Marcus pursed his lips. “There’s no chance that you’re pregnant, right? I mean, you said you’d had that… turned off, but I didn’t even know who you really were at the time, so…”
Kee’s face darkened, but she kept on talking. “I was telling the truth. In our true form, we’re not fertile with humans. I’m not sure you’d even recognize what we do to reproduce as sex, but when we embody ourselves, we have to create something that can connect back to our true selves.
“So we could have reproduced, but if we did, our child would have too much power for your world to handle, and too little to defend itself from the Destroy faction for a long, long time. I’d never risk that.”
Taking a deep breath, Marcus smiled. “That’s good. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who makes a kid and then disappears. I wish you would have told me earlier, though. I never seriously expected that you’d come home with me, but when we got involved I began to hope.”
She took a breath and let it go. “I should have told you sooner. I wish I had, but then, when everything became dangerous, the moment never seemed to be right. Again, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it go this long, but Tikki wouldn’t have wanted it to end, and sometimes we let our false personalities make decisions. It makes it harder for Destroy to tell the true from the false.”
Cocking his head to look at her as she talked, Marcus said, “Yeah. I can see that. Acting like you don’t know what’s going on will put them off guard.”
They kept on talking and I managed to relax. At least this wasn’t going to blow up. Knowing what Kee had just done, I didn’t want to see her angry—if only because I might have just broken up her strongest relationship in the last thousand years.
Next to me, Rachel smiled. “Well, it’s a relief to be wrong. They’re doing okay—for now, anyway. In my experience, what you feel about a breakup comes in waves.”
She stopped, frowned, stared up at the blue sky. “Bad news. This isn’t over. The Ghosts can send warnings to each other and right now I’m seeing a big one. The Ascendancy flagship is positioning itself to fire its railgun at the colony, starting with us.”
I turned to look at her. “Crap. ‘Rods from God’.”
She raised her eyebrow. “What?”
“Cold War era military idea. You shoot telephone pole-sized rods at the surface of a planet and get atomic blast level damage without the radiation. Are the Ghosts going to help?”
She shook her head. “They’re busy annihilating the Ascendancy fleet over on the other side of the solar system. A few of them could get here in a few minutes, but the first rod they fire will get here sooner.”
I stopped listening halfway through, trying to connect to Hal. When the connection opened, I didn’t wait for a hello. “You have my express authorization to do anything that works to stop the Ascendancy flagship from shooting a railgun at us.”
Hal’s voice came over my implant. “It is unlikely I’ll cross the distance on time, but firing the main gun might distract them. I’ll run simulations as I go.”
At about the same time, my implant’s emergency setting activated, registering a public announcement. Guessing what might be coming, I opened the message.
In my mind, I saw someone that could pass as an Ascendancy soldier except that he appeared to be in his fifties or older and wore a black uniform with a pattern of colored triangles in a circular shape. My implant identified him as an admiral and the triangles as medals.
“This is Admiral Makri Tzin of the Ascendancy fleet. You are in violation of the Human Ascendancy’s laws and will be destroyed. If by some accident, someone on this world survives, be sure that the colony is dead. Tell the Cosmic Ghosts that even if they destroy my ship as they are my fleet, the Ascendancy will endure and thrive. For now, burn rebels, burn.”
I opened a connection to Hal and he took the call, giving me his view of what lay ahead. The Ascendancy flagship was so far in the distance that it was little more than a dot. Hal fired the main gun. It wouldn’t be effective at this range, but it might distract them.
Admiral Makri Tzin’s voice and image reappeared in the public announcement stream. “We’ve loaded our railgun. This is your final moment. Fire!”
Except then, the admiral frowned, staring downward at what I assumed was a dashboard or control panel. “I said, ‘fire’!”
Then he paused, turning to look off camera to his right. “What are you doing here? I told you to—”
White light hit his body and the feed went dead.
Then another public announcement began. I opened it and Four Hands appeared in my view. He stood behind the same console the admiral had been using. Wearing shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, and tool belt instead of his Ascendant Guard uniform, he addressed the viewers.
“I’m Izzk Sekman, known as ‘Four Hands’ in the Ascendant Guard where I served the Human Ascendancy for more than ten years. In the Guard, I oppressed people in the Human Ascendancy’s name, much as my people have served the Ascendancy and many others by maintaining their ships.
“We will do so no longer.”