I wished we had Daniel there because given what I’d heard it sounded like someone was organizing people against us. Daniel could have sorted that out in seconds. Between Cassie and I, all we had going for us were our combined insight into people.
I might have been underestimating Cassie, but I wasn’t optimistic.
As Cassie waved at them (“Hey!”), I used the implant to ask her, “Did you overhear what he said before he turned around?”
When she thought back, “No,” I sent her the memory because the implant suggested it was possible. Technically, it might not have been a memory as much as some sort of temporary data cache of everything I’d recently seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched, but in the moment it didn’t matter.
She thought back, “This just got more interesting,” without visually giving any sign of it. She smiled as Geman and (as we’d guessed) Dalat stepped out of the doorway. Dalat looked us up and down. “I didn’t know humans worked with the Xiniti. I heard it, but I’ve never seen anyone who was. Do they make you wear their armor or do you wear it because its better?”
We were close enough by then that I had time to notice that Dalat was almost a foot shorter than I was. “It’s not their armor. It’s my design. I made it look like Xiniti armor because I didn’t want to have to explain that we were working with them.”
Dalat cocked his head to the side, looked me up and down, cocked his head to the other side and looked at Cassie. “I wouldn’t have known the difference. Is it as powerful as theirs?”
I shrugged. “Don’t know. They only Xiniti I’ve ever fought either wasn’t wearing it or it was partially disabled or something. He was dangerous, but that’s because he was dangerous—not because of his armor.”
Dalat blinked. “Is that how you’re with them then? You killed him? I heard that when you kill a Xiniti that they make you a Xiniti citizen.”
“Kind of,” I said. “It’s not any time you kill a Xiniti. It’s when you kill a Xiniti and they feel like they owe you for it—like if the guy was a criminal. The guy we fought was.”
Dalat looked over Geman who had stepped out of the doorway, towering over his coworker. “Pretty impressive,” Dalat said. “They killed a Xiniti. Not a lot of humans can say that, but a lot of them can say they’ve been killed by Xiniti—whole systems.”
Under his breath, Geman said, “Dalat… Not now.”
Dalat didn’t seem to hear him. He shook his head. “After all the humans they killed, I can’t believe they’re protecting us. Strange how the wheels turn, you know? More than one hundred years ago, my father’s side of the family barely got off their planet before the Xiniti scrubbed it. They burned it all down to the dirt. There wasn’t anything left alive except maybe bugs and fungus. What do you think of them? I heard you had one.”
Cassie and I looked at each other. She responded as I wondered where Katuk was exactly. We’d last seen him back on the ship, but I didn’t remember Jaclyn asking him to com along. He had to be with them though.
As I thought, Cassie answered Dalat. “Eh… He’s quiet. Keeps to himself. We barely know he’s around most of the time.”
“Doesn’t hate humans then?” Dalat frowned. “Well, I guess they can’t act like they do in online vids back where we’re from. In the stories they’re just waiting for their chance to scrub a world, you know.”
Cassie shook her head. “If he’s waiting for the chance to destroy a solar system, he hasn’t told us about it.”
It seemed like the kind of thing that might come out during a game of Monopoly, I thought. Anybody might choose to destroy the world after finding they have to pay the rent at Park Place while short of funds.
I made the joke to myself in my head, but even as I did it, the implant gave me access to the standard Xiniti procedures for destroying every form of life on a planet. I’ll skip the details, but there were a lot of ways to go about it and cases that I’d approve of (at least in theory)—stopping the spread of a fast-killing, species-jumping disease, for example.
I couldn’t say I approved of all the reasons I saw though.
Ignoring the wash of images and access codes, I did my best to follow the conversation. Cassie didn’t seem to have triggered the same thing in her head. In the time that I’d hit a burst of world destruction stories and Xiniti WMD access codes, she’d moved forward in asking questions that were actually relevant to the mission.
“You probably know that we’ve been looking into the idea that someone’s spying on the colony. Is there any way someone could get admin access to the local ansible without being one of the admins?”
As she asked, I knew the answer on my own. The Xiniti had access to the network on a deep level—including self-destruct access codes to parts of the ansible network. At the same time, they were freakishly security conscious. The implant gave me a crash course in ansible tech. Getting access to it required more than simply a password, it required codes deep within an implant or if no implant, identifying DNA (or a different species’ equivalent) and appropriate records inside the system that that individual is allowed to access it and what permissions they had.
I’d have to investigate on my own, but it looked like any Xiniti who came through had access, but beyond that it was pretty much impossible. Sure, they had control of the local relay, but a quick request through my implant gave me the list of the local admins gave me Geman, Dalat, and Iolan, all of whom had DNA and various identifiers unique to implant tech on file.
No one was getting past that easily.
If someone was, they had to be an ansible tech, a Xiniti, or (and this seemed most likely to me) they had to have control over one of the admins.