“WILL HITCHHIKE. REJOIN TRIBE/CLAN/CIVILIZATION. WE ARE NOMADS.”
So I digested that for a little while, wondering if it was true, or if it skipped a few steps. For example, the step where it turned us over to the civilizations of genetically modified humans who fanatically worshipped the Abominators, and might possibly hold a grudge against us for the way our grandfathers destroyed the last of their masters.
After which, it would go out and be nomadic.
And we, of course, would discover what fanatics do to people like us.
Of course, I knew I might be unnecessarily paranoid, but I didn’t want to test it. On the other hand, what was I going to do to avoid becoming a victim, bring it to Raptor so he could destroy it? What if it really was a lost nomad? That wouldn’t be right.
Who would be able to get to the bottom of it? Technomancer would have been great if he’d been part of the crew.
Then I came up with another idea. The Xiniti. They’d have a good sense of who to trust.
All I’d have to do is make contact without getting blown away.
I reached out, and clicked Raptor to mute and the speaker volume to practically nothing.
“He’s not going to like that,” Haley said.
“I know, but he’s going to like what we’re going to do next even less. We’re going to turn and bring the drone through the gate.”
Except I wasn’t planning to do that at all, and I hoped she’d notice I was lying.
She frowned. She opened her mouth to speak, probably to ask why.
I didn’t give her the chance. “We have to get it past the Xiniti,” I said. I nodded meaningfully toward the back, and shook my head, hoping she’d guess I meant the opposite.
I’d realized that if it weren’t friendly, it might listen in through the hull. Even though it hadn’t chimed in until we’d tried an obscure language, it might have been faking in order to let us think that it was unsophisticated. Wouldn’t nomads know a lot of languages? If it could understand English, we had to come up with another way to communicate.
“We can’t go through the gate,” Haley said. “No Earth spaceships can.”
“Well… Actually, ours can. The League had an arrangement with the Xiniti where they looked the other way a few times.”
I wasn’t lying about that.
“Oh,” she said. “I wondered. Grandpa told me a few stories where it sounded like they had the jet on other planets. I thought I hadn’t remembered them right.”
I changed course, pointing the jet toward the gate, and its Xiniti guardians.
Raptor’s muffled voice said something indecipherable. Well, indecipherable to anyone with normal hearing.
“He wants to know what we think we’re doing,” Haley said.
I tried to think of something to tell him.
Haley took it off mute, and turned up the speakers’ volume.
“Everything’s okay,” she said into the comm. “We’ve come to an understanding with it. We’re going to drop it off on the other side of the gate.”
Raptor’s voice quavered as he replied. “Haven’t you been listening to a thing I said?”
In the background, the older man, the one who followed Double V’s gossip column, spoke. “Listen to her, Raptor. It will work out.”
“Is your head misfiring?” Then the comm went to the peculiar not quite silence you get when someone else presses mute.
In the meantime, I’d guessed who the older man might be. Mr. Intuitive (the second one) worked with the Defenders. If he had enough information, he could leap to the correct answer. If he thought we could handle it, that was good. Of course, he’d had some well-publicized screw-ups…
They didn’t turn the mute off immediately either. We waited, and then Haley said, “I’m going to grab something a second.”
She got up, walked out of the cockpit, and came back with a laser rifle that looked like it belonged on the cover of a 1950’s science fiction magazine. She held her helmet as well.
“I thought I’d grab it in case things went wrong. Maybe you should too.”
I had the space version of the Rocket suit in the back, and I had time to put it on.