Only when he was satisfied that their link to the Net was holding, regardless of the fact they were now in a “dead” section, did they continue. It didn’t take them long to find the locus and the cause of the unprecedented network failure. The Net had imploded into a sharp point at that location, as if the psychic fabric had been sucked into a vortex.
“The anchor for this region,” he said to Vasic, “is dead.”
“His death alone wouldn’t have caused this. There are multiple fail-safes.” Vasic went closer to the frozen vortex, the mangled fabric of the Net having created a natural plug … too late to save the men, women, and children caught within. We need to find the body.
Returning through the window Krychek had left, they informed him of the lack of survivors, watched him start to finalize the seal. “The anchor is dead,” Aden said. “We’ll work to locate the body.”
Dropping from the psychic plane, he waited for Vasic to open his eyes. The Tk-V brought up something on the computronic gauntlet on his arm as soon as he did so. “I’m accessing the anchor files for this region.”
Aden waited, aware Vasic was searching for an image he could focus on for a teleport.
“There.” An instant later, the Tk-V teleported them directly in front of a two-story cottage on the edge of Cape Dorset. The lack of neighbors was unusual for a Psy—but not for an anchor. Many members of Designation A craved isolation.
It was because, an anchor had once explained to Aden, they were constantly surrounded by others on the Net. Unlike with ordinary Psy, an anchor could not shut off that awareness—it was an inbuilt component of their ability to hold the Net in place. Their relative seclusion on the physical plane was a psychological coping mechanism.
Light spilled from the cottage, and when Aden made his way to one of the windows, using the shadows outside to his advantage, he saw no hint of danger. I’ll ring the doorbell.
Wait until I’m inside.
Vasic heard the clear tones of the bell echo through the house a second after he teleported into the room visible from the window. When there was no other sound or movement, he let Aden in. Working in practiced silence, they checked the first floor and found nothing, before heading up to the second.
There. Aden nodded at a drop of what looked like blood on the carpet that covered the steps.
Halting, Vasic looked more carefully and saw two other drops. Whoever did it, passed this way.
The body was in the corner room the anchor had used as his office. From the dents and the blood splatter, he’d been flung violently to the wall at least twice. “This is the work of a Tk,” Vasic said out loud, after scanning the room for listening devices, the scanner—able to be adapted to many tasks—built into his gauntlet.
Aden didn’t say anything until he’d walked over and checked the anchor’s throat for a pulse. “Death confirmed. His skin, however, is warm. Fits with the timeline.”
Vasic ran his eyes over the dents the anchor’s head had made in the wall. There was blood, yes, but the killer had had enough on him to drip, which meant he’d been up close and personal with his victim. “Catastrophic fracture in Silence?”
“You’re certain it was a Tk?”
“Pattern of the victim’s injuries added to the high-impact damage to the wall makes it highly probable.” He looked at the blood-splattered mess on the desk where it appeared the anchor had been working prior to the attack. “Either the uncontrolled violence is stage dressing, or someone is using an unstable Tk for his or her own purposes.”
A flicker at the corner of his eye. Swiveling, he found Kaleb Krychek in the room with them. Though the fact wasn’t well known, the former Councilor was one of the rare Tks who could go to people as well as places, and he’d obviously zeroed in on either Vasic or Aden.
Dressed in a pristine suit, his face bore no marks of strain as a result of the power he’d expended on the Net. “The information I was able to gather from the NetMind,” he said, taking in the carnage, “indicates the fail-safes were all murdered seconds before the anchor’s death, by killers who broke into their homes armed with laser weapons. It happened so fast, the NetMind couldn’t stabilize the fracture.”
Aden rose from his crouching position beside the body. “That would require a coordinated effort. The names of the fail-safes aren’t broadcast, and while their security is nowhere near that of an anchor”—the reason why non-teleport-capable assassins had been able to breach their homes—“each is passively monitored.”
Which is why, Vasic thought, the entire network had been eliminated around the same time. Any warning and contingency plans would have come into play. The Psy had backups upon backups when it came to anchors—Designation A was the foundation of the entire psychic framework that kept their race alive, the Net far too big to be stable without them. Kill the anchors and the Net would suffer a total collapse, taking everyone with it.
ADEN watched Vasic begin to move around the office. Quiet, calm, icily focused. “Could this be the work of one of the other former Councilors?” he asked Kaleb.
“It would make no logical sense—fracturing the Net fractures their power base.”
“An individual who knew the parameters of the failure ahead of time could ensure the safety of his allies and the deaths of his enemies.”
Kaleb’s eyes, living pieces of the PsyNet, locked on Aden’s face. “Yes. However, such indiscriminate carnage better fits the tenets of Pure Psy—my fellow ex-Councilors tend to be much more targeted in their assassinations.”