Agent 957, Hideaway, Landing Starport
It had been an utter disaster. Agent 957 couldn’t see it any other way.
The sun beat down as he stood at the edge of the field, outwardly supervising the marines and the few spacers who’d survived as they ransacked the ships, trying his best not to let anything show.
If the marines had lost respect for him, he didn’t see it, but helmets covered their heads so it wasn’t as if he could read their facial expressions. Besides that, Ascendancy policy was to keep soldiers as compliant with authority as possible. They could be screaming inside and he’d only know it if he deliberately asked.
The spacers were allowed a little more agency, but not much.
The spacers never looked him in the eye. He wasn’t sure whether that was due to hatred or fear.
He kicked a can of… something—water or food, maybe. That got a few looks. He saw them out of the corner of his eye, but the spacers turned their attention back to unloading and organizing the supplies before he had time to glance their way.
It was all his fault. Between the destruction of their battleship and the death of its commander, the Ascendancy forces had been in such disarray that they hadn’t seen the herd coming toward them or realized that the force shields were down until the creatures were pouring into the camp.
If he failed to capture Jadzen Akri and the council after all this, he’d need to go into hiding—and maybe even if he succeeded. He’d lost a battleship and then most of its crew.
He took a series of slow breaths. No, he told himself, the commander lost the battleship. I lost the crew and even then it’s not all my fault. They’re supposed to be trained to handle this. They knew about the megafauna on this hellhole. They should have been watching.
As he began to feel better, he thought again about how the resistance had damaged the ships—all of them. Whoever had done it had used something to poke holes in the shuttles’ engines and control mechanisms, consistently targeting the exact same spots on all of the shuttles with an eye toward making sure there were no spare parts.
Whoever they were (and he had ideas), the attack showed the same techniques as half a dozen incidents across Human Ascendancy space. His implant had the details.
He could give up any ideas he had about going into hiding. Whoever had done this had destroyed not only the shuttles’ engines but those of his own fighter, making it impossible for anyone to get off the planet and signing his death warrant at the same time.
Footfalls came from behind him. He knew whose they had to be and if they were upset, he’d die.
He turned, seeing them, all of them current or former members of the Ascendant Guard. Neves, the biggest of them—tall, dark-skinned and with massive muscles. Neves had some connection with the Abominator servants still on Earth.
“Well,” Neves said, “that was a massive fuck up. We were too far away to even hear about it before it was too late.”
“I know. You were the only ones I could trust. Did you find them?”
Kamia, pale skinned with hair so blonde it was nearly white, laughed. “No. You sent us to the caverns, but they’ve had years to hide and we had more than fifty miles of caverns to search. Their people were clever. We lost men to their traps and tracked their signs through caves without once ever catching them.”
Agent 957 frowned. “What about Abominator technology?”
She shook her head. “I couldn’t sense any in the caverns. I caught a hint of Abominator out here while I was in inside, but I assumed that was a mistake.”
Neves shook his head. “No mistake. The survivors reported that one of the ‘Xiniti’ carried what sounded like an Abominator gun.”
Kamia’s eyes narrowed. She didn’t say anything at first, but added, “I’ll watch for it. I could use another.”
Agent 957 glanced at her waist where three oddly shaped guns hung in their holsters (not to mention the other items in their pouches). They couldn’t all be sentient weapons.
Next to Kamia, Four Hands shook his head. “Don’t even think about acquiring another. You know what the masters’ weapons were like. That way lies madness.”
One of the few of the Abominators’ genetically bred zero-g repairmen to make into the Guard, Four Hands stood a foot higher than the average member of his people. Wearing powered armor that protected his body from the planet’s gravity, Four Hands had hands instead of feet and a mind designed to understand technology.
Turning away from Kamia, Four Hands addressed the agent. “I received an ansible communication that reinforcements are on their way. It’s anyone’s guess as to when they’ll be here, but they’re coming. That means that when they get here, they’ll find out about this.”
He waved a hand toward the rows of damaged shuttles. “We’d like to offer you a chance to save your career and life. We don’t believe in capturing members of the resistance. We believe that all of them, from the youngest child to Jadzen Akri, need to die. We need you to help us control what’s left of the troops. In return, we’ll vouch for you to our supervisors. You’ll be a hero and better yet, you won’t be executed. What do you say?”
Agent 957 let out a breath. “Yes.”