Caressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling 3) - Page 33

And a hive could not survive without a queen. "You're saying Aleine solved the problem of distinct but compatible implants for different segments of the populace?" Ensuring power remained in the hands of those who would use it to keep the Psy at the top of the food chain.

"Not completely," Silver clarified, "but she does appear to have broken the implants into two categories - primary and secondary. Of the original participants in the trial, eight had secondary implants, two primary."

Two rulers. With possible total control over the other eight. Such influence would be the prerogative of those in power should Protocol I come to fruition. "See if you can get me any names." He had his suspicions, but what he needed was proof.

"Yes, Councilor." She gave a short nod and walked out.

Another light flashed on the gleaming black smoothness of his desk to indicate that his visitor had exited the glass hover-elevator and was heading toward his office. Touching a concealed panel under the desk, he initiated its secure mode. The desk turned opaque, hiding the computronics but continuing to record everything that went on in this room. Of course, he had no doubt that his visitor had come prepared for such an exigency.

A knock and then the door opened to reveal his administrative assistant, Lenik. "Sir, Councilor Duncan is here for your meeting." He shut the door as soon as she came through.

Walking around the desk, Kaleb went to meet her midway. "Nikita. It was good of you to come all this way."

Almond-shaped brown eyes looked into his, cool and certainly calculating. "As it appears we need to discuss certain discreet matters, it was the logical choice. Your offices aren't as closely watched as mine."

He had no need to ask for further explanation. The DarkRiver cats and their allies, the SnowDancer wolves, hadn't been shy about the fact that they were keeping tabs on Nikita. She was the only Councilor within easy reach of their territories since Tatiana's move to Australia two months ago. "Perhaps that will no longer be a problem in the near future." The Council had taken steps to eliminate the changeling issue.

Nikita shifted her head slightly and the light from the ceiling fixture bounced off the glossy black of her hair. "We will see. I'm not as convinced as the rest of the membership about the infallibility of the plan. Our data collection on the changelings has been allowed to lapse to a disgraceful level. We're making decisions based on outdated information."

Kaleb made a mental note to check her assertion. "The DarkRiver Project is still bearing good returns, I trust?" He was referring to the groundbreaking real estate deal between the Duncan Group and the leopard pack that controlled San Francisco and its surrounding areas.

"Yes," she confirmed. "Despite the annoyance the cats present in terms of Council business, they're good for my economic interests."

"A sharp distinction."

"Precisely. My profit margin will sustain major damage should the Council's plan succeed. But I'm sure you're well aware of that. It's why you asked me to meet you."

He gave a small nod. "I thought we might have a number of interests in common."

Nikita walked past him to the window, her composed business persona hiding a core of pure poison. "I thought you would ally with Shoshanna. She was responsible for your entry into the Council."

He came to stand beside her, hands in the pockets of his tailored suit. "On the contrary, Nikita. I alone was responsible for my ascension to the Council." He'd set his eye on the goal at age seven and never blinked. No one had been allowed to stand in his way. But then, all the Councilors had blood on their hands.

Nikita didn't dispute his claim. "Your jockeying for leadership is why Marshall has begun to back Shoshanna and Henry."

He watched pale winter light crawl over the square and saw in it another future, one he'd shape. "You're mistaken. I have no desire for the leadership. Leaders are the biggest targets and I haven't made it this far by courting visibility."

"Then you should tone down your aggressiveness during Council sessions, let Marshall know his position isn't in jeopardy."

"If he believes that, he's a fool." He gave her a skeptical look. "Henry and Shoshanna want to lead. Marshall would do better to ally himself with us."

"That still leaves Tatiana and Ming."

"From what I can see, Tatiana is the swing vote." The other Councilor had made no alliances he'd been able to unearth. "However, we may have a situation with Ming."

"I'm listening."

He told her what Silver had discovered. "As the Councilor in charge of the Implant Protocol, he has to have full knowledge of the unsanctioned trials."

"This is unacceptable." Ice dripped off Nikita's every word. "You have proof?"

"Yes." Illegally obtained but legal now that it was in his hands. After all, he was a Councilor entitled to the information. "Several data files."

"It's much too early for live trials," Nikita continued. "The saboteurs will have their work done for them if the populace, and more importantly, the major families, refuse to support the Protocol because it appears dangerous."

He concurred. To succeed, Protocol I had to be proven safe - in terms of both Psy minds and their psychic abilities. "There has already been one fatality. If the news gets out..."

Nikita placed her arms behind her back. "It'll jeopardize the future of the entire operation. I assume you're working to track the ten involved?"

Kaleb nodded. "It's no use confronting Ming before we have more. We can't risk alienating him. If the Scotts seize majority control of the Council, it'll compromise a number of our interests."