The implant’s information on the channel was that it was used to make announcements—a one way channel that ran recorded warnings except on the rare occasions that matters moved too quickly for recorded emergency information to keep up.
“I’m recording it,” I told everyone. Everyone back in the cavern needed to see it too.
Jaclyn nodded while Katuk peered into the distance, watching his own copy of the same scene.
Agent 957 sat in the cockpit of a heavy fighter—one of the deep space fighters used for scouting and other long distance missions. I guessed it was a fighter from the cockpit’s small size, but that it couldn’t be a regular fighter because of the outline of a door behind the seat. Normal fighters didn’t have any space for humans outside of the cockpit.
Staring directly into the camera, he said, “This is the end. We’ve found your planet and there’s no one here to protect you. The Xiniti’s ship is gone or hidden. If the Xiniti are there with you, there aren’t enough of them to fight Ascendancy marines. We have more than 1000 marines from ten different gene lines, all of them powered. I know you don’t have that many Xiniti. I also know that most of your ‘Xiniti’ aren’t even Xiniti. They’re humans. I know the Xiniti choose tough recruits, but they’re only human and if you’re hoping in them because they have active powers, so do we.
“And it’s not just the marines who have active powers. The crew of the Annihilation includes the pride of the Ascendancy—members of the Ascendant Guard, the Ascendancy Council’s own protectors. You’ve heard of two of them—Neves, who protected the First Citizen himself and Kamia of the Thuroni Defenders, who has killed thousands on behalf of the Ascendancy—including Xiniti as the true Xiniti among you will well remember.”
As he’d said Neves, a picture of a dark-skinned man in a black uniform with green and white accents appeared in my head. The uniform had a military look and did nothing to hide the muscles underneath. He reminded me of nothing more than one of the Cabal troops we’d fought. Cassie’s regeneration had surprised Iolan, so Neves couldn’t be one of them, but it didn’t make me feel comfortable.
When he said “Kamia,” the picture changed to that of a woman in a red uniform with black accents. Like Neves’ uniform, hers was a short jacket with pants in the same color, but her uniform had a black cape. Her skin was pale enough that I wondered if she was albino and her blonde-white hair pointed in that direction. Still, she wasn’t as pale as I remembered albinos were. She carried a sword and gun that had a similar shape to Cassie’s gun. It couldn’t be the same kind, though.
The picture changed back to Agent 957. His mouth held a hint of a smile, but then he opened it. “I’m giving you until noon tomorrow to surrender. That means that you bring everyone out of whatever forest or cave that you might be hiding in. After that, we’re coming in after you. Don’t make us do that. You’ll get much better treatment if it’s easy to bring you in.”
He stopped talking and stood there, arms crossed, looking at the camera. After a few moments, I began to wonder if it was over and this was the moment before the loop would restart.
Then he straightened his arms and said, “One more thing… My orders aren’t to bring you all in. My supervisors only care about the leaders. That means Jadzen Akri and all the people on colony’s council as well as a few more names I’ll list right now—“
He listed them, but then got back to talking, “—As I said, the most notorious members of your leadership. With them gone, we don’t care about the colony anymore. We don’t have room to bring them back anyway. We can kill all of them or let them stay here unhurt. I think you’d prefer it if they survived, wouldn’t you?”
That’s when he stopped for real, freezing for several seconds and then starting the message from the beginning. I recorded it until I’d caught the part I’d missed earlier.
“Okay,” I shut off the connection and looked at Katuk and Jaclyn. “I guess that’s it. We’ve got a good general sense of where they are. We’ve sent off a message to the Celestial Ghosts. Plus, now we’ve got a message to bring back. Do you think we’ve got anything else that we should check out?”
Jaclyn looked out toward the gap between the end of the alley we stood in and stretch of field before the colony’s force field barrier. It was only a few hundred feet, an easy gap for her or Katuk to make and not hard for me to fly over.
“No,” Jaclyn said, but she looked over at Katuk. “Was it true what she said about Kamia? Did she kill a lot of Xiniti?”
He nodded. “There are many Xiniti that wish that the opportunity to kill her would fall to themselves or their unit. It falls to us.”
Making a quick check of the way ahead of us first, Jaclyn said, “I’m half surprised they didn’t try to give her Xiniti citizenship.”
“You misunderstand the nature of your invitation. Though we do offer citizenship to those who best us, it’s offered to those who’ve served us by killing one who’s brought shame on his/her/its family. You’ve served us doubly. First by killing my father and secondly by providing a unit for my testing.”
Okay, then, I told myself. Katuk did know about that.