Book One

by A. J. Wildman

Kate Cassidy refuses to believe her husband, Michael, is dead, even weeks later on her knees at his grave. Once the frontrunner in the Moto GP, he was killed by a hit and run driver mere hours after his last win. Like her soul, every dream, every promise of a better life, is shattered with the sudden loss of the man she'd lived her life to love.

He wakes in a tank, absent the memories of who he was. Dr. Alexander Madison has made him a weapon, an assassin used to eliminate the targets of nefarious world powers.

However, the carefully constructed world Dr. Madison and his cohorts have designed at BioTech Industries is about to unravel. They've underestimated the one they've labeled SOREN, and he's slowly making peace with the beast they've injected into his bloodstream. Michael wants his life back, but first, he'll have to get rid of a microchip in his brain, escape Madison's other creations, and forge a rocky relationship with a persistent detective. He's a pound of flesh from his wife's arms, and once he cuts Spekter's chains, retribution will finally be at hand.


Chapter One

Austin, Texas



“A toast,” Michael Cassidy began, shot glass full of tequila tilted haphazardly in his hand. With a smug grin fixed on his handsome face, the speech was bound to be less toast worthy and more laughable by the end.

“A toast to life, love, and everything in between.” He paused, dramatically glancing around to be sure everyone was in rapt attention to what he was about to say. “Ah, screw it. To winning another race and letting the losers inhale my carbon. Salute!”

Loud roars went up about the room, followed by the unanimous clinking of glasses, as he and his entourage turned up a fifth shot of Mexican fire water.

An hour later, Kate led her husband from the bar, one arm around his waist as he crooned “Ain't No Sunshine” a half octave off beat. They had nearly reached the car when he waved an arm in the air, throwing their bodies off balance and into a wall.

Kate giggled as he pulled her to his chest, still singing his horrible rendition of one of her favorite songs.

He'd won another race, his fourth consecutive win on the Moto GP. She had no idea what had spawned the winning streak and didn't really care. All that mattered was her husband was a few more races closer to the championship, better sponsors, and the fulfillment of a lifetime dream.

“Alright, Michael,” she said, laughter in her sweetly southern voice, “let's get you in the car before the dogs start howling.”

Michael stopped mid stanza, crystal blue eyes bright with intoxicated mischief, arms still holding her close. “Can we have sex in the back seat before we go to the hotel?”

Kate wriggled free, slapped his chest and encouraged him forward. “No. I'm not a voyeur, and I seriously doubt you'd live up to my expectations this night.”

She poured his body into the passenger seat. He still donned his racing jacket, and boots, though he had bothered to change into jeans. His hand slid tenderly across her face as she buckled his seat belt.

“You're my everything, Katherine Cassidy,” Michael's deep voice slurred. “Don't you ever forget that.”

Kate smiled and kissed his cheek, covered with days old stubble. “Ditto, my inebriated Spekter,” she drawled, teasing him with the name he'd been recently given on the circuit.

A lopsided grin formed on his face as she closed the door.

* * *

A murmuring by her bed woke her, but not because it was invasive, or loud. The rather correctness of the sound pulled her from a dreamless slumber. With heavy eyelids, Kate peered through a blurry haze in the direction of the replicating noise. The little, white room appeared gnarled, each object bending and leaning in ways they shouldn't.

She blinked several times, lightly shaking her head, until the room came into better focus. Soon, she realized her body was attached to the murmuring machine, which beeped and hiccupped and paused in its own melodious rhythm. The crisp, not altogether pleasant, aroma of disinfectant and sterile bandages wafted into her nose and pulled a gag from her throat.

A tiny window to her left told her nothing about what lay beyond, save it was night. Multiple bouquets of colorful flowers sat perched in vases about the room. Someone had been sleeping in the black reclining chair beside the window. A pillow and blanket were folded on top of one another in the seat.

Kate tried to sit up, but vomit rose in the back of her throat. She returned her head to the pillow and wiped a clammy hand across her forehead, carefully drawing in air so as not to absorb any more of the pungent cleanliness than needed.

What happened?

Kate cleared a very dry throat, and called, “Hello”, but the word faded into the empty space between her and the door.

Silence, apart from the comforting, murmuring machine, answered her question. She swallowed, licking cracked lips, and opened her mouth to call again, when the door to her room swung in.

A tall, middle-aged man appeared just inside the doorway, wearing a crisp, white hospital jacket, complete with plastic coated badge, stethoscope, and neat little pockets, of which the one below his collar held an assortment of colored pens. He stared at her for a long moment, eyebrows squeezed together as he struggled with some internal occupation.

The doctor stepped a little closer to her bed, plain brown clipboard holding a half-inch worth of papers in hand, strange smile across his nondescript face.

The smile was so odd, in fact, Kate suddenly had the urge to reach down and make sure she had both limbs.

“It's nice to see you're awake, Katherine,” he said. “We were hopeful it would be soon.”


“How long have I been here?” she stammered, “What happened? Where’s my husband?”

The last memory she had was of her and Michael leaving a bar. They were heading back to their hotel in Austin.

Kate rubbed her eyes and images pressed forward and receded in fragments, shattered pieces of the very last moments her brain had dutifully logged. Don't rush it, she thought. Michael will explain when he gets backā€¦must have gone to get something to eat.

“Katherine, I’m Dr. Baker. Can I have a nurse bring you some water?”

Dr. Baker patted her hand, as if to reassure a child who had just woke from a nightmare.

Kate pulled her hand away, and snapped, “I don’t want any water. I asked you how long I’ve been here, and where’s my husband. Now tell me or find someone who can.” She tried to glare at him, which was pathetically stupid considering her efforts to appear threatening had probably disappeared with the back of her gown.

Dr. Baker frowned, and swallowed with so much effort, his Adam’s apple bounced up and down like a Yo-Yo on a string. He cleared his throat, carefully laid the clipboard on the mobile table, and like a large bird, perched on the edge of the neighboring chair.

“Katherine, you’re at Seton Southwest Hospital. You and your husband were in a terrible car accident a little over a week ago, and you’ve been unconscious since. You sustained some fairly serious injuries, one of which was a nasty blow to the head.” Dr. Baker drew in a sharp breath and exhaled. “Another vehicle ran a red light, a hit and run, it appears. Most of the impact was on the passenger side of the car.”

Kate placed a hand to her head and cringed when her fingers glided across the prickly touch of stitches down the left side of her skull near her ear. She blinked back tears, suddenly aware of countless other places on her body which felt strangely stiff, bruised, or numb.

“Where’s Michael?” she repeated, voice barely above a whisper.

Dr. Baker didn’t offer one of his consolatory smiles or shift in his seat and swallow more saliva.

Instead, “I’m very sorry, Katherine, but Michael died instantly,” slithered from his mouth and hissed into Kate's ears.

She physically recoiled from the words.

The air in the room grew heavy, laden with an unseen mist. Kate drew in breath after breath, until she thought she might choke on them. With strained effort, she tried to shake away what Dr. Baker had said, but his words were lodged in her mind, repeating like a record broken, over and over.

A voice very much like her own muttered, “No”. Her husband's voice whispered her name.

Michael wasn’t dead. He couldn't be. They were a team, she and him. He wouldn’t leave her. Not Michael.

Not ever.

Kate raised onto her elbows, until she could barely lift one knee and leaned forward. Needle-like pain shot through many parts of her body, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. She couldn’t breathe.

Dr. Baker lifted his hand and suggested she lie back down, but she waved him away.

“Get out!” She pointed at the door.

Choking heaves came from her throat. Michael wasn’t dead. She would have known, would’ve felt it somehow. You can’t know someone for twenty-five of your thirty years on the planet and not know when they're gone.

Can you?

The door to her room opened again, and a young girl’s voice called from behind Dr. Baker. “Katie? Katie, oh my God, you’re awake!” A petite blond peered around the doctor.

Michael’s eighteen-year-old sister, Reva, rushed around the opposite side of the bed and came to a stop just over Kate. Thin arms folded across her chest, eyes, the same brilliant blue like Michael's, filled with water. Petite frame covered in a designer t-shirt and purposefully tattered jeans, she just stared at Kate as tears drifted silently down her cheek, until she had to swipe them with her forefingers.

Kate fumbled with the bed sheets, studied every crease and fold, the starchiness of its texture and sterile odor it shared with the rest of the room. She wouldn't look at Reva. Couldn't.

If she looked at Michael’s sister, her pretty, albeit solemn, face would tell her the truth, and she didn’t want to see the truth.

It had been too painful just hearing it.

Seeing it would send her over the edge, where she'd spiral downward into the empty void, curl into a fetal position on the stark white, and equally cold, floor of the hospital room, and lose what was left of her fragile senses.

“Katie, I’m so glad you’re awake.” Reva’s young voice broke a little as it split the restless silence around them.

Poor Reva.

In spite of how gutted and utterly helpless she felt, Kate held onto what was left of her composure. If she plunged into the abyss, Michael's sister would join her, and together they'd be lost, two crumbled heaps of flesh in the reality of life without a strong, and protective brother, or a stoic, equally humorous husband, and best friend to both.

She reached out and grabbed the young woman's hand. Reva collapsed beside her on the bed, and Kate wrapped trembling arms around her shoulders, stroking her light blond hair, hair the color of Michael's. She clinched her jaw.

Hair the color Michael's had been.

Kate choked back a sob, as a large part of her heart began to wither and fade.

A. J. Wildman "Spekter"




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