"I have no wish to be made a target when he's the Psy you really want. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that I could best him should he decide to guarantee his promotion by removing me from the equation."
"So you admit you're weak." Shoshanna, who'd never been anything but an enemy. Faith's core mind whispered a knowing down the bond that linked it to her roaming self - the blood had spread on Shoshanna's hands. The future remained unchanged.
Admitting weakness to the Council was never a good idea. "I'm saying that if you want me to consider joining you, I won't do so until I've come to... an understanding with Mr. Krychek." Let them think she meant to take Kaleb out. Of course, if Shoshanna was backing Kaleb, then he'd be apprised of what she'd said seconds after she left this room, if not sooner.
Survival was going to become a dicey thing if she wasn't careful. "What I won't agree to is being used by the Council as a pawn to test Kaleb's strength. Find another target to pin the bull's-eye on."
Her stomach was a knot and her muscles ached, but she'd walked out alive. Faith knew she had very little time. Either Kaleb would get impatient and decide to push his own agenda or the Council would figure out what Faith was doing behind their backs. And what she was doing was hunting a murderer.
She refused to leave Marine's killer free to take another life. Whoever he was, he was too strong, too mentally powerful. She had to pinpoint him before he figured out a way to circumvent her new protections, protections that held faint, dangerous tendrils of emotion. He might not have tortured her again with his fantasies of death, but it wasn't for lack of trying - his darkness had been scratching at her mind for two days, wanting to show her what he would do.
Tonight, she was going to let him in.
But first she wanted to gather as much useful data as possible. Not for herself, but for the changelings, the only people who'd ever treated her as anything other than a highly profitable machine. "Vaughn." Her jaguar's name was a talisman. Fur brushed over her hands, lips pressed against her neck, the sensations so real that she wrapped them around her like a protective cloak as she closed her eyes and stepped out into the starry field of the PsyNet.
Minds bright and weak flickered around her, a thousand points of beauty and grace. Once again, she made no effort to hide herself, to pretend to be anything but what she was - a born cardinal, her star bright enough to burn. While no one seemed to trail her, she wasn't stupid enough to think that the PsyClan wasn't attempting to track her in some fashion.
She'd made a plan to deal with that, prewarned by the same sense that had told her to be on the Net tonight. It had to be tonight. She didn't know why, but hoped it was because the murderer was going to make a mistake. For now, she was out here to do the simplest of things - to listen to the pulse of the Net, to hear the voices the Council couldn't hear because they were too hushed, too secret.
But something didn't make sense to her. It was often said that the NetMind had been trained to flag any conversations that might be of interest to the Council. So why wasn't the Council cognizant of the brewing dissent, the embers of rebellion? And it was clear that they weren't aware of it. Because if they had been, those voices would've been mercilessly Silenced, rehabilitated until they had barely enough neurons for simple tasks like eating and washing.
Spurred by thoughts of the Rehabilitation Center, she put her plan to attain privacy into action, streaking through time and space to a far-off sector of the Net. At the same time, she raised the firewalls that ensured her anonymity. To any watchers, it would appear as if she'd popped out of existence. A very simple way to evade trackers, but she'd never been to this public link, having recorded its imprint unobtrusively during her last foray, so maybe they didn't have a way to trace her.
Arriving at the link, she circled around it to merge into the local data flows. There was nothing particularly interesting in the information, composed as it was of regional news and other bulletins, so she spun out of the flow and breezed through to a public chat room. The participants were discussing propulsion theory. She stayed anyway. That way, if she hadn't been successful in shaking off her shadows, and did find what she was seeking, it wouldn't look odd if she hung around, given the other things she'd listened to.
After all, she was an F-Psy. They were meant to be a little weird.
Propulsion theory was followed by a chat area devoted to the newest yoga master in the Net. Effective as it was in teaching Psy to focus their minds to laser sharpness, yoga was considered a highly useful exercise. Faith, however, had begun to form a different opinion as to why Psy gravitated toward what had once been an ancient spiritual discipline and it had nothing to do with focus. Maybe they were simply trying to find something to fill the void inside of them.
From yoga, she found herself in a newsroom full of talk about how the groundbreaking DarkRiver/SnowDancer-Duncan deal was already paying huge dividends. Faith didn't know the full details of the deal but was aware it had to do with a housing development geared toward changelings. Though it was a Duncan family project, they'd contracted out the design and construction to DarkRiver on the theory that only changelings understood the needs and wants of their own race. The SnowDancer wolves had apparently supplied the land - through DarkRiver - making the project a partnership, the first of its kind.
Now she heard that the entire development had sold out before the first house went on the market. And orders were piling up. Several minds suggested that such partnerships should be tried out in Europe with some of the more civilized changeling groups. On the heels of that came the logical rebuttal that the leopards and wolves were hardly civilized, which seemed to be the reason for their success.