Austin and his friend Joe Zavala, are National Underwater and Marine Agency Special Assignments Team troubleshooters. Dirk Pitt, head of NUMA, dispatches the pair to uncover the fate of the three-person crew missing from a NUMA research vessel found adrift in the Indian Ocean. Austin and Zavala link up with Paul and Gamay Trout, husband and wife NUMA techie team, in the Maldives, and the group’s examination of the vessel reveals the missing NUMA scientists were victims of “microbots”—“A hundred could fit on the head of a pin.” There in the Maldives, Austin also rescues Leilani Tanner, sister of one of the dead scientists, from a kidnapping, and she tags along. The microbot trail soon leads to Yemen and Jinn al-Khalif, a Bedouin camel trader’s son grown immensely wealthy through ruthless, bloody ambition. Jinn hired scientists to modify the microbots, the not-quite-ready invention of circuit-board-genius Elwood Marchetti, meant to consume ocean pollution.
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