Jadzen waited as everyone sat at the table. “As we’re all too well aware, Maru died while fighting Ascendancy forces today. While I find a new assistant, I’m going to have Kals take over Maru’s role. She might not want to continue in it for the long term, but right now she’s familiar with everything I need her to know.”
“Meaning,” Kals sent to me via her bracelet, “she knows that everyone in the colony knows me and she knows that the group of you like me and don’t like her.”
I sent back a feeling of amusement via implant.
Meanwhile, the council members congratulated her and she thanked them.
“You love me now,” she told them, “but wait until I ask for your next resource report.”
That led to laughter and groans from the group. I was about to message her and ask what she was talking about when she sent to the group of us that Maru had people report on their used supplies to get a sense of what they needed to order from off-planet or needed to learn how to make here.
“Everyone knows it needs to be done, but nobody likes it,” she told us.
Aloud, she addressed the Council. “As you’ve heard, the plan worked. We drove a herd of megafauna into them. I don’t know how many died but from what I saw, most of them died or were too hurt to fight. Between the destruction of the ship and all the shuttles, they can’t have working medical chambers, so their forces are reduced to 200 or 300 people at most, and it might be less than that.”
She looked around the table at the group. “There’s one problem. The surviving members are part of the Ascendant Guard. We know that Neves and Kamia are among them and there might be more. Agent 957 might be among the dead, but he might not. We don’t know. Either way, they probably have experienced motivators, so we can’t let our people get near them.”
One of the council members asked, “Do we know what they’re doing next?”
Kals shook her head. “We don’t. We have people watching outside and they haven’t seen anyone try to enter the tunnels that lead to us. Cameras near our traps and decoy entrances show Neves, Kamia, and a few others trying to find us. What we don’t know is whether they’ve given up after what happened to the rest of their group—“
Another council member, a big man with dark skin and faintly glowing eyes, interrupted her. “They’ll never give up. They hate us. The Guard killed more of us than anyone else. I served in the First Citizen’s mansion. He wants us all dead!”
Kals blinked and then frowned as he talked over her, but then said, “I know. That’s the problem. I’ve talked to our techs and they don’t know what the Guard members are doing. All anyone knows is that they saw them heading back to the shuttles. Since then, we haven’t seen anyone heading back here.”
From there it turned into a discussion of whether or not the Guard would bother when they hadn’t made it past the decoys, had far too much area to search and needed to consider issues like surviving on the planet.
Iolan pointed out, “While I agree that the Guard are fanatics, even they have to see that they’ll never be able to capture us and bring us home now.”
Glowing eye guy shook his head. “They’re fanatics. Killing us and then dying at the Xiniti’s hands would be a success in their minds. We’ve got to find them and kill them first.”
It went on until Crawls-Through-Desert interrupted. “I’ve fought the Guard. We have to assume they’ll come after you. Casone,” he must have caught glowing eye guy’s name, “is correct. They’re fanatics. They won’t give up and if they think they’re going to die, they’ll probably kill us all to preserve their reputation. Imagine the Xiniti ships arriving to find that the only living humans were the Ascendant Guard—who would then commit suicide if they didn’t think they could steal a Xiniti ship. Before they died though, they’d send recordings of them killing Jadzen and all of the Xiniti assembled here to the media through the ansible.
“No, you can be confident that they’ll play their best hand every step of the way.”
Casone nodded. “The murderous bastards.”
Crawls-Through-Desert floated above the table. “The Xiniti group needs to rest up and be ready to go tomorrow morning. We can’t be sure the Guard won’t attack tonight, but we’ll do better with rested people than tired people. It the meantime, if Jadzen allows it, I’d like to talk to the techs. We need to work out a system for finding them before they find us. I’ll also need Nick for this. Is that alright with everyone?”
Jadzen glanced over at Kals and then said, “Do it and take Kals along as well. She needs to know this.”
Thinking back to when Marcus and I destroyed the battleship, I’d seen four armed and four-handed people in the engine rooms. I wasn’t sure but I might have seen them on the ground as well. The implant identified them as a geneline designed to be good with technology. I wondered how many survived and what they might be doing.
If any survived, they’d be working on the traps and decoys right now.