Sub- basement, Janson Transport Head Office, Port Uranium
Blood had its own scent. Metallic, sharp. Faintly sweet.
Tatiana raised her hand to her cheek. She was beyond
pain, almost beyond thought. There would be more. With
Duncan Bane, there was always more.
To make you stronger. To make you invincible. Bane’s justification.
And the simple truth. But Tatiana wasn’t like Wizard
or Yuriko. She didn’t recover as quickly as her siblings.
She bruised easier. Her bones broke where Wizard’s and
Yuriko’s bent to absorb the force.
And Bane had been particularly brutal this session.
“Because you are soon to go on your first mission,” he
explained in a soft, soft, cultured voice, pacing a straight
line before the three of them. He paused, touched Tatiana
on the shoulder. She shuddered, but knew better than to
pull away. “This will ensure that you are ready, that you
survive. You”—he spun toward Wizard—“will be the commander,
and a commander must be able to make rapid decisions.”
Another step and Bane stood in front of Yuriko. Running
his finger along her cheek, he smiled as she jerked away.
“So decide now, Wizard. Who will be subjected to ten
Tatiana choked back a plea. Please. I can’t. I can’t—
She shook her head, struggled to focus. The room felt
too big, too bright, and this all felt so familiar, like she
had been here many times before. She knew what Wizard
would say even before the words left his lips.
“Me. I will take the ten minutes.”
She let out a dry sob. Wizard. Her brother, so logical
even in this. He would take the blows because he was the
strongest. He would stand before her and take them in
Yuriko was like him. Clean and linear in thought and
But Tatiana . . .
Bane laughed as he stared at Wizard, the sound hollow,
echoing off the bare walls, echoing in her darkest dreams.
Yes, just a dream. It must be.
“You are the commander,” he said. “The fastest. The
strongest. You have the best chance of finishing your mission.
I may send you out to night, before you have time to
heal. Choose the weakest, Wizard. A good commander
knows when to calculate the odds, when to sacrifice for
the good of the mission.”
“Wizard . . . save her. Please. She has a chance.” Yuriko’s
normally cool tone was laced with despair, with pain, and
Tatiana’s heart shattered as it did each time the nightmares
sank her to this place, to the deep dark of her soul, the
coldest part of her memories. Because in begging Wizard
to save Tatiana, Yuriko had doomed herself.
Bane would set loose his brutality on her.
Trembling, Tatiana swayed on her feet, her swollen lips
working as she tried to form the words . . . what words?
Did she mean to offer herself to Bane’s fists, or to sacrifice
Again came the eerie, frightening sensation of familiarity
and the terrifying knowledge that she had lived these
moments again and again, that the outcome was always
The walls around her shimmered and danced, and she
heard voices, saw lights. They were wrong. They had no
She had no place here. None of it was real.
Heart racing, palms damp, Tatiana began to run, her
feet pounding against the cold stone floor, hard, fast. Only
she didn’t move at all. Her limbs pumped as hard and as
fast as they could, and still she stayed in one place, trapped
in the past.
She needed only to pull free, come awake, and they
would be gone—the pain, the memories, the horror. But
neither the bonds of sleep nor the terrors that dwelled in
her memories eased to set her free. They held her in tight
tendrils that dragged her back and pulled her into a place
she had no wish to be.
Wizard . . . save her. Please. She has a chance.
Yuriko’s voice, low, urgent.
Bound in the barbed web of events that had played out
long ago, Tatiana thrashed and flailed. A dream. A dream.
It was only a dream.
“Calculate the odds,” Bane ordered.
Tatiana’s breath came in short, huffing pants. She couldn’t
push any sound past the lump in her throat. Coward. She
was a coward. Weak.
Hazy, unfocused, she shifted her gaze to Wizard. Silently
she pleaded for . . . what? What did she want him to do?
What could he do?
The outcome was always the same. She had been powerless
to change it then, was powerless to change it now.
“Choose.” Bane whispered the word against Wizard’s
For the first time in her recollection, her brother hesitated.
Choose. Choose. Choose.
And then Bane’s face melted like wax in a flame, shifting,
changing, until it was a different man who chained
her, a different man who stood looking down at her, wanting
to master her, to use her, to twist what she was for his
She had thought Bane the face of purest evil. But she’d
been wrong. So wrong.
Gavin Ward. Dr. Gavin Ward.
He was here for her. Her time was up.
Sweating, screaming, Tatiana bolted upright, the dream
so real that she smelled the stink of her own fear, felt
the sting of the blows on her cheek, her jaw, as though
they had landed minutes rather than years past. Felt the
pain of knowing that her weakness had cost her sister her
Yuriko. Oh, God. Yuriko.
Tatiana wrapped her arms around her knees and lowered
her forehead. She closed her eyes, shuddering in the
cold and the darkness, fighting the memories, the anguish, the
A nightmare, she told herself. Only a nightmare.
But it wasn’t.
Because as she raised her head, she saw him, there, in
the shadows, just beyond the bars that caged her. Gavin
Ward was there. Watching.
And the light glinted off the scalpel in his hand.