Darcy stood, looking after the inkless Immoderate, charging through their precious sheep, feeling as beaten as if the First Classer had insisted he take the neural stimulator or even just lashed him with the short whip at his saddle. The toxic dust had worked in all around his filter mask and in around his collar. His feet hurt and his eyes burned as he looked out over the damnable field full of little monsters that seemed to be mostly teeth. He tried to spit to clear his mouth and the irritants set him coughing.
He finally managed to control the paroxysm, hands on knees, hair hanging over his forehead, the filter mask hanging on his face by its strap. He managed to spit and clear his mouth, ran his mucky sleeve over his eyes. “Clear the field, says he,” he snarled. “For your insolence.”
The boy on the iron horse hadn’t even looked back. “Clear the field,” and rode off spoiling the work of the others who had managed to circle the herd. The carcass of a sheep near him, nearly buried in the grass, twitched spasmodically. The sun on his head was like a hammer.
Darcy re-settled the filter mask and pulled a hat out of his pocket, snapped it open and gratefully settled into its shade. The sheep in front of him was curiously flattened, as if the fleece had been emptied out, which it probably had been. He didn’t even have any tools with him, since they’d been supposed to just be herding the ewes and Palmer had taken the multi-tool with him. He kicked a ridge of sand off the road and saw the spray patter into the long matted grass. Something snapped at the dirt… it seemed that the sand was pitted with cones.
He tried wrenching a stick off one of the tall, spindly bushes near him, showing bright blue flower buds, but no open flowers yet, and got a handful of sticky bark across his hand for his trouble. The sap stung even through his glove and he tried to shake it off, scrubbing his hand against the ground to get rid of it.
A brightly glittering cloud of insects swarmed in front of him, and he stopped to make sure that they weren’t going to attack him. “Everything on this forsaken, Pageless waste is trying to kill us!” He exclaimed.
In the distance the crack of the Immoderate’s firearm made him look up. The flock of dragons, that had scattered when the bull had been shot, had re-formed and hovered over the settlement. He could just see them glittering as they circled they were so high, but that apparently hadn’t stopped Versace from attempting to fire on them. They didn’t realize that the heavy guns could still reach them but couldn’t be called from the perimeter so quickly. He shaded his eyes with his hands and realized that several of the dragons were dropping things into the settlement. “Huh.” The gun crashed futilely three more times. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m stuck out here for a while.
He rounded up a small pile of rocks and started chucking them into the divots in the grass, which worked for the little ones. They’d have their teeth locked around a rock while you either hauled them out or stomped them. Then you’d use the tail to hurl the lizard corpse plus rock into the next. It was slow work, and he repeatedly wished for a shovel as he worked his way from the road down toward the river and half way there, he straightened his aching back and shook out his hands. Hauling the little monsters out of the ground was getting harder and harder and he noticed that they were getting bigger the closer he got to the water.
In the settlement, one of the heavy guns had come and had shot another of the adult dragons out of the sky, making a big mess of what looked like the garage when it fell.
“I told you not to shoot the damned thing,” he said to the air. “I’m going to be out here all day and every day since you ordered me to clear this field.” He raised his canteen to the wildly circling flock that the single heavy gun was trying to track, and failing. “I hope it’s worth it, you dragons, you. He’ll want to hunt you all down and kill you.”
He stared around at the grass and the distance to the river and his shoulders slumped. “Ah, piss on it. What am I going to do? I’ll never do this by myself.”
There was a weird echo of his words, bouncing off the river cliff across the water… at least that’s what it sounded like “… piss on it…”
He’d been sweating his water out but perhaps it was the suggestion that had him unhooking his pants and relieving his bladder. Onto the lizard pits of course, because they were part of the source of his frustration. The first few drops of urine hit the cone in front of him and the lizard came thrashing out of its hiding place, making the most appalling noise, thrashing as though its limbs were no longer in its control. And died.
Darcy had staggered back in shock though he was careful not to step outside his cleared lane, the arc of urine spraying as he clenched on himself. A ripple in the ground began as the toothed lizards dug out of the sand and skittered away, or thrashed dead. “Ha!” He could have done a dance of victory, but he was too tired and filthy and… to be honest, short on water. Even if he made it to the trickle of water in the river, the filter in his canteen wouldn’t be able to clean it enough for him to drink. “Piss on THEM!”
His sudden jump didn’t dislodge the pair of bugs in his hatband and they clung, still as jewelry as he tried to trot back to the settlement, slowing to a plod as he realized how exhausted he was. There was more ruckus happening at the settlement and the moment he could get off the road safely he angled quietly around to the barracks, staying out of sight.