“No,” I told her. “I didn’t think to try that, but you know what I just thought of? I should be trying to listen in on them now.”
Ignoring her reply, I turned on the sonic receivers in the suit, setting them to focus on the buildings and hoping the walls weren’t thick enough to prevent sound from escaping.
I heard Dalat’s nasal tenor. “Do you think they can hear us? A lot of actives could probably still hear us.”
Geman replied in his much lower voice, “I don’t know, but if you’re worried, we should just use implants.”
After that, I didn’t hear anything.
I pinged Cassie with my implant. “Do you hear anything?”
“No.” Cassie’s voice was low. “I don’t think they’re saying much of anything. It looks like they’re just eating snacks and drinking beer.”
“You’ve got a visual? What kind of system is the gun using?” I had a little bit of a visual if I narrowcast sound at the bottom of the door, but it was fuzzy. I didn’t get much more than two blurry figures and a blurry table.
The gun’s voice broke in. “SUPERIOR TECHNOLOGY! THE KIND THAT YOU WILL NEVER MATCH IN MILLIONS OF YOUR YEARS!”
For half a second, I considered asking it for details or hints, but then I decided that life was too short to spend it in conversation with an AI that was constantly shouting.
“Sorry,” Cassie said. “He’s way too noisy sometimes. I’ve shut him up. What are your ideas for the next step? I know what mine are and you’re not going to like them.”
We stopped walking and I looked at her, hearing the wind rustle in the grass. “Why? What are your ideas?”
She glanced back down the dirt path toward the building. “You heard them. They’re covering something up and they wanted us out of here. What I want to do is go back and get it out of them. It probably wouldn’t work and it would cause us no end of trouble, but I’m sure something would get them to talk.”
I raised an eyebrow even though she couldn’t see it. “What are you going to do? Torture them?”
She shook her head, frowning. “No. It wouldn’t work, but I want to do something and walking away isn’t it. If they really are planning to betray their friends to a bunch of Abominator wannabes, I want to put the fear of God into them and if God’s not available, the fear of me.”
I laughed. “I get it. I’m not planning on walking away. My idea was more along the lines of contacting the ansible and finding out what we can find out. The way I read it, all Xiniti have admin level access to the ansible and between the two of us we’ve got access to two AI’s, both of whom might be able to help us with this.”
Cassie glanced down toward the gun in its holster. “Sounds awesome. There’s nothing I like more than quality time with Mr. Sparkles. You want to do it now?”
I thought about it. “I don’t think we have time to waste. I’m little worried about how to explain it, though. Do you think they’ll believe we’re doing maintenance?”
Cassie rolled her eyes. “This whole place is sex-crazed or thinks we are. They’ll probably assume we’re screwing.”
I felt my lip curl as I imagined telling someone we were doing maintenance. I could practically hear them putting quotes around the word. Cassie was right. They probably would. Then another thought hit me. “People haven’t been using the ship for sex, have they?”
Cassie shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve barely been around this last year, but if they were, you and Haley started it.”
I took a step across the grass toward the ship. “We never got that far. Even if we’d been trying to, we didn’t have time. We got attacked by a robot hitchhiker. Anyway, a ship isn’t the place for that. Juices and stuff could get into seats and on the carpet and maybe places that actually make the ship work… We’d have to clean it out and that would be gross.”
Cassie laughed and started walking. Aloud, she said, “C’mon lover, let’s go to the ship. That upholstery isn’t going to ruin itself.”
“Not funny,” I said.
We walked across the field, stepping on the grass and watching as insects, some of them the size of mice or larger, scurried out of our way. There were small furred animals too, but I didn’t recognize them.
The ship’s hatch opened as we stepped up and we went inside. Its small cabin felt almost inviting after being on the planet for a few days. It did smell like a locker room though—which, given that we’d spent more than a week inside it on the way there, wasn’t a surprise.
Cassie sniffed the air. “I’d say it needs a good cleaning either way.”
“I’ll have the ship pump fresh air in—provided there’s a way to avoid bringing contaminants home.”
We sat down at the front of the ship and I used my implant to connect to the ship, getting a 360 degree awareness of everything around the ship as well as the space above it. Cassie did the same and I could see her there, floating along with me. The gun glowed softly at her hip—which it didn’t normally. It marked an inorganic intelligence.
I opened up a connection to the ansible. I could have done it anywhere, but had decided I’d have a better connection both to the ansible and the ship if I used the ship’s connection.
A visual representation of the entrance appeared in my mind as an iron door against a field of stars.