• • •

THE first major wave of protest marches took place in New York, Shanghai, and Jakarta, with more scheduled in Berlin and other world cities in the coming days.

Kaleb watched the news feeds from all three cities in his home study, taking in the banners that advocated a return to Silence, each emblazoned with the logo of Silent Voices. Unlike the small knot of placard-waving malcontents outside his Moscow office, hundreds marched in these groups, professional signs strung out between them.

His first instinct remained to crush and eliminate what he saw as a threat, but Sahara, her hand on his shoulder as she leaned over his chair to look at the feeds, had a different view. “Under eight hundred people,” she said, her breath soft against his temple. “And that’s across three huge cities. Their numbers are minuscule, but it’s good the dissent is out in the open. Our people have festered in the darkness too long.”

“Silent Voices isn’t dissent—it’s a symptom of the mind-set that paralyzes so many in the populace,” he said, the truth a pitiless one.

“You’re right.” She wriggled into his lap, her legs hanging over the arm of his executive chair. “But we’re attempting to change the course of an entire race. It’s going to be chaotic and messy, and people will make mistakes.”

Kaleb ran one hand down her thigh, his other arm around her waist. On the feeds, the protestors continued to chant, continued to irritate, but he ignored that to focus on the people on the sidewalks where the marches were taking place. Humans and changelings looked on curiously, but he also picked up faces that were clearly Psy. No one was joining in.

That would alter, he thought, as fear crippled more and more. But change had begun, and it was inevitable, as evidenced by the color-washed minds that had begun to appear in the Net. Silent Voices might want to erase that color, but many others looked on with wonder, astonished that such beauty could be born in the stark cold that had always been the psychic plane.

Kaleb fell into neither category. He was interested only in what the empaths could do to curb the infection—if those of the E designation could do anything at all. “I can only give the Es another two weeks at most.” Then he’d have to begin to carve the Net into countless pieces.

Sahara’s exhale was shaky. “There’s still no way to detect the fine tendrils of infection?”


“But,” Sahara said, her mind seeing what his already had, “if the Net is in pieces, there’s a higher chance at least some parts of it will stay clean, survive.” Where now the infection could crawl unchecked across every inch of the psychic fabric that connected their race.

“Have you considered a mass defection from the PsyNet?” Sahara asked, playing with the lapis lazuli pebble he’d had on his desk. “Everyone could drop out, create a new network, start fresh.”

“We’d take the infection with us.” A large number of people already carried the disease in their brain cells. “A small group, however, one made up of those immune to the infection and those who share their immunity, could work.”

Sahara sucked in a breath. “Arrows and empaths,” she said, the dark blue of her eyes vivid with realization. “Have you told them?”

“No. Everything I’ve observed about designation E tells me they won’t go voluntarily. I’ll tell the Arrows when necessary, and they’ll force the Es out.” Kaleb had noticed how protective the squad had become of the empaths, and it was a relationship he’d use without compunction to get what he wanted.

Sahara’s fingers wove through his hair, her smile lopsided. “And will you do the same to me, Kaleb?”

“No—I’ll make sure we’re in the piece of the Net that holds your father.” Parental love was a concept with which Kaleb had no personal experience, but he had no doubt that Leon Kyriakus loved his only daughter.

Never, not once in seven long years, had the older man given up hope of his lost daughter’s return. For that, he had Kaleb’s respect. “I will do everything in my power to keep him safe.” Because Sahara’s heart would shatter if her father died, and Kaleb would never permit that to happen.

Eyes wet, the woman who was Kaleb’s own heart locked her arms around his neck and held on tight. “I hope,” she whispered a long time later, as she lay curled up against him, “it doesn’t come to that. I hope the Es find their wings and fly.”

Chapter 36

To be an empath is to understand pain in all its myriad facets.

Excerpted from The Mysterious E Designation: Empathic Gifts & Shadows by Alice Eldridge

IVY WATCHED THE final part of the protest from the sidewalk outside the apartment, surprised it had been permitted to take place. She heard the same hushed astonishment from the others around her. Everyone—human, changeling, and Psy—had expected Kaleb Krychek to ruthlessly crush any hint of rebellion.

There had been so much fear in the protestors that Ivy’s nerve endings were raw from sensing it, yet they’d exposed themselves with a courage she had to admire, even if their objective was at odds with her very existence.

“Do you think Kaleb will quietly execute them now that he knows who they are?” she asked Vasic.

Her Arrow, steely eyes continuing to scan the street as the crowd began to thin, took time to answer. “Krychek is no longer predictable in any sense because we can’t predict Sahara Kyriakus. Her motives and views remain unknown.”

“Have you seen their bond?” Ivy hadn’t dared go close to it yet, but she’d heard the rumors, had trouble believing the deadly man she’d met would ever willingly tie himself to another: love, after all, was a soul-deep vulnerability.

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