who hadbeen trained to kill people although she had neverhad the opportunity until today. Ten minutes inthe air and two hundred thousand dollars in thebank. She would have killed fifty more people forthat. She reached out and pressed on the cycliclever, bringing the nose of the helicopter downand urging it on. The Super Stallion shot outbeyond the coastline and over the sea.“Stallion One. Turn left heading zero five zeroand ascend flight level one hundred, over.”The man in the control tower was still jabberingin her ear. Of course she wasn’t going to do whathe said. In fact, he was beginning to annoy her.She reached down and switched the volume off.Then she turned right.It would be obvious almost at once that something was wrong. The path of the helicopter would18

Thin Airbe traced by primary and secondary radar systems.Very soon, there would be a red alert at the AirTraffic Control centre at Swanwick. It might havehappened already. They would know that she hadstrayed from the agreed flight path and was notresponding to their commands. They would alreadybe tracking her. There were dozens of satellites inouter space and they would be directed to watchher every move. And of course, the Super Stallionwas filled with communications equipment, whichshe had been unable to neutralize and would betransmitting even now. She loved the helicopter.It belonged to her. But she couldn’t stop it givingthe two of them away.Timing was everything. She had memorized theexact route she had to take and made the necess ary adjustments. The grey surface of the NorthSea was beneath her but now she brought the helicopter round, travelling south. Looking out ofthe window, she saw the port of Felixstowe, thecranes and gantries lined up along the docks, thetwo rivers – the Stour and the Orwell – stretchinginland. She checked her course and accelerated,sweeping low over the pier and the seafront. Sheknew she would be seen but that didn’t matter. Ina way, it would help.The field she was looking for was just east ofthe A12, the road that led from Suffolk to London.There was a scattering of buildings, an abandonedfarm. She had already been shown the maps and19

NEVER SAY DIEphotographs and had studied them so many timesthat she recognized the location instantly. Shenoticed a few cars parked around the edge.She knew that there would be half a dozen menwaiting for her to complete her short journey.And there was her target. She saw it from twothousand feet and immediately began her descent.It was a rectangular block of steel lying flat inthe grass, a landing pad, just big enough for thehelicopter to fit onto. Three thick metal hoops hadbeen welded into the steel, one at the top and twobelow, forming the shape of a triangle. This wasthe difficult part. The Super Stallion had three hugewheels. Each one had to be positioned right next tothe hoops. Otherwise, the plan wouldn’t work.There was no way that Dragana was going to fail.She was in command of the helicopter and it woulddo everything she asked. It weighed fifteen thousand kilograms but she brought it down as gentlyas a falling leaf. For a few seconds she hoveredover the metal plate, then dropped. She felt thehydraulics take the great weight and immediatelyflicked the engines off. The rotors began to slowdown. Already, the men who had been waiting forher were running forward, carrying with them fixingdevices that looked remarkably like wheel clamps,the sort of thing the police used to immobilize cars.Nobody hesitated. Dragana got out of thecockpit and walked over to one of the cars. At the same time, the men were kneeling20

Thin Airunderneath the helicopter, locking the wheels tothe three hoops. The clamps they were using weremade of magnesium alloy, the lightest and thestrongest metal in the world.It took them two

“Explosive, thrilling, action-packed – meet Alex Rider.” Guardian “Horowitz is pure class, stylish but action-packed being James Bond in miniature is way cooler than being a wizard.” Daily Mirror “Horowitz will grip you with suspense, daring and cheek – and that’s just the first page! Prepare for action scenes as fast as a movie.” The Times “Anthony Horowitz is the .

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Susannah G Tringe*‡, Andreas Wagner† and Stephanie W Ruby* Addresses: *Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA. †Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA. ‡Current address: DOE Joint Genome Institute, 2800