That was the number of targets he had tagged and bagged like so many animals for the human government since the Revealing, an event that reveal the existence of another species to mankind. And yes, the delineation was intentional, because no, he was not human, apparently never had been.
Not according to the human scientist who studied his kind, not to the military board who’d kicked him unceremoniously to the curb after discovering the truth of his heritage, and certainly not the piece of shit fiancé who’d left him six months ago.
The number of paranormals who had not survived what the human doctors called Rehabilitation, a procedure that forcibly cut off his kind’s access to the very powers that made them unique. An inhuman process which left them in an endless coma, stripped of their very identities, nothing more than shells for the humans to poke and prod like lab rats.
He had sentenced eighty-seven of his own people to that fate.
Tracked them down like errant dogs and turned over members of his own species to be experimented upon and then put down like rabid animals. All on the say so of a group of humans who would sooner see everyone like him dead out of fear than attempt to understand and help them adapt to the modern era.
Lyncoln Turner was a traitor, self-loathing his ever-present companion.
He took a moment to survey the table to his left, offended. If he didn’t already hated himself enough, Lyncoln stood posted within spitting distance of every single member of the Program’s ruling Board, the men and women who gave the execution orders, like a well-trained dog waiting to be recognized as their most accomplished field agent since the inception of the program.
They were throwing a fucking banquet to celebrate his team and their hand in reducing his species, one by one. It was disgusting and revolting enough that he be the instrument of his people’s destruction, but even more so that the so-called civilized humans so coolly celebrated genocide.
Toasts were made, fine wine consumed by the gallon and plates the cost of which one could provide the capital to help his people reform were cleaned by human societies most elite, New York City’s one percent. He wondered if they even knew what it was exactly the Program did to the paranormals it supposedly helped integrate into modern, human lives.
Lyncoln somehow doubted it.
While the rich could be insensitive to the suffering of others, they weren’t always cruel, would most likely not take kindly to the knowledge he held. The nouveau riche did not mind a dirty deed or two done in private so long as their pockets were lined, but they would sell their own mothers to protect their precious reputations. Reputations the truth about the Program would trample with muddied boots.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.
The Director, his salt and peppered hair fashion in a military high and tight, sat at the head of the table wearing a perfect mask of civility. And it was just that, a mask. The man was a ruthless bastard with a mind as sharp as any blade, his gray blue eyes as cold and merciless as a winter storm. He was the one who’d found and recruited Lyncoln following the Revealing in 2010. Recruitment was the politic term that had been used.
It had actually ben a euphemism for serve or watch your family branded as freaks, their lives ruined.
He could not stand his family, for while they hadn’t abandoned him as everyone else in his life had, they may as well have. Nevertheless, they were family, even if they refused to claim him, and he would never turn his back on family. The Director knew that about him as well and didn’t hesitate to use it to his own ends.
Lyncoln hated the smug bastard with every ounce of darkness in him, but no one was any wiser as he took the champagne flute offered and lifted it to toast to a man he’d gut at the first opportunity. The liquid, usually a favorite of his, was uncharacteristically bitter, the bubbles dry and bitter on his tongue as he downed the contents of the glass.
Lyncoln snapped out of his thoughts at the harsh whisper in his left ear.
Talat, an exquisite beauty whose features spoke of her deep Middle Eastern roots and a fellow field operative, glared at him as she approached from his left. Her shoulder length jet black hair was pinned up in a neat bun to expose her bare shoulders in the strapless, teal dress she wore to perfection.
Her topaz eyes locked onto his, her concern intense, so tangible he could practically touch it.
Lyncoln put on his best faux smile as he addressed his second. “What?”
He locked down his shields, dark eyes narrowing on Talat. He knew exactly what it was she meant. He also knew precisely how she knew about it. Though he loved Talat endlessly, knew she would never betray his trust, Lyncoln loathed even the thought of anyone being privy to his chaotic emotions.
Even if it was his empathic best friend.
“Stop eavesdropping or I’ll give you a migraine.” He threatened, putting his champagne flute back down on black tablecloth before he spoke again. “You know I hate that.”
Talat, with her infinite patience didn’t react to his less than brusque tone, her abilities and inherent peaceful disposition providing a fertile field for the roots of a deep and abiding friendship to grow and flourish. Though she’d come into the Program nearly a year after he, Talat had quickly become someone he could depend on, in any matter.
That same reliability came with complimentary couch time.
“In my defense, you were projecting,” A casual shrug of her shoulders, beautiful bronze skin aglow beneath the ballroom lights. “If you actually paid attention in the classes I teach, you might actually remember how to prevent that.”
She was wrong. He’d listened diligently. The techniques she’d first taught him no longer worked with the same efficiency as they’d done a year ago, his mind having found a way around the self-imposed blocks, but that wasn’t something he was ready to share. Not with her and certainly not with the doctors that Talat would insist he confer with.
“You right,” an effortless lie told with unnerving ease. It was becoming far too easy. “My apologies for snapping at you, but the combination of this stuffy suit and these small suns they call lights above us are making me incredibly irritable.”
In truth, Lyncoln was nervous.
Today marked his fourth, and God willing, final contracted year as a field operative, the ceremony serving the dual purpose of a celebration and a farewell. No one else knew, the Director having decided it was best he make a clean cut.
He didn’t agree, but the Director wasn’t a man anyone defied.
Still, Lyncoln remained grateful. No matter how small it seemed, the promotion to desk jockey was a welcomed reprieve. His soul was torn and tattered, every mission a corrosive acid drip on the fragile tapestry. He would live with the shame of his actions to his final breath, but if he could save just one life, just one of his people, then perhaps he could earn a modicum of forgiveness.
The comm timepiece on his wrist chimed.
Switching open his mental pathways, Lyncoln answered the mental hail, the distinct steel of Samone Richards mind touching his own. A former emergency responder, Richards was also an incredibly skilled telepath and functioned as the team’s main source of information.
There was an electromagnetic spike detected in Lower Manhattan three minutes ago. Precinct 7. Orders are to retrieve the target alive.
He didn’t bother asking why the mission had been assigned to him when Command surely knew his time as a field agent was over. If the order came across Richards’ desk, it was meant for Turner and his team.
Copy. We’re on it.