After a lifetime of feeling as if she'd failed at being Psy, she was winning at being everything she was capable of being. And if the changelings alone ever knew of her victory, then that was good enough for her. More than good enough. Because they remembered. Unlike the Psy, they didn't systematically erase those who didn't "fit."
Using the flaw she'd created, she allowed vague tendrils of her Lucas-influenced thought patterns to filter through. She shaped the outgoing whispers based on Rina's mind. Rebellious, headstrong, loyal, independent, and sensual, these were the traits of the women the killer had taken. The altered blend of her psychic signature was very carefully tailored to appeal to him.
Most Psy would have no idea what was unusual about it. Some might notice but they'd see her cardinal star and put it down to some odd talent. Only a Psy who'd ripped open a changeling mind would recognize this scent for what it was.
Fifty known operators.
Sascha refused to let herself think about failure. She had to trust in fate and the killer's hunger for this particular breed of prey.
As the thought patterns filtered through, she slipped out a hidden doorway built into her outer shield and into the starry night of the PsyNet. It was the same trick she used while ghosting. But this was even more dangerous.
Today, her mind was trapped inside her shields, because it needed to maintain the contact with Lucas and feed the false illusion. When she went ghosting, she left behind an illusion mind, while her consciousness, her self, traveled the Net. In a sense, she split herself into body and mind.
A variation on the same thing occurred when she "met" someone on the PsyNet. Because she usually needed to continue functioning on the physical level, she sent out a roaming piece of herself. For the time it was on the Net, that piece acted as a separate individual apart from her, almost as if she'd copied herself. There was vulnerability there on account of the underlying connection to her inner mind, but it was so low most Psy never worried about it.
The part of her on the outside today was connected directly to the core of her mind. She couldn't use a roaming piece of herself because the NetMind would pick it up and so would other Psy. To create the illusion that she wasn't in the Net at all, she had to be outside but fully connected to the core. However, if someone took control of her here, they'd have unhindered access to her brain - mind control on the most intimate level.
However, she couldn't worry about that possibility - she had too much else choking up her throat. Already, the currents of the Net were spreading her bait. All she had to do was wait and watch. Hidden against her own mind, her presence was almost impossible to detect. This was such a dangerous maneuver that most Psy would never think to look for it, but she had to be outside her shields to see the killer's mental face.
Even if she didn't recognize him, she'd have enough to ID him from the PsyNet databases. So long as the rainbow of her true mind stayed hidden, she'd be able to use the resources of the Net.
Two curious high-Gradient minds passed close by but didn't stop. She heard parts of their conversation, which they weren't bothering to shield. The word "cardinal" featured prominently. The flaw she'd created was unique but not so overwhelmingly a bad fit that normal Psy would question it. She'd counted on their arrogance, which led them to think changelings harmless and thus not worth studying as you would an enemy.
Her nerves relaxed a fraction at the small success. The temptation to go back and wipe away her shields until she could touch Lucas's mind in a psychic kiss was almost overwhelming. She needed touch and she knew her lover wouldn't mind the caress despite his independent nature.
He belonged to her as much as she belonged to him.
However, to expose him that way would be sheer selfishness. An intruding Psy could harm him through her if her shields cracked. And Lucas couldn't die. She wouldn't allow it.
Something pinged on her outermost shields, which weren't actually shields but warning beacons, one of her secret creations. Excitement mounting, she watched. Oh hell! Why hadn't she realized that she'd inevitably draw this one mind?
Mother. I'm sorry I haven't responded to your call - I've been very busy. She answered using the mental pathways of telepathy, as if she wasn't actually present on the Net. Hopefully, her mother was too preoccupied by the hunt for the killer and the Laurens' distraction to quiz her about exactly what she'd been up to.
One of your shields has a fracture. Fix it before people try to take advantage and sneak in viruses.
Of course Nikita would worry about viruses. Thank you.
There's something odd about your patterns. Perhaps a visit to Medical is in order.
Fear and betrayal gripped Sascha around the throat. Nikita had to know what was wrong with her daughter, had to have seen her before she'd been old enough to conceal her mind. Yet she was giving advice that could lead to Sascha's exposure. Did she suspect how far her offspring had gone from the accepted Psy path?
Are you sure that's necessary? she asked. It appears to be a minor problem.
As the head of the Duncan household, I received a notice from Medical noting your lack of physical examinations since you reached adulthood. Nikita's tone didn't change but Sascha thought she heard a thread of warning. It might be politic to get a scan done before they pull you up for a random check.
Her relief was almost crushing. Whatever else she might be doing, at least Nikita wasn't trying to serve her daughter up to the authorities. It wasn't much but it was something. I'll do it as soon as possible.
You haven't reported on the DarkRiver project for a couple of - She paused. I have to go. Something's just gone wrong with two of the main information relay points. Things are already becoming gridlocked. With that, Nikita's mind was gone as quickly as it had appeared.