In Myke Cole’s latest high-octane, action-packed military fantasy, the fate of undead Navy SEAL James Schweitzer will be decided—one way or another...
The Gemini Cell took everything from Jim Schweitzer: his family, his career as a Navy SEAL, even his life. Hounded across the country, Schweitzer knows the only way he can ever stop running, the only way his son can ever be safe, is to take the fight to the enemy and annihilate the Cell once and for all.
But the Cell won’t be easily destroyed. Out of control and fighting a secret war with the government it once served, it has dispatched its shadowy Director to the far reaches of the subarctic in search of a secret magic that could tip the balance of power in its favor. Schweitzer must join with the elite warriors of both America and Canada in a desperate bid to get there first—and avert a disaster that could put the Cell in control.
About the Author
As a security contractor, government civilian, and military officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from counterterrorism to cyber warfare to federal law enforcement. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He recently joined the cast of the TV show Hunted on CBS as part of an elite team of fugitive hunters. All that conflict can wear a guy out. Thank goodness for fantasy novels, comic books, late-night games of Dungeons & Dragons, and lots of angst-fueled writing. Myke is the author of Javelin Rain and Gemini Cell, prequels to his Shadow Ops series, which includes Breach Zone, Fortress Frontier, and Control Point.
Read an Excerpt
One Week Earlier
James Schweitzer fled into the darkness and the city of Des Moines roused itself to action.
Senator Don Hodges bounced on his shoulder, grunting with each jostling step. His suit was rumpled along with his elder-statesman dignity; only his hair remained perfect. Schweitzer's magically heightened sense of smell was nearly overwhelmed by the generously applied spray that held it in place.
"Put me down, damn it!" Hodges managed winded gasps between bumps. "I can walk."
"If you can walk, you can run," Schweitzer said, "and if you can run, you can run away."
"I know I can't outrun you," Hodges choked. "I'm not stupid!"
"You're a politician," Schweitzer replied. "It's a job requirement."
The explosions and gunfire in Hodges' office had drawn the attention of the police. Schweitzer could see the dancing colors of police car lights reflecting off the undersides of the thick clouds that hung low and close over the city. A living man wouldn't have noticed anything, but death and reanimation had made Schweitzer's senses more powerful. He knew how he would look to a passerby, a ragged corpse, missing an arm, running as fast as a speeding car, as silent as a stalking cat.
Or he would have been if it hadn't been for the man flopping on his shoulder. Hodges wheezed. "Where are you taking me?"
"Somewhere we can talk."
"We can talk right here."
The lights may have been faint, but the sirens were loud enough to be heard by anyone. It sounded like every cop in the world was converging on the building Schweitzer had just fled.
"Nice try," Schweitzer said. "I don't think the cops would take too kindly to a zombie kidnapping a Senator. I'll put you down as soon as it's safe."
"I'll call them off," Hodges said.
"Do you think I'm stupid?" Schweitzer asked.
Hodges went silent for a moment, and Schweitzer could almost hear the gears turning in his head as he tried to figure a way out of this. But it was just a moment. The man thought fast. "I just watched you take out my entire security detail in the blink of an eye. Surely, you can handle a few cops."
"Surely, I can," Schweitzer agreed, "but you're forgetting that I'm one of the good guys here. I don't want to hurt other good guys."
"Well, you're hurting me now."
"I'd hardly call you one of the good guys, and I'm not hurting you. Not yet."
Hodges went quiet again. Schweitzer's real gut had stopped churning the moment he died, but his spiritual gut more than made up for it, his anxiety's phantom limb. He hated threatening Hodges, even if it would secure his cooperation. Schweitzer's death and resurrection had made him into a horror-movie monster, but those changes were physical. His heart and soul were still his own, and he had fought like a lion to keep it that way. He wasn't a man who bullied others. Life in the SEALs had made him no stranger to the utility of violence, but that didn't mean he liked it. Stealth was key to his former role, but he had always preferred a stand-up fight, facing the enemy, showing the world who and what he was.
He thought of his wife, Sarah, and his son, Patrick, both gone now, one to the afterlife, the other to the care of his former enemy. He remembered how they'd looked at him as they'd fled through the woods from the Gemini Cell. Sarah, eyes forced wide so as not to betray her disgust; Patrick showing his naked fear of what his father had become.
Hodges might be his prisoner, but he hadn't taken the Senator to punish him. Eldredge had said that Hodges was the man who knew about the Cell and authorized its funding, which meant he was the man who could help Schweitzer shut it down. But that was nothing compared to the fact that threatening Hodges made Schweitzer feel like the monster he knew he looked like. His spiritual gut churned with the worry that if he acted that part often enough, it would eventually become a distinction in search of a difference.
Schweitzer raced for an unlit alley snaking its way between two office buildings, windows dark at this time of night. His augmented hearing brought him the sharp intakes of breath and mutters of every nearby security guard, street sweeper, or couple out for a late-night stroll. There were precious few of these in Des Moines. It was a city that truly died after dark.
He could smell the metallic tang of the Des Moines River, the soft stink of garbage and motor oil. He shouldered a Dumpster aside, careful to keep Hodges' head clear, then burst out into the streetlights, speeding toward the railing that separated the asphalt from the dark water flowing beneath it.
Hodges, seeing what was about to happen, began to thrash. "Wait! What are you . . ."
Schweitzer leapt the railing and yanked Hodges' body off his shoulder, locking the Senator close to him and arrowing him into as graceful a dive as he could manage. Despite his best effort, there was still quite a splash, and then all sound was swallowed by the river water enveloping them.
Hodges flailed, but he might as well have been a child, for all the good it did him against Schweitzer's magical strength. Schweitzer pinned him easily in place, his single arm as unyielding as an iron bar.
He kicked his legs, righting them and preparing to swim to the surface if Hodges panicked and swallowed water. But the Senator kept his cool, and Schweitzer could feel the muscles in Hodges' throat constricting as he pushed the air down out of his neck in an effort to keep his lungs inflated.
Schweitzer swallowed his surprise and took advantage of the reprieve. He kicked along, moving them underwater for about thirty seconds. Schweitzer could easily hear the rapid beating of the Senator's heart. When the oxygen starvation made the beats come slower, Schweitzer kicked off again, this time up to the surface.
"Don't screa . . ." Schweitzer was whispering in Hodges' ear, but he needn't have bothered. Hodges wasn't screaming, wasn't even gasping. He was taking short, shallow breaths, hyperventilating like a rabbit. That was good. They had taught Schweitzer to do that in training, a little trick that would help them stay down longer.
Schweitzer kicked off again, dragging them underwater until he heard the slowing of Hodges' heartbeat, then surfaced so he could take a breath. "Just relax," Schweitzer said. "I'm not going to drown you." But above the water, Schweitzer had a good scent of the blood in Hodges' carotid. He was frightened, to be sure. Excited, but not panicked. Not by a long shot. Hodges ignored him, taking one deep breath, then hyperventilating again.
Schweitzer could hear the whirring of helicopters, the screaming of sirens, but they were much fainter now, the response focusing on the Senator's office. Schweitzer moved down the river, away from the sounds.
At last, he dragged the Senator up onto the rocky shore under a bridge overpass, the tons of metal and concrete above them occasionally vibrating beneath a passing truck. Hodges lay on his back, gasping freely now, giving full rein to his lungs' desperate scramble for air. He coughed.
"You okay?" Schweitzer asked.
Hodges waved a hand weakly.
"I told you I wasn't going to drown you."
"I figured . . . I figured if you wanted me dead, you would've done it back in my office."
"I don't want you dead."
Hodges propped himself up on his elbows, spat. "What do you want?"
"What's with that breathing trick?"
"You hyperventilated each time we surfaced."
"I was panicking. You try being dragged under the water by a living corpse."
Schweitzer shook his head. "Don't fuck with me. They taught me that in BUD/S. Purges the CO2 in your blood so you can hold your breath longer."
Hodges opened his mouth to respond, then finally shrugged. "You know what I did before I got elected?"
"I know you were in the CIA. I always figured you were an analyst."
"Maybe I was, and maybe I wasn't. We all had to go through training before we went overseas."
"What'd you do for them?" Schweitzer asked.
"How about you answer my question first?"
Anger flared. He was the stronger here. He had saved Hodges' life and now Hodges was in his control. He would decide who asked the questions. No, that's how jinn think. You have to be smarter. If he was going to get what he wanted from Hodges, they would have to work together.
"I need your help," Schweitzer said.
Hodges looked genuinely shocked. "What the hell could I possibly help you with?"
Schweitzer thought of Sarah stopping him in the forest as they fled the Cell what seemed a lifetime ago. Still alive, still his wife, him still clinging to the illusion that they were together, as they had been when he still breathed. Wherever you are, they will come. It's the government. They don't give up. They don't run out of money. You have to stop this threat.
Sarah was dead now, her body torn to bloody scraps, her spirit drifting in the soul storm. Alongside all the others he'd known and loved. His brother, Peter. His best friend, Steve. His mother. So many dead. But his son was still alive. Even now, Patrick was on his way west in the care of Dr. Eldredge, the scientist who'd overseen Schweitzer's resurrection before going rogue himself.
Sarah was right. If he ever wanted a chance to be reunited with his son, if he ever wanted Patrick to have a life that consisted of something other than looking over his shoulder, he'd have to take the fight to the enemy. He'd have to find a way to stop the Cell in its tracks.
Hodges took Schweitzer's silence for consideration. The burnt-sugar smell of his adrenaline increased. "You are going to kill me."
"That depends on you," Schweitzer said. It was a lie and he knew it. Schweitzer wasn't above killing, but killing Hodges would solve nothing. If Hodges was going to help him, he'd have to be breathing to do it.
But it was too soon to play his whole hand. He crab-walked a step closer to Hodges. "Tell me what you know about the program that created me."
"I don't know a goddamn thing abou . . ."
Quick as a striking snake, Schweitzer seized Hodges by the throat and stood. He locked his hand precisely around the Senator's windpipe, knuckles digging up into the hypoglossal nerve. He would be able to breathe, but the pain would be extreme.
Hodges gave no sign of his discomfort other than a slight tipping of his head to ease the pressure. Schweitzer recognized the "four by four" breathing technique he'd been taught in BUD/S. Four seconds in and four seconds out. Not a guarantee, but it would go a long way toward keeping Hodges from fainting or even wincing. Whatever he had done for the CIA, he was no analyst.
"I told you not to fuck with me." Schweitzer put an animal growl into his voice; he hoped it was enough to convince Hodges that he wasn't human and therefore wasn't prone to human sympathy.
But Hodges didn't so much as blink.
Schweitzer snarled and lifted the Senator off his feet, letting his spinal column take his entire body weight. He couldn't hold him like this for long without injuring him. "Just because I'm a good guy doesn't mean I won't hurt you until you tell me what I want to know."
Hodges actually smiled. He gurgled around Schweitzer's vise grip, saliva bubbling out of the corners of his mouth. "Look at you. You're exactly what you look like. A cartoon monster. Same on the inside as on the outside."
A spike of hot rage mixed with sick shame. He remembered Sarah looking at him, fighting to keep the disgust off her face. Before he knew what he was doing, he'd shaken Hodges hard enough to rattle his teeth.
Hodges coughed, choked. His face had turned dark purple, his cheeks beginning to swell, but he kept smiling. "You're not going to hurt me, Jim. I know that much."
The rage bled out of him, and Schweitzer sagged. He could play the monster, but in the end, it was just play. He had been a monster to his targets and their lackeys when he'd still worked for the Cell. He had been a monster to his wife and son. Why not be the monster? Why are you trying so hard to be human? You're not a human anymore.
But when Schweitzer searched his dead heart, he knew the answer. Rightly or wrongly, he still wanted life. Not the parody of his current existence, a soul driving a dead machine, but real life. I didn't have enough time, he thought. I was robbed. The world owed him years, and all he knew was that he couldn't possibly collect if he acted the animal it was trying to make of him.
He jerked his fingers open, and Hodges slid down to his feet, hands going up to his throat, massaging the red blotches beginning to form there.
"You're right; I'm not going to hurt you."
Hodges smirked. "I know."
"But you're a dead man anyway," Schweitzer said. "The Cell will come for you. You'd have been dead back in your office if I hadn't been there. Worse, you'd be walking around with something like me looking out through your eyes."
"You're lying," Hodges said, but Schweitzer could smell the terror in the chemical makeup of his bloodstream, could hear it in his quickening heart.
"You know I'm not. There's only one thing that can fight this force you supposedly know nothing about, Senator, and you're looking at it."
"And that's what you want? To fight them?"
"So . . . why save me?" Hodges asked. "You're the only force that can fight them, go do it."
"You also know that this program you know nothing about employs many creatures just like me," Schweitzer said. "I can't fight them all. Not myself. But you can shut the program down."
Hodges sighed. For a moment, Schweitzer thought he would continue the I-Know-Nothing line, but he only shook his head. "It's not that simple."
"The Director is dead," Schweitzer said. "You know that? He's living dead, like me."
Hodges head jerked up, the color bleeding from his face. "How do you know that?"
Eldredge, Schweitzer thought. But he wasn't about to sell out his one ally, the man who even now was caring for his son. "I have my sources."
"If we're going to trust one another, then we have to trust one another." Hodges spread his hands, smiling. At least he had a sense of humor.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although I usually like military stories if there the main focus is the story not the battles, I'm usually not a fan of anything to do with zombies or stories about the undead. That being said I do love a good urban fantasy. I enjoyed the sincerity of the characters and cared about each one. It was an exciting read that seems to be open to more books in the series.