I sent them to his house, Jadzen Akri’s and all over the council building while I was at it. I shared the process with everybody via implant.
As I maneuvered the bots through Jadzen’s house, bugging the common spaces as well as her office, I asked Kals, “Are you okay with it? We are bugging your house.”
Kals sat at the table, eyes glazed over like everyone else’s. “It’s my mom’s house and you have to. Maru’s over there all the time. Even if I didn’t want my mom’s privacy invaded, there are so many meetings there. It’s practically the unofficial council building.”
Once every bot was in position, I left the monitoring to Hal. The AI could assign a process to monitor all the feeds for interesting events and notify us if something important was going on.
Over the next few days, we pretended we weren’t doing anything. Jaclyn paid attention to the dog. Everyone helped—even Katuk who seemed to find the whole idea of domesticating animals strange.
We were in the storage room feeding the animal.
Katuk watched as the dog devoured the contents of its bowl. “I know that other species do it. Humans, in particular, have a great number of domestic animals. The Xiniti do not domesticate animals. We set aside hunting preserves and while we have bred animals, it was to increase the challenge in hunting them—not for friendliness.”
The dog stopped eating long enough to tilt its head and look at the Xiniti while he talked but then got back to eating, licking the bowl once the meat was gone.
Kals and Tikki worked at their respective jobs. Alanna had made good on her promise make Tikki busier even if she couldn’t do the same to Kals who stopped by mid-afternoon as Katuk and I made it back to the suite, finding Marcus and Jaclyn gone and Kals talking with Cassie.
Kals took a sip from a mug. “Alanna’s a bitch. Did you know that she dated Iolan? Whatever happened with that, she hates him now. I think the last time I saw her agree with him was the meeting where they told you to stop looking for the mole. Otherwise, she argues with any position he holds, whether he’s right or wrong.”
Cassie laughed. “I heard about that. It’s so ridiculous. I’m here on another planet and what do I hear about? Stupid high school stuff. Two council members had an affair and now she hates him. I could have stayed home for that.”
Kals shrugged. “People don’t stop being people.”
She wasn’t wrong.
A little after midnight on the second day, Hal notified me that he’d collected information that we’d find interesting during the day. I was lying in my bed by then. Marcus and Katuk lay in their beds, Marcus snoring quietly in the dark. Katuk was, as ever, silent. He may have been awake.
Ok, I thought at Hal. I’ve got nothing better to do right now. Show me what you’ve got.
I found myself in Jadzen’s office, a room with potted plants, a comfortable desk, small sculptures, books, a picture of a boat crossing a stormy lake, and not a single piece of stray paper. Jadzen sat behind the desk. Maru stood in front of it.
He shook his head. “I’m picking away at Geman and Dalat. I believe that I’ll be able to get around their conditioning by tomorrow.”
Jadzen eyed him and frowned. “You’ve been trained by the Dominators. Isn’t there a way to do it more quickly?”
He sat down. “No. Whoever modified them was at least as well trained as I am.”
Nodding as he talked, Jadzen asked, “Does that mean there are Dominators here?”
Maru swallowed, but then said, “I don’t know. My implant should be up to date on anybody who could be assigned to us—unless they realized that you turned me. Then they’re almost certainly feeding me bad information.”
She let out a breath, looking down at the desk as she did it, and seeming smaller. “In your message, you mentioned a disquieting discovery. Learning that there might be Dominators here is all of that, but is that what you were referring to?”
Maru sat down in a chair. “No. This is either worse or of no consequence at all. It’s impossible to know. You’ll remember that we stole an Abominator designed array—“
She interrupted, “Yes?”
“The Abominators got paranoid about the Artificer civilization near the end, avoiding archeological digs, sometimes destroying their artifacts from a distance—“
Jadzen gave a curt nod.
“Well,” Maru said, “Geman and Dalat have begun getting readings from a sensor that claims to detect ‘reality manipulation’. It’s supposed to detect remnants of the Artificer civilization. They’ve been getting flickers from it since we landed. Something might have come in with us or maybe with the Xiniti. Or maybe there’s nothing. They’re barely readings, but the problem with ignoring them is that the sensor has been reporting nothing since we bought it and only now started to report something.”