“Loading over there…” the guard in the Station Provost uniform said and pointed back to the left. In front of him, about twenty or so very tall immigrants shuffled aside as the one in the front of them had to sidestep towards the large conveyor belt to tote his goods over there.
“Next…” the bored guard said as he checked his tablet display and then counted off the heads in front of him.
“18….19…19? Where’s 20” he asked and no one in front of him answered.
“Twenty? Where’s the last person on this docket?” he barked out and from the rear of the long large lineup in front of him, a young woman pushed and moved others out of her way and ended up in front of the guard.
“Here! I’m here – sorry I was handling the dolly with our exotics and trying to remind the customs fellow that they’re clearly marked NO XRAY….but yes, sorry, I’m here,” she finished and then stood quietly in front of the guard.
“And I take it you’re in charge, right mam?” the guard said dryly.
“I am,” she said, “the Countess Tibah al-Rashid, of Olbia in the Caliphate realm and you will not address me as ‘mam’ either” she said back, just as dryly but as a Royal from her it counted.
“Um…Highness, I am so so sorry,” the guard stammered and half bowed as he waved his arm with a flutter to call over help. Springing up beside him a squad of other guards suddenly appeared and they quickly moved from immigrant candidate to the next one, filling out the forms on their own tablets. You could see he wanted to ask why a Countess – a Royal would in fact be an immigrant farmer to this planet but you could tell he knew better too.
“Highness, you mentioned some kind of ‘exotic’ items…?” he said and she smiled down at him from the full six and half feet of her stature.
“Yes, that is exactly what I said, Provost. We are importing a selection of our exotic vegetable seeds in their insular containers – and they cannot be x-rayed! You may want to search them all by hand of course but no gene altering x-rays will be allowed – just as your own Halberd statues command,” she said quietly and pointed back along that far wall to the more than a dozen large tanks of purported seeds. They both walked over to the first tank and the guard looked it over, hefted it in his two hands and nodded.
“Feels like lightweight contents, seeds I’d suppose…so yeah, no x-rays needed. You have….um…” he said as he glanced at his tablet, “13 cases….yes, I see they’re all here. Corporal Stevenson, mark these all as PASS and ship ‘em out,” he finished and then turned back to the Countess.
“Umm…Countess – I see that you’ve chosen the river lowlands as the site for your new farm from the available land bank – might I suggest that you re-consider?” he said and looked up at her.
From her taller vantage point she stared down at him, her jet black hair framing her quite pretty face and then smiled at him.
“I appreciate your concern, Provost…ah…Provost Sergeant, but this was the choice made by us – the farmers of course, but also by our scientists as we have need of that soft loamy soil for our new specialized vegetables.” She nodded to him and was about to leave to pass by the exit gate here at the Andros EL station when he interrupted her once more.
“Not a problem, Countess…but a gentle reminder that the river often floods in spring and that can cause some major erosion….so I’d plant as far off from the river line as you can…” he finished and nodded to her once again.
“No need then for us to worry, is there?” she answered and then flowed around him and smiling at him, Countess Tibah waved her peers to follow her and they all moved through the gates and towards the EL pod, a yellow one that lay ahead. Four of her compatriots helped load those seed tanks on board and then they all took seats as passengers. Tibah made her way up the center aisle and spoke succinctly to the pod AI.
“Pod AI…please take us to…Jeremy what is the geoPOS?
From the rear another immigrant moved up to stand beside her, searching on his wrist mounted PDA and then he spoke up.
“We’re at 17 Riverrun Road, AI…take us there,” and the pod slowly pulled out into traffic at the front entrance of the Andros EL station. All of the new-to-Halberd ex-Olbians oohed and ahhed as the pod moved out into the traffic on Andros. Along the boulevard, other cars and trucks were making their way and occasionally they passed other pods too – usually the yellow ones but once and awhile a black one went by and that was enough for one of the children to pipe up.
“AI…why are some pods yellow and some black?” the youngster asked.
“Citizen…the yellow pods are always reserved for citizens only. The black ones always are used to carry convicts and you may also see red ones that carry prison personnel or police. Is that what you needed to know?” the female AI voice responded.
“Yes…” the youngster said politely, “that’s fine…” and she dipped her head back down to chat with her sister.
“AI…local time please?” said someone else.
“15:20 hours in Oncu, the second month of the 14 month year and dusk will occur at this time of the year at 21:15 hours later today. Our summer will be in 5 months’ time too, if you’re wondering about your crops and your growing season. Is this what you needed to know?” the AI asked as it always did. And the silence was the answer.
Shops went by as did pedestrians who were walking along the streets, as the pod slowly climbed the gentle city hill ahead and the flattened out as it moved away from the Andros city core and the EL station where the space elevator terminated on land. Above, way above almost 33,000 kilometers the upper EL station, called Pikes Station sat at the top of the elevator commonly called simply the EL and it was where these Olbia immigrants had off-loaded from their transport to Halberd the prison planet of the RIM Confederacy…
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