Sascha wept deep inside for the two women she'd never had the chance to know. What must it have done to Mika to watch the child she'd named Ai - which meant "love" in her language - be taught to devalue that very emotion?
"You've lost me." Tamsyn sat up within Nate's arms.
Sascha dragged her mind back from the horrors of the past. "Psy are classified according to our psychic strength and specialization. For example, my mother is a Gradient 9.1 Tp-Psy, which means her major talent lies in the area of telepathy. Like most Psy, she has several other skills, but in terms of strength, they all fall below 2 on the Gradient - our measuring system." She paused to ensure they understood.
"Go on," Tamsyn said.
"Then there are the Tk-Psy."
"Telekinetic," Nate guessed.
"Yes. We also have the M designation - Medical. The M-Psy can look inside a body and find the physical causes of illness. They're the specialty other races most commonly come into contact with. There are several other fields of talent. Telepaths are relatively common and tend to have other specialties within their telepathy."
Like her mother with her viral poisons and Ming LeBon's genius at mental combat. "Medical is midrange. Some rarer specialties include psychometry, the teleportation - capable telekinetics, and transmutation - the ability to force a physical object to change its shape. The most rare are the F-Psy."
Lucas's hand slipped under her shirt to lie against the skin of her back, hot and burning, a brand she had no desire to escape. She was having to fight herself as much as him in this shatteringly important decision. Not to mention the rest of the pack.
The leopards had closed ranks. No one would tell her what the final steps of the mating dance were so she could avoid taking them. She was their alpha's chosen mate and they weren't going to give her the chance to slip away. Even Vaughn had refused, though she'd tried to convince him it would save Lucas's life. Not one of them understood the power of the PsyNet. It could not be fought.
"F-Psy," Lucas murmured. "Let me guess. Foresight?"
She nodded. "These days they're usually hired by businesses to forecast market trends, but I've heard that in the past, they often worked for Enforcement and local government in order to prevent murders and disasters."
If they hadn't succumbed to the lure of cold hard cash, forgetting the human emotions behind death and loss, perhaps Lucas's parents would still be alive. How could he not hate her people? Hate her?
"But no E-Psy," Tamsyn said.
"No." Sascha frowned. "It makes no sense. A specialty may be rare but it never disappears entirely."
"Did you check the classification system?" Lucas asked.
She nodded and decided not to mention that she'd had to make a quick visit to the PsyNet to do so. "It wasn't hidden. I guess they thought no one would ever care to look it up. Until Silence, E was an accepted designation. It disappeared soon after the Protocol went into effect and wasn't replaced in the classification charts." She made a frustrated sound. "But I don't know what it means!"
"What's your classification?" Nate asked.
It was the one question she didn't want to answer, the one question that showed her how useless she was. "I'm non-specialized."
"But I know you're a telepath." Tamsyn frowned. "The cubs told me you talked to them."
Sascha smiled at the thought of Julian and Roman's mischievous welcome. "Telepathy is a base skill necessary for survival." Otherwise, the uplink to the Net couldn't be created or maintained. "All Psy have it to at least 1.0 on the Gradient. However, I have telepathy to approximately 3.5 on the Gradient, telekinetic powers to around 2.2, and whispers of some of the other powers to no real level."
"You're a cardinal." Lucas squeezed her tight, obviously seeing through the smile to the pain she'd tried to hide. "That means you have a great deal of power."
She shook her head. "No, it means I have the potential for a great deal of power. Cardinals are uniformly over 10.0 on the Gradient in their particular specialty - no one's been able to figure out a way to measure them past that. Not that measurement is necessary to figure out whether someone is a cardinal." Her eyes had marked her from birth.
"In my case the potential was never unlocked." Trying not to let them see how much it mattered to her, she shrugged. "According to Mother, it shouldn't have stopped me rising to the Council ranks but I think she meant to help me." Help by icily controlled murder. "Eventually she stopped mentioning that possibility. We both knew I'd never be powerful enough to survive at that level."
Tamsyn pushed off Nate and started to pace across the carpet. Her mate looked on, bemused. "I'm no Psy, Sascha, but I can feel your power same as I can feel Lucas's."
Sascha tipped her head to the side. "I'm not sure..."
"The Psy think we can't read them but some of us can." Tamsyn dropped the bombshell with a feline smile. "Ask Lucas."
She found him wearing that same smile. "Tell me."
"So demanding." It was a growl but there was mischief in his eyes. "Whenever you use Psy power, I know. Not only that, I can read spikes in Psy activity. And you, kitten, are no Gradient 3 in anything."
"Impossible." She scowled. "I've barely been using any Psy power since you've known me. What I have used, like when I pushed you telekinetically, has been very low level. You can't be reading the spikes right."
Leaning forward, he nipped her lower lip. "That was for the push."