At the time that Faith was being stalked, Clay had been so close to going rogue, he'd suggested leaving the Psy to clean up their own mistakes. He hadn't cared about anything. Now, God, how he cared about Tally. She could drive him crazier faster than any other person, he thought with a smile, but when she melted, she was pure honey.
"There have been other incidents." Judd's comment cut into his thoughts. "Killers they've managed to hush up, others who have become more active."
"Why the sudden signs of disintegration?" Lucas asked. "The assassination can't be the cause - it only just happened."
"Dissent is building up, starting to have a flow-on effect - the PsyNet is a psychic construct. Anything that happens in it has an impact on the minds of those linked to it."
"You saying the more the PsyNet destabilizes, the more vermin we're going to see?" Dorian blew out a disgusted breath.
"Yes. Notwithstanding its own murderous tendencies, the Council's iron fist - in conjunction with Silence - kept the majority of the viciously insane contained." He paused. "There's always a price for freedom."
Lucas swore. "If the Council falls, the backlash will hit humans and changelings as well as the Psy."
"The greatest danger lies in the uncontrolled dismantling of Silence. In the chaos, we could lose millions from all three races."
"You're defending Silence?" Dorian's asked in open surprise.
"Silence was set up for a reason. I'd be dead now if not for it." Judd's tone was matter-of-fact. "It's ultimately proven false, but we can't go back to how things were before conditioning began - the killing, the insanity." His fists clenched.
"How bad will it get?" Clay asked.
"Measures are being put in place," Judd said, "but the fallout will be...substantial. Not only deaths from the psychic shock, but from the awakening of a thousand monstrous desires, things that were suppressed by Silence. Like this scientist - before the cracks in the Net, he would have never acted on his instincts."
Clay bared his teeth. "Means the sociopathic bastard's not thinking clearly anymore." Psy made excellent serial killers because they rarely made mistakes. But if this one was fragmenting..."He'll come here, he'll want to hurt the woman who stopped his fun."
"What if he and his associates don't turn up tonight?" Judd asked. "Do we return tomorrow? And the day after?"
"Yes." Clay looked at the Psy. "You have a problem with that?"
Judd smiled and it was the ice-cold smile of the assassin he undoubtedly was. "No. I like kids."
"How do we do this?" Dorian asked. "Get Judd to tear into the head guy's mind?"
"No," Clay said at once. He was going to do this, make sure Talin was safe. "Judd can't risk being made."
"I can hide very well," Judd responded. "But we also have to consider the fact that if I go into Larsen's mind, there's a high probability I'll destroy everything he knows. I won't have time to fine-tune the intrusion."
Clay's beast growled inwardly at Judd's reference to the Psy ability to kill with a single focused mental strike. "Psy can't strike at us if they're unconscious, correct?"
"Yes. That is," he amended, "if they're strong enough to take you out in the first place. Not every Psy is. Anything below a Gradient 5, you'd survive."
"Same problem," Lucas pointed out. "He loses consciousness, we lose the chance to extract information."
"I put some of our own bugs in the apartment when I checked it out earlier," Clay told them. "Switch your earpieces to frequency two."
"And here I thought you didn't listen when I talked about the tech stuff." Despite the lighthearted words, Dorian's amazement was evident. "So, we listen, let Larsen and his buddies tell us what we need to know. Might work unless they choose to telepath. Telepaths, hell - Judd, they going to be able to pick us up?"
"I don't think this Larsen is smart enough to run a telepathic scan. But if he does, we'll be fine as long as we're not too close. Most Psy only have the ability to scan a few meters in any direction."
"We need to be close enough to intercept when necessary." Clay scanned the area with a predator's cool mind. "One covering the back of the building, one the front, two on either side."
"Dorian - you're the sniper," Lucas said. "Get up high, set up your rifle, and aim it at the window of Talin's apartment. If we need a shot, we'll let you know."
Dorian was already moving.
Lucas touched his earpiece a few minutes later. "He has a sightline into the window."
The three of them moved out toward the building, one Psy assassin and two leopards who knew how to turn to shadows in the dark.
"I'm in position." Lucas's calm voice.
"So am I." Judd.
"Copy." Clay's mind was working with near-Psy efficiency by then, his emotions contained until he needed their violent force. He was certain he would tonight.
Because he had no doubts whatsoever that the monster would come.
The animal had scented something in the wind, tasted something in the bruises Jon bore. The man who had preyed on the boy wouldn't be thinking straight right now. He'd want his plaything back. And the easiest way to get to Jon was through the only person he trusted.
Larsen probably planned to torture her, break her. But evil, he thought with a fierce stab of pride, didn't understand good. Tally would rather die than betray those under her care. Just like twenty years ago, she had gone mute rather than betray him.