"He turned down a Council seat once before," Nikita reminded them. "He may not accept now."
Kaleb considered his next words with care. "After the confirmation of Marshall's death, I had a discussion with Anthony."
"Without Council authorization?"
"Give me credit, Ming," Kaleb responded. "There are ways to gauge interest without saying anything of the least note."
"Your conclusion?" Tatiana asked.
"He may be willing."
Shoshanna's mental star swirled in thought. "He has considerable contact with changelings - he's still subcontracting work to his daughter, Faith."
"That," Nikita said, "could be another advantage. He has to have gained a lot of knowledge about the cats."
"A good point," Ming acceded. "I have no reservations against him as a candidate."
"I have one," Henry said. "Like Nikita, he also has a daughter who has dropped out of the Net. Will that weaken the Council's image?"
"In my opinion, no," Kaleb responded. "He's already proven he can hold us at bay. He has more businesses backing him than any of us."
"I agree," Shoshanna said. "I vote yes."
One by one, the others all agreed.
A day later, Anthony Kyriakus, leader of the influential NightStar Group and father of the most powerful F-Psy in the world, accepted their offer.
At the same time, Ashaya Aleine unfolded a plain pen and paper note hidden inside the latest batch of equipment she had requested. Keenan would be flown in for his next scheduled visit, but the one after that would be by car.
She hoped the man who had held a gun on her the night she'd set Jonquil Duchslaya and Noor Hassan free had told the truth. Because they would have only one chance. Ming was watching her. She had overplayed her hand, and now the Councilor was inches away from enforcing her obedience through the most vicious of mental violations.
Two days after the night that had given her forever, Talin met with the specialists at Shine and they put her through a rigorous series of tests that confirmed Clay's hunch and Sascha's diagnosis.
"Your need for the feedback is so small," Dr. Herriford exclaimed, "it wasn't picked up on the initial tests we run on every Shine child." He shoved a hand through his hair, making the bright orange stuff stick up in untidy tufts. "We're going to have to redo that testing. If you slipped through, so will others." His distress was open. "We'll need to start doing periodic checks as students age, too, rather than just the intake scans."
Talin had every intention of helping reboot the system, but first she wanted solid answers. "So I don't have to worry about any of the symptoms?" No more fugues, no more having her sense of choice taken from her. Her hand curled around Clay's, held on tight.
"Everything you've told me," the doc said, glancing at his small electronic notepad, "the fugues, the lost memories, even the mysterious allergic reaction, they're all symptoms of Process Degeneration."
"Doc," Clay said, cutting to the heart of the matter, "is she going to be okay?"
Herriford beamed. "Whatever you've done to address the feedback issue - and if you changelings ever decide to share, please let me know - "
"Right." The doctor smiled on, undaunted. "I'm happy to say that Ms. McKade is in perfect health. No Forgotten weirdness - you wouldn't believe the things I see."
She jumped off the examining table. "Thanks, Dr. Herriford."
The doctor's handshake was warm, solid. "By the way, did Dev have a chance to catch you up on everything?"
Talin shook her head. "We got the CliffNotes version. Why?"
"Well, this isn't common knowledge," Herriford said, "but Dev told me to be honest with you. You know about the power discrepancy?"
She nodded. "A rare few descendants have a massive amount."
"Yeah, but that's not the interesting thing." The doctor's eyes were sparkling. "These kids, they're not being born with a lesser version of Psy abilities, they're being born with completely new abilities."
"How is that possible?" She glanced at Clay and suddenly had her answer. "Mixed blood. The genetics are intermingling and creating something new." Something beautiful.
The doctor nodded. "There were instances of such spontaneous abilities appearing in the PsyNet pre-Silence - our theory is that these changes stopped because the Council has a firm line on eliminating any mutations from the gene pool."
"But that's not happening with the Forgotten."
"No." The doctor's smile grew. "What we're now seeing are the results of a long-term genetic shift. In some cases, it's as if the Psy genes express themselves by intensifying the bearers' human strengths." He gave Clay a pleading look. "Are you sure you can't find me some changeling - "
The doctor sighed. "As I was saying - these new abilities aren't Psy or human but a mesh of both, perhaps even all three where the individual has changeling blood as well." Another hopeful - but futile - glance at Clay. "Very, very exciting."
Talin scowled. "And all I got is this stupid need for feedback."
The doctor winced. "I sympathize. Technically, I'm twenty percent Psy. But in terms of my physical and mental abilities, I'm one hundred percent human. That's the good thing about Shine - we don't discriminate between descendants. Lots of mostly human kids pass through these doors."
At least that definitively answered Talin's question of why she'd been chosen. "Good. But I still think I should have superpowers to compensate." When she'd finally calmed down enough to process everything, her need for biofeedback had made her feel like a vampire or succubus.