I looked around the room again, taking in the people unpacking, the streetlights and well-lit buildings going all the way to the ceiling of the cave.
It felt like a neighborhood in a big city more than it did a refugee camp, but it was still a refugee camp. All the people pulling their most valuable and portable possessions off the mobile platforms made that all too clear.
My implant sent me a notification and it wasn’t just to me. Kals sent it to everybody. “As soon as we’ve dropped off our luggage, we tell my mom about Maru.”
Jaclyn sent back, “That’s the plan.”
Crawls-Through-Desert had ridden on the platform along with the rest of our stuff. It’d been a bit of work to keep the dog from peeing on him during the trip. Apparently, he’d been included in the messages too because he asked, “You were working on making your motivator-mutes work better. How’s that going?”
“Mostly okay,” I told everyone. “It works better against Kals’ commands, but I’d have to test it with more people to know if I’m muting everything from everybody.”
The plant’s fronds rustled. “So I still have to watch you. Kids, do yourselves a favor. If you feel any hint of wanting to listen to him, run. I can handle him alone, but I can’t handle all of you at once.”
Marcus cocked his head to the side. “Maybe we should just let you do it.”
The plant rustled again. “Jadzen Akri would never listen to me. She’d listen to Xiniti. I’ll follow along.”
Soon after that, the platform slowed, stopping in front of one of the larger egg-shaped buildings. Kals looked it up and down. “Lucky you. It looks like you’re all staying with me and Mom.”
Cassie looked up at the egg-shaped bulge extending out of the room’s wall. “Do you think he’s in there?”
Kals touched what looked like a chest or maybe a locker on its side and the object floated upward and then floated next to Kals. She looked up at the building. “He almost has to be.”
Cassie nodded. “Then let’s go in there.”
“Before we do,” I tapped through a menu on my palm, “here’s the latest motivator-mute software,” and I released an update.
Jaclyn grabbed her suitcase. “I hope that doesn’t cause our costumes to seize up.”
“There’s a very low chance of that,” I said.
She gave me a look. “I was joking.”
“There is a small chance of it though, but it’s less than one percent, I think.” I grabbed my own suitcase off the platform.
We walked up the wide steps to the building’s front door, Jaclyn, Cassie, and Kals ahead of me, Katuk to my left, Marcus and Tikki behind me and Crawls-Through-Desert at the rear.
As we walked, I overheard Marcus tell Tikki, “If you don’t have a motivator-mute, you should stay out of range. I don’t want him to—“
With the 360 degree vision that my suit gave me, I saw Tikki lean in to kiss his cheek. “You’re so cute, but don’t worry about it. I’m prepared for him.”
Marcus stepped forward, “Are you sure? Because I don’t want to end up fighting you.”
“Trust me,” she said. “It’s not well known, but people from my gene line don’t become easily ensnared by a motivator’s voice.”
If Marcus argued with her after that, I didn’t hear it, and anyway, we were too busy getting settled. All the buildings and rooms had their own number and knowing that, it wasn’t hard to find my room or anyone else’s. We were all in the same hallway—in alphabetical order given the alphabet they were using.
They weren’t large rooms, but they were enough for one person and a bed. I barely put my suitcase down when I got the notification from Kals that, “Maru and my mom are on the second floor. You’ll find me there.”
No one talked as we walked up the stairs. The only sounds aside from our feet were the whimpering of the dog. Jaclyn had locked him in her room.
We walked up into a larger room. From the tables, I guessed it could be used as a dining room, but also a ballroom, council room or even a throne room had there been a throne. Maru and Jadzen sat across from each other at a table. Kals walked with us. She’d been waiting at the top of the stairs.
Whatever they were talking about, they either stopped or switched to implant assisted conversation as we walked upstairs.
Jadzen watched us come closer, showing no emotion. Maru’s eyes darted from one of us to another. As we stopped in front of the table, Jadzen rose, sizing us all up with a look.
“Kals,” she asked, “What’s going on here?”