Then it rammed into his final telepathic shields, burning them to ash as the wave crashed. He had a moment to glimpse the web and think that the power was arrowing itself to him, as if he was some kind of lodestone. The flame—so cold, so violent—shoved into his psychic core a second later.
Death had never felt so exhilarating.
In the physical world, he went to his knees, his vision flame yellow and bloodred, but on the psychic plane, his telepathic reach was magnified a thousand times over for a gleaming instant, and he had time to be grateful that he hadn’t been born that way, for a man was not meant to know the world’s secrets.
He waited to die, to feel the frigid burn of an X’s touch, but the power continued to pour through him. Gritting his teeth against the impact of it, he reached out to touch a telepathic hand to the children, found them unconscious but unharmed. That was when he focused his psychic eye beyond the avalanche of power. And saw something so incredible, it would’ve brought him to his knees if he hadn’t already been on them.
The strange twisting motion at the center of his mental star, it had nothing to do with children, nothing to do with telepathy. It blazed diamond bright as it spun at phenomenal speed, acting as a filter for Sienna’s energy. The destructive potential was trapped, eradicated, the rest returned to the network. The interconnected threads of the web continued to burn but second by second, the vicious red was fading into a shimmering gold . . . until at last, there was no more raw power.
Walker’s mind blinked out.
IT wasn’t until two days later that everyone was functional enough to have a rational discussion. They met in the main conference room, the lieutenants from around the state coming in via comm feeds. Cooper’s mate stood by his side, while the others in the SnowDancer Web, as the Laurens were calling it, took seats around the conference table. The only ones missing were the children, and the healers from the other sectors—they’d decided to head back home, leaving Lara as their representative.
“That was some trip,” Tomás said, breaking the ice. “Holy hell, I was on speed for two days. I swear I ran patrol nonstop for thirty-six hours.”
“We healed everyone,” Lara said, flexing her fingers, her voice too jerky, too fast. “Everyone in the infirmary, everyone in the pack that we could find with even the slightest injury. Anyone have a sore back? Scratches?”
Beside her, Walker did something Hawke wouldn’t have expected from the quiet, contained Psy. He put his hand under Lara’s hair, curving it around her nape. It was a very changeling display of possession—a signal to every other male in the meeting that Lara was now off-limits.
Hawke’s wolf approved.
“I had sex,” Drew said with a grin. “Lots and lots and lots of sex.”
Indigo threw a balled-up piece of paper at him, but she was grinning. Catching the paper, he said, “Hey, no use in good energy going to waste.”
Everyone chuckled, the atmosphere nothing like it would’ve been a few days ago if they’d been talking of Sienna’s power. “So,” Hawke said, playing his fingers through his mate’s hair, “it looks like we all got a boost.”
“She acts like a mini-reactor,” Walker said in that intense, contained way that had everyone paying attention. “Her power is infinite.”
“So we’re going to keep getting mega-hits like this?” Tomás’s dark brown eyes sparkled as they landed on Sienna’s down-bent head. “Not that I don’t appreciate it, sugar, but it did make me ‘hyper,’ according to my mother.”
“Toby hasn’t slept for two days and counting,” Lara said. “He outran his changeling friends—he thinks it’s wuuuuuunderful. His word.”
Sienna spoke for the first time. “I think that was a one-off,” she said, twisting her hands under the table where she thought Hawke couldn’t see it. “Walker and I have been talking, and our theory is that it was because I was trying to contain the power and it built up to a critical mass. If I release a steady stream of it, it’ll boost your energy levels without having a discernible impact like it did this time around.”
Leaning over, Hawke nipped at her ear. She turned bright red. “Hawke.”
“No one is angry at you, Sienna,” he murmured. “Look at them.”
He saw her raise her head, glance around, felt the staggering relief that poured down the mating bond. When she turned and reached up to pull his hand from her hair, bring it to her lips, he was undone, his wolf her slave.
Looking away from her only when she put his hand down on the table, her fingers tangled with his, he found the others had begun to speak amongst themselves, giving him and Sienna privacy. “It’s clear that Walker acts as a filter . . . a valve,” he said during a lull in the conversation.
Matthias looked troubled. “What if something happens to Walker?”
“We’ve been talking about that,” Sienna spoke up, a confidence in her voice that had been missing earlier. “The helix appeared in Walker’s mind around the time my mother was pregnant with me, so there’s a chance one of the other Psy in the network would develop the ability.”
If they were right, she’d explained to Hawke, the implications were astounding. It meant the neosentience in a psychic network didn’t only organize the network, it could influence it on the individual level. Which, if the rumors about the current rot in the PsyNet were true, led to some very disturbing suppositions.
“However,” Sienna continued, “we’re not relying on that. Now that we know what Walker’s mind does, Judd thinks he can train his own to mimic the effect. It won’t work anywhere near as well, and the power surge will be a lot rougher—”