Retreat: Part 5

The conversation in our heads had taken place in seconds, but not quickly enough that someone who’d grown up with implants wouldn’t notice.

Jadzen sent all of us a message through her implant or computer bracelet—I didn’t know which and it didn’t matter. “What are you discussing?”

Kals sent a private message to me. “Is there anything you sent us that I shouldn’t tell her?”

I replied, “I don’t think so.”

So she gave her all of it or so I assume. All I know is that Jadzen dropped her head, closing her eyes for a few  seconds and letting out a breath. She looked tired, as if a massive weight had fallen on her shoulders.

I could imagine how she might feel that way. Over the course of a couple days at least four people she’d known and trusted for years had turned out to be working for the Human Ascendancy, willingly or not.

Crawls-Through-Desert interrupted all our thoughts with a question. “Do you know where Alanna is? The boy’s reasoning is sound even if we don’t have proof.”

Jadzen’s eyes closed as she consulted a computer. “She’s near the front of the cave. The big building to the right of the entrance holds the power equipment.”

The plant’s branches shook. “We should capture her and bring her here immediately. She has half a dozen ways of getting the Human Ascendancy’s attention. The fastest of you should get her before she betrays the colony.”

All the talking went on in our heads. In the room, Jaclyn and I caught each other’s eye and she opened a private implant connection.

“Ordinarily, I’d be asking why we’re listening to the plant, but he’s making sense. We should go immediately. I’m going to ask Katuk too.”

Instants later, I heard Katuk’s voice on our link. “I’m in full agreement. We should go immediately.”

Jaclyn passed it on to the full group as the three of us ran down the stairs and out the front door of the bulding.

I activated the rockets because I’d never be able to keep up without them. Jaclyn and Katuk ran down the side of the street, avoiding and sometimes jumping over floating platforms and the people walking off to the side of them. I kept up even though I couldn’t fly as quickly as Jaclyn could run, mostly because I could fly straight the entire time. My biggest worry was that I might forget I was underground, try for some altitude and hit the ceiling.

I didn’t. I have that much sense.

We reached the entrance in less than thirty seconds. I flipped and used the rockets to slow myself down, finally hovering and lowering myself to the steps in front of the front door. My boots touched the steps as Jaclyn and Katuk came to a stop in front of the stairs.

Jaclyn opened a private channel for the three of us. “Unless the two fo you have a better idea, I’m saying we do a snatch and grab—get her straight out of the building before she knows it and can trigger something.”

We stepped inside. Cylinders as tall as I was went all the way around the room. I didn’t recognize them on my own, but the implant did. They collected ambient energy. There wouldn’t be much of it down here, but they’d been collecting for years and probably had power for as long as we were likely to be down here.

Alanna stood in the middle of the room, talking to a group of about ten people, all of them wearing tool belts. She stopped to look at us as we entered and her eyes widened. Fairly or not, I felt certain she guessed why we were there.

Jaclyn and Katuk didn’t wait to ask if she’d be willing to go quietly. They both ran, turning into silver blurs. Unable to match their speed, I said, “Everyone freeze.”

I barely got the two words out before Jaclyn and Katuk slowed down enough to grab her, elbowing her people out of the way to do it.

Jaclyn carried her out with Katuk clearing the path in front of her. I didn’t wait around to answer questions in the room, activating the rockets the moment I passed through the doorway outside.

They had her back at Jadzen’s building within seconds. I was with them as they brought her through the front door. Traveling so quickly through the streets hadn’t agreed with her. She had a coughing fit that started as Jaclyn carried her inside and didn’t stop for half a minute.

When we brought her inside, Cassie met us at the door. “Over here,” she said, pointing down the hall. When we followed her, we found ourselves in the first floor’s common area.

Jadzen stood there waiting for her along with Crawls-Through-Deserts in his floating pot.

“Tell us, Alanna,” Jadzen said, her voice rich with complex tones, “why did you betray us to the Ascendancy?”

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