The Psy shunned color, and if there was no other hope for William, the boy Dev had held as a newborn would learn to shun it, too. Why color? Perhaps, Dev thought, it was because the vibrancy of it spoke to something within the Psy soul, the same as music. No Psy ever sang, ever attended a symphony. He'd heard it said that their voices were uniformly flat, but he didn't believe it. No, what was more likely was that their voices had been flattened by Silence, by the cold control it took to maintain a stranglehold on emotions so powerful, they should never be contained.
The door opened behind him. "What is it, Maggie?"
"Is that any kind of greeting for your nani, Devraj?"
Spinning on his heel, he crossed the office with long strides to pull his grandmother's rangy form into his arms. "What are you doing here?" The scents of spice and paint filled the air, overlaid with an edge he'd always thought of as glass. As if Kiran Santos's love for her work had infiltrated her very being. "Where's Nana?"
"I left him at home." His grandmother winked as he drew back from the embrace. "I wanted to spend time with my other favorite man." Strong hands, scarred by a thousand nicks and cuts, closed on his upper arms. "You look tired, beta."
"You shouldn't be here," he said. "You know that."
"Don't you think the Psy spies know about me?" A squeeze of his arms. "Of course they do. They see me as a weakness, but I'm a strength."
He'd never yet won an argument with his grandmother. Giving in, he took the hand she held out to him. "Why are you here?" She'd always left him to run Shine as he saw fit, no matter that she hadn't agreed with all his decisions - such as the one that had precipitated a heart attack in a member of the old board earlier in the year. Dev hadn't apologized for that. He couldn't. Because the old board had been hiding from the truth, burying their heads in the sand.
Meanwhile their children had been dying, systematically culled by the Council.
"You needed me," his grandmother said, switching from English to Hindi without pause. "Why didn't you call or come to me on the ShadowNet?"
"Because there are no answers here."
"The woman," she said. "You care for her a great deal."
"Yes." A stark answer. "Yes."
And he did. Because she was one of the very few people he trusted implicitly.
"I want to kill Ming - tear him apart with my bare hands - but what I really need from him is the key that'll release Katya from her psychic prison, wipe out the compulsions. For that, I need him to talk."
"Devraj, you must realize. . . holding a gun to Ming's head will achieve nothing. Not unless you can somehow cut off all his avenues of escape."
That's why he liked his grandmother. She was practical. "It has to be a short, hard hit." A brutal hit. "Even if he gets out a telepathic cry for help, I have to convince him he'll die before that help reaches him."
"That assumes he has no teleporters at his command, and I wouldn't assume that."
"There's only been one report of a true teleporter, and our intel says he's currently somewhere in South America - not attached to Ming," Dev argued. "The others are Tks. Able to teleport, yes, but not as fast."
"Fast enough." His grandmother leaned forward, frown lines marking her forehead. "We need to discuss this with the woman. With your Katya."
"No. I can't risk - "
"Hush, Devraj." A fond smile. "Do you really think you're going to win this argument?"
He tried to scowl at her, but there was simply too much love in his heart for this woman. "I'm not putting you in danger. Katya tried to kill me," he said bluntly. "It may be that she's programmed to strike out at others close to me if she gets the chance."
"That's why I have a big, strong grandson to protect me."
And that was how Dev found himself in the subbasement level, standing at one end of the table while the two women who meant most to him in the world looked across at each other. Physically, they couldn't have been more different.
His nani was a tall woman with nut-brown skin and sparkling dark eyes. Katya was just barely of medium height, her skin almost translucent, though it had gained a little more color recently, her eyes a soft, wary hazel. His grandmother was tough, looked tough, her arms ropy with muscle. Katya in contrast, appeared soft. . . delicate.
The woman who'd walked through Sunshine, Alaska, without screaming was no weakling.
"So," his grandmother said, "you're the one who has my Devraj staying up nights."
Katya didn't turn to him, holding his grandmother's gaze. "Actually," she said, "I blame him for the sleepless nights."
Nani laughed. "I like her, beta." Reaching forward, she closed her hand around Katya's. "You should meet Dev's paternal great-grandfather, Matthew; he's the one Dev gets the stubborn from. Old goat's well over a hundred, but I haven't yet seen him back down from a fight."
Katya's eyes widened. "Was he - "
A nod. "Yes, he was alive when Silence first came into effect. His parents, Zarina and David, were part of the original rebellion."
Katya didn't speak for almost a minute. "He would've been a contemporary of the very first children who were Silenced in the Net."
"He remembers a cousin, said he saw him on the street years later, and it was as if the man's soul had been wiped away." The older woman shook her head. "Two different paths . . . though perhaps the paths are merging once again." There was a troubled note in her voice. "But that's not why we're here - we've been discussing how to disable Ming long enough that you can get him to set you free."