Riley smiled and kept going as if Hawke hadn't spoken. "You need to take care of a certain juvenile Psy female you gave sanctuary to when her entire family defected from the PsyNet."
"I should've given orders to eat them all."
"Psy taste rubbery," Riley said straight-faced. "I know. I tried to chew off Judd's arm once while we were hunting."
"Stop laughing," Hawke said, though Riley hadn't made a sound. "Just tell me what she's done now."
"Nothing." Riley dropped the bombshell and waited as Hawke's mouth fell open.
His alpha took several seconds to recover. "Nothing?"
"Nothing," Riley repeated. "But you've been slacking off. You need to find her a position in the pack."
"She's - "
"No more excuses, Hawke." Riley folded his arms. "She's been eighteen for almost three months now, and she's been in training with Indigo for what - ten months?" He brought up Sienna's file on his handheld. "No, you stuck her in training over a year ago. She can protect herself well enough to do a number of tasks."
"She's volatile." Hawke's jaw tightened.
"She's a telepath, a strong one." Sienna was a cardinal - her abilities were off the scale.
"She's got abilities aside from telepathy. I've seen her lose control - she can do serious damage." Hawke shoved a hand through his hair.
"So can you," Riley said pointedly. "She's learning. Just because she - "
"Don't go there." A growl.
Riley raised an eyebrow. "I was going to say, just because she's Psy doesn't also mean she's not an eighteen-year-old going stir-crazy."
"Fine." Hawke was gritting his teeth. "I'll handle it."
"Then I'll leave it with you." He'd made his point and Hawke was certainly not stupid. "I'm going to go up, check out the bear population in sector 2. There've been reports they're getting sick." If it was something serious, their vets would need to go up and investigate. Because whatever was affecting the bears could trickle down through the other animal groups in the area, decimating entire herds. And as the pack that claimed territorial rights over this area, SnowDancer was also its caretaker.
More than that, Riley needed a chance to get out of the den before his frustration led him to strike out. The wolf was starting to claw at him, pacing this way and that, wanting blood if it couldn't have sex.
Mercy handed Amara the chip Ashaya had packed in a small, impermeable case.
"Is it all good?" she asked Ashaya's identical twin.
Amara didn't reply until she'd checked it under a microscope. "Yes."
Having a conversation with Amara was hard. She didn't throw out verbal cues like most people - but at least she wasn't homicidal any longer. "Anything you want me to take down to Ashaya?"
Familiar blue-gray eyes looked into hers, but Mercy had a feeling she'd never mistake Amara's gaze for Ashaya's. "Not at this stage."
"Cool." Nodding at the test tubes lined up on the workbench, she asked, "Looks interesting."
"Don't worry," Amara said, "I'm not creating another monster virus."
Since that was exactly what Mercy had been thinking, she grinned. "Never crossed my mind. What is it?"
"A child's game - to make colors." She lifted a stunning blue one. "Copper sulphate."
"You don't strike me as the playing type."
"A perceptive observation." She put the test tube down next to one with a bright yellow compound inside. "But Sascha Duncan says I must try."
With any other person, Mercy would've waited for them to continue. With Amara, she had to be blunt. "Why?"
"She says play appears to help with . . . emotion." Shrugging, she picked up an empty test tube. "I don't pretend to understand the workings of an E-Psy, but if I do this, she leaves me alone for a few days."
Mercy hadn't known Sascha had been spending that much time with Amara - especially given what she knew of Sascha's initial reaction to Amara's absolute coldness. But their alpha's mate was nothing if not determined. Amara needed to be helped in this unfamiliar new world, so Sascha was helping her. It was nothing more - and nothing less - than that. "Play teaches us things," she said to Amara now. "It lets us try out ideas without worrying about whether they'll work. Think of it as a creative form of brainstorming."
Amara stared at her. "That's extremely astute."
"Somehow, I don't think that was a compliment."
Amara said nothing. After a second, Mercy realized it was because she hadn't asked a question. "Was it?"
"Of a sort," Amara said. "I thought changeling soldiers were pure brawn."
"Your sister's mated to Dorian and you think that?" Her fellow sentinel was hella smart.
"I still want to kill him sometimes, so Ashaya doesn't leave us alone much."
Mercy's lips twitched at the straightforward answer. "Don't worry - he gives me homicidal thoughts at times, too." Then she got serious. "Fight it. Fight whatever it is that wants to drag you down. Giving in is for wusses."
Isn't that what you're doing with Riley?
Even as her mind bucked against that unexpected mental whisper, Amara blinked. "It's no wonder my twin says you're her favorite. She never gave up either. Even on me."
Deciding that would do for today, Mercy turned to leave - she couldn't deal with her own rebellious thoughts and Amara at the same time.
She turned back at the door. "Yeah?"