The papers floated to the ground in serene silence as she unclenched her fingers. "I can see it now." There was a fine spray on the back wall, almost hidden by the way dents had been pounded into the plasboard. And the sofa. . . some of those wicked-looking metal springs were rusted. Except that wasn't rust.
Dev took her hand. "We need to see the rest."
"Wait." Bending, she picked up one of the sheets she'd dropped. "It's part of the command log. They must've printed out a hard-copy backup because of the risk of power failure."
"Why not keep it on the PsyNet?"
"It takes a lot of psychic power to maintain a PsyNet vault. Some companies prefer - " Chills snaked up her spine as she realized what she held. "Dev . . ."
Dev took the paper. "'Major incident,'" he read out. " 'Request emergency assistance immediately. Repeat, request emergency assistance as soon as - ' It just ends."
"A vocal-to-print transcript," she said, tapping a line of code at the top of the page. "Probably set to print out automatically." The thought of the printers working with quiet efficiency while blood erupted around them created the most macabre of images. "It's dated September twenty-fifth." While she'd been with Ming, a creature he thought he'd broken. "The speaker died midtransmission."
"He died trying to save lives - that deserves to be remembered." Folding the piece of paper, Dev put it in his pocket alongside the prospectus. "Let's go."
She'd never wanted to do anything less. But these people, she thought, needed her to keep going. Because they'd been locked in the dark, too, the final moments of their lives erased from existence. "Yes."
The next building housed what appeared to be a mess hall. It was fairly neat, with only a little evidence of trouble - in the food preparation area. "Whatever happened," Dev said, "it happened either very early in the morning or late at night."
"When there would've been only kitchen workers in here."
"Why a kitchen at all? I thought Psy lived on nutrition bars."
"That's the norm, but our psychologists sometimes recommend a more varied diet within an otherwise isolated population - they did for the lab." The scientists working on the Implant Protocol, a protocol designed to turn the Net into a true hive mind, had been buried under hundreds of tons of earth, in a construction Ming had rigged to blow. "Every brain needs a certain amount of stimulation." Her eyes went to a solid steel door at the back of the room. "The cooler." Cold silvered into her very bones.
"I'll do this."
"No." Ripping off a glove, she tangled her fingers with his. "Together."
A pause where she could literally see him fighting his instincts, his face all brutal angles. "These are my nightmares," she said. "I need to see if they're real."
Finally, he nodded and they walked to the cooler, the door growing monstrously larger with each step. "There's nothing on the surface," she said in relief. No blood, no scratches, no dents.
Reaching forward with his free hand, Dev twisted and pulled.
Icy mist whispered out, making Katya take a startled step back. Telling herself to stop being a coward, she returned to Dev's side. "Shouldn't the light come on automatically?"
Even as she spoke, something flickered and sparked and an instant later, a cool blue glow filled the space, illuminating the horror within. "Oh, God." She couldn't get her eyes off the bloody palm print in the very back, a palm print that streaked down over the wall and across the floor until it ended in a pile of blood. "She was trying to get away" - because the print was too small to be that of a man, and her mind simply couldn't accept a child in this madness - "and he dragged her back, killed her."
"More than one." Dev's tone was a blade. "Someone threw bodies in here." He pointed to the other concentrations of frozen blood. "No one else struggled. They had to have been dead by then."
"The entire kitchen staff." She turned, able to see it now. "Whoever it was came in and managed to kill them off one by one. The woman alone figured it out, tried to escape."
"Yeah." Stepping back, he closed the door.
"Where are the bodies?" Her mind jerked from one wall to the next, trying to make sense of an evil that defied understanding. "You don't think they're outside, beneath the snow?"
Dev shook his head. "I'm guessing EarthTwo sent in a cleanup crew."
Neither of them said anything more until they'd walked through the remaining buildings they could access. One was a gym, and it was pristine. The next five buildings had clearly been dormitory facilities. Shattered objects, broken windows, blood and chaos reigned here, most of it concentrated around the beds.
"Night," she whispered. "They were asleep. That's the only way anyone could've gotten so many of them - there had to be telepaths in the group. They'd have warned the others if they'd been awake."
"Unless . . ."
She looked up from her contemplation of a bunk bed that seemed to have been snapped in half. "Unless?"
"Unless we're talking about more than one killer."
A wave of darkness, a crackle of memory, and the flood-gates opened.
"There's been a major incident, sir."
"Details?" That voice, Ming's voice.
A pause. "The female?"
"She hasn't got enough mind left to understand. Tell me the details."
"EarthTwo received a telepathic and electronic Mayday from its operation in Sunshine, Alaska, approximately two hours ago. The management asked for Council help, as such assistance is a negotiated part of their contract with us. We were able to mobilize a small Tk unit and teleport to the location."