I couldn’t argue with him. I didn’t know what the vegetables or the meat were, but I liked them. I wasn’t sure that they were good enough that my life would be fulfilled if I got killed by an angry Xiniti after supper, but as Marcus implied, it was better than dying hungry.
“So what do you think?” Marcus asked, “You think they told him?”
Jaclyn paused with her fork in the air. “How would he not know something like that? It was a big enough deal to make us Xiniti citizens. That can’t happen every day. How would he not hear about it?”
“Easy,” Cassie raised her hand, waving it to get our attention. “They’re a military culture. If you don’t need to know, they don’t tell you.”
Marcus nodded. “Sounds about right. That’s what Grandpa hated about the army. The way he told it though, people had ways to find stuff out. Rumors got around. So even if you didn’t know the whole story, you knew something.”
I thought for a second. “I guess we probably shouldn’t say anything about that unless he does.”
Jaclyn frowned. “It still doesn’t seem right for them not to tell him and if that’s really the reason he’s angry and feeling ignored was just an excuse? Then we’re not going to get anywhere until we address it. By the way, I’m not arguing with you. I’m saying this because it needs to be said once before you go in.”
We all looked at each other across the table. Thinking back to Geman and Dalat this morning, I said, “We probably ought to switch back to a normal conversation so that he doesn’t think we’re talking about him.”
For the rest of dinner, we talked normally. Kals talked about the day to day life in the colony and the Human Ascendancy. Tikki talked about adjusting to the colony. We answered questions about living on Earth without ever calling it Earth and continuing to pretend we were from somewhere else.
As we picked up the dishes and washed them in the sink, Marcus sent me a message via implant. “Ready?”
I nodded and we left the main area and walked into our room. It was dark, but not pitch black. Light came in through the doorway behind us and if that weren’t enough, my glasses brightened the room enough that it only felt dimly lit instead of dark.
Katuk lay in his bed, staring into the air with wide eyes and blank expression, an expression I recognized. It was the look of a person watching television, a computer screen or using an implant. Katuk never moved as Marcus and I stepped into the room, but the senses provided by standard Xiniti cyborg enhancements would have allowed him to notice us no matter what was going on in his head.
Marcus turned and walked directly up to Katuk’s wooden bed. “Hey Katuk, Nick and I stopped by to say we were sorry. I know we don’t pay as much attention to you as you need. Being human, we’re not wired the same and so we don’t naturally know what’s normal for you. I don’t know if you do this with other Xiniti, but you’re going to have tell us what you need. Otherwise we won’t know. Nick?”
Katuk remained motionless, but Marcus turned to me. “Your turn.”
I watched as Katuk took a long, slow breath. “I don’t have anything to add to that. Marcus said everything important. I should give you my personal apology though. No one intended to exclude you. I didn’t either. If I did, it was completely unintentional.”
Katuk didn’t say anything.
Marcus glanced at me. “Is it possible that he didn’t hear us?”
I looked down at Katuk. His eyes, wide and dark, aimed upward at the ceiling. “It’s pretty much impossible that he didn’t unless he really worked at it. Xiniti senses plus their cybernetics can take in more information at once than we can—at least most of us.”
Marcus sighed. “Okay. Then I guess he’s ignoring us.”
He began to turn toward the door, but as he took a step, Katuk spoke. “I will do my duty. Please leave me alone.”
“Thanks,” I said, watching to see if he’d say anything else.
After a little while longer, Marcus and I walked back into the main room of the suite. When we sat down around the table with everyone else, Jaclyn asked, “How did it go?”
Marcus and I looked at each other.
Marcus shook his head. “I have no idea.”
“We both apologized and Katuk said he’d do his duty, but to leave him alone.” I shrugged. “That’s all we’ve got. Marcus did tell him that we were unfamiliar with what he needed out of us and that he have to tell us for us to know, but I’m not sure if that helped or hurt.”
Marcus rested his arms on the table. “It seemed like it needed to be said.”
Jaclyn looked toward the doorway as if expecting some reaction from Katuk. When nothing happened, she said, “I guess that’s something. As long as he’s willing to work, we might still get somewhere. That’s more than he said to us.”
Thinking about it, it seemed to me that she was right. On the other hand, a more paranoid part of my mind wondered if any motivators on the planet did know enough to affect a Xiniti. Kals said she might, but more experienced motivators would know more.