His fingers threaded through her hair, pushing off her cap. "With power comes temptation."
"Yes." She thought of the people who'd worked in the labs with her, so many of them gifted, so many of them unable to see that what they were doing was monstrous. "That much power, without any controls, changes a person from the inside out." And what emerged wasn't always anything human in the wider sense.
"Emotion is a control." Dropping his hand from her hair, he picked up her cap. "But it's not the complete answer."
"If it was," she murmured, letting him put the cap back on her head, drawing his tenderness around her like a shield, "Silence would have never come into force."
"Circles." He reached out to open the door. "Ready?"
"Yes." But it was a lie. She'd never be ready to face the death that stained Sunshine a dark, nearly black red. It didn't matter. This had to be done. Somebody had to bear witness to the loss of so many minds, so many dreams and hopes. "Yes. Let's go."
PETROKOV FAMILY ARCHIVES
Letter dated January 5, 1979
I almost can't believe that we made it. The ShadowNet, as everyone's calling this new network, is a vibrant, chaotic place. Given our numbers, it's not as dense as the PsyNet, but it's alive. And that's all that matters.
The ostrasizing has already begun. We called your uncle Greg to tell him we were safe. I could see the relief in his eyes, but all he said out loud was not to call him again. He's afraid that if he shows any feelings toward us, the Council will take your cousins away.
I cried afterward. You saw me, wiped my tears. And I knew with every beat of my heart that I'd made the right choice.
I love you so.
Night fell with predictable swiftness but they were done by then. Neither of them brought up the idea of staying on. Dev simply took the wheel and they headed out. They'd been driving an hour when Katya broke the silence. "I'm starting to remember things I wasn't ready to before."
"Anything like this?"
"No." A long pause. "My memories of Noor's and especially Jon's time in the labs are almost complete."
He didn't try to talk her out of her guilt - that, he'd realized, would take time. The woman Katya had become would never be able to walk away from those darkest of memories. So he kept his tone matter-of-fact, his words the same. "She seems unaffected, and he's a strong kid."
"A gifted one." Katya's voice was quiet. "His ability - it's one so open to misuse."
"Not if he's shown the right path."
"When I was a child," she said, "I used to try to use my telepathy to make others in my creche group do what I wanted."
"That's a fairly normal developmental stage for telepathic children." Dev, too, had done things as a kid that weren't strictly right - he'd been learning his strengths, stretching his limbs. He wanted to tell Katya that, share the truth of his gift with metal, with machines. "It pisses me off that I can't talk to you like I want." His palms protested the strength with which he was gripping the steering wheel. Relaxing with effort, he blew out a breath between clenched teeth.
"I keep telling myself that things will change, that I'll find an escape hatch."
He remembered what she'd once said about the tentacles of Ming's control. "You haven't been able to work out a way to disengage the programming?"
"No" she said, wrapping her arms around herself in a hold so tight, he heard something tear in her jacket. "Not without damaging my brain. The talons of this thing he put in my head are sunk too deep."
"Maybe the programming is too strong to break," he said, pain shooting down his jaw, he'd clenched it so hard, "but it shouldn't have a permanent physical effect. It's a psychic construct."
"Dev . . . it's not the programming. The prison is anchored in my mind."
His gut turned to ice. "How sure are you?" A long pause. "Tell me."
"I've looked at it from every possible angle. I was hoping I'd made a mistake." The tone of her voice told him she'd discovered different.
Dev was only just a telepath, but he knew everything there was to know about the abilities - both old and new - that might manifest among the Forgotten. So he understood damn well that something that was anchored in an individual's mind, as opposed to the fabric of a neural net, would tear that mind to pieces if it was removed without the proper procedure. And right now, the only person who had a key to Katya's prison was Councilor Ming LeBon.
The decision was simple. "We need to find Ming."
Katya's head snapped toward him. "No, Dev. No."
Having spent the entire day with Cruz, Sascha expected to fall into an easy sleep that night, tired by the psychic energy she'd expended. But she found herself lying awake long after the forest had gone quiet around her. Cuddling into Lucas's changeling heat, she spread her fingers over his heart and tried to match the rhythm of her breathing to his.
Her body began to relax, but her mind continued to spin. Giving up, she decided to read for a while . . . but Lucas's arm tightened the instant she tried to pull away. She should have let him sleep - instead she stroked a hand down his neck. "Wake up."
His eyes blinked open with feline laziness. "Hmm?" Nuzzling at her in sleepy interest, he squeezed his hand over her hip.
"I can't sleep."
He spread his hand over her abdomen. "Feeling okay?" A tender question, a protective touch.
"Yes." She moved her hand over his biceps. "Just wide-awake."