I couldn’t know that, of course, but if I thought in terms of the Ascendency’s situation and resources, it seemed reasonable. Our main protection was the caverns’ size in combination with the decoys and traps the colony’s techs created.
If the Ascendancy had genetically modified technical geniuses, they’d be throwing them up against that. That’s what I’d be doing anyway.
I hoped the colony’s techs were as good.
Not long after that I found myself walking across the cavern city to the technical building we’d captured Alanna in before she’d committed suicide. When we walked inside it looked the same as before. Black cylinders as tall as I was while wearing the Rocket suit filled the room. As I remembered from the last time we were there, the cylinders collected ambient energy and stored it.
They’d been collecting energy for years despite being inside a giant rock formation. I hadn’t had the chance to ask for details when we’d been there last time. I might get to this time, but I doubted it. The implant had a selection of technologies that it might be and I suspected I’d have to content myself with going through them later when I had time.
Kals, Crawls-Through-Desert and I followed one of the techs up to the second floor of the building. There weren’t any cylinders there. It looked like a lab. Desks and long tables with dismantled machines and parts of machines filled the room. Tanks with cloudy liquid were scattered throughout the room—next to walls and on top of desks and tables. Though they weren’t easy to see through, the tanks contained hard objects. If I watched, I thought I could see new objects grow.
Neither Kals or the plant showed much interest as we met Asan and Sian at the back of the room and took another flight of stairs up to another floor. This one was a mixture of desks, storage closets, and parts—lots of parts. The implant labeled the ones I gave any thought to and sometimes I recognized parts from my experience with the ship’s alien tech.
Asan and Sian stopped at a desk and pulled out chairs from it’s nearest neighbor for Kals and I. The plant floated next to the desk. Since I was wearing the Rocket suit, I half expected to crush the chair when I sat down, but the most recent version of the suit was lighter than the last. The chair held.
Asan grinned at us. “Jadzen wanted us to talk about what we could do to detect the Ascendancy’s people before they made it down here.”
Sian sat in his own chair. “We’ve been thinking about this for years and we’ve got a system already. It’s not perfect, but it should work. The core problem is that while there are methods we could use to send information through the rock without physical material, they make it easy to triangulate our location.”
In his own chair, Asan tapped on the desk with a stylus. “Not only that, it’s practically an invitation to start decrypting everything we say. So, we went old school. We put in cable—a nearly mono-molecular cable that we used bots to pull through the rock.”
“So,” Sian said, “we have cameras on the other end of the cable that are smaller than pimples. We watched them this morning as they searched the caves. They had no idea.”
Asan grinned. “We’re several steps ahead of where you all think we are. We’ve got people and computers watching the feeds whenever there’s movement.”
Keeping my movements minimal, I asked, “Did Alanna know about the cables?”
“Yes,” Sian frowned, “but she didn’t know where each one of them was. Everybody uses cables like this. They’re practically impossible to find.”
It sounded good. I thought about how I’d counter something like that. If I could detect it with some work, I’d send people in to remove the cameras and then bring in the rest behind them. If I couldn’t detect it, I’d either accept that I’d be making an attack with no chance of surprising anyone, or maybe I’d figure out a way to obscure how many people were going down any given tunnel. Dust, maybe?
My implant called up lists of known ways that Xiniti had defeated similar systems. Depending on the type of camera, it included the use of chameleon suits, sending dust down the tunnel or exploiting the limits of a known type of camera.
“Do we use different types of cameras or all the same kind?”
“The same kind,” Asan nodded. “A good point. They’d have to know the type of camera, but they might be able to get past all of them. It’s not likely.”
“Did Alanna know?”
Sian frowned again. “Yes. I think we could swap out a few cameras, but they didn’t think like that yesterday. Why would they change their approach?”
I thought about it. “I don’t know that they will, but I’m thinking that if they’ve got any techs left, they’ll be assigned to this now.”
From the stairwell came the sound of voices. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but they’d become louder.