Haley froze as the horse-like alien wheeled around and ran back toward the trees.
The lead alien grunted, chirped, and soon the translation device started again. “Pardon our compatriot. Some of us are old enough to remember our people’s near extinction personally. To answer your question, yes, it was a dangerous journey, but this is a place of safety, possibly the only one.”
Still watching the alien that had run toward the trees, Haley said, “That makes sense, and I’m sorry if I scared your friend somehow.”
“There is no offense taken.”
Haley nodded, barely moving.
So Haley, and probably her grandfather, must have some connection to whatever destroyed these creatures’ home planet. I wanted to ask Haley about it but this wasn’t the time.
Meanwhile, I had questions I really needed to ask—the ones that were basically the whole point of the trip. If Izzy was right and they didn’t value direct questions, I was about to seriously piss them off.
In my head Daniel said, You’ll have to ask sooner or later, and even though I can’t read these guys very well, I doubt you’ll gain their trust soon enough that it’ll be worth waiting. Besides, we might learn something even if they get mad.
Inwardly, I readied myself for combat. Not that I expected them to jump on me, but some people might take what I was about to suggest wrong.
“I don’t want to offend you, but I’ve got a question that needs to be answered. I don’t know how much you watch the news, but someone created a bunch of bombs, and neutron emitters. It’s pretty obvious that they were trying to kill everyone. Whatever was going on in St. Louis, it appears to have been a test run. I think they were going to use the neutron emitters, and then when everyone in the place was dead, move them somewhere else.
“It’s all alien tech,” I said, watching them. “It’s nothing we could have created without help. Have you heard anything about it?”
I didn’t go as far as I could have. “Did you do it?” was certainly implied in the question, and this way, they couldn’t say I was accusing them of something they didn’t do.
Don’t rule it out, Daniel thought at me. It’s a legitimate technique.
I felt a sense of disquiet from Izzy. You want him to accuse them just to see their reaction?
Maybe, Daniel thought.
That’s how you turn potential friends to enemies. Besides, they’re victims. It doesn’t make sense. If they were going after the Abominator’s servants, I could believe it.
I felt that Daniel was about to reply except he didn’t get to. The alien spoke first.
“I understand your concern for your people. We share this and it offends us not at all.” Then, as the alien continued to talk, the translation device paused, finally saying, “ is what gives the Hrrnna the strength to continue in the face of our homeworld’s destruction.”
The Hrrnna leader stamped a foot. “We know nothing of this ourselves, but we have heard rumors. The Trans-Species Collective also has outposts on this planet, and we, scattered as we are, have kin within the Collective. They’re not high within the councils of the Collective, but they’re high enough, and they have (untranslatable). They know the Collective has been contacting members of your species, but they do not know its purpose.”
Haley’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the alien. “Are you saying the Trans-Species Collective was behind St. Louis?”
The Hrrnna tensed as turned its head toward her. “I can only say that I’ve heard hints that it is creating its own hidden agreements with members of your race. It might be to your benefit to discover the nature of these secrets.”
We didn’t have anything on that. Local hero groups had been scheduled to connect with the Trans-Species Collective in a couple different spots. I hadn’t seen any of the results. It had been scheduled for today if they wanted to try to talk.
I considered calling each of them, but decided not to.
They were already hinting that they didn’t know any more, but I decided to make them say it. “Do you know anything about the communications?”
The alien’s device said, “No. We have no knowledge.”
Daniel broke into my thoughts. They’re scared of something. I can’t say that it’s anything in particular, but they’ve been scared during the entire interview.
Haley’s thoughts brought a wave of frustration. Are you sure it’s not me that they’re scared of?
I can’t rule that out, Daniel thought back. They’re all reacting to something they smell about you.
Izzy radiated confusion. Why would they be afraid of Haley?
I thought about it. Izzy might not have ever seen Haley change.