Two hundred feet up, Sylvia banks the ultralight toward the south and watches the flock wheel into place behind her. It’s a drizzly, uncertain morning, and the ocean catches light whenever the sun breaks free of the clouds and throws it at her.
There’s a voice in her ear: looking good, syl.
–Thanks, she says. Any stragglers?
–everyone’s there. maybe throttle it back a little bit tho.
She slows down and they mob around her, boneless white fingers slapping against her legs, voices gabbling high and excited. Ease off, she says, sharply, and snaps at them with the cruel beak hanging from the support strut. They hoot mournfully and fall back into position.
–I’m fine. She peels the backing off a bandage with her teeth and slaps it over the welts on her thighs, hisses as it pulls the venom out of the black edges of her flesh. I’m fine, she repeats. Dammit. She wheels out over the water and fights off the aurora dancing around the edges of her vision.
–don’t push yourself. looked like they got you pretty good.
–Just a few more minutes and then I’ll come in. The flock spreads out in a long curl around her, her sharp-edged children, her beautiful noise in the morning.