"What about her abilities? She may have aggressive ones."
"We've got that covered," the man next to her said. "It's time the Psy learned they aren't as all-powerful as they think."
When the psychologist suggested I keep a journal of my nightmares in order to better find a way to negate their effect, he inadvertently gave me a priceless gift. As far as anyone knows, that journal was closed the day I was pronounced stable. The truth, of course, is that I never recovered from the trauma and the journal was never closed.
- From the encrypted personal files of Ashaya Aleine
Ashaya lay in the dark, exhausted but unable to sleep.
Ekaterina was dead.
So were the others. All because they'd thrown their loyalty behind Ashaya. She wanted to believe that some had escaped, but she knew Ming LeBon. He would've struck hard and without warning. The entire lab had always been rigged to blow from the inside - a supposed precaution against the spread of a lethal bioagent.
Now Ming had utilized that "safety feature" and unless he'd pulled Ekaterina out because he had some use for her, she was dead. Even if he had done that, the woman Ashaya had known was as good as dead. Ming would've used his abilities to turn her into a mindless automaton. Ashaya didn't want to think of Ekaterina being violated that way. Better that she'd died in a single instant.
Like the others. So many others.
Ashaya wanted to turn away from the brutal reality of all those deaths, but she had no right. Because no matter what Dorian had said, this was on her. If she hadn't provoked the Council with that broadcast, Ekaterina would still be alive. What she couldn't understand was why Ming had done it, killed so indiscriminately. He knew Ashaya only as the most perfect of Psy, without an emotional flaw that would lead her to mourn her lost colleagues. Had he done it for no reason other than to send her a message? Was he that coldly practical?
Yes, she thought, remembering what he'd said to her once.
You are necessary. I would never simply kill you.
No, he'd torture her, break her, first. Even if that meant he had to kill everyone who might have stood with her.
Wrong, she thought fiercely. There were survivors - scientists on the outside who had sided with her over the implant issue. They were the ones who'd made sure her note about Keenan reached Talin McKade - she hadn't trusted Zie Zen not to stop her. As far as Ashaya was aware, she and Zie Zen alone knew the identities of those courageous men and women. Zie Zen would never be suspected of rebel activities. Which left Ashaya. She couldn't let Ming recapture her. Because if he tore open her mind, more people would die.
More blood would stain her hands.
Oh, Ashaya, you've been very, very bad.
You're going to be a mother to your son.
Ashaya curled into a fetal ball, telling herself she was merely thinking things over so she could plan her next step. But the lie was too big to swallow. The past was catching up with her, cracking the brittle wall of false Silence around her mind.
I thought you had a heart of f**king ice the first time I met you, but I never took you for a coward.
Dorian was right. She was a coward. Staying away from her son when all it would take to keep him safe from the worst monster of all was a single bullet. Keenan would never have to know the chilling truth once Amara was gone. All she had to do was look into eyes identical to her own, into a face she'd promised to protect, into a mind linked to hers since before birth, and pull the trigger.
Her stomach revolted.
Resisting the urge to throw up, she began to chart the cool certainty of DNA patterns inside her mind, giving herself a firm mental command for sleep. It didn't come. At least not then. She lay awake, perhaps for minutes, perhaps for hours, and when exhaustion did finally suck her under, it was only to return her to the one moment she most wanted to forget... but that she relived every night with clockwork precision.
She was in a hole, hard-packed soil all around her.
A grave, her mind whispered.
No, she told herself, reaching for Silent calm. She was seventeen years old, had basically completed her progress through the Protocol and graduated with honors in her chosen specialty. The Council was planning to offer her a training position in one of its top labs. She was going to accept. She couldn't be in a grave. There was wood above her - planks, they were planks.
See, not a grave. But the air was growing heavy, dirty, harder to breathe.
"Amara," she said, asking for help, for an explanation.
Only the rumble of earth and rock greeted her. Dust whispered through the planks. One of the pieces of wood fell in, crushing her leg. She didn't notice, knowing only that her resting place had been covered with earth, that no one would hear her. She could've gone into the PsyNet, could've screamed for help that way.
But she couldn't. Because in that moment of understanding, of knowing that she'd been entombed again, something snapped inside of her. She lost her sense of humanity, of logic, and became a creature of pure primitive chaos. She screamed until her throat was raw, until her hands were bloodied and her cheeks wet with tears.
She screamed until Amara decided to dig her up again.
Ashaya came awake with sudden, quiet alertness. It could be no other way. If she'd woken up screaming in the lab, it would've alerted others to her aberrant mental state. And Ashaya had no wish to end up in the Center, her personality erased, her mind reduced to the level of a blithering idiot's.
Conscious that sleep would elude her now, she got up and walked out of the bedroom, judging her dark red pajama bottoms and black T-shirt reasonable enough should Dorian prove to be awake. Her hand stilled on the doorknob as she considered whether or not she wanted to venture out and chance speaking to him.