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This section is for readers who want to be prepared for the possibility of content they might find upsetting or triggering. If you don’t feel you need this kind of warning, please ignore this box to minimize spoilers.
This story contains ocean travel, assault, and gun violence.
We include trigger warnings to make or work as accessible as possible. If you notice elements of the story you feel should have been forewarned and weren’t, or if there’s anything inadequate or misleading about the way we presented the information, please let us know so we can get better at giving adequate warning.
About the Author: Ian O’Reilly is a freelance writer from the UK, where he seems to tinker with imaginary worlds for a living. His work has been published in Third Flat Iron Anthologies, Voices of Imagination, and he is a somewhat sporadic reviewer for the British Fantasy Society. He remains interested in alternate realities, feral futures, and improbable myths.
Out of the Storm
by Ian O'Reilly
Pull, release. Catch, pull, release-
The triangle of slate gray sail above the woman’s head snapped and billows as it responded to the rope playing out from her steady hands. Her movements are languid, seeming slow against the black backdrop of storm waves. Rise. Fall. Dark sea below, scattered with the boil of white foam, dark clouds above. Only the thin strip of white along the horizon separating the two.
Spray salted the woman’s hair that was once curly and black, now shot through with grey. She looked to the only other passenger of the craft like a kind of storm spirit herself, her dark skin lined and etched by the elements, a small figure in a long twin-hulled catamaran, leaning and weaving with impeccable grace as she tacked ahead of the storm.
“The storms are getting worse, huh?” Muttered the passenger, a young woman halfway through her teens, round-eyed as she crouched in one of the boat’s hulls.
“Tavi, shush.” The pilot says, her voice as wrinkled with time as her hands. “What have I told you about buying bad news?”
“Don’t advertise it,” Tavi sighed, using a phrase that brought about great cackling by the older Mothers and Sisters of the People. Like it was some kind of inside joke that they weren’t sharing with the youngsters like her.
Probably something to do with the Oil Age. Tavi rolled her eyes, looking at the point between the rising prow and the falling horizon beyond. That was what the Mothers and the Sisters called the time before taking to the sea. A time when they said the world was different, darker, greedier than it was now. Tavi sighed, the wood hard against her back. Ever since she could remember, there had been one of the male elders or a Mother or Sister watching over her and the other children. She had grown up on the floating community, its name as simple as its purpose: Home. Tavi could name all of the colors of the sea, from ultramarine to purple, grey, teal, turquoise to glas, hijo, biru. Tavi could recognise the smell of the spring-tide, rich and heavy with the bloom of algae that the People would harvest to make bio-fuel.¹
Tavi had lived her life leaping from one wooden and bamboo platform to another, painting and re-painting the boards with foul-smelling preservative oils, diving into the summer seas, checking the water turbines that spun lazy and constant under their huts.
I can catch a fish twice my height and weight, but they won’t trust me to pilot a boat alone! Why did she need Mother Shibani here?
With another jolt of the waves, the girl’s stomach lurched, the prow dropped and suddenly she was looking at dark shapes crowding the edge of the world. Tall colossi standing or leaning on each other like giants. Towers of a different age, crumbling and forever guarding the mainland.
“Land Ho!” Tavi shouted, mimicking one of the old films that she and a friend had streamed to their laptop. In it, there had been pirates racing across sun-burnt oceans, always scowling or laughing. She had wondered if that is what the rest of the world thinks of her floating community; ragtag clothes and bottles of rum. Mother! She thought with a sudden thrill of excitement. Life wouldn’t be half as boring if we really were pirates. Instead, Tavi felt like just another teenager with too many boring and senseless tasks to do. Check the nets. Clean the solar-panels. Scrape the seaweed. Water the gardens.
“‘Land Ho?’” Mother Shibani smirked as her hands wove the sail back and forth, back and forth. “It’s been a long time since any of us saw the need to shout that out, child.” She grumbled, and Tavi said nothing, ducking her head back to turn and look at the odd sentinels of stone and metal and concrete on the horizon.
Mother Shibani, unlike some of the other Mothers of the People, still had a slightly jaded view of the internet, with all of its adverts, subscriptions, and promotions. She had endeavoured to tell us that it was a tool.
“Just like this sail, these oars, or that water filtration unit. You use it to get stuff done. Add to the world, don’t waste anything; not energy, not your time, and not your attention!”
Tavi had heard the lecture a thousand times before and more:
‘There had been the Oil Age, and then we hit Peak Oil and no one could afford to run their cars and go on holiday. Wages dropped as the companies slashed their costs, and people fled to wherever there was work, and food, and the cities threw everything they had at nuclear power, and the seas were rising, and, and, and…’ The girl had seen the news reports online of bread queues and the slums. None of it seemed real. How could it? A far away land where everything was grey and full of grey, angry-looking people.
But still the girl said her pirate words ‘land ho’ to herself, even though the Mother Shibani knew exactly where the land was going to be; she’d been sailing there for as long as Tavi could remember, starting her journeys from the People every spring, hardly spending a day with her feet at home, always sailing, always ferrying, back and forth, back and forth. Rise, fall. Catch, pull, release. Coming back with baskets of strange-looking fish or bundles of seaweed and algae from different sea-farms further out. Never speaking too much of her sea-salt adventures, chary with her stories unlike some of the other Mothers. Every one of her rare tales – of fish the size of the entire floating village, of whole seas glowing with phytoplankton – were as rare and as precious as golden honey, and equally as savoured by the People children. It didn’t matter that Tavi could find out these things online (in the rare moments she wasn’t busy) – the stories from a living, breathing person’s lips meant something completely different to her.
When do we get to see for ourselves? Tavi had demanded once.
Mother Shibani had just nodded, saying nothing, her hands a landscape of lines and territories as they adjusted her rope-work, bringing their boat like a dart towards the shore.
The catamaran beached with a scream of pebbles, and it was Tavi’s job to jump ahead of the boat, seize one of its wooden prows and pull the boat upwards as Mother Shibani reefed the sail. She had been told precisely how to do so but had never done it before.
The beach was rain-sodden shingle, and it crunched and sucked at her feet greedily as she fought the hungry gravity of the tide.
“Frickin' Hell!” Tavi swore as she struggled, sliding down on one knee before the hulls of their boat bit and caught onto the land.
“Tavi – language!” The Mother reminded her, but Tavi noticed that the woman didn’t follow it up with her usual stern glance or warning finger. She was just as busy as Tavi was, trying to make sure the wire connectors between the solar sail and the backpacks didn’t get wet in the storm as she hastily shielded and checked the batteries.²
“Sixty percent,” Mother Shibani said with a pleased note to her voice. “These new photovoltaic fabrics even work through that storm.”
“This storm,” Tavi muttered, wading through the shallows to start unpacking the bundles and bags that they had brought with them.
The Mother could see that her companion was right; the storm was starting to break and the rain was coming in hard and fast now instead of the occasional drizzle. Thunderheads were piling up over the coast, and she wouldn’t be surprised if there would even be lightning before the night was out.
“Come on,” Shibani said, already shouldering bundles almost as big as she was, a staff in one hand as she powered up the beach. Tavi groaned, seeing her pace, marvelling at her resilience.
“You have your suit turned up?” Shibani called back, and Tavi made a noncommittal sound. She had completely forgotten about it in the excitement of the landing, and now she fumbled with the controls on her hip’s waistband. In just a few seconds, she started to feel warmer as piezoelectric filaments in her suit, activated by walking, channelled the tiny residual electric charge to heating elements in her leggings and vest.
"Ugh." Tavi had barely walked five steps before a wave of giddiness washed over her. Her knees felt like jelly, and she stopped, breathing hard through her nose.
“Land-sickness.” Mother Shibani was beside her, patting her gingerly on her sodden shoulder with one hand, before pulling a pouch from her side. “No matter how secure we anchor the community to the atoll, it is always hard to come off the sea,” the woman explained. “Your body thinks that it is still at sea, and cannot understand why the ground isn’t bobbing up and down. Chew this, ginger and mint. It’ll settle your stomach.” She produced a small lozenge, and after a few minutes, Tavi’s sloshing stomach started to settle, although her legs still felt odd, wobbling and unsure of themselves.
“Here.” The woman said at the head of the beach, her shoes standing on a broken slab of concrete. She pointed down into the deserted city for the girl, heedless of the roar of the wind and the rain that whipped her hair back and forth.
Tavi blinked, for a moment forgetting the assault of the gales. She had never seen a real city before, only the snatches of video footage through the electric light of laptop screens.
“Great Mother...” Tavi breathed. It felt to the girl like she had walked out of her life and into a dream. Or a nightmare, more like.
There were the cities trademark giants of concrete and steel; tower buildings like the skeletons of old animals. Impossible to bury or forget, they stood, quietly mouldering away, their glass windows missing as often as not. Rubble and trash lay collected here and there – drifts of plastic bags and wrappers collecting in sodden heaps. Tavi imagined the city itself sinking a little lower every year into the trash and debris, getting a little wilder perhaps, but not softer.
Despite the grey murk of the storm, Tavi could make out the straight lines and grid-like networks of the streets. Squares of concrete sitting next to other squares of concrete. It was nothing like the home of the People, with their constant movement, color, flowing lines, and curves.
But what was most shocking was the city’s emptiness. There were no people in the streets. There were the shacks and huts and shelters where they had once lived; corrugated sheets laying propped against concrete walls, sheets flapping in the rain – but not occupied by anything other than roosting birds and scurrying animals.
“This is a dead place.” Tavi whispered, using the one word that the People almost never did. “Why?” Tavi said after a moment.
“Pfagh.” Mother Shibani said, apparently summing up her entire attitude to the Oil Age in one syllable. “You know nothing dies. Nothing. Not even this place, it just gets recycled. Come on.”
It didn’t look to Tavi as though the city could be recycled. It looked stale. There are no new currents here, she thought. Everything in their community got recycled and became something else in time. The roofs of their huts became gardens, their huts themselves eventually became the materials to re-patch the platform, or compost. The wool that they traded with far off, fairy-tale-like settlements became clothes, bedding, and then bandages, sails, compost. Even their dead became humus for their gardens.
“But – but where are all the people?” Tavi had been picturing the throngs that she saw on the video feeds, people wearing all styles and manners of clothing, living jammed side by side, in flats and apartment blocks, terraces and on balconies. It was clear that they had been here, once, but were now long gone.
“They were relocated by the government when the power started fading, migrating further inland to a bigger, much larger city. There’re still some hanging onto to the outskirts, small groups living as refugees on international aid drop-offs.” Mother Shibani said sadly. “The government here calls it a Managed Disaster Zone, although when there are many such Zones springing up all over the world, you have to wonder if they really are managed at all.”
Tavi made an agreeing sound, but didn’t understand. This was the most that she had heard Mother Shibani speak, and although she didn’t want to break her unusual spell of candour, she had to ask:
“Is this why... Is this why we live out there? On the sea?” She looked at Mother Shibani carefully.
“Hm.” Mother Shibani said, an answer that could have been both a yes and a no. The girl was about to ask again, but the older woman was already crossing the street.
The rain was pelting now as they passed rusted mounds of cars reclaimed by the wandering dunes of garbage and litter. The two figures made their way down streets of empty buildings, their floors host to nothing but weather and scavengers.
It’s creepy, Tavi thought, looking around and seeing the open maws of windows and doors everywhere she turned. There were signs of the things that the refugees had been forced to leave behind: here a cup, there a set of summer-chairs. Endless amounts of plastic like a new form of weed, finding root anywhere the wind blew.
Despite the strange environment, she was glad when the Mother crossed another empty intersection, and lead her out of the weather and into the cover of an old stone building – this one with a peaked slate roof; a church. She marvelled at how the rooftops of the people of the Oil Age were solid, functional – nothing but what they were – a barrier between the sky and the earth. At home in the floating village, every roof that she had ever seen was either covered in panes of the colourful photovoltaic glass, or host to a nursery of plants, creeping ivy, fresh-scented herbs or trailing flowers.
“We’ll wait here, just until the storm eases off.” The Mother said, already busying herself with unpacking a small stove with an internal flint. With a spark, a friendly glow sprang up from the small wick of biofuel, and Shibani was humming as she set a small pan of water onto boil.
Tavi was cold around the edges, her core kept warm by the suit but her feet, hands, and hair sopping wet. She stood up and looked around the ruined church: the long hall with its old benches sat crumbling away in disorganized reverence.
Tavi wondered what denomination the church was as she walked down the central aisle, towards where the hall narrowed, and turned into a raised space with a shallow stone pond at the back. She wondered how many people had sat on those rotten seats, how many prayers they had said. Maybe she was being fanciful, but she wondered if there was still a whisper of something in the air – a quietness... The pond at the back had collected rainwater from the broken windows above, but somehow something greasy and shiny had gotten to it, giving it a vaguely iridescent, colorful tinge.
Chemicals. Brackish. Bad water. Tavi sniffed. “I think some of your Oil Age got left right here.” She called back with a grimace to Mother Shibani.
There was a dry rasping sound from behind her, and Tavi realized that the Mother was chuckling as if she had said something very funny. “Maybe.” She answered, busying herself with crumbling herbs and spices into her tea. Outside the tempest still beat itself against the stone building, gusting in through the empty windows.
She still won’t tell me what this is all about. Tavi huffed in frustration. What am I doing here? What has this empty place got to do with me? Why were all the Mothers like this? Do they think I couldn’t handle the truth?
She saw glint of odd-coloured light on the floor. The only light in the entire grey-filled day. Tavi followed it to find that it was reflected from a corner of a window, crisscrossed in lead to create the shape of half an alarmed human face. It was a little like their own colourful windows, with the multi-coloured solar-cells that they used to create whirling and elegant patterns throughout their buildings. Tavi wondered about the person in the window, and why on earth they hadn’t decided to use solar cells instead.
“How much farther do we have to go?” Tavi asked as she turned back to Mother Shibani.
“Not much.” Tavi’s feet fell a little heavier on the ground as she stalked back.
“Mother?” She stopped over the crouching woman, as the fresh and spicy tang of tea drifted up between them.
“What? Drink your tea.” Shibani gestured to a second cup.
“I want to know, Mother. Why are we here? Why did you bring me with you?” As soon as she had started, it was like the floodgates were opened and she couldn’t stop. “Why won’t you let me pilot the boat alone? I’m old enough to be a Sister now! This place is horrible – it’s dead, it’s stale, there’s nothing here!” Tavi ended on a shout.
“Tavi, there is something here. There is you, and me.” Shibani smiled nonchalantly. “You need to know about some things.”
“At last,” Tavi said under her breath, eliciting a dark look from her companion.
“People...” Shibani’s eyes scanned over her head, searching for the words. “People are like plants... No matter whether they grow here, in the MDZ, or in North or South, or on the sea or land. We grow as much as we are able, as much as we are given the right nutrients, water, food,” Shibani said seriously. It all seemed pretty obvious to Tavi. The Mother scuffed around until she found a handful of rocks, and set one on its own the bare stone floor.
“There was a time when all of that was threatened – in the Oil Age some people wanted all of the nutrients and food, and were obsessed with fuel, Oil, that allowed them to get more resources.” She set another rock near the first, and another a little way off again, before pointing to the first. “If this one community had all of the resources, then there would be nothing for anyone else. Many people starved. Many animals died. The planet itself was injured.”
Tavi rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know. The storms came, the seas rose, and the People took to the ocean. I know all of that.”
“But you don’t understand it because you’ve never seen it, child.”
“I’m no child!” Tavi protested.
“But that is why you are here. To see and to understand.” Shibani pointed back to her three rocks on the floor. “Now, our People travel, just as we are doing, from one place to the other, offering them what spare resources we have, and bringing back supplies that we need. At one time on the earth they used to call it Kula ring; the Trobriand islanders used to offer Kula to each other in return for aid. No one community ever gets too big that it takes from any other.”³
The old woman’s fingers, scarred and cross-hatched with years, went back and forth from one rock to the other in a graceful, never-ending dance. “Recycling, see?”
“Hm.” Tavi shrugged. She understood it of course. I’m not a child!
“Anyway. Tomorrow, you’ll see why. You’ll understand.” Shibani shook out two mats of woven dried sea-grass, and two thick blankets of rare wool. As her younger companion settled down to attempt to sleep, her stomach still churning from the land-sickness, she wondered just how far these blankets had travelled already just to get here.
But what about the others? She thought sleepily, her eyes already drooping. All the people who don’t live out on the sea?
The only answer to her question was the battering of the downpour against the stone walls of their shelter.
Tavi awoke to the sound of rustling -- a snuffling, furtive sound in the dawn light. The eye of the storm was passing, but the sky hadn’t lifted yet, leaving a watered-down, ashen daybreak behind it.
Tavi opened her eyes to discover that they were not alone. There, rifling through the Mother Shibani’s bags, was another figure. Tavi opened her mouth to gasp, but no sound came out. She was paralysed in fear.
The hunched figure was a man, but not like the men of the People – who were wiry, athletic, golden dark skin or the weathered orange from the many years in the sun. This one looked unhealthy, pale, deep bruised sockets around his eyes, his clothes a mixture of others, stitched and re-stitched together. His hands moved quickly, pawing at the bags, the clothes, reaching in-
“Hss!” Mother Shibani moved with an incredible speed for her age, apparently effortlessly in a crouch with no movement between her being curled up asleep on the floor, her bare hands held out in front of her.
“Mother!” Tavi said in shock. She had never seen any violence, a few wrestling matches grown angry perhaps, but never serious conflict.
The figure froze, his pale brown eyes watching Shibani like a hawk. Tavi could see the beads of sweat clearly on the man’s forehead.
The Mother spoke slowly, as if to a child. “I don’t want to hurt you. But if you attack us, I will. Do you understand?”
The figure didn’t make a move, but his eyes flickered from the Mother’s face, then Tavi’s, and back to the bag.
“Are you hungry?” Shibani said. “You need food?”
The scavenger didn’t respond.
“I’m going to get some for you. But I’ll be watching you, so don’t try anything,” Mother Shibani said, holding her hands out in front of her before raising one slowly, and reaching to the nearest pack.
As soon as she moved, the man flinched, scrabbling back a few steps, and Tavi was struck by a swell of sorrow for him. He was like a gull – wild and hungry and angry all the time.
“Easy now, easy.” Shibani reached again to the open pack, but before she could even reach to open it, a sound broke the taut silence.
The roar of machinery, and heavy feet outside the church.
“Hngh!” The thief made an angry noise as he panicked, leaping forward, his cracked and blackened fingernails not reaching for the bag, but instead closing on Mother Shibani’s wrist.
“Stop! Hold it!” Someone was shouting; a deep voice, an angry voice.
“Agh!” Shibani was fit and strong, but she was still a lot older than the younger man. She rolled backwards as he pounced on her, all bony knees and elbows-
“Mother!” Tavi shouted, not knowing what to do, or what she could do. The thief was wrestling with Mother Shibani, and there were people running into their ruined church: men in dark grey and green uniforms, helmets on their heads, nasty, stubby-looking guns in their hands.
“I said stop!” The nearest was shouting, raising his gun as Tavi screamed-
BANG! the shot rang out and Tavi couldn’t breathe. She realized that she had her eyes shut and slowly opened them, dreading what she would see in front of her.
“Mother? Mother!” the girl whispered, almost hyperventilating from fear.
The thief was on his back, holding his hands up, Mother Shibani was next to him, and the soldier's gun was pointed upward: he had fired into the air. The silence was heavy between them as they all stared at each other.
The soldier was the first to speak. “You.” He pointed at the thief. “You’re under arrest.”
To Tavi’s surprise, the plea didn’t come from the man, but from Mother Shibani herself. Despite the reddening bruise on her temple, she pleaded for her attacker. “The man is hungry and starving. He just needs proper food, shelter.”
Tavi’s eyes were wide as she looked from the soldier to Mother Shibani and back again. The soldier was younger than the Mother, a pinkish face with brown eyes. He frowned for a moment, breathed out through his nose then said forcefully.
“Aw hell. Go on. I haven’t got the stomach for this – you,” he pointed one gloved hand at the thief on the floor. “Get out of here. Now.”
“Thank you,” the man breathed, jumping to his feet as his eyes darted wildly back and forth from the soldiers to their military jeep parked in the rain outside. Without another word, he ran in the opposite direction, towards a hole in the church wall, and disappeared into the ruins.
“And you?” The soldier rounded on them, seeing the two women for apparently the first time. “Ah shit, you’re not from the camps, are you? You’re part of that group – the Unregistered Atlantic People, right?”
No, we’re the People. Tavi thought, not recognising what the man with the gun and the uniform called them.
But Mother Shibani just nodded.
“Oh hell. This is a right mess.” The soldier was saying, but Tavi stopped listening as she went to the Mother and allowed the woman to fold her into her bony, strong arms. Words like ‘registration’ and ‘protocols’ and ‘porous border territories’ flowed around her, but Tavi wasn’t listening to any of it.
Instead, Tavi was listening to Mother Shibani’s heartbeat as a tear fell down the older womans’ cheek. She had never known Shibani to cry before, over anything. “It’s not his fault.” The Mother whispered.
The two women sat in the lee of the stone church, the soldiers and their Jeep gone a while ago. Both women looked paler and shocked with their day’s adventures, but it was still only barely midday. The soldiers had tried to press forms on Mother Shibani, getting her to sign up to something, but she had flatly refused, and, despite their protestations, it had eventually seemed like there was nothing that they could do. They had ridden off, back on their ‘security detail’ of the Managed Disaster Zone.
“He had no People?” Tavi asked quietly.
“Yes.” Shibani looked as distraught as her companion did. “There are many communities of people in the world, Tavi. Some of them don’tshare our view of the world. Some of them never had the luck of good Mothers and good Sisters.”
Tavi nodded, not understanding but also not wanting to.
“Some of the people out there don’t have anyone or anywhere. Some wander alone, like rogue sharks. I think this one was like that one – they are the truly unfortunate.” Mother Shibani shook her head, standing up slowly, grimacing as her knees cracked.
“Come. Not far now.” The Mother stooped to pick up her heavy rucksack and her staff, and Tavi thought that she had never seen the pepper-gray haired Mother ever look so old as she did now.
Their path was slow, but at least the heaviest part of the storm had abated, Tavi thought. Now the rain had just become a constant, almost gentle drone around them. Their feet took them down the center of rubble-strewn streets, and under the arches of collapsed buildings. Twice, Tavi thought she saw animals flicker out of the corner of her eye – deer crossing at the intersection down the street? Something large and lumbering picking its way out of a building, lifting its head to snuff the air?
But Mother Shibani didn’t pause or slow to allow Tavi to investigate these new and strange, land-based beasts. Her walk powered forward, her staff tapping, tapping, in a steady rhythm.
Pull, catch, release. Tavi found herself thinking in time to the sound.
“But Mother?” Tavi dared say a few hours into their hike across the feral city.
“What is it?” She snapped back.
“If – if there are others out there, like that one-” Tavi let the question drop.
“Aren’t I scared? Shouldn’t we be quiet?” Shibani asked herself, before shaking her head. “No. Some fear is healthy, if it warns you, and other fear is unhealthy, if it paralyses you. The communities like the one where the soldier came from? They are fighting a losing battle. They do not see that the world needs a different way of living on it now. But they aren’t all of the people on the world. Most could see what needed to happen when the Oil Age ended. And besides-“
Their path had led them upwards, the street rising across metal lines in the ground, and the ruined buildings climbing the hill alongside them. Now Shibani didn’t answer, but powered her way up the last of the concrete hill and stopped, wheezing at the top.
“Why should we be afraid?” She asked as Tavi reached the top.
Opposite the two women, there were splashes and blobs of color against the rain. On the other side of the hill the ground for a few hundred meters looked as though it had been scored and beaten with giant fists – but the damage and the destruction was gentled by the many house-shapes built into the floor and walls of the ruined buildings.
These new dwellings glowed with soft light, and were overflowing with greenery. Vines were being trained to climb up the sides of buildings, rooftops were being slowly covered, section by section, by graphene photovoltaic matts, or solar sails flapping and cracking in the wind. Atop the nearest building, a wind turbine buzzed happily in the weather, its blades the same beat as of a hand playing out rope on a sail.
The crater was filled with greenery, and Tavi saw, with wonder, that it wasn’t empty either. Small figures of people were moving here and there in the rain, wearing colourful, diaphanous clothes. The rubble had been cleared for gardens and vegetable plots, or in some places the rubble had been left to form natural curving walls and rockeries.
“They call us the Unregistered Atlantic Peoples, but we call ourselves just the People.” Shibani said. “We live on the seas, taking to the zones and places that the other nation-states abandon. Here, we are trying something new. Come on, this way.” Shibani was already on her way, her steps seeming lighter as she picked her way through the well-cultivated paths down through the rubble. She stopped at the first shelter they encountered; a small breeze-block building where batteries and connectors were kept behind an unlocked door. “Power here.” Shibani said, shrugging off her battery pack and seeing that the girl did the same, showing her how to plug the battery pack into the connectors that ran along the walls. All the power that they had harvested from the solar sail on the way over started pouring into the small community grid.
“You bring something. You make something. You add. You leave bearing only what is freely given.” The Mother said in a familiar litany, before stepping through the open archway to admire the view.
“They’re re-taking the city.” Tavi said, imagining the scale of it all, the sheer audacity of the project. It would take generations to re-green a city of this size!
“Never take, Tavi! Re-making the city.” Mother Shibani said, smiling.
1: The idea of floating communities is not so far-fetched, with several present-day equivalents (Seasteading, and the Principality of Sealand) trying to recover the skills of such groups as the sea nomad Sama-Bajau people of East Asia, and the Uru people of Peru and Bolivia.
The language used for the ocean comes from historical precedent, too: many cultures around the world have a much richer vocabulary for the different colors of the seas than we find in Western English. Glas is an old Welsh word, whilst hijo and biru are old Javanese words.
2: Photovoltaic solar sails like the ones used in the story’s catamarans are actually in development today, and are called solar cloth. Engineers imagine that they will be used for purposes pretty similar to those depicted here.
3: The Kula-Ring is a real tradition practised by the people of the Trobriand Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, which is a form of different groups practising gift-exchange.