Despite remembering her worst, I said, “You know, she might. If you want, I can bring it up. The thing is, she’s going to leave soon. I don’t know how much time she’ll have to teach you, but I think she’d be willing to teach you something. I think she wants to hang out with me and maybe relax for a second, though. So, she won’t want to teach the whole time.”
Waving her hand as if she were waving away my concerns, she said, “Don’t worry about it. I can’t spend all day with her either. Anything she can show me will put me ahead of where I am now.”
She stopped, staring at the camera and by extension at me, “You’re friends?”
Catching the implication, I said, “She’s friends with everyone who helped the colony survive on Hideaway—Marcus, Jaclyn, Cassie… Even Hal, to the degree that’s possible.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, eyes widening, “I wasn’t trying to make it sound like that.”
Guessing from her expression, she meant it, even if she may have been wondering without intending to hint at her thoughts, “No worries. I’ll pass your question on and let you know.”
Then she said her goodbyes to everyone and dropped off the call.
Now even larger on the screen, Marcus said, “Jaclyn texted me that she was on the way to HQ.”
“Really?” I thought about that, adding, “it does make sense. Who knows when Kals or Katuk will be here next?”
“That,” Marcus said, “and also, she still has to walk the dog. I might drop by myself.”
Within another minute, he dropped off the call along with everyone else, leaving Daniel and I alone at the table in front of the big screen. Tara had left to drop by the two small groups and see how they were doing—probably using her comm from her room.
As the big screen went black, Daniel turned to me, saying, “3… 2… 1…”
A crackling noise came from behind and I turned to see a circle hanging in the air. The edges were distorted as if they were a ripple in the water, but with a golden glow coming from within the circle. Kals and Katuk stepped out of the circle with Katuk’s silver suit reflecting the glow. Kals’ black dress didn’t reflect it in the same way. The shifting shapes took on a small glow, but nothing more.
A green, rectangular box the size of a large suitcase floated behind Kals. I’d barely noticed it when they’d boarded the jet, but that was probably Kals’ luggage. Intricate, shifting patterns ran across it while the air below it shimmered.
As two of them stepped onto the red-carpeted section of the floor, the circle shrunk and disappeared. Guardian may have waved as it went. Even with the implant’s instant replay, I couldn’t be sure due to the lighting on the other side.
Kals looked around the room, taking in the grey concrete walls and polished, concrete floors, the big square of crimson carpet with computer workstations, and the group’s table. What she thought of the twenty-foot screen, the can lights hanging from the ceiling, or the original League’s trophies that stood in one corner, I could only guess.
After a long look around the room, she turned away from it to look at Daniel and I. Crossing the carpet and stopping near where we sat at the table, Kals shook her head, “I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but it wasn’t this. What is this place? You don’t live here, do you?”
Replaying her words in my head told me that she’d spoken in English instead of Ascendancy. I responded with, “This is under my house. It’s the team’s base”
She looked around the room again and her black hair brushed her shoulders, “Oh, then it looks exactly like it should.”
Turning toward Daniel, she gave a short bow, more of a nod of her head, “We haven’t been introduced, but I’m going to guess that you’re one of Nick’s friends. I’m Kals.”
I grinned at the bow. It was a legacy of growing up in the Ascendancy where touching humans of different ancestries had the potential of an allergic reaction. However formal it seemed here, her bow actually represented an informal greeting.
Daniel nodded back, doubtless catching my thoughts, and said, “I’m Daniel. It’s good to meet you.” Looking over at Katuk, he gave another nod and said, “It’s good to meet you as well.”
Katuk only said, “I am Katuk of the Xiniti.”
A smile tugged at the corner of Kals’ mouth as she turned to me, asking, “Where are we staying?”
“Well,” I said, “Here? If you’re staying for a while, we might want to change that. Do you know how long?”
She let out a breath and shook her head, “A few days at most. I didn’t feel comfortable telling you except in person, but we’re going to war with the Human Ascendancy soon.”
I felt my eyes widen, “What?”
“You gave your killbot to Four Hands. He and his people have reverse-engineered it, but because they know the Human Ascendancy will work up a defense after it’s used, we’re setting up an empire-wide attack. We’re hoping to take out enough of the Ascendancy’s leadership to have a fighting chance.”
Meeting my eyes, she added, “I’ll have to get back before it all starts, but I’m not planning it.”
“Wow,” I hoped that by calling her in I wasn’t jeopardizing something much bigger.
She looked at me, “Don’t worry about it. I’m more of a figurehead than a leader in this. They barely need me at all.”