"How can it contact you if you're not in the Net?" Lucas asked from his position against the window ledge.
"It's a sentience that finds it natural to live in networks of minds," she said, bursting to share what she'd learned. "If there is a network, it can travel to that place."
"The Web of Stars." Sascha walked to stand in her mate's embrace, back to his chest. "I've never felt it there."
"I'm saying this wrong." Faith tried to order her thoughts. "It won't come into a different network, perhaps not unless it's invited - I think I did that by thinking of it after I dropped out of the PsyNet - because each network has its own NetMind."
Everyone went completely silent.
"It seems as if each time a network - a web - forms, it sows the seeds for the creation of a new sentience. The NetMind in the Web of Stars is a baby, a mere thought. Do you know of any other webs?"
Lucas narrowed his eyes. "Tell us what you saw first."
Able to read changeling aggression to some extent, she knew it wasn't a display of distrust, but an unwillingness to color her perception. Her Psy mind appreciated that. "I saw several small networks, but it showed me one other in particular made up of five Psy minds. And if our NetMind is a baby, theirs hasn't even been born."
"Christ. It's the Laurens." Lucas's statement shook her - she hadn't known that Judd was part of a group. A family. And yet he'd chanced helping her. "Does this make us vulnerable to the Psy?"
"No. The NetMind is no longer bound by the Council, though they don't know it."
"What? How?" Sascha tugged her plait from Lucas. He just lifted it back up and dropped a kiss on the curve of her neck.
Faith watched Sascha melt and understood. These predators were impossible to resist when they played nice. "In our terms, it's a teenager now," she answered. "It can think beyond what it's been told, understand the bigger picture." Sadness flowed into her. Vaughn's nuzzled kiss was a welcome burst of sensation, of hope. "It showed me evil in the Net, badness that's infecting everything. If that evil isn't stopped, it'll kill the Net itself."
"A rot." Sascha voice went heavy with sorrow that sank into every person in the room.
The sentinel named Dorian walked over to pull her into his arms. Lucas allowed the embrace though Faith had expected him to react with possessive violence. Another facet of her new family, one that would take time to become accustomed to. Such open affection was disconcerting to a mind fresh out of Silent bondage.
"Anything else?" Clay asked.
She nodded. "I think the killer was possessed." Everyone looked at her in blatant disbelief. "Maybe I should think about it a bit more."
Vaughn kissed her forehead. "Possessed, Red?"
"Do you think the mental degradation's taken root?" It was an attempt to make a joke out of her greatest fear. She might have cut free from the Net, but she was still an F-Psy, her mind more fragile than others.
"I think you're beautiful for a crazy woman." His hungry kiss brought the lightning to life, but when they separated, the others' expressions hadn't changed.
"The NetMind showed me something the first time we spoke." She explained the images. "I think the starry woman represents the good side and the one empty of stars, the bad."
"What about the Web of Stars?" Sascha asked from within Dorian's embrace.
Faith wriggled to a more upright position. "It's a single entity. Same with the LaurenNet."
Vaughn wrapped his arms around her neck and pulled her back against his chest. The wall of fire was a sweet benediction. "So what makes the Psy NetMind different?"
"Emotion." Sascha's eyes had gone pure black.
Lucas reached out to tug at her plait and Dorian released her to her mate. "Talk to me, Sascha darling." He ran his finger down her cheek.
"The Psy have cut off emotion, tried to suppress it into nonexistence. So if the NetMinds are created when a net is created, then the basic material is provided by the net in question."
Faith saw where Sascha was going. "Our Web is fed by everything - love, hate, fear, joy."
"So is the Laurens', probably because of the children." Sascha tangled her fingers with Lucas's. "The PsyNet, however, is fed mostly by emotionless Silence."
"But the NetMind is good. It feels joy." She was convinced of that.
"Yes, but the aim of Silence was to wipe out violence. The core of the conditioning says that any kind of darkness is bad. It must be contained, caged, kept separate from everything else."
"And that's become amplified in the twin NetMinds." Faith suddenly understood what the empath had seen at once. "A DarkMind for everything negative while the NetMind is pure goodness. It's so vulnerable."
"I'm not so sure about that," Sascha said. "If it's aware of the DarkMind, then perhaps it's aware of everything its other half knows. You did say it's fooled the Council."
"Yes." Some of Faith's concern faded. "But even if the twins function as a team, their separation has to have a consequence."
Sascha's eyes met hers and there was such grief in them. "Until the DarkMind and the NetMind are merged again, the Psy will continue to produce the most vicious serial killers on the planet."
"Killers without an ounce of mercy." Faith thought about what she'd seen. "The DarkMind is using them to give itself a voice. Maybe it can't speak like the NetMind can, because it's been Silenced, but it can communicate with its acts of violence."