Sascha felt the information backing up on the Net and breathed a sigh of relief. Sienna and Judd had come through. Every Psy surfing the Net in this location would be streaming toward those points, looking to fix the damage before it cascaded into chaos.
Likely, they'd already fixed it, but the backlog would take hours to clear. In the tumult, her odd signature would hopefully gain no real attention... except from one very dangerous Psy.
These things were thought by the hidden part of her that was a fountaining rainbow inside unbreakable walls. Outside those walls, she was cool and remote, protecting herself from disclosure even when most people, including Psy, would've considered themselves safe.
A whisper of violence swept by her. Every one of her senses screamed and she felt the rough edge of a growl in the back of her throat. Lucas's personality was alpha, too strong. It shouldn't have been coming through this clearly but it was and she had to use it. Thinking quickly, she merged the anger into the tendrils of thought going out into the Net. These women would have the capacity for anger. Anger was a kind of passion.
Her race had tried to delete anger, rage, hate, but they hadn't understood that anger could spring from deep love, the most complete need to protect. Lucas was furious because she was putting herself at risk, enraged at the thought of her being hurt. There was nothing evil about those emotions. They were so pure they burned.
Unlike the emotions now coming slowly closer. This violence was sly, cunning in the way of jackals or vultures. Most Psy probably never understood why this outwardly "normal" mind made them slightly uncomfortable, because most Psy no longer had the ability to recognize evil, even if it stood right in front of them. What a perfect hiding ground for a killer, Sascha realized.
The scent of rotting malevolence abruptly stopped approaching and then disappeared altogether. She frowned. Had the murderer been scared off? A second later, she felt another familiar presence and almost cursed. Enrique's cardinal blaze was obvious a mile away. No wonder the killer had run.
She wanted to scream in frustration. Something deep within her flexed its claws and it felt good. Right at that instant, she itched to tear into Enrique's interfering arrogance, arrogance that might cost Brenna her life.
He didn't contact her when he reached her, not seeing her presence on the Net. Instead, he examined the manufactured flaw with the utmost care. Sascha wondered whether he even understood what he was looking at.
She'd have suspected him for the murderer, except that she knew there was no emotion in Enrique. None. Even for the Psy, he was the coldest creature she'd ever met. Nothing in her empathy reacted to him. That, she realized at last, was why he'd constantly rubbed her raw.
Her mother was cold, but Sascha's senses had always picked up a low-level emotional feedback from her, as they did from other Psy. Her race might've buried their emotions but they were there. In Enrique's case, there was nothing to indicate he'd ever had the capacity to feel.
"Sascha." A polite telepathic page.
She became the mask. "Sir."
"Your shield is fractured."
"Thank you, sir. I've already begun repairing it. It isn't anything major." So why had the Councilor bothered to tell her about it? Her mother, she could understand. Nikita had a vested interest in ensuring Sascha's secret never got out - it would undermine her own position.
Which made Sascha wonder why she'd been allowed to live in the first place. Wouldn't it have been simpler to terminate her once it had been discovered that she was flawed? Or were not even the Psy capable of killing their young? Then she remembered Marlee and Toby and that hope collapsed.
"You have some very unusual thought patterns."
"Some of my talents are rather unusual, sir." That told him nothing. Her hidden talents could include a degree of foresight she didn't want competitors to know about or a hundred other things.
"I always knew you were an interesting woman, but I never guessed you were so perfect."
In the dark velvet night of the PsyNet, Sascha felt shivers crawl along her nerves. Perfect. What was she perfect for? "A high compliment." She couldn't move. Enrique's power was everywhere - he'd surrounded her as stealthily as a hunting leopard.
"I thought you were like me," he said, his tone shifting to something so polite it was a mockery. "But you're something else altogether."
If she hadn't intended to drop out of the Net, she would've panicked at the way his shields had spread to encompass her star. Because this was a trap. Nikita had taught her this variation long ago. Sometimes it paid to have a mother whose power lay in murder and poison.
Enrique believed her to be telepathing. Once he'd finished encircling her star, he'd lure her out into the PsyNet. The instant she emerged, he'd lock a shield around the partial "self" she'd send out to meet with him. For the first milliseconds after a Psy manifested on the psychic plane, he or she was vulnerable. It took that long for the mobile firewalls to rise. Almost no one had the power to spring a trap in that infinitesimal amount of time.
However, Enrique was no ordinary Psy - he could possibly pull it off. If he succeeded, he'd cut off the roaming part of her psyche from the rest. A successful capture was one of the more brutal ways to paralyze the physical body of a Psy. If the paralysis was maintained too long, the underlying connection between self and mind snapped, the two parts of the psyche unable to survive the separation.
The result was death and the absorption of that roaming part of the victim's consciousness into the vastness of the PsyNet. Some theorized that that was how the NetMind had begun - with the lost minds of Psy who'd been ambushed or otherwise lost in the dark skies of the Net.