I can bring in more people, he said to Judd once his back hit the inside wall of the garage. No hostiles on this level.
We’ll stay out here, draw his attention. Looks like a single shooter.
Kaleb was already moving, taking extra care to ensure his footfalls didn’t echo. He was almost to the fourth level when the world went silent. Judd, update.
He stopped without warning. May have realized you’re there.
Kaleb increased his speed, aware Vasquez—if it was the leader of Pure Psy, and not one of his subordinates—had the skill to rappel down the side of the structure and once again elude capture. The bullet came out of nowhere, glancing off his upper arm. Gritting his teeth against the bruising pain, he rolled behind the protective bulk of a gleaming black all-wheel drive.
He didn’t know how Sahara had sensed the blow. Bulletproof fabric did its job. I’m fine. His arm remained functional.
Risking a look around the corner, he twisted back as another bullet snapped past his head, but the quick glimpse combined with the trajectory of the bullet gave him what he needed to zero in on the location of the shooter. He rose to his haunches as the all-wheel drive took multiple shots from both a projectile weapon and a laser, safety glass cascading around him. Shaking it off, he spread his hands, palms out, and shoved every single car on this level of the garage forward in a lethal wave that left the shooter with nowhere to go.
The guns went wild as the shooter tried to take Kaleb down and cut off the flow of his telekinetic power. Kaleb easily avoided the bullets . . . until one ricocheted off a metal sign on the wall to punch into his thigh with an impact that told him it had been designed to penetrate bulletproof fabric. It did.
The violent pain might have interrupted the concentration of another Tk, but Kaleb had learned to work through worse as a boy.
Gritting his teeth, he slammed the cars into the back wall, the metal scraping along the sides of the parking garage to leave deep gouges. Then came silence. Total and possibly dangerous. Sweeping out with his telepathic senses, he found a living Psy mind, but it was flickering, for lack of a better word, critically injured. He had to shift three crushed cars to get to the shooter, who lay crumpled between the wall and the twisted hulks of metal, his guns crushed, his lower body sticky and red, bones in splinters.
The only way Kaleb could know if this physically unremarkable male was Vasquez would be to tear into his mind. But even with the blood pooling around his lower body, thick and dark, the man had a look in his eyes that told Kaleb his mind was apt to be rigged to collapse if breached.
Removing the man’s knife and anything else he could use to speed up his own death, Kaleb ’ported to Sahara, after sending her a warning message, tugged the hood of her sweatshirt up over her head to shadow her face, and ’ported back with her.
Sounds had begun to echo through the garage by the time they arrived, the rest of the team doing a level-by-level sweep to make sure there was no one else hiding in the structure.
“No questions?” the critically injured male rasped on their return, blood bubbling out of the corners of his mouth.
Kaleb’s leg was bleeding badly now, the viscous liquid having soaked into the tough fabric of his pants and trickled into his boot, but he would finish this. “You’re unlikely to answer them.”
The man’s lashes came down, settled, then lifted to show he was still alive and conscious. “So you’ll stand there and watch me die, not even attempt a retraction?” Contempt in those words.
It is Andrea Vasquez, Sahara said along their familiar telepathic pathway. But this was not his final strike. That is what he calls the Phoenix Code: he’s split Pure Psy into multiple cells, each with the goal of collapsing as much of the PsyNet as possible, until only the “pure” remain—his belief system, as well as those of his followers, has altered until they now truly think that those who are “pure” are stronger. Anyone who dies was therefore not pure.
The tautology of that belief did more to disprove Pure Psy’s “rational” rhetoric than any reasoned argument.
Geneva, Sahara continued, Luxembourg, Paris, San Francisco, they were all intended to give his people time to scatter and hide deep, only to arise anew once the dust has settled. While their goal to rid the Net of the impure is paramount, their secondary aim is to instigate a worldwide war that will eliminate the weak and the “inferior.”
His legacy, as he thinks of it, is an organization with so many heads that it will be impossible to decapitate: a true hydra.
VASQUEZ’S PLAN WAS all the more terrible for its simplicity. It was too bad for the leader of Pure Psy that, at last count, the Arrows had taken down seventy-five percent of his lieutenants and were now moving on to the next layer. Even a multiheaded hydra needed some type of a command structure, and Kaleb had no intention of permitting the remaining lieutenants to set up any kind of a power base.
As for the weaker members—they might be troublesome, but only to the extent an insect is to a dragon. Eventually, they’d all be crushed.
“You would sentence your race to annihilation,” he said to Vasquez, and it wasn’t a judgment. How could it be when he had once considered destroying the PsyNet? No, it was a question, one Vasquez understood.
“We will rise as the phoenix from the ashes. Better, stronger, purer.” His eyes met Kaleb’s, the sclera red with burst blood cells. “You understand.”
“Yes.” And because he did, because he saw in Vasquez who he might’ve been but for Sahara, he crouched down to grip the other man’s hand so he did not have to go into death as alone as he’d been in life. Neither did he tell Vasquez that the plan he’d sacrificed himself to put in place would never come to fruition.