Marcus flapped his wings and glided down the tunnel. “If we were in a movie, you and I would probably be okay.”
“And why is that?” We’d slowed to a point that I was mostly upright.
“Here’s the deal: you’re the guy who gathered everyone together. I mean, yeah, you didn’t try to, but in the movies that’s the main character. Pretty much all his friends die, but he’s okay. I’m okay because the gunfighter who falls in love with the local girl survives too. Jaclyn would be in trouble though because she didn’t get romantically involved. She got attached to a dog. In most versions, a gunfighter connects with the kids, but a dog’s close enough. She’d end up dying to defend the animal.”
“Dunno,” I checked the tunnel map. We still had a couple miles to go. “If you think about it, Tikki’s as much a gunfighter as a local girl in this case. She spends most of her time with us and she’s new to the place. Also, if Iolan gets enough sperm from you, it sounds like everyone in the colony will be descended from you eventually.”
“That’s messed up, but this is a modern, sci-fi retelling. Why not have artificial insemination? For that matter, half the group’s female, so why not have romance within the group? I reckon that future versions of the story might include gay romance.”
“You bet, pardner.”
We floated through the darkness. “So, where does the plant fit into all this?”
Marcus flapped his wings again. “I don’t know. This is a science fiction version. It doesn’t really map. There’s generally an experienced gunfighter or two. Crawls-Through-Desert might be one of those guys, but then there’s Katuk. In the movie, the guy who doesn’t fit into the group is also the youngest and ends up with the village girl. Here, I’m the youngest, but I fit in and Katuk is the only Xiniti. Plus, he’s got no romantic interest in humans.
“For that matter, there are versions of the story where no one dies at all. I’m pretty sure everyone lives in A Bug’s Life because that’s Disney. Plus, I don’t know if you ever saw that old TV show The A-Team on cable, but they retell the story every single week and not even the bad guys die.”
“You realize we’re not in a movie, right?”
Marcus laughed. “I noticed. Because if we were in a movie there wouldn’t have been an irrelevant side plot about Lee’s people and whatever happened with Kee Otaki back on K’Tepolu. That’s basically a ‘disappearing magic shop’ story except that there wasn’t anything special about the parts you bought beyond being good parts. If it did include Kee, that would be piss poor editing.”
We were within a mile. “What about the, ‘Let’s play Monopoly subplot’?”
He sighed. “That was probably a bad idea too.”
“Yeah,” I said. “We should have been playing ‘The Settlers of Catan’.”
“I know there are better games but Monopoly’s a classic.”
We made it to the hideout a few minutes later, passing the force fields they’d used to block the tunnels, and flying over the caverns’ streets, dodging buildings with a combination of our night vision and the streetlights. Finally we landed in front of the structure we shared with Jadzen Akri, Kals, and the colony’s council.
Cassie met us at the door. She’d set her costume to civilian mode—it didn’t cover her head, allowing us to see that she was grinning. “Jadzen’s technical people got their ‘antenna’ working. They keep on telling me it’s not exactly an antenna, but can’t quite explain what it is, so I’m calling it an antenna. Anyway, we saw the ship blow up a few minutes ago. They got everyone off and then they deliberately blew it up. The council members were saying that’s standard practice when there’s a certain amount of damage. They destroy the ship so that their enemies can’t get anything off it.”
Marcus nodded his head. “That’s kind of hardcore. It makes you wonder what happened that makes them go so far.”
I thought about it. “If you’ve got people around that pick up anything done in a place in the last hour like Daniel sometimes can, you’d probably want to break your ship up into the smallest pieces possible.”
“Not a bad idea,” Marcus said, cocking his head. “Too bad we can’t ask Daniel about it.”
Cassie tapped her foot. “The interesting question isn’t what they’re doing next, it’s what we’re doing next. The colonists are going to drive herds of megafauna at them and we’re going to keep them safe.”
I blinked. “Are we going to do this right now or can I sleep?”
“You’ve got a few hours.”
“Good.” I stepped around her and walked down the hall, preparing to drop my armor the first chance I could.