Two midrange abilities.
What she'd just realized was that a person with two midrange abilities could sometimes create an amplification effect - usually on only one of the abilities. However, that effect was so unpredictable that it could be hidden by the user - and she'd hidden hers; otherwise, she would've been pressed into a very different kind of service.
That's why, she thought, seeing a complete chunk of her past in one clean sweep, she and Ashaya had worked so well together in their rebellious activities - Katya had been able to get messages out to almost everyone in the resistance. Because when she exercised her ability to amplify, her Tp skills went from 4.5 to 9 on the Gradient.
And a level 9 telepath could talk to pretty much anyone she wanted. But - she frowned - she hadn't, not for those last months. Why? Her hands lifted to her head, the heels of palms pressing against her temples.
A dart of pain, but it pulled the memory with it.
"Everything that can be done low-tech" - Ashaya's familiar voice - "we do that way. He suspects you, Ekaterina. And I need you too much to lose you to him."
"My telepathy would make things quantifiably easier."
"Not if you're dead. It takes energy for you to merge your abilities - it'll be noticed if you increase your intake of nutrients, if you sleep more."
Katya staggered as her mind ricocheted back to the present. Ashaya had been right - the shadow-man. . .Ming - another flash of memory, her torturer's identity delineated with flawless clarity - had suspected her. But now there was no one to watch her, to see if she suddenly changed her eating or sleeping habits. Ming had blocked her access to the Net, but he hadn't done anything to stifle her ability to use her inborn talents. A chill spread over her heart - he might even have programmed her to use those talents exactly as she was thinking of doing.
A moment of paralysis. "No." She tilted her chin, forced herself to breathe.
If she let fear stop her, he would have truly won. She had to go forward believing her actions were her own, trusting that she'd somehow risen from the ashes, begun to reform her personality, become the phoenix that lived in her soul.
Surely, surely Ming hadn't considered her firestorm reaction to Dev, or how that reaction would make her want to become stronger - so she could hold her own against the relentless strength of him. "The only way to know is to try."
Taking a deep breath, she relaxed into an armchair and closed her eyes. Usually when she used Tp, she was aiming for a specific destination - a particular mind. But, as a telepath, she could also "hear" others if she opened her senses. However, like most of her designation, she kept that aspect of her mind locked tight the majority of the time - even in the PsyNet, there were individuals whose shields leaked a constant flow of thought. Multiply that irritation by thousands and you had a recipe for madness.
And here, outside the Net? It was likely to be a million times worse. The majority of humans didn't have anything but the most basic shields. Given their history, the Forgotten were likely to be a fraction more sophisticated, but there would still be any number of leaks, of voices.
Soothing the butterflies in her stomach with the knowledge that she could shut off the open pathways at any instant, she gripped the arms of the armchair and dropped her internal shields.
An instant of pure silence.
Her head snapped back against the headrest as her shields slammed shut with brutal force. It took several minutes for her head to stop ringing. Her spine was damp with sweat by the time she reopened her eyes, her hair plastered to her forehead.
"Okay," she said, "okay." Calming her racing heartbeat enough that she could force her mind to cooperate took another five long minutes. Finally able to think again, she gripped the chair arms even harder and dropped her internal shields once more - this time, by the merest fraction.
Dev was talking to Cruz about model cars - a hobby the boy remembered enjoying before he'd been placed into state care - when there was a knock on the door. Dev got up. "I'll have to see what that is. They wouldn't interrupt unless it was important."
Tiny lines appeared on Cruz's forehead. "I can almost hear something." He shook his head. "It's gone now. He scared it away." Making a face, Cruz fluffed his pillow and glared at the doorway.
Eyebrows raised, Dev opened the door and walked out - to find himself toe to toe with Tag. The big telepath had a thunderous look on his face.
Since the other man usually made an extreme effort to appear nonthreatening, Dev's instincts went on full alert. "What?"
"Close the door." His voice shook with fury.
"I'll sit with Cruz." Walking in, Glen shut the door behind himself.
Dev met Tag's eyes. "You look like you want to kill someone."
"That would be you," Tag muttered succinctly. "I should f**king pound your stubborn head into the ground."
"You could try."
"Pretty boy, I could crush you with one fist." Releasing a huge breath, Tag pointed up. "You've got a goddamn powerful telepath up there and you didn't think to warn me?"
Dev froze. "What're you talking about? She's midrange, weaker than - "
"Bullshit," Tag interrupted. "Your little secret is closer to the very high end of the spectrum." Tag shook his head, rubbing at the sides of his temples. "I just caught her mind as it brushed mine. Don't know what she was looking for, but I hope to hell I gave her enough of a scare that she stopped."
Dev was already moving, anger rising inside him in a scalding wave. A telepath that strong could do a massive amount of damage. Katya could tear apart the shields of the weaker members of Shine, leave his people nothing more than vegetables. And he'd brought her here. He'd kept her safe.