"Whatever it is you've seen," Ashaya said, her tone a fraction too calm, as if she was barely keeping herself together, "just tell me. I'd rather know than imagine."
Faith's hands shook as she put her near-full cup on the table. Vaughn, holding his in his left hand, curved his right arm around her waist. "I had a vision," she began, "but it was one of those where it's impossible to tell when the event might take place... or whether it might already have done so."
"Backsight," Ashaya said. "Someone in my extended family tree was born with a low-Gradient ability in that specialty."
Dorian stared at the back of her neck, itching to touch her again, finish what he'd started in the kitchen. It went against every one of his instincts to fight the urge, but he knew she wouldn't appreciate it. Not when she was trying to present such an unruffled facade. She was so damn good at it, it annoyed the leopard. The trapped creature inside of him didn't like being ignored.
That was when Ashaya turned to meet his gaze. "Did you say something?"
Well, now, that was interesting. "No."
Giving him a skeptical look, she returned her attention to Faith. "What did you see in this vision, or flash of backsight?"
"Ashaya, I'm going to be honest with you," Faith said, and there was a steel to her tone that Dorian knew often surprised people. "From what you've done, what you've said, you appear to be a rebel. But people lie."
"True." Ashaya nodded. "I'm also still linked to the PsyNet. You shouldn't tell me anything you wouldn't want the Council to know."
"Pretty certain they'll get you." Vaughn took a sip of coffee.
Ashaya shifted the tiniest fraction of an inch toward Dorian. "I'm an M-Psy," she said. "No matter my classification on the Gradient, it's primarily a nonaggressive ability."
"Yes," Faith agreed, then paused for several seconds. "As for secrets, someone on the Council most probably already knows, so even if anything leaks out..." An eloquent shrug. "How much do you know about the NetMind?"
"It keeps order in the Net," Ashaya answered. "Makes it less chaotic, organizes things. Some people say it spies for the Council, while others think that's anthropomorphizing. Everyone agrees it's neosentient at best, and its age is a complete mystery."
"It's not alone," Faith told Ashaya. "When Silence took root, it split the NetMind into two. One part is good, able to act with sentience. The other part, the entity I call the DarkMind, is made up of all the emotions the Silent have rejected, particularly the violent ones."
"Because," Ashaya murmured, "the violent, angry emotions are ones we're conditioned most strongly against."
Faith nodded. "When I defected, I was hunting a killer. He was tainted with a malignant darkness. That darkness is a marker of the DarkMind's psychic control - it uses these already mentally unstable individuals to give itself a voice. It's not only feeding off their evil, it's effectively nurturing the worst serial killers on the planet."
Ashaya didn't seem shocked by Faith's revelation. "Silence cuts us off from a fundamental aspect of our psyche. It makes complete sense that that would be echoed on the psychic plane." Her back suddenly went ramrod straight. "My twin," she said to Faith. "You saw the darkness wrapped around my twin."
"I don't know how I knew it wasn't you," Faith said, "but it's like that sometimes in a vision - I just know things. And this time, I knew that the woman I was watching wasn't Ashaya Aleine." A pause. "She was doing terrible things... killing, torture, blood."
Vaughn put down his coffee and moved to press a kiss to Faith's temple. The F-Psy leaned into his hold but her eyes stayed on Ashaya. "Was it backsight?"
Ashaya didn't hesitate. "No. She's never murdered, never spilled blood."
"Are you certain?" Vaughn's question was a challenge.
Dorian didn't tell the other sentinel to back off. He didn't need to. The cat growled in silent pride as Ashaya met Vaughn's eyes. "Yes," she said, "I'm sure. I'm connected to my twin on a level beyond the PsyNet. The second, the instant, Amara became a killer, the knowledge would bleed into my mind. She hasn't crossed that line."
"I believe you," Faith said softly. "But she will if you don't change the future."
"Perhaps my defection is the thing that pushes her over the edge." Ashaya's shoulders slumped. "I've always known that the more unstable my own emotional state, the worse her episodes."
Dorian wanted to haul her to him and order her to stop hurting. Gritting his teeth, he glanced at Vaughn. "That it?"
"Yeah." The other sentinel put down his coffee and stood, tugging Faith up with him.
"Wait," Faith said, eyes locked with Ashaya's. "Was I right about your sister? Is she...?"
"Disturbed?" Ashaya supplied. "Yes. Smarter than most people on the planet, but broken in some fundamental way."
"I understand." Faith's eyes held the knowledge that, in the PsyNet, all F-Psy eventually ended up clinically insane. "There was something else - there's no way to prove this, but maybe your twinship is the reason you and your sister are so different."
Dorian understood before Ashaya. "A direct reflection of the twinning in the PsyNet, one good, one bad?"
"No," Ashaya whispered. "It's not that clean-cut, not yet. I have fragments of badness and she has some goodness."
Nobody said anything to dispute that, but they all knew that even if she was right, Faith was an F-Psy who never saw an untrue future. If steps weren't taken to prevent it, her vision would one day come true.