Chapter Fifteen

The rest of the gang is waiting for them as she climbs into Sa’s cave on the Causoki’s heels. The Silosc opens his mouth, but she cuts him off and she turns toward the assembled beings, “Th’ new settler’s won’t be able t’ leave th’ planet until they ar’ able t’ contact th’ council of beings. We need t’ make sure tha’ they can’t.”

The Causoki rubs his arms and moves toward the rest of the gang members, “But they know that we’re here. And whoever that was- Marie- seems to know you. How are we going to be able to do anything?” The Silosc opens his mouth to berate her, but she cuts him off again, “Marie may think tha’ she knows me, but she doesn’t know anything. An’ that is our advantage. We need t’ make sure tha’ they can’t call th’ council of beings for help. An’ they need t’ know tha’ they’re not safe. They shouldn’t feel safe, no matter what they attempt t’ do. We will be waiting an’ watching for th’ next time t’ attack. We need t’ destroy their radio.”

“But they’ve seen us!” The Causoki’s voice is disbelieving, and she turns her scowl into a smile, “Of course they hav’. But that doesn’t mean tha’ we can’t go an’ steal th’ radio right out from under them. They still don’t know tha’ there ar’ so many of us, an’ we can use tha’. This i’ just th’ beginnin’ of what we’re doin’. But it might as well be called th’ end if they contact th’ council of beings now.”

She pauses, but no one responds. She frowns and meets their eyes, “This is goin’ t’ become a war… an’ it won’t be a war tha’ any of us can win if they hav’ their radio. Ya’ are either in or you’re out, but ya’ should make a decision soon ‘cause I’m going t’ send each of ya’ i’ your different directions as soon as I know tha’ you’re in. Your leader is still your leader, but this is my plan an’ so I’m goin’ t’ tell ya’ where t’ go. Is tha’ clear?”

Someone mutters and multiple beings nod. She tries not to sigh with relief and clenches her chest shut, “Good. An’ now we hav’ things t’ do.” She turns toward the Silosc. He scowls at her with a murderous look and she grins back, “Ya’ shouldn’t look so worried, they’re still your men. I just hav’ a reason t’ use them. If ya’ want t’ be directly involved in my plan, ya’ should make sure tha’ I hav’ a reason t’ include ya’. For now, ya’ should keep your Causoki with ya’.”

She turns and motions the rest of the gang toward her, “Get over here, there ar’ things t’ do.” The Causoki follows them with a frown, “Aren’t you going to wait until it’s dark?” She scowls, “An’ then walk right in when they’re expecting us? I hope not. No, we’re goin’ t’ go in now an’ make sure tha’ no one gets their hands on th’ radio before us.”

She waves the Causoki away and he walks back to the Silosc with a dejected frown. She is sure that the Silosc is already plotting against her, but she has other things to focus on. He may try to kill her, but no one is a friend to anyone else. Everyone is on their own whether they realize it or not. Her plan may not last, and she may end up dying soon, but at least there is a chance that she will understand what Sa has been showing her beforehand.

She doles out her instructions with a warning glare to each member of the gang, before sneaking out of the cave behind them. Moving during the day is a supremely stupid thing to do. But she cannot come up with anything better. The old radio was installed along with the first settlers that died decades ago. She is sure that it has been decayed with age, but she can be certain that Marie will try to fix it.

It will take at least an hour to get the old radio to work and at least half that has passed. They do not have much time left, but she will have to hope that it is enough. And she does not care enough for what will happen if her plan fails to worry more than she absolutely must.

Death will be a lucky side effect of being caught; she is thankful that it is also the most probable one. Hopefully Keone has thought about her words. Her plan will be much easier if she can relay on Keone to be overly curious. She can only hope that she has bothered it enough for it to consider breaking some of Marie’s rules and learning if anything she said was true.

If Keone is anything it seems to be, she has a chance of recruiting another being to her side. And if not… than she will end up in more trouble. Far more trouble. But the war that she is starting might as well be interesting if it is going to be a war at all.

She follows her barrowed gang closer to the town’s fence. Her feet sink into the soft ground, and she scowls at the marks that they are leaving. But they will be gone long before anyone finds their footprints if her plan goes as she expects. Marie would not threaten her without being able to follow those threats with something worse than what she mentions. But Marie will also know that Meg will not show herself without a good reason. And the reasons for revealing herself so quickly are piling up.

Along with all of her regrets.

The regrets that she has can be fixed. Right now, she needs that radio, and she needs it quickly. One of the gang members slices through the fence with clawed hands, it sparks on his fingertips, and she holds back a grim smile. This is a day that she has been waiting for far too long. She intends to make the most of it.

The gang fans out just as she ordered them to. She joins the Varroke who sliced the fence as they head toward the center of the town. The town feels different, perhaps because it is no longer home, or maybe it is simply because she is finally herself. The streets are empty and far cleaner; the storefronts are starting to be peeled away to make space for new buildings; and the houses are being handed to the new residents moving into a town of criminals.

A grim smile pulls her lips together. Marie might know what the town has turned into, but anyone who arrived on the ship would not. Not even Marie will be able to prepare them for their new world. The Varroke yanks on a chain across the doors of the old town hall and snaps it in half. The floor is covered in layer after layer of dust that has piled up over the years since the town was an official establishment.

She walks down the center of the room and smashes the glass in front of a red and gold lacquered tollbooth. An alarm sounds with a shrill warning. It is surprising that a security alarm has lasted after all of these years, even though everything else has fallen to shreds. She grabs the small black radio box sitting on the center of the tollbooth’s desk with shuffled papers surrounding it.

One of the gang members shouts for her to hurry up without bothering to use words. She wraps the cord of the radio around her hand and turns away from the old town hall with the alarm buzzing in her head and making her ears ring. She never thought that she would love coming up with plans this much. And she never thought that she would want to start a war that no one has ever managed to win.

The gang races in front of her as they speed toward the fence. She jumps through the opening that the Varroke made and crashes to the ground on the other side. It takes a moment for her to realize that she has landed on something other than the hard ground.

She scrambles to her feet with a glower, but the glower fades as she finds herself looking down on Keone. It stands up with a shuffling step and swallows thickly, “I-I was looking for you. I guess you’re in the middle of something though.” She scowls despite herself and grabs Keone’s arm to drag it toward the cover of the rocks, “Come here, you’re with me from now on. Why did you want to find me? Have you finally made a decision?”

Keone swallows again as he nods. Her scowl deepens and she resists the temptation to slap it, “Well? What have you decided? Are you here because you want me to be caught, or have you finally realized that it will not matter?” Keone gulps, “I-I think that you were right: I have to choose a side. I asked a few beings in town about… a few things. And I was wrong. Marie and everyone who arrived here on the ship- which is named the Cyrus by the way- are planning on killing everyone who used to live here.”

He swallows again, “I-I just don’t want to be part of that. I’m not saying that I agree with anything you want to do, because I don’t. But I think that Marie, and everyone who believes in her, is wrong. So… I’ll stay around here for now. But I won’t be a part of anything that I don’t want to be. Alright?”

He rocks back and forth on his feet and she tries not to let her scowl deepen again, “Fine, but you’ll stay where I tell you to stay. And you’ll be killed extremely slowly if you try to change your mind or decide to betray me. Is that clear?” Keone nods and she turns away from him to move farther in the rocks.

She will have to find a better hiding place soon; before Marie decides to invade the mountain. No one will expect her to be foolish enough to stay the night after an attack, but that only gives room for one night and she needs a more permanent place. She grips the radio tightly and settles down behind a large boulder; the Qhloe joins her just as she requested and Meg passes the radio to her.

Keone crouches down next to her and watches as the Qhloe tears the radio into pieces. She rips the memory card and wires into small twigs that blend into the dirt like sand. Meg straightens up and leads the Qhloe and Keone back to Sa’s cave. The Silosc is waiting for her with a scowl, “Hirpoun, ya’ seem t’ think tha’ you’re still in control. An’ I should let ya’ now tha’ this is still my group an’ I give them my orders.”

She ignores the look that Keone gives her as she approaches the Silosc, “Ya’ seem t’ forget tha’ we made a deal. An’ I intend on keep tha’ deal. You’ll hav’ t’ find ya’ own way t’ fight if ya’ don’t want t’ listen t’ me. Do ya’ not want t’ be part of this deal anymore Silosc? Ya’ better let me know before we move.”

The Silosc glowers at her for a moment before flicking his tongue over his teeth, “I think I’ll stay in for now. But that’ll only last for as long as I want it t’. I intend t’ get ya’ in trouble Hirpoun, ya’ an’ your ridiculous plans. I’m still in charge ya’ know.” He turns away from her, and she tries to put on a look of satisfaction. Her heart pounds in her chest as she turns away to look at the town, “We can’t stay here for much longer. Th’ latest anyone can be here is th’ middle of th’ night. They’ll come lookin’ then.”

The Silosc spreads his hands in mockery, “Than why don’t ya come up with one of your perfect plans? Where do ya’ intend t’ go Hirpoun?” She frowns and turns around to face him, “Ya’ seem t’ forget tha’ this ain’t just about me now; you’re still on th’ list of previous residents an’ you’re still not dead. It’s th’ same for your men an’ everyone else too. I’m just th’ one with th’ plans, an’ ya’ needed my plans th’ last time I checked. This is not th’ sort of arrangement where ya’ can say tha’ you arn’t involved, everyone here is being hunted an’ ya’ know it. Start acting like it Silosc. Because this ain’t just about me even though ya’ want it t’ be. This can be about ya’, an’ ya’ shouldn’y forgot tha’. I’m in charge here for as long as I need t’ be unless ya’ start acting like you’re a leader an’ not cowering in th’ corner.”

The cave is frozen by the time she stops talking.

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