Why? Who are you to me?
The woman who caused you no pain.
True enough, he thought, very aware of the reptilian light in the male's eyes. Cold or not, that one liked hurting people. Jon's senses were screaming at him to run, run, RUN! But there was nowhere to run - not yet - so he followed them down the corridor.
As he walked, he decided to call the man Lizard. He had secret names for everyone, even Talin. She'd think her name was hysterical, he thought, fighting to keep up his courage in the face of the threat emanating from Lizard.
"Please enter." The Blonde pushed open a door.
Halting a few steps inside, he frowned. "What the hell is that?" He was facing a chair but one hooked up to devices that, even to his inexperienced eyes, promised pain.
"A machine that will allow us to better understand your brain." The door shut behind him as Lizard spoke for the first time, his voice cool...dead.
Jonquil got a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knew Blue hadn't authorized this. He stared at the Blonde, a silent question in his eyes.
Her expression didn't change. "Take a seat in the chair."
"No." A sharp pain stabbed into his skull, making him stagger. But he didn't scream.
The Blonde glanced at Lizard. "Perhaps we should use one of the others?"
"There's only one other left. Open the screen."
Jon clenched his head in his hands as the wall behind the chair suddenly silvered from opaque to clear. There was a little girl on the other side. She was sitting hunched into the far corner, her knees drawn up to her chest. Her eyes met his. Big, brown, filled with excruciating fear and - at seeing him - a desperate flash of hope.
"If you don't cooperate, we'll use her," Lizard told him.
Jon decided he'd have to kill the bastard before he escaped. "Why do you think I care?"
And Jon knew that this time, there would be screaming.
Teijan was waiting for Clay above ground, looking sleek and well-groomed, a small man with a solid aura of power. "Hello, Clay."
"Teijan." He could still taste Talin on his lips, tart and familiar. It calmed his possessive instincts, but didn't make him any less pissed with her for refusing to get medical attention until they found the boy. "Wanted to ask - you know anything about a man being jumped around here last night?"
"The cop?" A spark of pure surprise lit Teijan's inky black eyes. "A group of my people took exception to the event." His mouth firmed into an unforgiving line. "Most of them know about bullies. They scared off the perpetrators, called the paramedics."
"Anyone see anything?" He knew the Rats would've disappeared Down Below before Enforcement arrived, wary of a law that often treated them like trash. Yet they had saved a cop's life, with no hope of gain for themselves. He'd make sure Max knew that.
"No." He spread out his hands. "It was dark and they are human, with human eyes. Suyi did mention the thugs looked like hired muscle."
Clay had expected as much. If it was a Psy behind the kidnappings, he or she wasn't anyone with access to the kind of power the Council wielded - otherwise Max would've been dead by now, his brains turned to jelly. But the fact that this was happening in Nikita Duncan's city, without her apparent involvement - Nikita didn't need to hire ineffectual human thugs - made him wonder exactly how bad things had gotten in the PsyNet. "So," he looked to Teijan, "why the call?"
"The boy," Teijan said, "one of the children is adamant she saw him disappear off the street."
His leopard sat up in interest. "She saw him get snatched?"
"No, she saw him disappear." Teijan made a flicking notion with his fine-boned hand. "Poof. Like magic. Her words."
Everything in Clay stilled. It didn't make sense - if the kidnapper was a teleportation - capable telekinetic, he or she would have had no need to hire humans to do the dirty work. Tk-Psy that strong could crush a human body with little effort.
"We didn't believe her at first." Teijan frowned. "But then I realized why the picture of the boy disturbs me and mine so much."
"He's not human. He's not changeling. He's not Psy. He's more other than anyone I've ever before met."
Talin could barely grasp the enormity of what she was reading. Dev might not have told her the truth, but he'd given her what she needed to find that truth herself.
She was standing there stunned when the door opened and Clay walked in. "You're not going to believe this," she said, tugging him to the table.
"Try me." The edge in his tone scraped over her spine like a fine nail.
She glanced up, belatedly noticing the furious expression on his face. It was obvious it wasn't directed at her. "What's the matter?"
"You first." His hand closed around her ponytail and he stroked the length through his fist. Then he did it again, top to bottom.
To her surprise, she could feel him relaxing. And that relaxed her. Skin privileges, she thought with an inward smile. "Alright. Here, look." Bending over the table, very aware of him playing with her hair, she showed him the crucial pages.
"Family trees," he murmured. "Detailed."
She nodded. Her hair slipped out of his grasp but a second later, she felt a tug as he recaptured it. The caress was strangely soothing. "Looks like Shine went way beyond the most recent generations."
Clay was caught by the fierce light in Talin's eyes. Her intelligence blazed hot and damned sexy. "For all of them?"
"Yes." She grinned. "It's as if they were tracing the families, not the individual children."