Minneapolis was in danger of losing her meagre pirate lunch. She was spinning slowly above the trashmoon, descending through the thermosphere. The captain and her pirates had long since left, towing the corpse of the tanker behind them. Soon they would drain it of its fuel and then rip its chassis down to scraps to rebuild their unnatural chimera ships. She had cried with helpless frustration, watching them attach the vicious cables to the hull of the tanker, jettison the prisoners in claustrophobic escape pods, and head towards the other moon. Now she was alone, hundreds of miles above the moon, watching it spin slowly in and out of view. She could see the glinting styrofoam mountains polished by the plastic dust storms, their mad curves sharp against the throbbing masses of mutant plants and the vast plains of trash with who knew what lurking beneath the surface.
Bile rose in her throat as she thought of how the captain had humiliated her, how poorly her plan had gone, the totality of her failure - alone, falling thousands of kilometers to the ground. She tried to punch her thigh but the sudden movement sent her head over heels. She took a deep breath and focused on adjusting her wings, glad she had reached a slightly thicker atmosphere. When she regained control, she scanned the surface of the moon for landmarks and began to count, timing her reentry. “1…..2……3……” she whispered.
She held her wings out firm. “30…” she whispered through clenched teeth. Her special, military-grade bodysuit was a bright orange, incandescent - she had cashed in a lot of debts to get it, but as she felt the heat barely penetrating inside the suit she knew it was worth it. Her wings were white-hot, and her forehead was covered in sweat from holding them against the mesosphere, where meteors burn up and disappear. “31…” She grimaced, watching the desert swell before her, east of Rockpile, the city where she had arrived on the moon.
“90!” Her back felt it would tear in two as her wing muscles strained to their limits. She bit her tongue hard enough to fill her mouth with blood. A mile ahead of her a soft-looking vine rose from the dust and debris of the desert, and she aimed for its center. The ground beneath her splintered from the shockwave she left, the massive wake of trash obscuring all but her blue-hot wings. She cried out with the effort but choked on her tears, and coughed between screams until she slammed into the plush tendrils of the plant.
She passed out, dreaming of soft balcony landings, flying the mail back in Minnesota.
image Minneapolis clambered out of the plant, tossing her broken helmet into the trench behind her. Her back ached, and her jaw hurt from gritting her teeth. She spat onto the ground, and looked up to see three folks approaching.
“Hi-yo!” the smallest chirped – a flykid, hir wings shiny and lustrous like a beetle. “Are you okay?” sie asked.
“Yeh,” Minneapolis said.
The stockier woman looked in the trench. “What happened here?”
“I did!” Minneapolis said, straightening her back and fluffing her wings with pride.
“Waow!” The flykid looked at Minneapolis with hir eyes wide, and pointed. “We’re heading over to Rockpile, it’s right over—”
“I know where it is,” Minneapolis said. She turned and headed in a different direction.
“Hey, let’s go,” growled the tall man from behind the others. They walked away, the flykid still waving to Minneapolis, hir wings stirring up a little dustcloud.
Minneapolis limped on alone. For hours it was all the same assortment of trash. But then the plastic dust storms came. Against the wind and the shards, she flew short spurts, her muscles burning, still sore from the landing. Finally she fought her way to a large hill whose crest stood calm against the gusts below. She curled on the ground beneath her wings. She realized she had never heard a story of a descent like hers. She worried no one would believe her. She retched, and looked up.
Minneapolis saw Rockpile in the distance. Its plant-walls were glowing. Minneapolis began to run downhill, almost falling, and then her wings found some new strength and she was flying over the plain, landing hard near the city gates.
“Hi-yo! It’s you again! You made it!” Minneapolis grimaced, and looked up to see that yappy flykid again, waving to her. That whole band was walking into the main gates, the kid trailing last. “I hoped I’d see you again! My name’s Elytra! What’s yours?”
“Minneapolis,” Minneapolis said, despite herself.
“Please find me later! I’ve never met another flykid before!” Elytra chirped as sie entered the city.
Minneapolis looked up at the gates, and felt a rush of relief at the thought of lying in a bed. She tried to spring forward but her aching muscles refused. So, she trudged into Rockpile, her eyes nearly swollen shut, her hair a mess. What would everyone think of her? She had returned a failure of a pirate-catcher, after promising so much in every bar that would listen.