Cassie raised an eyebrow. “And we’re supposed to believe that she’ll show up out of nowhere and demand that Nick flies her back to her old life even though she’s never done that before? Take it from someone with a difficult mom. I get sick of her, but I wouldn’t risk her life or the lives of all the people here.”
Maru frowned. “I’m sure that you’re not as difficult she is. She’s been determined to have her own way since she was a child and her mother and father indulged her too often.”
“Okay,” Cassie’s voice stayed low. “We’ve got it. She’s hard to deal with and you’re not impressed by her parents’ discipline methods. Is there anything else?”
Maru blinked. “I… don’t think so.”
He looked from Cassie to me. “Thank you for your time. I’ll be going.” Then he stepped out of the hatch and onto the ground.
When the hatch closed, we watched him go. I looked over at Cassie. She had her arms crossed over her chest and her face wore a small smile.
“What brought that on?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Not much. Anyway, I wasn’t that mean to him—at least not more than he deserved. I didn’t see anything about her that said she was willing to endanger the colony. From what you told us about the conversation you had with her, it sounded like she was telling you what she did so that we wouldn’t cause problems here.”
I thought about it. “That was my impression. I got the feeling that she cared for the people here.”
“Exactly,” Cassie pointed her finger at me. “It’s like he came over here just to make Kals look bad.”
“What does he get out of that?” I supposed that if Jadzen died, the leadership of the colony would go to somebody. If he discredited her, it might be that much more likely to go to him, but it wasn’t as if we, the local Xiniti nation representatives would be making that decision. Far from it, I would have guessed. I’d have thought that outsiders would, if anything effectively encourage the colony to go for the other direction. It wasn’t as if we had any connections here.
Cassie leaned toward the windshield, watching Maru go. “I don’t know. Maybe we should ask her.”
“I suppose we could. I’ve no clue where she is though. Oh. Wait a second.” My implant volunteered that the colony directory included her bracelet’s address and that I could contact her any time.
I sent her a text—sort of. What I actually sent her was a text sized bit of information sent directly from my brain. I’m not sure that counts, but it wasn’t direct communication. It was a snippet of communication, so a “text” is the closest I’ve got. Regardless, my communication said, “We’ve got some questions for you about Maru.”
Her reply came as, “My favorite person ever. Did he say that he doesn’t like me?” Along with the reply came a feeling of distraction and a sense that she should be paying attention to something else.
It made me wonder what feelings my text included. I sent back, “Is this a bad time?”
“I’m at work. We’re planting seedlings. I’ll drop by when I’m done.” Again it came with distraction, but also a sense of relief.
I told her thanks and concentrated on the real world, that being the cabin of the ship and Cassie in this case. “She’ll drop by when she’s done with work.”
She grinned. “The party worked. If we hadn’t had it, you’d have been the random investigator guy or I would have had to make the call. This way, you’re ‘that guy she talked to last night’. That’s much better.”
“It wouldn’t be if I’d started talking about faster than light engineering. Then I’d have been ‘that boring guy at the party’.”
Cassie pressed the button that opened the hatch. “But you didn’t. Maybe you would have in high school, but you’ve been dating Haley for two or three years now and you know she’s got no interest in it. You’ve learned how to talk to normal people without even trying to. So, what was Kals doing at work?”
I followed her out of the ship. “Planting seedlings? We didn’t go too deeply into it.”
Cassie grinned at me. “She didn’t want to bore you. Did she say when she got off of work?”
“No. If agricultural work goes anything like at home, my bet would be that she starts when it’s light and goes for eight hours?”
We started walking across the landing field. Cassie peered down at a small hole in the ground that must have been the burrow for some small animal. “I bet she’s off soon. It’s most of the way through the afternoon.”
We arrived back at the council building after a few minutes of walking. Cassie was right that work ended soon. Soon after we got back, I saw a lot of people walking the streets on the way to their houses, most of them looking like they’d been working in the dirt—covered with mud up to their knees and dirty hands.
Kals didn’t arrive until the crowed thinned out and when she did arrive, she didn’t look dirty at all. Between the combed hair, clean jumpsuit and hint of makeup, it was obvious she’d cleaned up before she came over. It fit. With a mother like Jadzen, I could imagine that she’d never consider dropping by on the way home from work.