Now that darkness had become tangled up in his savage hunger for Ashaya. And this desire - this violent hunger shot through with the rage he felt at being attracted to one of the enemy, to a woman who had worked for the very Council he'd vowed to destroy - was nothing he welcomed.
He'd never hurt a woman in a sexual way in his life, but there, in that bathroom, he'd come perilously close. He hated that he couldn't control his body around her, hated the man he became when with her, hated that her presence alone was enough to strip away the veneer of civilization that was all most people ever saw.
Her voice was sandpaper over his skin. Keeping his back to her, he drew back from the blood-hazed darkness and tried to find some hint of the man he'd been before the night he'd first seen Ashaya Aleine. "I'll organize a meeting with our communications people. They'll set up a broadcast - hell, we live to irritate the Psy Council."
Hidden behind the familiar chill of her voice, there was a whisper of fear, of terror. It threatened to push him back into the darkness, but he fought to remain human, remain civilized. "You're afraid," he said, turning around at last. "Terrified. Of me?" He waited to hear her lie to him, to pretend that she was a perfect inmate of Silence.
"No. I'm... afraid that I'll lose my grip on the conditioning," she said, holding his gaze, "that this outside world will make me slip, make me feel."
It was an answer he hadn't expected, one that poured the cold water of surprise over his anger. "You're an M-Psy. It's not like your abilities need to be contained. Unless you're hiding a nonpassive ability?"
"Then that leaves choice - you don't want to break Silence?"
"That's an illogical question." Her lips formed the rational words but the leopard sensed something else in the air, the finest of emotional tremors. "To admit to a need for change is to admit that I feel enough to know the difference between what I am and what I could be."
He crooked an eyebrow, calmed by the fact that she'd come to him, was now tangling with him, if only on an intellectual level. "Trying to snow me with words? Won't work. I'm a stubborn bastard, and you've already admitted fear. You feel." But how much? And would it ever be enough to placate the increasingly violent cravings of his leopard?
She stayed on the other side of the room, as if she knew how fine a line he walked. "You're very intelligent."
"Flattery will get you everywhere, except out of this conversation." He didn't like the distance, so he closed it, until he could've reached out and touched her if he wanted. "You know the difference between Silence and sensation, don't you, Ashaya? Not only that, but you want to step out of the cage."
If she walked away from Silence, perhaps his guilt would fade. Perhaps he'd be able to look at himself in the mirror again. "Do it," he whispered. "Break Silence. Love your son." It was a low blow and he saw the impact of it in her eyes.
"You're right," she said, voice husky. "I know the difference between what is and what could be. I also know that my conditioning is imperfect." A confession without lies or half-truths. "But none of that matters. Because even now, when I have a choice, I choose to embrace Silence... of my own free will."
Councilor Henry Scott pulled up a computer screen and began to input data.
It was a list of flawed Psy, a list he'd been compiling for years. Several of the people on the list had already been rehabilitated, but far too many mistakes continued to slip through the cracks. Like this boy.
He read the report again - the eight-year-old was showing signs of increasing rebellion. In response, his trainer had put him on a harsher regimen. Henry believed the boy should have been eliminated at the first hint of trouble. There was no cogent reason to perpetuate the cultivation of defective genes.
But he didn't have carte blanche over such decisions - the other Councilors had vetoed his suggestions. Too many childhood rehabilitations, they'd said, and the populace would begin to grow uneasy.
"Another flaw," he noted, inputting more data. Silence should've made them impervious to such concerns. But too many of his brethren - no, not his brethren; they were nothing more than dull primates to his mind of absolute Silence - were still driven by the primitive instinct to protect the young, even when those young proved defective.
Entering two more names, he closed down the encrypted file and sent it to its hiding place deep within his computer archives. He didn't keep as much on the PsyNet as he once had. His wife, Shoshanna, had long overstepped her bounds, prying into things that were none of her concern.
But she didn't know everything.
His eyes slid to the left corner of his desk, to the heavy white envelope edged with gilt. A gaudy, flashy thing, stamped Private and Confidential. It was, he had to admit, the perfect disguise. Even his normally astute assistant had put it in the in-box reserved for human media invitations and the like.
Picking it up, he opened the flap and removed the card. It was heavy white board, the lettering dark gold.
It would be our honor to have you join us. The password has been e-mailed to the Councilor's private address.
A numerical URL followed.
This was no petty group - only a few, very important people had his private e-mail address. Like most Psy, he rarely used that form of communication, but it did come in useful now and then. As it had today. The password had come in under the subject line "Purity."
Making a decision, he turned to his computer and accessed the Internet. The pathways of this network were extremely slow in comparison to the microsecond fluidity of the PsyNet, but that also meant it was disregarded by the majority of his race. The numerical URL would also assist in keeping this under the radar.