Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
My mount is about an acre across from wingtip to wingtip.
I’m sitting between her eyes, up near the front. I have a windshield set up, sheltering my sleeping quarters, replicator, garden, fridge, toilet bag and pilot’s chair.
She’s the colour of sand stretching away on either side of me, the same colour as the sky.
This is an ocean planet. There are beings that spend their entire lives in the oceans and there are beings that spend their entire lives in the air.
I am riding the latter.
She coasts for weeks at a time around the air currents, eating the occasional minnowbird or troutflyer that crosses her path.
When she needs to really feed, she’ll angle down into a steep dive to the ocean surface. We’re so high up that it takes her half an hour to get down there. Her mouth opens wide enough to eat a small town on old Earth as she rips apart the waves on impact and dives deep to feed on anything moving.
I’m not there for this part of her life. I’d die in the chemical waters.
The beings that we ride need to sleep and mate before they feed.
I’m looking through the windshield and sitting in my chair. I can see on the overlay that a linkup is happening six miles from here.
She angles west through soft summer winds and clouds. She’s heading to that pack.
These beings meet up and extend small talons from the tips of their enormous wings. The interlock these talons and form giant islands in the skies. Fifty or sixty of them at a time.
She’ll hang onto her mates and close her eyes. During this time, mating fluids will pass between the couplings. It’s a giant orgy, to be precise, albeit one with no motion and almost entirely done while sleeping.
During this time, we riders have the chance to stand and stretch our legs. We walk across the wingspans to each other’s cockpits to chat and share stories. For some of us, it’s a chance to reunite with old lovers, catch up with stories.
We’ll set up camps on the strongest flyers and have small parties.
There are six hundred thousand of us riders. We’re linked by the windshields when we’re apart but it’s these gatherings that really define our lives.
One can never tell what people will be at a gathering, dictated as they are by the winds our flyers glide on. We count ourselves lucky if there are old friends.
One by one, the gliders will disengage and dive low to the ocean to feed. They’ll return when full, impatient to get back to flying the skies.
We get a signal when our mount’s biogram tells us that it’s time to disengage. We return to our mounts and strap in. Our mounts unhook their mating talons and we angle away, ready for another solitary chapter of gliding in the endless sky above the endless ocean.
This meetup is the first one I’ve been to in over a month and a half. My mount must be starving. From the pings I’ve receiving on my windshield, Jenna and Steve will be there. Sarah, too. She’s recent. I haven’t seen Jared in six meetups now and that makes me sad. I hope he’s there.
I can see it in the distance now, a horizon-smudge flatland in the sky where I’ll get to say hello to old friends and maybe meet some new ones.
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