Retreat: Part 8

“What do we need to do to contact them?” Jaclyn pushed her way to the front, looking between Katuk and the plant. “I’m assuming that when you said ‘summon’ you meant calling them though the ansible. You’d didn’t mean some sort of magic ritual.” She paused. “Did you?”

Katuk blinked, an odd visual given his black eyes and gray skin. “When our race was younger, I believe that some did attempt to summon them with ritual magic. I don’t know if anyone does any longer. My intention was to access the ansible and send a message to an address that we’ve been given.”

I checked my implant. It knew about the address. It didn’t have any record of Xiniti magical practices. I wondered if that meant that they were hiding some cultural practices because they were embarrassed, but then reflected that I’d seen magical rituals that worked. With that in mind, I supposed they’d either lost confidence in magic or wanted to hide it.

Either way, I was more confident about connecting to the ansible than I was of performing a ritual in any system of magic.

Jaclyn nodded. “So, let’s get this straight. Our goal is to resist the Ascendancy, not to win, because we’re waiting for help from the Xiniti according to the original plan, but really because we’re hoping the Celestial Ghosts will appear first. To do this we have to access the ansible and ask the Ghosts for help without revealing the location of where we’re hiding. We also need to get a good look at the situation above ground. Is that everything?”

Cassie crossed her arms over her chest. “I hope so. Do you want to talk complicated? If contacting the Ghosts or checking out the forces means running around up there, it’s going to be hard not to reveal where we are, you know? There aren’t a lot of places nearby where people could go.”

Marcus nodded. “That’s kind of what I was wondering. You hid in this rock because it’s hard to find us, right? Is there any reason why we can’t just hide here and not go up at all? I mean, you’ve obviously been planning to hide here for ages or you wouldn’t have made an underground city. That means you’ve got to have food, right? Because if you planned to stay down here for a while, maybe the best plan would be to stay here and wait for the Xiniti show up and not risk giving away our location. It’d be boring, but I’d rather be bored than get everybody killed.”

Maru shook his head. “That’s not how it would work. I was trained by the Ascendancy. Here’s what they’ll do. First, they’ll search for us. They know this is the Resistance’s leadership’s hideout. They’ll want us alive for execution or reprogramming. If they can’t find us and they get wind that the Xiniti are coming, they’ll use a capital ship and hit us from orbit with the ship’s guns or an asteroid. They’ll get us too. Cassie and Marcus are both right. We hid here because there are more than fifty miles of caves down the coast and it’s almost impossible to find us, but there aren’t many other places to hide where creatures won’t eat you.”

I sighed, “I think we have to go out. I’ve been looking at how ansibles work, and using them reveals your location to the ansible in order for them to work. That’s fine normally, but you know how I was trained by a battle simulator that replicated standard tactics? Well, one of the first things invading forces do is get control of the ansible. They may not have it yet, but if they do, we’ll reveal our position as soon as we use it.”

Jaclyn had been checking the view from the window, but she turned back to say, “If there’s a chance they don’t control the ansible, we should try to contact the Celestial Ghosts now.”

She looked over the group. “I wish we could take everybody, but I think we’ll have to go with Nick, Katuk and me. Look, it’s a speed thing. The rest of you won’t be able to keep up. Jadzen, do any of you have maps of the tunnels? We’ll have to leave them, but it doesn’t have to be nearby.”

Jadzen said, “I can give you a copy of what we’ve surveyed, but not much more. We don’t have anyone like you.”

Moments later, I received a database of maps of the caverns and could look ever the entrances and exits. After a little while longer, we left.

4 thoughts on “Retreat: Part 8”

    1. Oops. Fixed now. It’s supposed to be “gray skin” except that I decided to check his first appearance to make sure I was right about that. The Xiniti have always been intended to be a version of “the grays”–the standard alien that appears in conspiracy theories.

      I sometimes worry that I haven’t been consistent or forgot about that in the moment of writing the initial appearance. Fortunately, I have been consistent. Unfortunately, once I knew that I forgot to put in the remaining words.

  1. The following sentence doesn’t make much sense.

    ‘Jadzen said, “I can give you a copy of what we’ve surveyed, but not much more. We don’t have anyone like you.”’

    Somehow they are providing maps beyond the extent of tunnels that they have surveyed? If they have maps, then the areas mapped were surveyed – even if those surveys were not highly accurate.

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