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Find the truth. Act on it
~ Pickering's mantra

William Pickering is the director of the United States' National Reconnaissance Office and the hidden main antagonist of the novel Deception Point by Dan Brown.

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Biography

William Pickering rose to become the head of the NRO sometime in the past. He married and had a daughter, Diana, who trained to become a navigator. One day, while on a ship in the Red Sea, Diana's crew was attacked by suicide bombers and killed. Pickering was furious at NASA because they had previously promised to launch a spy satellite to track the terrorists responsible for the bombing.

As NASA-friendly president Zach Herney prepared to run for his second term, Pickering came up with a plan to ensure Herney's victory. He obtained pictures of a sex scandal involving the anti-NASA candidate Sedgwick Sexton and sent them to him. Herney, however, wished to run an honest campaign, and told Pickering that if he tried to use similar techniques in this election, he would have him indicted.

The conspiracy:

Pickering, in fact, was playing Herney for his own goals- he wished to incorporate NASA into the NRO and thus make it a military division, To win public support for this, he masterminded a conspiracy where he had a deep-sea ocean rock lifted up and blasted with hydrogen engines to make it look like a meteorite. He then had it inserted under the Milne Ice Shelf with a mini submarine. When a Canadian geologist discovered the "meteorite", Pickering sent a Delta Force team to force the geologist to send this information to NASA, and then kill him.

Herney sent Rachel Sexton, Sedgwick's daughter and an NRO operative, to the ice shelf to verify the discovery. Initially, the NASA research team claims it is real and holds signs of extraterrestrial life; the public announcement shocks the world and bolsters Herney's support. However, Rachel's team goes on a reconnaissance mission and discovers the insertion shaft, along with the body of a paleontologist who uncovered the shaft and wanted to expose it. The team is attacked by Pickering's Delta Force, and only Rachel and two others (Michael Tolland and Corky Marlinson) manage to escape alive.

Unraveling and defeat:

Pickering's plan goes awry when the Delta Force reports that the three were rescued by submarine and transported back to Washington. When he learns that Rachel told Herney's senior advisor about the false meteorite (although she didn't believe it), Pickering orders the Delta Force to kill her. They do so with a Hellfire missile strike disguised as a car bomb, in which Pickering himself also appeared to have perished in.

With freedom of movement now, Pickering and the Delta Force helicopter to Tolland's research ship, where he, Rachel, and Marlinson are attempting to fax Washington about the conspiracy. Pickering fires missiles at the ship, but the chaos gives time for Marlinson to speedboat for help. Two Delta soldiers are sent down to capture them, but Tolland kills one of them and takes the other hostage. An angry Pickering lands the helicopter on the ship and reveals himself to Rachel as the mastermind behind the whole plot. He explains that he set up the fraud in fear that opening NASA to the private sector would destroy national security for good.

Before Pickering can kill them, Rachel jumps in a explorer pod while Tolland drops the hostage soldier to the sharks. The release of the pod triggers an imbalance on the damaged ship, causing Pickering's helicopter to topple over into the sea and kill the last Delta soldier. The helicopter's missiles hit a magma plume on the seabed, opening up a huge vortex that begins to suck the ship under. Just then, a Coast Guard helicopter (sent by Marlinson) arrives to rescue Rachel and Tolland.

Pickering is last seen kneeling down on the bridge as the ship is sucked under. He prays that Diana didn't experience such horror as she died.

Physical Appearance

William Pickering is a small, bald man with hazel eyes and a pale face. He earned the nickname "the Quaker" due to his habit of wearing plain black suits every day. His appearance continually shocks Rachel, who is surprised that a man this simple-looking could wield so much power.