Aden thought of the lack of support the group had received in the Net after their recent humiliating defeat at the hands of the coalition of changelings, humans, and Psy—most of the population believed Pure Psy shouldn’t have stepped out of the Net, that the aggression contravened their stated aim of Purity. Given Pure Psy’s increasingly extreme ideology, that lack of support might well have been taken as sedition.
“Even with depleted numbers,” he said to Kaleb, “the group has the capability to organize such an attack.”
“And their general has the discipline.” Kaleb turned from Aden to Vasic. “Have you found it?”
“No.” The other Arrow looked up from the transparent computer screen he’d brought up. “There’s no message here, and nothing on the Net from anyone claiming responsibility or threatening more violence.”
That, Aden knew, didn’t mean further murders weren’t planned. Kaleb’s next words made it clear the cardinal telekinetic had come to the same conclusion. “Protecting every anchor across the world is a statistical impossibility.”
“Agreed.” There were too many of them, strong and weak, critical and peripheral. “However, we can send out an alert to each region, advise the authorities in charge of the anchors to beef up security.”
“Warn them of the possibility of a strong Tk being involved,” Vasic added, his eyes on the bloody dents in the wall. “At least 8 on the Gradient.”
“That’s going to be problematic. There are very few people stronger than a Gradient 8 Tk.”
Kaleb was right—which meant more anchors were going to die unless they ran the architect of this attack to ground. “If this is the start of a Pure Psy campaign,” Aden said, considering how to narrow down the possible targets, “certain regions are more likely to be hit.” Nikita Duncan and Anthony Kyriakus hadn’t only been part of the coalition that had defeated Henry’s fanatics, they’d also been vocal in their anti-Pure Psy views. More crucially, their region was becoming a magnet for those whose Silence was fractured or otherwise suspect—anathema to Pure Psy’s aim of absolute purity.
“This location would seem to argue against Pure Psy involvement,” Vasic pointed out. “It has no strategic or political importance.”
“I’d theorize this was a training run in a quiet region of the Net.” Aden acknowledged his theory had a flaw, in that it required the aggressors sacrifice the element of surprise, but that didn’t disqualify it—not when irrational behavior was becoming a hallmark of Pure Psy operations. “We shouldn’t discount it being the work of an unknown group, but it’s reasonable to give Nikita and Anthony specific warning.”
Kaleb nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
Vasic broke his silence. “Preliminary reports are coming in—four hundred and seventy confirmed dead so far.”
And the region that had collapsed, Aden thought, was tiny, with a sparse population. A single sector collapse in San Francisco would take tens of thousands of lives with it.
“At least eighty-five of the dead are children.”
Aden met Vasic’s eyes in a silent warning, but Kaleb wasn’t paying attention to the Arrow who was both Silent and broken. “I have to go,” the former Councilor said after a ten-second pause. “Release the general security notice, Aden.” He blinked out in the next breath, his power so vast the teleport took him little to no effort. The only other person in the Net as fast was Vasic, and he’d been born with the ability. Kaleb had learned it as a Tk.
“He could have done it himself,” Aden said, staring at where the cardinal had stood. “We’d never know with the speed he teleports.”
KALEB teleported into Nikita’s office to find Anthony Kyriakus already there. Since Anthony was a telepath with no teleport-capable ability, that meant he’d either used one of his Tks to arrange an immediate ’port … or he’d been with Nikita at the time of the attack. Very late for a political meeting.
Unbuttoning his suit jacket, he took a seat beside Anthony, on the other side of Nikita’s desk. “A de facto Council?”
“I have no reason to want the Net to suffer a catastrophic failure,” Nikita said instead of answering, her ruler-straight black hair brushing her shoulders. “Neither does Anthony. Neither do you.”
“You want to control the Net, Kaleb. Broken, it’s useless to you.”
He said nothing to that, betrayed nothing. Nikita thought she understood how his mind worked. She didn’t, but it was to his advantage to let her misapprehension continue. “There’s still no sign of Henry, and Shoshanna has bunkered down somewhere in England behind heavy shields.” None of which would protect her when the time came. “Tatiana and Ming are the wild cards.” Kaleb had his suspicions about Ming’s involvement in the Pure Psy assault in California, but the military mastermind had been very careful to bury his tracks.
“There are others who have reason to want to damage the Net,” Anthony said, and the three of them went through much the same conversation he’d had with Aden and Vasic.
Aden, he thought with a corner of his mind, was the center around whom the Arrows rotated. While the telepath wasn’t the most powerful member of the squad in terms of raw psychic ability, he was the one the rest of the Arrows looked to for leadership. He also had the support of Vasic, the only teleporter in the Net faster than Kaleb himself. To own the squad, Kaleb would have to have Aden’s loyalty. And he would. Because Kaleb had plans Nikita couldn’t even guess at, and having a squad of lethal assassins behind him would make things both deadlier and smoother when he played his endgame.