"There are three."
Kris's fingers clenched and unclenched into fists as he saw, through Elan's words, the cabal of sinister shapes surrounding his sister's sleeping form. "That's my fault. I need to be there. Now."
"Go then. There's nothing left here."
"Come with me."
"This isn't a place. This is a being. This is me. I can't step outside myself."
The young man agreed with his eyes, but denied with a shake of his head. "Then help me."
And she did. She spoke a word he could not decipher, and once again there was the shimmering network of lines and connections between things, almost exactly like the network he'd been able to perceive in ThirdCity. Kris pulled on one thread and moved, anakata, and just like with the security cameras, sight and thought and presence became one experience.
He was there, in the dark, and he felt the bass pump through the walls, and he felt a sickening void of self in the pit of his stomach, saw a funhouse maze of mirrors reflecting perceptions, model-thin bodies and vapid gangster fantasies and the bilious taste of speed and hunger under her tongue, and all of the mirrors were wrong, they were wrong, she needed to see herself but all of the mirrors lied, so she was forced to look for herself through other people, hate her flesh through other flesh, need and fear and the obsessive need to cut away the excess, just cut and cut and...
For just a moment, he was the serpent. His arm was her arm, and it held a living, buzzing, angry presence, one that pulled him forward and burned and pulled with the burning. Anna was before him, kicking, shoving, scrambling to escape. He felt his knife arm straining forward like a wolf on a leash. With every fiber of his being he forced ice into that grip, trying desperately to freeze that terrible hunger before it broke free from his control.
Her grip slipped. The knife lunged forward but at a bad angle, a swinging blow that bit flesh but missed everything vital, and then the tail of Anna's coat was disappearing through the door, and a mechanical scream shattered the scene and brought him back.
The burning was still there, but it was no longer coming from a knife. It came from his grip upon the Iron King's system architecture. Through the window of his prison, he could see Avernus's sensor array projecting a baleful beam of light directly at him. The mechanical entity struck, and there was the sound of something breaking.