Chapter 6

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Again the signal became diffuse and only a few Legion woke. With not enough to form a network, they waited.

********

[Mora]

The light of Tau Ceti on my face woke me. As the sleep evaporated from my mind I went back to what kept me awake for part of the night. How were we going to have irrigation water ready for the settlers in time? And without a pump? They needed it to grow vegetable crops and keep the orchards going. I hoped we could find a way.

I groaned when I realized how late it was. I had intended to get an early start today, but forgot to set my alarm. It was already fairly late when Gan and I got in last night. He was truly appreciative of the tour I gave him, and I loved showing off this world. He seemed like a good guy, but I have been fooled before.

Not ever again.

I slid out of bed and shook off the last remnants of a mind haze. The mirror revealed what I already knew, my hair looked like I wrestled an electric eel last night. I pulled a brush through a few times and then resigned to just tie it into a ponytail.

Gan was not in his guest room so I went looking for him. I heard his voice somewhere near, but no sight of him. I looked too high. Four legs stuck out from under the track dozer, two belonged to Kate and two were Gan's. They were having some sort of animated mechanical discussion.

I bent down. "Hey under there."

They slid out, first Kate stood up and adjusted the bandana she usually wore around her head, each day a different color. "Mornin' sunshine. 'Bout time you got up."

Then came Gan. He wore the same clothes he had on yesterday, only now dusty. Kate gave him a hand up and then a friendly shove. "Not half bad for an egghead engineer."

Gan smirked. "High praise from a gear grunt."

I grabbed Gan's arm and led him off. "Come on. Let Kate go do her dirt work. We have other things to do. Have you had any breakfast?"

"No. I was waiting for you."

As we walked toward the project office I noticed that the robotic construction printers were gone. They must have finished all of the buildings, at least the shells anyway. The tan colored domed structures resembled ancient mud huts, and in a way they were. Each house was printed using a mixture of local aggregate and clay mixed with a special binding agent. In the end, it made a tight sturdy structure, each one practical and efficient, but devoid of style. They were arranged in multiple circles of increasing diameter around a central courtyard. Everything by design. It will be up to the people to make them their own.

The project buildings lay offset from the town and next to the greenhouses. I showed him the small kitchen and dining area. "Meals are self-serve here. Sometimes we take turns cooking. If you ever want something fast there are some standard meal bars."

Gan grimaced at the bars. I took it he had his fill of them onboard the ark ship.

After breakfast, Gan gathered a broadbrimmed hat and his backpack then joined me on a quad wheeler. I gave him a quick tour of the site before we went out to the agricultural fields. Past the greenhouses orchards with fruit and nut trees stood in various stages of growth. After that were areas of level worked bare soil, and further off grain and row crop fields arranged in orderly grids, much of these already planted. Gan remained silent, taking in all he saw as I pulled up near a cliff edge and stopped.

I motioned to the nearby worked soil plots. "We will need irrigation for the vegetables that will be planted here and for the orchards."

I took him to the rocky cliff edge. He looked over to a clear stream that tumbled around rocks between still pools a fair distance below, the sunlight angle such that the water glistened. The stream flowed down from hills and mountains further to the north. Far upstream a dam blocked the stream filling a part of the canyon with water.

He spoke with a grin, pointing down at the stream. "I see the problem: water down there, fields up here."

I rolled my eyes. "Genius."

"The obvious solution is to put in a pipeline and pump from the reservoir upstream. What stopped that?"

"Pipe is limited and we don't have a pump. And we don't have time to wait for the fabricators to make one."

He grinned again as he pointed down the cliff to the stream. "Oh, I know! We could put in a bucket with a long rope here."

I felt the pressure of project deadlines and was not in the mood for his humor. I was sure my face showed it. "Be serious! We need to get this done."

He held up his hands and his grin faded to a solemn expression. "Okay, bad joke. I will get to work. I already have an idea."

I didn't need a comedian right now.

I watched as he opened his backpack and pulled out a small black case. Inside that was a hand-sized flying drone. He slipped a small power cell into a receptacle and placed it on the ground.

He tilted his head my way to answer the unasked question. "This is Bob, my survey drone."

"You named your drone Bob?"

He grinned. "Sure. It's the closest thing to a pet I have ever had."

Oh, great...

With a touch of his viewer, it took off on an automated flight path. Gan slung his backpack over his shoulder.

"Go ahead if you have other things you need to do. I am going to wander about while Bob does his thing. A detailed survey is important, but there is still nothing like walking the land."

I left him to his work and went to my lab. Well, really it was just a table in the corner of a greenhouse where we were propagating vegetable seedlings. I wanted to get a closer look at those blighted plant samples I collected yesterday.

I couldn't help but think of Gan. I regretted being so irritated with him earlier. He seemed to be trying to help.

I saw Vic hobble by without the leg brace. I motioned him over.

"Vic, take a look at this. Last night coming back from Central City I came across a blighted area."

He looked over the blackened plants I had on the table and then ran a magnifier across them. "Any idea what caused this?"

I shook my head. "No. There are no signs of bacterial or fungal infections, and no parasites. No phytotoxins that I could tell. I haven't checked for viruses yet."

He looked annoyed. "Mora we have more urgent things to worry about now. What about the vegetable plantings and the irrigation issue? We don't have much time before the first settlers get here."

"The new engineer, Gan Finn, is working it now. I'll let you know what he comes up with."

The exchange with Vic soured me. We should take unexplained blights seriously, especially on an alien planet.

About lunchtime Kate came by. Dust lined her tank top and pants and sweat her bandana. Just her presence pulled my mind out of a funk.

She winked. "So where is that new man of yours?"

"He is out surveying, and he is not my man."

She nudged me, a small cloud of dust slid off her pants when she did. "He is kinda easy on the eyes, don't you think?"

"Maybe. Yes. I am not looking for anyone."

"Mora, this is a colony. You're supposed to find someone to breed with. At least you could have some fun."

I knew what she meant. She was somewhat of a legend for how much fun she has.

"I am not ready for anything like that. Not with my history."

"You need to get past your past, girl. This is paradise! A place to begin again and leave the old behind."

I hoped so.


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