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.”