Judd had seen that river, seen the crumbling remains of what had once been a thriving village. "It was the only way out."
"It was a four-story fall - and Nina was never the strongest of swimmers." Xavier's hands curled, crushing the fabric of his white pants, part of the simple clothing of a Second Reformation priest. "But I promised her God would look after her, and then I kissed her good-bye. As she jumped, I prayed to God to keep her safe, to watch over her."
Judd knew without asking that Nina had never been found. "Why didn't you jump with her?"
"You're a soldier - you wouldn't have left either." Xavier took a deep breath. "Turns out my head is harder than anyone knew. The Psy blast knocked me out, but I regained consciousness hours later."
"A natural shield," Judd said. "Pure chance that you had it, that it was tough enough to deflect the hit." It was likely, he thought, that the Psy team had been using as little power as possible, because not even a natural shield could protect against a full telepathic blow. "You should be dead."
"The assassins obviously didn't bother to check to make sure I was - though I guess I was dead for the six months I spent drunk." He spread his hands again. "You're quiet, my friend."
From behind them, the Ghost finally spoke. "I'm waiting to hear the answer to Judd's question."
Judd had heard the other man come in, heard him lock the door, but hadn't turned. It was part of their unspoken code, one that kept faith with the Psy rebel who was both ruthless and - in his own way - utterly loyal.
"The answer," Judd said, "is that so long as Xavier believes in God, he can believe that Nina lives, that she somehow survived."
"That logic is inherently flawed," the Ghost pointed out, but there was something in his voice that Judd couldn't quite catch.
Xavier shook his head. "There is no logic to it, my friend. It has everything to do with the heart and nothing to do with the head."
The Ghost said nothing. Judd hadn't expected him to. A man didn't survive the high-stakes game the other rebel was playing by being anything less than pure ice.
"So," Judd said, "why did you want to meet?"
The Ghost passed a data crystal over Judd's shoulder. "There have been some changes in the Arrow Squad."
Catching the crystal, Judd slid it into a pocket. "Deaths?"
"Seven men are currently being held in a facility deep in the Dinarides, a remote mountain range along the Adriatic. There's a possibility they've all been taken off Jax."
Judd took several minutes to think of the implications of such a radical shift. "Either it's as a result of a medical reaction - "
" - or the Arrows have decided Ming is no longer the leader they want to follow," the Ghost completed.
"Would it be that easy?" Xavier asked. "Won't the M-Psy be monitoring their reactions?"
"The medic in charge of monitoring Jax reactions is always another Arrow," Judd said quietly. "If that Arrow is no longer loyal to Ming . . ."
"What will they do if it's the latter?" the Ghost asked. "If they intend to take the leadership from Ming?"
"I won't betray my fellow Arrows." Each and every Arrow had been shaped by his or her ability, all of them lethal, all of them destroying their chances of a normal life. The fact that Judd was now on the other side of the war did nothing to sever that bond.
"The PsyNet can't handle rogue Arrows," the Ghost argued. "They could destabilize the entire system."
"No," Judd said. "An Arrow's first task is to maintain Silence. They'll do nothing to undermine the stability of the Net."
The Ghost didn't say anything further. Theirs was an alliance of equals, and the rebel knew Judd would not bend on this, as the Ghost wouldn't when it came to protecting the Net. It was Xavier who next spoke. "And you, my friend, what is your first loyalty?"
That was a question the Ghost had never answered. But it wasn't, Judd thought, the simple need to put the Net into better hands. Something far more personal drove the rebel.
Now, the Ghost rose. "I'll answer that question when I've completed the task demanded by that loyalty."
Until then, Judd thought, they'd continue to fight this war, not knowing if, when push came to shove, it would be the Ghost's logic or his ruthlessness that would prevail.
Dev had the jet fly them to a private landing strip near his home in Vermont. Having had to make the long drive from the isolated bed-and-breakfast to the airstrip where the jet was waiting, they arrived in the late afternoon. Jack had called earlier to delay their meeting till the following day, so Dev had a few hours' grace, and he needed that time to think, to plan. Not only about what he'd say to his cousin, but also about how to end Ming's terrorization of Katya.
His hand fisted so tight, his bones ground together.
"Stop it." Katya put her hand over his. "Don't let him destroy you." Her voice was husky, she'd been trying to talk him out of his decision since before dawn.
"Should I let him destroy you instead?" He curled his fingers around hers.
He didn't say anything, and she finally went quiet. The rest of the trip passed in an edgy silence, but he didn't make the mistake of thinking she'd given up.
"I thought you needed to return to New York," she said as they walked into his home. She frowned. "Dev, was the door unlocked?"
Her concern evaporated as she realized he'd probably had some kind of a remote in the car. "New York?"