2223. Geneva. A year after the Black Fox Raid. Shortly after Bester married Alisha Ross.
The screen on his desk lit up with the image of an unfamiliar woman, although the black uniform she wore and the psi insignia on her chest were instantly recognizable. Her dark hair was pulled tightly behind her head, and her her eyes held concerning urgency.
"My name is Francisca da Silva," she began. "I'm the Psi Corps station chief here in Brasilia."
"A pleasure. How can I be of assistance?"
"Some odd things have been happening in my city over the last month. It was all over the news... though I don't suppose they cover such stories in Geneva. There've been reports of strange creatures living in the abandoned metro tunnels under the city, monsters that emerge at night to feast on unsuspecting citizens. Several mundanes were found mutilated, and the public's been in a panic. The police were suspecting gang violence, but the tabloids exploded with sensationalist stories of werewolves, Sasquatch, the Mapinguari... you name it."
"Mundanes will believe anything, if given the chance. All very interesting, but what's it have to do with me?"
"This is no ordinary case. Does this woman look familiar to you?"
A short clip from surveillance camera footage played on Bester's screen. It showed a young woman, perhaps twenty-five, in the tattered remains of what may have once been a MetaPol uniform, wandering aimlessly in front of a small grocery store, until a delivery truck pulled up. Two men got out of the truck and went about their work unloading the vehicle, apparently unable to see the young woman standing not even three meters off. Then Bester watched as the woman pulled a knife and began to attack. One man ran, screaming, while the woman pounced upon and savagely attacked the second. Once he lay unmoving on the the ground - in a puddle of blood - she casually took a crate of food from the back of the truck, and walked out of sight.
"The survivor reported he saw a monster - a giant dark beast with tentacles, a hundred eyes, you name it. Something straight out of Lovecraft. The police thought he was mad until they pulled the security camera footage. Then they called us."
"Exactly. We have a rogue telepath on our hands, and a very strong one at that."
Bester looked closely at the screen. "Can you send me a close-up of her face?"
Da Silva nodded.
The station chief sent the file, and Bester examined it carefully. It didn't take him long to identify the woman. Ever since boyhood he had been known for following the rogue lists daily - he knew every rogue telepath, their background, and how long they'd been on the run. He followed the rogue lists almost religiously.
"Anastasia Khol," Bester said flatly. "P12. Psi Cop. She disappeared a month ago on Mars, from Syria Planum. One day she didn't report for duty. No history of mental problems, no known history of rogue sympathies. She was a good cop, Khol. Clean record. Then she vanished with no trace."
"I think we've found her."
"Good, glad I could be of assistance." Bester made to click off the call.
"No, that's not all. Wait."
"I'd like you to take over the case."
Bester blinked. That was strange. "But surely your office is more than capable of-"
"No, we're not. My people are superstitious. We sent a team into the tunnels, and they came running back out, screaming. Monsters in the dark, they said. I've never seen them like this."
Inwardly, Bester shook his head. This was a disgrace. Psi Cops had be prepared to handle anything, especially telepathic illusions from powerful rogues. Their most important job was to protect the public from danger - such as the threat posed by Khol. Were they cowards? If so, they never should have been selected as Psi Cops, whatever their psi rating. Were they untrained in psi combat? Bester had trained for years, even before graduating and beginning his internship.
What did Da Silva's office do down there in Brasilia? he wondered darkly. Marriage permits and parking tickets? When this was over, he would have to report this incompetence to the assistant director.
"You're saying," he offered carefully, "that the presence of an outside team would give your people more confidence."
"No, I want you to take this case. My people will provide you with everything you need. And they'll guard the station exits in case she tries to escape."
"Ms. Da Silva, I'm a busy man..."
"And you're the best there is. You took down the Black Fox! Everyone knows about that. You're a legend here. The Corps is making a vid about the raid. And to think, you returned to full active duty, even after the injuries you sustained in the attack..."
Now she was trying to play on his ego. He sighed.
"All right, I'll take the case. My team and I will meet you tomorrow. We'll find your rogue."
She beamed. "Thank you, Mr. Bester. I knew we could count on you! The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father."
The screen went black. Bester leaned back in his chair, and sighed again. It would be a long night.