"Yes." Lying would achieve nothing. "My people come first - it's something you can't ever forget."
She gave him her back as she turned to walk toward the windows. "How long do you plan to keep me here?"
Fighting the instinct to bridge the distance, to capture her between his arms as he had in Vermont, he thrust both hands into the pockets of his suit pants. "For now - at least a week."
"That's not an answer, Dev."
"You know the answer." He stared at the slender line of her back, willing her to face him, make him feel less like a monster. "You've always known the answer."
She pressed her hand flat on the glass. "You'll keep me here as long as it takes. Even if it takes years."
It was a kick to the gut, the utter emptiness of her voice. For the first time, she sounded like one of the Psy. As if he'd destroyed something in her. "It won't," he said. "We'll have answers sooner rather than later." He'd set every single one of his contacts into play.
"Then what?" Finally, she turned to look at him, her eyes as empty as her voice. The woman who'd come to him last night was just. . . gone. "As long as I'm connected to the PsyNet, I'm a threat. And there's no way to pull me out of the Net. Stalemate."
Dev pushed through the door to another apartment well over an hour later. He'd meant to head there straight after he'd shown Katya to her room, but he'd been in no mood to talk to a traumatized child. Not when he felt like an abuser himself.
His lips set in a tight line. That wasn't coincidence. Nani had been right - someone had put a lot of thought into creating Katya, giving her vulnerabilities designed to play on his deepest instincts. He could deal with sniveling mercenary traitors without losing sleep, even with those who were driven by other hatreds. But he had a big f**king blind spot when it came to women who'd been battered and abused.
Knowing that should've neutralized his response to the woman he'd locked into the twelfth-floor suite, but all it did was make him aware of the depth of his weakness.
Jerking up his head at the sound of Glen's voice, he glanced toward the open doorway to the left. "Kid in there?"
Glen gave a small nod. "We moved him up here after he started to regain consciousness. It's more homey than the clinic."
"That's fine - but you've got guards on him?" Dev wasn't worried about the kid's physical strength - it was the psychic plane that concerned him. Some of the New Generation abilities could be lethal.
"Tag's here," Glen said. "I realized we'd need another telepath to control this one."
Dev had already picked up the echo of Tag's distinctive mental energy. One of the very few true telepaths in the ShadowNet, the other man had had a truly horrific childhood. There were some who said it was a miracle he hadn't gone insane. Dev didn't think it had anything to do with miracles - Tag was just one tough son of a bitch. "The boy tell you anything else?"
Glen rubbed at his face, looking haggard in a way Dev had never seen him look - as if the weight of experience threatened to crush him. "Glen?"
"The boy - Cruz," the doctor began, "is worse than messed up. The drugs they kept him on blocked his psychic pathways, but they also stunted his development."
"Fuck." Like the Psy, and depending on the depth of their genetic inheritance, many of the Forgotten didn't react well to human drugs. "Brain damage?" Doctors today could fix a hell of a lot, but even they couldn't heal brain cells after they'd been fatally compromised.
To his relief, Glen shook his head. "No. His intellect is fine - it's his psychic development that's been seriously impaired."
"He's not as strong as he could've been?"
Again, Glen surprised him by shaking his head. "Kid's off the charts. Tag says he's cardinal level."
Dev sucked in a breath. "That shouldn't be possible." Cardinals were rare, so rare, though the populace could've been forgiven for thinking otherwise with the recent high-profile defections of two cardinals from the Net. But Sascha Duncan and Faith NightStar were part of a very, very exclusive club. Across the world, there were millions upon millions of Psy. If there were even five thousand cardinals among that number, it would be more than Dev expected. "He can't have cardinal eyes." White stars on black, the eyes of the most powerfully gifted Psy were both eerie and startlingly unique.
"No - human," Glen confirmed. "His genetic structure is mixed, like the rest of us. But when Tag drops the shields he's holding on Cruz, the boy's power will hit you like a hurricane."
Dev ignored the obvious statement. "You're telling me this boy has no shields of his own?"
The bags under Glen's eyes seemed to grow ever deeper. "Yes. And while he might be of mixed blood, he's got a phenomenal number of active Psy genes, so many recessive pairs . . ." Glen shook his head. "His psychic channels are blocked as long as he's on the drugs, but take him off and they blow wide open."
"Damn." Dev thrust his hands through his hair, rapidly considering and discarding options. "He'll go insane if we don't figure out a way to give him permanent protection."
"I considered a milder dosage of the drugs," Glen said, "even though I hate putting our children on anything."
"But those drugs basically turn him into a zombie." He glanced toward the doorway, compassion in every tired line of his face.
"Does he understand what's happened?"
"Tag hasn't been able to draw him out - Cruz probably sees him as his jailer, so that's not much of a surprise."