Oh those Arrows
SPOILER NOTE: In lieu of an AM review, I present to you everything you wanted to know about the Arrows in Nalini Singh’s Psy / Changeling series. This post will contains spoilers up to “Heart of Obsidian.”+ (If you want to read Heart of Obsidian spoilers Nalini has a two chapter excerpt at her site.). You may also want to read why I think Kaleb and the Ghost are one and the same.
Executions are sometimes unavoidable. – Caressed by Ice
The Arrows are an elite military squad in the PsyNet also known as the Death Squad. “One Arrow was worth dozens of ordinary soldiers.” (Play of Passion) Many in the PsyNet believe that they “are a myth, a legend, their existence or nonexistence debated endlessly in the PsyNet.” (Caressed by Ice) Faith, an F-Psy, in “Visions of Heat” came across rumors of them in her research but nothing definitive. She refers to them as “a secret squad…one allegedly used to permanently silence the Council’s critics.”
The truth is that the Arrow Squad was formed “on the heels of the implementation process” or rather the institution of the Silence Protocol (Caressed by Ice). They are an independent force led initially by Ming LeBon in contemporary times because he was a senior Arrow before ascending to the Council, a body that implements rules for all the Psy. (Caressed by Ice) Currently there are one hundred and sixty active Arrows but there are never more than two hundred. (Blaze of Memory)
The first Arrow was created by Catherine and Arif Adelajas who lost their twin sons, Tendaji and Naeem, to madness. The parents had attempted to institute a preSilence form of emotional coldness called Mercury but the twins succumbed in a murder suicide leaving behind a note:
We are an abomination, a plague that will kill our people from within. Silence must never take root, must never infiltrate the PsyNet. Forgive us. (Caressed by Ice)
The Adelajas believed that the Silence, however, was simply not perfect enough and turned to Zaid, their eldest. Zaid was a cardinal telepath with previously unforeseen power in mental combat. As Zaid began to enforce the Silence Protocol by weeding out the “weak” he also began recruiting others who were “loners, unknown shadows, darker than the darkness, men and women whose sole aim was to eliminate anything that might threaten the successful realization of Catherine and Arif’s lifelong dream.” (Caressed by Ice)
Silence, or the suppression of emotion, was instituted to combat mental breakdowns and brutality enacted against others. In “Blaze of Memory”, a young boy who is part of the Shadow Net kills his dog. He literally is willing himself to death and the leaders conclude that perhaps Silence is the answer:
“Silence is an answer,” his cousin whispered, but there was a weariness to him. “I wish it wasn’t, but it is.”
Meeting that familiar gaze, Dev knew what he had to say, what he had to decide. “And if it is the only answer, then we’ll find a way to teach William to be Silent.”
(Blaze of Memory) In “Kiss of Snow”, Alice Eldridge (aka the popsicle) studies young XPsy. One of them is named George and is a telepath who tells Alice that “sometimes he wishes the voices would be silent. My Xs are all in favor of it, and I can’t say I’m surprised.” (Kiss of Snow). Zaid’s own experience lead him to kill others who broke away from the Silence Protocol:
The Protocol had given him peace from the demons of his mind and he wanted to spread that gift of peace, to quiet the torment of his people, So he began cleaning up the mistakes, wiping away those who broke under the experimental versions of Silence, burying their lives as efficiently as he buried their bodies. (Caressed by Ice)
Arrows are taken from their families at a young age and ” subjected to the most excruciating pain and then been taught to block it” because [a] good Psy felt nothing. A good Arrow felt even less.” (Caressed by Ice) Another Arrow by the name of Abbot says “We cannot survive without Silence.” (Kiss of Snow) Even Judd initially believes that he would have chosen the Silence protocol if the choice was given to him. (Caressed by Ice)
The Arrow squad is fracturing internally. All believe in the importance of Silence but they are split on how to enforce it. The faction of PurePsy are supposedly trying to preserve the integrity of the Silence but at all costs, including Zaid-like actions which include the killing of those who are imperfect, implanting a chip that could invoke Silence, and rehabilitation (which basically means turning the Psy into mindless zombies)
Ming’s use of the Arrows as his personal hit squad has led to more questions and doubts about their existence and purpose. Judd speaks with Aden in “Kiss of Snow” when Aden is dispatched to assassinate Judd.
“Silence is falling.” No change in the tone of his voice, nothing to betray the scale of what he was talking about. “We will watch, wait, and fight the war when it comes.”
Judd didn’t ask on which side Aden and the Arrows would stand. He knew.
(Kiss of Snow) Of course, what side is a bit ambiguous. In “Blaze of Memory, Judd says that the first loyalty of an Arrow is to maintain Silence and the integrity of the ‘Net. “They’ll do nothing to undermine the stability of the Net.” Judd tells the Ghost. (Blaze of Memory) They want peace, however, and in “Tangled of Need” a full scale plan of defection is revealed to Judd, as a last resort.
They are the keeper of the PsyNet’s darkest truths. (Blaze of Memory)
The Main Arrow Books
Caressed by Ice (pub date 2007)introduces us to Zaid as the Founding Father of the Arrows. Judd is a former Arrow but while he had defected from the PsyNet he still considers himself aligned with the Arrows and would do nothing to imperil his brothers at arms. Much of the original myth of the Arrows is explained in this book.
Blaze of Memory (pub date 2009) marks the first antipathy the Arrows have for their current situation. Vasic and Aden’s friendship is shown for the first time as well as the desire to off Ming LeBon.
Kiss of Snow (pub date 2010). Despite being a book about Hawk and Sienna, the theory of the Arrows features prominently in “Kiss of Snow.” It is in this book we learn about Alice Eldridge’s study of the X Psy. I believe that Kaleb and the Ghost are one, a Cardinal X. The Ghost tells Judd at one point that the Cardinal X does not exist, that it is a fable, but that is merely subterfuge on Ghost/Kaleb’s part. Aden and Vasic have important roles in this book as well.
Based on this book, it could be assumed that the Arrows are all of the X designation. They all have differing abilities and most are inaccurately charted. In order for the Arrows to be the deadliest force, they must be swifter, stronger, more Psy than the ordinary Psy. Sienna was recruited to be an Arrow and she is a confirmed X designation.
Alice Eldridge suggests that the X cling to Silence because of the overwhelming nature of their psychic powers. This would be in line with the deaths of the Adelajas brothers.
Tangle of Need (pub date 2011). This is an Arrow heavy book as it is revealed that Vasic and Aden are attempting to free the Arrows from the control of the Psy Council and save the children who are currently undergoing training, training that they both recognize as cruel and unhelpful.
Jax is a drug designed initially for Arrows, to boost their Psy abilities “so they could be better, faster, deadlier than anything else in the Net.” (Caressed by Ice) Overtime, Jax kills a Psy by eating away at their powers and leading them into insanity and ultimately death. (Caressed by Ice). Judd believes that Jax contributes to an Arrow’s icy perfection, altering their ability to view nuances and instead replacing nuanced decision making with only binary categories of right and wrong.Aden was never put on Jax because “it would’ve made him incapable of the value judgments required to monitor the effects of the drug on others.” (Blaze of Memory) According to Aden, the pathways of the brain permanently reset at some point, eliminating positive returns of the drug. This may be accurate but it is also a lie that Aden tells Ming LeBon in order to reduce or eliminate the Jax regimen. It seems likely given this exchange between Aden and Ming that Aden is lying about Jax’s lack of efficacy:
Something like this happened with Judd Lauren.
Ming recognized the name at once as that of the lone Tk-Cell who’d survived to adulthood in the past generation. Judd Lauren’s ability to literally stop the cells of the body had made him an invaluable assassin. Wasn’t he taken off Jax?
Yes. Along with most of the other Tks. They all functioned as well without it—telekinetics seem to only need a very short stay on the regimen. Aden didn’t elaborate but Ming didn’t need him to—he knew that after a certain period, the pathways of the brain set permanently, making the use of the drug
Will that solution work in this case? he asked.
According to available data, yes. It appears some Arrows are in fact being overdosed on Jax since they no longer need it.
Ming took a few minutes to consider the decision. If he lost control of the Arrows, they could conceivably take over the Net. One Arrow was worth thousands of normal soldiers.Try it on the ones who’re already breaking down. See if it has any effect.
I’d suggest a small number of others who may be close to that point, Aden said. I can send you a list.
Do it. Vasic? Is he on Jax? The teleporter was not only an invaluable part of the Squad, Ming utilized him on an almost weekly basis.
No. He hasn’t been for years. His brain has reset.
Acknowledging the receipt of the additional names Aden had sent through, Ming ended the telepathic conversation. As long as Vasic was on a leash, there was no problem.
Judd was only on the drug for seven months, realizing soon after what it was doing to him. While on the drug, he faked psychic mistakes so as to show that the drug was not working for him. He was removed from the drug therapy program as were other Arrows who never asked to be placed back on the drug.
Jax has become a street drug for many Psy. In “Bonds of Justice”, Sophia tells us that “Jax was the scourge of the Psy, a drug that many said broke conditioning on the most basic level, allowing the user to feel emotion.”
Vasic has also stopped taking Jax. Aden tells Judd it is because Vasic believes “there was nothing left in him to save.” In “Blaze of Memory”, Aden reports to Ming LeBon that seven Arrows have reacted negatively to the Jax regimen in the previous six months. These men are held in a facility deep in the Dinarides, a remote mountain range along the Adriatic.The elimination of the Jax regiment signals a lack of confidence in Ming’s leadership. (Blaze of Memory) Later, it is revealed that defectors are being funneled through the Dinarides facility, described as lost to the Arrows and set for rehabilitation, but instead smuggled out of the PsyNet.
Arrows in the series:
Zaid Adelaja is the first Arrow and is mentioned first in “Caressed by Ice.” He formed the Squad before Silence Protocol was ever instituted. He lost his twin brothers to madness and believed so strongly in the Silence Protocol (known as Mercury at the time) that he killed those who threatened it. He was known as the Martial Arrow by his mother. In “Blaze of Memory”, Zaid is described as full of pain and conviction. He was a cardinal telepath with fierce mental combat capabilities. (Caressed by Ice). Zaid was overwhelmed by his own power and likely grief at his brothers’ deaths. (Blaze of Memory)
Judd Lauren appears first in Slave to Sensation. He is part of the Lauren family who dropped out of the Psynet to form their own network in order to prevent members of their family from rehabilitation after Walker and Judd’s sister commits suicide. They live in the SnowDancer territory. Judd eventually becomes a liaison between the Ghost and shifters.
Judd was in training since he was ten, when he killed his first person. He was officially an Arrow from 18 to 26. Judd began to question the Arrows when he discovered one of his “hits” directed by Ming LeBon was undeserving of death. “In the PsyNet, some segments of the populace call the Arrows a death squad, but we thought of ourselves as the first line of defense, protecting our people before they even knew they were in danger. Ming changed that, made us into bringers of death,” Judd tells Brenna in “Caressed by Ice.”
Judd is dark haired, dark eyed. Sascha describes him as “unbelievably handsome in the perfect way of the Psy”. Judd is not a cardinal Psy but extremely powerful. Not only is he a Tk (telekinetic) but he can blur his body, essentially becoming invisible. Interestingly there are no known cardinal Psy’s amongst the arrows but Judd is strong enough that he was able to serve as the anchor for the Lauren family as they dropped out of the PsyNet. Judd is so powerful he was able to reverse an airbound missile from its course.
Aden is first mentioned by name in “Blaze of Memory” and described by Ming LeBon as the medic in charge of monitoring the Arrow Squad’s response to Jax. He is also mentioned in Wild Invitation in a conversation between Judd and Walker Lauren. Walker remembers Aden with “slanted eyes of liquid brown and hair of silky black” and who often appeared at school with bruises and breaks in his bones. (Wild Invitation) Both of his parents were members of the Squad. (Blaze of Memory) He is deemed only a “field medic” by Ming LeBon who seriously underestimates Aden’s power.
Aden is a telepath, miscategorized and deemed far less powerful than he truly is. Aden has always looked out for those weaker than him.
Aden, he remembered, had never cried, never broken . . . and never lost his soul. “He used to shake his head at me when I attempted to keep him back after school”—because the boy had bruises no child should have, his arm showing signs of having been broken and reset over and over—“ and tell me to keep one of the younger children.”
“I’m stronger. I’ll survive. They need the rest more than I do.”
Judd turned to face him, his expression intent. Walker rarely spoke of his time in the squad’s schoolroom, and his brother had never pushed. He didn’t tonight, either.
“Aden’s doing the same still,” he said instead. “Leading the squad, protecting the ones who are broken, watching over the children.”
Aden is becoming disenchanted with PurePsy and the Silence. The goal of the Silence was to prevent the deaths of the Psy but not only have Psy been dying, but Arrows have been as well. Too many, by Aden’s count. When Abbott tells him that they can only survive with Silence, Aden wonders whether the price of survival is too high. (Kiss of Snow)
Aden is really the leader of the Arrows. In “Blaze of Memory”, Vasic defers to Aden’s decision regarding the killing of Ming LeBon when Aden says “It’s not time” and “We can’t show our hand.”
Vasic is first appears in Hostage to Pleasure when he teleports to Ashaya Aliene, a scientist working on the Implant Protocol. He tells her he is “not a team player.” (Hostage to Pleasure) Later Vasic appears to be in cahoots with Zie Zen, a dissident. Vasic is known as the “single true teleporter” or a “Traveler”. A Traveler. Designation Tk. Subdesignation V. (Hostage to Pleasure) He has piercing silver eyes and enjoys looking out over the desert wasteland that is rich rust red under sunlight and silver in the glow of the moonlight.
His leg was broken several times when he was six years old to train him in Silence. He was begging to go home. (Tangle of Need)
It is because of his abilities that Ming LeBon, the first leader of the current Arrow Squad, was able to survive so man attempts to end his life. In “Branded by Fire” Vasic blinks everyone out of a vehicle before it could be hit by the high-explosive antitank rounds directed at it. He also rescues Ming from a crumpled car and another assassination attempt in “Blaze of Memory.”
Vasic’s touch is so delicate he can right an unbalanced insect (Kiss of Snow) or lift the blood from the walls of a room. (Hostage to Pleasure, Tangle of Need) Along with Aden, he could lead the Arrows but refuses. He is tormented by what Judd deems to be a guilty conscience. (Tangle of Need). Vasic and Aden share a telephathic connection.
At one point, Ming LeBon wants Vasic to open for a scan but Vasic refuses on the grounds that it would leave him defenseless and no Arrow is ever defenseless. Aden fears that Vasic will be totally lost after the Arrow schools are liberated, as if that single focus is the only thing keeping Vasic sane at this moment.
Ming LeBon rose to power from the Arrow Squad to sit on the Council, the governing body of the Psy. He used the Arrow squad to eliminate anyone who stood in the way of his gaining power and money. In “Blaze of Memory”, Ming sustains a serious injury in an assassination attempt. Aden and Vasic consider killing him at this time, but do not. Ming loses the Arrows because instead of preserving the integrity of the Net he chose to pursue power.
The Arrows terminate their relationship with Ming in “Bonds of Justice” by sending Kaleb a patch bearing the emblem of Ming LeBon pierced by “a small, perfectly formed black arrow.”
Guiterrez and Suhanna are mentioned in “Kiss of Snow” as infiltrating the Pure Psy.
Abbott is a 9.1 telekinetic who, at the age of twenty-six, is drawn to the Pure Psy. He and Aden share a conversation in “Kiss of Snow” about Abbott’s possible defection to the Pure Psy. Aden tells Abbott he cannot be both Pure Psy and Arrow, another version of the “you cannot serve two masters” philosphy.
“Have you come to stop me, Aden?” the other Arrow asked. “Ask me not to join Pure Psy?”
“No, Abbot. That isn’t who we are… But the squad works on unconditional trust.” On the knowledge that the Arrow at his back would never use the position to knife him. “Once you give your allegiance to Pure Psy, you must follow their goals.”
(Kiss of Snow) Abbott’s Silence is already breaking. Aden sees “bleak longing” in Abbott’s eyes. In “Tangled of Need” we learn that Abbott did not defect because the goals of the Pure Psy are not aligned with Abbott’s
Sione is an F-Psy who Faith reports as the only other F-Psy who is even challenges Faith on accuracy in predictions. Sione lives in the Southern Hemisphere and is part of the PsyClan PacificRose. (Visions of Heat) In “Kiss of Snow” Vasic describes her as having unstalbe abilities and that she may already be lost to the Arrows.
Alejandro is part of the Venice contingent. He is supposedly “damaged” having been given an overdose of Jax on a mission. He can only follow strict orders. He is imprinted on another rogue Arrow named Zaira who was born in Jordan and raised in a training facility in Turkey. (Tangle of Need) Judd wonders how much of what Zaira tells him of Alejandro is true or a mask.
William, a young child who first appears in “Blaze of Memory.” He accidentally kills a pet and tries to will himself into death. Judd comes to him and begins to teach him how to control his powers, in lieu of instituting a Silence protocol. He comes to the attention of Aden and Vasic in “Tangle of Need.”
Andrea Vasquez is a former Arrow and leads the military forces of Henry Scot and the PurePsy. He recruits disenchanted Arrows with the promise of control over their fractioning Silence. He likely had too much Jax as he tends to follow blindly whomever controls him. Judd tells the reader that brains can reset permanently on Jax turning an Arrow into “lethal machines who followed the will of their handlers with unswerving dedication.” (Caressed by Ice)
Venice contingent – a group of defected Arrows who disguised their deaths over the years. (Tangle of Need)
Associates of the Arrows:
Walker Lauren was a teacher of young men, specifically Arrows. He taught them ways to conceal flaws in their Silence using telephathic abilities. Aden tells Judd that “What he taught me…tell him it has saved the life and sanity of more than one Arrow.” (Kiss of Snow) Walker would keep students after school under the guise of detention or extra tutoring to protect that child. He tried to keep Aden from time to time but Aden refused telling Walker that there were other children who had greater need than Aden.
Sienna Lauren is an X-Fire with untold power. She was recruited by Ming to be part of the Arrows but she was ultimately rescued by Walker. She is targeted for death by Ming but kills his Psy’s instead. Once again Ming escapes because of the power of Vasic’s instant teleportation. Sienna and Judd serve as beacons of hope to other Arrows. Aden says,
“You exist, Judd. Sienna exists. It’s enough. You not only survived, you’ve found happiness. I don’t understand the emotion, but I know it is better than the dark. So do the others.”
(Kiss of Snow)
Kaleb becomes the leader of the Arrow Squad after Ming. (Bonds of Justice) He is chosen by the Arrows themselves because Vasic and Aden do not want to lead, yet.
Henry and Shoshanna are Council members who have amassed a group of Arrows to their Pure Psy cause.
Keisha Bale is a the head M-Psy at the Dinarides facility and despite Judd’s declaration that only Arrow M-PSy treat other Arrows, she is not an Arrow. She is first mentioned in “Blaze of Memory.” The suggestion in “Tangle of Need” is that Bale is part of the resistance, stamping death certificates and verifying cremations of the smuggled and defecting rogue Arrows.
The Duality Issue
In re-reading this series, I noticed the importance of the twin minds – the Dark Net/the Psy net. Keenan being able to serve as the conduit for Noor’s abilities to path. Ashaya and Amara’s ability to merge. The Arrows were birthed in part by Zaid’s twin brother’s madness. Kaleb and the Ghost have ability to have duality in themselves. Kaleb is a dual cardinal.
No matter what Heart of Obsidian is about, the next step in this series is the impending Civil War on the PsyNet. The Arrows are going to be one side of the battle, the winning side, but how many casualties will occur before the conclusion. Judd wonders, for example, whether Vasic will find the peace he longs for or whether he’ll die as an Arrow in the war. (Tangle of Need)
Let’s hear all your conclusions, speculations, and hopes for “Heart of Obsidian” and beyond.