Kaleb’s face appeared on-screen almost immediately, the glass of the wall behind him presenting a view of Moscow Anthony had seen on multiple occasions. The distinctive onion-shaped domes of the cathedral in the distance glowed in the lights set up to highlight the structure, the Moscow night smudged with what appeared to be light rain. “Anthony, I’ve been expecting your call.”
“I seem to owe you thanks for returning a member of my clan.” Anthony preferred not to be beholden to anyone, and when it came to Kaleb Krychek, the obligation was one he wanted cleared as fast as possible. “NightStar wishes to discharge the debt.”
“I assume you know from whom I retrieved Sahara?” the cardinal Tk said instead of making a demand.
Anthony nodded. “The clan will take care of that matter.” Tatiana was very good at going under when she didn’t wish to be found, but NightStar could destroy what mattered most to her—money, power, status—without ever laying a finger on her. “Death isn’t always the most fitting punishment.”
It was too quick, over too soon—and Tatiana had stolen more than seven years of not just one life, but two: Leon had never been the same after his daughter’s disappearance. And Sahara was a Kyriakus child, a NightStar. Nothing and no one was permitted to harm Anthony’s family and walk away unscathed.
“On that point, I have no argument,” Kaleb said, his expression a gray wall of Silence. “However, you should know Tatiana is no longer a threat to Sahara. I had certain . . . issues of my own to discuss with her.”
“I see.” Even if Tatiana was dead or otherwise out of the picture, it did nothing to alter Anthony’s resolve to obliterate her empire, crushing and publicly humiliating her in the process. NightStar had always been a quiet power; it was time the Net learned exactly how far they’d go to protect and avenge their own. “Was your discussion productive?”
Kaleb angled his head in an unusual moment of distraction. “I apologize,” he said when his gaze returned to Anthony. “I’ve just had a report from the Arrows that may interest you.”
“Perth or Copenhagen?”
“Perth. The conspirator behind the fatal information leak, previously identified as Allan Dawes, has been traced to Argentina. Retrieval is expected within the next forty-eight hours.”
“He’ll become an example to others who believe assisting Pure Psy is in any way a good career move.”
Anthony didn’t flinch from the cold-blooded response. He’d seen the carnage in Perth, had watched a recording of his daughter convulse from the vicious force of her visions minutes before the first fires. Faith’s foresight had been specific enough that they’d gotten word out to the city, successfully saving countless lives, but they hadn’t been fast enough to save everyone, and he knew the resulting losses had left Faith distraught.
“We must,” he said, “be careful not to create martyrs of the insurgents.”
“You think that might be Vasquez’s plan—to solidify the sense of alienation and fear that drives his membership under the Pure Psy rhetoric?” Kaleb leaned back in his office chair, his attention never shifting off the screen. “I assume you know about him.”
Anthony gave a nod, the name of the otherwise anonymous man at the helm of the pro-Silence organization having come to him through his sprawling network of contacts. “He is extremely intelligent, and this way, we do the work for him.”
Kaleb considered the point. “You’re right—it may not be worth a public execution. I’ll handle it quietly. His disappearance will make the point as well.”
Anthony thought of everything else Kaleb had been “handling” lately and knew the cardinal was far, f ar more dangerous than Vasquez would ever be, but right now, he had to work with Kaleb.
Because the other male hadn’t yet turned murderous on the scale of Pure Psy . . . though Anthony’s suspicions on that point were starting to increase.
Had he, for example, just been led by the nose when it came to Allan Dawes? It was possible Kaleb had never intended to execute the man, but now he’d made Anthony complicit in the decision.
“If you require assistance in the matter of Dawes,” he said, his reservations about Kaleb’s possible involvement with Pure Psy not yet critical, “NightStar is prepared to step in.”
Kaleb inclined his head in silent acceptance. “You understand that does not wipe the debt in the matter of Sahara Kyriakus.”
“I would rather have you as an ally than not,” Kaleb said, “so there is no reason to be concerned I’ll ask for the impossible. At this stage, all I want is your public backing.”
“You want NightStar to support your bid to take over the Net?”
“Consider the alternatives, Anthony.” Kaleb continued to speak in the same tone he always used, ice-cold and composed. “Either Pure Psy rips the Net apart or our fellow former Councilors attempt to set up fiefdoms while fighting to eliminate one another and us. The ensuing wars will devastate our race.”
Anthony knew that to be true. What Kaleb wasn’t saying was that no one knew what the cardinal would do with the Net once he had it in his grasp. “I can’t back you on current facts,” he responded.
“I will, however, make no open move against you before first giving you a warning.” It was a major concession.
The Tk on the other side of the comm gave a slight nod before signing off. It was far easier a capitulation than Anthony had expected and it made him even more chary of Kaleb’s motives. The problem was, Kaleb Krychek was the most opaque individual in the Net. Anthony’s foreseers, when instructed to hone in on the cardinal telekinetic, saw only a destructive, roiling darkness.