"I thought you'd prefer him alive if you could get him that way." The fingers retreated from her mind, but she didn't breathe a sigh of relief.
"True." Another pause. "Where are you?"
She gave him the coordinates. "There are sharpshooters waiting for you."
"I see that. Since I'm without a teleporter at the moment, I'll drive to you. Wait for further instructions."
Hanging up, Katya dropped her forehead to Dev's, wanting to sob but knowing she couldn't indulge the need. Instead, she shifted back into the driver's seat and took a deep breath, feeling her chest muscles strain against the pressure. Her fingers trembled on the steering wheel, but it wasn't from fear. She was losing more and more pieces of her body, her self.
The cell phone rang seven minutes later.
"Drive out of your current location," Ming told her. "There's an empty lot ten blocks to the left."
"I'm on my way." Closing the phone, she started up the engine and headed out into the late evening darkness. Dev's phone rang almost immediately. She knew it was his team, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
She snapped the phone open. "Change of plans," she said to Aubry. "We've been directed to another meeting point."
"Where? I need to get my men to - "
She gave him the coordinates to a location ten minutes from the correct one. "Hurry."
"Give the phone to Dev."
Knowing the other man would never believe anything else she said, Katya hung up. And drove like a bat out of hell, certain Aubry and his people wouldn't be able to get to their vehicles fast enough to follow her.
She screeched into the empty lot behind a huge warehouse less than five minutes later. Ming's dark sedan was waiting for her, the windows opaque. Bringing her car to a stop beside it, she got out, her left leg shaky but still capable of keeping her upright. And her fingers . . . they were strong enough to complete this.
The back window lowered to reveal Ming's face. "I have to admit," the Councilor said, "given what I glimpsed in your memories, I would have expected you to have turned traitor."
"I want to live." Repeating her earlier words, she folded her arms as Ming's driver/bodyguard got out - pinning her with a cool stare from the other side of the car.
"Your memories didn't come back early enough," Ming mused, looking at her as if she were an experiment. "Unfortunate that you were handicapped for such an extended period. The amnesia was only meant to give you a cover long enough for them to trust you."
She ignored his words. "You said you'd be able to fix me."
Ming leaned back in his seat. "You've left it too late. There's no way to repair the damage."
"Stop it advancing then."
Ming spoke to the driver. "Get the Shine director."
As the Arrow - and the driver was unquestionably part of the Council's most lethal private army - came around the front of Ming's sedan, Katya said, "Stop."
Of course he didn't. She turned to Ming, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck rise as the Arrow reached Dev's side of the vehicle. "You lied, didn't you?" she asked, letting him hear her anger. "You were never going to be able to undo what you did to me. The shield is unbreakable."
"Yes, and as the lines of programming are linked directly to it - ah, you didn't know that."
"I was dead the moment you took me."
"You did well, Ekaterina." Pincers closing around her brain. "If I'd known you'd prove this useful, I wouldn't have anchored the shield in your brain, but what's done is done."
And now, she thought, hearing the Arrow push back Dev's door, it was time for her to die. "You know, Ming," she said, as a line of wet trickled out of her ear, as her left leg began to spasm, "I'm really not as stupid as you think." Bringing out the sleek little gun hidden in her lower back, she shot him in the head.
A solid thump sounded from behind her. . . the impact of a body hitting the ground.
Blood covered her, having spurted through Ming's open window, but her attention was elsewhere. "Dev?"
"He's down. Stunned." Getting out of the passenger seat, Dev ran to her. "Damn it to hell, Katya, he could've - "
She shook her head, dropping her gun hand to her side. "No. Part of me always knew it had to be a lie. You can't undo a trap that severe."
Something flickered on the other side of Ming's vehicle.
"Get in the car!" Shoving her inside, Dev crashed in behind her. As he spun them out of the lot and away, the car reacting unbelievably fast, she turned to look.
Ming's car had somehow collapsed inward, as if someone had crumpled the frame like so much paper. "Dev?" she whispered.
"Turns out that frame had some metal in it" was his cryptic answer. "How many men teleported in?"
"Four." She could see them silhouetted against the New York skyline. All were wearing the unrelieved black of the Arrow Squad. The fact that they were still at Ming's vehicle as Dev's car disappeared around the corner made her jaw tighten. "Ming's not dead."
Dev hung up the phone, meeting Katya's eyes as she sat on their bed, her arms locked around raised knees. "You're right, the bastard survived." DarkRiver's Psy contact had come through again. It made Dev wonder how high up in the superstructure that contact was, but he wasn't idiotic enough to jeopardize the man's cover by asking too many questions.
"I shot him in the head."
"He has the devil's luck." Climbing onto the bed, he sat with his legs bracketing her, his hands cupping her face. "The bullet blasted through and straight out the other side, along the very top of his skull. He's unconscious but predictions are he'll make a full recovery."