Deception Point - Dan Brown
Deception Point is a 2001 techno-thriller novel by Dan Brown. The plot concerns a meteorite found within the Arctic Circle that may provide proof of extraterrestrial life, and attempts by dark forces to prevent this finding from becoming public.
Intelligence analyst Rachel Sexton works for the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office). Her father, Senator Sedgewick Sexton, is a presidential candidate who is more popular than incumbent President of the United States Zachary Herney. The President sends her to the Arctic as part of a team of experts to confirm and authenticate findings made by NASA deep within the Milne Ice Shelf on Ellesmere Island. NASA's new Polar Orbiting Density Scanner (PODS), part of the Earth Observation System (EOS), a collection of satellites monitoring the globe for signs of large-scale change, has found an extremely dense spot in the Milne Ice Shelf.
At this spot NASA discovers a very dense meteorite. In it are insect fossils very similar to, but not the same as, species on earth. NASA claims this as proof of extraterrestrial life.
The find is something NASA needs in the light of recent failures. Senator Sexton uses these failures as an example of government overspending to further his campaign (initially the idea had been Gabrielle Ashe's, his personal advisory); he wants to abolish NASA and direct the funding toward public schools instead. In order to ensure that the discovery is not tarnished by the reputation that NASA has developed, the President sends four leading civilian scientists (Michael Tolland, a famous oceanographer and TV personality; Corky Marlinson, a brilliant but eccentric astrophysicist; Norah Mangor, a prickly glaciologist and Wailee Ming, a palaeontologist) to the Arctic to verify the meteorite's authenticity.
Senator Sexton then reads the fax message his daughter sent him to the public, possibly incriminating the President and NASA. He copies the evidence and puts them in letters for the press. However, when he holds a press conference, Gabrielle disguises herself as a news reporter and swaps the letters (with the evidence inside) for pictures of the relationship between Gabrielle and Sexton, blackmailing Sexton into not accusing the President and NASA of a conspiracy, and allowing the President to reveal NASA's failings himself in an apologetic fashion. This leaves Sexton in a precarious position, whilst Herney enjoys renewed support.
By the end of the story, Michael and Rachel have developed a romantic relationship.
A Delta Force team is also observing the discovery, monitoring the NASA staff for an unknown commander. Ming observes an irregularity within the pit from which the meteorite was extracted. He reaches into the water to obtain a sample and falls in due to an attack by microbots operated by the Delta Force team. He soon drowns at the bottom of the pit.
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