"I have confidence in my source," Nikita said. "Apparently there are ten participants. One fatality to date." She showed him the data file and watched as he downloaded it into his mind.
When Ming next spoke, the ice of his mind could have cut diamonds. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I intend to find out who authorized this and order an immediate reversal. The process isn't refined enough for such testing."
She believed his rebuttal. As the Councilor in charge of their armed forces, Ming had no tolerance for deviations from the chain of command. "That was my evaluation as well." She left it at that. Let Ming make his own conclusions, determine his own enemies. Arrows, even former Arrows, were very good at killing. It was their reason for being.
Midnight the day of his entry into SnowDancer's hierarchy, Judd stood in the back of Perez's church, behind the curtains that usually hid the choir prior to their entrance. Tonight there was no choir, no light, just him and a man who might well be another Arrow.
The Ghost spoke from the depths of the shadows he seemed to court. "I wasn't sure you would respond to my message."
Judd leaned against the wall. "Why not?"
"I was wrong in my earlier assessment - you've changed, been influenced by the world outside the PsyNet."
"My stand on Protocol I will never change." It was an abomination, a desecration that could not be permitted.
"No conflicting loyalties?"
"Not yet." But if it came to that, he had already made his choice. Her name was Brenna and she was his heartbeat. "I would suggest you agree to let me disclose some of what we know to those who now share my life. They're your allies." And he would not lie - or keep needed information - from those who trusted him.
"My allies? Not yours?" The Ghost's voice was measured, cold, Psy.
"They're my people now." He might be a fallen Arrow, but he was also a SnowDancer lieutenant.
"So, do your people care about the Psy?" The Ghost didn't ask who those people were, keeping to their unspoken code. You could not betray what you did not know.
"They care about the stability of this world. The Psy have the capacity to destroy it if they carry on in their current path." Like it or not, the Psy were the most powerful race on the planet. In the past, they had been conscious of the effects of their decisions on the other races. No longer. "No one needs to know where my information comes from."
"We're a team, Judd. I'll bow to your judgment."
"What did you want to discuss?"
"The Implant Lab is in the process of being relocated. Details." He threw across a data crystal. "The data is sensitive. From what I've been able to confirm, it appears that only a small percentage of the Council superstructure knows its exact location."
Which meant that if they acted on it, the Ghost's anonymity could be compromised. "Were you able to confirm the damage done by our last hit?"
"Yes. There's no question - they've been set back, almost to square one."
"So we can hold off acting against the new lab. Leaks happen."
The Ghost paused. "There are rumors of a live trial in progress. If true, it means there are surviving copies of the experimental implants."
Judd's mind rejected the idea of unique individuals being turned into automatons. "I was under the impression the implants weren't that advanced."
"All of my intelligence says the same. My measured guess is that somebody acted precipitously and the implants will take care of themselves - I wouldn't be surprised if they've already begun to fail."
"Keep me updated. If necessary, I can make the destruction of the new lab look like an unfortunate accident." It would require more planning and the cooperation of the pack, but it could be done.
A nod from the Ghost. "Do you ever wish to return to who you were?"
An unusual question, but the answer was easy. "No."
Brenna was in bed when he came to her quarters. Moving on silent feet, he paused to check that the security device on her door was functioning at an optimal level. He wouldn't rest easy until the killer had been caught - he'd already discarded twenty of Riley's original sixty suspects using pure logic, but his instincts told him he was close to running out of time.
Brenna opened her eyes when he entered her room. "You're back." She smiled sleepily at him from her nest in the blankets.
He sat on the edge. "I need to tell you something."
"I'm here." She scooted closer, but didn't touch.
He knew the distance had to tear at her changeling need for contact and the maleness in him raged against that - he was supposed to give her what she needed, not cause her pain. "I want to tell you where I go," he said, giving her another kind of intimacy, "and what I do when I disappear from the den." He began at the beginning - the fateful meeting on the PsyNet, a meeting he was sure had been engineered by the Ghost. But the other Psy had only found him because Judd had wished to be found.
"He'd been watching me, seen my subtle insubordination. I met Father Xavier Perez a year later." In a bar where he'd gone for data and Perez had gone to get blind drunk. But those were the priest's secrets. They had nothing to do with their work.
"Kindred souls." She was even closer, as if she couldn't stay away.
Neither could he, despite the fact that he could sense the cascade of fine blood vessels bursting and being repaired instantaneously inside his skull. His Tk-Cell abilities were keeping up with the damage. Just. "We, all three of us, want to protect the Psy from the biggest threat since Silence." Though Xavier Perez's motive remained a mystery, the man's loyalty was unquestionable. "Protocol I will lead to the destruction of the young - their minds will be cut into, their individual identities destroyed."