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"I'm onto it." Thank goodness, only one more job to do.

Daniel slid the vibration gun out of its housing, ran his hand over the thick rim of hardened polymer that stuck about a hand-width out of the dust, found the joint between the two plates by touch, and attached the electrodes. Click - power. The gun hummed. Along the depth of the plates, about ten meters into the yellow soil, billions of atoms heated up, re-arranged themselves and formed a new matrix that glued the two plates together, completing the ring around the planned settlement.

Done. Great. Daniel straightened and looked over the dry valley, where the rims of seven similar rings stuck out of the ground, eight concentric plastic circles, the smallest more than 100 meters across, of carefully calibrated thickness and distance from each other: the installation that formed the planned settlement's earthquake protection shield. A beautiful design.

"I'm done. Oscar, pack up your gear and--"

Crack. He didn't hear it--the whisper-thin atmosphere meant there was little sound--but he could feel it in the parched dust under his feet.

What the--

[override command]

[emergency decision module]

[possible scenarios: 1. something in the ground cracked, 2. the seam has split]

The voice in his head soothed him. Yes, he could have figured these possibilities out himself, but he liked to hear confirmation, a clear plan to work to.

He knelt in the yellow dust and ran his sensitive fingertips over the rim. There was a hair-crack in the seam. He pulled the vibration gun out again--

The ground rumbled.

Crack.

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