I could go into the details, but I won’t. Let’s just say that I’d designed the new costumes to include a water-resistant coating and with blood and brains being mostly water, nothing stuck. I think Jaclyn, Cassie and I were all grateful for that. Katuk’s Xiniti designed armor stayed clean too, but probably by a different method. Crawls-Through-Desert hadn’t been hit either, but I suspected I’d seen the glow of a force shield go up.
Jadzen had been sitting across from Alanna. She dived to the floor as Alanna’s head exploded, but she still had to change clothes. That left us back in the room with Maru, Tikki, Marcus, and Kals.
Maru had been restrained when we left, but with Alanna dead, he’d been allowed to stand in the room with everyone else.
“I still can’t say anything about it,” He stood near the front of the room, looking out of the wide second-floor window onto the people removing Alanna’s body from the first floor.
They carried her out on a floating stretcher, a blanket covering her body, the normal human outline stopping at the neck. I wondered what they did with the remains of her head.
Crawls-Through-Desert floated up to the window and landed his pot next to us. “Wish she’d survived. I had questions for her. It would have been nice to know exactly what she’d told them. Now we need to take action no matter what she’d have told us.”
Cassie stood near the window but a little behind me. “I figured. The Human Ascendancy isn’t going to stop looking just because we evacuated the villages. We’re going to have to fight them.”
Maru turned to look at her. “Fight them? The resistance hasn’t ever been able to take them on directly. We’ve always stayed in the shadows. We’re not soldiers. We don’t have the background for it.”
“We will have to anyway, but it’s my hope that the Xiniti and our Alliance agent will take the lead in our defense.” Jadzen Akri had returned, wearing clothes that had not been spattered with brains and blood.
Crawls-Through-Desert turned away from the darkness and streetlights and toward Jadzen. We’d all gathered near the window by then.
“Good,” the plant’s leaves tilted such that their upper surfaces aimed at Jadzen and the rest of us. “Because you will have to fight. The tunnels do mask any sign of your people, but the Ascendancy will recognize it as well. You’ll soon have the choice between fighting them on the surface or fighting them in the tunnels as you retreat.“
“That seems likely,” Katuk said, fixing his dark eyes on the plant. “Do you have some plan for fighting them?”
The plant shook its branches. “Plan? No, but I know what we’ll need to make a plan—information. That’s what we need now. Plans will come after that.”
Jadzen nodded. “You won’t find getting information as easy as you’d like. That is the disadvantage of staying within this rock. We have two antennas on the surface and a limited connection to the ansible. Unfortunately, our preparations for using it were interrupted by the death of our lead technician.”
I raised my hand halfway into the air. “Do you need technical help? I can do that sort of thing.”
Jadzen shook her head. “What we need is knowledge of the protocols for setting up the cave for habitation and we have that already. It’s merely slower than I’d prefer.”
Katuk raised his arm, copying my gesture. “What we have seen so far makes me believe that the enemy is beyond the scope of our abilities to fight and defeat. Aside from fighting to hold out until Alliance forces arrive, we have two other options. I’ll mention the first so that you know it, but not because I expect to use it. I’m referring to the weapons placed in any Xiniti designed ansible that allow us to strip any system of life. Should we deem the consequences of capture or defeat worse than death, we have the option of activating the ansible’s self-destruct and destroy everything.”
In my head, I found that I had access to the necessary codes and protocols to activate that weapon as well as others across the galaxy (though not remotely)—even one in the Xiniti space station near Earth. I blinked. “What’s the other option?”
Katuk nodded and said, “The Xiniti have a protocol for contacting and requesting help from the Celestial Ghosts.”
Crawls-Through-Desert’s fronds stretched out toward Katuk. “We’d suspected as much. Do you believe the Ghosts will arrive before the Alliance or Xiniti reinforcements?”
Katuk regarded him with his wide, black eyes. “Out here on the edge of things? Yes.”
The plant’s branches rustled. “Then I’d say we should do it. We’ll need every scrap of help we can get. Is there any way to use the weapons you mentioned for anything less than genocide?”
Katuk tilted his head to regard the plant. “No.”
The plant said, “Then it sounds like our best shot is to summon the Ghosts, find out the situation on the surface and make a plan for survival.”