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Chapter 1

Present Day
Monday, July 22
Stockholm, Sweden

The lab was packed with many of the brightest minds in their field, all focused on a secret project that would change mankind for ever.

In a matter of seconds, they would all be dead.

Of course, none of them knew why they had been called to the facility in the middle of the night. Most had assumed a major breakthrough had occurred, and they had been brought in for an historic announcement that simply could not wait until morning.

Instead, they had been summoned to their slaughter.

The assault had started hours earlier, long before the researchers were misled. Guards had been killed. Locks had been breached. Specimens had been located and stolen. All had been done with a surgical precision the scientists might have appreciated under different circumstances –- circumstances that wouldn’t lead to their deaths.

Dr. Stephanie Albright was the last to arrive at the sprawling warehouse. Not because she was running late, but because she had the furthest to drive and was on the verge of exhaustion. Over the past few months she had averaged less than four hours’ sleep per day, a figure that included the naps she took when she was on the verge of passing out in the lab. But she never complained. Neither did the others. They knew how important their project was, and they were willing to forgo food and sleep if it meant reaching their goal a little sooner.

Tonight, they would give up more than that.

They would sacrifice their lives.

Albright rushed into the lobby and took the elevator to the third floor. She was so lost in her thoughts, she failed to notice the vacant guard station. And the blank security monitors. And all the other things that weren’t quite right. Most importantly, she overlooked the man in the boat who had watched her every move from the calm waters of Riddarfjärden Bay.

He had waited nearly twenty minutes for her arrival.

It was time to finish the job.

His detonator included a state-of-the-art transmitter. It was capable of igniting multiple devices from up to a thousand meters away. Explosives had been placed throughout the warehouse near load-bearing walls and columns. His goal was to collapse the floors, one after another, with no time for escape. A smoldering coffin of steel and concrete for those trapped inside.

The assassin smiled at the thought.

He had killed many times before, but never so many at once.

This would be his masterpiece.

With the touch of a button, the charges erupted with so much force, he felt it in the bay. Chunks of stone and shards of glass filled the air before crashing to the earth like hail. Columns cracked and walls crumbled as the warehouse screamed in pain. Amplified by the water, the deafening roar forced him to cover his ears, but he refused to cover his eyes.

The show was just getting started.

Acetone is commonly used in laboratories around the world to clean scientific instruments. Most of the time it is stored in polyethylene plastic containers, but this particular lab was equipped with a customized delivery system that would pump the acetone throughout the building to a multitude of cleaning stations. This set-up required large drums of acetone to be housed in the upper floors of the building.

The assassin knew this and used it to his advantage.

To cover his tracks and to prevent survivors, he had rigged the barrels of acetone to rupture from the initial force of the blast. The flammable liquid rained down on the destruction below. Within seconds, the fumes ignited and a flash fire occurred. Flames swept through the warehouse like a blistering flood, killing everyone in its wake. The heat from the blaze was so intense that bodies and evidence literally melted.

Like a crime-scene crematorium.

On most jobs, he preferred to work alone. But that wasn’t the case tonight. This project was far too complex for a single cleaner, even someone with his experience. To pull it off, he needed the help of a local team –- men to do the lifting, and the drilling, and the grunt work.

Men to do the things he didn’t have time to do.

Men who were expendable.

He had thanked them for their service with gunfire.

Then he had left them to burn with everyone else.