I’d already realized that I had no idea where Katuk was earlier, but I’d assumed that he was with Jaclyn. “I’m assuming he’s not in our bedroom… I lost track of him at Iolan’s. I knew he came in with us, but I didn’t see him when we left. He’s pretty quiet. I’d assumed that he went with Jaclyn and Marcus.”
Cassie had let the mask absorb back into her costume when we stepped inside and her blond hair swished as she shook her head. “Jaclyn hasn’t seen him since Iolan’s either.”
I leaned sideways to take my own look into our room, seeing that Katuk’s bed was empty. “He should be safe enough. Even if he tried to jump the force field, he’s got the full Xiniti armor and even if he didn’t, the Xiniti have been genetically modified to take cybernetics well. I doubt if there’s anything on the planet that could take him out. Check your implant. They’re crazy dangerous.”
Throwing her hair back over he shoulders, Cassie said, “I’ve been checking out their weapons since I got the implant. They’re one man armies except that they always travel in groups of at least four.”
Kals looked at Cassie and then at me. “Could Katuk be working with the spy?”
I shook my head. “I doubt it. Obviously he’s never been here before, but beyond that they almost never go bad as long as they’re with a group. They’re descended from tree dwelling predators that hunted in packs and they kept the pack mindset.”
Cassie frowned. “You know, we’re not really Xiniti.”
I checked the implant. It gave me years of statistics, more information than I wanted. “He should be fine. Xiniti stay sane as long as they have a group, especially at his age. My implant says that working with non-Xiniti teams actually improves their mental stability in the long run.”
Cassie tapped her head. “Same implant. Same information.”
Kals smiled and looked over at me. “Well, I didn’t know. Thanks.”
Cassie closed her eyes for a second. “Jaclyn wants us to get out and look for him.” She sighed. “When I pointed out that he could take care of himself, she told me that she thought we’d offended him somehow and having all of us look for him might help.”
I almost pointed out that he had an implant too and that we could send him a message. Except then I decided to try it instead of criticizing. The implant informed me that it didn’t detect his signal, that he’d set his implant to privacy mode.
“Privacy mode,” I said.
Cassie looked toward the windows and then back to me. “A little voice in my head tells me the Xiniti don’t use it much. And that means Jaclyn’s right and we’d better get out there.”
“I’ll help.” Kals pushed her chair back and stood up from the table. “I know the colony better than you do.”
Cassie took a step toward the door. “Why don’t you show Nick? Jaclyn figures we all ought to buddy up and Marcus and Tikki are already out there looking. That, or they’re making out. Just don’t bring in your friends for this. We don’t want to make it a big thing.”
Then she stepped out the door.
Kals followed Cassie’s path, putting her hand on the doorknob. “Ready? Let’s go save the Xiniti warrior from loneliness.”
I got out of my chair and followed her out. “I guess we should cover the area around Landing. I’m checking my implant and it looks like Cassie’s going to meet Jaclyn in the next town over and Marcus and Tikki are already in the other settlement. There are only three, right?”
“That’s right.” Kals pointed down one of the streets. “Let’s go that way. Landing’s longer than it is wide. We’ll see most of it this way. Besides, it’s the only street that goes all way through.”
We spent the next couple minutes walking down the road. Kals would point out buildings, tell me who owned them and wave hello to the colonists riding their floating platforms home from the field or whatever work they’d been doing. The people we’d saved weren’t the only ones constructing barrier walls against the local wildlife. To guess from the people walking home covered in dirt, a lot people had drawn that duty.
The sun had begun to set soon after we started walking. When we reached the edge of town, she turned around and crossed her arms, looking at the collection of domes and the starship field further down. The walk had taken us uphill and we could see the buildings sprawl on either side of the road, some of them glowing in the twilight. Kals had said we still had a couple hours before it became dark, but the process had already started.
“There are a few houses outside the main settlement that we can hit, but I’d say he’s not in town. I didn’t expect to find him. I really wanted to get you alone because I wanted to tell you a couple more things you should know.” She watched me as if ready to sprint after me if I ran.
“Okay,” I said.
She looked straight into my eyes. “You should know that the Dominators or other motivators might have placed a command in any of us that can be triggered by an event or word, so you can’t really trust anyone, including me. The other thing? Your people have motivator-mutes. Did you make them?”
“Stop,” she said, and her voice took on the strange tone I’d heard in Julie’s voice when she used her power except this wasn’t quite the same. The suit registered a wider range of tones than Julie used.
She looked me up and down, “Can you move?”
“You need to fix that.”