What a load of crock. Dorian smiled behind her back, and it was a smile that held a bite. He'd caught the first hint of the true scent of his prey. Now it was a case of hunting her down until he could work off the fire in his blood, the darkly sexual craving in his gut. Because if sex was the only way to fight this, he'd swallow his damn principles and take her. Once he'd indulged the need, it would most likely abate.
She blinked those big brown - wrong color, the cat growled - eyes. "May I attempt the password now?"
"By all means." He echoed her arch tone, but his mind was busy going over everything she'd said and done since that night two months ago. An intricate game of subterfuge? Or something more intriguing? "Here."
Put on guard by his easy cooperation, but wanting to check if she was right, Ashaya went with her first instinct and used the touch screen to input a single word: ILIANA. The screen cleared. "Not difficult after all."
"An entomologist who specialized in the medicinal properties of insects - her philosophies had a big impact on my own work," she said, and it was a truth.
"Not exactly the hardest thing for anyone familiar with your work to figure out," he muttered. "And it's a single word - so easy to hack, my great-granny could do it." Turning the device toward himself again, he sat down cross-legged and brought up the menu. "Huh. Lots of applications but no files. No wonder they put in such a hopeless password."
"I've heard this new line of organizers requires a password before any usage."
Dorian nodded. "You're right - they must've put one in so they could add all these specialist medical programs."
As his fingers moved over the screen, she realized something. "You know more about the functions than I do."
"I bet you just know how to use one or two programs." His smile was bright, teasing, and so unexpected, it sneaked in through her defenses.
Amara's voice, through a rain of white noise. Unintelligible. But getting closer.
Shoving away the brilliant temptation of Dorian's smile, she brought up the familiar image of a sheet of ice crawling over her mind, Silencing everything in its path. "I know how to utilize the aspects of the device that relate to my work." She began to take out the other things in the pack, making an inventory as she progressed. It only took a couple of minutes. She was about to repack when Dorian said, "You forgot the holoframe." There was a very catlike glint in his eye.
Realizing there was no rational reason to continue hiding it, she pulled out the frame and pressed the On button. An instant later, an uncountable number of light particles came together to form a three-dimensional image of Keenan as a baby. The person holding him - a woman with pale blue gray eyes, curly dark brown, almost black hair, and mocha skin - looked straight at the camera. Her gaze spoke of the Arctic.
"Who the hell is that?" Dorian asked.
It was an unexpected question. "It's me, of course."
"Don't lie to me."
Dorian was uncomfortably close, his body a heated wall, but she couldn't move away. "It looks exactly like me."
He snorted. "And I'm the f**king tooth fairy."
She stared at the image, unable to escape the truth - her secrets were beginning to escape. And this particular secret would find her sooner or later... then one would die, and one would live. "This is Amara," she said. "My sister... my twin."
Amara didn't know how Ashaya had done it, but her sister had literally died for a period of time. Amara wasn't pleased her twin had given her no warning of the plan - the psychic trauma from the disconnect had left her unconscious for hours. That was how Ming LeBon had managed to track and capture her without a fight.
Now, he stared at her from the other side of a glass wall. "Your sister is gone, dead."
Amara smiled, aware it irritated Ming to see her parroting human and changeling emotions. He knew nothing. Amara was connected to Ashaya on a level beyond the PsyNet. Nobody had ever discovered that link and as far as Amara was concerned, it wasn't something that could be permanently destroyed by anything other than death. True death.
"Good," she said. "I always hated the competition."
"Hate and love are emotions."
She shrugged. "Semantics." What she felt for her sister, it couldn't be defined, couldn't be put into one of the nice little boxes preferred by the Psy. "I am who I am."
"Ouch." She put her hand over her heart, pretending shock.
"You know, Ming," she said in a stage whisper, "you shouldn't throw stones - you're a cold-blooded murderer."
"You broke Silence. Your emotions control you."
Amara smiled again, slow and dark, well aware there was nothing but emptiness in her eyes. "Are you sure?" Ming was attempting to use psychological warfare on her, treating her as if she really was insane. Perhaps she was, but she was also highly intelligent and more than capable of seeing through his attempts to undermine her self-confidence. "What do you want, Councilor LeBon? What need is great enough that you've hunted down the rabid wolf you once called your pet?"
Ming's eyes faded to pure black, an eerie darkness that Amara was used to seeing in the mirror. "You're the only one capable of completing your sister's work. You must conclude what she began. Finalize the Implant Protocol."
"So little?" She smiled again, showing teeth. "Consider it done."
I heard the sniper's voice against my ear when I woke today. He whispered sensual promises so savage, I can hardly believe these thoughts come from some corner of my own psyche. And yet they must. Because, at the end, he called me prey.