“Given the apparent success of the biofusion program,” Anthony murmured, “I never considered that Vasic might need access to Rain.”
Putting aside the ironic vagaries of fate, and the question of why a man who’d been an asset to those in power at the time had been targeted, Zie Zen said, “Rain’s current status?”
“He is . . . damaged.” Anthony clasped his hands behind his back. “I don’t know if he’s capable of assisting Vasic, but I also don’t know if he isn’t.”
“I will send through the files—”
Anthony shook his head. “No, Rain isn’t functional on that level. He can’t seem to focus on data—Vasic must meet him in person if we are to get a true indication of whether the man has any capability to do what he once did.”
Zie Zen understood the situation was grim, for Anthony wasn’t a man to exaggerate things, but it was a chance, however slim. “I’ll speak to Vasic, arrange a time.” Looking into the other man’s eyes, Zie Zen said, “Has it been worth it, Anthony? The choices you’ve made?” The ex-Councilor was considerably younger, but he was the patriarch of an influential and gifted family, had been faced with as many pitiless decisions as Zie Zen.
“I’ve lost a daughter,” Anthony said at last, “seen another find freedom, have a son who chooses to align himself with me though he was raised by his mother, my foreseers are more content and less in pain, but their minds remain fragile . . . I don’t know if it all balances out in the end, but I know I’ve done all I could. It is the only thing a man can do.”
Absolute focus in the eyes that remained locked with Zie Zen’s . . . before one of the most powerful men in the PsyNet bowed his head in an act of quiet honor. “Do not doubt yourself now, Grandfather,” Anthony said when he looked up. “Without you, we wouldn’t be standing in a time without Silence. You laid the foundations on which Krychek, Vasic, the empaths, my daughter, and I all stand.”
It was, Zie Zen thought, an epitaph a man might be proud to call his own. Zie Zen wanted more. He wanted a life for his great-grandson, a real life, such as the one Zie Zen had lived for twenty-three short, wonderful years. Sunny, I am alone without you.
How can you be alone, Z? I’m here.
At that instant, he could almost touch her . . . and he knew his mortal time would come to an end very soon. Not yet, he whispered to her. First I must save the son who is the best of both of us. Vasic might not carry Sunny’s blood, but he carried her heart.
Only twenty-three and worn-out, worn-down. So many needed the help of an E after Silence, hundreds of thousands in agony . . .
Zie Zen to Vasic
Having helped carry another stretcher to a waiting ambulance to free up a paramedic, Ivy looked up at Vasic’s psychic call. I’m here.
There’s a survivor. Not a child. Not an empath.
A spurt of energy from somewhere deep within. Where?
Number 24, apartment 5B.
Ivy stumbled and ran to the building as fast as her enervated and chilled body could take her, the snow a white lace curtain in front of her eyes and the hammer in her head a pounding drumbeat. When she entered the apartment, it was to find Vasic crouched in front of an open closet. He rose to walk to her, touched his fingers to her face. “The blood vessels have burst in your eyes.”
Ivy hadn’t even thought about that. “Let me wipe my face and wash out my eyes so I don’t terrify the survivor.” It’d help a little at least.
Vasic said nothing but shifted his hold to her nape and nudged her to a bathroom. “The surv—” she began, conscious of the air warming around her.
“I have a telepathic eye on him.” Stopping inside the tiled enclosure, he waited as she washed out her eyes using tepid water. When she was done, he drew her close to pat her skin dry with tissues he’d grabbed from a nearby dispenser.
Though his face betrayed nothing, she had the sense he was furious. “Vasic.” She curled her hand over the solid bones of his wrist.
“Do you think,” he said in a quiet tone that raised every hair on her body, “you could attempt not to kill yourself in front of me?”
She flinched at the whip of words. “I was trying to help.” It hadn’t been much in the scheme of things, but neither had she been totally useless.
“How will a dead empath help anyone?” Throwing away the tissues he’d used, he undid her snow-wet coat and ’porting it away, brought in his Arrow jacket. Zipping her up in it, he said, “Do it again, and I’ll have you back in the orchard so fast, you won’t have time to draw breath.”
Unadulterated anger had her ripping herself from his grasp. “Don’t threaten me.”
“I’m not threatening you. I’m taking care of you, since you seem incapable of doing it yourself.” He went to step out of the bathroom with that harsh judgment.
Ivy grabbed his upper arm, seeing through his cool ferocity to a violent darkness beneath. “Talk to me.” It was an order. “You’re hurting.”
No sign of a thaw. “We have a situation to handle.”
Placing herself in front of him, she shook her head. “You’re just as important.” She cupped his face, held that icy gaze, and let him see her own determined fury. “You know I’m stubborn enough to stand here forever.”
His jaw worked under her hand . . . and then he finally lowered his forehead to touch hers. “We found children,” he said, voice raw. “Trapped with their maddened guardians, with no way out. Tiny limbs, tiny faces, fragile bones.”