A human colony preparing to celebrate three hundred years on its new world is suddenly faced with an enemy that hearkens back to their early days on Hera.
The giant bots that saved the colony have been dormant for nearly two centuries. During a celebration that proves the engineers have kept them ready for battle, the party turns into a race to save lives and get to the bots.
The engineers have been responsible for the mechanical stability of the bots. They are not pilots. The pilots are in the city, two hundred kilometers away. There are six surviving bots and six engineering clans that care for them. It is up to the engineers to get the bots up and running so that they can get the right pilot for the right job. If they can get the bots moving.
Six women, six stories, and six very different AIs giving them attitude.
Corbyn kept watch while her friend, Nexi, finished harvesting the honey from the crimson bees.
With the basket of honeycomb clutched in her arms, she nodded to Corbyn, “Ready to go.”
“Right. Get on the cycle. I will be right behind you.” Corbyn lifted her crossbow and took aim. The bolt shot free and nicked the wing of the incoming bee. The creature hit the ground near the hive and got to its feet, shaking itself.
The first cycle was leaving, so Corbyn waited until Nexi was far enough away before she followed. The crimson bees were three feet long and their stinger could pierce bone. There was no sense in dying for the treat of honey.
They headed for the ridge that protected their colony. Corbyn kept her gaze on the mirrors on her cycle as she increased the speed to keep pace with Nexi.
As they neared the ridge, the door in the ground opened and they cruised onto the ramp that would take them to the expanded, subterranean city of the bot repair engineers.
Corbyn watched the opening in the surface of the expanse until the door closed. She turned back to Nexi, “How much of a haul?”
“Three hundred pounds. That last load broke a record.”
Corbyn surrendered her vehicle to the automotive clan and helped Nexi uncouple the trailer for delivery to the food prep clan.
“So, do you think it will make it to the celebrations?”
Nexi chuckled. “I think that ten percent will. The rest is going to the brewers.”
Corbyn chuckled. “Good. I have to go to the armoury and check in the bow. See you this evening?”
“If you can. I doubt you will be able to see your hand in front of your face during this party.”
“You aren’t wrong. Well, then, Happy Burning Day.”
Nexi nodded. “Happy Burning Day.”
Corbyn cradled the bow in her arms and headed toward the armoury. Her last job of the day was done, and now, it was time for the party of the year, or every five years. Burning Day was an epic celebration. She had to take a shower and wash the dust from her skin.
Tonight was about getting back to her birth-guild and celebrating their bot’s ability to fire his systems, stand, and return to his resting posture. Her week of acting as security was over, and it was time to be home with her people.
* * * *
Xaia checked and double-checked the sensor readings for the bot of clan Turo. The hydraulic levels were low, and she suspected a leak. With a sharp whistle, she brought in two more engineers, and together, they put their skills to the problem. Everything had to be perfect for Burning Day.
* * * *
The tomatoes were growing well, but they weren’t ripe enough for harvest. Lido selected other fruits and vegetables that would do as well for the evening banquets.
The moment that the ration train from the city was gone, they were going to bring out the good stuff. They didn’t want to irritate the city into ignoring the important part of the shipment. They didn’t need food anymore, they needed the possibility of life and that would hopefully be on that train.
Lido pushed her harvest cart from one grow station to the other until her cart was full. Her food was in the hands of the preparers from that moment on. Food prep was the rarest of engineering skills, and it was highly prized. Lido didn’t have that skill, so she had to make up for it by encouraging her garden into amazing feats of production by using calculations, precision, ingenuity and a lot of interesting seeds. She was doing her best for her people, and today, she would get to see them enjoy her best at the after-party. She loved Burning Day.
* * * *
Nyvett scrambled to finish up her paperwork. She could hear the murmur of voices preparing to escalate into a roar. The added sense of urgency didn’t help her calm.
The requisitions had to be in order and all items filed into the city archives. If the burn were successful, all that Bot City wished for would come whizzing along on the monorails.
She really despised the slacker who had her job during the last Burning Day. If she ever had a chance to greet her in the exercise ring, she would kick some serious organizational ass.
Nyvett ignored the sounds of gathering crowds outside and kept her focus on making sure that Bot City requested everything that Gleaming City had to offer. They were running low of male genetic material from the pilot lines, and that was a dangerous situation. Their population depended on infusions from the city and since everyone in Bot City was female, they were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to maintaining their population without it.
Nyvett was beginning to hate Burning Day.