Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling 1) - Page 53

Despite those thoughts, his mind was almost fully focused on Sascha. Just what was she planning? There'd been something very determined in her gaze as she'd stepped out of his car, and he wasn't sure he'd liked the look of it. She was a stubborn female.

That didn't mean she wasn't breakable.

He knew she was going to put herself in danger and it infuriated him that he had no right to stop her. The beast in him growled, wanting those rights. The human half didn't disagree. He'd had it with trying to be civilized. Sascha Duncan was about to be marked.

"Lucas?"

He looked up to find Clay at the door. Excusing himself from Zara, he walked with the sentinel until they were out of earshot. "What is it?"

"We might have a lead. One of the wolf juveniles broke the rules and went goofing off downtown - he's swearing up and down that he smelled Brenna's scent near a building."

Lucas's hackles rose. "Strong?" Surely the serial couldn't be keeping Brenna in the city.

"No. Weak. Like it had come off someone who'd been near her." He handed over the address to Lucas. "Since the building was a Psy one, the kid freaked out."

Lucas somehow knew what the piece of paper was going to say. "The Duncan HQ." Sascha was in there right now. His instincts screamed at him to go and get her out but he knew that drawing that kind of attention to her might get her killed. "Did he catch anything else?"

Clay shook his head.

Lucas looked at the piece of paper again. "If we combine the residents and the day staff, that building handles close to five hundred people daily. Add in the visitors and narrowing things down is going to be almost impossible." To be so close without being close enough had to be killing the wolves. It was gnawing at him, and Brenna wasn't part of his pack. "What did Hawke say?"

"His people are trying to get into the building's mainframe - those Psy high-rises record the IDs of everyone who enters or exits." The sentinel raised a brow. "Sascha could get that info without any problems."

"No. She'd leave a wide-open trail leading back to her." Lucas screwed up the piece of paper in his hand. "Anyone done a physical check?"

"Hawke went in." Clay's eyes said it all. "He didn't find a scent but he believes the juvenile. Kid's not the kind to make things up."

Staring at the computer panel built into a desk they were standing near, Lucas made a decision. "I'll work the computers, too." It'd give him something to do instead of standing by helplessly while Sascha put her life on the line. "Tell Hawke I'll let him know if I get anything."

Clay left without questioning Lucas's plan. Both of them believed in knowing the enemy. In the case of the Psy, that meant knowing computer systems inside out. The psychic race depended upon computers for everything. It was one of their only physical weaknesses.

But before doing anything else, both man and beast needed to make sure Sascha was safe. He pulled out his phone and punched in her code.

Her cool tones came on the line at once. "Mr. Hunter. What can I do for you?"

"You know the details I asked you to look over? Perhaps you'd better hold off on them."

"Why? Didn't you say you needed an answer ASAP?"

"We've had indications that there might be a leak in your team. We'd like to change certain elements to ensure commercial security." He didn't want her risking herself if the killer was nearby.

"I assure you, our security is foolproof." She wasn't backing down. "Please don't worry about your designs."

"It's in my nature to worry. Be careful." He wanted to reach through the phone and drag her to safety, wanted to keep her within the panther's protective embrace.

"Always."

He swore as the phone clicked off. Attempting to hack into the Duncan mainframe didn't make him forget what Sascha was doing, but it helped keep his mind busy. Unfortunately, he had a feeling that that was precisely what this was - busywork.

The answers to their questions weren't in any normal computer but in the inaccessible vaults of the PsyNet.

* * *

Sascha wondered if she'd understood Lucas correctly. Had he been warning her to back off because the killer might be in the Duncan building? It should've scared her but it didn't. Where she was going, physical distance mattered little and death could come far more swiftly than a murderer's slicing blade.

For the first time in her life, she was going to try to hack the PsyNet, quite possibly the biggest information archive in the world. Every Psy automatically linked into the PsyNet at the moment of birth. There was no way to escape it. However, because the Psy were viciously practical businesspeople, they were all taught how to put up firewalls to hold off unwanted intrusions.

The firewalls kept the gigantic PsyNet at bay by isolating the Psy's mind. However, all Psy fed data into the Net and some chose to live with complete openness to it. These individuals were considered extreme. It wasn't practical or efficient to live with information constantly filtering into your mind.

By the same token, tough firewalls were considered a sign of Psy strength. No one had raised a brow when, as a child, Sascha had begun building the strongest firewalls anyone had ever seen. As she'd grown, her firewalls had become ever more sophisticated.

It was the one thing she'd always excelled at, as if shielding skills had been imprinted upon her before birth. Other Psy had even come to her for training. She'd taught them many things but had kept back a few secrets, which, if discovered, might get her hauled before the Psy Council.

Though privacy was allowed and even encouraged, the NetMind was always aware of each and every individual in the Net. If a mind dropped out, the Psy was physically located and, in 100 percent of cases, was found to have either died or been damaged so badly that their mind had withdrawn as a prelude to death. Those were the only acceptable ways to leave.

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