“Sir, triage?” the female Arrow asked.

“The noninfected are to be treated first.” It was a ruthless but practical decision. “The infected rate of survival is currently zero, regardless of their physical health.”

That done, he started to go over the scene. He tagged the dead so the medics wouldn’t have to waste time searching through the bodies themselves, then he shifted the corpses to the back of the street. Behind him, the medics worked at rapid speed to assist the wounded.

Judging the situation was now under control, with the local authorities out in force, he was about to begin clearing the low-rise apartment buildings that dominated the street when he passed a narrow space between two street-facing buildings and heard a stifled sob. Pausing, he waited for his eyes to adapt to the darkness within. The boy huddled inside the snow that had collected there couldn’t have been more than thirteen.

It’s safe, he telepathed, instinct whispering the juvenile was Psy.

The boy’s head jerked up, fear on every inch of his face.

Vasic crouched down to make himself appear less of a threat. “You’re not in trouble.”

“I cried,” the boy whispered, knuckling away the tears that ran over his wide-cheeked face, his uptilted eyes swollen and red.

“Silence has fallen,” Vasic said, and because he knew many people didn’t yet believe the fall was real, added, “It was a traumatic and unusual situation. No one will remember your reaction in light of the other events that took place here today.” The Net was in too much chaos to notice the fractured Silence of a child. “What’s your name?”

Wiping his face on the sleeve of his winter jacket, the boy said, “Eben.” Then it was as if he couldn’t stop speaking, his words tumbling over one another. “I was walking to catch the jet-train to school. We had a late start today because the teachers had a meeting, and I passed the trippers—”


“The elementary school children,” he said. “There’s a museum that backs onto this street at the cul-de-sac end, and the school transports usually stop here, and then the trippers use a public pathway to get to the museum. It’s faster than going all the way around, and one of the museum staff usually shovels away any snow in the morning.”

Vasic had allowed the boy to ramble to ease his nerves, but now nudged his recollection back on track, “Go on. You’d passed the children.”

“I was thinking of my science homework”—Eben swallowed—“and about a girl at school.” His brown eyes, the pupils dilated, met Vasic’s. “I was a few meters past the elementary school kids when they started screaming, and I turned to run back. I thought maybe there’d been an accident. I’ve had first aid training at school.”

“Breathe.” Vasic used the same tone he used on Arrow trainees who began to panic during simulations. “You did the right thing.”

“I couldn’t get to them.” The boy’s entire body shook, shivers wracking his gangly frame even as perspiration broke out over the pale brown of his skin. “There were people pouring out of the apartments on either side and coming at me with knives and other things.” He began to rock back and forth. “I didn’t want to, but I had to.”

Vasic realized Eben was holding something by his side. “Give it to me.”

Shaking, trembling, the teenager lifted a baseball bat wet with blood but couldn’t seem to pass it across. “I have baseball practice today.”

Vasic ’ported the bat away, so it wouldn’t be in Eben’s line of sight as the teen continued to speak.

“I didn’t want to, but they wouldn’t stop and I had to. The little kids were screaming and I couldn’t help. I tried. I tried so hard!”

“You did everything you could.” He considered how to handle the clearly traumatized child. “How far is your home?”

“Four buildings down.”

Vasic froze . . . and that was when he became aware he was experiencing a dull version of the abrasive sensation he felt near all empaths but Ivy. From a Psy who lived in the center of the zone of infection and should, therefore, have gone insane along with his neighbors. “Were your parents home?” Their current location didn’t matter, of course. Anyone resident on this street would’ve been anchored in the infected part of the PsyNet and would’ve gone insane the instant the infection reached critical mass. Considering the time of day, a large number would’ve been at work.

Eben looked at him blankly.

Standing up, Vasic walked to an ambulance and grabbed a thermal blanket. When he returned, he stepped into the space too narrow to be called an alley and wrapped the blanket around Eben before picking the child up in his arms, and at this moment, the boy was very much a child, despite his age. With no information on Eben’s parents or next of kin, Vasic made the decision to bring the boy directly to Ivy’s cabin.

Rabbit barked, scrabbling into the room from the porch. Ivy followed on his heels. One look at the boy in Vasic’s arms, and she didn’t ask questions, simply took control. Eben was tucked up in her bed with Rabbit sitting sentinel next to him within minutes. “I’ll take care of him,” she said when Vasic indicated he had to leave.

“I’m certain he’s an E, so he shouldn’t be violent”—the only reason Vasic was leaving the boy with her—“but be careful. I’ve alerted Judd and the conscious members of my unit to his presence.”

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