“Nothing,” one F-Psy had gasped, shivering so hard her teeth clattered. “When I look into the future with Krychek as a focus, all I see is the death . . . of everything.”
PSYNET BEACON: CURRENT EDITION LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Starred Letter I refer to the covert viral discussion profiled in the Beacon’s previous edition, to do with the future viability of the Silence Protocol.
I believe the fact that such discussions were able to—and continue to—take place, without the minds of the individuals involved being shut down by the application of embedded pain controls, speaks to critical problems in the structural integrity of the Protocol. Even two years ago, such a topic would’ve been stifled before it ever grew to the point where it was circling the globe in clandestine chat rooms and in-person discussions.
While Pure Psy’s tenets are fanatical in the extreme, hidden in their rhetoric may be a critical point: that this freedom is not necessarily a fact to celebrate. Our race chose Silence because our minds skew toward insanity and violence without such strictures. This is not my opinion, but a fact written into our history in blood.
A hundred years ago, we were on the verge of total annihilation, our young murdered in their thousands by other Psy, while hundreds of thousands more sank into the splintered worlds created by broken minds. We were more violent than the changelings whose physicality we now deem makes them a lesser race, and more vicious than the humans we’ve come to consider our inferiors.
Yet once again, it is our “superior” race that is on the verge of a cataclysm.
I, for one, do not wish to live in the world of the past, but it cannot be denied that Silence has lost its way in the last ten years. Some whisper it was never as effective as successive Councils would’ve had us believe, that the defective members of the population were simply eliminated before they became a problem. Others, as we’ve seen, are willing to commit murder to Silence us all.
Who is right? Who is wrong? I have no answers—all I know is that we stand at a crossroads. The decisions we make will either save us, or end us.
Professor Eric Tuivala
SAHARA SAT UP in the narrow single bed that was her own, unable to fall asleep as she had the previous night. Pushing off the sheets, she padded to the window to stare out at the landscaped gardens below, the blades of grass kissed silver by the moonlight. She felt disconnected, out of sync with the world . . . as if this were a dream created in the depths of the labyrinth, her body trapped in the hellhole where she’d spent so many years.
It was a certainty that she was being foolish in her refusal to talk to a Psy-Med specialist, but even now, with her senses confused and her mind struggling to hold on to the world, her fear of mental violation was worse than her fear of madness. Pressing her fingers to the glass, she tried to use the smooth coldness as an anchor, but the glass melted beneath her fingertips, the world twisting sideways in a smear of silver and black, as her consciousness attempted and failed to hold on to what was.
Clawing her way to some semblance of reason, she found a sliver of hope in the memory of a man who had promised her he would always come to her call. Kaleb. I need you. She knew without a doubt that reality wouldn’t waver with him here. He was too powerful a force, speaking to parts of her she didn’t know existed until he was in the room.
He stood beside her a heartbeat later, dressed in black suit pants and a crisp white shirt, no tie, the collar open to expose the strong column of his throat. The cuff links at his wrists caught the moonlight as he slid his hands into his pockets, and the world righted itself, only for her breath to catch, her body recognizing his.
“Why are you awake?” he asked.
Though he wasn’t touching her, the heat of him branded her through the T-shirt she wore on top of a pair of gray sweatpants. “I need to be doing something,” she said, struggling to explain the frustration that had her unable to sleep.
“I know I’m not functional enough to go out into the world, but I feel as if my skin will burst if I just stay here.” Shaking with the clawing ferocity of the anger and helplessness inside her, she closed the inches between them and began to unbutton his shirt, her skin a fever. If she drowned herself in sensation, in Kaleb, it would hold the other emotions at bay. Nothing else existed when— “Sahara.” Kaleb’s hands closed over her wrists. “Put on clothes suitable for temperatures in the higher elevations,” he said, eyes pitch-black. “I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Sahara didn’t stop to reason, to consider the fact that she was about to go off into the darkness with a man who was the darkness. She simply stripped, pulled on jeans, a thin long-sleeved mohair top, and a heavy zip-up hooded sweatshirt. Slipping her feet into socks, she’d just finished tying her sneakers when Kaleb reappeared.
He’d changed into black cargo pants and a black T-shirt, his feet in scuffed boots that appeared worn in. Looking her up and down, he nodded—and then they weren’t in her room any longer, but at the foot of an imposing rock face under a huge silver moon that cast a spotlight over the firs that sprawled a dark green sea in every direction, majestic against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains familiar to anyone in this region. “We’re in the Sierra Nevada.” Changeling-wolf territory.
“Yes. We’ll remain in a satellite shadow as long as we don’t move past the tree line.”
“The live patrols?” The SnowDancer pack was rumored to kill intruders first and ask questions of the corpses.