We walked deeper into the village, staying to the side to avoid the floating cargo platforms. Most of them carried boxes but the ones that didn’t carried what looked like pieces of the poles for the shield generators, blocks of the same white substance that the buildings were made of, and sometimes lower tech building materials—wood, rock, bricks, and even dirt.
“This place is busier than I’d have thought,” I said, watching a platform carrying bricks pass us.
Geman laughed. “This colony’s enemies don’t only come from space. I told you about the megafauna. One of the herd animals comes through here every year. We’ve been calling them brontoyaks.”
Marcus and I looked at each other. He appeared to be ready to break out into laughter. To be fair, brontoyak was a dumb name. The bad news though, was that it wasn’t the real name. The implants changed the name into English in our heads just like they changed our names into a version that fit the language before we spoke them.
Marcus barely stifled a giggle, earning a glare from Jaclyn.
Geman noticed. “Yeah, yeah… It’s a dumb name, but tell me what you’re thinking of when one’s bearing down on you.”
Cassie turned to ask, “Why did you settle here then? Couldn’t you have gone to the mountains or something?”
Shaking his head, Geman said, “There are brachiogoats in the mountains.”
Cassie’s eyes widened. “I’m not going to ask.”
Still walking, Geman nodded. “I get it. Coming here seems crazy, but we’re on the outer edge of the migration. We’ve survived it before. We’ll survive it again. Ten years of experience means we know where to build the barricades to redirect the herds. We know what to do.”
In the silence that followed that statement, he added, “Now if you all chose to help that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Blasts from our fighter craft at the right moment have been the difference between life and death. Your ship is armed, right?”
“Yes,” I told him as Jaclyn glanced back at me, letting me decide what to reveal. “We can help. It won’t be the first time fighting giant animals.”
He turned back to look at me. “What did you fight?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have a name for it. They were big, flying scaly things. Worse, they were flying directly over the city where we live, so I always had to fire from below them if I wanted to be sure I didn’t take down buildings and people every time I missed.”
“Good,” the corners of Geman’s mouth stretched for a moment. “That’s the kind of thinking I was hoping for. We haven’t let any of them into the city since the first year, but it will happen again. We’re good, but not perfect.”
Jaclyn eyed him. “What’s your plan?”
He sighed. “It’s not very complicated. When the herds come through, we’ll use the barricades to redirect the brontoyaks away from the colony. If we can’t we’ll evacuate into the caves in the hill over there.”
He pointed toward a hill on the far side of the colony. Tall and rocky, it was higher than anything else in the town, hanging over it.
Geman shrugged. “It worked the last time the brontoyaks broke through the shields. It ought to work next time.”
Then Geman stopped walking. “Ah. Here.”
We stood in front of a collection of upright eggshells, all arranged next to each other as part of the same building. Taller than any of the other buildings in town, it wasn’t huge relative to the Capitol or Washington Monument, but by comparison to your average house frame on a colony? It was obvious.
Geman let us inside one of the eggshell sections of what he called, “The Council’s building. You’ll be staying here.”
The inside almost matched the outside. With the outside shaped like an upright eggshell, the inside lacked a monstrously sized chick, but it was white with a tall, curved ceiling like expected. What was unexpected was the wooden floors and the separate rooms inside the eggshell. While anyone could have expected that each eggshell was too large to be just one room, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that the rooms were broken up by walls made of the same advanced ceramic.
“We’ll call you with your implants about food. We have group meals as a colony sometimes, but most of the time you’ll find that a family will deliver food to you.” Geman stood next to the door, watching us explore. There wasn’t much—a few rooms off from the bigger room where the Council met.
“Your next meal will be here in about an hour. Make the best of it.” Then Geman left, putting the rest of us in position to have to figure out how to split up the rooms. Putting Jaclyn with Cassie in one room and Marcus and me in the other wasn’t hard, but what gender was Katuk? And could we ask him? No one knew off the top of our heads. Fortunately, that was exactly the sort of information that our implants actually had.
Katuk ended up with Marcus and me.
Once we’d settled on beds, that left us with one question to answer. “Food’s coming in forty-five minutes,” Jaclyn said. “How are we going to kill the time?”
“Easy,” Marcus grinned. “Monopoly.”
Cassie punched him in the shoulder.