"How do you feel?"
"A slight headache and some weakness in my limbs but that's supposed to pass." Henry answered her question in the spirit in which it had been asked. Concentrating on the physical. They were husband and wife for propaganda purposes only - the humans and changelings seemed to like the idea of a couple in the Council.
"I'm much the same." She took a seat beside him. "It's to our advantage that we were implanted after the others." It had given them plenty of warning of the experimental implants' catastrophic failure. "It's a pity the implants were so degraded they won't be able to reverse engineer them."
"Perhaps we should rethink the idea of storing backup files on the Net."
"No." Shoshanna agreed with the other Councilors on this, shortsighted though many of their decisions were. "We upload it, we chance a leak. Aleine will be able to put it all back together."
"It will take months if not years for her to get back to where she was before the sabotage." Henry shifted. "It's disconcerting to have to return to this ineffectual method of communication."
During the past two months, they had been functioning as a flawless psychic unit, sharing every thought. However, they hadn't quite become one mind - Shoshanna was aware that she'd wielded more power in the unit. It proved the theory that there must always be a controlling mind. For example, the eight below them had been unable to merge into Henry's and Shoshanna's minds but the reverse hadn't held true. "We'll return to it one day. What's the status of the remaining four participants?"
"Alive but agitated."
Shoshanna stood. "Take care of it."
"I already have." Henry mirrored her stance. Their minds were still attuned on a level beyond the norm, but without the implant, that link would eventually fade. "I gave a final order prior to the removal of my implant. They'll end their own lives one after the other during the next eight hours."
"Excellent." What it was to truly wield the power of life and death - the others knew nothing of this. If they had, they would've pushed Protocol I faster instead of insisting on the current snail's pace. "That ties things up nicely." Now they had to ensure the Council didn't backpedal from the idea. It had to go ahead. Shoshanna intended to become a queen in truth, to hold lives in the palm of her hand.
Brenna's wolf was going crazy trapped inside of her. "Baby, please." Judd's head remained unmoving in her lap as she stroked his hair off his forehead over and over. It had been three hours since he'd gone down, taking her share of the pain as well as his own. The only thing keeping her from breaking apart was the certain knowledge that he was alive. She knew it in her soul. They were bonded whether anyone could see it or not.
Full dark had fallen long ago, along with the temperature. Judd's lips had begun to turn blue three minutes ago, as if some internal battery had died. Everything in her wanted to run for help, but he had made her promise not to let anyone else interfere. Her hand clenched on her phone as she ran her eyes over his body. His chest moved up and down. His breath came out. But he was so cold, so scarily cold. Colder than the snow.
This wasn't right. He was Pack. What he'd done so many times for the others should be his due now. To lean on Pack was no shame. Except that she knew he was too proud, too used to standing alone. But she couldn't watch him die. "I'm sorry, my darling." She flipped open the phone...and found it dead.
Throwing it aside, she began a frantic search of Judd. Nothing. But she knew he always carried a phone. Her mind went back to the image of him pulling on his jacket in the clearing. It had to have fallen out then. "No."
A movement in the forest. Her heart leaped in her throat, followed by predatory calm. No one will touch him. Her claws pushed at the edges of her skin as her eyes focused on the source of the sound, every instinct primed to defend her mate.
The wolf that emerged was almost invisible against the snow, his pelt a thick silver-gold that acted like camouflage. Relaxing from her offensive stance, she returned her attention to Judd as Hawke shifted to human form and came to kneel on Judd's other side. "You didn't signal for attention."
She shook her head and met his eyes. "He's exactly like you."
"Hell, I know that. I expected you to have better sense." A sharp reproof. "How long?"
"Can we move him?"
"I think so." But she wasn't going to risk it. "I don't know if there was any...damage." Brain damage. He was Psy - they were their minds, and things that erupted from the mind outward had the ability to destroy them. "Moving him might make it worse."
Hawke's eyes flashed to pure danger. "The damn Psy is too stubborn to die. Keep him alive while I get Walker and some heating sheets."
"Go." Brenna kept her hands on Judd's cheeks. "I'll be here."
Hawke left without anything further, disappearing into the woods in a flash of silver-gold. With his speed, help would be on the way in under half an hour. But what could Walker do? He wasn't a Psy medic and even if he had been, what medic could possibly see inside a mind as guarded as her Psy's? She knew his shields to be impenetrable.
Not against you.
Her breath caught. She wondered if the cold was starting to affect her brain. "Judd?"
I'm here. I have to repair some damage before I rise to full consciousness.
That sounded too much like him to be her imagination. "Damage?" she whispered.
Don't worry, baby. I'll be fully functional. A definite sensual emphasis on those last two words.