We watched him go. Gray skinned with big all black eyes, Lee wore a silver robe that would have made many UFO fans confident that they were right after all. What they wouldn’t have known is that the silver robe could reform into a Xiniti battle suit, complete with weapons.
I only knew it because my implant provided the information—just like it provided me the location of every Xiniti on the station. Aside from Lee and ourselves, that meant exactly one other, Katuk, the Xiniti who was meeting us here.
There were several more off the station. Their ship was docking at an airlock not far from us. Not coincidentally, Lee was walking toward that very same airlock. Within minutes, he’d boarded the ship, and within an hour after that, the ship passed through the gate.
The station made ship traffic and gate use available via video or implants. I told the implant to notify me if anything happened to his ship and when it appeared to be a minute from going through the gate.
It’s not as if we watched his every step though. Once he disappeared into the doorway at the wall of our bay, we could only watch him in our heads—assuming we wanted to. We had bigger issues to deal with.
I didn’t know how the others felt, but as Lee disappeared through the door, the full weight of the situation fell on me. It was all ours to handle now. We’d be responsible for keeping fifty colonists and their spaceship safe and then protecting the colony for however long it would be before their regular protection arrived.
We turned four chairs to face each other and sat in the ship. The spaceship’s windows now looked out into what was basically a spaceship parking garage. Though cool in its own way, it was much more mundane than staring out at the stars.
Jaclyn said, “We should make a plan. From what I’m seeing about the mission requirements, the more quickly we get the colonists out of here, the better it will be.”
I wasn’t sure specifically why, but a quick look at the mission files came back with the information that all the colonists were wanted by the Human Ascendency, one of the larger “nations” inside human space. It included hundreds of worlds. The files described it as being closest to Abominator culture of all the human nations. Somehow this was relevant to the fact that they were “breeders” and that agents of their Genetic Management Office would be coming after them.
I decided I’d have to read them in detail later, but I said, “I guess so. There are a few parts that I’d hoped we’d have time for me to replace—“
“What?” Cassie interrupted me. “Don’t they work?”
I shook my head. “It’s not that. They’re all parts for faster than light travel. You replace them before they go bad because you don’t want to discover they’re bad when you need to jump or worse, while you’re jumping.”
Marcus cocked his head, “What happens then?”
I shrugged. “I’ve never had it happen, but I’m sure it’s bad. Best case scenario, you’d pop into normal space before you went very far. Worst case, maybe you never come out of jump.”
Marcus blinked. “Yeah, let’s not do that.”
Raising an eyebrow, Cassie asked, “Don’t you have spares?”
I shook my head. “Not really. I can’t fit everything we need in a ship this small. K’Tepolu’s big enough that it probably has spares as well as specialty shops to construct them if it doesn’t.”
Jaclyn’s eyes narrowed. “Whoa. How long would that take.”
“Not long,” I said. “They’re atypical, not insanely weird. Maybe four hours of work if I have to rent space to do it myself.”
Sighing, Jaclyn said, “I’d been thinking we’d meet the colonists together, but we should split up. You and Marcus go get that done and Cassie and I will meet the Xiniti and the colonists.”
Marcus frowned. “It’s not that I don’t want to go with Nick, but don’t you think he can handle getting the parts on his own? I’m not going to be much use except maybe for carrying them.”
“It’s smart,” Cassie said. “We don’t know this place. Nick might need backup.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Jaclyn said.
Thirty minutes later found Marcus and me riding a train through the asteroid. I use the word “train” loosely since while it was a series of cars connected to each other, there were no rails. Also, people tend to use train when they mean something that runs on the ground on Earth. This train ran on the main walkway, above it, or below it—probably for the convenience of the architect.
It felt like riding on a train in Star Wars. Some of the other passengers were human. The rest were alien—more alien than you can get out of slapping a prosthetic forehead on an actor. For example? I’m fairly sure I saw a sapient plant—that or I saw a decorative plant in a moveable pot.
I’m fairly sure decorative plants don’t drive their pots.