He could make out some light now. Relieved that she'd been telling the truth about his eyes, he answered almost absentmindedly. "I think I might've tried to hit them while I was out of it."
"That explains Larsen's black eye."
Fear clawed through him. "The little girl - did that guy hurt her? He said they wouldn't if I cooperated."
"He lied," she responded, cold as the chill of these antiseptic walls. "Nothing you can do will stop him. But the girl is safe for now. He's having some trouble getting new subjects so he's taking care with the single undamaged one he already has."
"Trouble?" He began to smile. "Talin. Talin did something." He'd nicknamed her the Lioness after seeing her hair. It had been meant to be a joke because she was so little, but it had turned out to be perfect - she never gave up. "She told me she'd fight for me."
Blue's face was now a fuzzy shape above him. "Who is Talin?"
He realized he'd been led into a trap. "No one."
"It's in your best interest to tell me. You're a bargaining chip. I need to know with whom to negotiate."
He refused to open his mouth. He had already been enough of an idiot. If Talin was trying to help him, he wouldn't give her away to the enemies. He'd seen enough of life to know that, sometimes, evil wore a sweet face. "Thank you for the eye balm." Everything hurt, but he forced himself into a sitting position against the wall.
She was dressed like before, but she had pulled down her mask to uncover her lips. No laugh lines marked the corners. "Swallow this." She gave him a pill. "It'll capture the last of the poison and you'll expel it during normal bodily processes."
He took it. He didn't trust her, but she'd been up front about calling him a bargaining chip. That, he believed. So she'd keep him alive until it suited her to do otherwise. "Thank you."
A knock came on the door. It was Ashaya's cue to leave while the corridors were clear and the cameras had been looped to cover her retreat. Ming LeBon might have tried to seize control of her lab, but she commanded the loyalty of most of her staff. It helped that the Council had forced them all under a psychic blackout, in effect amputating a limb. A Psy was a psychic being by definition - to cut off their access to the PsyNet was a punishment. An undeserved one.
Standing, she pulled up the mask and looked down at the stubborn countenance of the boy. His recalcitrance didn't matter. Talin was an unusual name and she had Jonquil's entire file.
She went straight to that file upon reaching her private quarters. She wasn't stupid enough to assume they weren't keeping tabs on her even in there, but she did know they couldn't access the organizer she carried twenty-four/seven. The size of a small notebook, it had the capacity to store large amounts of data as well as act as a mobile comm device. It was where she kept files that could compromise her.
Files such as the heavily encrypted e-mail she had received an hour ago.
If you plan to act, do it now.
The e-mail had been unsigned, could well be a setup. However, it might also be an attempt to initiate contact by the underground rebels who were currently making the Councilors' lives very difficult. She had ways of getting news despite the psychic blackout and she knew these rebels were doing more damage than most people knew. She also knew that the Ghost, the most lethal rebel of them all, was an expert at finding classified information - such as Ashaya's very well hidden covert e-mail address.
Setup or not, she'd already made her decision. Things were getting problematic with Ming. Either she acted now, or she could find herself permanently compromised. The Councilor was a master of mental combat - should he decide that the deterioration in her productivity would be balanced out by her guaranteed allegiance, he wouldn't hesitate to imprison her mind. The humans called it mind control. It was exactly that.
Ashaya had no intention of becoming one of Ming's puppets.
She also had no intention of allowing him to take control of her son.
So she would take this calculated chance and trust the probability matrix to hold true. If she had made an error in her calculations, both she and Keenan were dead. But if she did nothing, the outcome was certain death. Of course, there was one other person she could go to for help, but the price Amara would demand was not one Ashaya was willing to pay. This was the only viable option.
Taking a seat in the corner she had arranged to shield her from surveillance equipment while appearing natural, she brought up the file on Jonquil Duchslaya. She didn't need to look very far before finding his Talin.
Talin McKade was listed both as Jonquil's point of contact at the Shine Foundation and as his next of kin. According to the file, the woman was part of Shine's street team, holding the official title of Senior Guardian.
It wasn't what Ashaya had wanted to find. This Talin was not going to have the kind of influence or contacts Ashaya needed. She'd have to take the chance that, as a Senior Guardian, the woman could somehow attract the attention of the Shine board. Ashaya did not like to take chances without statistical support, especially not now, with so much at stake.
But the young girl - Noor - was even more of a loss in terms of a powerful network. Excepting a few recent mistakes that appeared to have sprung from Larsen's increasing lack of discipline, the scouts for this genocide labeled an experiment had been careful to choose isolated children. They were all linked to Shine, but as the humans had proven over and over, it was the emotional connection that drove the greatest efforts.
A single committed parent or family member could achieve more than an entire organization - especially an organization such as Shine, which, according to her data, was hamstrung by a board full of old men and women who didn't want to accept the fact that the Forgotten were still being hunted...still being exterminated.