Alanna’s eyes locked on Jadzen, looking up at her from the chair we’d placed Alanna in. “I didn’t… I didn’t fully. I didn’t tell them where we were. I showed them a picture of the sky, but I never expected that they’d be able to find us. I’ve been refusing to speak to him ever since. I never expected it to go this far.”
Jadzen pulled out a chair and looked deeply into Alanna’s eyes. “Let’s start from the beginning. How did you begin to serve the Human Ascendancy?”
Alanna lowered her eyes. “I only ever became part of the resistance because I was with Iolan. When it became too dangerous to stay at home, I escaped here with him and a couple years after we came here, we broke up. I don’t know how that happened. Afterward, I became lonely and started talking to friends through the ansible through my implant even though I knew it risked being caught.”
She took a breath. “And they caught me. Everyone caught me. Maru noticed me talking to my friends and so did the Human Ascendancy. The Ascendancy recognized my implant ID and knew that I’d disappeared with a known resistance member. They contacted me while I was online, told me my name, told me how my relatives were doing and that they could kill them all if they wanted to. If I wanted them to be left alone, I had to tell them what you were doing. I didn’t need to tell them every detail or do anything that would call attention to me—just to make sure they knew whether you were on the planet or back home.”
She stopped, saying nothing, and went on. “I agreed, telling myself that I wasn’t betraying you or anyone, that I was doing a very small thing that was keeping my family and friends back home safe. I know that it sounds stupid now, but then it didn’t seem like they asked for much. The problem was that after a little while Maru noticed too—as I told you earlier. He’d been watching the logs in the ansible or he’d had someone pull the logs for him. I don’t know what kind of access he had back then, but I knew that if he was able to find out who I was talking to, you’d have to exile me or kill me.
“Except I’d done maintenance on his implant. I was doing work on everybody’s implant back then, but I’d noticed the bomb in his brain. It must have been there from back when he was a spy for the Ascendancy. He wasn’t the only one either. Geman and Dalat had both been fighter pilots so they had them too as do a few other people we’ve got here.
“I told Maru that he wasn’t going to tell anyone what was doing or I’d blow up his brain and not only his but Geman and Dalat’s too. Then I told him the I was going to need a hidden way to use the ansible and that someone was going to provide it for me—him, Geman, Dalat, whoever… It took a little doing, but in the end, I made it clear that I had complete control of his implant and I’d programmed it to explode based on triggers I’d set up…
“He did what I wanted and made sure that Geman and Dalat stayed silent with his powers and he kept it up even when you were here. He tried to get me to turn it off over the years, but I knew better. He was completely loyal to you and would have told you everything as soon as he could.”
She glanced over the group of us. “So that’s almost everything. I don’t know much about the person I was giving the information to except that he was an agent of the Genetic Management Office. He let that slip once, that and his number. Does 957 mean anything to you?”
Jadzen shook her head, “No.”
Then she looked over at us as if we might have something to say. To be fair, we had Xiniti implants with all the information that the Xiniti nation felt we could be trusted with, but if they had in-depth knowledge about individual agents of the Genetic Management Office, they hadn’t trusted us with that. All I knew was that they were aware that the Genetic Management Office’s agents were motivators, but more like Iolan had described when he’d talked about Cassie. They had the voice like Julie and were physically better than a normal human.
“I’ve got nothing,” Cassie looked around at the rest of us—Katuk, Jaclyn, and me.
“Me neither,” I said, “except that in Babylon 5, sector 957 was where all the really advanced aliens were, but I’m sure that’s not an intentional reference.”
Jaclyn folded her arms over her chest. “You’re such a geek.”
Alanna turned her head back from looking at us back toward Jadzen. “I’m sorry. I never meant it to come to this.”
Cassie’s eyes widened. “No. She’s got—“
And then Alanna’s head exploded—which was every bit as disgusting as you’re probably imagining. Brains should stay on the inside where they belong.