We all wore uniforms based on my current stealth suit technology—that’s to say thin armor that could shift into normal looking clothes as well as uniforms. Changing colors and mimicking some textures was part of the package.
For this mission, our default setting was silver with a Xiniti symbol—five orbs in a circle—on our chests. The orbs were supposed to represent both planets and clans at the same time.
For me, the uniform still acted as a flight suit for the rest of the Rocket armor, so I stepped into my room, stood on a block of ceramic, tapped out the activation sequence on my palm, and waited as my armor reformed around me.
It wasn’t the classic Rocket suit.
I’d wanted to imitate the form fitting Xiniti suits for everyone, but it wasn’t going to work for me. I couldn’t miniaturize Rocket suit tech and still have the power of the Rocket suit so I went with the next best option—a suit that would have been form fitting if I’d been seven feet tall. That was the size of the regular Rocket suit anyway.
Normal Xiniti suits contained weapons that could take out spaceships on their own. With any luck, they’d decide that my suit had to be an extra-powerful Xiniti suit. Or, alternately they’d decide I was fake.
On the other hand, given that we were about to face megafauna, they probably wouldn’t think anything of it at all.
I stepped out of my room, following Marcus and Katuk out. We met Jaclyn, Cassie, and Tikki in the room between the two bedrooms. It felt a little strange to see all of us in faux Xiniti style armor. Plus, Cassie’s sword and gun weren’t typical Xiniti tools or so I’d assumed.
The implant gave me more examples of Xiniti weaponry than I’d ever wanted in a cascading series of images. Swords weren’t completely outside the norm. Apparently Xiniti mythology included accounts of a god that commonly carried two swords into battle, one in each hand. In close combat, some Xiniti liked to emulate him.
I resolved to ask Lee about that one sometime.
Meanwhile, Cassie’s gun had shapeshifted into a large silver and black pistol in a typical Xiniti design.
“Mind if I come along?” Tikki asked as if there weren’t any reason to say no.
Jaclyn’s mouth twisted. “Are you sure? We’re probably facing some kind of giant elephant dinosaur thing?”
“I told you about my power,” Tikki said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Seriously,” Cassie looked over at Jaclyn. “With time control? She’ll be fine.”
Geman’s voice came over our implants. “Are you ready? We’re getting nervous over here.”
I responded for the group. “We’ll be there in seconds.”
“Great. I’ve sent a map to your implants. Follow the red line.” And then Geman cut the connection.
As we headed toward the hallway that led outside Tikki turned to Cassie, “I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up with you and I’m not sure where you’re going.”
Jaclyn’s frown showed through the silver mask covering her face. “I’ll carry you.”
We stepped outside, following the dirt road with a red line floating above it. The streets had no lights. We all stayed together anyway. The new suits all had basic night vision included in the design. The Rocket suit had a more complicated system that combined radar, sonar and thermal imaging to create a composite picture, so I could see more than most.
I didn’t need to.
We ran down the road at about thirty miles per hour, but as we ran, the problem became clear without any explanation. During the day, the colony’s shields had glittered in the sunlight, but in the night they glowed a translucent white, lighting both sides of the shields.
They’d built a physical wall outside of the main area of the settlement and it looked like they were in the process of extending all the way around. They weren’t being idiots about it either. They’d used their force field poles to extend a force field path from the main area over to the end of the wall they were working on.
Well, sort of.
I’m sure that’s the way it was supposed to work. Somehow it had happened that one of the poles had been knocked down. However they worked, it had sealed each side of the path, separating the section next to the new wall from the settlement’s. That was the good news. The bad news was that there were people inside the force field next to the wall, that the only way for them to get back to the settlement was to run the distance between the two force fields, and that they weren’t alone.
Between the new wall and the settlement paced a four legged, shaggy beast. Covered with a layer of thick, curly fur, it made me think of a terrier turned bodybuilder and crossed with a tiger. It appeared to have been batting the fallen force field pole around. According to my HUD, it was twelve feet tall.
Geman opened a private channel to our implants and (according to the address information) Tikka’s bracelet. “You see it now.”
Cassie looked it up and down. “It doesn’t look that bad. Let me out of the shield and I could take it out myself.”
Geman laughed. “Well, I’m glad you’re confident, but there’s one more thing you should know. They don’t ever hunt alone. So there are more of them, and my bet is that they’re on the outside of the new wall waiting for a fight or for our people to make a run for it.”