“The Councilor hasn’t changed her business practices.” Marsha Langholm’s voice broke into his thoughts. “However, there have been certain subtle changes in the PsyNet.”
“The political winds are shifting,” Sophia murmured.
“No,” Marsha Langholm said to Max’s surprise. “I’d say it’s more of a split. The lines are very, very fine, but the division is starting to take form. Nikita stands on one side, those who support Pure Psy on the other.”
Max decided to reenter the conversation. “Explain Pure Psy to me.” Sophia had told him what she knew about the group—including the extra intelligence Nikita had sent her, but this was an opportunity to get the perspective of another powerful Psy.
“Of course you wouldn’t have heard of it,” Marsha said, and it was—no doubt about it—condescending. “Pure Psy’s guiding aim is to strengthen and preserve the integrity of Silence, a concept they term Purity. They’ve come to believe that contact with the other races is contaminating us—and that that contamination is a direct cause of the rise in defections and whispers of rebellion.”
“So Nikita is considered a problem—because of her increasingly strong ties with the changelings.” Sophia’s tone was as pragmatic as Marsha’s. “How about other businesses? Are they pulling back from their non-Psy connections?”
“Some are considering it—while Nikita has recently entered into another construction deal in partnership with DarkRiver and SnowDancer.”
“If it is Pure Psy,” Max said, telling himself to behave when he got the urge to ruffle Sophia, sneak under that prim composure of hers by tap-dancing his fingers along her thigh, “why single out Nikita? She’s one of seven Councilors.”
Marsha Langholm touched the screen of her organizer where it lay on the table in front of her, not a restless motion—fully conditioned Psy never made those—but an indication. “I looked you up, Detective Shannon. For a man with such a high solve rate, you’re a rare presence in the news media.”
Max shrugged, let it rest at that.
“It makes me willing to share this information. I’ve heard murmurs that Henry Scott has aligned himself fully with Pure Psy, and that Shoshanna, as his wife, is aligned with him.”
Max made a mental note to ask Sophie how that worked—the Scotts couldn’t truly be husband and wife, not in the emotional sense. “That still leaves Anthony Kyriakus, Tatiana Rika-Smythe, Ming LeBon, and Kaleb Krychek.”
“All four have undeclared political loyalties,” Marsha Langholm said. “Pure Psy might be suspicious that Anthony doesn’t stand on their side of the line, but then again, his action in subcontracting foreseeing work to his daughter is an understandable business decision, given Faith NightStar’s sheer value. And, the NightStar clan has little contact with changelings beyond that subcontracting arrangement.”
Sophia spoke again, her voice a stroke against Max’s senses. “Do you have any idea where the other Councilors might stand?”
“Tatiana Rika-Smythe recently bought significant amounts of shares in human companies. If she continues on that track, it will by default put her on the other side of the line from Pure Psy. Ming LeBon and Kaleb Krychek are unknowns. They’ve done nothing that could be considered either for or against the group.”
“I don’t get one thing,” Max said, tipping back his chair. “Psy are all about logic, right?”
“Then Pure Psy makes no rational sense.” A pointed tap on his foot. Hiding his grin, he put his chair back down on all four legs. “If they succeed, they’ll isolate the Psy, cut off huge sources of revenue.”
Marsha Langholm didn’t answer. Sophia did. “It is logical, in a way,” she said. “Pure Psy believes that if the Net is ‘closed’ again, then Psy power will grow to the extent that our race will eventually be able to exterminate the changelings and humans both.”
“Even if such an act means a loss of power—of personnel,” Marsha Langholm added, “in the short term.”
It was the most cold-blooded description of murder Max had ever heard.
Dorian looked up from the computer where he was doing something that disappeared the instant Sascha and Lucas walked into the second subbasement of the DarkRiver building.
“He knows,” Sascha whispered to her co-conspirator.
Dorian grinned at Lucas. “So how mad are you?”
“If you didn’t have a mate, I’d consider making you a eunuch,” Lucas said, watching Sascha walk over to stand on Dorian’s other side, her hand on the back of the sentinel’s chair.
Turning, Dorian angled his head, asking for permission. When Sascha smiled, he pressed his ear against her belly, touching his hand protectively to the swell. If any man outside the pack had dared to do that, Lucas would’ve torn him to shreds with his bare claws. But this was Dorian, Sascha’s favorite sentinel, and one of the best friends Lucas had ever had.
His panther sat up in inquisitive interest when Sascha laughed at something Dorian whispered to the baby. “Hey,” the sentinel said in a louder tone, “you never know. Kid could come out wanting to know all about advanced martial arts.”
Sascha messed up the sentinel’s distinctive white-blond hair. “According to Vaughn, she’s going to be a painter, he’s sure of it. According to Clay, he’s going to be a sentinel-born. According to Hawke—”