No one disagreed. Facts were facts. The NetMind, the policeman and librarian of the PsyNet, had a tendency toward unpredictable breaks of erratic behavior. For the past six generations it had been such that the Councilors took turns keeping an eye on it. Two particular Psy talents seemed to have an affinity for the task.
"Enrique's access to the NetMind also allowed him to hide his defective mind from us," Henry pointed out.
Ming's star remained absolutely calm. "That's unavoidable. Despite all our research, we can't predict the ones for whom conditioning will fail."
"Most of the cardinals in the Net are unsuitable for Council ranks," Nikita said. They were too cerebral, having little to no idea of the ruthless practicality needed to keep the Psy at the top of the food chain.
"Did you have anyone in mind, Ming?" Marshall asked.
Nikita took a few moments to locate the basic information files on the cardinal. "An F-Psy? I understand that the F and Tk designations are best able to control the NetMind, but the F-Psy are ... unstable."
"Over ninety-five percent of them are in institutions by the time they're in their fifth decade," Shoshanna added. "She's not a viable choice."
"I disagree. Faith NightStar has a mind as powerful as Enrique's and she's been giving us highly accurate predictions since she was three years old. No other foreseer has been as productive or as accurate. During her entire lifespan, she's shown no symptoms of mental deterioration and as an F-designation cardinal, she's been under extremely close observation."
"Ming makes a good point," Marshall broke in. "It may be that Faith is the safest choice after Enrique. At least we know she's not psychotic at this stage, and the monitoring she'll continue to need while doing forecasts as a Councilor will ensure any changes are immediately picked up."
"Whoever we choose, we need to confirm a successor soon." Ming's psychic voice was resolute. "I've prepared a comprehensive report on Faith NightStar." He showed them the mental storage shelf within the Council chambers.
"Does anyone else want to suggest a candidate?"
"Another possibility is Kaleb Krychek," Shoshanna responded. "He's a cardinal Tk and part of the Council ranks. I'm placing the files on him beside the ones on Faith. You'll note that his control over his telekenetic abilities is reputed to be superb."
"Kaleb is younger than I am," Tatiana pointed out, "and he's already nearly at the top. I'd say that makes him a better choice than Faith - aside from being incredibly young even compared to Kaleb and myself, she's been isolated. She won't have the capacity to survive being Council."
"I disagree." Nikita wasn't convinced of Faith's suitability either, but she was certain of the threat presented by Krychek. "Kaleb's risen to the top despite his youth. That displays a single-minded determination that might make him susceptible to the same kind of sociopathy as Enrique."
"We're all power hungry to some extent," Tatiana retorted.
"However, you may be correct in this instance - we may need a less aggressive Councilor to soothe the populace."
"The chosen candidate also needs to have the power to last." Shoshanna again. "If we go through two Councilors in a short time frame, it may undermine everything."
"Shoshanna's correct." There was no longer anything in Marshall's tone that hinted of partisanship. "Look over the files. We'll meet tomorrow and set up a timetable for evaluation meetings with both candidates. Unless any of you have a third suggestion?"
"Not so much a suggestion as something we need to keep in mind." Shoshanna's mind blazed with power. "There have been no M-Psy on the Council for the last two generations. Perhaps we need to remedy that. It might serve to keep us from unknowingly taking another Enrique into our midst."
For once, Nikita agreed with the rival Councilor. "The other option is to mandate M-Psy checkups for the entire Council."
"It would be much more confidential if the medic were one of us." Henry.
"But it would also give that Councilor too much power in comparison to the rest of us." Nikita didn't like the idea of any of her fellow Councilors being privy to her body or her mind.
"I concur." Tatiana Rika-Smythe. "An M-Psy should be considered for inclusion, but as a representative of that designation, not our caretaker."
"What about the NetMind? F and Tk are the two specialties that control it best," Henry pointed out.
"That's something we can consider in the final stages of evaluation." Ming, the most Silent of the six and the one Nikita knew the least about. "Does anyone else have a suggestion?"
It was Marshall who answered, but not directly on topic. "It's a pity we lost Sienna Lauren. She showed great potential."
"That was unfortunate," Ming agreed. "I had my eye on her as a possible protegee."
Which could only mean, Nikita surmised, that Sienna Lauren had been born with the mental combat abilities that made Ming so deadly. "Given the Lauren family's tendency to break conditioning, rehabilitation was the logical response. They would still be alive if they hadn't attempted to circumvent our judgment."
"Of course," Ming said.
"In terms of M-Psy," Nikita continued, "Gia Khan on the Indian subcontinent has proven very useful in undertaking Council matters."
A small pause as the others scanned the basic files on Khan.
"She looks like a possibility. Let's add her to the candidate list along with Kaleb and Faith." Marshall.