Cover image for The trigger
The trigger
Clarke, Arthur C. (Arthur Charles), 1917-2008.
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
447 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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What would happen if someone invented a device that could render guns and bombs virtually harmless? What would be the effect on crime, on terrorism, on international relations? Would it mean the end of war--or a whole new kind of war? Here is a breathtaking new novel by the legendary Arthur C. Clarke, bestselling author of2001: A Space Odysseyand creator of theRamaseries, that is equal parts real-life scientific speculation and edge-of-your-seat thriller. In collaboration with Michael Kube-McDowell, Clarke tells a riveting, heart-stopping tale in which the fate of humankind depends on whose finger is on...The Trigger. They dubbed it the Trigger, and in a world where violence had reached epidemic proportions it offered the one true promise for a civilized peace. For the first time it would be possible to take the guns out of the hands of armies, dictators, and thugs. Yet, like those who once believed that nuclear weapons would be the ultimate deterrent to war, could the scientists who invented the Trigger also be mistaken? Would this new technology bring peace, or chaos? It was a question that haunted Dr. Jeffrey Horton, the brilliant young physicist responsible for the Trigger's development. His was a discovery with the potential to transform the world, but the road to a better future was anything but clear. Who should control this technology? How could its potential be realized? Horton and his team understood the danger of letting the American government know about the Trigger--as well as the danger of trying to keep it from them. But not even Horton could foresee the fierce struggle that would erupt among Washington's power elite both to possess and to destroy the Trigger. Before long it becomes clear that science is being held hostage to politics and that no one can be trusted--not even Horton's own dedicated colleagues nor his long-time hero and mentor, the brilliant Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Karl Brohier. Someone has already betrayed the project. Others will do anything to stop it--or co-opt it for their own ends. Too many people have a stake in the business of violence to give peace a chance. And the greatest enemy of all may be those with the best intentions.

Author Notes

Arthur C. Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset, England, on December 16, 1917. During World War II, he served as a radar specialist in the RAF. His first published piece of fiction was Rescue Party and appeared in Astounding Science, May 1946. He graduated from King's College in London with honors in physics and mathematics, and worked in scientific research before turning his attention to writing fiction.

His first book, Prelude to Space, was published in 1951. He is best known for his book 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was later turned into a highly successful and controversial film under the direction of Stanley Kubrick. His other works include Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, The Garden of Rama, The Snows of Olympus, 2010: A Space Odyssey II, 2062: Odyssey III, and 3001: The Final Odyssey. During his lifetime, he received at least three Hugo Awards and two Nebula Awards. He died of heart failure on March 19, 2008 at the age of 90.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Early in the twenty-first century, a group of brilliant, unconventional physicists at a private laboratory-cum-think-tank make a fundamental breakthrough in physics. They discover a wave that will disable or destroy any weapon based on nitrates--which includes virtually anything using modern explosives. The discovery's potential for good and evil is enormous. The tycoon who owns the laboratory seeks to maximize the potential for good by presenting the Trigger, as the wave device is dubbed, to the U.S. government via a militantly pacifist senator. Things soon start unraveling, though, when two of the scientists use a portable Trigger to wipe out a street gang that threatens one of their relatives, and from there on, sf veteran Clarke's latest reads as both a technothriller and an exploration of the influence of science and technology on social change. In fact, its hard-boiled flavor and rather high, though not gratuitous, body count actually smack more of Clarke's collaborator, Kube-McDowell. Together, Clarke and Kube-McDowell realize the book's scenario very plausibly, so that engaged readers will certainly keep turning pages. Moreover, they spell out the logic of their imaginings--that the kind of breakthrough in physics they envision will inevitably lead to more new weapons than just the Trigger. This is solid, intelligent, serious entertainment. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the grand old men of SF has teamed up with Kube-McDowell (Tyrant's Test, etc.) to imagine a near-future in which all traditional weapons that use gunpowder are rendered obsolete. Out of the blue, young physicist Jeffrey Horton has been chosen to join Nobelist Karl Brohier at a laboratory named Terabyte. While Horton pursues the "stimulated emission of gravitons," a number of detonations rock the lab one day. Is this yet another terrorist attack in an America racked by violence? But it's gun clips and fireworks that exploded when Horton activated his experimental machine. After some experimentation, the lab team realizes that the device, shortly named the Trigger, causes virtually every traditional explosive within range to self-destruct. What follows is a detailed exploration of the effects of the Trigger on domestic America. Should it be made public? Who should be told first: the army, the president, the international community? To prevent being silenced by those whose power may be threatened, Brohier and Horton contact Grover Wilman, an iconoclastic U.S. senator with a strong antigun record. Wilman in turn leads them to President Mark Breland, and the full complexity of negotiating among the many factions invested in guns begins. Clarke and Kube-McDowell work through the pro and con arguments over the possession of guns and other gunpowder-based weapons, with care and research evident in every debate as they skillfully assess the tricky territory between individualism and collective trust. The authors are savvy enough never to choose easy answers, and though this political SF thriller occasionally slows down to depict detailed governmental negotiations and private deliberations, the unpredictable effects of the Trigger lend the familiar issue of gun control new urgency and excitement. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Physicist Jeffrey Horton discovers the principles that lead to a device capable of disarming guns, bombs, and other explosives within its effective radius. Intended as a possible deterrent to armed conflict, Horton's invention--known as the Trigger--soon falls prey to those who see it as the ultimate weapon. Coauthors Clarke and Kube-McDowell have combined their considerable talents to explore the ethical problems that arise when idealists and cynics clash over the proper use of scientific research. Using the sf thriller as their forum, the authors have produced a thought-provoking, suspenseful tale that should appeal to fans of near-future technothrillers as well as speculative fiction. Highly recommended. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Anomaly "Vox," Jeffrey Alan Horton said to his car. The voice-command indicator glowed on the instrument panel, and a heads-up menu appeared on the windshield. "News, national." ". . . Attorney General John Woo is expected to release final plans for the twice-postponed murder trial against Melvin Hills and eight other members of the 'God's Assassins' anti-abortion group. The defendants face five counts of murder in the deadly rocket attack on the Planned Parenthood facility in San Leandro. "'We promise the defendants a fair trial, the court a safe trial, and the victims a just conviction.' "The unusual virtual trial is expected to be conducted entirely on the high-speed G2Net, with judge, jurors, prosecutors, and defendants at widely scattered secret locations. In January, the first jury was dismissed when several members received death threats--" "Vox," said Horton. "News, local." ". . . Women's health services providers in the greater Columbus area were reluctant to discuss any additional security measures, but Deputy Police Commander Jeanne Ryberg promised 'maximum vigilance' throughout the high-profile trial. "'We know what the Assassins are capable of, and we're not going to allow it to happen here. . . .'" Horton sighed. The San Leandro trial hadn't even started yet, and he was already tired of hearing about it. But the story was receiving saturation coverage, and the only relief available was to stay away from broadcast media for the next month. "Vox. Radio off," he said, spinning the wheel for a right turn onto Shanahan Road. It was the time of year and the kind of clear Ohio morning when the sun rose directly over the east-west roads like an oncoming fireball, greeting drivers with a blinding glare. Squinting his sleep-cheated eyes and groping beside him for a pair of sunglasses that failed to manifest themselves, Horton was grateful when he finally turned in at the tree-lined entry to the Terabyte Laboratories campus. With a generous buffer of woods and meadow separating the research complex from the surrounding suburbs, the entrance to the complex looked more like the entrance to a park than to a world-class research center. To preserve the illusion, security at the perimeter was unobtrusive. There were no gates, no guards, no barriers--just a low-profile shadow-box sign. But appearances were deceiving. A hundred meters in, there was a pull-off lane for remote visitor screening. Just beyond that, a pavement sensor scanned the undercarriage of Horton's Honda Passport, and a roadside transmitter interrogated his radio-responder ID card. Horton knew from experience what would happen if he failed either check: just beyond the first turn, he would encounter a series of barriers rising from the driveway, and be intercepted by a canary-yellow security Jeep roaring down it. Anyone who tried to go farther, or to enter the campus cross-country, would be tracked by optical and thermal sensors and met by the drawn weapons of the professionally humorless security detail. At first, Horton had regarded the security diffidently. It jarred with Brohier's insistence on calling the Terabyte site a "campus," because fences and checkpoints had not been part of Horton's college experience at Stanford, or Purdue, or Tennessee State. But of late he had come to appreciate the quiet vigilance of the security staff--especially after the lab received one of "Ned Ludd's" package-bombs in a shipment of office supplies. Now Horton knew all the officers by face and first name, and they in turn lent a comforting presence when, as was often the case, he found himself keeping early, late, or weekend hours. The only trouble Horton had ever had with them was during his first winter at Terabyte, when, with his own car in for brake service, Horton tried to enter the campus on a Sunday in his girlfriend's untagged electric Saturn. His girlfriend--that was a construction Horton hadn't had need of in longer than he cared to remember. His last serious relationship had been with Kelly Braddock at Stanford. In a year and a half of dating, they had never quite gotten to the decision to live together, but between Kelly's brittle emotional defensiveness and her bold sexual openness, that relationship came to take up as much space and energy as his friends' live-in relationships seemed to. By the time Karl Brohier showed up at Horton's door, Horton was growing weary. He had begun to occasionally avoid Kelly, and to contemplate disengaging completely. Brohier's offer had resolved that problem, though not in quite the way Horton expected it would. A few weeks later, Kelly announced she had secured a fellowship at the University of Texas. That allowed her to leave Palo Alto a month before Horton did, thereby proving to herself that she had not compromised her independence by sleeping with him. They had said good-bye without tears or concrete promises. For a time, they had kept up with each other over the net. But netsex had proved a pale substitute for the real thing, and the real thing proved to have been the binding energy of their relationship. Absent lust, there was too little left to keep them from drifting apart, and within a few months, they were "old friends" on their way to becoming nodding strangers. Still, the disappearance of Kelly from Horton's life did deprive him of both an agreeable heat and a comforting unpredictability, and he made a few awkward and halfhearted efforts to replace both. Of his several relationships that first year, the one with Moira, the owner of the Saturn, had lasted the longest. An outgoing thirty-year-old Toledo native who lived in Horton's apartment building, she had some of Kelly's fire in a softer and more accommodating package. But she lacked Kelly's enthusiasm for independence, and her principal ambition was an old-fashioned one--to marry and have children. She waited only until the first afterglow to start musing aloud about buying a house together. When she learned that Horton did not share her ambition, she wasted no more time on him. Since then, more by inertia than design, Horton had allowed his work to swallow him whole. His recreation was limited to occasional visits to a target-shooting range or IMAX theater, plus one weeklong hiking trip into a national park each year. His social contacts outside of work were limited to netchat and two or three family holidays at his parents' new house in Columbia, South Carolina. He told himself he did not mind his chaste bachelorhood, that the work was enough--but there was no one close enough to him to question it. He told himself he did not mind sleeping alone, eating alone, traveling alone--but the truth was that he also did not greatly enjoy it. He told himself that there would be more time, more laughter, a fuller life later, when he had had a chance to prove himself, when work and not-work came back into balance--but he had been telling himself that for nearly six years. His thirtieth birthday was now only a month away, and it had suddenly become possible to see himself still living this way at thirty-five, and forty, and beyond. The catalyst for all this melancholy, Horton knew, was the experiment scheduled for that morning. And the best antidote Horton could think of would be a little long-overdue success. * * * At the end of the snaking driveway was the main parking area and the gate into Terabyte's compound. As an associate director, Horton was entitled to one of the parking spaces inside the wrought-iron fences. He pointed the Passport toward the gate, lowering the driver's window as he did. "Hello again, Dr. Horton," said Eric. The barrel-chested, gentle-voiced officer had been on duty when Horton left at 3 a.m. "Did that catnap do you any good?" "Not much," Horton said, making an effort to smile. "Have you heard anything about the status of the arrangements?" "I just talked to the boss. We'll be ready for you at seven-fifteen," said Eric. "Other than me and Tim, your team has the campus to itself. The site engineer will start taking down nonessential systems at seven. It'll be as quiet as we can make it for you." "Thanks," Horton said with a nod, and drove on. "Good luck!" Eric called after him. Horton grimaced. Luck. The team had had a bundle of it, all of it bad. The theoretical and design work on Baby had consumed nearly a year, and construction of the experimental apparatus had taken most of six months. Now, more than two years later, the rig had yet to successfully complete a single test series. There had been a fire, computer failures, power supply problems, and a series of puzzling bugs, leading to a major redesign of the detector, two partial rebuilds of the emitter, and replacement of most of the test and measurement gear. To be sure, the project was bleeding-edge, unmapped-territory work, and setbacks were to be expected. But even in the relaxed culture of Terabyte Labs, Horton was feeling pressure--most of it self-imposed. If he had spent the last forty months and fourteen million of Aron Goldstein's dollars chasing a chimera, it was up to him to make that assessment and close down the project. And if Suite 1 didn't produce some positive results soon, Horton might be forced to do exactly that, and admit that he had been wrong. The Hong-Jaekel-Mussermann unified field equations had brought on the paradigm shift for which theoretical physics had been hungering through the last third of the previous century. Cosmologists rushed to embrace the so-called CERN system, providing as it did attractive solutions to both the missing mass problem and the age/expansion paradox. But physics itself was turned upside down and plunged into the turmoil of scientific revolution. Reputations crumbled like fallen kings, and new heroes rose from anonymity to lead the way. The last five Nobel Prizes in physics had been awarded for CERN system work, and no one was betting that that was the end of the string. It was an exciting time to be a physicist. And Horton might easily have missed it. If the United States had built its Superconducting Super Collider on schedule, the essential elements of the CERN system could have been revealed nearly two decades earlier. And if it could be done, someone would have already done what Horton was trying to do. The window of opportunity would have closed before Horton had left primary school. The new history of physics was being written at a breathtaking pace. But the American Congress, a body historically long on lawyers and short on vision, had canceled the SSC when it was little more than a hole in the Texas flatland. Ironically, this shortsightedness had created Horton's opportunity--if he and his team could just teach the baby to walk. Four years ago, at the American Physical Society's Honolulu conference on the CERN system, Horton had realized that one of the field equations in the new paradigm allowed for--but did not require--a heretofore unobserved phenomenon. That was the day that Jeffrey Horton began pursuing the stimulated emission of gravitons, the tiny bosons that were the vector of universal gravity. His own collateral equations said that what was unthinkable in the old physics was just barely possible in the new--namely, to build the analogue of a laser for gravity. Though such a device had yet to be demonstrated, it already had a name waiting for it, inherited from the science fiction tales where it had become part of the technological furniture: the tractor beam. And it would not stop there. Artificial gravity for long-duration spaceflight, frictionless drives, overhead cranes with no cables and no moving parts, zero-g chambers at sea level--Horton and Brohier already had a list of more than two hundred patentable applications. When Baby came of age, everyone would want to play with him. But Horton could not count on being the only free-thinking physicist to have looked at the CERN team's equations and seen the same opportunity. He lived in dread of logging into the Los Alamos preprint server, skimming the new high-energy physics papers, and finding his hunch made real in the words and equations of someone else. He dreaded that prospect almost as much as he did the prospect that he was wrong, and they'd all been wasting their time. The lights were already on in the Planck Center's Davisson Lab, and both of Horton's associate project managers were busily making final preparations for the test. Dr. Gordon Greene was lying on his back on the floor, half-hidden under the refrigerator-sized transformer stage of the field generator. One corner of a faded and stained tool pouch was visible beside him, as was the Number 4 Faraday panel. Dr. Leigh Thayer was tailor-sitting in the chair at the data collection console, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand while she studied the twin displays. Her back was to Horton as he entered. In so many ways, Gordie and Lee were a study in contrasts. He was chocolate skin on a middleweight wrestler's frame; she was tall, pale, and coltishly slim. His family's short roots ran back to Nkrumah's Ghana and had been watered mostly with hope, while her deep ones traced to the genteel mercantile England that had once traded in his ancestors. He was the streets of Oakland, California, and she was the upscale suburbs of Connecticut. He had needed a state scholarship to attend UC-Davis, while she had had her pick of the Ivy League before choosing Cornell. But they had in common that they had defied the expectations of their backgrounds. Gordie had sufficiently distinguished himself at Davis to earn his way into the graduate programs in electrical and mechanical engineering at Cal Tech. And after a year, Lee had declared Cornell and her classmates a bore and, shrugging off her parents' financial blackmail, transferred to Rensselaer Polytechnic with a determination to "get some dirt under my nails." Even her chosen nickname was a rejection of what she called "old money affectations." Horton knew he was fortunate to have snared both of them. Gordie had come to Terabyte after Hughes ITT closed down its prototype shop in favor of virtual prototyping. And Lee, eight years older than Horton, had become disillusioned at Fermilab after three consecutive projects fell under a budgetary axe. "Gordie, Lee--did either of you actually go home?" Horton asked, dropping his portfolio on one end of his workbench. Thayer raised her hand. "I did," she said without looking back at him. "Took a shower, changed my underwear, collected my fetishes and lucky charms, and came right back to finish calibrating the detectors." "Gordie?" "I napped on the couch in your office for a couple of hours," Greene called from underneath the apparatus. "Had a nightmare about another fire in the transformer stage, decided I'd eyeball things one more time." "Do I detect a whiff of creeping superstition in the air?" Horton asked with a quizzical grin. "Never mind, don't answer, I have to go light a prayer candle in the Grotto of Niels Bohr." Greene chortled. "Now there's an exotic fetish!" "You're a pathetically lewd individual," Thayer said, shaking her head. "If you weren't also the best metal-basher I've ever seen, I'd make the boss fire you." "You want me," Gordie said to her, digging his heels into the floor and wriggling out from under the transformer stage. "I can tell. Why else would you put on fresh underwear?" "Troglodyte." "Thespian." "See what I have to put up with when you're not here, boss?" Thayer asked, spinning her chair half a turn. "Why, if this creature and I were the same species, I'd be able to file a sexual harassment complaint as thick as his ego." "You both sound like you could use about ten hours' sleep," Horton said. "In separate beds," he added quickly. "I'm wondering if we shouldn't postpone this a day, come back to it fresh--" Thayer shook her head. "Boss, I'm planning on leaving here in three hours to go home and sleep for a week. Or go home and get drunk for a week, depending. Either way--" "Well, I wouldn't want to have to ask you to change your plans," Horton said with a wry smile. "Gordie, how does it look? Are we going to be able to go?" "I'm satisfied," said Greene. "You're supposed to say, 'Dr. Horton, I guarantee it--this is the day.'" "I'm willing to guarantee that if it breaks today, it'll be something that's never broken before. Is that good enough?" Horton snorted. "I guess it'll have to be. Lee, how much more time do you need?" "I'm ready. All the recorders are synced up, and all the sensors are zeroed in. I'm just watching to make sure Gordie doesn't undo all my hard work at the last minute." "Gordie?" "Ten minutes to finish getting Baby dressed," said Greene. "Then we can start warming up the generator at any time." Horton glanced up at the clock above his workbench. "All right. I need to chase down some caffeine and sugar, update the experimental log before I forget what we did last night. Let's start running the checklist at seven-fifteen, and aim for starting the test series at seven-thirty." "Is Dr. Brohier coming?" asked Thayer. A rueful smile spread across Horton's face. "He said he'd take a pass this time--that considering he'd been present for all the previous disasters, maybe he was jinxing us. I'm sure he was speaking metaphorically, not metaphysically--" "I'm sure he just didn't want to get up this early," said Thayer, sniffing. "I'm half his age, and I don't want to be up this early." "Something tells me he's going to wish he'd been here," Greene said, lying back and disappearing under the machine with the Faraday panel in hand. "Don't ask me how I know," he continued, his voice falling away into a horror-movie affectation. "There's an unknown power tugging at my awareness, an inexplicable compulsion to my thoughts--I am suddenly in the grip of a mysterious, irresistible force--" "Testosterone," Thayer muttered. Horton laughed, then went in search of a doughnut. In principle, at least, the primary detector was simplicity itself. The goal was to detect a minute, temporary local variation in the gravitational attraction between the target and the emitter. The method was to measure the deflection of the target itself--a curtain of extremely fine ribbons, each made from a different elemental metal. In theory, when the target was subjected to the full sweep of electromagnetic radiation--from kilohertz to gigahertz, long-wave radio to short-wave X ray--produced by the emitter antenna, the magic combination of material and frequency would cause each of the ribbons in turn to twitch toward the antenna. Horton could not predict what the magic frequencies would be. His equations required a theoretical constant that could not be derived, only determined experimentally. In practice, the more sensitive the detector, the more fragile it was, and the more sensitive to outside influence. Even the air current created by someone walking past the detector was several orders of magnitude stronger than Brohier's most optimistic estimate of the tractor effect at experimental power levels. The first set of ribbons was torn in half by vibration when a visitor bumped into the workbench where it was being assembled. Since then, everything possible had been done to isolate the detector. It was enclosed under a thick glass bell, with the air inside evacuated to an infinitesimal fraction of normal air pressure. Then the entire assembly was rigidly attached to a three-ton cube of black Ohio granite floating on an oil cushion. Brohier had walked into the lab one day to find Horton, Greene, and Thayer gathered in a circle around the granite cube, vigorously jumping up and down to test the shock mounting. With characteristic presence of mind, the senior director began humming the Zarathustra theme from 2001 as he wordlessly retreated toward the hallway. It had been a long time since Horton had laughed that hard. "Gordie?" "Power supply is steady and quiet. Fingers are crossed, hat is on backwards." "Lee?" "Zeros across the board on all sensors. Prayer weasels spinning counterclockwise." Horton glanced in the direction of the detector, now hidden from view by a semicircle of portable radiation screens. "Let's do it. Starting sequencer." "Recorders running," Lee reported from her station. "Output power at five percent," Gordie reported a moment later. "Output frequency at a hundred hertz and climbing." Horton sat back in his rolling lab chair, his elbows propped on its arms, his hands restless in his lap. The experiment was now under the control of a custom program nicknamed Steady Hand, running on the Alpha 3 at Lee's console. Immune to both anxiety and anticipation, Steady Hand's primary duties were to hold the output power constant at each stage of the series, and to ensure a slow, smooth sweep through the emitter's operational spectrum. No one spoke for several minutes. Thayer and Horton were intently watching the continuously updated displays before them. Both had the power to pause the sequencer or terminate the trial with the touch of one finger. "Coming up on the infrared notch," Lee announced. Horton nodded. Due to the problem of heating the tissue-thin ribbons, much of the infrared spectrum had to be skipped. "Here comes the first rainbow." From behind the radiation screens came a flare of pale red light. The light shifted quickly toward orange and kept changing until it disappeared as a pale violet cast. "Beginning X-ray series," said Thayer. "I hope that was lead underwear you changed into," said Gordie. "You'll never know," she answered breezily. "Boss, everything still looks nice and stable to me." "To me, too," he said. "I wouldn't mind seeing a wiggle or two anytime now, though." "Do you have a bet going with yourself about where?" "The low end--the very long wavelengths. Dr. Brohier thinks just the opposite--he thinks our emitter can't reach the necessary frequencies, up around ten to the twenty-second." He shrugged. "So much of the mid-spectrum's been studied to death already, the odds are that one of us is right--" "First pass complete," she interrupted. "Negative results." "At least we got through a first pass," Gordie said. "Output power now at ten percent. Once more with feeling." "We've been here before," Thayer said diffidently. "I'm not going to get excited until we pass our previous best." That was twenty-eight minutes and six seconds, or nearly three complete passes, from the December 12 trial. That attempt had ended when a solid-state power conditioner failed, giving Steady Hand an advanced case of digital palsy. "Coming up on the infrared notch," Thayer said quietly. Horton nodded. A rainbow of light flared across the ceiling of the lab. "I wonder if there's some French physicist sitting in the control room at CERN right now," Greene mused aloud, "pumping Z particles into a simulated protostellar nebula and polishing his paper on induced gravitational clumping. . . ." Spinning his chair toward Greene, Horton shrugged. "If so, more power to 'em--no pun intended. If it turns out you need heavy bosons to pump up a gravity laser, we're not going to be the ones to do it. Fermilab, CERN, KEK, even Stanford and Brookhaven--we can't get in there, and we can't compete with them." "I still think we missed a bet not making a deal with one of the smaller high-energy labs," said Greene. "There's always someone who's hurting for money. Macdonald, Elettra--I hear Protvino's for sale." Thayer sniffed. "You just want a chance to play with a trillion electron volts." "Who doesn't?" Horton stood up and stretched. "I don't. That wouldn't help us. I'm hoping for an effect we can apply in the real world--the physics of the first three seconds of the universe are of no practical use to anyone. If we--" He stopped in mid-sentence and leaned in toward the display. "What the hell is that?" Thayer was frowning, pulling her chair toward the control console. "Some kind of ground tremor. Look at the seismograph." Before Horton could respond, a harsh alarm cut through the room, keening from the lab intercom. "What is that--the lockdown warning?" Horton started toward the lab door. "Reset everything to the start of the current pass," he ordered, raising his voice over the alarm. "Check your calibrations--" Suddenly Horton was competing not with the alarm, but with another voice. "All Terabyte personnel--this is Site Security. A precautionary lockdown is now in effect throughout the campus. Isolation protocols for power and communication have been invoked--" "There goes the trial," Greene said in disgust. ". . . Please remain where you are. Do not leave the building. Stay away from windows. . . ." By the time Horton reached the lab door, the data bar on the electronic locks had begun to flash red, and the door itself was immovable. He grabbed the wired phone hanging beside it and punched Security. It rang an extraordinary eleven times before it was answered. "This is Dr. Horton. What's going on?" "Dr. Horton--this is Tim Bartel. Are you and your staff all right?" "We're fine--" "Where are you at the moment?" "Davisson, Planck Center." "Good. Please stay there, Dr. Horton. We'll come for you as soon as we're sure there's no danger." "Damn it, just tell me what's happening." There was a moment's hesitation. "There's been an explosion on the grounds--" "What? A bomb?" "Bloody hell," said Greene, eavesdropping. "I don't know what caused it," Bartel said tersely. "We've got two fires burning, a couple of people hurt. But you should be safe where you are. Please stay put until we're sure the situation is under control." Then the line went dead, the connection broken at the other end. As Horton returned the phone to its cradle, he sighed exasperatedly, and his shoulders sagged. He looked up into the anxious expressions on his staff's faces. "Shut it all down," he said wearily. "We're done for the day." Excerpted from The Trigger by Arthur C. Clarke, Michael P. Kube-McDowell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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