Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling 1) - Page 55

Chapter 16

She waited for a mind heading in the right direction to pass by - she couldn't move out herself or the NetMind would detect the anomaly of her presence in two places at once. When someone came close enough, she quickly took care of their simple alarms and merged into the edges of their consciousness, a shadow so fine, no one had ever detected her. She broke no moral law, exerted no mental influence. Her host was merely a vehicle to get her where she needed to go. From there, it was a game of luck and logic.

She shadowed one mind until it reached another that had permission to go further. It took her almost two hours to make it to Henry. Sticking to the consciousness of the assistant who'd brought her into the office, she began to gently circle around the edges of Henry's firewall, looking for traps and alarms.

Within two minutes she'd found three, all of which she could neutralize while ghosting. A double check confirmed her initial findings. Henry was one of the oldest members of the Council and his firewall reflected his complacency.

Sliding from the assistant when the man's consciousness passed close to Henry's, she merged into the Councilor's light, a speck of dirt so minute, it was impossible to see. It was fortunate for her that unlike most Psy, a portion of a Councilor's consciousness was always active on the Net, because of their need to keep up with the massive inflow of data.

From now on, she would go everywhere Henry ventured. If she was unlucky, he wouldn't leave his mental office. But he could just as well lead her into the sealed records of the Council chambers. The chambers existed solely on the PsyNet because the Council was scattered around the world. Enrique, Nikita, and Tatiana being in such close proximity had been sheer chance.

Henry suddenly moved. The acrid taste of fear bloomed on her tongue but it passed when he spent the next two hours sweeping through the part of the PsyNet that stored their race's history. She had no idea what he was looking for. This should've been a job for his assistants. Just as she was getting completely frustrated, she found him at the entrance to a vault she'd never known existed.

Inside were millions of memories and thoughts. Henry headed for his family's section of the vault. Temptation beckoned. Sascha knew it was a risk but this was a chance she couldn't miss - she'd always been told that her family's history had been corrupted by a rogue energy surge.

What if that, too, had been a lie?

Thankful that Henry had allowed his consciousness to spread in the vault, she drifted along the waves of his mind, riding swells until she reached the part that screamed with the Psy signature of her family.

Since she didn't know how long she'd be in here, she simply streamed through, siphoning data into her shadow-mind. She'd release and examine it once she was back behind the privacy of her own firewalls.

Unexpected movement.

Henry was leaving. She'd taken advantage of his absorption in his task to venture to the furthest edge of his consciousness. Now it was snapping back into a tight coil and if she didn't keep up, she'd be trapped here. Cut off from her mind for too long, her body would go into a coma from which she'd never recover.

Fear gnawed at the stomach of the woman on the bed but in the PsyNet, there was only a mind as calm as a pond. She barely managed to make it back before Henry went through the doors. After exiting, he charted a clear path to the darkest section of the Net, access to which was highly restricted. What she'd never expected as they cleared that section was the even darker core that lay within.

The Council chambers.

This was where it got tricky. If the other members were there, they might pick up what Henry hadn't. Nikita was the most dangerous. In the same manner that Sascha had recognized her family's signature in the vault, her mother would recognize hers if even the faintest hint of her mind emerged from the shadow of Henry's psyche.

However, Nikita had mentioned nothing about a meeting when they'd spoken. Sascha would've never instigated a ghosting otherwise. She told herself not to panic. Then they were through the final checkpoint and in the innermost core. Six other minds flared bright around them.

The Council was in session.

Taking desperate measures, Sascha forced herself to go under further than she'd ever before done, merging her consciousness with the outer layer of Henry's on a molecular level. Prolonging such a merge could mean the destruction of her psyche but there was no other option.

"Why are we here?" Crisp and young, the voice had to belong to Tatiana.

Though she was outside Henry's firewall and couldn't hear what he was thinking, she could hear what he heard - the others' thoughts all had to pass through his firewall and, by extension, through her, to reach his mind. That was the genius of ghosting.

"Yes," Nikita said, "I had to pull out of something extremely important without notice."

"He's taken another changeling girl." Marshall 's razor blade of a mind.

Buried so deep that she was no longer a person, Sascha recorded the conversation without processing it. Reaction was her enemy here.

"When?" Tatiana.

"Two and a half days ago. We did too good a job of telling our subordinates to bury any further cases - they didn't think we'd be interested in keeping up to date." Marshall 's tone didn't change. "I stumbled onto the information during a conversation with one of my guards."

"This can't be allowed to continue." Nikita. "In spite of what some of you insist on thinking, the changelings aren't without power. DarkRiver hasn't forgotten their lost female - I wouldn't be surprised if they're already hunting. We'd better hope they don't grow impatient and decide one of us will do in lieu."

If Sascha had allowed herself to think, she might've been startled, having been unaware that Nikita had such a clear grasp of a truth most Psy ignored.