I caught Marcus’ eye, keeping my voice low. “I’m not worried that it’s illegal. I’m more worried about the Council deciding that we’re ‘corrupting the youth’ or something. Plus they might have a problem with a party here.” Glancing over at Jaclyn, I added, “They might not have noticed yet.”
Jaclyn watched something outside the window and shook her head. “They’d have to be blind not to notice.”
Through the window, I saw a floating platform come to a stop in front of the doorway. Two guys pulled a keg off the back and walked in, carrying it between them.
“Huh.” I watched them add it to the bottles on the table and join the group.
“Exactly.” Jaclyn stepped forward to join one of the circles of people.
As she did that, I turned to see if Marcus had anything to add and found that he was talking to Tikki. I missed exactly what he said, but she laughed and he grinned at her response.
That’s the moment where I realized that I was the only person standing next to the wall alone. Cassie and Jaclyn were already talking with the group. Marcus and Tikki stood on the edge of it, talking to each other. I knew I should push my way in and be with everyone else.
That was the plan, anyway. If we got to know people, we’d stand a better chance of finding the mole, but it still felt like too many people were in the room.
A woman’s voice said, “Sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear you talking. You don’t have to worry about anyone accusing you of anything. We’re self-sufficient colonists in the middle of nowhere. With no one here to do it for us, we’ve had to corrupt ourselves.”
I turned my head to find that one of the women had stepped out of the group.
Like most of the colonists I’d seen so far, she wore a jumpsuit, but hers was different. Emerald green with accents of silver and white, it looked like someone had been designing with an eye toward style as much as function. Much like her clothes, her straight, shoulder length, black hair had been cut and styled such that none of them were out of place.
In short, she cared more about how she looked than I did. To be fair, that was true of most people.
She had to be good at it too. My first impression of her face was dark brown eyes, light brown skin, and full lips. My second impression was that she looked like a twenty year younger version of Jadzen Akri.
Her upper lip twisted. “I know that expression. Yes. My mom is Jadzen Akri and no. No one will get in trouble. We get together every week under one excuse or another.”
I nodded, letting out a breath. “Good. It’ll be easier protecting all of you if we don’t get kicked off the planet.”
She laughed. “Do you think that might work for me? Getting kicked off the planet would be the best thing that happened since I got here.”
One of the guys, a big blond guy like the ones we’d saved, said, “Keep on dreaming, Kals. You’re stuck on this rock with the rest of us and you’re never leaving.”
“Thanks for the words of hope.” She moved her arm downward, two fingers extended, a hand gesture that my implant assured me was basically the same as flipping people off. They both laughed.
Then she turned away from them and joined me next to the wall. She seemed shorter up close than she had further away. That wasn’t because of superpowers as much as that she had certain intensity, giving the feeling that she was giving you her complete attention. In any case, she was a few inches shorter than I was and about half a foot taller than Haley.
“You’re… Kals?” I reminded myself that a short bow was considered appropriate and that a handshake wasn’t, giving a bow that was barely more than a nod. I must have done it correctly enough because she returned it.”
“Kals is short for Kalsekafora which is old and embarrassing. I refuse to use it.” Judging from the tightness of her jaw and strong resemblance to her mother in that moment, I had no intention of using it either.
I told her the first thing that came into my head. “I’m pretty sure I can’t even say it.”
“I wish that were true of more people, but don’t worry about it. Call me Kals. Everyone does. Now, I’ve been told all of your group’s names. Your name is Nick.”
In the background, someone turned on music, placing a small pyramid in the windowsill. It filled the room with sounds that reminded me a little of jazz and a little of the music I’d heard in Indian restaurants.
As a few people began to dance, I noticed that people never touched except on their clothes. That wasn’t only true when dancing, though. It was true all the time. There had to be a reason.