Earth Awakens (The First Formic War)

Earth Awakens (The First Formic War) by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston Read Free Book Online

Book: Earth Awakens (The First Formic War) by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston
walked through without incident.
    He continued on, following the wayfinding signs to the manufacturing plant. When he stepped through the entrance, he walked out onto a platform that overlooked the assembly line where the drones were being prepped.
    Only, the drones weren’t there. The plant was empty. All of the worker bots had been pushed up against the side walls, leaving the floor clean and bare. Lem stared, his mind racing. Had Father moved up the schedule? Had they already launched? Should he rush out and warn Victor and Imala?
    He hurried to his right and took the stairs down to the plant floor, desperate to find a computer terminal. There would be tracking records, work orders, launch clearances. He booted up one of the worker bots, plugged in his holopad, and slid on his goggles. Benyawe was waiting for him on his HUD.
    “Show me one of the drones,” she said.
    “I can’t. They’re gone.”
    “Gone? Where?”
    “That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
    Lem poked his stylus through the holos in front of him, maneuvering through the operating system, clicking through files, not sure where to find what he was looking for.
    “You need the production schedules,” said Benyawe. “You’re digging around in the wrong places. These are system files.”
    “I don’t know this OS.”
    “Then stop and let me drive.”
    He passed control over to her and watched as the files zipped by. After a moment she pulled up a schematic of the new glaser, spun it around, and dove inside it, flying through its circuitry, pausing every now and then to examine some chip, component, or mechanism.
    Lem said nothing, letting her concentrate, though inside he felt a tightening grip of panic. After two minutes Benyawe said, “I need to see the stability readouts and precision reports. They’ve made all sorts of crazy tweaks, some of them brilliant, some of them asinine. If I had to guess, I’d say these smaller models have a faster fire rate, which, considering their diminished size, would make them prone to vibrate and overheat.”
    “Can I help you?” A voice behind Lem startled him.
    Lem spun around and removed his goggles. Benyawe disappeared, and her audio cut from his earpiece. A short stocky man in a static suit was regarding Lem with an air of suspicion. Half a second later, before Lem could even speak, the man’s face brightened. “Mr. Jukes. We weren’t expecting you.”
    Lem smiled, nonchalant. “Yes, well, my father says you’ve been doing great things here. I came to see the drones, but it appears I’m too late.”
    “Cleared them out hours ago. I didn’t think we would make the new deadline, but when your father makes a request, we do our best to meet it.”
    Lem dropped the act, his expression serious. “Hours ago? Where are the drones now?”
    The man retreated a step, his smile fading, sensing Lem’s panic. “Gone, Mr. Jukes. Launched. On their way to the Formic ship.”
    *   *   *
    Lem flew west in his skimmer, soaring over the pockmarked surface of Luna, putting the drone plant behind him. He called Father directly, but there was no answer. He called Simona, and the music played for a full minute before he gave up and disconnected. She was either avoiding him or on another holo.
    Who else could he contact? Who else would have answers? The worker at the plant had been useless. “How much time do I have before the drones reach the Formic ship?” Lem had asked. “Hours? A day? What’s their speed, what’s their angle of approach?”
    “I don’t know, Mr. Jukes. We only prepped them for delivery. They didn’t tell us the intended flight path.”
    “What about the pilots who are operating them? Where are they? Here on Luna? Where’s the command center?”
    The man had cowered, backing up into a worker bot. “I don’t know, Mr. Jukes. I swear. They don’t tell me those things.”
    “Where’s the foreman? You have a foreman, right? Someone in charge? Someone who actually does know

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