In Tishla, our titular character has to pull together two warring species, humans and the Gelt. To do this, she needs help from both sides if she is to succeed. On the Gelt side, she at least has Palak, the old Warrior who has known her since childhood. He is Kai’s mentor and military aide in The Magic Root, but in Tishla, we learn he was also close to our lead during her childhood as well.
But Tishla begins in The Compact Universe as basically a slave. So to recruit a bodyguard, she selects a Gelt Warrior to perform her execution. She selects Bornag, who offers to commit suicide if the humans force him to kill her. She says she just needs him to do his duty. The humans instead accept her leadership, knowing they will be rid of the oppressive Laral clan if they do.
But it’s the human Trevor Colt who proves most valuable. He serves as the de facto leader of the human resistance at the start of the novella. Tishla treats with him when she approaches the humans with a plan for both people’s survival. It is also Colt who has to persuade his fellow humans that she is for real. Not bound by any Gelt traditions or oaths of fealty, he can not only tell her how various humans think, he can be brutally honest with her without consequence. She needs that.
Then there are the doctors. Zewann is the Gelt physician, which is handy considering that Tishla is pregnant at the beginning of this tale and is shot about a third of the way through. He has partnered with Troughton, a human doctor, to create a hospital for the remnant of the planet’s population, both Gelt and human. If anyone picked up on Troughton’s name as that of Second Doctor actor Patrick Troughton, blame John Scalzi. In Red Shirts, Scalzi names the Independence‘s chief surgeon Hartnell, after First Doctor actor William Hartnell. (If you think this is a one-off, there is a Hispanic doctor in Amargosa: Second Wave named “Panadero.” Go look it up if you don’t know Spanish.)
Our girl, reluctantly, is a leader. She’s not Danaerys Stormborn with an army of Unsullied, a fleet of Iron Born rebels, or three dragons to take over The Realm. She’s a former servant girl and student shoved into the middle of an interstellar conflict, and she may be the one to resolve it. To do that, she needs an inner circle that looks like the people she leads.