The Caverns, Hideaway
Maru didn’t make it. Even as Jaclyn carried him away, I didn’t think he would. Despite having advanced alien tech, it’s not realistic to expect that they’d have the ability to handle disembowelment combined with massive blood loss in a colony’s medical center.
“If we’d been at home,” Iolan began, “I think I could have saved him.”
We were on the second floor of Jadzen’s cavern home in the open area where the council met and we’d made battle plans. As before, we were looking out on the lights of the hidden settlement. Unlike before, Maru’s body lay in storage elsewhere in the cavern.
He hadn’t been the only one who’d died. One of the colonists had died too, done in by a punch that hadn’t killed him outright, but had done more damage to his internal organs than I could see.
Jadzen had said a few words over the bodies and now we were back here looking out into the caverns and deciding what to do next.
Jaclyn turned to look at Iolan. “You could have saved him.” The flatness of her tone made it a statement, but it hung in the air like a question.
Iolan nodded. “He was still warm. He hadn’t lost anything we couldn’t bring back. We have large tanks that we can use to repair the body.”
I thought about the Abominator birthing chambers that I’d seen in the research facility in New York during the Hrrnna invasion and the similar chambers that Rook had been running. It was all probably variations on the same tech.
Marcus turned away from Tikki. “It sounds like the medical tech in Star Wars.”
Iolan said, “Star Wars?”
Marcus glanced over at me and then back at Iolan where he sat next to the table. “It’s an entertainment franchise set in another galaxy in the past. It’s about a rebellion against an evil empire… You guys would probably just see it as normal life.”
Kals and Jadzen walked into the room next. They both had reddish eyes and glistening cheeks. Jadzen gave Kals’ hand a squeeze. They looked at each other and let go. Jadzen stepped up to a crowd of council members and Kals walked up to Marcus, TIkki, Jaclyn and I.
As she did, Iolan stood up from the table, pushing his way out of his chair. He put his hand on Kals’ shoulder, carefully avoiding any skin and said, “I’m sorry about Maru. I did everything I could.”
“I know,” she said.
Iolan walked toward the Jadzen and the other council members. Kals looked over the group of us, atypically quiet. Then she sighed. “How are all of you doing?”
Jaclyn met her eyes. “I feel like we should be asking you, but while I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m doing alright.”
Kals smiled. “I’m doing better. Mom understood. She’d been worried since he left. I told you about that. She was worried that he might take terrible chances in order to redeem himself or even commit suicide.”
I shook my head. “He didn’t do that. He tried to protect you, but it wasn’t like he jumped in front of a blow meant for you. You two were working together and he happened to get unlucky.”
“I know. It’s not good that he died, but at least he didn’t throw away his life out of despair.” She gave a twisted smile. “It’s not much of a consolation, but it’s better than nothing.”
Tikki stepped closer. “I feel like I haven’t done enough. I was close. I don’t know if I could have saved him, but I feel like I should have tried.”
Marcus put his hand on Tikki’s shoulder. “You couldn’t do much. I mean, seriously. Your power doesn’t do much offensively.”
Tikki didn’t say anything at first, but then she added, “I’ve been thinking there are ways that I could have used it.”
To the back of our group, Cassie spoke up. “Don’t beat yourself up over it. I don’t know what you’re thinking of, but it probably wouldn’t have worked. If it’s a new thing, it almost never works the first time and that’s even less likely in the middle of a fight. Now if you’ve been practicing something day after day, that’s the move that’ll work.”
Tikki sighed and lowered her head. “I don’t know. I’ve never practiced it, but it didn’t seem hard…”
“Take it from me,” Cassie told her. “Everything I do is supposedly simple but it never works out that way.”
Tikki took in a breath, possibly ready to argue the point. She didn’t get to. Jadzen rapped her hand on the table a couple times.
“We should begin the meeting now. Everyone please sit down at the table. We need to plan our next steps.” Jadzen looked us over.
I was inclined to listen. I had a nagging feeling that what was left of the Ascendancy’s force would try something soon.