Anticipation simmered in her blood, veins filled with the most physical energy she'd ever felt, Vaughn's wildness mixing with her own on a level beyond telepathy. She was becoming a tiny bit jaguar with each contact and that was fine with her. Claws were sometimes necessary. Today, those claws were helping her withstand the impact of so many unshielded minds within receiving distance.
Looking at the gently leafy campus, at the students walking alone or in groups, Faith felt her resolve harden into granite. If they failed, an innocent woman would lose her life, this campus would be forever tainted by a darkness no amount of soap or water could wash away, and Marine's ghost would find no peace.
So they would not fail.
"We'll get him." Vaughn's voice was husky in her ear.
"How do you always know what's on my mind?" she asked. "I wasn't sending you anything." They'd spent some time after last night's tumultuous loving working out that while Vaughn couldn't hear her words, he could read the emotions she sent with unerring accuracy.
"There are other ways of knowing and I'm going to have fun introducing you to all of them." A thread of steel underlay his teasing words. The jaguar wasn't in charge right now, but it was very, very close to the surface. Because she might be in danger.
"Vaughn, I'm not weak. I can protect myself." She wouldn't die on him as his sister had, but neither would she hurt him by referring openly to an event that had scarred him so violently. However, she could try to address those scars in an oblique way. "I didn't cascade yesterday and once I would've believed that impossible. My strength is increasing day by day." Perhaps being Psy hadn't taught her about emotion, but it had taught her about strategy. That skill could be put to use for good as well as evil, couldn't it? "Vaughn?" she said, when he didn't respond.
"Not everything about the Psy is bad, is it?" It caused a tearing pain inside of her to think that everyone she'd ever known, that her father, her sister, had been nothing good.
"Hell, no. You're not."
"I'm not talking about individuals. The Psy as a race have done some good, haven't they?"
"They were once the most amazing people on this planet." His response was a surprise. "Take your gift. Without it, civilization might've been destroyed a thousand times over."
"That was before. What about now?"
"They create more jobs than their own race can ever fulfill, employ millions of humans and even some changelings."
"But all at low-level positions."
"Sometimes that position is the only thing that stands between a life and starvation. And changelings aren't any different in that sense - high-level jobs in our businesses are always held by Pack."
"But," she said, "it isn't so much, is it?" She saw the truth in spite of his uncharacteristic gentleness. "Changelings have kept the Earth beautiful and pollution free, and it's mostly humans who've hung its walls with art and filled its corners with music. What's the Psy legacy - endless steel towers of pure function, businesses that deal in emotionless currency ... and Silence?"
The knowing that came to her was unexpected and as clear as the bright light of morning. "If we don't change, the Psy race will one day be forgotten." And that would be a tragedy. No one who'd seen the beauty of the PsyNet, the potential in it, the stunning energy of life even in Silence, could doubt that.
"Then change the future, Faith. Change the Psy."
An extraordinary task for a renegade from the Net. "Will you be with me?"
"I can't believe you asked that question," he mock-growled, throwing an arm around her neck and dragging her to him. "Of course I'll be with you, and so will the rest of the pack. We're family."
"Family." A bittersweet word. "Always?"
He bit the side of her neck. "Beyond always."
"He's coming." The words fell out of her mouth without conscious thought.
Vaughn drew back from her and gave a very low growl that she didn't actually hear, but which made every hair on her body stand up in attention.
"What - ?"
"It's a signal," he whispered, pretending to nibble on her earlobe. From the way she'd seen women looking at him ever since they'd entered the campus, she was probably the focus of considerable feminine envy. Something primitive in her was pleased by that, by the fact that this wild and magnificent creature was hers. He wasn't, and never would be, tame, but he was willing to play nice for her sake. And no one else's.
"Can you feel him?" The quiet question broke into her thoughts. She was shocked at how distracted she'd become from something so important. Vaughn did things to her she couldn't control.
"The knowing works with my ability. It's a kind of vision on a very deep psychic plane. I'm not telepathically connected to him." That horror only happened during actual visions.
"Then how are you going to find him?"
"I'm going to send out my telepathic senses. I'm a Gradient 6 telepath." Very powerful, though nowhere near where she estimated Judd to be. "If I brush up against other Psy, I'll withdraw before they can get a lock on me." She didn't mention that some of those minds could track her very, very quickly.
"But if I touch him, I'll attempt to pinpoint a physical location. It doesn't really matter if I can't - Judd can take the mental signature from my mind and use his stronger Tp abilities to zero in on the killer's position."
"I don't like that damn Psy being in your mind."
"Neither do I." Faith didn't think Judd was out to harm her, but he was an unknown, a rebel Arrow with undetermined loyalties. "It'll be a surface link, a simple data transfer."