This is Pythia’s one Law: in a closed system, every part has to work. Disobedience means death, if not immediately, then soon, death without appeal or mercy. What mercy can the fall show for the cliff?
Someone has died. Their pod failed, and the meat inside shuddered, went hot, went cold, went still. She doesn’t let herself remember a name; there will be time for that later, but for now meat is just meat. Still, she avoids eye contact as she unloads the meat onto a lift, concentrates on weight, leverage, the stale air. She breathes through her mouth, thankful for Pythia’s assiduous filters.
She takes the lift and the meat out into the fields, where she works the earth until it opens its mouth to her. She plants the meat there, a morsel beneath Pythia’s vast tongue. “Thank you,” she bids the meat, “flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, bone of my bone. Everything is renewed.”
It’s superstitious, but she avoids meat for the next several weeks anyway. The vegetables are no less suspect, but still: she avoids eye contact, avoids anything that might have eyes.
The great wheel spins on, a restless wanderer away from Earth.