Nikola Tesla invented and demonstrated a devastating weapon that the tabloids of the time labeled a "death ray". Tesla claimed he'd never written down the plans.
What if he lied?
Seventy years after Tesla's death, the plans fall into the hands of a centuries-old conspiracy bent on world domination. Powerful men will stop at nothing to use the weapon to achieve their goal, even at the risk of nuclear war.
Former Recon Marine Nick Carter works for the Project, the shadow hand of the US President. Nick leads the Project team in the field. He has PTSD flashbacks and a psychic quirk that kicks in when bad things are about to happen. Selena Connor is his teammate and lover. She's world-class in ancient languages and accomplished in martial arts, but she'd never used her skills for real until she hooked up with Nick.
When someone tries to kill Nick and Selena, it sets them on a twisted path that will test their relationship to the breaking point. Each will be forced to question their commitment to each other and to the violent life they have chosen.
From the streets of Prague to the steaming jungles of Mexico, from the ancient hills of Tuscany to the barren plains of Eastern Russia, the story moves with relentless pace toward a final, explosive confrontation.
What readers are saying...
There are some books that you just can't put down and this is one of them...I was kept wondering what was going to happen next as I was caught up in the twists and turns of a masterly crafted plot...
This is another fast paced, on the edge of your seat thriller by Mr. Lukeman....
Alex Lukeman combines fact and fiction for a fast paced chapter of the Project Team that is hard to put down...
It was what he didn't hear that woke him.
Nick Carter listened. No insects. No frogs. No rustlings in the trees, no familiar sounds of the night. It was cool in the cabin after the heat of day. The clean scent of California cedars and damp earth drifted through the open windows.
Selena Connor slept next to him. He touched her on the shoulder and she came awake. His voice was soft in her ear.
"Get dressed. Something's wrong."
Nick pushed off the sheet. He placed his feet on the hard wooden floor and picked up the .45 on the nightstand.
Selena slipped naked out of bed. Her clothes were on a chair near the front bedroom window. Wranglers, a green tank top, underwear. She stayed away from the window, skipped the underwear, pulled on the jeans and the top. She slipped her feet into a pair of Nikes and slipped her Glock from its holster.
Nick stepped into his pants. He heard a tiny scraping sound of metal against metal outside the window, a familiar click as the lever released. Adrenaline flooded his body, a rush of raw energy.
"Selena, Grenade!" he shouted.
He threw his forearm across his face and ran straight through the screen door that led onto the deck, Selena behind him. He leapt off the deck, stumbled and fell and rolled to his feet again. Pain shot up his spine. The explosion of the grenade rocked the cabin.
The cedars were thirty exposed yards away. They ran across the gap and reached the concealing shadows of the grove. Nick looked back at his cabin. Bright flames lit the bedroom. The fire was already crawling up the outside wall toward the green metal roof.
Incendiary, he thought. An incendiary grenade. Shit. He took deep breaths and calmed himself.
"How many?" Selena asked. Her voice was low, tense.
"Probably more than one." He watched the flames spreading. "We have to take them down. I'll circle right and come out near the front. You go left. Watch for me."
He touched her arm. "Don't get hurt."
He moved away. Selena watched him go. Her heart thumped against her ribs. She began moving though the trees, her pistol held in both hands down at her side.
The flames roared through the dry wood of the cabin. Red and orange and yellow embers soared into the night sky. Small explosions sounded from inside the burning building. The noise covered Nick's movement through the cedars. He pushed branches aside and lifted his bare feet and set them down with careful precision, feeling the uneven ground. He stayed away from the edge of the grove and circled the flames.
He heard them talking before he saw them, two white men dressed in black. They had Uzis.
"They might of got out." The first man said. He was about six feet tall, lean. Ex-military, Nick thought, the way he's standing with that weapon. The second man was short, stocky.
"From that? Are you kidding?"
He waved at the building. The cabin was engulfed in flame. The framework began to appear as the inferno consumed the walls and interior.
Nick raised his pistol and listened.
"He shouted before it went off," the tall one said.
"Yeah, well. He can shout all the way to hell. They're fried. Let's get out of here."
"Hey, look over there. A cat." The tall one pointed.
A big, orange cat sat at the edge of the clearing, curious, watching the flames. Nick recognized him.
The cat was always around when they showed up. Nick owed him. He'd saved their lives a year before.
"Watch this," the man said. "Cat food." He raised his Uzi.
Nick put two rounds in the center of the tall man's back. He went down hard. The next two shots hit the short man in the chest and knocked him backward onto the ground.
Burps ran into the woods. Now we're even, buddy. Nick watched and waited. The bodies didn't move. He looked right and left, saw nothing. No one. He walked out into the open.
Selena's pistol barked in the woods, three hard, flat echoes. A third man fell out into the clearing, dressed in black like the others. Selena stepped from the trees. Nick went over to the man, scanning the shadows. He kicked another Uzi out of reach. Blood bubbled on the man's lips.
Nick knelt down. "Who sent you?"
The man looked up, his face contorted with fear. He coughed blood. He tried to speak and coughed again, a sudden gusher of bright red that spilled out over the brown earth. His chest stopped moving.
Selena walked over and stared down at the man she'd killed. Don't think about it. Deal with it later. She was getting good at tucking her thoughts and feelings away until she could look at them.
"Damn it," she said.
Nick got to his feet and gestured at the bodies. "They deserved what they got. That one over there was going to kill Burps. Just for fun."
"You're bleeding a little," she said. His chest was crossed with welts from the branches and scratches where the screen door had cut him going through.
"It's nothing. We'd better call Harker. There's a backup phone in the truck. "
Selena watched the shifting colors of the flames play over him. His gray eyes were black in the night. His skin glowed red in the firelight, the old scars dark shadows and spots and hollows on his body. They walked to his Silverado. He pulled a gym bag from behind the seat and put on running shoes and an old black tee shirt. He took a phone from the bag and stuck it in his pocket.
The cabin burned. They could feel the heat all the way across the clearing.
"Let's check the bodies." He went to the first man he'd killed and started going through his pockets. Selena took the man next to him.
"Nothing," she said.
"Not here, either." He went to the last body and felt a hard shape through the clothes. He pulled out a cell phone, the kind of cheap throwaway model you could buy anywhere with prepaid time. He pocketed the phone.
"This place is going to be crawling with cops and fire trucks soon," he said. "We have to get the bodies out of sight. Help me drag them into the trees."
They moved the three dead men deep into the woods, went back and collected the weapons, put them with the bodies.
He handed her the phone from the bag. "Give Harker a call while I find some socks."
Selena stood with the phone and watched him walk back to the truck. As she watched, the propane tank in back of the cabin exploded. She looked at the blazing building and realized she still held the Glock in her other hand.
How did I get here? she thought.
It was a few minutes before six in the morning in Virginia. Elizabeth Harker had been behind her desk for more than an hour. A cup of black coffee warmed her hand. She felt at home when she was behind the desk. The Project had become her life.
Elizabeth Harker had wide green eyes and milk-white skin. She was a small woman. Her size and looks and raven black hair made people think of a Tolkien fantasy where elves and fairies danced in the woods. People sometimes confused size and gender with competence and wrote her off. It was a mistake no one made twice.
Her satellite phone signaled a call.
Trouble, she thought, it's too early. She picked up.
"Director. Someone came after us at Nick's cabin. We need a clean up."
"Three. The cabin is toast. Literally."
"Are you all right?"
"Yes. Nick's scratched up some."
"Here, he'll tell you."
Elizabeth heard Selena say something and Nick came on.
"Director, we need a clean up team."
"So Selena said. What happened?" She listened while Nick told her.
"Hold on," she said. She picked up her desk phone, spoke briefly to someone on the other end. Set the phone down.
"A team is on the way. It will take them two hours. Hide the bodies and weapons before anyone gets there."
Nick watched the embers rise, every one a fire waiting to happen. There'd been a freak rain the day before. The cabin was in a wide clearing. There was plenty of space around the flames and there was no breeze. It might be all right. In the distance he heard the first siren.
"Fire trucks and the Sheriff will be here soon."
"What will you tell them?" Harker's voice echoed over the satellite link.
"Propane leak. They'll buy that, the tank went up with the cabin."
"Any idea who they were? Any ID?"
"No. A cell phone, nothing else. There might be something on it."
"Get back here as soon as you can. Don't get arrested."
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and thought about it. If someone had gone after Nick and Selena, they might go after the others. She called Ronnie Peete and told him what had happened. She called Lamont and Stephanie and told them Ronnie would pick them up.
The Project was the shadow hand of the President. No one was supposed to know who was on the team or where they lived. The Project was secret as far as the public was concerned, but it wasn't the public throwing grenades. Over the last few months too many people had found out about her group. She was getting the feeling that secret wasn't the operative word anymore.
Elizabeth sipped her coffee and looked at the picture of the Twin Towers she kept on her desk. Anytime she began to doubt why she was here, all she needed to do was look at that picture.
The day hadn't started well. She wondered what else it would bring.
Ronnie Peete and Lamont Cameron were on their way to pick up Stephanie. They rode in Ronnie's black Hummer,
"What do you figure?" Lamont said. He looked in the mirror on the door. A black Crown Vic tailed them a block behind.
"He was outside your building when I picked you up. It could be a cop or Feds. Could be the people who went for Nick. Harker said they used a grenade."
"Wouldn't be the first time. Nick's got bad karma or something about grenades."
"Karma? You going New Age on me?"
"Yeah, right." Lamont took out his pistol and pulled the slide partway back to check for a round. He rested it in his lap. "Nick's got to be pissed about the cabin."
Ronnie glanced in his mirror. The car was still there. Another black Ford entered the intersection ahead and turned toward them. The car behind sped up to close the gap.
"Here we go," Ronnie said.
"Think they're feds?"
Someone leaned out of the oncoming car as it neared and fired a machine pistol at them. The Hummer was fitted with bullet proof glass. The windshield starred with the rounds.
"Nope. Not feds."
Ronnie stepped hard on the emergency brake and cranked the steering left. The Hummer slid into a screeching 180 turn and slammed sideways into the other car and knocked it off to the side.
Ronnie released the brake, punched the accelerator down and headed straight for the second car. Lamont saw panic on the driver's face as the Hummer bore down on him. He tried to turn out of the way.
Ronnie's truck was modified with armor plating, a beefed up frame, a turbocharged engine and a lot of extra horses. A heavy black steel bumper and grill dominated the front. It hit the Ford like a 6000 pound hammer and bulldozed it over the curb. Ronnie kept the pedal down and pushed the car into a store front with a big plate glass window. The window disintegrated in an explosion of glass. Neatly dressed mannequins fell out onto the pavement.
A man scrambled out of the car. Ronnie rolled out of the Hummer and shot him, three quick rounds. Down the block, a woman started screaming.
Lamont got out and squatted down behind the Hummer a second before a large man came out of the car across the street firing an Uzi. The 9mm rounds rang against the steel plating on the Hummer. Lamont's first and second shots missed. The third and fourth shots didn't. The man dropped out of sight.
Ronnie fired. The driver fell forward over the wheel.
That fast, it was over. The echoes died away. Traffic was stopped at the intersections. Nothing moved on the block. Lamont saw a curtain flutter in an apartment window and swung toward it, pistol aimed in both hands. He saw a terrified woman step back out of sight.
Steam rose under the buckled hood of the car in the store front. The driver was dead, his head at an odd angle. The front seat passenger had a thick shard of plate glass from the store window sticking in his neck. An Uzi was clenched in his dead hand. The front of the car interior was wet and red with blood. The man Ronnie had killed lay sprawled on the sidewalk by the open car door.
"Let's check the other one," Lamont said.
They started across the street. No one moved by the second car. Ronnie saw gas underneath. He held out his arm and stopped Lamont. The gas tank exploded, ripping through the Ford.
Sirens were coming, lots of them. They went back to the Hummer. The right side was a mess. The rear quarter panel was crumpled and bent, the shiny black paint along the side marred and scratched, the front fender buckled in against the tire. The metalwork and windows were pocked with bullet holes.
"Messed up your ride," Lamont said.
Ronnie looked at his car and shook his head. "We'll need help with the cops. I'll call in."