Agent 957 of the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office, Hideaway
Orbiting the only world in the system that showed signs of life, Agent 957 checked the sensors for humanity. Because the world had been seeded with lifeforms with genes the Abominators had gathered from humanity’s birthplace, this took longer than expected. The planet’s lifeforms were numerous and in many cases, massive. Agent 957 filtered for signs of technology. Ignoring the Abominator ruins (remnants of the planet’s terraforming), the agent found what he was looking for on the dark side of the planet.
The sensors showed three settlements, all within walking distance of each other. The computer estimated six thousand people between them. It was hard to say precisely.
Agent 957 checked the sensors for any signs of resistance, finding only two aged fighters in the field that passed for the colony’s starport. Neither of them took to the sky, meaning either that the colonists were unaware that their ships had arrived, or that they’d decided not to waste their lives in a pointless act of resistance.
He’d have seen that as a good sign except that he’d seen the Xiniti ship at K’Tepolu, but saw no evidence of it now. That was disquieting. He’d never heard of the Xiniti running away from a fight without a plan and Xiniti plans had brought down the Abominators. He passed on his information about the Xiniti ship over to the Annihilation, the warship accompanying him. They could use the help. Even if only one of the crew was Xiniti by birth, all he’d ever heard of the Xiniti suggested that those they adopted were just as deadly as the original.
He reached out to his implant and had it contact the mole. She might know the status of the Xiniti, adopted Xiniti, and the missing starship.
The implant had overlaid a light gray square over the spot on the planet where the villages were. Agent 957 stared at it, willing the mole to respond. She didn’t.
The implant reported no response.
Agent 957 knew that she might be occupied. If the colony were aware of the Ascendancy forces, they’d evacuate or fight. Either way, the mole might not have time to converse. On the other hand, the mole had been growing less cooperative lately.
He would have to consider appropriate punishments. It would have to be subtle. On the one hand, she’d given them the colony. On the other, this sort of half-hearted assistance could not be encouraged. He’d have to get creative. It sounded fun. It more than made up for the fact that he wouldn’t be able to do the same to Maru. The onetime Dominator would have to be given back to the other Dominators. He didn’t know what they’d do with him, but it would be interesting—probably.
It was possible to argue that he’d fulfilled his original mission, but with a significant detour.
Agent 957 shook his head and watched as the planet grew closer. He contacted the warship. “Annihilation, are the marines ready?”
“Ready,” the warship’s communications officer responded. “The dropships and fighter wing escort are fueled and ready for launch. Unless you have a reason they should launch earlier, we’re going to wait until we get closer.”
“We control the mines now. I don’t anticipate any need for an early launch.” Agent 957 wondered what Commander Hesses was doing—probably sitting on the bridge, jaw set, and trying to look important. Word had come down from both of their chains of command about who was leading this mission—Agent 957—and the commander had not taken it well. He didn’t think they’d talked directly since.
He shook his head. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they destroyed the colony and with it the resistance’s hidden leadership before the Alliance or the Xiniti sent more ships.
Checking his implant, he learned that he had thirty minutes before they entered the planet’s atmosphere. He walked back to his stateroom and pulled on the last layers of his armor, even grabbing his helmet in case something damaged the spaceship’s hull on the way down.
By the time he returned to the bridge, the spaceship had nearly reached the planet’s atmosphere. He strapped himself in, giving the Annihilation the word, and waiting as it released its dropships and fighters. Then he led them downward, aiming for the colony.
As they neared the “starport’s” landing field, he fired on the two fighters and the old colonization ship near them. It removed the chance that someone would get away and sent the colony a message at the same time. As they got closer, he checked the ship’s sensors for life signs.
There weren’t any. All three towns were empty of human life. Where had they gone?