A Deadly Web
as possible protected from them.”
    “That doesn’t sound like much of a strategy.”
    “Some of us would like to do more,” he admitted frankly. “It’s a war, and we’d like to fight it like one. Openly. And there have been a few battles between our side and theirs.”
    “Gun battles?”
    Brodie nodded. “But only when it was absolutely necessary and we had at least a decent chance at controlling the fallout. Because until we have a better idea of their resources, their power, we have to be careful. Going public could do nothing except destroy our organization.”
    “It’s an organization?”
    “More or less. No name, not even an acronym. Formed around cells, a bit like the French Resistance during World War Two. The cells, made up of differing numbers of people, work independently, gathering intelligence in specific areas, sheltering and protecting psychics, recruiting allies. Reporting information to only one contact outside their cell and without any knowledge of who he or she reports to or who makes up other cells.”
    “So if one cell is . . . compromised . . .”
    He nodded. “We don’t all come crashing down. Very few in our organization know the whole setup.”
    “How many are you?”
    Brodie shrugged. “I actually don’t know, not for certain. Hundreds, at least. Maybe more.”
    “Psychics and nonpsychics?”
    “We’ve discovered that having nonpsychics in the cells makes us less vulnerable in some ways.”
    She was quick to add, “And more vulnerable in others.”
    “Well, most nonpsychics never learn to shield our minds, so if the other side uses any of their psychics against us—”
    “You mean people they’ve captured? Psychics working for them?”
    “Not sure about the former, but definitely the latter. He controls at least some psychics, and he uses them. Why they allow it, whether out of desire, belief in whatever their cause is, or fear, we don’t know. Duran is careful to keep their psychics under wraps, protected even when hesends one out to use them against us, so we haven’t been able to . . . debrief . . . any of them.”
    “Duran?”
    “Far as we can tell, he heads up their field operations. He’s smart, he’s ruthless, and he commands a great deal of power. We don’t know who he reports to.”
    “But you’re sure he isn’t the one calling the shots.”
    “In the field, I believe he is. Doing whatever he needs to do in order to further their goals. But we—I—have always believed it is bigger than that, more complex. Many more players involved, and higher up the food chain than he is.”
    “And it’s all about psychics.”
    “Yes.”
    “But you don’t know why? Why the other side wants them?”
    “We know they want to use them in some way, that they have a definite plan in mind. Just not sure
how
they want to use them. Other than to find more psychics, I mean.”
    “Just psychics?”
    “We don’t know. Maybe there’s a larger plan involving others. But we do know that for years, decades, their energies have been concentrated on finding and taking psychics. That’s what they do, and what we stop them from doing whenever possible.”
    “Which brings me back to my earlier question,” Tasha said. “If I don’t decide to go it alone, if I accept protection from your side of this . . . war . . . is it for life? Will my life ever be normal again?”
    “No,” Brodie replied bluntly. “No matter which choices you make, once they found out about you, once they noticed you, your life changed forever.”
    —
    Astrid opened her eyes and shook her head. “Sorry. She’s got good shields, and they’re up. Typical for born psychics, you know, especially when they’ve been approached by a stranger and told an insane conspiracy theory.”
    “I know,” Duran said, without turning from the window. His gaze was focused on the corner of a coffee shop he could—just—see in the distance. “Keep trying. She’ll let those shields down any

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