Clay raised an eyebrow. "Ask Dorian."
"He can't shift?"
"But he's a sentinel, too!"
"Exactly." He left the kid that information to chew on.
Talin had remained silent throughout the conversation, knowing the importance of what was going on. When Jon nodded and returned to his previous position, his head against her knee, she relaxed.
That was when Sascha and Lucas walked into the room. It had been decided the alpha pair needed to hear this, since by accepting Jon and Noor, they were allying themselves to Shine by default.
Clay stirred behind her, his hand sliding down to cup the side of her neck in a hold as protective as it was possessive. She swallowed, reached up to close her hand over his wrist. His fingers played over her skin. "I already input the code," he told Lucas.
Nodding, Lucas pressed the Enter key and sat down in the other armchair. Sascha perched on the arm, leaning into her mate, who slipped an arm around her waist, his hand lying loosely on her hip. It was an easy pose, the pose of a couple that had been together long enough to have created their own patterns, their own secret language.
She wanted that with Clay, she thought, would do everything in her power to gain it. Pulling his hand away from her neck, she pressed a kiss to his palm. He leaned down until his lips were against her ear. "Behave, Tally. Or are you calling in your winnings?"
The husky reminder made her grin. Releasing his hand, she sighed in pleasure when he pushed aside the neckline of her V-necked sweater to close it over her bare shoulder. That was when the comm screen cleared to reveal Dev's face.
"Sorry for the delay. Had a last-minute situation spring up in Kansas."
Anger rolled through her like fire. "Not another abduction?"
"No." His eyes looked over her head. "I think that problem has been permanently resolved."
"No," Clay disagreed. "We need to cut this off at the root - the Council. Long as they hold power, civilians will keep dying."
Talin felt Sascha jerk, but the cardinal nodded. "Yes, they have to be stopped."
"You won't get any argument from me." Dev shoved a hand through his hair and glanced at Jon. "I've organized a place for you at one of our prep schools. You've got more Psy blood than most - you need to learn about the Psy side of your lineage."
Talin took the lead when Jon maintained an obstinate silence. "Send me the information and we'll look it over." At Dev's nod, she took a deep breath, drawing the scent of Clay into her lungs. "Now, tell us everything we don't know about the Forgotten."
Dev's handsome face shadowed over. "That's a big ask."
"But necessary," Clay said from behind her.
"Yes." He paused as if gathering his thoughts. "In short, a hundred or so years ago, when Silence was voted into being, people who disagreed began to search for a way out. It had to be done in secret because dissidents had already begun to disappear."
When no one interrupted, he continued, "In the end, the only solution the rebels could come up with was to drop out en masse and attempt to link to each other in the seconds before psychic death. They hoped their gamble would lead to the spontaneous creation of a new psychic network. If it didn't, the defectors were prepared to die." The ruthless lines of Dev's face lit from within. "But they didn't. And the ShadowNet was born."
"This is extraordinary," Sascha said. "I was a Councilor's daughter and I knew nothing of the Forgotten or their ShadowNet."
"Not surprising. The Council would like to wipe us from the face of the planet."
"Can you still accept renegades?" Sascha asked and Talin realized how important the answer was for those who remained imprisoned by Silence.
Dev shook his head. "We could for the first generation after defection. Some people dropped out later. Most had children they couldn't bear to leave earlier."
Sascha gave a slow nod, her hand gripping Lucas's so tight that her dark gold skin had turned white over bone. "And now?"
"Everyone in the ShadowNet is of heavily mixed blood. Over time, the psychic pathways have shifted, become unique in a way that probably rules out the successful integration of a more 'pure' Psy and vice versa."
"Did the Council realize what had happened to the defectors?" Talin asked, trying to wrap her head around the implications of Dev's revelations.
"Yes. But since the ShadowNet was so small, and they were busy dealing with the aftermath of Silence, they didn't pay much attention. They figured the defectors would intermarry with the other races and their Psy blood would eventually diminish."
"That didn't happen?"
"It did and it didn't." He leaned back in his chair, his skin gilded a rich bronze by the sun lancing in through the window behind him. "Every so often, the result of a pregnancy between two descendants of the Forgotten is a child with remarkable Psy powers. These powerful births are exceptionally rare, but like Jon, many children of the Forgotten carry some functional or latent power. And the Council doesn't like anyone on the outside who might be able to challenge them on the psychic plane."
Talin thought back to one of their earlier conversations. "You said the Council started hunting you a few generations back. Is that why?"
A sharp nod. "The murders began as soon as Silence took a solid hold. Those descendants who didn't need the link to the ShadowNet - not all the kids did - were ordered to scatter and stay scattered."
"But the Net was too small to allow those who needed the biofeedback to go far?" Sascha asked.