Then he shook his head. “I still can’t see her working for the Human Ascendancy though. They killed her parents. They took her brothers and sisters away when they were two or three. I can see how she might hate them, but I can’t see how she’d work for them.”
Cassie shrugged. “People lie—”
“Yeah,” Marcus said, “but people here know her and her parents.”
“Right,” Cassie started talking the moment he stopped, “but they could still have something she wants—maybe her parents aren’t dead or they’re willing to let a brother or sister go? Look, if someone had your family would you let them die? You’d do something, maybe even betraying a bunch of people you only kind of know.”
Marcus exhaled. “I don’t buy it. It’s got to be someone else.”
Jaclyn looked over at Cassie, lips in a straight line, and Cassie didn’t interrupt as Jaclyn said, “Look, I know the two of you like each other. That was obvious on the way in, but be careful. She might be everything you say, but she might not be. I don’t want to find you in the woods with a knife in your back or maybe partially eaten by those dog things.”
He held up his hands. “Ok. Ok. I’ll be careful. Just don’t make Tikki feel like an axe murderer, right? Because she probably isn’t.”
Katuk looked from Jaclyn to Marcus. “Is murdering people with an axe common on your world?”
Everybody turned to look at him.
Marcus cocked his head, thinking about it. After a moment he said, “Not too common, but it’s memorable when it happens. You know, I bet people use the phrase because axes are scarier looking than other weapons. Almost no one uses them for fighting. People mostly use guns or knives.”
Katuk nodded. “That seems sensible. Axes are often unwieldy.”
No one seemed to have a response to that, so I asked, “Did you hear about any other possible suspects?”
Cassie shook her head. “Yeah and no. There are thousands of people on the planet, so one night isn’t enough. I heard about a lot of people, but I didn’t hear anything bad enough yet. I mean, remember that woman Alanna who didn’t believe that there could possibly be a spy here? She’s one of the colony’s techies. I figured that she was an excellent suspect. It doesn’t get much better than a techie who doesn’t want you to look for spies, right? Except here’s the problem. She had an affair with Iolan years ago, so they’re both on council now, but she opposes everything he’s for.
“Sure, maybe that’s enough motivation to betray the colony, but most likely she’s pissed off enough at him to argue, but nothing else, you know?”
Jaclyn glanced at Cassie. “I can’t say I came up with anyone we weren’t talking about earlier, but I know more about who’s who around here than I used to. It’s beginning at least. Maybe Iolan will have something better when we meet him tomorrow?”
I nodded. “The way they talked at the council meeting, it sounded like he’d been harping on this for years. Maybe he’ll have a list.”
Jaclyn pursed her lips. “I hope so. Well, we’re done unless anyone learned anything you think we should all know.”
Marcus raised his hand. “Get this. Did you know these people can choose to be fertile? The guys can shoot blanks at will. The women choose to release eggs and I might be wrong, but it sounds like they can choose the gender. You wonder why. I do, anyway.”
Jaclyn raised an eyebrow.
“Look,” Marcus said, “We were talking. It came up.”
We all went to our separate rooms and went to bed. In the silence as we waited for the chance to fall asleep, Katuk told us, “We, Xiniti, can choose our gender.”
Marcus asked, “What gender are you now?”
“Asexual,” Katuk said. “We adjust to the situation. There are no eligible Xiniti here, so procreation is not an option and recreational sex unlikely. In any case, creating a child in a place that might be invaded would be irresponsible as well as a distraction from our task.”
“Huh,” Marcus’ voice carried across the room. “That’s different. I had no idea. Say, you guys destroyed pretty much all the Abominators. Do you have any idea why they chose to give their enslaved humans the ability to choose whether they get pregnant or not? It seems like they weren’t interested in that kind of freedom.”
The Xiniti considered it. “I assume it would have some use in choosing when their subjects would get pregnant since humans are perpetually receptive to sex.”
I opened my eyes and looked toward Marcus’ dark lump of blankets on the other side of the room. “I figured it was because of the motivators. Without the ability to choose, you get a random baby at random times. With the ability to choose and motivators, you get babies whenever you want them. Plus you get whatever gender you think would be convenient.”
“I should have guessed,” Marcus said. “I suppose we’re all lucky that they’re dead.”
In his inhumanly precise voice, Katuk added, “The Human Ascendancy uses their methods. In that sense, they live on, and we may see them before the end of all this.”
That thought didn’t help me sleep any faster, but eventually, I did drift off.