Alarm bells; real ones. Automatic lights snap on across the colony. Not one of the blackouts, then. They flail out of their sheets, hurry shambolically toward the raid cabinet. They are more than half-asleep, but well-rehearsed: armor slides on with the ease of long practice. Prick of wakeup going in, caffeine, adrenaline, taurine. Spines straighten, eyes brighten. Pythia speaks in three dozen delicate ears, many-voiced, polyglottal.
Outside the sky is coolly luminous, casting a light without shadows. It is very seldom truly dark here. The crops, Pythia’s children, their sisters, which sustain and feed the colony, must be defended: malefic drone of wings thrumming over the hills, out of the high places. They have no plenipotent weapons but have armed themselves, armored themselves, grim scarecrows, sealed against unkind air and digestive juices. They array themselves among the fields and wait, bristling with spikes and venom. They will be swallowed down, bitter pills, and choke the throat that takes them.