EDITOR'S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan).


In the Not-Too-Distant Future

At twelve thousand feet, alarm bells started going off all over the cockpit of the Navy EA-6B Prowler. At first Captain Louder thought they'd run into a flock of birds, but they were much too high up.

"Captain," shouted his lead ECM officer, Lieutenant Emmit Wilson, "on-board computers have crashed."

"Avionics?"

"Screwed up, sir."

"Navigation?"

"Everything's bugging out, sir," said his navigation officer, Lieutenant Jim Stewart, a bespectacled electronics nerd from the Naval Communications School at Pensacola.

"Were we hit?"

"Not that I can see, sir."

Captain Louder glanced quickly at the jet engine to his left. No smoke, no oil. He glanced to his right. The other engine appeared equally sound. Everything seemed normal, but the instruments said otherwise: pressure dropping, fuel gauge empty, altimeter and directional indicators completely out of whack.

"I need answers, men."

Though the crew was good at their jobs, they were young, and the person they usually looked to for answers was Captain Louder.

"That's an order!"

"Sir," said Lieutenant Wilson hesitantly, "all I can think of is that we were hit with some kind of massive electromagnetic charge, either internal or external, fried all our instruments or . . ."

"Or . . . ?"

"Or the Koreans have some new kind of sophisticated jamming system."

"We're supposed to be doing the jamming, not them."

The Prowler's chief mission was reconnaissance and radar suppression, its weapons sophisticated electronic jamming equipment and a single HARM — high-speed anti-radiation missile — that could seek out and destroy enemy radar defenses all on its own.

"What about sunspots, sir?" suggested Lieutenant Stewart.

"More likely we ran into Santa Claus," growled Captain Louder as he fought to maintain control of the stick and keep the aircraft steady, "but it's only September." He didn't need guesses now; he needed solutions — and fast.

"HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, over," he yelled into the radio.

"HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, do you read me, over."

"We're twenty minutes early on our verbal, sir. They're not going to respond," said Lieutenant Stewart.

"Or else the radio's dead too. Anything still work on this plane?"

The youngest of the three ECMOs, Lieutenant Derrick Milius, a pimply faced twenty-one-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, shyly pulled an iPod out of his shirt pocket. He plugged it into the aircraft's intercom.

The twangy strains of Hank Williams Jr. filled the cockpit.

"A little inspiration, sir."

"HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, over . . . HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, do you read me, over." The voice of Captain Louder crackled over the speakers in the Tactical Communications Bunker at Osan Air Base, just forty-eight miles south of the DMZ.

"Do we respond, sir?"

Wing Commander Charles Stamper chomped down on another stick of Nicorette gum. What he really needed was a cigarette, but the base had recently gone smoke-free, and he had to lead by example.

"No. We have strict orders to maintain radio silence all along the parallel."

A tinny version of Hank Williams Jr.'s "Born to Boogie" seeped through the speakers followed by, "HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass; we have a situation up here; request permission to break off current flight path and return to base, over."

No one in the communications bunker said a word, waiting for the commander to speak; the only sound now his obsessive gum chewing.

Hank Williams Jr.'s warble returned, then, "HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, breaking off current flight path, requesting secondary landing site, do you copy, over."

"Do we respond now, sir?'

Commander Stamper bit his tongue accidentally. The orders were explicit. No radio contact with planes over the DMZ. But he knew Captain Louder personally, probably owed him a few bucks from a poker game or two, and he knew he wouldn't break radio silence unless he had to. He also knew the captain wouldn't want to give out too much information over the radio. They both knew that the North Korean military, known as the Korean People's Army, or the KPA, were always listening, looking to turn every situation to their advantage.

But still. Captain Louder was listening to music in the cockpit.

Country music. Was that code for something? He wracked his brain but came up with nothing.

"Give them a couple clicks of the hand mic to let them know we heard." The commander turned to his flight officer. "Send up a couple fighters to check it out. Tell them to stay high and out of sight. Make visual contact if they can, but no radio under any circumstance."

He'd picked a bad week to give up smoking.

Captain Louder knew from the silence on the radio that he was on his own — at least until he cleared the DMZ. His flight plan called for him to stay on this heading until he reached international waters over the Sea of Japan, but he didn't think his plane had enough in her to get that far. Whatever had attacked the electronics had done a number on the systems. Nothing was responding.