She could take out a group as easily as a single enemy, and it saved her time hunting them individually. The stumpy-legged slow ones Mac had christened Rhino-boys were too easy. She preferred the red-and-black-clad guards to the highest castes: not sifters themselves but nearly as fast as she was, highly trained in combat.
Then there were the singularities, her preference. Sifters, they had to be trapped in a net of iron or lured into a metal-walled pit. Those were the ones that tried to tempt her with offers of the glories they could bestow with their enormous power.
Nothing affected her resolve. She was untouched by any plea, every offer.
She knew what she was. She knew what she wanted. And the tattoo Ryodan was taking his bloody time layering into her skin was critical to her goals.
She sputtered in the slipstream, dropped down without meaning to, and stumbled into a park bench, bruising her shin. She snapped her sword up sharp and hard, spun, checking all directions. She was alone. Nothing to kill.
Ryodan. The prick.
She inhaled deeply of crisp, humid, ocean-salted air. Breath was everything. When nothing else could be done: one could breathe and shape and infuse that breath with strength and purpose. She tossed her head and straightened her spine.
Ryodan had knocked her out of the slipstream in the abbey.
And just now, in the street, the mere irritating thought of him had disrupted her focus, impairing precise manipulation of a delicate dimension.
She scraped loose strands of hair from her face, smoothed it back using the blood and goo on her hands, and plastered it smoothly, albeit chunkily, behind an ear. Then she reached into a boot and retrieved one of the last remaining pods she’d found Silverside, popped and swallowed it. She despised the thought of carrying boxes of protein bars around with her all the time, wasting space she might otherwise use for weapons and ammo. She was curious whether Dancer might invent a more potent and portable source of fuel in his endless experiments at Trinity College’s abandoned labs.
A dry chittering above pressed her back into the shadows of a nearby doorway. Tipping her chin upward, she peered with narrowed eyes, wondering if they, too, could be slain. Analyzed potential methods of trapping them. Mac’s stalkers had ceased trailing her for some reason, and although Jada had never seen them harm anyone, she knew they were neither benevolent nor benign.
A flock of a hundred or more carrion wraiths flew overhead, streaking across the crimson-ringed moon, cloaks trailing like ghastly skeletal black fingers beneath wispy low-hanging clouds. Their faces glinted with metallic adornments, and she shivered, an atavistic response. She recognized the flocking pattern: they were hunting. But what? Mac was visible again, and though the teenager she’d once been would have wondered about the hows and whys of that, the woman she’d become wondered about nothing that didn’t further her purposes.
Only when the zombie eating wraiths—the ZEWS—had passed did she slide back up into the slipstream and head for Chester’s.
Three days, he’d said. That was how long it would take him to complete his tattoo.
And Jada would have the final weapon she needed.
The great and powerful Ryodan on a leash.
“Goddamn it, do you know what you just did?” Ryodan growled when she burst into his office.
Jada dropped into a chair, tossed her legs over the side and folded her arms behind her head. She had no doubt he’d watched her dramatic entrance on one of his endless monitors. Stretching lean, she shot him a cool look. “Walked through the club.” And patrons had parted around her as if she were carrying the Black Plague. Peeled away from the icy killing machine.
“Drenched in Unseelie guts,” he clipped.
“Blood, too,” she said lightly.
“You go slaughtering Fae, then come sauntering into my club wearing pieces of them. My employees serve Fae here.”
“Perhaps they should be on the menus, not in the booths.” He was as angry as she’d ever seen him. Good. Maybe he’d work faster to get rid of her tonight. She and Dancer could investigate the black holes without him. Once she had the map. “Have the rules changed and I didn’t get the memo? Last I heard, I wasn’t supposed to kill on your turf. I didn’t.”
He moved so quickly she didn’t see him coming. And she had a moment of sudden insight: not only did he move faster in the slipstream, he accessed it more quickly. She’d never tried to streamline her time entering, only her time within. She added a new challenge to her list.
He towered over her. “Don’t play games with me, Jada. Belligerence is beneath you.”
She neither shifted position nor acknowledged his criticism. “I didn’t have time to change.”
“Then you’ll make it now. I’m not working on you with that much death on your skin.” He raked her with a cool glance. But deep in those silver eyes there was something hot. Excited by the carnage she wore. She narrowed her eyes, expanded her senses, wondering for the umpteenth time about this man’s secrets.
She realized they were both breathing shallowly and instantly altered her pattern, lengthening her inhales and exhales. She didn’t need a mirror to know what she looked like.
Savage. Eyes much too bright, hot and cold at the same time.
Blood and guts on her face, in her hair. Covered with it, boots, jeans, skin. Body thrumming with barely harnessed energy.
Hungry, even after so much killing, to lash out, to do something to balance the scales inside her that felt so impossibly out of kilter. “You want me to waste time leaving to take a shower when we have—Don’t touch me!” She was on her feet, yanked to them. Her hands went up and out, blocking, knocking his hands away.
They stood like that, a foot apart, and she thought for a moment he was going to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, but he didn’t. Merely let his hands fall. Good thing. She would have kicked his ass across the office.
He said coldly, “You tell yourself you’ve learned the right things to turn on and off inside you. You haven’t. You killed tonight with fury. I smell it on you. And you lied to yourself while doing it. You killed from the pain of not knowing how the fuck to live in this world. Get used to it. A superhero doesn’t flaunt his kills. He slides in, takes the lives he came for, and slides back out, wearing shadow.”
“How would you know? You’re the villain of the piece.”
“Not tonight, Jada. Tonight it was you. How many did you kill?”