For a moment, I heard silence as Jaclyn processed that. Then, “As long as you’re not being attacked we’re coming out ahead of what we expected. Keep us in the loop.”
“I’ll broadcast the conversation.”
To Four Hands I said, “How would handing off the technology work? I don’t have the plans here. They’re mostly in my head. I can describe them to you, but honestly, there are a bunch of little things that I might not remember to say. I’d suggest knowledge transfer via implant, but you’ve got an Ascendancy implant and I’ve got a Xiniti implant and both of them might have internal programming that we don’t know about.”
Four Hands grinned. “We know more about the implants than most people. We designed and built the Ascendancy military’s, but you’re right. They include protections and the military implants are especially suspicious about unusual connections. What I’d suggest is that if you have any that I can take and then describe your methods of construction, we’ll probably be able to figure out the rest.”
I let out a breath. “I’ve only got two left.”
“That’s all?” He cocked his head to the side, looking at me.
“Back home I don’t generally need to kill people. In fact, if I did kill people when I didn’t need to, I’m pretty sure I’d get in big trouble. So, I generally don’t have more than five killbots on me because I pretty much never use them and they’re a bother to make and I have to maintain them if I expect to have them work after a month of sitting in my armor waiting to be used, much less a year of waiting to be used. All of these are about a year old. Anyway, I didn’t expect this kind of mission. I probably should have, given the Xiniti, but even then, maybe not. I didn’t need killbots when we got invaded. My standard bots were good enough. Anyway, I’ve got two, and I’m not sure I want to give them away.”
I considered ending there, but decided that it wasn’t enough. “I want to help you, but honestly, I don’t know if I should trust you. Anyone can say they want to take out the Ascendancy, but doing it is another thing. Plus, if you think about it, what you’re doing is asking me to give up my most effective weapon for analysis. You’re not offering to help me or surrender. You’re offering to let us go, but if you think about it, we don’t even need that. We’ve got a ship. In theory, we could use it to get fairly high up and fire on the group of you till you’re dead. Obviously, that doesn’t feel right to me, but we could. So, in addition, to telling me why I should give you those bots, I’d like to know why you’re trusting me at all, and also, why it makes sense for me to do this your way.”
He nodded. “I understand. It’s not every warrior that would give up one of their weapons to someone they’ve been fighting. It doesn’t make sense and you need to know why you can trust me. It’s all wrapped up with why I believe I can trust you. You’ve seen my people. We fix things. We don’t get involved in fights. We serve those who are stronger than we are. I’m unusual because I decided to fight instead of serve, but I can do both, much like you can.
“Like you, I’ve had to root out my hesitation to kill. It’s still more natural for me to run and avoid the fight than to take part in it. We have access to files on you from the spy in your ranks. Before she died, she sent us word that you hailed from a planet where Abominator bred humans had nothing to prevent them from mixing their genes randomly. I don’t know who your ancestors were but your ability to invent is unusual even among our kind. I’d like to believe that you’re descended from one of us.”
We had lied to the colonists about that, but it wasn’t untrue. Abominator bred had come back to Earth and Abominator created genes had been loosed among our population in many different ways. It was more likely that my ability and the four-handers’ descended from some common ancestor than the other way around, but who could say?
Four Hands watched me, eyes steady as he continued. “I’ve seen footage of your fights and you don’t kill every time you can and when you do, as with the stampede, it’s because you don’t have other realistic options. The fact that you hold to that despite the temptation to go another way makes me think I can deal with you and that you can deal with me. I think you’ll want to because if I prevent our people from going after the colonists, it will cause less death than the alternative. Then, if I can end the Ascendancy, it will be even better.”
In my head, Cassie said, “I’m not sure I buy it.”