Her eyes widened. "Then why defect?" she whispered. "You walked into what should have been certain death."
Looking into that bruised, confused face, he decided to tell her the truth. Because Sienna's abilities, while very different from his own, sprang from the same dark core. "There is a line that, once crossed, can never be uncrossed." He reached out to touch her hair. The dark red strands were soft under his fingertips. It was the first time he'd ever touched her in anything other than training.
"If I had let you all die while I remained safe, it would've pushed me over that line." Because they'd been under his care. He might have been wiped from the official records, but he'd always existed to Walker, Sienna, Marlee, Toby...and Kristine. She'd been his sister and mother to this powerful girl. But unlike her tenacious, headstrong daughter, Kristine had broken irrevocably under Silence.
Sienna's face turned heartbreakingly fragile. She gave a tiny jerk forward before stopping. And because of Brenna, he understood. Ignoring the damage it might cause, he tugged her into the enclosure of his arms. She was frozen for a long time and then he was sure she cried. As he held her, he felt things, his shielding close to nil. Warmth, affection...the protective love of a brother for his lost sister's child. Sienna looked so much like Kristine, but until this moment, he hadn't acknowledged the pain that caused him. The dissonance was an excruciating symphony of spiked hammers in his head.
"Does it hurt?" he asked, suddenly aware that that might explain some of Sienna's behavior. She had martial talents like him, and unlike either Faith or Sascha. From everything he knew about how the other two women had broken Silence, he was almost certain that martial minds were conditioned in a unique way - particularly when it came to the strength of the dissonance. "The fragmentation of Silence, does it hurt?"
A slow nod. "I can't be like before, but it's as though my mind wants to force me." Her voice was muffled against his chest, but he heard the incredible pain in it.
It put the final seal on the decision he'd made in the predawn darkness after leaving Brenna, devastatingly aware that he couldn't give her what she needed to feel safe and happy. It broke something in him to fail her that way. "I'll figure out a way to undo the pain protocols."
"You know we can't." A whisper. "You and I...we need the pain to remind us to keep it under control."
Their different but equally destructive abilities. "Maybe we can make new rules for a new life."
"What if it doesn't work?" she whispered. "What if we hurt people?"
Images of bloodied and twisted bodies cascaded through his mind. "We won't." He only hoped he would be able to keep his promise...and that Brenna wouldn't pay the ultimate price for choosing to give her heart to a rebel Arrow.
He was sweating. It had taken him two hours to return to the den after Riley had sent him on some bogus training exercise. After Brenna was dead, he'd return to where he was supposed to be without anyone being the wiser. The perfect alibi.
He glanced at his watch and then at Brenna's door. D'Arn was leaning against the wall, but the killer didn't make the mistake of assuming the other soldier wasn't aware of everything going on around him. Sights, sounds, smells. It was why he'd chosen this hiding spot, in the wrong direction for the air currents to carry his scent.
All he needed was three seconds with that bitch who just wouldn't die.
He glanced at his watch again, knowing he'd never get a better chance. The Psy was gone and if D'Arn fell for the distraction, Brenna would be alone for at least one crucial minute. More than enough time to take care of business. Another glance at his watch.
Five, four, three, two...one.
D'Arn jerked to a standing alert as the alarm blared through the den. Coded for sound, this one screamed that something had happened in the nursery, something bad enough to require the declaration of a full emergency.
The killer smiled. He had placed the crude bomb to maximize chaos - by collapsing the entrance to the nursery - but had tried to ensure none of the pups would be hurt. He wasn't a monster.
D'Arn started to run in the direction of the nursery, then hesitated. Brenna's door opened. "Go!" she yelled. "I'm right behind you. I'm part of the comm team."
The killer knew that, had seen the emergency roster. Brenna would now zip back inside to grab her emergency communications equipment before racing to the command center to direct operations inside the den.
"Move!" She slammed her door, but the killer knew she wouldn't have stopped to lock it. If she had, he'd get her as she walked out, her concentration elsewhere.
D'Arn took off at a run, his instinct to protect the young overwhelming everything else. It was what the killer had counted on. The Psy were right - emotions made changelings weak, open to manipulation.
He stepped out as D'Arn disappeared around the corner. He had a very short window of opportunity - too bad he wouldn't be able to choke the life out of her as he'd planned. He palmed the pressure injector full of one hundred percent Rush and reached for the doorknob. It turned without resistance.
One more second and it would be good-bye, Brenna Shane Kincaid.
Judd was running full-tilt to the nursery, Hawke at his side, when his phone began to beep in an intense, irregular pattern.
It was linked to the alarm on Brenna's door.
Screeching to a stop, he used every trick he had to focus despite the number of bodies moving past him. One second. Two. Too damn slow. There. He teleported out. Brenna's door was closed. He pulled it off using Tk and sent the wide piece of plascrete smashing into the corridor, nearly mowing down another SnowDancer soldier.