What did I want to know? Everything? What she was about when she chose to turn Armory from a superhero into a purely profit-seeking weapons developer? How it happened that she had some kind of relationship with Bullet and why she did it? What did she know about Martin Magnus and what they’d been using Master Martian for?
We kind of knew the answers to those questions, but we only really had guesses and Master Martian’s version of events.
For that matter, did she know why Master Martian kidnapped my parents and asked them questions that sounded almost exactly as if he knew that both of them had the potential to develop abilities related to the Artificers and the Cosmic Ghosts? Did that have any relationship to the fact that they’d kidnapped and brainwashed Ana?
Also, and probably most important, did the diagram from Magnus’ book mean that he was looking for the Artificer device that Lee had stolen from his people, hidden somewhere, and never given solid answers on?
Specifically, was it hidden somewhere on Earth? Because that was my working theory and I didn’t like it much.
Anyway, those were all the thoughts that went through my head when she asked what I wanted to know. It wasn’t a short list and I only stood there dropping my jaw—not that she could tell through my helmet.
“Nick,” she said—except she didn’t really say “Nick.” She said the Ascendancy name I’d used on Hideaway. It didn’t even sound like Nick unless my implant translated it for me—which it did, noting that it was the Ascendancy version.
“Sorry,” I said, “I’ve got way too many questions to ask for the first one to just pop into my head… Uh… Let’s go with the one she talked about. What are Earth’s Dominators doing? What did she think you’d beg to be a part of if you heard about it?”
I didn’t ask that on a whim either. I had a hunch.
Kals gave a slow nod and grinned. Turning toward Colette, she said, “A little while ago, you told me that Earth’s Dominators had their own purpose. I’d like to hear more and why you think that I’d want to join up if you told me about it.”
Colette’s jaw muscles tensed as if she might be trying to resist, but not for long, “We don’t work for either the Masters or the Human Ascendancy. We’ve found our own path. The Human Ascendancy is thinking too small. It’s little more than the caged remnants of the Master’s empire. Our leader thinks bigger. The Masters wanted to rule the galaxy and even more. They wanted to rule the future. There’s a time coming when the young races of the universe will rebel against the elder races and we will lead that rebellion.”
Kals glanced back at me, the expression on her face asking, “Do you know what she’s talking about?”
We hadn’t told her anything about Lee, the Artificers, or how their species had divided into two factions, one of which intended to destroy all intelligent life except for themselves. Though Kals couldn’t have caught any clues from me because of my armor, she did glance at Haley. Whatever she saw in Haley’s expression or posture, she turned back to Colette.
“What elder races are you talking about? The Abominators are dead.”
Colette laughed, “That’s the sort of small-minded thinking that we’ve progressed away from. The Abominators are nothing. I’m talking about the Artificers. At least that’s what you call them. The Ascendancy knows them only as an ancient race that left dangerous ruins and technology all across the universe. We know better. Our leader has learned that they still live and that they’ve retreated because of their fear of us. They know that someday we’ll destroy them.”
Kals nodded, “Tell me more about that. How does your leader know and how will you destroy them?”
“Our leader knows because he has a touch of their power and he grows stronger all the time. He says that he can hear their conversations and he knows that one of them hid some of his power here. Magnus believes that he can use it if he can find it.”
Haley and I looked at each other. We didn’t need to say anything. I’d told her everything I knew about the Artificers and my connection to them, the “Galaxy Core Device” that Kee had made for the Artificers’ Destroy faction, and that Lee had used it once and hid it. She also knew that the Artificers had split into the Live and Destroy factions after seeing visions about their future. Members of Destroy had seen visions of younger races killing them and decided to get them first. Live had decided to teach younger races.
She also knew that Lee had seen someone very like me assisting him in fighting his own people in the future. He’d even implied that it wasn’t just me.
I hadn’t woken up this morning thinking that I’d be worrying about a far future cosmic war, but life is unpredictable. Now I knew that there was little chance that it could have gone any other way.
Kals looked over at Haley and I and then back at Colette, “How do you fit into all of that?”