Instead, she stroked her hand through his hair, as if fascinated by the texture, and said, "Will you kill me?"
"If I prove too broken," she continued, "too used up to fix, will you kill me?"
There was, he thought, nothing lost about her at that instant. Her intent burned off her, a bright, decisive fire. "Katya - "
"He did something inside me," she whispered with a restrained violence that was all the more powerful for being contained. "He changed me. I don't want to live if that's who I am. His . . . creation."
The horror in her face, in the inescapable ugliness of what she was saying, curled around the iron shields that caged his soul, threatening to erode everything he thought he knew about himself. "If," he said, unable to look away from those eyes streaked with gold and green, "you were going to give up, you'd have done it by now."
Her hand fell from his hair, but she held his gaze, unflinching in her na**d honesty. "How do you know I didn't?"
EARTHTWO COMMAND LOG: SUNSHINE STATION
21 February 2080: The new staff rotation arrived at 0900. All personnel are in good physical and mental condition. Work will begin in one day's time, after the team members have had time to acclimate to the conditions.
Councilor Ming LeBon has requested a report on the continued viability of this site, to be delivered at the end of this rotation. According to current calculations, the site should yield valuable compounds for the foreseeable future, but all data will be confirmed prior to the completion of the report.
An hour after Katya asked him for a promise of death, Dev pushed a plate across the break-room table. "Eat."
Not touching the food, she pinned him with eyes more gold than green at that moment, streaks of brown bursting from the pupils. "Will you keep your promise?"
He knew when he was being played. But most people wanted favors of a far less final kind. "I'll kill you if it proves necessary."
She paused, as if considering his words, then picked up the fork. "Thank you." While she ate in small, birdlike bites, he wondered what the hell he was going to do with her. Dev knew full well what he was becoming, but he wasn't - not yet - so much the monster that he'd throw her back to the wolves. But neither could he permit her to become intimate with Shine.
Katya might look fragile, might appeal to instincts born in the darkness of a childhood that had ravaged his soul, but she was Psy - and Psy cared for their physical appearance only to the extent that it got the job done. It was her mind that he had to consider - she couldn't be allowed near any computers, any sources of data, certainly none of their most vulnerable.
Pushing away the still mostly full plate, the woman at the center of his thoughts shook her head. "My stomach can't take any more."
"Another meal, in an hour."
Her expression remained unchanged, but he saw her fingertips press down hard against the edge of the tabletop. "You're used to giving orders."
"And having them obeyed." He made no effort to hide his nature, his will. It was what had gotten him this far, and it was what would protect the Forgotten from the Council's murderous attempts to stamp them out forever. "Can you handle some questions?"
"Would you stop if I couldn't?"
"No." He had to assess the level of threat - outwardly, she was as fragile as glass, but then again, most poison didn't look like much either.
In contrast to the majority of people when faced with him in this grim mood, she didn't break eye contact. "At least you're honest."
A shake of the head, one answer she wouldn't give him. "Ask your questions."
"Are you in the Net?"
She blinked. "Of course." But her tone was unsure, her forehead furrowing.
He waited as her lashes came down, as her eyes moved rapidly behind the delicate lids. An instant later, they flew up. "I'm trapped." Her fingers curled into the table, nails digging into the wood veneer. "He's buried me in my mind."
"No. If he had, you'd be dead."
The harsh words acted as a slap. Katya jerked up her head, saw the cold distance in the eyes looking into hers, and knew there'd be no gentleness from him. He was no longer the Dev who'd brushed her hair and let her touch him. This man wouldn't hesitate to fulfill her promise. But she hadn't asked this man.
Paradoxically, the ruthlessness of him made her spine straighten, a new kind of resolve rising up out of her battered soul. Where she would've softened for Dev, she didn't want to surrender and give the director of the Shine Foundation the satisfaction. "Yes," she said, forcing herself to still the panic. "The biofeedback has to be coming through." The logic of it was irrefutable - she wouldn't have lasted more than a few minutes without that feedback from the neural network that every Psy linked to instinctively at birth. "But I don't think I can enter the Net itself."
"Doesn't mean someone can't find a way inside you."
Her stomach revolted. It took everything she had to keep down what she'd eaten. "You think he already has," she whispered, looking into that pitiless face. "You think I'm nothing but a puppet."
Heading back up to his office after Katya - and yes, he found himself thinking, that name suited her far better than Ekaterina - began to slump from exhaustion, Dev considered who might know the answer to the mystery that was Katya Haas. He had a network of spies and informants that was as byzantine as the PsyNet. However, a direct channel to that net was the one thing he hadn't been able to achieve. But, he thought, DarkRiver counted more than one full-blooded Psy among its numbers - chances were very high that an open line of communication existed somewhere.