A significant number of hits.
Rumors mostly, as Pure Psy didn’t officially exist. And yet almost everyone in the Net knew about them. It was a very effective technique, Sophia was forced to admit. Those in agreement with Pure Psy’s worldview made the effort to find them. On the flip side, those who didn’t share that view tended to dismiss the group as nothing but a small fringe element.
As she drilled down layer by layer, sorting through massive amounts of data, she began to glimpse the full extent of the group’s insidious growth. Pure Psy was whispered of in French, Malayalam, Russian, Maori, Tongan, Greek, Swahili, Urdu, and a number of other languages she couldn’t immediately identify. Saving as much of the data as she could for future translation, she focused on the pieces she could understand.
. . . good of the race.
Pure Psy have the right . . .
Outside Council control . . .
. . . backing. Definitely Council backed.
I don’t see the validity in closing the Net.
They’ve been behind the Jax cleanups . . .
That last whisper caught Sophia’s interest. Jax was the scourge of the Psy, a drug that many said broke conditioning on the most basic level, allowing the user to feel emotion. True or not, it was a cancer no one had been able to excise from the population. But, Sophia thought, she had noticed a decrease in the number of addicts on the streets of late—and she hadn’t seen any at all since coming to San Francisco.
Of course, that could be as a result of the heavy changeling presence in the city. Jax users tended to stick to more Psy-friendly locations.
My family is still discussing the matter.
. . . good of the Psy. It’ll bring us back into . . .
The changelings and humans are irrelevant. It’s only the
PsyNet that matters.
That last summed up the tenor of the more clandestine discussions, and of Pure Psy. The group was intent on an isolationist policy. It believed the PsyNet had been corrupted by outside influences and was bent on bringing all Psy back into the fold.
Whether they wanted to come or not.
Having managed to get his hands on the nav file from Andre Tulane’s personal vehicle—thanks to some discreet help from the Duncan Corporation’s head mechanic—Max was on his way to where the slender black male disappeared every second Tuesday, when his stomach growled. Dropping into a nearby deli, he placed his order then made a call to Sophia’s.
“She’s fine,” Faith answered, her voice consciously quiet. “Catching a nap after the exertion, but otherwise okay.”
The image of Sophie cradled up in bed made his body fill with a warmth that had nothing to with sex and everything to do with a harsh, protective tenderness. “Call me if that changes.”
A slight pause. “Max, she’s a J. You understand what that means, don’t you?”
It was the care in her tone that stopped him from snapping at her. Faith, he thought, probably comprehended more about the pressures that faced a J than almost anyone else outside the Corps. “I know. Doesn’t mean I have to accept it.”
“You sound just like Vaughn.”
Since the changeling had managed to save his mate, Max figured that was a good thing.
Hanging up after a quick good-bye, he grabbed his chicken and avocado sub and took a seat at one of the tables. He was in the process of demolishing it when Clay slid into the seat on the other side, his own sub in hand. “I got something for you,” the sentinel said, taking a long draw of the energy drink he’d ordered along with the sub.
“Rumor on the street is that Psy are meeting in little groups all over the place,” the sentinel said. “But they’re being covert about it.”
“Avoiding Nikita’s eyes?”
“Possible. Don’t forget, Anthony Kyriakus is also in the general area.”
“That’s right—he’s out by Tahoe.” And though Faith’s father kept a lower profile than Nikita, he controlled a vast network of foreseers—an immeasurable advantage over his enemies. “So what, you were just passing by, saw me?”
“Heard you were around, needed to talk to you and eat lunch.” A shrug.
“Funny how you hear things.”
“Yeah, funny.” The sentinel’s expression didn’t change, but Max had the distinct impression the leopard was laughing.
Max gave the changeling male a look that promised retaliation. “You have any specific addresses for these covert meetings?”
“A few—they tend to move around.” Pulling out a folded piece of paper from his jeans, Clay passed it over. “We’ve been keeping an eye on the situation, but since it’s accountants and teachers, we put it low down on the priority list.”
Glancing at the list, Max noted that none of the locations correlated with Tulane’s unexplained trips. “Thanks.” Finishing off his lunch, he tucked the slip of paper safely in his jacket. “I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.”
Clay put his empty drink bottle on the table. “How’s your J?” His tone said far more than the words.
“She can’t leave the Net.” Saying it out loud seemed to make it inescapably more real. “Ever.”
“Ah, shit. I’m sorry Max—we would’ve helped you if she’d wanted to defect.”
Max hadn’t been part of any kind of a family since River disappeared, but he understood what this was, understood the value of Clay’s offer. “Her telepathic shields are close to total collapse,” he found himself saying, the words torn out of him. “She’s 8.85 on the Gradient, so when they fail . . .” No place in the inhabited world would be safe for her. His Sophia’s amazing violet eyes would go black under an avalanche of noise—and then there would be only silence in his life.