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Scarecrow is Matthew Reilly's fifth novel, and the third in the Shane Schofield series. The plot focuses on Schofield as he eludes several bounty hunters.

SynopsisEdit

A meeting between the 12 of the richest men in the world, collectively known as Majestic-12, finalises their arrangement for a bounty hunt. This hunt comprises $18.6 million US per head for 15 targets across the world - all either intelligence officers, military personnel or terrorists. The bounty will be paid upon production of the decapitated head of each target to a castle in France.

In the early hours of the morning in Siberia, Shane "Scarecrow" Schofield is about to lead a team on a mission to a former Soviet missile silo known as Krask-8, where Chechnyan terrorist have apparently taken control of the site. Schofield's team, among them Book II, is to reinforce a pair of Delta Force teams led by operators Farrell and McCabe. Soon after they land, Schofield loses contact with their home base in Alaska, and cannot reach the Delta teams either. When they arrive at Krask-8, Schofield splits his team into two groups. Schofield's group find the remains of one of the Delta teams, and Schofield quickly notices that McCabe's head is missing, which is when the other team reports the same thing has happened to Farrell. Even as Schofield realises they have been set up, both teams come under fire, and only Schofield, Book II and Clark are able to avoid being killed.

Their assailants are a group of mercenaries known as Executive Solutions, led by Cedric Wexley. Schofield floods the dry dock, affording them to enter a Typhoon-class submarine. After launching a torpedo to strike the facility in 15 minutes, Schofield and his men then confront Wexley as the ExSol troops storm the sub. Schofield forces Wexley to reveal that Schofield, as well as McCabe and Farrell, are among 15 targets on a bounty list, who must be dead by 12pm, New York time. Clark is killed as the ExSol men spot them, and Schofield and Book II become trapped on top of a building that ExSol sets detonation charges to bring them down. They are saved by the arrival of another bountry hunter, the Hungarian, by using their maghooks to attatch themselves to his plane.

After the Hungarian lands, Schofield and Book II question him, but he is only able to add to Wexley's story that there is a castle in France their heads must be taken to, and the Hungarian is unaware of who is paying for the hunt. The two Marines take his plane, warning him of the incoming torpedo. As they speed away, Schofield decides to head towards Afghanistan, where Schofield's girlfriend, Elizabeth "Fox" Gant, is part of an Al-Qaeda mission, since Wexley had implied that someone would eventually use her to get to him. The torpedo, meanwhile, is destroyed by another arriving bounty hunter, the Black Knight, who investigates the site, confirming that the Scarecrow has evaded ExSol, before he and his pilot set of after him.

Schofield contacts David Fairfax, asking for help in finding the connection between the men on the bounty list, and also gets Gant's coordinates. Fairfax is also able to decrypt a transmission from a group of bounty hunters called IG-88, who have learned several of the men on the list will be found at the Karpalov coalmine when Gant is currently at. Indeed, Gant's team, including Mother, only just get inside the mine moments before William Ashcroft is beheaded by a rogue Spetnaz unit known as the Skorpions, who open fire on the Allies. Gant and Mother are forced over their barricade, and find the terrorists are fleeing from yet another force, the IG-88. In the chaos, they witness one of the bounty hunters behead another man from the list, Hassan Zawahiri. Even as Schofield and Book II arrive at and enter the mine, Gant and Mother become separated, and IG-88's leader, known as the Demon, captures Gant. Cowboy confirms to Demon that they also have the heads of two other men from the list, but have missed Ashcroft.

Schofield and Book II meet up with Mother, right as they are surrounded by the Skorpions. Their leader, Zamanov, preapres to behead Schofield, when suddenly the Black Knight drops into their midst and holds them at gunpoint. The Black Knight introduces himself to Schofield, and reveals that he is being paid to keep Schofield alive rather than kill him, and they quickly flee from the Skorpions right before the mine is destroyed. After meeting up with Knight's plane known as the Black Raven, the pilot, Rufus, informs them about Gant being taken by the IG-88. Fairfax contacts Schofield to tell him about Knight; a former Delta operator, he went on the run after apparently selling out his team to an Al-Qaeda cell, and is now operating as a bounty hunter.

Knight refuses to name his employer who wants to keep Schofield alive, but reveals he and Rufus know IG-88's current heading; the castle in France, the Forteresse de Valois. Crucially, Knight's orders are to allow Schofield free rein, in order that he perform the tasks the bounty hunt is designed to prevent him from doing. Deciding they need to investigate, Schofield decides to rescue Gant with Knight, so that they can also use IG-88's aquired heads to gain access. Still needing information though, he sends Book II and Mother with Rufus to locate a Mossad agent on the list, Benjamin Rosenthal, in London since the Mossad will likely have some answers. Also, he asks Fairfax to meet up with another man on the list, Dr Oliphant, who is connected to several of the American and British names on the list due to an Army research study conducted years earlier.

As IG-88 split up so that a team will go after Rosenthal while the heads are taken to the castle, three more men from the list are liquidated by various bounty hunters. Schofield and Knight storm the plane, as British agents working with IG-88 interrogate another man from the list, General Weitzman, about the American Universal Disarm Code and an American project, Kormoran. Gant is freed and the IG-88 men killed, but Weitzman is beheaded. Schofield interrogates one of the British agents, who reveals Majestic-12 is behind the hunt, but that the undercover agent who knows their plan, Alec Christie, is missing (Schofield surmises that because he is on the bounty list, Christie was compromised). The agent also reveals that the Kormoran is an American project which disguises warships as ordinary tankers, but doesn't know anything about the accompanying project, Chameleon.

Book II and Mother reach the Mossad headquarters in London, but the Demon and IG-88 arrive moments later. The two Marines find Rosenthal first, who is only able to reveal the location of his files regarding M-12 and the hunt before he is killed. They retrieve the files, and prepare to rejoin Schofield at the castle, but find Rufus has been detained by American agents. Their leader, Scott Moseley, reveals that the American government has learned of the bounty hunt, and the President is using every resource available to keep Schofield alive. Book II decides to remain behind to look through Rosenthal's files, while Mother and Rufus head to France.

Fairfax arrives at the hospital Oliphant works at, just as a bounty hunter called the Zulu appears. Fairfax is quick to act, and helps Oliphant flee in an ambulance, resulting in a chase that only ends after the Zulu falls off a parking building to his death. Oliphant tells Fairfax that the study he was part of was to test American and British soldiers' reflexes, which he suspected was going to be part of a new missile security system. Another bounty hunter, the Ice Queen, appeards and beheads Oliphant, but she lets Fairfax go when she is intrigued by the cryptanalyst's loyalty.

Schofield and Gant diguise themselves before they enter the Forteresse de Valois with Knight, where they are met by the assessor for the hunt, Monsieur Delacroix. While Delecroix leads Knight to assess the heads, Schofield and Gant begin looking through the files that Knight is remotely downloading from Delacroix's computer on their palm pilot, but are interupted by the castle's owner, Jonathon Killian. Killian invites them to rest and recover while Delacroix and Knight are busy, and Schofield reconises the billionaire from a recent news story where he opened food stores in some African countries. Killian expresses his love of anarchy to the pair, and how he enjoys seeing people in stressful situations. They enter a room, where Wexley and his men are relaxing, and Killian reveals he knows who Schofield is, and begins laughing maniacally as the Marines start fleeing.

Schofield and Gant hijack one of Killian's sports cars, and as they begin driving, Zamanov and his Skorpions arrive. A high octane chase occurs as ExSol and the Skorpions pursue the pair, and Knights soon joins in. Though ExSol and the Skorpions experience high casualties, Gant gets shot in the shoulder by a fighter jet from an off-shore French Carrier Battle Group. The chase finally ends when Gant andf Knight's truck gets cornered, and Schofield is forced into the ocean after driving his truck into another fighter. As they approach in the Black Raven, Rufus tells Mother the truth about Knight; the pair of them were set up by the Intelligence Convergance Group when Knight discovered their agents working with Al-Qaeda. Though the ICG has since been dismantled, the damage remains, with Knight and Rufus fugitives, and Knight's wife and infant daughter murdered.

As Schofield is picked up by a boat from the French Carrier Group, Book II makes contact to reveals what he's learned from Rosenthal's files. Majestic-12 is going to begin a new Cold War that would earn the companies within M-12 billions, by utilising two projects, Kormoran and Chameleon. In addition to the disguised Kormoran tankers, Chameleon is a series of nuclear warheads and missiles designed to imitate the weapons of another nuclear power; to use these missile makes it look like someone else fired the first shot. The Chameleon missiles are protected by the CincLock-VII security system, which can only disarm the missiles if three criteria are met: proximity to warhead, a light-pattern reflex response test and a numerical code, thus only someone who knows the sequence of flashing lights or with unusually fast reflexes will be able to disarm the system.

Majestic-12 plans to fire a series of Iranian nuclear warheads on London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, and a series of North Korean missiles on New Dehli, Islambad, Beijing and Hong Kong. With the aid of the French government, by warning them of the incoming missile on Paris so that they might become the world's new superpower, Majestic-12 has already staged terror raids on their missile plants and stolen the necessary missiles. The fifteen names on the bounty list are the only ones who can stop M-12 include the six soldiers (Schofield, McCabe, Ashcroft, Farrell, Kingsgate and Zemir) who can disarm the program, two scientists (Oliphant and Nicholson) who worked on the NATO reflex test, three spies (Rosenthal, Christie and Polanski) who variously know about Chameleon and Majestic-12, three men who participated in the Soviet equivalent of the NATO tests (Zawahiri, Nazzar and Khalif), and one high-ranking soldier (Weitzman) who oversaw key parts of the program.

Schofield asks Book II to head to New York and have Fairfax sent to San Fransisco so that they can provide satellite uplinks, allowing Schofield to disarm the missiles on the Kormoran ships located at those cities remotely. Meanwhile, Gant and Knight are held captive in Killian's "Shark Pit", and Killian notes how Demon's plan to use Gant earlier to draw Schofield in failed. Thus, he concludes, the only way to ensure Schofield will fall, is to kill her, and has his ISS insider, Cal Noonan, behead her in a guillotine. In the seconds before the fatal blow is delivered, Gant asks Knight to tell Schofield that she would have said "yes". Though horrified, Knight is able to escape when Wexley's second-in-command, Drake moves in too close, allowing him the chance to steal back his gear and swim through to the sea outside. Rufus and Mother pick him up, and they quickly go to rescue Schofield from the French.

Indeed the French (who are furious with him for his actions against them in Antarctica), have forced Schofield to demonstrate the viability of the CincLock system by having him defuse a phosphorous grenade, and reveal that they are the ones who have captured Christie. Having already interogated the MI6 agent for days, the French agent Pierre Lefevre asks Schofield if he might know something Christie doesn't. M-12's chariman, Randolph Loch, told Christie while he was undercover that Killian constantly pestered him to add an extra step to their plan, but does not know that extra step is. Schofield admits he does not know either, and Christie is burned alive by the thrusters of a figher. Schofield almost meets the same fate when the Black Raven arrives, and in the process of being rescued takes the French's CincLock unit.

As he orders Rufus to head the Kormoran ship in the English Channel, Schofield realises Gant is missing, and Knight somberly informs him of Gant's fate. Demanding that Rufus land, the distraught Schofield storms outside and cries. Gant's "yes" was going to be her answer to his proposal on a trip to Italy they were planning. When Schofield takes his gun out of its holster, Mother realises what he is about to do, and fights Schofield to try and stop him, but only when she calls him by his first name does he stop. Mother convinces him that the world needs men like him, and that Gant wouldn't want to see him give up since killing himself will only allow M-12 and Killian to win. Schofield determines that he will kill everyone involved in setting up the hunt and stop M-12's plans, but makes no promises about his actions after that.

Fairfax, having been escorted the the Kormoran ship in San Francisco by a team of Marines led by Schofield's friend Andrew Trent, and Book II in New York, find the ships guarded by members of some African countries' military forces. Likewise, when Schofield, Mother and Knight storm their ship, they also find their enemy is African, but have already been defeated. They find that the other remaining man on the list, Zemir, is being escorted by Israel's crack troops to disarm the missiles, and so Schofield's groups decides to hold back. However, the arrival of the remaining Skorpions and IG-88 disrupts their plan, and Zamanov beheads Zemir. Now the only one who can disarm the Chameleons, but unable to get close enough, Schofield orders Rufus to ram the ship.

As the ship sinks (thereby keeping the missiles from firing), Mother is apparently blown up by the IG-88, and Schofield becomes trapped in a sinking mini-sub with Zamanov. After killing the Russian with one of Knight's mountaineering pitons, Schofield looks through the launch order for the missiles, and notes that there is an extra entry on the list, as well as different missile types on the final two ships. He then finalises an uplink with Book II, and disarms the New York Kormoran's missiles, and before the sinking Kormoran ship can crush his mini-sub, Knights manages to rescue Schofield.

Onboard the Black Raven, Schofield remotely disarms the San Fransisco missiles before revealing what he's discovered from the information obtained from Killian's office. Killian, it seems, has his own endgame. He has substitutes several of the missiles so that India and Pakistan apparently engage in mutual nuclear bombardment, while China is hit by Taiwan. He has also forewarned the African countries of the upcoming power shift, hence why their soldiers were on the ships, to ensure the change of the world order. But that is not all; Killian has added an Israeli-made missile armed with an American warhead, based in Yemen and aimed at Mecca, which would strike on the first day of Ramadan. Rather than a Cold War, Killian would cause total global anarchy.

Though American attack subs are able to take down the two remaining Kormoran ships, the Black Raven is not fast enough to get them to Yemen in time, so Schofield asks Moseley to prepare two X-15s, the fastest planes in the world, to get them there. Once they take off, they learn that an aerial armada of African planes stands in their way, but American fighters are able to get them through (though Knight's pilot is killed and Knight falls behind. Killian then has the missile launch early, so Schofield asks Rufus to fly them alongside the Chameleon missile long enough for him to disarm it. Schofield does so, thanks to Knight sacrificing his plane to keep a pursuing African missile from destoying them moments before they succeed, and Schofield and Rufus eject before they too crash.

Schofield eventually wakes up as as Delta operator named Wade Brandeis locates them, telling them they have already got Knight. However it becomes clear that Brandeis and his men are taking them back to the Forteresse de Valois, having been told by his old ICG colleague, Noonan, to do so. Knight reveals Brandeis is the ICG agent who caused Knight and Rufus's problems. Upon being imprisoned in the Shark Pit, Noonan has Schofield placed in the guillotine, and Killian commends Schofield for his heroics, but not that the world, in its ignorance of his actions, will never thank him, and orders Noonan behead him.

Luckily, the still-alive Mother arrives, and keeps the guillotine's blade from falling, before setting Knight and Rufus free. In the ensuing battle, Knight gets his revenge on Brandeis by moving him into the path of an incoming shark, and Schofield also gets his revenge on Noonan when he forces him into the guillotine and sets the blade free. While Rufus and Mother stay behind to continue the fight against ExSol and the Delta men, Schofield and Knight pursue Killian through the castle. Narrowly avoiding being killed in Killian's deadly traps, Schofield kills Wexley before confronting Killian in his office, while Knight fights and kills Delacroix.

Killian attempts to convince Schofield that killing him, an unarmed civilian, will only result in his greatest vicotry since he would have then broken Schofield. However Schofield quotes Killian from earlier, regarding how suicide bombers don't care about winning because they die for their own greater battles, and so jumps out the window, taking Killian with him. While Killian falls screaming to his death, Schofield is saved at the last second by Knight, using his own Maghook

In the following months, M-12's remaining members all die in mysterious circumstances, the only connection being a memo to the President confirming that M-12 is no more. Meanwhile, Knight and Rufus meet their employer, Lillian Mattencourt. Mattencourt, despite being the richest woman in the world, was spurned constantly from joining M-12 simply because she was a woman, and when she learned of their plans for a new Cold War, decided to oppose them by setting Schofield against them, having heard of his reputation. Though Mattencourt confirms that Knight's reward, the equivalent of seven heads, will be transferred that night, she is killed in a car bomb set up by the Demon. Though annoyed at losing three heads to Knight, the Demon notes that it is simply part of the nature of their occupation, and with Knight's money now gone, considers the debt settled.

Four months after Killian's death, Schofield has taken indefinite leave from the Marine Corps because of the trauma of Gant's death, but attends a barbecue held by Mother and her husband Ralph. After she, Fairfax and Book II share their stories regarding that day, Mother also reveals that Knight and Rufus have had their names cleared, but neither have returned to the States. Mother pass Schofield a letter from Knight, in which the bounty hunter reveals that Schofield now has his loyalty and will always be there if he needs his help, and encourages Schofield to move on with his life without Gant. With that, Schofield returns to the Corps' headquarters, ready for duty once again.

CharactersEdit

Schofield's Main TeamEdit

Schofield's AlliesEdit

Majestic-12 and Other AdversariesEdit

Bounty HuntersEdit

Majestic-12's Bounty ListEdit

Others Edit

AnimalsEdit

Scarecrow SeriesEdit

GalleryEdit

TriviaEdit

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