One of the women, blond, fortyish, and wearing a blue utility jumpsuit, said, “You’ve been saying that since you got here two years ago.”
Iolan frowned. “I know you don’t believe me, but there have been signs. We’ve all heard about how the Ascendency managed to follow the ship this last time, how they were sure they’d lost them, but they showed up again, one blink from K’Tepolu. But that’s not all. I’ve checked with Geman and he agrees with me. There’s been more ansible activity before and after we send out a ship to collect more refugees—”
The woman said, “—Which could easily be explained by the work we have to do to re-contact our people and everything we have to do afterward to set up for them once they’re here. And it’s not as if you or Geman have been able to find any traffic that can’t be explained—”
Iolan’s mouth had turned into a straight line as she interrupted him and trembled as he listened. As she talked about the ansible traffic, he opened his mouth again. “Alanna, we’ve had our differences, but this is too important to let the past affect our decisions.”
Alanna’s lip curled. “What matters is that you don’t have a shred of evidence to back up what you’re saying. It could be that there’s a spy. It could be chance. It could—“
As they argued, Maru watched, Jadzen frowned and the rest of the council’s faces hardened. I could only guess they’d seen this before.
“Quiet, please.” Jadzen’s words cut through the argument and both of them fell silent. As she spoke, all of our uniforms hummed for a moment. She’d used just enough of her power to stop the argument. I couldn’t blame her. That discussion hadn’t been going anywhere.
“Alanna,” Jadzen nodded toward her. “You’re right that Iolan hasn’t proven what he says, but if he’s right, we can’t ignore it. He’s been a loyal member and an excellent doctor and genetic counselor, just as you’ve been excellent at keeping our spaceships and equipment in repair. I think he should have a chance to prove he’s right.”
She looked directly at Iolan Mekus. “Iolan, investigate if we have a spy. It is too important to ignore.”
He nodded. “Thank you. That’s all I asked for—the chance to prove that I’m not seeing spies behind every bush.”
He frowned. “I do have one concern. I’m the colony’s only doctor. I don’t know if I’ll be able to devote the time to this project that it deserves.”
Alanna laughed but stopped when Jadzen glanced in her direction.
Turning away from Alanna to look at us, Jadzen said, “You’re right, and we can’t risk losing all of your time to this project.”
Addressing us, she gave a wide smile. “Citizens of the Xiniti nation. Since you’re staying here to guard us, I appeal to you for help. I know the Xiniti are known more for their prowess as soldiers than as detectives, but you have humans in the group and we are adaptable. So I ask you, will you assist us? It’s certainly a matter of the colony’s safety.”
“Of course,” I said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Jadzen nodded slowly in my direction. “Thank you. And thank you for risking your lives to save our people last night. I wasn’t there, but I saw the video today. No one asked you to do what you did, and yet you did it without thought of reward. That is what we’ve always admired about the Xiniti. Now we’re going to repair ourselves to a quiet spot in this building and discuss colony business.”
Jaclyn looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Do you think we just got played there? I don’t know how, but I feel like Jadzen got exactly what she wanted.”
I crossed my arms. “I don’t know how. I mean, it did seem like she had total control of the meeting, but I thought she was just being decisive.”
Jaclyn nodded. “Well, she was decisive, and now we’re stuck rooting out traitors to the cause. Look, I’m not saying that’s bad. If the Human Ascendency finds this place, I don’t know how we’d fight off a fleet like the one we saw after K’Tepolu. That was big.”
She shook her head remembering.
I couldn’t disagree. It had been big enough that we didn’t stand a chance—not unless they all landed and Jaclyn smashed the ships—which, come to think of it, was an idea to remember if they did ever land.
We’d been standing in a line facing them, but as Jaclyn and I had begun to talk, the group began to circle. Katuk looked at Jaclyn with his wide, black eyes. “Do you have a reason not to trust the colony’s leader?”
Jaclyn shook her head. “I don’t. Honestly, it’s probably just leftover bad feeling from when she tried to send us home.”
Cassie nodded. “Then let’s get to it. Nick ought to go talk to Geman and see what tech stuff he can find out, but the rest of us should start getting to know the people. Look, if someone’s working for the Human Ascendency, they’ve got a reason. Maybe they hate Jadzen and want to see her captured. Maybe they’re an Ascendency fanatic. We don’t know because we don’t know anybody. So, let’s change that.”
Tikki frowned. “We’re all part of the resistance. I can’t imagine that any of us would work for the Ascendency.”
Marcus shrugged. “Then maybe mind control? It’s not impossible.”