Shadow game


Chapter One

The first book in the GhostWalkers series, 2003

For my brother, Matthew King, many thanks for all the help with the research necessary for this book. And for McKenzie King, for her dynamite smile and her help in turning those book covers in the proper direction!

Special thanks to Cheryl Wilson. I have no idea what I'd do without you.

Chapter One

CAPTAIN Ryland Miller leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes in utter weariness. He could ignore the pain in his head, the knives shredding his skull. He could ignore the cage he was in. He could even ignore the fact that sooner or later, he was going to slip up and his enemies would kill him. But he could not ignore the guilt and anger and frustration rising like a tidal wave in him as his men suffered the consequences of his decisions.

Kaden, I can't reach Russell Cowlings. Can you?

He had talked his men into the experiment that had landed them all in the laboratory cages in which they now resided. Good men. Loyal men. Men who had wanted to serve their country and people.

We all made the decision. Kaden responded to his emotions, the words buzzing inside Ryland's mind. No one has managed to raise Russell.

Ryland swore softly aloud as he swept a hand over his face, trying to wipe away the pain speaking telepathically with his men cost him. The telepathic link between them had grown stronger as they all worked to build it, but only a few of them could sustain it for any length of time. Ryland had to supply the bridge, and his brain, over time, balked at the enormity of such a burden.

Don't touch the sleeping pills they gave you. Suspect any medication. He glanced at the small white pill lying in plain sight on his end table. He'd like a lab analysis of the contents. Why hadn't Cowlings listened to him? Had Cowlings accepted the sleeping pill in the hopes of a brief respite? He had to get the men out. We have no choice, we must treat this situation as if we were behind enemy lines. Ryland took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He no longer felt he had a choice. He had already lost too many men. His decision would brand them as traitors, deserters, but it was the only way to save their lives. He had to find a way for his men to break out of the laboratory.

The colonel has betrayed us. We have no other choice but to escape. Gather information and support one another as best you can. Wait for my word.

He became aware of the disturbance around him, the dark waves of intense dislike bordering on hatred preceding the group nearing the cage where he was kept.

Someone is approaching... Ryland abruptly cut off telepathic communication to those of his men he could reach. He remained motionless in the center of his cell, his every sense flaring out to identify the approaching individuals.

It was a small group this time: Dr. Peter Whitney, Colonel Higgens, and a security guard. It amused Ryland that Whitney and Higgens insisted on an armed guard accompanying them despite the fact that he was locked behind both bars and a thick glass barrier. He was careful to keep his features expressionless as they neared his cage.

Ryland lifted his head, his steel gray eyes as cold as ice. Menacing. He didn't try to hide the danger he represented. They had created him, they had betrayed him, and he wanted them to be afraid. There was tremendous satisfaction in knowing they were... and that they had reason to be.

Dr. Peter Whitney led the small group. Whitney, liar, deceiver, monster maker. He was the creator of the Ghost Walkers. Creator of what Captain Ryland Miller and his men had become. Ryland stood up slowly, a deliberate ripple of muscle- a lethal jungle cat stretching lazily, unsheathing claws as he waited inside his cage.

His icy gaze touched on their faces, lingered, made them uncomfortable. Graveyard eyes. Eyes of death. He projected the image deliberately, wanting, even needing them to fear for their lives. Colonel Higgens looked away, studied the cameras, the security, watched with evident apprehension as the thick barrier of glass slid away. Although Ryland remained caged behind heavy bars, Higgens was obviously uneasy without the barrier, uncertain just how powerful Ryland had become.

Ryland steeled himself for the assault on his hearing, his emotions. The flood of unwanted information he couldn't control.