Hania blinked in the watery sun, it was the first sky she had looked up through since home. It was all wrong here, everything seemed a bit harder, a bit more difficult; her hair didn’t fly any more when she jumped. She was the biggest of the other kids, they were all still so tired, but so excited to stand on the ground again. Many of them couldn’t remember their old home, only the canisters. Oh the canisters. They smelled bad, not just dirty or damp, but they had the kind of smell that felt bad inside you. They were gone now, all of them. The people here had been really quick to get rid of them, some of the others wanted to keep cans they had lived in but the people, the farmers here had taken them all. She wasn’t sorry. Not one bit.
“Child Hania! I’m glad you are outside, it is good for you.”
One of the adults, a woman named Jola had noticed her. Most of the other children stayed inside the building out of the light, they didn’t know what to do in the sun yet.
“Are we going to stay here?”
Jola looked up at the sun and closed her eyes as the warmth touched her face.
“I hope so, our old world was our home but it wasn’t one any of us chose.”
“But it’s so hard, everything is heavy and none of the others want to come out except at night!”
Jola smiled. “Hania, they want to build us a school. For you and your friends, and for us grown-ups too. This is a new place with new ways. We are free. The most amazing part of being free is that if you work, you work for who you want to, yourself, your family or friends, not a master you never see. So, we all will learn, we will learn for each of us.”
A local man shouted from the window of a surface truck. A woman climbed down from the cab and begun to undo the straps holding the cover over the cargo.
“Hania, go and get the other children, they won’t want to miss this.”
Euan was still struggling to do things with his hands since the attack, the medical centre had healed the skin quickly but it was still tender and thin, he had already broken the repair twice simply by pulling things too hard. He wasn’t going to miss today though, they had new lifeblood here and it had seemed almost overnight that the whole world had wanted to become aunt, brother or granny to these people.
Kayla banged twice on the side of the cab.
“Get Sketch up here with the lifting rig, we’ll start work soon”.
She tugged the last strap free. The tarp fell in a heap to reveal a huge stack of timber, roofing boards and three solar arrays. She’d personally unbolted the arrays from the old mining base, she was proud that they would provide for real people rather than mineral processors now. Later on they would grab some of the hull frames from the T9 for small buildings and stores but right now, this would make the first new school building she’d seen in years.
“What is that brown stuff?”
The small girl, Hania had appeared silently next to Kayla.
“It’s wood, for the new school.”
The school was going to be the first one built on this world for nearly thirty years. There were fifty children here, most of the village schools only had a handful. Even the Launders camp school only had eighty pupils. Maybe these newcomers were the fresh air needed to breathe life into this place again.
“Wood? what do you mine that from?”
Kayla blinked and looked down at the girl. She was staring at the cargo with her head to one side. She took off her shades and knelt down beside the girl and joined her looking up at the logs.
She gestured to a clump of the white trunk Melia trees a few meters away. “You mine it from trees I guess. Trees grow and sometimes we cut one down and make special things from it. We have a law that says whenever we do that, whatever gets made from the tree belongs to everybody, not the person who owns the land, or the one that cuts it down. Everyone.”