Working on the Wind
Gloria stepped onto the bus at 12th Street and grabbed a pole as its wings carried it up into the transit lanes.
She liked this one as opposed to the 11th Street bus, which always seemed to have a tilting left wing and would lurch at the slightest wind. And on the 12th Street route, they'd pass over a grove of peach trees, so far below. She liked to lean out the window and remember the last time she'd had a peach, so many months ago. They hardly ever got peaches in air systems because they were too difficult for the basket ships to transport them - they always came out squished and mushy and depressing.
Today however, there were pockets of clouds between the city and the ground, so Gloria couldn't really see the peach trees.
Owen got on a Rainy Avenue.
"Morning, Gloria." His curly hair was windswept. But then again, most everybody's hair was windswept most days. "Morning Owen. Cut yourself shaving again?"
Owen shrugged as he took hold of a pole. "My building's been caught in a slipstream for a week now. They really need to move it over but the landlord can't be bothered."
Gloria sighed. "Typical Status Ward."
"You're telling me. I just can't wait for the clean period to come."
"Are you sure that's coming?" Gloria said. "It doesn't look like the weather's clearing up to me. The meteorologists have been wrong before." Gloria flexed her arm as the bus caught an updraft in its wings. She glanced out the window at the cloud puffs drifting past like thoughts.
"Honestly, I don't care if it's truly clean," Owen said. "I just want it to calm down enough for communications to come back online. I was supposed to call my sister last week for her birthday, but I haven't been able to get through to her in a month."
"Well, that's what we're here for, right?"
Owen snorted. "Oh, sure. Yeah, we're making real progress."
"You don't think we are?"
Owen glanced out the window. "You've been here for how long now?"
"Yeah, wait until you get toward the end of your five-year station," Owen said. "I've got a year left. I don't think anything has changed. The weather's still crazy. None of the stabilizing machines we tune every day show any signs of sustainable automation. As soon as you think you've got a handle on the weather, it flares up again." Owen shook his head.
Gloria looked out the window and down. Between the puffs of clouds, she could see the world below, the mountain ranges, the cities retreating from the swelling rivers, the ribbons of roads rising with every reconstruction. It was so small and so far away but so close.
"I don't know," Gloria said. "Maybe we'll find the answer soon. Maybe it's like you said and a clean period is coming."
Owen shrugged. "Here's hoping."
When the bus shuddered down to their landing portal, Gloria and Owen got off at the big, hovering building. Before she went inside, Gloria stole another glance at the ground. She sure hoped Owen was right and a clean period was coming through. The clouds had been thick this month and the winds fierce. She could use a calm day to sit up here and admire the view.