Four Hands wasn’t anywhere to be seen in the group. I wasn’t sure what that meant. It wasn’t impossible that a motivator from the new group of Ascendancy soldiers had gotten him to confess, but it wasn’t likely. If he was as he seemed, a revolutionary in the making, he might be plotting with his people now.
I couldn’t assume it would do us any good, though.
Jaclyn glanced over at Kals and the tech as they talked with Jadzen. “If they’re not coming for her, I don’t know why they’re coming this way.”
Marcus looked past her toward the screens, “We’d better do something then. We’d better go—unless you think we can take them out. I know you’re not at your best though.”
Frowning, Jaclyn glared at him. “I know. Right now we can fight or run and I don’t know where to run to. I could get Jadzen out of here, but that just means they’ll go after the rest of you.”
I thought about calling the Waroo, but that wasn’t a solution either. With the new troops behind them, the Waroo mercenaries would be a delay and nothing more. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t use their help if we needed a delay, but I didn’t want to waste their efforts—especially if they might die on my behalf.
Turning to Tikki, Marcus asked, “Is there anything you could do?”
Tikki bit her lip. “I can’t do anything big enough to affect all of them.” Then she stared at the screens.
From Jadzen’s side of the building came her voice, “There’s nowhere else to go that’s any safer and doesn’t put others in danger. We’re going to have to fight. We have defenses here. If we run, they’ll find us while we’re traveling.”
I looked around the long room. People stirred as the conversation’s noise woke them up. Though I’d missed it before, it wasn’t all of the Council members. They’d spread out some of the leadership. Beyond that, there were the Council’s bodyguards, more than a few of whom were fit, and had guns lying on their mats. It wasn’t more than ten, but that was something.
Plus, of course, they had us—which might have given Jadzen more confidence than I felt we deserved.
Jadzen stood, pulling on robes that struck me as heavier than what I’d seen her wear before. “Everyone, wake up!”
My suit buzzed out the commanding tones, but her speech had the desired effect. People sat upright on their mats, pulling on clothes.
“The Ascendancy has received reinforcements and they’ve chosen to send troops here. We all know why. This is where most of the Council is. They want to cut off the head before killing the rest. As you know, these are the last of our prepared refuges. We have nowhere else to go. On the surface, our choices are to fight or to surrender. You remember why we left and you know that surrendering means to have our minds remade in the image of the Human Ascendancy.
“So, we can’t surrender. We can only fight. That’s why I’m sending word to all of our people that we are fighting and they may have to as well. Be aware that it is not hopeless. In addition to the Ascendancy, the Xiniti have also landed troops on the planet. If we can survive long enough, we’ll receive assistance both from the Xiniti and our nearest bunkers.
“Arm yourselves if you can fight. If you can’t, go to the lower level. We can’t offer anything more now, but we will not let you down.”
Jadzen turned toward us. “Our defenses will hurt them, but unless we’re very lucky, they won’t destroy them. We’ll need your help. At first they’ll encounter our traps, but soon enough there will only room for your deeds to keep us safe.”
Cassie met her gaze. “We’ll be there. It’s not like there’s much of a choice.”
We all looked at her. “There isn’t,” she said. “I hope there’s a better plan than simply waiting for the traps to fail before sending us in. We need something better than that, right?”
Jadzen only said, “You’ll have to devise one. Our people will be happy to work with you”
If Cassie’s comments bothered her, I couldn’t tell. She turned toward one of the bodyguards—this one prematurely white-haired, but mid-thirties by his features. “Trenith, you’re familiar with our defenses. Coordinate with them.”
Then Jadzen turned toward the tech who’d been watching the screens, “Send the alert.”
In the distance, a bomb exploded and figures on one of the screens were bathed in fire. Trenith watched as Kamia and Neves stepped through the flames unharmed.