“He doesn’t look like he’s getting better,” Cali murmured to Jacob.
Jacob agreed, although silently. Morris was sleeping—or comatose, he wasn’t certain Jenks wasn’t lying—and he was sickly gray color. His chest finally heaved with a breath, and tension Jacob hadn’t been aware of unwound in his shoulders.
“He’s a lot better than he was an hour ago,” Jenks reiterated. “When his heart stopped.”
Morris’s eyelids fluttered and he groaned. “Not gonna kill me—”gasp“that easy.”
“Damn right,” Jenks growled. “Take more than a handful of silver pellets to do you in.”
Morris groaned and opened his eyes halfway. “Hope so.” His nose twitched and his gaze turned to Cali and Jacob. “We’ll still keep you and your people safe.”
“They aren’t my people,” Cali clarified. “I’m not a pack or cult leader. I do have concerns about this new weapon Shiva was telling me about. Not sure if something that can turn shifters to ash is anything I want near us.”
Morris took a labored breath and struggled to sit up.
Jenks hissed at him but rather then tell Morris to keep still, he assisted Morris and put two pillows behind his back and head. “We should invest in an adjustable bed.”
Morris shot him a narrow glance. “Not gonna need it.”
Jenks pressed his lips together in tight line.
“This weapon-- tell me about it,” Cali said.
“Mags and Qadhi have been working on it for a while. At first it was just a concept, one they didn’t ever intend to try to replicate outside of basic forms. I agreed with them. Something so powerful, should it fall into the wrong hands, could destroy us all. And by us, I mean humans, too. But the attacks and slaughtering of shifters changed our minds. We can’t catch up with the group Julius works with. They’re always one or three steps ahead of us.” Morris winced. “No doubt in part because Julius knows me so well.”
“Did he start this group he’s a part of?” Jacob asked. He wasn’t an omega who had to be quiet now. The freedom to speak up was exhilarating, even though the price that had been paid for it to happen had been too high.
Morris closed his eyes for a moment. “I don’t know. We’ve spent the last year and a half digging into the group, but even the money trail just…disappears. Julius was a loving kid, but something changed when he turned twenty. He went away for several months and came back with a full-blown hatred of humans. He said they were beneath us. We argued, he left. I had no clue where he was or what he was doing until three years ago, when I picked up his scent at the scene of a shifter slaughter. And now I know he left that scent for me deliberately.”
“Because he and his murdering troop know how to cover every scent,” Jacob added.
“And this device, this weapon that’s being brought here, it can kill your brother?” Cali asked.
Morris nodded. “Yes, and if you wonder if I’ll hesitate or regret killing him, no, I won’t. He murdered our parents and sisters in cold blood.”
“When he left his scent.” Jacob felt nauseated.
“Yes.” Morris had, though it should have been impossible, grown even paler. “I will not regret for a single second if he suffers and dies a slow, painful death. The laser weapon Qahid and Mags is bringing will not give him or any of us that. It is, in basic terms, the death ray-like gun that’s been used in sci-fi movies for decades. Jenks.”
Jenks held up a glass to Morris’s lips and took over the explanation. “The biggest problem with laser technology when it comes to weaponry is creating a viable, portable energy source. Lasers take a huge amount of energy to be deadly. Qahid had the idea of using silver fusion to create energy. I don’t know how he and Mags did it, but they succeeded in making a small, extremely deadly laser that can cut a wide swath of approximately ten feet per burst. Anything it hits is incinerated, top to bottom—as far as I know. Not sure that’d apply to things like skyscrapers and stuff, but…”
“But if they can make one that is as powerful as they claim it is, and someone else learns about it…” Morris trailed off.
He didn’t have to finish. Jacob was sure everyone got it. In the wrong hands, this new laser technology could be used to destroy everything, possibly even planets, if it was produced on a larger scale.
“So if we use it, we will have to make certain everyone who sees it is trustworthy, or dead.” Morris sighed. “I hope all your—er, all the inhabitants of the refuge are trustworthy.”
Cali glanced at Jacob, then back at Morris. “I don’t know most of them well. They aren’t aware of what tech you just told me about, and honestly, I don’t think I want such a dangerous weapon here. I don’t think it should have ever been created, Morris. What the hell were you thinking, okaying that?”
Morris finally showed some color, his cheeks turning ruddy. “Revenge. I was thinking about revenge.”
“Revenge is a waste of time and energy,” Cali snapped.
“You haven’t had your whole family murdered,” Morris snarled back. “All of us have.”
Jacob looked at Jenks, who nodded, then at Shiva.
Jacob knew the pain they had suffered. He’d been through it, too, and would have to live with it every day. Even so, they were wrong. “Revenge won’t bring them back.”
Morris sneered at him. “So if we kill them to save the lives of the people at the refuge, that’s okay, though? As long as we give it a name other than revenge.”
“Intentions count,” Jacob acknowledged, and if Morris and his crew didn’t believe that, he didn’t care. “What you do and why you do it takes a toll on you and either erodes or builds up your soul.”
“Soul.” Morris’s sneer was back in place. “We live, we die, that’s it. There is no soul or spirit.”
“That’s your opinion,” Cali said, tugging Jacob close to him. “Just because you feel that way doesn’t mean you should mock or look down on people who don’t agree.”
“I’m with Cali and Jacob on that.” Shiva shook her head. “If we have no soul, no sense of right and wrong—”
“I never said that was lacking,” Morris cut in. “Knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, doesn’t require a soul.”
Jenks held up his hands in a stop gesture. “Can we save this argument for another day? We’re here to stop the slaughter of more shifters. Each of us has our own beliefs on spiritual things, or the lack thereof. We need to focus on dealing with the threat to shifters. Does the label matter? Julius and whoever he’s working with or for won’t stop until they’ve all been killed. That’s a fact. Whatever our motivations for putting an end to him and his kind, that’s on each of us as individuals. It isn’t the same for everyone.”
“Semantics,” Morris groused. “But he’s right. Julius and his team are the only ones working to annihilate shifters. They could have other people recruited and in training. We don’t know. But this has to stop.”
“Mags and Qahid are three minutes away. Do you want me to send them back?” Shiva asked, but not of Morris. Her attention was focused on Cali. “We can try to find another way to dispense of your would-be murderers.”
Cali bit his bottom lip and looked at Jacob.
Jacob didn’t know what was best.
“I could have the others staying at the refuge remain inside and out of sight of the weapon,” Cali mused.
“It wouldn’t hurt to talk to Mags and Qahid. Besides, their laser thing might not be right for using here,” Morris said. “I’m not clear on the range it has other than the width of the path it strikes.”
Jacob didn’t know what he hoped for. If the laser could put an end to the slaughter of shifters, that couldn’t be a bad thing. And if this Mags and Qahid team had made such a weapon, surely other people would be capable of doing the same.
Jacob turned to ask Cali if he wanted to speak in private for a moment, and the earth rocked under his feet at the same moment a horrible sound rent the air. Jacob might have screamed, but he couldn’t hear anything as pain slammed into his head, his ears ringing while the two of the walls began to crumble.