Faith had to catch her mouth from falling open. "But the Council - surely they've prohibited contact with me?"
"They tried." Anthony moved his attention from Vaughn to her. "However, NightStar is no Council puppet."
Vaughn leaned forward. "You told them to stick their prohibition where the sun don't shine." A faint note of respect had entered his tone.
"Crude, but correct. They are our Council, not our absolute rulers. And the pursuit of commerce is inviolate. Cutting off access to Faith would've affected thousands of businesses and none of those businesses was going to sit by and let that happen."
Faith's mind was spinning. "You want me to provide forecasts for NightStar's clients, with you as the go-between?"
"Yes. The PsyClan can afford to be seen working openly with you. The combined power of the businesses backing us, added to our strength as a family group, protects us from the Council."
That made sense. NightStar's history of producing F-Psy had earned it many allies. It knew a lot of secrets. And it never told. No matter who asked.
"The Council's already tried to kidnap me once." She would not ask the question that tormented her. Had her father known?
"That's been taken care of. In more ways than one. I have my doubts about their operatives ever being able to reach you" - he glanced at Vaughn, then back at her - "but if they do and anything happens to you, every business with an unfulfilled forecast will stop its tax payments."
"How many?" Vaughn asked, when she remained silent.
"Faith's waiting list currently exceeds a thousand. The Council's reach is vast, but even it can't police that many renegades, especially when they include most of our major corporations. Like I said, business is inviolate."
"How sure are you of that?" Vaughn pushed.
"If the Council harms her - as she will inevitably be harmed in any attempt to capture her - it'll be seen as a violation of the basic law that rules our race: no interference with family groups or business. That will not be tolerated. All the Councilors have been informed of that by the corporations associated with their own family groups."
"You won't stop the Council from 'rehabilitating' your own, but you'll draw the line at business interference?" Vaughn shook his head. "Hell of a list of priorities."
"But good for Faith in this case."
"I'm forecasting different things now," she said quietly.
Anthony nodded. "Understood. We're asking you to provide regular business ones as well, unless you can't access those abilities any longer."
"So the rich can prosper?" Vaughn asked, but she didn't hear any animosity It was almost as if he were trying to get a feel for her father as he would another animal.
"You're a predator, Mr. D'Angelo, at the top of the food chain. In the business world, the same rules apply."
"Survival of the fittest." Vaughn turned and ran his hand down her hair in a public caress that was as tender as it was possessive. "So, Red, what's the verdict?"
"I can provide the forecasts without problem, but I need time to think," she said past the lump in her throat. How could he do this to her without even trying? "But one thing I do know is that if I do this, I expect far more by way of profits than I was previously getting." She was happy to be in a situation where she could strengthen the financial position of her new family. Money was power the Psy understood.
But she also wanted the money for a far more subversive plan. Barely an inkling at present, it was an idea that could change the Psy from within. An idea that might save those like her cousin Sahara, people who'd disappeared into the mystery of the Net, but might still be alive. Caged. Brutalized for their abilities.
"You are my daughter. I expected nothing less." If Anthony hadn't been Psy, she'd have said he was proud.
"And if Faith accepts, she won't be going anywhere," Vaughn added. "All attempts at visions will be undertaken in DarkRiver territory."
"No records, no monitors." She was through with being violated.
Vaughn leaned forward. "Leave that to me."
Anthony took a moment to consider that before nodding. "Take care of her. She's invaluable."
"Actually, to the PsyClan and to you, my worth is quantifiable." Faith smiled, but it was colored by sadness not joy. Then Vaughn's hand slipped under her hair to curve over her neck and the heavy warmth was a reassurance that to someone at least, she truly was invaluable.
"Not as my daughter."
She was disappointed. "Father, don't try such psychological tricks on me - they are beneath you. If you cared that much about your children, you would've hunted down Marine's killer and you would've learned the name of your Caribbean son."
"I don't understand your reference to your sister's murder. She was an unfortunate victim of the human and changeling appetite for violence."
Faith saw that he truly had no knowledge of the facts, but she couldn't speak of that pain. It was too raw, too fresh. Vaughn spoke for her. "It was one of the Psy. Probably one of your Council's pet killers. What we haven't been able to figure out is why she might've been targeted when she was in the inner circle."
"I see." Anthony's voice remained toneless, but what he said next was nothing expected. "As for your other question - his name is Tanique Gray. He turns twenty-two in three months. Though not an F designation as his mother hoped for, he has a Gradient 9 ability in psychometrics, the first Ps-Psy born into our line in centuries.