Deutermann (Sweepers, 1997, etc.), a retired Navy captain who served the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms control specialist, returns in top form with this gripping tale of men caught up in a nasty business: selling germs. Fort Gillem, near Atlanta, is not really a base but a kind of depot where the military rents or auctions off surplus matÆ’riel. Wendall Carson and Bud Lambry, who work there, have discovered a cylinder of Wet Eye (a deadly biological gas that eats the human eyeball back to the optic nerve) that has misguidedly shown up for destruction. Carson has made a secret deal to sell the gas for a cool million and, naturally, would rather not split it with Bud, who eventually falls into a metal-shredder while trying to stab Carson. Before Carson can move the gas, military investigator David Stafford is sent by his Washington office to Fort Gillem to look into the auction business. Stafford, a whistle-blower who has paid dearly for his naivetÆ’, is persona non grata in D.C.; he has also lost a wife (to her boss) and an arm (to a stray bullet in a gas station holdup). To cover up Lambry's disappearance, Carson sets fire to Lambry's house. Meanwhile, when it's discovered at the Wet Eye's original storage depot in Alabama that the cylinder is missing, all hell erupts: Apparently, the Wet Eye has a way of going through unfamiliar chemical changes--mutations. Carson decides to make his sale quick, though he knows that the cylinder is heating up. Then Gwen Warren, who runs a children's home, warns Stafford that one of her girls, a telepathic mute, has seen the cylinder in Carson's mind. Soon the Army starts a coverup of its own, and Stafford is on the run--trying to protect himself, Gwen, and her telepath. Solid, authentic detail that bolts each event to the next and creates an intensely plausible entertainment--with a leavening of telepathy for added pleasure.