Conspiracy Game(8)

By: Christine Feehan

Weariness stole over him. Loneliness. He had chosen this life many years ago, the only choice he had at the time. Most of the time he never regretted it. But sometimes, when he sat thirty feet up in a tree with a rifle in his hands and death surrounding him, he wondered what it would be like to have a home and family. A woman. Laughter. He couldn’t remember laughter, not even with Ken, and Ken could be amusing at the most inopportune times.

It was too late for him. He was rough and cold and any gentleness he might have been born with had been beat out of him long before he was a teenager. He looked at the people and the world around him stripped of beauty, seeing only the ugliness. It was kill or be killed in his world, and he was a survivor. He settled back and closed his eyes, needing to sleep for a few minutes.

He woke to the sounds of screams. The sound often haunted him in his nightmares, screams and gunfire, and the sight of blood running in dark pools. His hands curled around the rifle, finger stroking the trigger even before his eyes snapped open. Jack took a long, deep breath and looked around him. Flash fires came from the direction of the camp. Several of his traps had been sprung, and once again chaos reigned in the rebel encampment. Bullets spat into the jungle, zipped through leaves and tore bark from trees. The ghost in the rain forest had struck again and again, and fear had the rebels by the throats.

On and off over the next few hours, some hapless soldier tripped a trap, probably trying to get rid of it, and the camp would erupt into pandemonium, confusion, and panic nearly leading to rebellion. The soldiers wanted to head for the base camp and Biyoya refused, adamant that they would recover the prisoner. It was a tribute to his leadership—or cruelty—that he was able to rally them after each attack. There was no sleep for anyone, and the fog crept into the forest, blanketing the trees and mixing with the smoke from the continual fires.

Through the haze, Jack saw the camp on the move, abandoning their position. Biyoya screamed at his men and shook his fist at the camp, the first real indication that the long night had taken its toll on him. He’d lost more than half of his soldiers, and they were forced to group in a tight knot around him to protect him. They didn’t look very happy, but they marched stoically through the forest on the muddy, torn road.

The rain began again, a steady drizzle that added to the stirring life of the jungle. Chimpanzees resumed their eating and birds flitted from tree to tree. Jack caught a glimpse of a boar moving through the brush. An hour went by, soaking his clothes and his skin. He never moved, waiting with the patience born of a lifetime of survival. Biyoya would have his best trackers and sharpshooters concealed, and they would wait for him to make a move. Major Biyoya didn’t want to go back to General Ekabela and admit he’d lost skilled soldiers to his prisoner. His escaped prisoner. That kind of thing would lose the major his hard-earned reputation as a ruthless interrogator.

Jack’s eyes were different, had always been different, and after Whitney had genetically enhanced him, his sight had become amazing. He didn’t understand the workings, but he had the vision of an eagle. He didn’t care how it was done, but he could see distances few others could conceive of. Out of the corner of his eye, movement to the left of his position caught his attention, the colors in bands of yellow and red. The sniper moved cautiously, keeping to the heavier foliage, so that Jack only caught glimpses of him. His spotter kept to the left, covering every step the sniper took as he examined the ground and surrounding trees.

Jack began a slow move into a better position, but halted when he heard a feminine scream in the distance followed closely by a child’s frightened cry. Jack jerked his head up, his body stiffening, sweat breaking out on his brow and trickling down into his eyes. Did Biyoya know his trigger? His one weakness? That was impossible. His mouth went dry and his heart slammed in his chest. What did Biyoya know about him? Ken had been brutally tortured. There wasn’t a square inch on his twin’s body that hadn’t been cut with tiny slices or stripped of skin. Could the interrogation have broken Ken?

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