Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling 6) - Page 21

And since Psy were connected to the Net on the most visceral level, needing the biofeedback to survive, anything that happened there had real-life impact. It even made sense that the violence was occurring in this region - the PsyNet wasn't defined by geographical limits, but they'd had a number of disturbances in this area and the psychic effect would be strongest at the point of origin. A big enough surge could have short-circuited some aspect of the conditioning under Silence.

However, Anthony wasn't convinced. His fellow Councilors seemed to be ignoring the events, but -

The comm panel beeped. Glancing at the ID screen, he saw it was Kaleb Krychek, fellow Councilor and perhaps the most powerful telekinetic in the Net. From what Anthony had unearthed, he knew that Kaleb's control over the NetMind, the neosentient entity that was both the librarian and guardian of the Net, was close to complete. It was the very situation the Council hadn't wanted after Santano Enrique. The now-dead Councilor had used his power over the NetMind to hide his murderous crimes.

Kaleb was much more subtle. He let others believe they held power even as he played them for fools. A very dangerous man. And one whose history was close to opaque - though there were rumors he'd been Enrique's protege.

"Kaleb," he said, answering the call. "It must be early in Moscow."

"Very," Kaleb said, but since the visual was blocked on both ends, Anthony knew the other man could be anywhere. It was difficult to tie a teleport-capable Tk to one location. "But it's your region I'm calling about - I saw the reports."

"There's been a new incident."

"The shooter," Kaleb said. "Data is already flowing in."

"The others appear to consider these occurrences a statistical anomaly."

"And you?"

Anthony leaned back in his seat. "I think we need to scan the shooter's mind." He paused as a message came through on his cell phone. Interesting. "Henry just sent me a note proposing the same thing - and he's offered to take care of the scan." But what exactly was Henry doing in California? His home was in London.

"I assume you'll be going with him."

"Of course." After all, none of the Councilors trusted each other. Anthony, as the leader of a rebellion determined to bring a new reigning order to the Net, trusted very, very few people at all.

In a room at the San Francisco branch of the Center, the shooter lay tied to a table, his entire body restrained. "Please," he said. "Let me go."

The M-Psy monitoring his room heard but didn't respond to his plea. Their job was to make sure he stayed alive, and, given his violent tendencies, the best way to keep him safe from himself was to make sure he couldn't move.

The fact that his mind had been locked in telepathic shields would have been termed inhumane by the other races, but those races had no experience with psychotic telepaths. This man could blow out other people's brains with a burst of pure power - it might liquefy his own brains, too, but if he was suicidal, that wouldn't matter.

So they sat silent and watchful as the man in the bed started to say, "I have to. I have to. I have to." But he never said what he had to do. And they didn't figure it out until it was too late.

Chapter 12

Mercy was about to bring her vehicle to a stop a little distance from her cabin when the news bulletin came on.

"The body of a twenty-nine-year-old Tahoe woman was found buried in a shallow grave near the western shore of the lake an hour ago. The grisly find was made by a local resident out for a walk with his dog.

"Enforcement hasn't yet released a formal statement, but sources close to the investigation tell us the condition of the body suggests she died recently, possibly within the past forty-eight hours. We'll keep you updated as the story develops."

Riley, having decided to ride this far with her, reached forward to turn off the feed. "We need to warn our people. Just in case." His tone was even. Too even.

Mercy didn't try to talk to him about the pain he held so fiercely to his heart, knowing she'd get a blank look at best - Brenna's abduction and its aftermath was the one thing Riley simply refused to discuss. It was instinct to want to touch him, to offer comfort, but she knew that right now, he'd accept nothing. So she stuck to the facts.

"Let's hope it was a one-off." She felt deep sorrow for the murdered woman and her family, but a jealous boyfriend or husband would be quickly caught. A serial, on the other hand . . . "No use borrowing trouble. I'll get the word out and have some of our comm people follow the story."

Riley nodded as they exited. Leaning back against the hood, she returned to their earlier topic of conversation. "I'll call you the second we hear anything about Nash." The groundwork had been laid - the intel would come in, of that Mercy was certain. "Trying to hide an adult lynx in a city full of changelings isn't going to be easy." Especially with the Rats on alert for any sign of the missing male.

"We can't underestimate them," Riley cautioned. "They managed to grab a pissed-off male lynx and get him out pretty efficiently."

About to tease him for his caution, she glimpsed something in his hair. "Don't move." Reaching up, she removed a square of glass, putting it on the car's hood so it wouldn't litter the forest floor. To double-check, she ran her fingers through the thick weight of his hair. "You're tense as a board." His body was so taut, it was a wonder he could breathe.

No answer.

Looking into his eyes, she felt her breath lock. The wolf glimmered amber bright, hungry and edgy and dangerous. "What is it this time?" She shouldn't have provoked him, but she couldn't help herself. It was like he was catnip. One sniff and she lost her mind.