Looking down at the frenetic energy of New York, he weighed his next move. If Katya had been dumped at his home as a warning, then the powers in the PsyNet already knew she was alive and were - as she herself had said - controlling her. However, he had to consider the converse possibility - that she'd been rescued and left at his home because her rescuer knew the Forgotten would never cooperate with the Council. If so, any ripple in the pond could put her life in danger.
He turned to find Maggie, in the doorway. "What is it?"
"Jack's on his way up." Her eyes were sympathetic.
Dev's gut twisted, his mind filling with images of William, Jack's son. The last time Dev had seen him, Will had still been a laughing, energetic little boy. Now . . . "Show him in when he arrives."
Sleet began to fleck the window as Maggie withdrew, every blow more cold and brittle than the last. Moving away from the sudden darkness, Dev returned to his desk. To his responsibilities. There was only one decision he could make when it came to seeking information about Katya - she wasn't as important as the thousands of Forgotten he'd pledged to protect. A ruthless line, but one he could not cross.
Several floors below, her eyes closed in sleep, Katya found herself back in the spider's web.
"What is your secondary purpose?"
"To gather information on the Forgotten, to discover their secrets."
"And if you fail to find any useful data in the designated time frame?"
Fear rose, but it was dull, a feeling she'd endured so long, it had become a bruise that never faded. "I must shift all my focus to the primary task."
"What is that task?"
"To kill the director of the Shine Foundation, Devraj Santos."
"In a way that makes it clear he was assassinated. In a way that leaves no room for doubt about who did the task."
That threw her. "You didn't tell me why."
"Good." A single, ice-cold word. "Your job isn't to understand, simply to do. Now repeat what you are to do."
"Kill Devraj Santos."
A pause, a rustle of fabric as he crossed his legs, his face as expressionless as when he'd shut her in the dark again though she'd begged and pleaded on her hands and knees.
"Please," she'd said, scrabbling to hold on to his legs. "Please, don't. Please, please!"
But he'd kicked her away, locked the door. And now he sat - a god on his throne while she huddled on the floor - speaking to her in that cool voice that never changed, no matter how much she screamed.
"That task is the sole reason I'm leaving you alive."
"You're already dead. Easily expendable."
"If I fail?" She was so weak, her bones seeming to melt from the inside out. How could she possibly kill any man, much less one reputed to be as lethal as the director of the Shine Foundation?
There was no immediate answer, no movement from the spider who'd become the only living being in the endless pain that was her universe. He was a true Psy. He didn't make gestures or movements without purpose. Once, she'd been like that. Before he'd torn into her mind and snapped the threads of her conditioning, wiping out all the things that had made her who she was.
Before he'd killed her.
"If you fail," he finally said, "Devraj Santos will eliminate you from the equation. The end, for you, will be the same."
Katya gasped awake, her clothing sticking to her skin, her head pounding. Fear and horror clawed at her chest until she kicked off the blankets, certain something was sitting on her ribs, crushing her bones.
Nothing but madness.
Shoving a fist into her mouth, she curled onto her side, wrestling with the jagged fragments of a dream that had drenched her body in the sick chill of fear-sweat. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't connect the pieces, couldn't figure out what it was the shadow-man had wanted her to do.
She just knew that when the time came . . . she'd do it. Because the shadow-man never left anything to chance. Most especially his weapons.
PETROKOV FAMILY ARCHIVES
Letter dated December 3, 1970
My dear Matthew,
It's as I thought - the attempt to condition rage out of our young is failing. But that isn't the most disturbing news. Today, I read a confidential report that says the Council has begun to consider the effective elimination of all our emotions.
My hand shakes as I write this. Can't they see what they're asking? What they're destroying?
Three days later, Dev had the answer to his question.
"We've rechecked with our source," Dorian told him over the communications panel. "She's officially listed as deceased."
"Ming had to have taken her out beforehand. Unless your intel says otherwise?"
"No. With Ekaterina - "
"Katya," Dev corrected automatically.
"Right." The sentinel gave a single sharp nod. "Well, with Katya, he really cleaned up his tracks - apparently, there's not even a whisper that she survived the explosion. Ashaya's starting to think the amnesia could be the side effect of a psychic block of some sort, something that stops her from betraying herself on the Net."
"We're working on that." The Forgotten had changed over the years, but they still had telepaths in their midst, still had those who could work with minds wrapped in a mental prison. Dev knew the painful certainty of that far too well.
"You need any of us, all you have to do is say the word. Sascha, Faith, Shaya," Dorian said, naming three of the powerful Psy in his pack, "they're ready to drop everything to help Katya."