Into my helmet, I asked, “Why?”
Cassie paused before answering. “I don’t know. We don’t really know this guy. He’s buttering you up, trying to make a connection because his people do tech stuff too?”
“To be fair, I did kind of ask him to butter me up.” Then I turned my attention to him. “Can you prevent your people from going after the colonists?”
His eyes narrowed and he frowned a little. “I can here. As long as the colonists keep up their disappearing act until our people come here, I’ve got a good chance of persuading people it’s not worth the trouble of finding them. I’m sure they have people who know how to hide from our equipment. If our people have any whiff of them, I won’t have any choice in the matter, but whatever you’re doing now is working.”
Over the comm, Jaclyn said, “I’m tempted to give him a chance. If the Xiniti show up first, it won’t matter what weapons we have, but if the Ascendancy shows up first, we’ll need him.”
“Seriously?” Cassie’s tone couldn’t have made her doubt more obvious.
Marcus cut in. “Tikki thinks you should listen to him.”
“I do.” Tikki’s voice sounded distant—which it would. Even if Marcus had his helmet open, I’d designed the microphone to record as little as possible beyond the user’s voice.
Then I thought about what she’d said. If Tikki were just Tikki, I might not have given it too much more thought, but given that Tikki was Kee, avatar of what amounted to one of Lee’s childhood friends, I had to give it more.
I looked Four Hands in the eyes and said, “Okay. I’ll do it.”
I released the final two killbots and let them roll out of the compartment under my forearm and into my left hand. I’d deleted the software first, figuring that even if I was willing to give out the hardware, I wasn’t willing to allow someone to try to figure out every detail of the system.
Then for the at least the next twenty minutes, probably more, I described how the bots worked, including key details that explained how it had managed to get as far past Kamia’s shield as it did.
He got it. He even suggested a couple ideas that might get the bots further through an Abominator shield. Assuming they weren’t red herrings, they were worth an experiment or two when I got back home. The only bad point being that I’d have to grab an Abominator force field on the way out and for all that I always wanted to grab new technology, it never seemed to work out.
The rare exceptions seemed to be alien tech. I was still getting ideas out of the alien robot we’d grabbed. So, it wasn’t unreasonable that I might be able to grab a force field to experiment with.
When Four Hands appeared to have grasped the basic concepts involved in constructing the killbots, I asked him. “Do you know if there are any spare Abominator style shields that I could experiment on when I get home?”
He shook his head. “They’re closely held pieces of hardware. The only one I have easy access to is mine and I’m going to need it when I make a run for it.”
I couldn’t deny he had a point there. And anyway, the sonics were even more effective against shields and I knew I had no intention of passing that on. We’d need that advantage if the Ascendancy’s fleet appeared.
“Understood,” I tried to think if I had anything else I wanted to ask him before we all disappeared and hid. “So what are you going to do if Kamia and Neves track us down?”
He frowned and clasped his (upper) hands together. “I’ve been thinking about it. I’ll do my best to avoid fighting you. You’ll have a better chance against them when I’m not there. I can’t do much more than that except to miss more often than normal if you’re in my sights. Well, that and what I said earlier. If you don’t give us a good reason to search for you, I’ll do what I can to keep everyone here.”
“That’s something,” I glanced down toward the dead firepit and then out at the tent city around us. “I can’t ask for much more than that.”
He grinned suddenly, “But I can give more than that. My people have a relationship with the Waroo. You fought them on K’Tepolu. They’re enormous beast-like mercenaries. We hire them when we need muscle. There’s a Waroo ship in the system and they’re looking for you.”
“Oh,” I said, “if you could manage to not mention that I’m here, that would be great.”
“No kidding,” Marcus said over the comm.
Four Hands laughed. “It’s better than you think. I’m not sure why, but when I talked to them, it sounded like they felt like they owed you. They told me to give you one of our distress calls. You can call them once and they’ll perform a service for you. If it’s an extended service, you’ll have to haggle about details, but if it’s simple and short, they’ll do it without argument.”
He held out a metal disc and I stared at it. “I’m not trying to trap you,” he said. “I wasn’t going to tell you about this if we couldn’t come to an agreement.”
I took the disc. I was already trusting him with the killbots. In for a penny…