“For fuck’s sake, what’s your point?” Barrons growled.
“I’m making it. When the hole beneath Chester’s absorbed Mac’s ghouls—which glided aboveground, by the way—it sucked them upward and in. Nothing I’ve tossed to any of the black holes was in direct contact with another object.”
Maybe I didn’t know the answer. Maybe the answer was worse than I’d thought.
“Worst case scenario,” Dancer continued, “it’ll devour the abbey and everything it’s touching, sensing it all as a single large object.”
“But the abbey is touching the earth!” I exclaimed.
Dancer said, “Precisely.”
“How quickly could it absorb it, if it did?” Barrons demanded.
“No way of knowing. It could be the holes will always suck things upward and in, provided the object is small enough that it doesn’t counter the pull of the thing’s gravity. It could be very large objects like the earth are beyond their ability to tackle and it would merely take a chunk of the abbey. If it emits inadequate gravitational force, one might assume matter would separate under oppositional tension as competing gravities reach critical inertia. Problem is, I can’t confirm they function identical to what we understand as black holes, and frankly that understanding is limited and speculative. Performing an experiment elsewhere might topple an unstoppable cascade of dominoes.”
“Sum it up,” I said tersely.
“Bottom line: I suggest we don’t let the black hole touch the abbey even if it means tearing the place down to get it out of the way.”
“Out of dark a hero forms, city’s knight that serves no throne…”
Jada stared into the night, watching through the window as visitors passed from sight beyond the columns of the grand entrance of the abbey.
She’d known they would come. Those who wanted her to be someone she was no longer, someone who would never have survived those insane, bloody years in the Silvers.
They thought she’d stolen their Dani away. She hadn’t. They thought she was split. She wasn’t.
She was what Dani had become.
Which wasn’t the Dani they’d known.
But how could they expect a teenager who’d leapt into a Silver to come out the same five and a half years later, as if nothing had happened to her while she was gone?
It wasn’t possible.
Fourteen-year-old Dani was as irretrievable as anyone’s youth.
Their desires were illogical. But desires usually were. She had a few of her own that defied reason.
She knew the name she’d taken for herself upset them. But no one had called her Dani for longer than she could remember, and she’d wanted a fresh start to put the past behind her.
She was home.
Life began now.
As she’d learned to live it.
When she realized she’d been gone a virtually insignificant amount of time, Earth-time—a fact nearly beyond her comprehension at first—she’d known those at the abbey would never follow an abruptly older Dani as readily as they would an unknown warrior. Much depended upon the presentation of facts—more so than the facts themselves. Since they’d “met” her as Jada, many of the sidhe-seers still had a hard time believing she’d ever once been the rebellious, calamitous teen.
Even if she’d continued calling herself Dani, those people she’d been closest to would have found her disturbing. They would have rejected she’d come back at nearly twenty, under any name—because what they couldn’t accept was that she’d lived five and a half years of life without them and was different now.
But not entirely.
Everything she’d done since her return demonstrated who she was, what she believed in, the things she lived for. She’d begun recruiting sidhe-seers, rescued the abbey, started training the women to be the warriors they should always have been, as the prior Grand Mistress had unforgivably failed to do. She’d hunted her past enemies, protected her past allies. She’d obsessed over repaying a debt to Christian.
Still, sheep, as she’d once called the willfully blind, perceived things in black and white. Saw only that a fourteen-year-old explosively emotional child who tried to outrun her issues by darting into the Silvers had come back a mature, self-possessed woman and was, in their opinion, the wrong version of her.
They’d rejected her completely.
With the exception of Ryodan, hadn’t even recognized her. And he’d rejected her, too. Decided the “other” part of her that was so useful when necessary had taken her over entirely, as if she were that bloody incompetent. Couldn’t even see her looking right at him with Dani’s grown-up eyes.
Adaptability, he’d said, was survivability, and she’d been listening. Now he condemned her for her method of adaptation without even knowing her challenges or choices.
She found that immensely offensive.
Perhaps a more tactful woman wouldn’t have provoked Ryodan with comments that Dani was dead or scorned the teen she’d once been, but just as he had all those years ago, he’d irritated her, offending her even more because she’d believed herself beyond such a response—never a reaction, because reacting could be so deadly.
When she first returned, she had been beyond such responses, hardened by savagery and frozen by a glacier of grief in her heart, but day-to-day life in Dublin wasn’t the same as battling her way home with a single, consuming purpose. It was more complex, and certain people seemed to possess the ability to bring out the worst in her. She’d forgotten she had those parts. Attachments were chains she’d taken pains to avoid, yet here she was, stuck in the middle of link after link.
Recent weeks had been muddied with emotional humans, both inside the abbey and out, fragments of flawed relationships, subtle traps lurking everywhere she turned, time spent in a Hummer with two of those she’d intended to kill before she reconsidered the timing and perhaps even the intention, a past she’d put away, all of it stirring things in her she’d never wanted to feel again.
She’d survived by not feeling.
Thoughts were linear. Feelings were grenades, pin out.
Thoughts kept you alive. Feelings drove a person to leap into a Silver that took them straight to Hell.
Five and a half years, most of it alone.
Before that, fourteen years, eternally misunderstood.