A mysterious ceremony at a hidden location has unlocked a catastrophic countdown to world annihilation.
Now, to save the world, supersoldier Jack West Jr and his loyal team of adventurers must find and rebuild a legendary device known as "the Machine".
The only clues to locating this Machine are held within the fabled Six Sacred Stones, which are scattered around the globe. But Jack and his team are not the only ones seeking the Stones, there are other players involved who don't want to see the world saved at all...
Nearly two years after the Tartarus Rotation, which ended with the mythical Golden Capstone being reassembled atop the Great Pyramid at Giza, and the ritual of power performed to grant one national a thousand years of unchallenged power - invincibility. This power was won by Australia. On 20 August 2007, on Easter Island, the geographical opposite of the Great Pyramid, men use a second Capstone to nullify the power of the Tartatus sunspot and remove Australia's invincibility.
On December 1st in China, Professor Max "Wizard" Epper and his research partner, Yobu "Tank" Tanaka locate and enter a hidden chamber beneath Witch Mountain, which is related to Laozi, in search of the ancient scholar's fabled Philosopher's Stone. Whilst noting the various inscriptions on the chamber's walls, Wizard discovers a cryptic message referring to the Tartarus Sunspot and the use of the Sa-Benben, or Firestone, the top piece of the Capstone. It describes the Tartarus event 'starting' the Machine, and how the Sa-Benben 'empowers the Six'. Wizard also finds an inscription saying that the first pillar must be laid 100 days before the Return. Realising what this means, Wizard sends a coded message to Jack West Jr in Australia, who has the Capstone hidden in his farm, just before a contingent of Chinese military forces arrive to capture them. Their leader, Colonel Mao Gongli, intends to use Wizard's knowledge of the Machine to find the Six Sacred Stones.
Meanwhile, Jack's life has been at peace. It is the summer in Australia, and Zoe Kissane and Sky Monster are staying with him as guests. His now adopted daughter Lily has a friend, Alby Calvin, staying with them. Then Wizard's message arrives, just before the farm is attacked by the Chinese army, who are supposed to be participating in the nearby Talisman Sabre military exercises. Jack and the others escape to the Halicarnassus, and as they leave, Jack grabs the Firestone from its hiding place, along with Wizard's research journal, and reads it whilst travelling to Dubai. As the Chinese Army searches the farm, an American colonel known as Wolf arrives and notes Jack's domestication. He has the Chinese Major Black Dragon contact Mao to order him to begin torturing Wizard, before having the Major killed for his failiure.
Jack's group arrives at the Burj al Arab and call a new meeting of nations. The surviving team members of the previous mission soon arrive, with the exception of Fuzzy from Jamaica, and Jack is dismayed to learn from Shiek Abbas about Wizard's capture. This time, however, they are joined by several new players: Scimitar (Pooh Bear's brother), Vulture (a Saudi spy and Scimitar's close-friend), Robertson (a CIA agent representing the Americans, who apparently wish to join the Coalition) and Astro (an American Marine).
At the meeting, Jack informs them that the end of the world is nigh, due to a zero-point field, the 'Dark Star', which is the polar opposite to our sun, is approaching our solar system, which could end all life on Earth. In order to save the world, a 'Machine' must be rebuilt by placing six oblong diamond pillars in their respective locations around the globe. The necessary knowledge regarding the Machine and its vertices can be found using the Six Sacred Stones - the Philosopher's Stone, the Altar Stone of Stonehenge, the Twin Tablets of Thuthmosis, the Seeing Stone of Delphi, the Killing Stone of the Maya, and the Basin of Rameses II. However, Wizard remains their best source of knowledge, so Jack plans to liberate him from the Chinese first. Then Fuzzy's severed head arrives in a hatbox, just as an aeroplane is sighted heading to crash into the tower. Everyone escapes the crash one way or another, and the team splits at the airfield.
While Jack, Pooh Bear, Stretch, Astro, Scimitar and Vulture head into China to rescue Wizard, Zoe takes Lily and Alby to England to meet up with twin Scottish maths geniuses and Epper's former students, Lachlan and Julius Adamson. At the same time that Jack's group rescue Wizard and Tank from the Xintan Prison, Zoe's group uses the Firestone in conjunction with the Altar stone at Stonehenge, and with the deadly energy from the Dark Sun being weakened by the cosmic event known as the Titanic Rising, the monoliths reveal the locations of the six vertices where the Pillars must be placed. However, the locations are slightly inaccurate as the continents have changed in the ages since the maps were made. Soon afterwards, Jack's team return to Witch Mountain and disable Mao and his men before retrieving the Philosopher's Stone from Laozi's trap system.
When everyone reunites at Mortimer Island in Britain, Robertson has brought the Killing Stone of the Maya; Vulture brings one of the pillars from the treasury of his family, the Royal House of Saud; and a representative of the British Royal Family, Iolanthe Compton-Jones, brings the pillar kept by her family. The pillars are cloudy diamond bricks with a liquid-filled void in the centre, but after being 'cleansed' by the Philosopher's Stone, they become clear and the liquid silver. The pillars' markings reveal Iolanthe's as the fourth pillar, and Vulture's as the first. The Killing Stone of the Maya is united with the Firestone, and it reveals the dates by which the pillars must be laid - the first is the next day, and the second is seven days after that. The Adamson twins have gone over the data from Stonehenge, and conclude that the first Vertex is underneath Lake Nasser in Egypt, close to Abu Simbel.
The team heads out, accompanied by Iolanthe, leaving the Adamson twins with Tank to continue their calculations and find the other Vertices. Unbeknownst to them, Robertson meets with Wolf, who has been watching the proceedings via the base's security cameras, and decides to allow the coalition team to lay the first Pillar so that they can learn from their experience before moving in. Furthermore, a coded message is sent from the base that instructs an unknown party not to let the team leave Abu Simbel alive.
Upon arriving at Abu Simbel, the team uncovers the entrance to the Vertex, and once Jack, Wizard and Zoe enter the Vertex, they wait for the Titanic Rising to occur so that they can set the Pillar. While they wait, Wizard shares his theory about how the Pillars and the Machine were created by an ancient race of beings that appeared on Earth long before humans. Once the Titanic Rising begins, the first pillar is laid, and the reward mentioned in Wizard's notes, Knowledge, is revealed in the Word of Thoth on its sides (in the form of a batch of complex equations relating to the laws of physics and the universe, much of which modern scientists hadn't figured out yet).
Before they can gather their thoughts on the event, Iolanthe betrays the team, and she and an SAS team led by Lieutenant Ashmont take the Pillar, Wizard and Lily, while leaving the others to the crocodiles. Iolanthe's plan is scuppered by four Japanses suicide bombers who arrive at Abu Simbel on a tour bus, knocking the princess out and killing Ashmont. Wizard is the only one who is unharmed by the blast thanks to Lily tackling him to the ground, and proceeds to flee with Lily and the Pillar. Jack reports in that he and the others are all fine and prepared to rejoin him, however, Sky Monster reports the approach of a large number of Egyptian military vehicles. With Scimitar and Vulture having disappeared, the team attempts to reunite on the Helicarnassus, however the plane is damaged in the ensuing chase. After ordering those already onboard to continue the mission without them, Jack, Pooh Bear, Astro and Stretch are left behind and captured by American forces.
Back at Mortimer Island, Lachlan and Julius determine the location of the Second Vertex, beneath Table Mountain in South Africa, and send the information to Wizard just before Japanese soldiers burst in. Tank is revealed to be the leader of the troops, the Japanese Blood Brotherhood, and orders the twins brought with them.
Jack recovers to find himself immobilized in a pit in a large underground mine somewhere in Ethiopia, confronted by Wolf, who is revealed to be Jack's father - who leads a rogue CIEF force, including Jack's illegitimate brother Grant "Rapier" West. He informs Jack that the ritual to counter Tartarus was the work of the Japanese Blood Brotherhood (as was the plane attack in Dubai and the suicide bombers at Abu Simbel), a group determined to avenge Japan's humiliation at the end of World War II by destroying the world through preventing the placing of the Pillars. Wolf then has an enormous stone slab dropped into the pit on top of Jack, and decides to send Stretch to the Mossad, who have put a sixteen million dollar price on his head in revenge for his disobeying their orders at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It is also revealed that Iolanthe, Scimitar and Vulture are cooperating with Wolf, and Scimitar leaves Pooh Bear locked in a cage to be sacrificed by the Ethiopian Christians who guard the mine.
On the Halicarnassus, Lily mentions overhearing Iolanthe telling Jack that the second pillar was guarded by the Neetha tribe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the damaged plane will not be able to reach the DRC, so Sky Monster lands in Rwanda, and Zoe, Wizard, Lily and Alby head out to meet with an old friend, Solomon Kol, who will take them into the Congo. Sky Monster remains with his plane so Solomon's friends can bring him the equipment to repair it. After a few days, they locate the place where explorer Henry Morton Stanley had claimed to have located the Neetha, and are promptly captured by the tribe.
Meanwhile, Lachlan and Julius overhear their Japanese captors discussing their man in Wolf's unit, Akira Isaki, codenamed Switchblade, who will attempt to sabotage Wolf's placing of the Second Pillar, so they make their escape.
Imprisoned in the Neetha village, built by the same civilisation that built the Machine, Wizard's group discover that the tribe possesses the Second Pillar and the Seeing Stone of Delphi. The first pillar, the Firestone and the Philosopher's Stone are confiscated by the tribe's warlock, who uses the latter Stone to cleanse the second pillar, and the former Stone with the Delphic orb to see the Dark Sun. They also encounter Dr. Diane Cassidy, a long-missing anthropologist who has been enslaved by the Neetha for years, and Ono, Cassidy's student and seventh son of the chief, a young but kind man who is not as strong as his brothers. When the Chief's first son Warano announces his intent to make Lily his wife, Solomon dies on the fighting platform trying to fight for her freedom. Zoe also duels with Warano for Lily's freedom, successfully killing him.
Having tracked the transponder signature of the helicopter they arrived in, Wolf and the CIEF arrive at the village with a large force of Congolese mercenaries. While Zoe, Wizard and Lily escape with the Delphic orb, Alby is captured by Wolf, as are the First and Second pillars, the Firestone and the Philosopher's Stone. In the aftermath of the battle, the Neetha warlock reveals to Wolf that he can lead the American force to the Second Vertex. Zoe, Wizard and Lily are picked up by Sky Monster in the repaired Halicarnassus, but despite knowing the location of the Second Vertex, they cannot reach it due to aerial patrols sealing off South Africa (organized and funded by Wolf and his Saudi allies in order to seal off the area for their mission).
It is then revealed that Jack escaped from the pit in the Ethiopian mine (primarily due to his prosthetic arm), rescued Pooh Bear from sacrifice and freed the Jewish slave-miners. In gratitude, the miners give him the sacred stones that Wolf had been using them to dig for - the Twin Tablets of Thuthmosis, which contain the final incantation to activate the Machine when all the pillars are placed. Jack and Pooh Bear travel to their old farm in Kenya, finding Horus and the Adamson twins waiting; they share with Jack the news that the Brotherhood has a mole in Wolf's unit. Jack and the Adamsons decide to head to Zanzibar, where Jack's brother-in-law, JJ Wickham, aka the Sea Ranger, is hiding out after deserting the US Navy to take on gun-runners in Africa. Pooh Bear, however, leaves them to go and rescue Stretch from the Mossad. Before he leaves, Jack gives him a GPS locator with which to signal if he needs help.
Sea Ranger agrees to assist Jack, and so the group uses his submarine, the Indian Raider, to reach the Second Vertex, arriving through its second entrance just after the CIEF arrive at the first. Jack attempts to catch up to Wolf's group, but is too late as Wolf sends Broadsword and Switchblade to the inverted pyramid's summit. Switchblade kills Broadsword and prepares to drop the Second pillar into the bottomless abyss beneath the Vertex, dooming the world and depriving the Americans of its reward, 'Heat' (believed to be a limitless power-source). Luckily, Jack swings across the pit at the last moment using a maghook, catches the pillar sets it in place. In response to his failure, Switchblade drops himself and Jack into the abyss.
Sea Ranger and the Adamsons decide to leave, with Horus diving into the abyss after Jack. Wolf leaves with the Second Pillar, abandoning Alby, who was brought with them, in the Vertex. Zoe, Sky Monster, Lily and Wizard, onboard the Halicarnassus on an airfield in Botswana, had been in contact with Jack to help him avoid the traps at the Vertex, see the whole thing happen on the videophone. The surviving team members realise they must face the placing of the last four pillars and the arrival of the Dark Sun, three months away, without Jack.
The story continues in The Five Greatest Warriors
The Coalition of Minnows TeamEdit
- Captain Jack "Huntsman" West Jr
- Lily "Eowyn" West
- Professor Max "Wizard" Epper
- Sergeant Zoe "Princess" Kissane
- Captain Zahir "Pooh Bear" al Abbas
- Lieutenant Benjamin "Stretch" Cohen
- Sky Monster
- Alby Calvin
- Lieutenant Sean "Astro" Miller
- Julius "Gunslinger" Adamson
- Lachlan "Quickdraw" Adamson
Coalition of Minnows SupportersEdit
The CIEF and AlliesEdit
- Colonel Jack "Wolf" West Sr
- Major Grant "Rapier" West
- Special attache Paul Robertson
- Colonel Mao Gongli
- Iolanthe Compton-Jones
- Captain Rashid "Scimitar" Abbas
- Abdul Rahman "Vulture" al Saud
- Major Black Dragon
- Professor Yobu "Tank" Tanaka
- Chow Ling
- Sergeant V.J. "Fuzzy" Weatherly
- Akira "Switchblade" Isaki
- Lieutenant Colin Ashmont
- Lois Calvin
- Todd Naismith
- Diane Cassidy
- Earl McShane
- Steve Oakes (mentioned only)
- Jack's Mother (mentioned only)
Historical Figures Edit
The Six Sacred StonesEdit
- The Philosopher's Stone: Cleanses the Pillars
- The Seeing Stone of Delphi: Allows one to see the Dark Sun
- The Altar Stone of Stonehenge: Reveals the locations of the Vertices
- The Killing Stone of the Maya: Reveals dates when the Pillars must be laid
- The Twin Tablets of Thuthmosis: Contains the final incantation
- The Basin of Rameses II: Unknown
- Seven Ancient Wonders
- The Six Sacred Stones
- The Five Greatest Warriors
- The Four Legendary Kingdoms
- The Three Secret Cities
- The Two Lost Mountains
- In the novel, Wizard mentions his theory that the Machine and its components were made by a race of super-ancient beings. In Reilly's previous novel Ice Station, Sarah Hensleigh noted her theory that the apparent alien spaceship could have otherwise been made by a race of ancient human beings.
- This novel introduces the first evidence of the Huntsman series sharing the same fictional universe as the Scarecrow series, the U.S. Marine Astro, who had previously appeared in the Hell Island novella.
- The official confirmation that the two series were set in the same universe came nine years later in the novel The Four Legendary Kingdoms.
- Pooh Bear's real name in this novel is Zahir al Anzar al Abbas, however in the previous novel it was Aziz al Anzar al Abbas. No explanation is made regarding the change, suggesting that Reilly did not do it intentionally.
- Subsequent novels use Zahir for the character's first name.