The fallen Arrow responded at once. We’ll take care of it.

Vasic was conscious of Ivy’s worried voice, her touch—so soft against his jaw—but he couldn’t sink into it, couldn’t reassure her. Shooting through the disordered skies of the PsyNet, he came to a section of Alaska that had collapsed into gaping nothingness.

The PsyNet no longer existed beyond the point where he stood.

On the ground, there’d be carnage, people falling where they stood as their biofeedback link was severed, resulting in death—an agony that would be over in seconds for most. The toughest might last a minute. Unless . . . Vasic quickly married up this section of the Net with the physical region and realized it was centered on the abandoned Sunshine Station. Not only was the station uninhabited, there were no other outposts for miles in any direction.

That didn’t mean there’d be no casualties—the psychic shock wave had been brutal.

He saw Kaleb and Aden working together to seal the breach before it could widen and swallow up further sections of the Net. Aden was being careful not to overtly showcase his strength, but anyone who thought about it afterward would realize he shouldn’t have been able to work side by side with a cardinal without flagging.

Vasic had no doubt Krychek had the brute strength to stop the damage from spreading, but he couldn’t do that and seal it up at the same time. Not with a wound this large. Aden.

Infection caused the sector to collapse, his partner replied. Entire region is riddled with it.

Vasic was almost expecting the news. Sunshine Station was the known site zero for the infection. What was surprising was that no one had spotted the virulence of the infection here, given that the region was under heavy watch. Krychek, the squad, Ming, all had placed observers here.

Vasic. Krychek’s obsidian voice. You need to head to Anchorage. Images he could use for a teleport lock poured into his mind. It’s not in the collapse zone, but I’m picking up reports of sudden, inexplicable violence alongside the expected shock wave injuries. It may be an outbreak.

Vasic opened his eyes to see Ivy in front of him, her hand holding a bloody towel she must’ve used to clean up his face. “I have to go,” was all he had time to say before he left, taking with him the remembered sensation of Ivy’s fingertips just brushing his own as he ’ported into carnage.

During the cleanup in Sunshine, he’d seen corpses with their brains bashed in, others who’d been stabbed over and over, still others who’d been beaten with whatever was nearby. So he wasn’t surprised to find himself in the middle of a dead-end street overrun with the violent mad. He saw two other Arrows, both at the open end of the affected street. A Tk and a telepath, they were managing to stop the swarm from escaping to spread out over the rest of the city, but the tide was rising.

There was also a changeling—a predator—who must’ve been on the street when the world went insane in the space of a few seconds. He was protecting a group of roughly fifteen human and changeling schoolchildren behind him, his claws slicing at the mad as the terrified children huddled against the wall.

Another man, a human, was bleeding badly from a gut wound but trying to calm the children. A teacher, Vasic surmised.

Several bodies littered the street that had obviously been cleared of snow only a short time before.

Taking it all in a single glance, he began to telekinetically pick up and slam the crazed against the walls of the buildings around them, hard enough to slam them into unconsciousness. He tried not to use fatal force, but his priority had to be the children and the other noninfected he could see fighting off those who’d been driven insane by the disease.

He knew full well he might only be delaying the inevitable.

No one from Sunshine had been able to be saved.

“Behind you!”

Turning at the shouted cry from the injured teacher, he smashed back a middle-aged woman who’d been about to sink a butcher knife into his back. The knife flew out of her hand to land on the street with a thick clump, her neck snapping to loll her head forward as she hit the wall at the wrong angle. Then there was no more time to think.

Chapter 26

*Breaking News* Catastrophic damage across the Net as result of a recent unexplained shock wave. Casualties estimated to be in the tens of thousands. This feed will be updated as further news becomes available.

PsyNet Beacon

BY THE TIME it was all over, the street was littered with bodies, but the schoolchildren were safe, and Vasic had managed to disable but not kill most of the infected. A few had landed wrong the same way as the knife-wielding woman, and two others he’d immobilized had been set upon by other infected, but the majority were breathing. A number of noninfected had also lost their lives or been badly injured, the majority prior to his arrival.

Looking at the changeling male, his claws now bloodied and his eyes glowing a pale feline yellow that said he was probably a snow leopard, given the region, Vasic nodded toward the children.

The injured teacher—slumped on the ground—said, “Go” when his students hesitated at the changeling male’s order to leave.

“Help is coming,” Vasic said, the sirens filling the air getting louder by the second.

The changeling knelt by the teacher. “I’ll make sure they get home safe,” he said, his voice holding a growl, then he shepherded the children away.

Certain the children were in hands that would protect not harm, Vasic met up with the two other Arrows on the scene. Younger and less experienced, they looked to him for direction. “Separate the injured noninfected from the infected,” he ordered. “The latter will need to be restrained if they don’t slip into comas.” Copyright 2016 - 2023