Vasic nodded. “We watch him. Even a dual cardinal can be killed if it proves necessary.”
Aden knew that if that decision were ever made, they’d have only a single shot at taking Krychek unawares. Failure would mean death for the entire squad. “We watch him,” he agreed as the rain slanted to hit the ground at his feet, flicking droplets onto his regulation black combat boots.
SAHARA COULDN’T HAVE better timed her return.
Sleep was out of the question for either her or her father that night, both of them unable to let one another out of their sight.
“I have a scheduled day off today from my duties at the medical center,” her father told her the next morning. “No one will come looking.”
By silent agreement, they stayed inside, putting off the moment they’d have to speak to Anthony— her paternal uncle and the head of NightStar. Though they discussed a myriad of subjects, her father didn’t ask probing questions, didn’t force her to speak of things she didn’t want to speak about.
He was simply happy to have her home.
They talked of family, and of the changes in the world that had led to the clan setting startling new protocols in place when it came to the gifted and troubled F designation. “Faith’s defection taught us that we were wrong to follow the rules handed down to us after the inception of Silence.”
Voice somber, he drank a sip of the nutrient drink he’d mixed for them both. “As a medic, I genuinely believed the actions we took lowered the risk of mental degradation for the Fs. So did Anthony. It’s why he permitted Faith to be trained as she was. To find out that we might have been driving her, driving all of the Fs, toward the madness we intended to thwart . . . it shook the foundations of the family.”
Sahara trusted her father in this as she’d trust no one else—he was a true healer at heart, had long ago adopted the human oath of “first do no harm,” the plaque with the complete pledge hanging in his office. “I’ve missed so much,” she said, anger bright and new awakening in her blood. “Had so much stolen from me.”
“You have a lifetime ahead of you,” her father said, closing his hand over her own. “You also have a father, and a PsyClan who will back you every step of the way.”
Her father, she realized, her eyes on the freckled cream of his skin against her own, had always made casual contact, especially after the discovery of her shadow ability. Never had he treated her as a leper, and in so doing, he’d helped her maintain her sense of humanity. Kaleb, too, she realized with a sense of wonder, had never repudiated her touch, though he’d always been aware of the risk she posed.
“Don’t. You’ll regret it.”
“I would never.”
Her answer hadn’t changed, would never change, but examined in the cold light of day, the unadulterated emotional fury of her refusal was a mystery. Not once— not once—had she been tempted to use her ability on him, though it would’ve fundamentally altered the balance of power.
Even the idea of it made her feel nauseated.
“Your memories,” her father said, cutting through the visceral reaction. “How damaged are they?
There are medical telepaths who may be—”
“No,” she interrupted. “I don’t want anyone inside my head.” At her father’s immediate nod of understanding, she added, “And I have almost everything.” It was a lie, but how could she tell him that the biggest, most important piece was missing?
A piece named Kaleb.
It was hours later that they gave in to tiredness at last. Entering her bedroom, Sahara found a box of clothing Kaleb had clearly ’ported in, along with a cell phone encoded with his direct lines.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Changing into a loose T-shirt that happened to be at the top of the box, she slipped into her old single bed. Her rest was dreamless, and she woke the next morning ready to face the clan. Soon as she and her father had both breakfasted, they headed to Anthony’s office. The central NightStar compound, the homes built to blend into their surroundings, had always had larger areas of open and green space than was usual in Psy complexes, but those areas had been further expanded during her time in captivity, a number of leafy trees providing dappled shade.
Eyes widened when they landed on her, the shock too great to suppress, but no one attempted to stop their progress. When they reached the office, Anthony’s assistant, an older woman Sahara recognized from before her abduction, waved them in without questions. The head of the PsyClan, black hair silvered at the temples, came around his desk as they entered, his gaze direct, unwavering.
“Leon.” A nod to acknowledge his younger half brother before he returned his attention to her.
“Sahara. You look well.”
Yes, she did. Thanks to the care of the most deadly cardinal on the planet, her face wasn’t gaunt, her body slender but healthy. She knew, however, that her physical health wasn’t at the top of Anthony’s list of priorities. “I don’t know,” she said, “if my rescuer embedded any treacherous tendencies in me, but I believe not.” Kaleb didn’t need to control her in that fashion. And—“My ability means I would’ve been aware of any such attempts at mental coercion.”
“Does your rescuer have a name?”
She told him, having informed her father ahead of time.
“I see.” Walking back around the desk, Anthony retook his seat, waving for them to do the same.
“According to the PsyNet, you don’t exist.”