Katuk turned toward Kals. “Do you know how the colonists are escaping? If we can’t find her, it seems that our first duty would be to attend to their welfare.”
He had a point. I didn’t think that we should leave without telling Jaclyn, and was just about to try to use the comm, but I didn’t have to. Jaclyn jumped out the second floor window and landed next to us.
She glanced at the tunnel and back at us. “Where’s Kamia?”
“No idea,” I said. “I hit her shield with a killbot. It went partially through, exploded, and after that she ducked back into the cave. We haven’t seen her since. What about you?”
Jaclyn pursed her lips. “I didn’t kill anybody, but none of them can walk right now.”
I was about to describe our conversation to her and ask her what she thought about joining the escaping colonists when the cavern shook. It wasn’t the kind of big quake that I imagined happening in California, but it was a short, sharp movement that was strong enough that I felt like I’d been pushed.
I didn’t fall over, but I did have to spread my legs to avoid falling over.
Out in the darkness came creaking noises and the pitter-pat of small objects falling, combined with a few thumps that I thought might be larger objects falling from a height.
Like the rest of us, Jaclyn looked in the direction of the noise once she had herself under control. “What was that?”
“I don’t know.” I used the sonics to try to figure out where where the sound likely originated, but as the suit’s computer crunched numbers, I added, “But if Alanna ever mentioned that the colony had an underground escape plan, maybe the Ascendancy might be prepared with a tool that would allow them to collapse the caverns.”
Jaclyn turned to look into the main area of the cavern with it’s floor to ceiling buildings, dim lights and open streets. “That makes sense, but why come in here? Why not do it from outside?”
I shrugged. “Maybe they could have except that we destroyed the ship, so they had to put together a less powerful version from spare parts or a piece of the machine? Four Hands had a bunch of their genetically engineered engineers in tow for some reason.”
Katuk turned away from the tunnel. “That sounds possible, but it seems like a great deal to assume based on one movement of the earth. Earthquakes are a natural phenomena as well.”
He did have a point. “It might be natural, but it is an awfully strange coincidence.”
At the same time and after considering the data it had, my HUD threw up a picture of the area, showing the potential location of the earthquake’s source. It hadn’t narrowed it down much, indicating a quarter of the cavern opposite this spot. Superimposing the tunnel map in my implant over the HUD’s map in my helmet showed that two tunnels came out opposite this spot and that they came close enough to the tunnels on this side at one point that a powerful enough person would be able to blast through from one to the other. On the other hand, the same could be said of the other four tunnels on that side.
Tapping her helmet, Jaclyn said, “Quiet everyone, I’m telling Cassie, Marcus, and Tikki to follow the colonists out. They’re closer. We should leave too. I wish I knew where Crawls-Through-Desert went. He needs to leave too.”
I looked down the road, but didn’t see him. “The last I saw him, he was heading toward Tunnel Four. He was out of sight by the time I got here.”
Katuk followed my gaze. “I don’t detect him, but we should try to warn him if he’s still there.”
Kals’ frowned. “Wouldn’t he notice if he’s completely alone and the Guard isn’t there either? I mean, he’s a spy. They’re supposed to notice that sort of thing.”
She had a point too. We could probably count on him to take care of himself—unless the Guard had taken him out.
Another quake hit. This one felt a little stronger than the other one, though it was hard to say for sure. I hadn’t made earthquake measurement a priority for any version of the Rocket suit and so far as I knew, Grandpa hadn’t either.
We heard a few shouts, more thumps and a short rain of unknown small objects hitting the ground from above.
I reran the calculations and included the newest data. It didn’t change much. I needed to move more to get a better sense of where they might be.
“Nick,” Jaclyn said, “Do you have any idea where a device might be if it exists?”
I shook my head. “I’ve narrowed it down to about five tunnels—which isn’t very narrow. I need to get data from another spot in order for it to maybe work.”
Jaclyn sighed. “Then let’s run past where the plant’s supposed to be and then follow the colonists out. If we’re around for another quake, maybe we can track it down. Otherwise, we’d be better off not being here.”