Anthony Kyriakus was the single member who didn't immediately agree. "Ming, my question is for you. I've heard a rumor that your Arrows are no longer under your complete control."
Kaleb had also heard that particular rumor, had in fact intended to explore the topic further. Now, he waited to see what Ming would say.
"The rumors are incorrect," Ming said. "The only issue of control relates to the reaction several long-serving Arrows are having to the Jax regimen."
"You're still using Jax?" Tatiana asked.
"Nothing else has proven as effective when it comes to maintaining absolute Silence."
It was more than that, Kaleb knew. Jax - recognized by most only as the scourge of the Psy - had been created for a very specific purpose. When given in the proper dosage, accurately calibrated to the individual, Jax had a way of erasing the personality without erasing the mind. A very precarious balance. "The ones who had the reaction," he asked, "have they been taken care of?"
"I've put them in a facility specifically designed to hold Arrows who've begun to degenerate."
Shoshanna spoke on the heels of Ming's statment. "Why aren't they dead? Surely they're no longer useful."
"Arrows," Ming said, the subtle emphasis reminding them he'd once been one himself, "have only one unbreakable rule - never leave another Arrow behind. It's part of the psychological structure that allows them to function. If I eliminate the defective individuals, it will eventually lead to the disintegration of the near-blind loyalty that binds the Arrows to each other and to me."
"That," Tatiana said, "sounds almost like an emotional attachment."
"It is no more emotional than a chick imprinting on its mother," Ming said. "I'm their leader and they've agreed to follow me - as long as I don't break that one underlying rule, they'll do exactly that."
"How did such a rule ever come into play?" Shoshanna asked, exposing her ignorance of that aspect of human nature.
Kaleb had done his research. He knew about Zaid Adelaja, the first Arrow. Knew, too, that the man had been a soldier turned assassin. And soldiers, no matter their race, lived and died for the team. Ignoring Ming's answer to Shoshanna's question, he rifled through his files, searching for the location of the place Ming sent his Arrows to die.
He didn't have it.
But he would have by the time this day ended. "We also have another matter to discuss." He began to tell them about the dark spots in the Net, doing his ostensible job as the Councilor most attuned to the NetMind. But in truth, he was watching and listening. Each Councilor would have a different response to this knowledge, and, when the time came, each Councilor would either live or die on that response.
It was dark when the airjet landed, having flown at low speed to give Katya's internal compass a chance to focus. She finally stopped them somewhere in the south of Alaska, the air frigid. Thanks to Michel, Dev was kitted out in heavy cold-weather gear, while Katya wore a thick scarf and a jacket much too large for her small frame. It would keep her warm for the time being, Dev thought critically, but no way was he taking her any farther into Alaska that way.
"We'll sort out some clothing for you tomorrow morning," he said, picking up the keys to the all-terrain vehicle that Maggie had organized after his call from the airjet. "The cabin Maggie booked for us is attached to a tourist lodge. They should have a shop of some kind."
Katya's expression was rueful. "I didn't consider the cold up here when I decided to run."
His most possessive instincts spiking at the reminder of just how much danger she'd put herself in, he took her hand. "You'll be fine in the car for the drive."
That drive took less than twenty minutes.
"Your secretary is very efficient," Katya said as Dev opened the door to their unit to reveal a brand new duffel on the dresser to the left. It proved to have everything - clothing included - that she might need over the next few days.
"Why do you think I pay her so well?" Putting down his own duffel, he gave her a flashing smile that had been absent all day. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed it until then.
"This place is lovely," she said, her eye drifting to the huge fluffy bed in the bedroom to the left. "But I still feel like we should keep going."
"You're about to drop from exhaustion, and I'm not in the best shape either - in spite of the nap you gave me last night."
She squared her shoulders. "I refuse to feel guilty."
"It was my own bloody fault for not making sure I checked you for contraband." A scowl. "We'll catch a few hours' sleep, then hit the road with clear heads. Probably get a lot farther."
In spite of the urgency that rippled through her veins, she couldn't argue with his logic. "Okay." Her eyes went right, to the second bedroom. She bit her lip. "Dev?"
"Hmm?" He shrugged off his jacket and dropped it on the sofa before bending to pull off his boots.
She'd already taken off her outerwear, leaving her wearing jeans and a sweater. "Which bedroom do you want?" It wasn't the question she wanted to ask, but her courage deserted her at the last minute.
"Left or right, it doesn't matter to me." He shrugged, finished with his boots, and rose to his feet, a big man with a shadowed jaw . . . and eyes full of molten heat. "As long as you understand we'll be sharing the same bed."
The world threatened to crumble from under her feet. "I don't know," she whispered. "Are you planning to tease me some more?"