CODE NAME: BABY by Christina Skye

Chapter One

WOLFE DIDN'T MIND the tarantulas. Even the rattlesnakes left him with only minor discomfort.
It was the naked women, with their bloodred lips and leather masks, who really annoyed him. They studied him like tigers facing raw meat, then scraped their long nails across his chest.
He didn't move, wouldn't give them the pleasure of a response.
Which only made them dig harder. Tattooed skin brushed his arms. When their breasts teased his mouth, Wolfe Houston decided enough was enough.
He drove everything out of his mind-tarantulas, rattlesnakes, and tattoos. With stronger focus, he picked up the slap of liquid against metal walls, the only sound in his darkened containment area. Here in the bowels of the building, there was no time and no light. In these insulated compartments, collectively called the pit, fiberglass walls sealed out noise, smell and external vibration.
A high-tech digital tomb.
After one day inside, most men lost their bearings. After three days, most men lost their minds. Only a few had the ability to endure the silent death of the containment unit.
Wolfe Houston was one of them.
He was well into the fifth day now, and his hallucinations were intense. Sensory deprivation amped up all his senses until he could have heard a fly walk across the ceiling near his head-if a fly could have breached the security of the pit. At the same time Wolfe was acutely aware of the other men floating in nearby units. Men from different backgrounds, all with different training and skills, they formed one finely honed tactical team.
If the public knew their skills, they would have been called supermen-or monsters. Each of them had the power to read energy or transfer images into apparent reality with the sheer force of the mind. Most of them had never suspected their unusual skills before the government identified them through arduous testing. After months of sweating and swearing and fighting together, they had become a silent, deadly team called out when everyone else-from Rangers to SEALs-had failed. They were tougher than tough, trained to deploy when the government's highest security was threatened, and so far they had never failed on a mission.
Wolfe wondered how long their record would remain unbroken.
He closed his eyes, rocking gently on the cool gel inside the hermetically sealed unit while ghostly tattoos writhed above him. As the images grew sharper, he slid into level-three hallucinations, feeling his psi ability shoot beyond all his previous limits.
The naked blonde trailed crimson nails toward his groin. Distantly, he felt his body respond and wondered if she was a hologram projection or whether she'd been pulled from the deeper recesses of his mind, stirred to life by the extended sensory deprivation.
Wolfe, are you there?
The silent question swam into his thoughts, sent by his second in command. Trace O'Halloran had guarded Wolfe's back more times than either man could count, and Wolfe had always repaid the favor.
Right next to you, O'Halloran.
One question. You got the same woman in there as the one that's crawling all over me? Platinum blond, probably five-seven?
What's she wearing?
Nothing but oil and tattoos, looking damned fine.
Wolfe felt the brush of naked thighs. So the blonde wasn't his own private fantasy. That meant she was one of the new training constructs, designed by Lloyd Ryker, the facility's civilian chief, to test mental focus and physical response. No doubt Ryker's sensors were picking up every detail of his teams' heart rates and body temperatures right now. The man had made surveillance a high art form.
Sounds like you've got her pegged, Trace.
I'd like to do more than peg her, boss.
Not allowed.
Wolfe felt the energy of Trace's laughter. Hell, I've never seen tattoos on a woman's nipples before. Wouldn't that hurt? I mean, think about getting tattoos on your—
You know the drill, Trace. Put all the details in your report-nipples and everything else. Don't leave anything out or they'll ram it down your throat in the follow-up evaluations.
I always thought sex was supposed to be private.
Wolfe grinned into the darkness. Welcome to Foxfire, Lieutenant. In here your thoughts are noisy and sex is as public as it gets. Just don't tell me you're complaining about having a knockout babe with her hands wrapped around your joystick while she test-drives your cruise control.
Complaining? Who, me?
Wolfe felt his thoughts blur. When his own illusory companion licked her way expertly toward his belt, desire sucker punched him hard. He knew there were no rules, no fouls, no time-outs when Ryker set up the game. Dark and twisted training scenarios were his specialty.
Some people said they reflected Ryker's own fantasies. Wolfe didn't have an opinion one way or the other.
Hell, boss, this one is too hot to handle. That mouth of hers is doing real damage.
Red lips closed with unerring skill. Wolfe felt his brain oozing out his ears. Closing his eyes, he slipped deeper into theta, blanking out the construct of the blonde with the velvet mouth.
You feel that, boss?
Wolfe felt a faint vibration from outside the pit. The blond vision faded pixel by pixel as he shaped his concentration into a tight line and slammed it toward the distant intrusion.
I make it Sector Three, Trace.
That's just what I'm picking up.
Alarms on Levels Four through Seven. Ryker's on his way down here right now.
Any idea why?
Not a clue.
Drifting in the darkness, Wolfe considered the images he'd just picked up. Training sessions down in the pit were never interrupted-for any reason. To Wolfe's knowledge, three men had cracked during their training because of too-abrupt transition. If Ryker was headed downstairs to interrupt a psi immersion, all hell must have broken loose.
Since hell happened to be Foxfire's specialty, the team would be the first called out.
Wolfe assessed possible options and explanations. If the country was under attack, Foxfire would go active immediately-whether the team was in the pit or not. Ryker's movement indicated that was a real possibility.
In war you fought with whatever ammunition was at hand. Some ops called for ICBMs; some used remote surveillance drones. Foxfire used human energy as a tactical weapon in highly controlled scenarios, and the success rate of the secret seven-man team was unmatched anywhere in special operations.
Wolfe intended to keep it that way. Trace, do you read me?
Loud and clear.
I need more data. Set up a level-two energy net while I follow Ryker.
Can do.
The silence rippled and grew heavier.
Done, Wolfe.
Ryker's almost here. Do we have a threat situation upstairs or is this an exterior attack- something large scale?
I'm picking up fear-lots of it. There's something else, Chief. Hell if you're going to believe it.
Hit me.
It's Cruz.
Wolfe felt his hands clench. Impossible.
It's Cruz, all right. I scanned up, down and sideways, and his energy signature is leaking everywhere I look.
Wolfe knew that Trace didn't make mistakes when he spread a focused energy net. Every member of Foxfire had particular specialties, and Trace's skill was to set energy nets and carry out controlled psi sweeps, with his mind rather than with his eyes.
Both men knew that Gabriel Cruz, the Navy SEAL who had paved the way for Foxfire, had snapped under pressure. But he couldn't be anywhere near the secret New Mexico facility. He had died over two years ago, killed when his cargo plane crashed somewhere north of Juneau.
Trace and Wolfe had stood point together at Cruz's military funeral. They had walked cold vigil as part of the honor guard that long night, and they had seen the casket lowered into the ground.
Negative, Trace. You were there beside me. Cruz is gone, so you must be reading something else up there.
The vibrations grew louder. Wolfe picked up the faint hammer of feet, along with the tense energy of shouted commands. Ryker was steaming about something, that much was certain.
I'm dead right about this. Whatever's going on upstairs has Cruz's energy wrapped all over it.
Wolfe forced his body to relax, forced the anger and stabbing uncertainty from his mind. Be sure, Trace. That's an order. Do you copy?
After a brief pause Wolfe felt a one-word response. Understood. Suddenly he sensed Trace's thought flow change. It drew up hard, like a wire snapped tight. What?
Ryker's right outside. You don't think he'd be stupid enough to override the codes and burst in here, do you? Without time for psi terminus and transition, we'll be fried. The last poor SOB they did that to.
O'Halloran didn't finish. Both men had seen the mass of nerves and self-inflicted wounds carried screaming out of the pit after an immersion was cut short without warning.
No way. Wolfe managed to project total confidence. Ryker knows the rules. He wrote most of them. It's too damned risky.
He had barely finished the thought when boots hammered above his head. Automatic weapon fire punched through the silence. Wolfe realized that he'd been dangerously wrong.d
Brace for containment breach, Trace. Open a net and send the order down the line immediately. Wolfe snapped out the command, determined to protect his unit. Ryker was going to get his ass chewed royally once this incident was over.
The containment unit shook, tilting sharply.
Trace, are you psi shielded? Do it now, because they're coming in!
Metal grated on metal.
Light cut through the darkness. Instantly, Wolfe was slammed headfirst into an angry wall of pain.