"Mutated but not necessarily weakened." Shuffling, rustling sounds that Clay identified as that of paper. "Where is she hiding? According to our research, she hasn't returned to her adopted family and she has no close friends."
"Your approach makes little sense." The woman stood her ground, a point in her favor - if she really was loyal to Ashaya, she'd walk out of this alive. "Talin McKade isn't high enough up in Shine to give us the information we need."
"She has access to their computers. That's all we need. Once we break open her natural shields and implant a control link, we can direct her to search for what we want. The situation will be more draining on your powers than if she was a cooperative subject, but it'll work."
"I need to be fully functional for the experiments."
Silence and then the sounds of the female finally moving about. Ten minutes later, the pair left the apartment.
"I've got them," Dorian said, tone cool and focused. "They just passed the seventh-floor window, took the stairs."
"Figures," Lucas murmured. "They wouldn't want to be captured on the elevator surveillance."
They were all moving into intercept positions as they spoke.
"Luc," Clay said, "can you get the girl away from the male?"
"Dorian, split them up," Lucas ordered.
"They're at the exit," Dorian noted. "Shot coming up. Silenced."
A short feminine scream followed soon afterward and then the sound of someone running away from Clay's location, heavier male steps in pursuit. Lucas had taken the girl.
"Judd - we need to find out what she knows," Clay said as Larsen ran past the alley where he stood cloaked in shadow.
"I'm on it."
Satisfied the two men would control the female, Clay went after the monster who had killed so many children. In a test of physical strength and speed, a changeling would always win over a Psy. He caught up within seconds, close enough to verify that the Psy fit the description Jon had given them.
"Judd - chances he's sending telepathically?" he asked as he tracked the man out of the residential streets and toward a quieter area full of warehouses closed up for the night. Fog curled up around his feet, muddied the air, but the leopard had excellent vision and a nose trained to track prey.
"If we're lucky, he might be too agitated to send. That won't last."
"Did he see Lucas?"
"No." Judd sounded as if he was running. "I'm blocking the girl, but she's too exhausted to try to send anyway. We're about to run her to ground."
The link went silent.
Clay waited. If Larsen hadn't seen Lucas, that meant he remained unaware of any changeling connection. Even if he did send a telepathic message, he could report nothing but an attack. His superior - Ming LeBon - would likely assume Shine involvement. Clay's blood boiled at the thought of Ming, but he knew the Councilor wouldn't pursue this particular evil if he destroyed the man who was driving it.
The Psy male began to slow down. As he bent over in a dark alleyway, breathing hard, Clay's earpiece activated. It was Lucas. "We've got her - blindfolded. She can't ID us and doesn't want to. Says she's one of Ashaya Aleine's people, and she fits Jon's description of the blonde he saw with Ashaya. She confirms the Psy you're chasing is Larsen Brandell, the man behind the experiments. Gradient 7."
A Psy that strong could shove enough power through a changeling's mind to cause instantaneous death. So Clay gave Larsen no warning. Slicing out with his claws, he cut through the man's jugular in a clean sweep.
Blood spurted in a dark splash, coloring the ground and the wall beside the Psy. A gurgling sound followed. Larsen was dead before he hit the asphalt.
It was an execution. And that he felt no pity or guilt should have made Clay a monster. Perhaps it did. But as blood scented the air, sharp and metallic, he wondered if it took a monster to kill a monster.
Dressed only in a pair of loose black pants, his body covered with sweat, Councilor Kaleb Krychek walked to the edge of his balcony and looked down into the gorge that fell away an inch from his feet. But he didn't notice the dangerous view, his mind on the problem of Shoshanna and Henry Scott. While Nikita, Tatiana, and Ming were all dangerous adversaries, the Scotts were particularly problematic because they worked as a unit. Neither of the two was cardinal strength, but together, they were a lethal combination.
With Marshall gone, Shoshanna had begun jockeying for control of the Council. Kaleb had won the first skirmish, but he was under no illusion the battle would be easy. He glanced down at the mark branded onto his forearm, a deceptively clean-appearing shape that had shifted the course of his life beyond redemption. It was a reminder of what he was, what he was willing to do.
Something brushed his mind then, an oily darkness that looked to him for comfort. It was the voiceless twin of the NetMind, the neosentient entity that kept order in the PsyNet. The DarkMind, by comparison, was pure chaos. Very, very few people knew about the DarkMind. And only one could assert any control over it.
As a cardinal telekinetic, Kaleb had a natural affinity with both the NetMind and the DarkMind. Now he reached out a psychic hand and touched the DarkMind.
Sleep, he said. Sleep.
The DarkMind was tired today. So it slept. Kaleb knew the respite was temporary at best. The DarkMind carried within it all the violence and pain, the rage and the insanity that the Psy refused to feel. It had no voice but spoke through the acts of violence it perpetrated via the weak minds of compromised Psy. It was, in a sense, a lost child. It was also pure evil.