The Arctic Event - By Robert Ludlum

March 5, 1953

The Canadian Arctic

Nothing lived on the island. Nothing could.

It was a jagged ridge of raw, storm-savaged rock thrusting through the ice and freezing waters of the Arctic Ocean only a short distance from the Earth's magnetic pole. A shallow crescent twelve miles in length from east to west, it tapered from two miles in width at its broadest point to a quarter mile at its tips, with something of a cove on its westernmost end. Two prominent peaks rose out of its narrow, boulder-strewn coastal plain, a glaciated saddleback joining them.

Lichen and a few tufts of stunted, frost-burned sea grass clung to bare existence amid its fissured stone. A few kittiwakes and fulmars would roost on its cliffs during the brief arctic summer. The occasional seal or walrus would haul out on its gravel beaches, and the rare lordly polar bear would pad ghostlike amid its freezing fogs.

But nothing truly lived there.

The island was one of the myriad crumbs of continent scattered between the northern coast of Canada and the Pole. Collectively they were called the Queen Elizabeth Archipelago, and each was as bleak and blizzard blasted as the next.

For the bulk of its existence, the island had been unknown and unvisited by humanity. Some far-ranging Inuit hunter might have seen its peaks rising above the sea smoke on the distant horizon. If he had, the necessities of survival for himself and his tribe had prevented any further investigation.

Or possibly some Victorian-era arctic explorer caught up in the vain quest for the Northwest Passage might have sketched the island onto his crude map with a mittened hand. If so, his had been one of the ice-doomed ships that never returned.

The island and its sisters did not enter into the affairs of mankind until the coming of the appropriately named Cold War. The Queen Elizabeth Archipelago was photo surveyed in the late 1940s by the United States Air Force as a precursor to the construction of the North American Air Defense Command's Distant Early Warning radar line. The island gained a name then. The bored military cartographer who added it to the world's charts dubbed it Wednesday because it had to be called something and because its survey run had passed over his desk in the middle of the week.

Not long afterward, Wednesday Island received its first visitation.

A williwaw was blasting down from the Pole through the primordial darkness of an arctic winter, its winds screaming around the island's peaks, scouring the snow from their northern faces, leaving the black basalt naked to the storm.

Possibly that was why the island went unseen until it was too late.

Faintly, the sound of powerful aircraft engines came from the north, riding with the wind, growing swiftly in intensity. But there was no one to hear their thunder as they passed low over the island's coastline. Too low. The roar of the engines suddenly increased, spurred into a howl of desperation-born power.

The howl ended abruptly in the harsh, tearing slam of metal hitting on ice, and the eternal winds shrieked in triumph.

Wednesday Island ceased to be a point of concern for another half century.
Chapter One
The Present Day

The Canadian Arctic

Clad in Day-Glo orange parkas and snowmobiling suits, the three rope-linked figures leaned on their ice axes, forcing themselves up the last few yards to their goal. They had made their climb on the southern face of the ridge, its bulk shielding them from the prevailing wind. But now, as they struggled over the lip of the small, bare rock plateau at its peak, the full blast of the polar katabatics raked them, the wind chill driving the effective temperature from merely below freezing to well below zero.

It was a pleasant autumn afternoon on Wednesday Island.

The pale, heatless ball of the sun rolled along the southern horizon, filling the world with the strange, grayish glow of the weeks-long arctic twilight.

Looking down at the surrounding ocean, it was difficult to tell island from sea. The pack was closing in around Wednesday, the new, living ice buckling and jumbling up on the beaches. The only leads of free, dark water to be seen trailed behind the drifting icebergs on the horizon as they resisted the frozen constriction of the coming winter.

To the east, the driving winds had drawn a snow squall across the far end of the island, blurring the second, taller mountain into an ominous dark bulk hinted at behind a ragged curtain of mist.

The vista was that of hell with the furnaces shut down, yet the