"Hold on." That was his only warning before he started to run.
Her arms tightened instinctively. She was vividly conscious that he was moving at a pace equivalent to that of a high-speed vehicle. If they crashed into one of the huge trees looming up ahead, their necks would snap. It would've made sense to close her eyes but she couldn't. She needed to see where they were going, even if there was -
A sharp stab at her mind, something... someone, trying to claw in.
She reacted almost automatically, relying on years of experience to throw up roadblocks created with the impenetrable chill of Silence. There was no way she could hide the fact of her "resurrection" from Amara, but the other woman couldn't be allowed to slip into her mind, could never be allowed to learn that Keenan was still alive.
"You asleep?" The sniper whipped around to look at her, barely avoiding a tree trunk.
Every muscle in her body locked, and she realized her trainers had lied. It wasn't possible to suppress any and all physical responses if you had enough strength of will. Ashaya had turned her blood glacial over the years, and still, her body reacted to the threat of pain. "Don't you think you should watch where you're going?"
Laughter that she felt more than heard. It vibrated through the disturbing intimacy of their aligned bodies, threatening her conditioning on a level that could prove deadly. And yet she didn't ask to be put down - it would betray too much, put her entire plan in jeopardy. She gave in to another compulsion instead, one born of the part of her mind that had awakened at fourteen and never returned to sleep. "What's your name?"
He said something that was snatched away by the wind. Deciding to save her questions for another time, but aware he could hear her with her lips so close to his ear, she said, "I think my leg's bleeding again."
He slowed down enough to glance at her. "I can smell it. How bad?"
She heard something in that tone... a subtle edge that resonated with the unnamed thing inside of her. "I'm fine now, but in a few minutes, we'll start leaving a trail."
"Then hold on tight." And then he moved. If she'd thought he was fast before, that was nothing compared to the whiplash speed of his current pace. She had to close her eyes this time, forced to by the wind that ripped tears from her eyes.
In the ensuing darkness, all she could focus on was the liquid shift of muscle in the body that carried her. Pure power. Incredible strength.
And she was completely at his mercy.
Ming LeBon stared at the empty slab where Ashaya Aleine's body should have been. "Recordings?"
"Blank for a period of fifteen minutes. It went unnoticed because - "
Ming slashed out a hand. "No excuses."
"Send Vasic in."
A minute later, Vasic replaced the security officer. "Sir."
"You secured Aleine's organizer?"
Vasic nodded. "As soon as she lost consciousness. Per previous orders, I teleported it to your desk. Would you like me to retrieve it?"
"No." Ming stared at the other male, one of his most elite soldiers. As an Arrow, Vasic's loyalty should have been beyond doubt. It wasn't anything left to chance - Arrows were all placed on a regimen of drugs meant to turn them into the most unwavering of killing machines. "No alarms were tripped, no other monitors aside from those in this section tampered with. What does that mean?"
"A teleport-capable Tk," Vasic replied, completely unmoved. "Officially, there were none in the immediate vicinity at the time."
Vasic glanced at the recording devices in the room, and "knocked" telepathically. When Ming gave him permission for Tp contact, the soldier said, The insurgency is gaining in strength. There may be rebels with abilities we aren't aware of.
A Tk that strong would have been recorded by now.
Then, Vasic responded, still pure calm as all Arrows were, it was a traitor.
Open your mind for a scan.
Negative, sir. That would leave me defenseless.
And Arrows never let themselves be defenseless. It was part of their training. Ming himself had taught them that lesson. Where were you at the pertinent time?
In Europe. Data flowed from Vasic's mind to his. After tele-porting M-Psy Aleine's organizer to your desk, I rejoined my team as part of an operation to delve into the recent surge in activity within the Human Alliance.
Ming nodded, having already checked that information. Not only was Vasic the most powerful teleporter he'd ever known, the man was incorruptible - there was nothing left of him to corrupt. However, Ming trusted no one. As of now you're attached to me. I want you on standby.
Withdrawing from the mental contact, Ming dismissed Vasic and stared down at the cold slab of the morgue table. Ashaya's disappearance could be explained in one of two ways. One, she was dead but her body had been taken because it contained valuable data. That was a real possibility. She'd been behaving erratically the past few weeks - she may even have implanted herself as a test subject.
The second possibility was even more dangerous. That Ashaya Aleine was alive and out of Council control.
She couldn't be allowed to stay that way.
Even as Ming focused his attention on finding Ashaya, several men got off an airjet at San Francisco International Airport. Their job was to blend in and watch - the leopards, the wolves, but most especially, the Psy.
No one noticed them. Then. Or later.
It's becoming an obsession - my fascination with the sniper. Today, in the lab, I felt his breath on my nape. It swept like fire across my skin. I am a scientist, a being of logic and reason, but part of me is convinced that he was real, that I could have raised a hand and brushed my fingertips across his lips.