Planet in the Middle: Part 13

I raised my eyebrow. “Because you think we’re going to fix this?”

She shrugged. “Maybe? The Xiniti and the Alliance have been fighting the Ascendancy for ages. You may not be able to fight them alone, but at least you’ll be trying something different. I’m sure none of them tried making a deal with Four Hands and I’m not sure he’d have tried with anyone but you.”

“That’s a weird thought. I think you’re right because he kind of said that, but  we aren’t exactly best buddies. I feel like he’s loyal to his people and no one else—maybe even to the point that he trusted me because I might be distantly descended from his people.”

Kals shook her head. “I told you that we don’t feel like we know the four-handed or we’d have brought them into the resistance.”

We kept on walking, not saying anything as we walked through the dark, stepping around trees as Kals pointed us in the right direction even though we couldn’t see a trail.

“You want to know one more reason I’m here?” She turned to me as we rounded an almost hill size stand of trees, all of them growing so close together that we’d never have gotten through without destroying them.

“What?” I pushed a branch away from my face.

“We’ve only got one option left. If Mom gives the signal, every half-way decent fighter pulls out whatever weapons that still work and joins up to attack whatever she points them at.”

She frowned and continued to walk.

“Voluntarily?” I asked. “It’s not a command?”

“We’re not the Ascendancy. Of course it’s voluntary. It’s a waste of life—suicide with a small chance that we’ll win.  We can’t match the Ascendancy’s troops. It’s a last chance to feel like we’re doing something, but even if it succeeds, we’ve lost the people most likely to keep us alive here.

“If we run across a new animal, a hard winter, or we can’t fix the force fields, we’ll die.”

I followed her between two smaller stands of trees, squeezing between the branches and listening as Jaclyn, Cassie, Marcus, and Tikki did the same.

“What is it? Some kind of symbolic last charge?”

Kals looked back at me. “Oh no. They’re trying to be smart. I’ve asked Council members about it and they told me it was our last defense, but it can’t work. Even if you win, you still lose afterward.”

I thought about it. “It doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it could be worse. For a second as you were talking about it, I thought you might have some kind of final weapon—like, I don’t know, a bomb that blows up the planet and makes it unlivable or something.”

She stared at me. “What would be the  sense of that? That’s worse. The only good thing about it is that it would at least be cleaner than what we’ve got—a last stand followed by starvation.”

From behind me, Jaclyn said, “Your last stand might not be a bad idea now. You’ve got a few thousand people. If half of them showed up with weapons, it might be enough to kill the Ascendancy troops.”

“Right,” Kals said, her voice getting louder, “but only if the Ascendancy fleet leaves and never comes back. What are the chances of that?”

Keeping her voice even, Jaclyn said, “Good—at least if the Xiniti win. If the Alliance shows up and the Cosmic Ghosts appear, the Ascendancy won’t have much choice but to retreat.”

From behind her, Cassie laughed. “She’s got you. Now you have to get everyone together to get shot.”

Further back, Marcus groaned. “This is a lousy time to get into an argument. Seriously, it’s the worst time.”

Kals sighed. “Tell me about it. The Ascendancy might be out here. Xiniti who don’t know who we are might be out here. But those are the good possibilities. They might talk to us. There are things in the woods at night that won’t talk to us. They’ll try to eat us.”

Not sounding scared, Jaclyn said, “I think we’ll be okay, but I do think that we should think about doing a last stand. We don’t have to charge. We could set a trap.”

Kals glared at her. “We could set a trap. Let’s leave everyone else out of it. They’ve done enough.”

Not liking where this was going, I tried to interject an argument that would shut all of this down until we found Katuk. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the argument worked out before I opened my mouth.

“Um…” I began and stopped because I felt something weird. It wasn’t mental. If it had been a telepathic attack or even a contact, I would have known it. No this was different, but familiar.

A voice I knew almost as well as my own spoke, “She’s right, Jaclyn. You wouldn’t believe everything in this forest.”

With that, my sister Rachel materialized in front of us. All white in her Ghost uniform, she floated above the ground, trees visible through her. I’d have suspected that she was an illusion except that she’d appeared in my comm contact list as “active” when she materialized.

That made a fake unlikely even if it didn’t explain how she got here.

Kals stared at her and then at me. I said, “Kals, meet my sister Rachel. Rachel, this is Kals.”

19 thoughts on “Planet in the Middle: Part 13”

    1. What they’ve accomplished so far is just Caspar for the course.

      With Sister there they look pretty formidable now. I hope they don’t BOO-ly the Ascendancy too badly!


  1. Yay Rachel. Pity she couldn’t bring the rest of the team.

    One thought for the rest of the fans. Nick barely shows on the potential powers. To the point everyone says he is normal. The Impregnator is known to both activate and potentially boost powers. So what is Nick went through it?

    1. Hmmm…From what I remember the test showed potential for Nick in the areas of Mind and Energy as applied internally, so I would think his power is something aking to boosting his mind in order to work better quicker and grasp concept better and be generally more creative, so I would think that if he went through the impregnator he would be able to boost his mind conciously and to greater high choosing how fast he thinks/perceives things, how fast he learns, How creative he is, how many stream of thoughts he can sustain at one time, augment his mind’s computing power as needed, grant himself eiditic memory etc…

      Of course all that is only based on what is shown in the Power Juice test and since said test might not take into account the power linked to Lee’s people DNA all this is most likely rather off.

      1. I seem to recall he tested with all three categories showing up but they were all barely visible meaning almost no potential. I suspect he’s just on the high end of really smart for a human, possibly with some discrete modifications by Lee. As Machiavellian Bastards go, Lee is right up at the top of the list. Jim has been intentionally vague on this point since Nick was tested. Another plot twist on the far horizon!

  2. [“Right,” Kals said, her voice getting louder, “but only if the Ascendancy fleet leaves and never comes back. What are the chances of that?”

    Keeping her voice even, Jaclyn said, “Good—at least if the Xiniti win. If the Alliance shows up and the Cosmic Ghosts appear, the Ascendancy won’t have much choice but to retreat.”]]

    Yeah, but what about the “never come back” part? See, I think this is one part where the strategic situation isn’t quite clear. How do the rebels expect to stay on this planet now that the secret of their location is blown? Sure the Xindi and the Cosmic Ghost might chase off the Ascendency for now, but unless they stay on guard forever the Ascendancy can just send a new fleet in six months or a year or two years.

    From the beginning of this book, it’s been made clear how important it was to keep the location of this world secret. Well, that ship has sailed. I would have assumed that now, the only choice the rebels have is to flee to some new secret location, which makes Kals talk about ‘what follows’ as if they’re going to stay on the planet curious. Of course they have to evacuate… unless theres something I’m not getting?

    1. There’s some stuff that I haven’t mentioned regarding that.

      Staying and leaving are both on the table, but technically Hideaway is on the Alliance side of the boundary in space. The Ascendancy is already quarantined and isolated so they don’t have much to lose by attacking when there’s no one around, but once there are enough ships in system, it won’t be worth attacking.

      Assuming the Alliance is willing to defend a couple choke points (there a limited number of good points to jump into the system), it becomes fairly easy to isolate. So staying is an option. You’re right though, that the Alliance would have to stay forever. They might view it as worth doing in the way that most countries will protect their territory even when the territory isn’t worth much.

      When the location wasn’t well known, the Alliance wasn’t willing to put the manpower into it. Now, they probably will be.

      Mostly though, in the heat of the moment, Kals isn’t thinking that far ahead.

  3. Well now Rachel is here this is very interesting and Boy Kals’ reaction to Nick’s siter being a Ghost(or at least having the power/some of the Powers of the Ghost)ought to be interesting…Also if Rachel is there that means there have to be other full fledged Ghosts around too,methinks things will go even more hectic.

    I love it !!! Aaah to have to wait for updates again…

  4. Something that has been bugging me for a few years is back in the first or second book when they are fighting the mayor, the Elemental team that got brainwashed was specifically called out as amatuers for using each other’s real names instead of code names.

    I thought it was a neat moment and it showed that while the League is young they are steeped in the rules of the superhero world in a way most aren’t, but at some point they reverted to using their own first names despite hiding their secret identities being a persistent problem.

    Maybe that isn’t a realistic complaint on an alien world but it feels like they’ve been doing it a lot.

    1. You may be amused to know that this is actually deliberate. It’s one of those worldbuilding things that I decide on and then assume that no one else would be interested and that it would slow down the narrative to explain it (possibly incorrectly). So here’s what’s up:

      1. Nick and the others need to hide their identities both personally and as superheroes so that they won’t come to the attention of Lee’s people.
      2. Nick and the others have Xiniti implants that allow them to speak in the language that the Ascendancy uses. It essentially supplies them the appropriate sounds as they speak.

      What flows from that?
      3. Since receiving the implants, they haven’t spoken a word of English for the entire book. Everything they’ve said has been changed to the nearest equivalent word/concept.
      4. This includes their names.
      5. Because having different names when wearing their faux Xiniti versions of their costumes versus when they have them off would be confusing for the colonists, they’ve been using the syllables that the implant provided them to substitute for their names in both situations.

      On a purely author/reader level, I didn’t want to have them all take on fake names and use those instead of their real ones for the duration of this book. Thus, I went with their real first names wherever a reference needed to be made.

      Maybe that was a mistake, but explaining all of this seemed a little involved and I didn’t think anyone but me would care.

      1. I can’t seem to like any posts. So you get a reply.
        I appreciate the explanation. It tells us why english is the language when these people should have no connection to that language. It means there are no samples of english tossed out to give hints to anyone as to where they are really from. And having the names altered. Well Nick’s name means ‘victory of the people’ or victroy for short. Just using a quick google search there are 381 male names that have similar meaning like Ajaideep. So the locals have no clue where the gang is from. I think it is a neat idea and thank you for mentioning it.

    1. I probably will–though it would probably be best done near the beginning of their time on the planet so as to prevent people from having to wonder why during the book.

      That said, I’m pretty sure that I said that the implant was translating. I just didn’t explain why they basically weren’t using codenames at all and all the ramifications of that.

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