Covert GameBy: Christine Feehan
For Zara. I love you with all my heart.
FOR MY READERS
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I couldn’t have written this book without the guidance of Dr. Christopher Tong. Thank you for allowing my heroine to take on your background in education and creativity in artificial intelligence. I appreciate the time you took helping me to understand so much about that field and machine learning. Thank you Neil Benson of Pearl River Echo Tours for patiently taking me into the swamp and showing me all the cool places where you grew up. I appreciate you giving me a love and understanding of the state, the swamp and the invaluable lands as well as the people. As always, thanks to Sheila English and Kathie Firzlaff for getting me through such a terrible loss and Brian Feehan for keeping me on track. I couldn’t do this without Domini Walker and Denise Tucker. Thank you to both of you.
THE GHOSTWALKER SYMBOL DETAILS
THE GHOSTWALKER CREED
We are the GhostWalkers, we live in the shadows
The sea, the earth, and the air are our domain
No fallen comrade will be left behind
We are loyalty and honor bound
We are invisible to our enemies and we destroy them where we find them
We believe in justice and we protect our country and those unable to protect themselves
What goes unseen, unheard, and unknown are GhostWalkers
There is honor in the shadows and it is us
We move in complete silence whether in jungle or desert
We walk among our enemy unseen and unheard
Striking without sound and scatter to the winds before they have knowledge of our existence
We gather information and wait with endless patience for that perfect moment to deliver swift justice
We are both merciful and merciless
We are relentless and implacable in our resolve
We are the GhostWalkers and the night is ours
Zara Hightower stepped into the town car with tinted windows, sliding along the leather seat, positioning her briefcase at her feet on the floor. She gave the man who slid in beside her a small smile and looked out the window, ignoring the way her heart wanted to accelerate. It was always this moment, when she was so close to her goal, when her body wanted to betray her. She never let it. Never. She was very, very good at staying in control. Breathing. Keeping her heart rate perfect, adrenaline at bay.
The car moved forward, and her head went up alertly. “Wait. I need my interpreter. She always travels with me.”
The car kept moving. The man beside her, Heng Zhang, turned his head and gave her a small, polite smile. “Miss Hightower, you do not need an interpreter. I speak English.”
“I’m aware that you do, Mr. Zhang, but I require my own interpreter. I made that very clear to Mr. Cheng when he invited me. I was given assurances when I agreed to speak with his people. I’ve turned down his request four times, and will do so this time as well if you don’t stop this car immediately, turn it around and get her.”
She kept her voice smooth and even. She had a certain reputation to uphold. She never lost her temper. She never raised her voice. She was always polite. She cut people down sweetly, so sweetly they almost didn’t realize at first that she was telling them off. She was an expert at that as well. Seeing as how she was considered one of the world’s leading minds in the field of artificial intelligence, those around her should expect that she could hold her own with anyone, but they always took one look at her and judged on appearances. Like now. Zhang made the mistake of looking her up and down and giving her a look that said she was nothing in his eyes before turning away from her and looking out the window.
In her head, she went through the moves that would end his life and then the driver’s. She would use one hard-edged chop to the throat, hard enough to drive through the trachea. Or she could just scratch his arm accidentally. Smile and apologize. Then, when he slumped on the seat, for good measure she could follow up by taking his gun and shooting the driver in the back of the head, shooting Zhang to be certain and then taking control of the car. One, maybe two seconds was all she’d need.