VASIC WAS A killer. It was what he’d been programmed to be since he was a child pulled into the Arrow Squad. He’d been so confused, so scared. Because he’d still felt then, had known even as a four-year-old that the people who’d come for him weren’t people he wanted in his life.
He’d escaped them, too. Multiple times. No security could contain a Traveler. That was why he’d been placed in the “care” of another Arrow, the only other Tk-V he’d met in his entire lifetime—and the only one who had understood how Vasic’s mind worked well enough to trap him.
“Don’t you feel anything?” It had been an innocent question from a child to the man who would become his father, trainer, and jailor.
“Emotion is a weakness. You’ll be Silent soon enough, then you’ll understand.”
Vasic hadn’t simply become Silent, he’d become even more an Arrow than his mentor. Patton had been on Jax, the drug used to control Arrows, so long that he’d become a weapon that was aimed, pointed, and told who to kill. And when his performance began to slip, he’d been put down like a dog.
Vasic hadn’t been on Jax anywhere near as long as Patton, and so, in spite of what many believed, he could still think for himself. Jax might create perfect soldiers, but it also eventually numbed the minds of those soldiers. Vasic’s mind remained razor sharp, his abilities honed to a lethal edge—after all, as a Traveler, he was part of Designation Tk, teleportation not his only skill.
Now, Vasic turned from the view of the Pacific afforded by this remote headland, the grass reaching the tops of his combat boots, and said, “You have Henry?”
“Yes.” Aden’s gaze was on the horizon, the sky a pale gray that merged into the black lick of the sea, sunrise at least an hour away.
“I didn’t look for Henry,” Aden answered in an apparent paradox. “I looked for medics trained in treating severe burn injuries who’d disappeared off the grid.”
And that was why, Vasic thought, Aden led the Arrows. “Send me the markers for the teleportation lock.”
A quiet knock on his mind, a request for entry. When he opened the telepathic channel, Aden sent him detailed images of the sterile glass chamber in which Henry lay, his body scarred by X-fire. The medic from whose mind I took the images will not sound the alarm—he has no awareness that I infiltrated his shields.
“Henry,” Aden added aloud, “has never thought long term, so the fact he left his medics unshielded was a foreseeable error, but I expected better from Vasquez.”
Vasic considered what they knew of the man who was Henry’s general, weighed it against his acts to date. “No matter what he believes, reason alone doesn’t drive him.” And such a man made mistakes. “What about Ming?”
They both knew Henry had had help in his more recent military activities—the former Councilor wasn’t creative enough to have come up with strategies such as the sonic weapon that had turned the changelings’ sensitive hearing against them. It was impossible to prove if Ming had also had a hand in the evolution of the idea to cripple the Net by murdering anchors, but the likelihood was high.
“We risk a fatal Net cascade if we eliminate two former Councilors so close together,” Aden said, his hair lifting in the salt-laced wind coming off the crashing waves.
Not every Council death, Vasic knew, had such an impact. It depended on the surrounding circumstances. Marshall Hyde’s assassination had caused a minor ripple at most. However, right now, the devastation in Cape Dorset had the populace reeling. Another shock could shatter a number of fragile minds. However—“Henry is already dead as far as most people are concerned.”
“Exactly. His execution should leave the Net relatively unscathed.”
“When do you want me to finish the job?”
Aden’s eyes met his, the dark brown irises having a sense of life in them that Vasic no longer saw in his own. “I’m not your controller, Vasic. If we’re to do this, we’ll do it together.”
“That’s not rational. It heightens the risk of discovery.”
“Perhaps,” Aden said quietly, “we shouldn’t always be so rational. Judd wasn’t rational when he gave up everything on the slim chance that his family would find sanctuary with SnowDancer, and he has a life.”
While they existed.
Vasic knew he would never have a life like Judd, was too damaged, but Aden had a chance. “I’ll get it done,” he said, and teleported out before the other man could stop him.
Arriving at his quarters, he pulled a black cloak around his body, the hood and over his head, tugging the cowl forward until it shaded his face to dark invisibility. There was no need to give Henry’s men, Vasquez in particular, a specific target—the more confusion, the less effective Pure Psy would become.
A heartbeat of concentration on the images Aden had retracted from the mind of the burns specialist, and he was standing beside Henry’s sleeping form, the teleport so precise the air didn’t stir, the proximity alarms quiet. Shadows filled the muted light of the room, until he was simply another part of the darkness.
The technician beyond the glass had no inkling of an intruder, his eyes on a monitor. Teleporting behind him, Vasic disabled the older man with a simple, painless nerve pinch that would keep him under for approximately an hour, before returning to the glass room filled with the hushed pump of the machines that kept Henry Scott’s mangled body alive, his breath a harsh, repetitive wheeze.