"What about the aspirants? Anyone we need to take seriously?" Shoshanna.
"No. There are a few who think they're powerful enough, but if they were, one of us would be dead by now." Tatiana knew what she was talking about - she'd ascended to the Council when the Councilor who'd held her place, Michael Bonneau, had had an unfortunate "accident" while alone in his home with his most senior aide, Tatiana.
"Then we're agreed. Kaleb Krychek, Gia Khan, or Faith NightStar."
Faith had never left the compound on her own. They'd put her inside twenty-one years ago, telling her that her mind couldn't survive in the outside world, that the visions would come too thick and fast if she lived closely with others. She'd had no reason to disbelieve them and over the years, her home had become her chosen prison, a place she rarely left.
But today, she was going to go out into the unknown. Her conscious mind had finally understood what it was that her subconscious had spent months preparing her for - a search for answers. It was clear to her that to find those answers, she had to speak to someone who had nothing to do with either the Psy Council or NightStar. Both her PsyClan and the Council had vested interests. They wouldn't tell her what she most needed to know - whether these dark visions were the first stirrings of an inevitable madness, or whether they indicated something far more treacherous: the awakening of a facet of her ability she had no desire to face.
Though she lived in almost complete isolation, she knew everything she needed to know for this journey. There was no way to block the highways of the PsyNet from flowing with information that buzzed in the real world. Gossip had a way of infiltrating even the strongest defenses. That gossip had brought her news of a Psy who'd dropped out of the Net.
The Council had made it known that Sascha was a fundamentally flawed cardinal too weak to hold the Net link, a link that provided biofeedback no Psy could live without. And yet Sascha had survived.
The renegade Psy was the only person Faith could come up with who'd have nothing to gain by lying, nothing to lose by telling the complete truth. Everyone else was linked to the PsyNet. Therefore everyone else could betray her, whether it was by choice or by accident. Sascha was the one. It was logical.
She preferred not to remember the dream she'd had a few weeks ago in which she'd seen the face of a leopard staring back at her with feral hunger, preferred not to try to understand what her ability was attempting to tell her. Because sometimes, too much foreknowledge was a curse.
Leaving the compound was going to be difficult, but not impossible. The PsyClan guards were interested in keeping people out. No one had ever thought that Faith would attempt an escape. Taking a deep breath, she slung on the small backpack then calmly opened her back door and walked out into the night.
She knew precisely where she was going. There was a very small section of the outer fence that fell into a blind spot of the motion sensors and wasn't quite covered by the sweeping cameras. It had probably not even seemed like a weakness to NightStar Security. No criminal would ever be able to work out the exact location, and the live guards ensured that that part was under near constant surveillance, especially since many of the guards also had the ability to tele-pathically scan the area.
Faith had figured out how to deflect the scanners years ago, boredom and isolation proving fertile ground for invention. More importantly, she was certain she could climb the fence in the short window of time after one guard went around the corner and before the other started to turn. She knew that because two months ago, she'd suddenly started coming out here at night and doing exactly that, going over the fence and then back into the compound without alerting anyone.
She'd thought she was doing it because she needed a challenge. Of course, with an F-Psy of her capabilities, nothing was ever that easy. Tonight, it took her ten minutes to walk the distance from the back door to the part of the outer fence she was aiming for - the inner fence had never presented her with any real problems. Her eyes picked up the form of a guard turning the corner on her right. A second guard would appear ten seconds later with Psy precision. She started climbing, silent and careful.
Vaughn crouched on a large branch overhanging the compound that continued to fascinate him. He'd intended to infiltrate it tonight and find out what lay behind the compu-tronic and Psy security. But that was no longer necessary - his prey was coming to him.
Her hair was a red flame despite the darkness and part of him wanted to growl at her for being stupid enough not to cover or contain the waist-length mass, but another part of him was impressed by the quick, almost catlike way she scaled the fence. She didn't hesitate, didn't look around. It was as if she'd done it a hundred times.
Landing on the forest side, she walked in a straight line from the fence and into the surrounding trees until she was hidden from the sight of the guard now turning the corner. Vaughn padded along the treetops and came to rest almost on top of her as she paused to pull something from her pack.
A small light from her watch soon illuminated what appeared to be a computer printout of the surrounding area - a crude map that showed nothing of changeling routes or territorial markers. After a minute, she folded it up and put it back in her pack. Then she started walking. If he'd been in human form, he would've frowned. She was heading deeper into DarkRiver territory rather than toward Tahoe.
She wouldn't get very far on foot, but there was something about her that made the fur on the back of his neck rise. As a sentinel, he was used to trusting his instincts and this time they said that this woman had to be watched. Carefully. Very, very carefully.