Ivy shook her head, her expression haunted. “It was too late the first day we met. You’re inside me, and I’m inside you. It’s done.”
Rubbing her cheek against his hand, she broke contact. And though the knowledge was a starkness in her eyes, her next words had nothing to do with the gauntlet. “This experiment won’t work.” She waved her hand to encompass the compound in her statement. “It was good for training us in the basics, but we won’t learn anything about how to fight the infection here—Es are immune and the Arrows are too well shielded. We need to be in an under-threat area surrounded by the normal population.”
“This is a pure site,” he argued, his mind full of the carnage he’d seen in Anchorage, and at Sunshine during the very first outbreak. Ivy didn’t belong in the midst of the nightmare. “A clean canvas on which to test your theories.”
“The infection is reacting oddly to us—you know that.” Folding her arms, she shook her head. “I think it’s because there are too many Es concentrated here, with only the Arrows to provide balance. That’s still a one-to-one ratio.”
Vasic wanted to disagree, but he’d seen the way the fetid blackness of the infection just sat on the edges of the compound, not coming closer, but not leaving either. The instant an E tried to get near it, it slid away, only to return once the E backed off. Vasic wasn’t certain the Arrows were safe from the insidious contagion, even given their highly developed shields, but the theory couldn’t be tested—not with the Es’ immunity spilling over onto them.
“The risk will increase exponentially.” Immunity wasn’t everything; one of the infected could as easily crush an empath’s skull with a blunt object. “You’ll be exposed to the pro-Silence lobby for one.” Sparks of color, that was what Ivy’s mind looked like inside the firewall created by the Arrow unit, a diamond splintered with light.
Skin drawn over her cheekbones, Ivy said, “It’ll be worth it if we manage to stop even a single outbreak.”
He understood her well enough to guess the direction of her thoughts. “You couldn’t have stopped today, Ivy,” he said. “The amount of infection found in the cerebral cortex of the victims already autopsied shows long-term exposure—they were dead before I ever came to you in the orchard.”
He only realized what he’d said when Ivy’s eyes went huge with distress. This time, he didn’t reject his instincts. Reaching out, he wrapped her in his arms, his cheek pressed to her temple. “I’ll fight, Ivy,” he vowed again as her own arms locked around him. “I’ll fight.”
How much more can we take? Pure Psy murdered hundreds of thousands, and now we’re cannibalizing ourselves in madness. Our race appears headed for extinction.
Letter to the Editor signed “Lost and Without Hope,” PsyNet Beacon
KALEB MET WITH Vasic and Ivy Jane near eleven p.m. their time, having caught five hours of sleep in the interim. The empath was adamant about relocating to an infected zone, and Kaleb agreed with her logic. Leaving her and Vasic to canvas the other Es to see if they wanted to follow the same route, he teleported to Nikita Duncan’s office in central San Francisco.
“I received your message,” he said to both her and the male who stood looking out of the plate glass windows to the left of Nikita’s desk.
Anthony Kyriakus turned, his dark hair silvered at the temples and his bearing that of a man at the head of one of the most influential families in the Net. “Anchorage?”
“Handled for now. I’ll have Silver send you a report.” While Kaleb didn’t consider either of the ex-Councilors an ally in the sense that he trusted them, the three of them currently had the same end goals in mind. “Is there a problem?”
Nikita brought up a financial overview on a wall screen without rising from her desk, the glossy black of her liquid-straight hair brushing her shoulders. “Share prices for stock in Psy companies have dropped precipitously after the events in Alaska.” Slanted eyes of deep brown focused on the screen as she used a remote to highlight several significant drops. “This could undermine the entire government structure.”
Ruling Coalition aside, that government was truly more of a dictatorship at present, but Kaleb saw her point. He could only lead the PsyNet to where he wanted it to go if he had the support of the major corporations. “Options?” Nikita was a ruthless businesswoman—it’d be foolish not to take advantage of her skill set.
Leaning back in her chair, she steepled her hands in front of her. “If NightStar is willing,” she said with a glance at Anthony, “I suggest we leak visions of a future when all is calm.”
In other words, lie. Not a bad short-term solution.
“Anthony?” Kaleb turned to the man whose family line had produced more foreseers than any other; the most accurate and gifted F-Psy in the world was a Kyriakus. That same family line had produced the woman he’d left curled up warm and sleepy and sated in their bed, which technically made Anthony and Kaleb family.
The two of them had a silent understanding to ignore that awkward fact.
Now, Anthony said a curt, “No.” When the older male’s eyes met Nikita’s, Kaleb had the feeling he’d walked into the middle of an argument.
“NightStar can’t risk staining its reputation.”
“In that case”—Nikita broke the intensity of the eye contact to face Kaleb—“I suggest we begin to buy up devalued stock and allow that to leak. It’ll be assumed we know something the populace doesn’t, that we might even be purposefully orchestrating the deaths for our own gain.”