Kaleb sipped at his drink, never taking his eyes off her. “What do you think?”
“His accusations are so outlandish, they might well be the truth. A source.”
“Likely.” Finishing the drink, he teleported the glass away. “He is correct in all particulars.”
Her fingers trembled as she picked up the organizer, noting absently that it was far thinner and lighter than had been the norm seven years before. “Santano Enrique was insane?” Even as she asked the question, she was thinking about the statement she’d just read that said Kaleb had effectively been in Enrique’s “care” since he was five years of age. It would be the greatest fallacy to assume the experience hadn’t warped his development, turning him into a mirror of the man who had been the paternal figure in his life.
Kaleb slid his hands into the pockets of his suit pants, nothing in him speaking of the boy he’d been —a boy who had grown up with a monster. “That,” he said, “is a matter of opinion. Some would say he was a perfect creation of Silence. Totally without emotion, without empathy. To him, the murders were interesting experiments.”
* * *
KALEB saw the slick sheen of fear in Sahara’s eyes as she rose from his chair, her hair clipped back to expose a face that had no deceit in it. He wondered if she was even capable of the games he played on a daily basis, using truths and lies interchangeably to achieve his aims.
Though she left the room without taking her eyes off him, he knew she hadn’t regained the totality of her memories—she wasn’t afraid enough, the wariness in her generalized and not specific to him.
He let her go, not pointing out that if he wanted to hurt her right this instant, there was nothing in the world she could do to stop him. Her bones would snap like matchsticks should he unleash the merest fraction of his telekinetic strength, her blood pouring out of her in a pulse of darkest scarlet. As it had once before, to soak into the sheets on the bed in that cheap hotel room that had burned to black cinders but hadn’t escaped Enforcement’s eye, thanks to the games Santano liked to play.
Waiting several minutes to give her guard a chance to go down, he walked to the open doors to see that she’d taken a cross-legged position on the sun lounger. The umbrella, unnecessary at this time of day, remained closed, the glossy black of her hair glowing with hints of red-gold in the dawn light.
Those strands were unusual but not totally unpredictable, given the genetic mix of maternal and paternal DNA. Her mother’s hair color was a soft black, while her father’s was that of wet clay, the otherwise recessive trait for red hair strong in the Kyriakus family tree. It was Sahara’s psychic profile that had come out of the blue, rare as that of a dual cardinal.
To Kaleb’s knowledge, Sahara was the only individual in the Net with her specific ability—one so coveted her captors hadn’t executed her despite the labyrinth.
Sahara Kyriakus held within her the potential to make a man into an emperor.
IF THERE WAS one individual in the Net who had Vasquez’s respect, it was Kaleb Krychek. The cardinal Tk had proven his Silence with his cool, calculated ascension to the Council, eliminating anyone who stood in his way, and doing so with a stealth and an intelligence that meant none of the executions had ever been connected to him.
Henry, too, had spoken well of the younger man, but he’d been unsure about trusting Kaleb with the inner workings of Pure Psy. “Krychek’s priorities are not our own,” the now-dead leader of Pure Psy had said. “He wants to take total, unquestioned control of the Net, of that I’m certain.”
That goal had clashed with Pure Psy’s—for where Krychek wanted to utilize such control to increase his power, Pure Psy wanted to use it for the betterment of the Psy race. However, the situation had changed since Henry’s original decision not to invite Krychek into their inner circle, the most critical being Henry’s assassination.
The organization would need a strong man at the helm when it rose to power and Krychek fit the bill to perfection. His involvement would also serve to calm the populace, maintaining continuity with the previous Council.
Vasquez had no issue with giving up his current position to Kaleb for a function more suited to his training. He knew he wasn’t meant for leadership. He was a general with the capacity for absolute loyalty to his chosen leader. Krychek, by contrast, took orders from no one. Exactly as it should be for the man at the top of the food chain.
Together, they would make the perfect team.
SAHARA UNDERSTOOD THE organizer Kaleb had given her could well be set up to transmit her activities to him, but it seemed counterintuitive since he could’ve withheld the device in the first place. Then there was the fact that her mind remained naked, for all intents and purposes, her shields nascent, and yet he’d made no effort to intrude, done not a single thing to make her feel hunted.
“Worrying about his motivations won’t change things,” she muttered to herself and began to pull up the major news sites.
It surprised her, how much information she found on Psy-affiliated sites—information that would’ve been embargoed under threat of severe punishment by the Council at the time of her kidnapping. Fascinated by the references to an armed conflict that had involved Councilor Henry Scott and a group named Pure Psy against the changelings, she read article after article.
What startled her even more than the idea of an open conflict were the opinion pieces.
The Silence Protocol has come to define us as a race, read one anonymous piece in a human-run news outlet, but is this the legacy we want to leave? Do we not have the strength to face our demons rather than stifling them and pretending that means they no longer exist, all the while knowing that evil walks amongst us?