A dozen aircraft soared up over the edge of Hinnemon away from the river valley, up to the driest of the highlands. Four arrived first and converged on the highest butte. They hovered and for a moment there was only the peculiar whine of their engines. A blast of light and a wild clap of thunder rolled across the desert and red birds ran and squawked in panic, a miniature dust storm blew them tumbling into the native flora. One or two hit the explosive trees and disintegrated into puffs of feathers. The aircraft settled to the newly cleared, leveled and sealed surface while the rest of the fleet hovered, waiting.
The sun beat down on the quietly ticking aircraft, though it was nearly impossible for them to cool much more. They dropped the bulldozers they’d carried in place of a cargo container and the machines landed with ground shaking thuds before unfolding, and standing up on four of their six legs, configured in centauroid mode. They walked out from under the aircraft and began building the compound even before their transport took off, this time without a backwash, so as not to inconvenience the construction equipment.
Darcy leaned forward against the safety straps as if getting closer to the projection would let him see more, or get him out of the transport faster. Haig leaned back, arms crossed, frowning at what would be their new home. “Yah seem bloody eager. Sit back yah gurt fool.”
“Ah, be easy on the lad,” Palmer said from Darcy’s other side. Inside their transport they were ranked in two rows of fifty, all Illiterates. The young Immoderate in his sharp grey uniform, ignored them talking amongst themselves. He'd not pay attention unless someone raised their voices. He was close enough to the Font of all Knowledge that he was allowed an earbud. Transport Number two, hovering off their wingtip just visible in the broadcast, held all the Techs, and Transports Three through Seven held the tightly packed supplies for the founding of the new farming colony.
“Wha should I be?” Haig snapped. “’E’s actin’ lak hits some gurt bloody adventure!” He snorted. Personally Darcy could understand that Haig was upset. The Illiterates chosen for Prime’s great expansion plan hadn’t been able to bring their families and Haig was only a week married. He’d been ordered to this expedition because he was so good at what he did, and that was growing Raz’r. Darcy had a better hand with Lifeweed… and sheep. The sheep, goats and fowl were all in Transport Five.
Normally it wouldn’t have been his job to look after the fowl, since that was a woman’s job but they wouldn’t be allowed to bring out their wives or betrotheds at least until the next wet season on this continent. No wonder Haig was grumpy… he’d have to be doing some of the animal tending and in Darcy’s experience he was brusque and too rough with animals. And he was already missing Darla, his new wife.
Palmer, on the other hand, seemed completely serene at leaving his wives and their brood of children in the family quarters. He was older than either Haig or Darcy. Darcy hadn’t even been assigned a girl yet. He was barely old enough. So in a sense this was an enormous adventure.
Palmer leaned forward to the projection that Prime’s Transport pilots graciously ran to let them see outside the otherwise windowless can they were in. “Look at that.” His finger picked out something glittering in the sky.
“’s prolly those breedin' dragon things,” Haig snarled. “All fangs an’ able to bite one of the most holy of drones out’n the sky!”
“We’ll have to learn tah deal wi’ ‘em, tah plant our fields,” Palmer said quietly. “I’m nah going to get snatched out’n a harvester’s seat an’ eaten.”
“The Tech I was talkin’ at was nice, n’ blessed me wi’ some info,” Darcy said diffidently to the older men. They nodded encouragingly at him. “The bulldozers, once they’m finish all the building, ‘ll be re-ordered outa build mode and some intah tractors ‘n some intah tanks.”
“So we’ll have six-leggers patrollin’ around an’ shootin’ them things down, keep us safe.” Haig said, nodding decisively, just as their transport tipped, the image wheeling to show them nothing but searing blue sky as they began their landing approach. “Good on ‘im.”