But the Psy, Dev knew, were adept at keeping secrets. Especially Psy like Ming LeBon, the Councilor rumored to have been behind the destruction of the lab. "If I send you a photo, can you see if Jon recognizes the person in it from his kidnapping?"
"No." An absolute answer, her expression as fierce as that of the leopards in her pack. "He's finally starting to act like a normal kid - I don't want to remind him of what he went through in that place."
Dev had known Talin long enough to understand that she wouldn't budge. "Then I need Ashaya's number."
"She was pretty broken up about losing her people." A pause. "Just be careful with her."
Dev heard what she wasn't saying. "You afraid I'll beat the answer out of her?"
"You've changed, Dev." A quiet response. "Become harder."
It was an accusation he'd faced many times in the past few months.
You heartless bastard! You put him in the hospital! How can you live with yourself?
Shelving the knife-edged memory, he shrugged. "Part of the job." That was true as far as it went, but even if he stopped being the director of Shine tomorrow, his ability would ensure the spreading cold in his soul. Paradoxically, that very ice made him the best person to run Shine - he knew how the Psy thought.
He noted the number Talin flashed on the screen. "Can we postpone our meeting?"
A nod. "Let me know what you find out."
Ending the call, Dev coded in Ashaya's number. It was answered on her end by a gray-eyed child with silky straight black hair. "Hello. May I help you?"
Dev hadn't thought anything could make him smile today, but he felt his lips curve at the solemn greeting. "Is your mom around?"
"Yes." The boy's eyes sparkled, suddenly more blue than gray. "She's making me cookies for kindergarten."
Dev couldn't quite reconcile the idea of Psy scientist Ashaya Aleine as a mother who made her little boy cookies at six fifteen in the morning. "Shouldn't you still be asleep?"
Before the boy could reply, a frowning female face filled the screen. "Who are you talking - " Her gaze fell on him. "Yes?"
"My name is Devraj Santos."
Picking up her son, Ashaya hitched him over her hip. The boy immediately snuggled his head onto her shoulder, one little hand spread on the pale blue of her shirt. Intelligent eyes watched Dev with undisguised interest.
"The Shine Foundation," Ashaya said, adjusting the collar of her son's pajama top with the absent movements of a mother used to doing such things.
"Talin's spoken about you." She tucked back a strand of curly black hair that had escaped her braid. "What can I do for you?"
Dev's eyes flicked to her son. Taking the hint, Ashaya kissed the boy on the cheek and smiled. "Keenan, you want to cut out some cookies while I talk to Mr. Santos?"
An enthusiastic nod. Mother and child disappeared from the screen for a minute, and as he waited, Dev found himself wondering if he'd ever hold a child of his own in his arms. The likelihood was very low - even had he trusted his genetic inheritance, he'd done too much, seen too much. There was no softness left in him.
Ashaya's face returned to the screen, her eyes filled with the remnants of laughter. "We'll have to be quick - Keenan's very good, but he's still a four-year-old alone with cookie dough."
Knowing he was about to wipe that shimmering joy from her eyes, he didn't try to soften the blow, didn't try to sugar-coat the implications. "I need you to see if you can identify someone." Then he told her about the woman he'd found dumped outside his apartment door.
Ashaya's face went pale under that dusky skin. "Do you think - "
"It could be nothing," he interrupted. "But it's a possibility I have to check out."
"Of course." Her throat moved as she swallowed. "If the Council knows about the unique abilities being manifested in the children of the Forgotten, there's a chance they'll begin to try to experiment on those children once again." A pause. "I think Ming would kill them if he couldn't use them."
Dev's jaw tightened. That was exactly what worried him - the Council would never countenance the idea of another group with access to psychic powers - much less the increasingly strong ones being manifested in some of his people. "Is this line secure?"
He sent through a photograph. "She may not look like she used to."
Nodding, Ashaya took a deep breath and opened the attachment. He knew the instant she recognized the woman in the photo. Crushing relief, anger, and pain - it all swept over her face in a violent wave. "Dear God." Her fingers covered her mouth. "Ekaterina. It's Ekaterina."
The Psy Council met in their usual location - a mental vault deep within the PsyNet, the psychic network that connected every Psy on the planet but for the renegades. An endless vista of black, each Psy mind represented by a single white star, the Net had a stark kind of beauty. But of course, those within the Net no longer understood beauty.
Like their Council, they understood only logic, practicality, economics.
Shut inside the solid black walls of the vault, Nikita looked to Ming. "You had something to discuss?"
"Yes." The other Councilor's mind was a blade, precise, ice-cold. "I've been able to retrieve some of the data Ashaya Aleine obfuscated before her defection."
"Excellent." Shoshanna Scott's mental voice was as coolly elegant as she was in person. That was why she was one of the two public faces of the Council. Her "husband," Henry, their relationship a front to pacify the human and changeling media, was the other half. Though, Nikita thought, the two hadn't been working as a cohesive unit these past months.