Dev recoiled inwardly, remembering Katya's turned back, her empty voice. "I'll talk to him. Is there anything else I need to know?" Shoving everything but Cruz to the back of his mind, he took off his suit jacket, then undid and removed his tie before undoing the top buttons on his shirt and rolling up his sleeves. No use going into a child's room looking like the school principal.
"He's got no family as far as we can figure out - Aryan's team tracked him on the ShadowNet."
"Why didn't we pick him up if he's linked in?"Not every Forgotten needed the biofeedback provided by the ShadowNet - like so many things, it depended on their complicated genetic structure. "This is why we constantly run those seminars, so adults know to look out for minors who might need help."
"Because no one could 'see' him," Glen replied. "Boy's completely isolated."
That, Dev knew, should've been impossible. Everyone had someone to whom they felt connected, even if that connection was an unhealthy one neither party would choose. "Aw, hell." No wonder the kid was scared. Making a decision, he rubbed at his jaw. "Can Tag keep a hold on Cruz from outside the room?"
"Yes. You want to be alone with him?"
At Dev's nod, Glen went to the bedroom doorway and waved Tag out. The big man walked into the living area on silent feet, his eyes blazing with fury. "I could strangle his grandparents."
Dev shook his head. "Not if I got to shoot them first." If Cruz had been brought in as per protocol, he would've been taught to develop and protect his powers from childhood. Now, they might be lucky to salvage his sanity. "I could be a while. You okay to hold the shield?"
"I can do it twenty-four hours a day if necessary," Tag said. "Kid's not fighting me - doesn't know how. But I have to remain within a certain radius."
"Can Tiara spell you?"
Tag turned his head but not before Dev glimpsed the dark red flush along the tops of his cheekbones. "She just got on an airjet from Paris."
Glen's eyes lit up with unholy glee. "You must be looking forward to catching up with her."
"I'll beat you both up if you don't shut it."
Glad for the tiny burst of amusement, even if it came nowhere close to easing the ice around his soul, Dev walked into Cruz's room, shutting the door behind himself. The boy was curled up on his side, his ten-year-old body much smaller than it should've been.
His hair was dark and silky - and cut in a bowl shape that would've sent most kids howling to their moms. But Cruz didn't have a mom to complain to. And, until the past few hours, he probably hadn't even realized what he looked like. Now, the boy's huge, dark eyes followed Dev as he grabbed a chair and pulled it forward so he was sitting at Cruz's bedside. That was when he got the first shock.
Glen had said Cruz's eyes were human. They weren't. This close, Dev saw the odd flicker of dark gold in the depths of the near-black irises. Extraordinary. Why had no one noticed? Thinking back, he found the answer - it was possible the drugs had messed Cruz up so completely his gaze had gone dull, too.
"I'm Dev," he said, and waited. Cruz was a ghost to his psychic senses, so slight as to be nonexistent.
The boy didn't say a word.
Smiling, Dev took a different tack. "You're not going to believe this, but I was once your age. If I'd had that haircut inflicted on me, I'd have done serious damage to the hairdresser."
A blink. Nothing else.
"You want me to organize someone to fix it?"
Another blink, but slower this time.
Dev grinned. "Or you could keep it. Women seemed to find it cute on a kid. You'll probably get spoiled half to death."
Cruz raised a hand to his hair, pulling it forward as if to see the color. "My mom used to cut my hair." His voice was quiet. . . and full of a vicious psychic power he had no ability to control.
PETROKOV FAMILY ARCHIVES
Letter dated May 25, 1975
Your sister Emily sleeps beside me, but even her sweet smile can't stop the grief that ravages my heart. Your father . . . I always knew that as a foreseer, he was at a far higher risk of mental illness than the majority of the population. And yet I tried not to know. Because he is my heart - I don't know what I would do without him.
He admitted himself to a psychiatric ward today. I begged him not to go. I'm scared of the currents in the Net, the wave of support for Silence. Ever since the Adelajas provided the "proof" of their sons, more and more people are being swayed to the Council's way of thinking. What proof, I ask you. Where are Tendaji and Naeem? Why do we never see them anymore?
No one will answer my questions, and now I'm afraid for my position in the ministry. I'm speaking too loudly. It's not in my nature to close my mouth, but we need the money. So I'll try to listen instead. And I'll pray that your father comes home soon.
With all my love,
Katya had been through every room of the apartment. It was a generous space - bedroom, bathroom, and a kitchenette that flowed off the wide main living area. But there was no getting out of it except through the front door, no avenues of escape whatsoever. Even the knives in the kitchen were small, barely sharp enough to cut fruit.
Devraj Santos was not a stupid man.
At least, she thought, trying to find a silver lining, he respected her skills enough to put her in a place from which only a teleporter might be able to escape. Too bad that wasn't part of her psychic skill set.
Another piece of memory slotted into the jigsaw that was her mind.
Her eyes widened. "Of course." She'd been ignoring the very thing that made her different, that made her unique. Yes, she was a telepath - level 4.5 on the Gradient. That meant she was - just - a midrange Tp-Psy. She was also a Gradient 4.9 M-Psy.