Coding in the number for Jack's cell, he waited. The other man answered after a couple of seconds. "About time, Director."
"Cut me some slack," Dev muttered. "You'd think we weren't related, the way you're out to string me up."
"Don't pull the cousin card on me." But his tone became less harsh. "You been avoiding me, Dev?"
"No. We've had some other shit hit the fan." Thrusting a hand through his hair, he leaned back in the seat. "What you're saying - I'm listening."
"Good." A pause. "Fuck, Dev, I didn't set out to be a pain in your ass, and I sure as hell don't want to rake up old memories, but we've got to deal with this."
"There's no way I can support what you want - you know that. Our ancestors gave up everything for our freedom. How the hell can you turn your back on that?"
"Because my son is so terrified of his own abilities that he's too scared to make friends." Jack's torment filled the line. "He's a baby, but he's so afraid he'll hurt someone that he stays in his room all day. You deal with that every day and then you tell me the choice isn't mine to make."
Catching the break in Jack's voice, Dev straightened. "What aren't you telling me? I thought Will was stable for now." He'd believed they had time to find another answer - one that wouldn't destroy the very heart of Forgotten identity.
"Something happened. I don't - " A jagged breath. "I need to confirm it. But I know that Will's getting worse."
Dev thought of the seven-year-old boy who called him Uncle Dev, thought, too, of the others on the edge. "It's circled back." The strange new abilities arising in the Forgotten were bringing with them the same madnesses that had driven the Psy to Silence. "But you've seen how Silence isn't the answer to everything - they're not the example we want to follow."
"You go cold, Dev," Jack said. "I've seen you do it. You mainline the machines and you go cold. What if you couldn't?"
Dev knew all too well what it felt like to skyrocket out of control. Especially now, with a woman who slipped beneath the metallic layer as if it didn't exist. "I might go cold, but I stay human, Jack. I feel." Too much. Too strong.
"It's a bad choice, I know," Jack admitted. "But if there are only bad choices . . ."
"We'll find another way." Dev wouldn't lose his family, his people. "I've got Glen and his team on it night and day. And I'm working every contact I have - just . . . don't make any hasty decisions. Can you give me a few more days? Can Will?" Because if the boy had gone critical, then Dev would turn the plane around. He had every faith that the woman by his side would understand.
"What's so important that you can't talk to me today?"
Dev glanced at Katya's head, turned toward the window of the plane. "I'm fighting to save another life, another mind."
Jack sucked in a breath. "Damn, you know how to sock it to a man. I'll give you a few more days."
"Call me the instant anything changes." Because - and though Dev's protective instincts screamed in violent repudiation at the thought - small, big-eyed William was their barometer, the closest to snapping the threads of his sanity. Swallowing the knot in his throat, he didn't even make an effort to hide his own worry for Will. "You call me and I'll come. You got that?"
A pause filled with things unsaid, and Dev knew Jack understood the brutal truth, a truth no father should have to face. "Yeah," his cousin finally answered. "I gotta go - Melissa's home. This is f**king messed up." The last sentence was tired.
As Dev hung up, he felt the same. Turning, he found Katya looking at him. She took off the wireless headphones only when he slid the phone into a pocket. "I want so much to ask what's put that look on your face," she said, reaching out to place one hand over his.
"Katya, there's a chance we might have to turn back." He tightened his fingers on hers. "But if we do, I'll bring you back. I promise you that."
And though he knew how badly she wanted to reach her destination, she gave an immediate nod. "Your promise is more than enough for me."
His heart expanded, until he couldn't even remember what the metal felt like. "How secure is your mind?"
"It's a vault. Nothing can come in or get out into the Net. But like you said, Ming must have the psychic key to open that vault - he could use it at any time."
He understood what she was telling him, but the possible benefits outweighed the risks in this case. About to ask her what he needed to know, he frowned. "You have a nosebleed."
Making a small sound, she lifted a hand to her nose, taking the tissue he ripped from the pack provided in the seat pockets. "It's the altitude," she said.
He wasn't so sure. "How's your head?"
"Fine." Slipping the tissue into the disposal bag, she made a face at him. "I've never been a good flier. What was your question?"
Still not convinced, he made a mental note to have Glen check her out on their return. "What do you know about the genesis of Silence?"
"Aside from what's in the public domain, I know that it's not as effective as the Council likes to make out - the anchors, the strong Psy the Net needs to maintain itself - they're extremely vulnerable to sociopathy."
Dev had guessed as much. "But it is effective at a certain level?"
"Yes." She nodded. "You know there are abilities that predispose the individual to mental illness - or ones that drive them toward such illnesses because of what they demand."