A Vision Of Hope

Aurora walked carefully on all fours over the metal hulk. Topside was always treacherous, but especially so in the storm season. The clouds wouldn't break for months, and big nasty flying things would blow in hungry. But when she got to the hulk's peak, she saw her risk had not been in vain: one of the holes rusted in its skin was over the nestable spot at the left front of its metal skeleton, which was intact. It'd admitted — and then kept — Aurora's weight in biological waste!

She unslung her backpack with a quiet prayer of thanks to the Thunderbird. She fished through aging gadgetry and got out her goo kit, which was out of most types, but she'd be damned if she let her kit run out of yellow or green. One eye ever on the sky and the other making sure she didn't spill any on her claws or fur, she dropped a tiny glob of yellow goo in with her spoon.

She lay back to watch the sky while the goo worked, but her guts rumbled. Checking and finding her meager stores of green goo more than enough to complete the transformation, she gave in and dipped her spoon into the green goo. After waiting long enough to be damn sure it was done, she scooped green goo into her mouth, and licked the spoon clean before swallowing. A tension in her released, and she lay back, watching the sky and listening to the sizzle of biological waste turning into yellow goo. Once it was done, she'd drop in a glob of green goo, and once that transformation was complete she'd fill a couple swag bags with it and head home. Every Dreamgear, her whole band, would eat for days!

Times had been tight lately. Everyone of her parents's generation said the Thunderbird was coming more often than in their youth, the same thing the previous generation had said a generation ago; certainly every band of the Two Tribes of the Center was breeding more, and had more gadgets and food to buy power with. But there was a gap. The Thunderbird was beyond late, it had missed a visit, and it was almost time for the next; noone had enough food stockpiled, everyone was using fortnight-old gear, and dangerous sentiments were stirring against the Two Tribes. If war broke out, it would mean cannibalism, the dead and captured yellowed and greened to feed the victors. Without the Thunderbird they couldn't live forever like that, but the cannibals would live longest.

Some even whispered the Thunderbird had died, perhaps in combat with some terrible beast. Aurora harbored doubts, but if the Thunderbird missed another visit, apocalyptic visionaries would whip up a war. Even if the Thunderbird came this time, and dumped a full load of gadgets and biologicals on the Center, the power of the Two Tribes had likely already eroded enough for other tribes to demand concessions in the name of larders. The Two Tribes had been more prepared than anyone else for a shortfall, but everyone was hungry. Either way, it was the end of an era.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sight of something moving below the clouds, on the horizon. Aurora darted into one of the rusty holes, ready to disappear into the hulk rather than be snatched up and devoured on the wing, but it was nothing feathered… it was the Thunderbird!

She scrambled out and to her backpack, fishing around the aging gadgetry inside for something to burn in a righteous prayer of welcome, then froze when she realized she wasn't seeing the Thunderbird. Or at least, not just. There were two shapes on the horizon, both green with piercing lights forming a halo, both with the same dark-shining brows. Perhaps the Thunderbird had been subjugated by another of its own great species? Perhaps last fortnight was mating season for them, and they were here to deliver a double bounty to the Center? Perhaps the Two Tribes each had a Thunderbird now, reinforcing their traditional power and restoring the structure that had held for years?

Aurora's head swam. Before this, only heretical doomsaying posited more than one Thunderbird. Yet here were two, moving in as the one would before. She fished out two worn and gnawed wooden spoons. They couldn't be replaced for months, but she used an electric sparker to light both and held them aloft, spinning at a dangerously-snatchable height, chanting a prayer of welcome twice over.

Absently, she noticed the nestable spot had stopped sizzling. She checked, and it sure looked like it was all yellow goo. She dropped a tiny glob of green goo in with her spoon, then licked the spoon clean. Someone else would see before she got home, there was no sense in trying to bring home news, but the Thunderbirds — how strange to think that way — were hours out. There was much sense in trying to bring home two bags full of green goo!