Jadzen blinked and her mouth tightened. I guessed that people didn’t argue with her under normal circumstances. Before I could say anything, Jaclyn started talking.
“We don’t want to argue, but we’ve got our orders. We’re supposed to escort you here, but we’re also supposed to stay until reinforcements come. My understanding is that they’ll come soon.”
Standing straight and looking Jadzen in the eye, Jaclyn acted as if this were a meeting of equals instead of whatever Jadzen thought it was.
Jadzen glanced over at Katuk, the sole Xiniti here. “I assume that you’re the leader? We don’t need you to stay. We’ve been hiding people here for years now. No one who doesn’t know where it is can find this place.”
A yellow alert appeared in my helmet’s HUD. Knowing those were minor, I ignored it. I could check it out later.
Meanwhile, Katuk’s eyes widened. “I’m not the leader of this mission. No one has made clear to me that there is a leader, but that one,” he pointed at me, “may well be the leader.”
I shook my head. “I might be the leader on the ship, but not always on the ground. We switch off. Anyway, she’s right,” I nodded toward Cassie. “Our mission requires us to stay here until reinforcements show up.”
Jadzen’s mouth twitched. “We’ve never needed protection before.”
Cassie shook her head. “Did you ever get met along the way with a small fleet of ships? You got tailed to K’Tepolu. There’s no reason to think they can’t tail you here.”
Jadzen stared at the group of us, her eyes finally settling on Tikki. “Then follow your orders. Tikki, remove your luggage from the ship before it leaves.”
Tikki said, “Yes, ma’am,” and went briefly into our ship before she ran over to join the line in front of The Bug’s Revenge.
While Tikki ran, Jadzen left, escorted by a group of men and women. One man looked back, his mouth twisted in an expression that I interpreted as embarrassment. Then he turned back to the group as they walked away, eventually disappearing behind a long white spaceship with a brown smudge on its side.
Even to my eyes, it looked old and the implant supplemented my guess with knowledge. It was an Edge class human transport. It had been popular with settlers more than one hundred and fifty years ago. The implant couldn’t sense it’s serial number, but it noted that the hull’s shape matched the shape of earlier models in the class’ history.
The other two spaceships parked at the airport were deep space fighters. The implant didn’t peg either of them as being as old as the transport, but they were both twice as old than I was. While Alliance technology didn’t appear to change as quickly as ours did, I doubted that forty year old fighters could be cutting edge.
Katuk interrupted my thoughts, using his implant to connect to all of us. “Her attitude isn’t unusual. The Alliance was grateful that we destroyed the Abominators, but they fear us. The humans saw us destroy their masters and kill no small number of their own kind. It’s understandable that they fear us too, but I would have hoped that they might trust you.”
Marcus watched them go. “Yeah. The fact that we were human didn’t make things any easier. Of course, they’re running from humans. So they might not be willing to trust us just because we’re human.”
Katuk’s brow furrowed. “Interesting insight. We forget how divided other species are.”
Jaclyn snorted. “You haven’t seen divided. Go read about our wars, or for that matter, the Civil Rights movement. Then you’ll begin to get it.”
Katuck’s voice continued as she spoke. “Yes. That is exactly what I lack a true understanding of. In my people, Xiniti are Xiniti and that is all. In that sense you are all Xiniti and your perspectives count as much as mine. We do have people who ask if you truly can be in the same way that you wonder if I can truly understand your history.”
This felt like it was going to enter into territory that we’d never be able to handle. I considered what I could say, but then I noticed the notification I’d ignored back when Jadzen had been speaking with us. I decided I probably ought to check that.
As that thought struck me, Cassie spoke, “Hey everybody, I think it’s time to reel it in and start thinking small. We’re here to protect these people. We’re not here to figure out who the real Xiniti are. I think our next step ought to be figuring out what their defenses are like, right? They knew when we came out of jump, so all the mines must signal them or something. I think we need to know where they have mines and what else they’ve got. My bet is that if we go over and bug their starport staff, we’ll be able to find out everything we need to know.”
Marcus nodded, “And we’ll also find out that it’s only one guy, I bet.”
“Whose voice is kind of hot,” Cassie added.
Jaclyn looked at her. “Is that what your speech was really all about?”
Cassie shook her head. “No, but it’s a bonus, right?”
I checked the suit’s alert. When Jadzen had been speaking, the suit had activated a defense I’d made against people capable of controlling minds with their voice. It had activated at a low level, so it might be that she used it unconsciously, but it might be that she used it subtlety.
“Hey,” Jaclyn said, “where did that plant go?”