Home > Conspiracy Game (GhostWalkers #4)

Conspiracy Game (GhostWalkers #4)
Author: Christine Feehan

CHAPTER 1

Night fell fast in the jungle. Sitting in the middle of the enemy camp, surrounded by rebels, Jack Norton kept his head down, eyes closed, listening to the sounds coming out of the rain forest as he took stock of his situation. With his enhanced senses he could smell the enemy close to him, and even farther away, hidden in the dense, lush vegetation. He was fairly certain this was a satellite camp, one of many deep in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, somewhere west of Kinshasa.

He opened his eyes to narrow slits to look around him, to plan out each step of his escape, but even that tiny movement sent pain shooting through his skull. The agony from the last beating was nearly shattering, but he didn’t dare lose consciousness. They would kill him next time, and next time was coming much quicker than he had anticipated. If he didn’t find a way out soon, all the physical and psychic enhancements in the world wouldn’t save him.

The rebels had every right to be angry with him. Jack’s twin brother, Ken, and his paramilitary GhostWalker team had successfully extracted the rebels’ first truly valuable American political prisoners. A United States senator had been captured while traveling with a scientist and his aides. The GhostWalkers had come in with deadly precision, rescued the senator, the scientist, and his two aides along with the pilot, and left the camp in shambles. Ken had been captured and the rebels had had a field day torturing him. Jack had no choice but to go in after his brother.

The rebels weren’t any happier with Jack for depriving them of their prisoner then they had been with Ken. Jack had laid down the covering fire as the GhostWalkers were extracting Ken and had taken a hit. The wound wasn’t critical—he’d been testing his leg and it wasn’t broken—but the bullet had driven his leg out from under him on impact. He’d waved his team off and resigned himself to the same torture his brother had endured—one more thing they shared as they had in their younger days.

The first beating hadn’t been so bad—before Major Biyoya showed up. They’d kicked and punched him, stomping on his wounded leg a couple of times, but for the most part, they’d refrained from torturing him, waiting to find out what General Ekabela had in mind. The general had sent Biyoya.

The majority of the rebels were military trained, and many had at one time been of high rank in the government or military, until one of the many coups, and now they were growing marijuana and wreaking havoc, raiding smaller towns and killing everyone who dared to oppose them or had the farms or land the rebels wanted. No one dared cross into their territory without permission. They were skilled with weapons and in guerrilla warfare—and they liked to torture and kill. They had a taste for it now, and the power drove them to continue. Even the UN avoided the area—if they did try to bring medicine and supplies to the villages, the rebels robbed them.

Jack opened his eyes enough to look down at his bare chest where Major Keon Biyoya had carved his name. Blood dripped, and flies and other biting insects congregated for the feast. It wasn’t the worst of the tortures by any means, or the most humiliating. He had endured it stoically, removing himself from the pain as he had all of his life, but the fire of retribution burned in his belly.

Rage ran cold and deep, like a turbulent river hidden beneath the calm surface of his expressionless face. The dangerous emotion poured through his body and flooded his veins, building his adrenaline and strength. He deliberately fed it, recounting every detail of the last interrogation session with Biyoya. The cigarette burns, small circles marring his chest and shoulders. The whip marks that had peeled the skin from his back. Biyoya had taken his time carving his name deep, and when Jack made no sound, he’d hooked up battery cables to shock him—and that had been only the beginning of several hours at the hands of a twisted madman. The precise, almost surgical, two-inch cuts covering nearly every inch of his body were identical to what this man had done to his brother—and with each slice, Jack felt his brother’s pain, when he could push away his own.

Jack tasted the rage in his mouth. With infinite slowness, he eased his hands to the seam of his camouflage pants, fingertips seeking the minute end of the thin wire sewn there. He began to draw it out with a smooth, practiced motion, his brain working all the while with icy precision, calculating distances to weapons, planning each step to get him into the foliage of the jungle. Once there, he was certain of his ability to elude his captors, but he first had to cover bare ground and get through a dozen trained soldiers. The one and only thing he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, was that Major Keon Biyoya was a walking dead man.

Two soldiers tramped through the camp toward him. Jack felt the coil inside of him winding tighter and tighter. It was now or never. His hands were tied in front of him, but his captors had been careless, leaving his feet free after the last torture session, believing him incapacitated. Biyoya had smashed the butt of a rifle into the wound on his leg several times, angry that Jack had given no response. Jack had learned at a very young age never to make a sound, to go somewhere far away in his head and separate mind from body, but men like Biyoya couldn’t conceive of that possibility. Some men didn’t, couldn’t break, even with drugs in their system and pain wracking their bodies.

A hand bunched in Jack’s hair and yanked hard to bring his head up. Ice-cold water splashed in his face, ran down his chest into the wounds. The second soldier rubbed a paste of salt and burning leaves into the wounds as both laughed.

“Major wants his name to show up nice and pretty,” one said tauntingly in his native tongue. He leaned down to peer into Jack’s eyes.

He must have seen death there—the cold rage and icy determination. He gasped, but was a heartbeat too slow in trying to jerk away. Jack moved fast, a speeding blur of his hands as he looped thin wire around the rebel’s neck, dragging him backward off balance, using him as a shield as the other soldier jerked up his gun and fired. The bullet slammed into the first rebel and drove Jack back.

Chaos erupted in the camp, men scattering for cover and firing toward the jungle, confused as to where the shooting was coming from. Jack had only seconds to make his way to cover. Pulling a knife from the waistband of the rebel, he stabbed the dying soldier in the lung and turned the blade to the ropes binding him, still holding the soldier as a shield. Jack threw the knife with deadly accuracy, drilling the rebel with the gun through the throat. Dropping the dead body, Jack ran.

He zigzagged his way across the open ground, kicking logs out of the fire pit, sending them scattering in all directions, deliberately running through the soldiers so that anyone firing at him would chance hitting one of their own. He ran at one soldier, slamming his fist into the man’s throat with one hand and relieving him of his weapon with the other. He leapt over the body and kept running, ducking into a group of five men scrambling to their feet. Jack kicked one in the knee, dropping him hard, wrenching the machete from his hand and delivering a killing blow before whirling through the other four, slicing with an expertise born of long experience and sheer desperation.

Shouts and bullets rang through the jungle so that birds rose from the treetops, screeching into the air. Screams of the wounded mingled with the desperate sounds of angry leaders shouting to establish order. A soldier rose up in front of Jack, sweeping the area with an assault rifle. Jack hit the ground and somersaulted, lashing out with his foot, taking the man to the ground, ripping the rifle out of his hands, and using his enhanced strength, delivering a killing blow with the butt of the gun. He slung the weapons around his neck to leave his hands free and snagged a long knife and another rifle as he raced toward the cover of the jungle. The soldier had inadvertently provided him with covering fire, shooting several of his fellow rebels.

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