Jadzen frowned. “If one of the new colonists has something the Artificers made, we’re doomed—unless it’s the Xiniti somehow. They had ways of neutralizing Artificer technology when they fought the Abominators. The rumor I heard is that some Xiniti could connect to the artifacts like Abominators did.”
Maru nodded. “I heard that rumor.”
She took a breath. On the desk, her right hand clenched into a fist. “We’re going to have to trust that the Xiniti do know how to control Artificer equipment because the other rumor I heard is that they collect it.”
Unmoving except for his mouth, Maru said, “I heard that too. The leader of my cell claimed he’d seen them do it.”
Jadzen shook her head. “Then we’ll have to hope that they’re resistant to the corruption of the artifacts. When you feel confident that you can trust Geman and Dalat again, make sure they know to watch the sensors for more and report it.”
Maru bowed and the scene ended.
Even as I considered asking Hal if there were more, another scene appeared. This one showed him in what I now knew was his house, a white, egg-shaped building like any other in the colony. His particular house could only be described as “unfinished.” It had furniture , but no pictures on the walls or rugs—only eggshell white floor. From what I could see from the bots’ cameras, only his bedroom had any kind of decoration—a series of small sculptures. I wasn’t sure exactly what they were, but they were human shaped. If anything they reminded me of prehistoric “Earth mother” statues I’d seen in archaeology magazines.
It made me wonder if they came from a culture where those statues still had a meaning. It was too bad I wasn’t going to be in any position to ask about them. My Grandpa Klein (Dad’s father) taught archaeology and would probably love to know what they were all about.
The picture in my head didn’t take place in the bedroom though (and in retrospect, I was thankful for that). It took place in the living room during the early evening—hours ago.
Dalat and Geman sat on the couch, both of them sitting straight up, their eyes on Maru. Geman’s bulky, muscular body and bald head contrasted with Dalat’s smaller frame and thin, scruffy beard.
Maru stood in front of them. “Well, you made a mess of this. I suppose I should have told you specifically that you should be prepared for people whose senses were better than human, but I did tell you to take all appropriate precautions. That should have included using your implants for any conversations that relate to my orders. Is that clear?”
Dalat and Geman said a simultaneous, “Yes.”
Maru shook his head. “In the future, you will do exactly that. Unfortunately, in the future, you’re not going to be nearly as useful as you have been in the immediate past. You will remember all the orders I gave you. You will not remember that I gave them. As far as you’re concerned, the memory of who has been controlling you is hidden. It’s behind the wall and nothing can get through the wall without my approval. My voice, my appearance and habits, and the specific words I used to give you the order? They’re all behind the wall too. You will still respond to any order I give, but anytime I attempt to affect your old orders in public act as if it were someone else who created them.”
Dalat and Geman said yes again.
“Now,” Maru said, “I’m going to have to go more in detail about specific events and memories, but what I just told you applies to everything else.”
With that he began to go into detail regarding different times where he’d given them orders, many of them so outside my experience that they made no sense—for example, “During the Fruit Festival, you don’t remember anything specific about the apples.”
I did tell my implant to record both scenes. I felt sure something in them would make sense eventually.
I was right about that. Midway through the long list, I heard him say, “You don’t remember any specific time when you gave me access to the ansible or the name of the account I use to access it as an administrator. You don’t remember anything I said about the account or any other account.”
And there it was. I stopped myself from sitting up in bed. Maru had been the unknown admin. But what had he meant by “any other account?” Had he created another hidden admin account? More to the point, what were we going to do now that I had this? It seemed like more than enough to prove that Maru wasn’t a double agent, but instead a triple agent. Well, unless this was somehow approved by Jadzen, but that didn’t make any sense. Mind controlling Dalat and Geman would only work as an approved activity if there were some agent that they didn’t know about on the ground. If Maru had created another hidden admin account, it made more sense that he was working with someone that he did know.
I debated whether I should wake everyone up to break into Maru’s house and capture him. We might get something even better if we watched him longer. On the other hand, we might watch him take over the colony’s council if we left him too long.
I decided that this had to be a group decision and that I needed to start waking everyone up when Hal sent me another message.
[Two ships have exited jump space.]