Nick, Hideaway Surface
Kals walked up to us at about the same time as Katuk joined us.
As we backed up to let them into the group, Kals asked, “What’s your plan?”
“We don’t really have one,” I said. “We’re kind of working on backup plans in case the shields go down. Also, we missed the rest of what she said. Given that everyone’s looking tense, I’m guessing they’re just about to start?”
“Close,” Kals glanced back toward the shelter. “She made a big appeal to Mom and the Council to surrender and save the lives of all the people fighting today. It wasn’t much different than what they’ve said before.”
Cassie laughed. “It’s almost like they’re afraid to fight you.”
Kals gave a half-smile. “I think they are, but mostly because if Mom dies they’ll have a hard time finding a unifying figure like her to reprogram. That’s why Kamia talked about how easy it will be to take the shields down.”
Tikki eyed her, frowning. “She’s not the only potential unifying figure. If she were to die, you would also be an effective choice.”
Kals raised an eyebrow. “Me?” Then she let out a breath. “You’re right. Both my dad and mom would be heroes of the resistance and they’d be dead. It’s inevitable.”
She glanced down to a pouch on her belt. Other resistance members kept suicide pills there.
Jaclyn noticed too. “We’re not going to let that happen.”
Katuk cocked his head to look at Jaclyn’s face. “Suicide is an honorable response when your death protects what your life cannot.”
Jaclyn’s mouth tightened. “I suppose, but I don’t want anyone to have to go that far.”
Kals looked out past the shields. Kamia’s troops still weren’t visible. “I’m not in any hurry to make the ultimate sacrifice for the resistance, but I don’t want to be used to destroy it.”
Marcus nodded. “I think we all get that. I’m not in a hurry either, but knowing what they can do to us makes me think that we should have packed suicide pills.”
Katuk looked over at him, the silver of his armor gleaming in the daylight, “There’s no need. Your implant can do it if necessary.”
I’d never considered that we might have a way to kill ourselves built in to the implant, but in that moment I knew all I had to do to activate it. Looking at everybody’s faces, we all did—well, except for Rachel.
Next to me she said, “That’s not a good look on any of you.”
“No kidding,” Cassie shook her head. “That’s the last thing I wanted to know. Maybe we should be probing our implants for things it can do to help us win.”
“I think we should be thinking about how to win in general,” Jaclyn looked the group of us over. “Kamia said she had more of the Ascendant Guard with her now. My implant tells me that they’ve got a variety of soldiers, all of them Abominator designed for different types of warfare. I guess if we have any fliers, Katuk, Nick or I will have to handle them.”
Tikki raised a hand slowly. “I can help with that.”
Not showing any surprise, Jaclyn nodded.
“Me too,” Cassie glanced over at the shields. “I’m not assigned to the front this time around. I think they must be assuming we’ll work together.”
Jaclyn nodded, “Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Then we talked about ways we could do that for a few minutes. We weren’t done when Kamia’s voice again sounded around us.
“Jadzen, come out. It’s time to do the only thing that will save your people here. Come out and lead the rest of your “Council” through the shields. Remember I can take them down with a thought. I don’t need you to cooperate. If you don’t, I’ll just kill you and everyone else.
“So it’s your choice. Cooperate or watch all your people die.”
Kamia stopped speaking (wherever she was) and waited for a response. She didn’t get one immediately. I’d like to say that silence hung in the air, but that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. How would an absence of sound hang anywhere?
The door opened with a creak and Jadzen stepped out of the shelter, followed by Iolan and a couple other council members.
Silence hung in the air, broken only by the sound of their footsteps on the forest floor.
They didn’t walk toward the shields. They stopped close to us and Jadzen cleared her throat. She took a breath and looked over at Kals giving her a smile.
Then she spoke, her voice resonant with the queer tone that motivators had when using their power. She wasn’t commanding anyone to do anything though. She seemed to be using it to be heard.
“Kamia,” she said, staring out past the shields at the forest, “I’ve heard of you and your deeds. Your ability to cause destruction is well known. I say this so that you understand that I’ve made my decision with full knowledge of the consequences.
“I will never let myself be captured and personality bent to the will of people with no respect for human dignity or freedom. I will die first—either by your hand or my own.”
Jadzen opened her mouth to say more, but she’d already given an answer enough for Kamia.
Beams of light hit the shields, creating the sound of a hissing white noise. For the moment, they held. We had to do something before they fell. I doubted it would be long.