Decision made, Kiarra took a deep breath and stood up. As she made her way up the stairs, she tried not to focus on the fact that she was merely trading one prison for another.
Once the two women left the room, Jaxton started wondering how much Neena was going to disclose to Kiarra. The rules of DEFEND were very clear: only Neena or Aislinn—the other co-founder and co-leader of DEFEND—were allowed to talk about the organization with outsiders. Occasionally they gave permission if neither of them could logistically meet with someone, but those exceptions were rare.
Neena and Aislinn were very protective of their creation.
Not that he could blame them. DEFEND had started with just the two of them, but after years of sacrifice and hard work, it was now a worldwide operation with growing clout. DEFEND was the only grassroots Feiru organization that had a chance of taking on the powerful AMT Oversight Committee and changing the status quo.
Neena, for the most part, did the recruiting. And judging by Neena’s unexpected visit and interest in Kiarra, he reckoned that the recently rescued first-born was as good as inducted into their fold. Not that Neena would listen to him in this instance, but Jaxton wasn’t sure if Kiarra was the type of recruit they were looking for. At least not until after she’d had time to heal.
Whatever Neena decided, he just hoped she would hurry the hell up so he could get on with questioning Kiarra. The sooner he had answers, the sooner he could hand her over to a DEFEND trainer. Jaxton not only needed to catch up on his own DEFEND workload, but he also needed to focus on his brother’s recovery.
He refused to believe Garrett was a lost cause.
For now, since his brother was still drugged unconscious, Jaxton decided to check in with Taka about their research on a prominent Feiru politician named James Sinclair.
He headed up the stairs and into the room at the end of the hall, where he’d set up an ad-hoc workspace. Taka sat in front of a monitor split into four boxes, each displaying a view of a room or the house’s perimeter. Off to the side of the room was a giant whiteboard with the words “Adams” and “doctoral research” scribbled in blue pen. Stacks of paper and newspapers covered the table in the corner, while black ashes of what used to be paper curled in the cold fireplace.
Kiarra and Neena were in one of the boxes displayed on the monitor. They were standing in the middle of the front room, talking. Satisfied that they hadn’t tried to sneak out the back door, he turned toward Taka and said, “How’re you progressing through the intelligence backlog?”
Taka scribbled a few more words and then looked up. “I’m about a quarter of the way through, but I found something I wanted to show you.” He shuffled through his stack of papers and handed a set to Jaxton. “One of DEFEND’s sources learned about a series of meetings between James Sinclair’s deputy chief of staff and several staff members from the Council of Eastern Australia. My guess is that Eastern Australia is Sinclair’s next target.”
Jaxton nodded while skimming the account. James Sinclair was influential with both the central Feiru governing body—called the Feiru High Council—and the AMT Oversight Committee. Over the last ten years, Sinclair had worked behind the scenes to influence general worldwide Feiru policy. But recently, Sinclair had shifted his focus to the smaller Feiru local councils. “Sounds similar to what happened in Wales and Northern Brazil.”
“Exactly. And if it follows the same pattern as those two other local councils, then the Council of Eastern Australia will soon be announcing their policy shift toward Article I.”
Article I of the Feiru Five Laws restricted what the Feiru people could and could not do in the human world, especially with regards to human governments and multinational corporations. Many Feiru resented the law and what they viewed as second-class citizenship, which was strange considering that first-borns were already being treated as second-class citizens, and nobody seemed to care.
Jaxton said, “That would make it now five Feiru local councils who support Sinclair’s recent Repeal Article I and Contain First-born Magic campaign. For years Sinclair pushed solely for stricter AMT enforcement, so his shift in focus must mean it’s because he knows something that we don’t.”
Taka gestured toward the monitor. “Have you had any success with questioning the woman? Maybe she knows something about what’s happening inside the AMT that could tell us why Sinclair changed his focus.”
“I’m working on it. If Neena could just keep her bloody nose out of everything, I could get something done.” He glanced at the monitor and saw Neena walking up the stairs, alone. Kiarra was still in the front room, sitting on the sofa and looking a bit shell-shocked. “Speaking of which, it looks like Kiarra is recovering from Hurricane Neena in the front room. I need to go take care of it.” Jaxton stood up. “I’ll check back afterward and we can divide up the remaining backlog. In the meantime, see if you can find out what other councils Sinclair is targeting.”
“No problem.” Taka turned back to his stack of papers. “Let me know if you need help questioning the woman.”
Jaxton nodded and left the room, but just as he reached the top of the stairs, he heard Neena’s voice behind him. “Jaxy, darling, we need to chat. Come, I even have scones to share with you.”
Resisting a sigh, Jaxton turned around and followed her to an empty bedroom. Even if he discounted the debt he owed Neena for helping with Garrett’s rescue, he knew better than to disobey Neena to her face.
Inside the room, Neena sat on one of the windowsills and motioned to a plate of scones. “Care for one?”
Jaxton shook his head. “What did you want, Neena?”
Neena nibbled on a scone before she said, “You’re going to train Kiarra.”
He frowned. “Why? Surely someone else could do it. Not only do I need to focus on my brother, but my research on James Sinclair is too important to put off.”
Neena took another bite and Jaxton gritted his teeth while he waited for her to finish chewing.
Finally she said, “You owe me for sharing your brother’s location and serial number, and I’m calling in my favor.”
“Why would you waste your favor on this?”
Neena waved her hand in dismissal. “Oh, it’s definitely worth it. This favor might even put me in your debt, not that I’ll ever acknowledge it.”
“But wouldn’t it be better for her to go to Amma’s place first and rejoin DEFEND later, when she’s ready?”
Amma Gyasi ran the most effective rehabilitation center f