The changelings had also evened out the field with preparation, the choice of when to fight, and the knowledge of home ground. Enemy soldiers who tried to teleport in behind SnowDancer’s defensive line found themselves caught between layers of wolves arranged up and down the mountain.
Not all of those wolves were changeling.
Good, Hawke howled to the feral wolves that treated him as alpha. Watch. Hold.
The wolves howled in unison in response, and Hawke saw the enemy freeze for a fraction of an instant. Then the crashing noise and blood-soaked scent of battle started again. Contrary to Hawke’s expectations, Henry Scott remained on the field. The Councilor stood in the center of that tight guard, his eyes closed—Hawke realized the man was using his considerable psychic abilities against the changelings at the same time that he saw a shot coming straight at a soldier.
Drew slammed flat. His gaze was annoyed when he raised his head. “I swear to God, if I get shot again, Indigo will strangle me.” Obviously irritated by that, he turned around and took out the man who’d come after him just as SnowDancer’s aerial defenses ignited an incoming vessel, causing everyone to run for cover from the falling debris.
Scrabbling up beside Hawke, Drew put his back to a tree. “That should remind them to keep the hell out of our skies,” he muttered, then pressed his finger to an ear. “I’ve got info coming in from the Rats—Henry’s operatives are landing all over the place in San Francisco.”
TEIJAN and his people were used to being forgotten, being shoved aside. They were Rats, accustomed to living Below, where the world couldn’t hurt them. But the DarkRiver cats had seen them, had treated them as sentient beings capable of giving something back. As for the wolves—well, the Rats remained leery of them, but there was no arguing that SnowDancer had always held up its end of the bargain. More than one Rat had been pulled out of trouble or given protection by a wolf who was otherwise a stranger.
“It’s home,” Zane had said when Teijan had told his people what might be coming and offered them the option of leaving. “We stay and we fight.”
Now, they did just that.
Having worked with DarkRiver over the past couple of months to connect with the cats’ network of human and non-predatory changeling shopkeepers in Chinatown, that connection spreading out through family and business contacts like an ever-growing tree, the Rats had a flow of information coming in not even the PsyNet could beat.
They knew where Henry Scott’s people were landing, their numbers, the approximate type and number of their weapons within seconds of each landing. All that data was routed at once to the DarkRiver teams in charge of holding the city as SnowDancer held the mountains.
The tactical split showed a massive amount of trust from both packs—because some of that mountain land was DarkRiver territory, and if San Francisco fell, then Henry Scott’s army would have the perfect location in which to dig in and throw assault after assault at the wolves. Both parts of the defense had to hold if they were to win this battle.
“A new team’s rappelling down near Russian Hill,” Teijan reported to Clay, “and a bigger one has surrounded Nikita’s building.”
Clay’s voice came through peppered with the sounds of gunfire. “She said she didn’t need backup, but—”
“Wait.” Teijan swore low and hard. “Nikita doesn’t like people poaching on her territory. Fifteen attackers just went down with exploding brain syndrome.” There was no other way to put it—on the video feed coming through a street camera, Scott’s people fell where they stood, their brains leaking out their ears.
The survivors wisely decided to get the hell out of Nikita’s zone.
Teijan smiled, switched connections. “They’re coming your way, Vaughn.” He had, he decided, developed a sudden soft spot for Nikita Duncan, especially given that Psy loyal to her were also feeding information into the Rats’ network.
Catching a new piece of data, he switched connections again. “Lucas, I’ve got jet-choppers flying into SoMa. You need to be prepared for aerial attack.” Connected as he was to the communications systems, he heard the DarkRiver alpha say, “Judd, can you deflect?” just as the assault craft began to drop small, high impact bombs.
On the screen, Teijan watched the bombs arrow back to the jet-choppers, turning them into spectacular fireballs.
“Holy f**k,” Zane muttered from where he was holding contact with the wolves. “It kind of freaks me out that this guy’s been in the region the whole time without us knowing.”
Teijan had met Judd Lauren earlier that day, had to agree with Zane. “At least he’s on our side.” Pulling up screen after screen of information, he patched in the telepaths and telekinetics supplied by Nikita and Anthony. “Full unit heading through Chinatown to DarkRiver HQ. Ensure the guards are shielded against mental attacks.”
“Understood. Message communicated to all Tp units in range.”
Zane tapped a screen. “Enemy’s ignoring the bunker,” he said, referring to the third sub-basement of a building owned by DarkRiver on the outskirts of Chinatown but held under the name of an unrelated corporation. Right now, it was home to the leopard healer and her team, as well as the mate of the DarkRiver alpha, their child having been taken to safety by the evacuation team. “Would you have your mate in a war zone, Teijan?”
“Yes,” he said without hesitation. “The alpha pair must always be part of a fight. Sascha’s safe in the bunker. Pure Psy has no idea it exists.” If there was a breach, Teijan had a team standing by to whisk them out and away through the tunnels. “Whoa!” He punched a fist into the air as Judd “Freaking Scary” Lauren reversed a missile right into a stealthcraft, turning the night sky incandescent.