Hostage to Pleasure (Psy-Changeling 5) - Page 5

She checked another thread inside her mind, found it solid. Ashaya was still alive. Excellent. Only Ashaya had a mind brilliant enough to comprehend the value of Amara's work. The others, they knew little, understood even less.

Satisfied that nothing was truly amiss, she returned her attention to her work.

Chapter 3

I'm certain he almost shot me - the sniper who came to rescue Jonquil Duchslaya and Noor Hassan. He's on the side of good, the side that protects children, but I am ninety-nine percent certain that tonight, in the darkness, he almost pressed the trigger that would've ended my life.

Perhaps that's why I can't stop thinking about him.

-  From the encrypted personal files of Ashaya Aleine

Ashaya lay down on the tilted examining table, her eyes focused on the ceiling. Though her vision remained sharp, her fingertips were numb. It was her forearms that tingled now, even as her heart labored to maintain a steady rhythm.

Humans and changelings, she thought, as the medical personnel laid out their instruments and began to explain the procedure to her, had it easy. They could fake their deaths any number of ways - crash a car off a cliff, leave a pool of blood for others to find, even write a simple suicide note and fade into the crowds.

But a Psy was tied to the PsyNet by the umbilical cord of a link that was necessary for life, yet also functioned as a shackle. If she ran her car off a cliff, no one would think her dead - not so long as they could see the living beacon of her psychic star on the Net. Even comatose Psy retained the link, their bodies fighting to maintain the life-giving connection.

Ashaya felt her heart begin to stutter, her vision to haze, as the poison spread through her system like a malignant cancer.

But this cancer had the potential to save her life. Because if this worked, she would go into a state beyond a coma.

Some people might call what she was trying to achieve hibernation, but that wasn't technically correct - during hibernation, oxygen did circulate, just so little of it that the individual appeared dead. But it wasn't enough for Ashaya to appear dead. She had to be dead for the duration. And there was only one known way to achieve that - cryonic suspension.

While suspended, the body literally stopped. Every aspect of it, even the brain... and a psychic link could not be held when the brain ceased to function. A simple, practical plan, except that while it was relatively easy to put someone into a cryonic state, no individual, their race notwithstanding, had ever successfully been brought back out - not unless a permanent vegetative state could be counted as success.

Ashaya hadn't made the breakthrough of the century and discovered a foolproof way to reverse the suspended state. Instead, she'd taken the principles of cryonics and applied them in an abstract way. Rather than relying on temperatures well below zero to slow her heart rate and brain activity, she'd tracked down the neurotoxin of a dangerous Australian tick, one that caused paralysis in its victims. She'd then manufactured and remanufactured the neurotoxin, using her abilities to change it a little each time... until she had the perfect poison. It would stop everything in her body, including her brain - thereby terminating her Net link. If it worked as intended, she would wake from her deathlike state in exactly ten hours. If she didn't wake... that was the risk she took.

The real test would come after the waking. As soon as her brain flickered to life, it would instinctively search for, and make, a new connection to the PsyNet. There was no way Ashaya could stop that. She'd be unconscious while it was being made - for a Psy, the Net link was more important than breathing. Those initial moments after relinking would be the vulnerable time. The time when her allies would either protect her or leave her to be recaptured.

Something pricked her elbow. She looked down but there was nothing there. The medical personnel around her were starting to ask her questions at sharp volume, attempting telepathic contact that she deflected with manufactured confusion. Her mind was functioning fine, though her breath was starting to catch, her eyes to close. Even then she knew that this might all be for nothing - for her plan to work, they had to move her.

The PsyNet was a psychic construct, but it had a physical component - a Psy in Europe didn't occupy the same section of the Net as a Psy in the Philippines. If she was far enough away from her last known location when she woke, the link would be made in an area not under blackout by Ming's troops. However, the instant she came to full consciousness, her mind would try to resettle her back where she "belonged." But not if things went according to plan... except what...

Her brain was fuzzy, unable to deal with complex psychic concepts. She became aware she could no longer feel her body, no longer feel the air going into her lungs. Perhaps she might have broken Silence and panicked at that instant, but it was too late.

Ashaya died.

Deep in the Canadian Rockies, Amara dropped a glass vial. It shattered into a thousand vicious points, but she heard nothing, her head echoing with absolute and utter emptiness as Ashaya blinked out of existence. No!

Glass cut into her palms, her side, and she realized she'd slumped to the floor. Her blood, she thought, was very red.

Dorian lay Keenan down in a bed located inside the home of DarkRiver's healer, Tamsyn. The original plan had called for the boy to be taken up to the SnowDancer den, located deep in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. But with him in the Web of Stars, Judd had suggested he should be closer to DarkRiver.

Which was how Dorian found himself at Tammy's. Situated roughly an hour out of San Francisco, the house was isolated down the end of a long drive and backed onto a heavily wooded area, but it was still nowhere near as safe as the SnowDancer den. "There's more chance of him being seen here." His cat didn't like the boy being so exposed.

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