When college kids hiking near an abandoned military industrial complex in West Virginia mysteriously disappear, special agent Janet Carter - earnest, honest, and fed up with the stifling chauvinistic environment at the Roanoke FBI headquarters - is called in to investigate. Unfortunately, there are no leads - it's as if the three just vanished into thin air. The authorities at the FBI are quick to write off the case as teenage runaways, and order Janet off the case - but not before she has the chance to speak with the father of one of the missing, Edwin Kriess.
Kriess is an ex-"sweeper," a member of an elite CIA task force trained to track down and bring in rogue agents. To be a sweeper means to be expertly trained in the art of hunting and killing, and Kriess was not only a sweeper himself, but the agent in charge of training and leading the entire program. Only something went wrong - an assignment to track down an agent involved in a Chinese espionage plot ended in a bloody massacre, and threatened to reveal a monumental government cover-up. Kriess was quietly sacrificed to the scandal, and has since lived in solitude.
But now his daughter is missing, and he knows that she didn't run away - and he will do anything to find her and bring her abductors to justice. His search brings him back to the abandoned industrial complex, where two right-wing religious fanatics - tied to the Waco disaster and inspired by the Oklahoma City bombing - are building a hydrogen bomb.
When the FBI learns of Kriess' independent investigations, they fear the worst: he knows too many secrets already, and if his search efforts are successful, a scandal of epic proportions would unfold. They decide they need a plant, someone who has access to Kriess, and can win his trust. Someone who will report back what he knows, and what he finds - and that person is Janet Carter.
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