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Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling 12) - Page 5


Such a motive seemed to run counter to the group’s avowed focus on the PsyNet, but underlying Pure Psy’s outwardly “rational” rhetoric was the belief that the Psy were superior to the other races, that if their people would only seal the cracks that had begun to appear in the foundations of the Silence Protocol, they would once again be the most powerful race on the planet.

Any attempt to better integrate the Psy populace with the humans and changelings was thus seen not only as an attack against the Protocol, but as a threat to the genetic superiority of the Psy race. It was an unsound premise. Kaleb knew the Psy were as flawed as the humans or changelings—he’d come of age in rooms ripe with the scent of congealing blood, screams echoing in his ears; he knew the dark underbelly of their race had simply been buried, not erased.

Confirmed, Silver said after a short delay. Pure Psy has taken responsibility for the poisoning, and the claim was public. She sent him a visual, her telepathy strong enough that it was crisp, clear.

The side of the building owned by the think tank had been emblazoned with the image of a star with the letter P at the center. The P was white, the area around it black. Below were the words Absolution in Purity, JOIN US.

This is new, he said to Silver.

Yes. It’s the first appearance of this decal.

A decal. That explained how the Pure Psy operatives had been able to put it up so fast. He wondered if the religious undertone was intentional. Vasquez, the faceless man at the head of Pure Psy since Councilor Henry Scott’s demise, might be a fanatic, but he was a smart fanatic, as evidenced by the fact that no one had been able to dig up any verifiable details about his physical appearance. Now, even as he decried those whose Silence was fractured, who believed emotion was not the enemy of the Psy race, he used an emotive call to arms.

Clever.

Or psychotic.

Why hasn’t this news hit the Net? Kaleb might have been distracted over the past few hours, but his mind continued to scan the pathways of the Net, and he’d heard nothing of what was a significant act of aggression.

Bad timing, answered Silver’s mental voice. Pure Psy operatives must’ve finished putting up the decal seconds before an Enforcement vehicle cruised down the street and spotted it. The officers became suspicious, checked the building, and discovered the bodies.

As a result, the external processing is being completed while the city sleeps, the decal removed.

The only reason I have the data is because of a cousin high in Enforcement Command in the country—they’ve managed to black out the incident as far as the media are concerned.

The failure to gain Netwide exposure would only incite Pure Psy to further acts of lethal violence.

Is your contact any closer to infiltrating the inner circle? While Pure Psy was doing an excellent job of creating the instability he needed for his current endgame, the group was a rogue element.

Kaleb preferred iron control in all things.

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No. Vasquez is very, very careful.

Continue to monitor the situation in Khartoum. Keep me updated.

Yes, sir.

Hearing a tiny sound at his back as he closed the telepathic link, he walked to the railing instead of turning, his eyes on the impenetrable depths of the gorge.

The lights went off a second later, leaving the terrace lit only by the stars, the moon at full dark tonight.

Bare feet padding on the wood of the terrace, a whisper of scent, clean and fresh, a flutter of green as she came to stand beside him—though she left a good three meters of distance between them.

Dressed in a green T-shirt and soft gray pajama pants, she’d clearly washed her hair, but it hung tangled and knotted around her face, hiding her profile from him as she closed her fingers around the bars, squeezing the cold of the metal so hard her skin turned ghostly white.

“It’s only a prison,” he said, “so long as you aren’t in control of your mind.” If he dropped the shields in which he’d encased her, she became vulnerable to even the weakest of their brethren, her mind shorn of its protective coating. “Rebuild your shields and I’ll set you free.”

It was a lie.

He would never let her go.

Chapter 3

IT WAS DIFFERENT here, the harsh, cutting light that had hurt her eyes until her head throbbed nowhere in evidence. Everything was soft and unobtrusive. No, not everything. Not the man who had brought her to this place. He was hard.

Like black ice.

He spoke to her in a voice that made her skin prickle, said words that sometimes made sense and sometimes became lost by the time they reached her through the twisted labyrinth of her mind. She’d created that labyrinth, she knew that. What she didn’t know was why. Why would she sabotage her own mind? Why would she consciously hobble her own abilities?

The labyrinth was why they’d kept her in that white room for so long she couldn’t remember the beginning anymore, couldn’t think of the last time she’d truly been able to sleep. The glare had beaten down on her like a vicious hammer, even if she curled up into a ball and hid her face in her arms. Her jailers had promised to turn off the lights if she would unravel the labyrinth and be useful again, do things for them.

Mind clearing for a fraction of a minute as the labyrinth reset, she realized she should’ve been executed when it became obvious she had no intention of cooperating. That she’d been permitted to live told her that whatever it was she could do, it was important and powerful enough to keep her safe, if only half-alive, trapped, and chained. Her last attempt— The labyrinth twisted, changing shape as it did a thousand times a day, and her thoughts warped out of all comprehension, shredding the gossamer weave of reason and memory. Fingers tightening on the iron bars of the railing that kept her from falling into the black abyss on the other side, she breathed through the change, blinking away the spots of light from in front of her eyes. But the spots didn’t fade, and it was with a sense of dawning wonder that she realized those dots were the stars in the night sky.

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